There are also many reasons not to get a gun safe. The gun safe industry doesn’t like to talk about this, so don’t expect to see these anywhere else. But these reasons are also summarized in this article.
This is the first article in the series What You Need to Know Before Buying a Gun Safe.
16 Reasons to Own a Gun Safe
1. Gun SafetyControlling who has access to your guns is fundamental to gun safety. Burglars are first and foremost, but think too about anyone else who may be in your home: children, visitors, babysitters, house-sitters, friends with spare keys, etc.
Different types of protection are required depending on who you’re trying to block access to. A glass-front cabinet offers little protection from burglars, who are happy to break the glass to get your guns. Children are generally less inclined to permanently damage a gun cabinet to gain access. However, they often have lots of time. Even 10 minutes a day after school before a parent comes home over time could allow a smart child to try thousands of combinations on your lock.
2. Protect Your Rights
The message of most anti-gun political groups is that guns are dangerous in anyone’s hands. They say that guns are a threat to public safety. Therefore, their proposed solution to eliminate that threat is to eliminate all guns. These groups often attempt to characterize law-abiding gun owners as irresponsible at best, and evil at worst.
Tragedies and accidents involving guns are exploited by anti-gun groups to push their messages. Even non-fatal gun accidents attract national and local legislative attention, especially those involving children. Regardless of how rare these accidents are, when guns are involved there will be media coverage.
Locking up your guns is a way to protect your 2nd Amendment rights by demonstrating responsible gun ownership.
3. Child Access Prevention Laws
While there is no federal legal requirement, 27 states and the District of Columbia have requirements that guns be locked up to prevent access to children, in some cases even if you don’t have children yourself. The penalties for allowing a child access to a gun vary in these states, but you may face criminal liability for negligent storage whether or not the child gains access to a firearm or uses it to cause injury. Check your local laws.
Remember that you may not have children at home, but from time to time may have young visitors like grandchildren, guests, exchange students, etc..
4. Firearm Locking Device Laws
Even in cases where there are no children present in your home, many states require locking up your guns. Eleven states and the District of Columbia require some sort of locking device at some point between purchase and storage. One state and the District of Columbia require that all firearms are stored with a lock in place. California even has gun safe regulatory standards which must be met for the safe to be considered a California Department of Justice-approved firearms safety device. Check your local laws.
5. Protection from Burglars
What are your guns worth to you?
Some of mine could easily be replaced or upgraded. On the hand, my grandfather’s WWII pistol has sentimental value that is irreplaceable. The first pistol I bought was a 1911 with a somewhat rare factory chambering. I bought a couple books and taught myself some gunsmithing, finally getting the trigger “perfect.” I would hate to have to replace it.
Many AR owners do a lot of customization over the years which would be time consuming and expensive to duplicate. Maybe you’ve built a precision rifle that shoots 1/2″ MOA and you finally have it perfectly doped after countless hours at the range and loading bench. How much is that worth to you?
6. Insurance Coverage Limitations
Think your insurance covers your guns? Here are some things to look into.
A. Insurance Firearms Coverage Limits
Have you read your homeowners insurance (or renter’s insurance)? Years ago I got my insurance renewal in the mail and saw that the firearms coverage limit was only $3,000. Most policies cover even less. Many only cover fire damage, not theft!
With today’s prices, it’s not very hard to reach even modest limits in firearms value. I added up the cost of my guns and realized I was close to the coverage limit, depending on whether or not optics counted.
So, I called my insurance to see if the Leopold scope I had just bought counted towards the firearms limit. Of course they said, “Once it’s bolted to the gun, its value is part of the gun.” The floating forend, trigger kit, forward grip, and bipod I had installed would also count towards my firearms coverage limit.
I was able to buy an insurance rider to double my firearms coverage (at a very significant additional expense). To get more coverage I would have to actually change companies.
On some policies you may have to get your guns appraised before they’re covered at all. Some will require you itemize your collection (serial number, etc.) after a certain total value. Check your insurance policy and call your company to find out.
B. Insurance Market Value Reimbursement
Even if the full value of your guns is covered, your policy will probably pay out less than you need to replace those guns. E.g. if you spent $3,000 on your guns, and your insurance covers $3,000 worth of guns, they’re probably not going to actually pay out the full $3,000.
This is because most policies will pay you for “market value” or “actual cash value” of an item. Of course, this usually is not enough to actually replace what you lost.
For example, you may have had a gun which sells for $1,000 today. Yours was used and a generation old though, so the “book value” is around $550. Despite what the book says, you’ve seen them actually sell for $650 used, if you can find one. An actual cash value insurance claim will pay you $550 for the loss of your gun. This leaves you to find the $100 to $450 difference, not including sales tax, to replace it.
Many companies offer “replacement value” riders, which will reimburse you for what it would cost to replace the item. This is rarely the standard option however.
C. Insurance Covers Less Than It’s Worth to You
Even if you do have “replacement value” coverage, what your gun is worth to them may not be close to what it’s worth to you. Some companies are better to deal with than others, but if you’ve ever filed an insurance claim you can anticipate potential questions:
- Do you have receipts for the gun?
- Do you have receipts for your accessories?
- Do you have receipts for all gunsmithing?
- Do you have receipts for ammunition?
- Do you have proof that the Colt Python you bought as a new-in-box investment has never been fired and is worth the new in original box price?
- If you did the gunsmithing yourself, did you have your guns appraised afterwards so the value of your work is reimbursed?
- If you’re making an insurance claim because of a house fire, were your receipts in a place that was burned up by the fire?
- If your records are destroyed in the case of a “total loss” house fire, how does your insurance determine the value of what you owned?
These are all things to think about before it’s an emergency.
7. Required by Insurance Coverage
Depending on the number and type of guns you have, you may need an additional rider or whole separate policy to be fully covered. Once your collection grows to a certain value, your insurance company may require you to keep your guns in a certified safe, often with an alarm.
You need to find this out before you buy your safe, because the safe certification that your insurance will require almost definitely will be more than your average “gun safe” (more on this later). Your insurance may also require you to split up your collection in multiple safes and reduce the likelihood of it all getting stolen. This may apply to you Federal Firearms License (FFL) holders who carry enough inventory to get your insurance company’s attention.
8. Insurance Discount
Check with your agent if discounts are available for having a gun safe. Discounts can be given for a gun safe, fire-rated safe, true safe, and other security measures. You should check before you buy your gun safe because again the requirements may exceed your average gun safe. You don’t want to spend a lot of money on a gun safe which doesn’t get you a discount, when a better gun safe would have saved you money from insurance premiums in the long run.
9. Protection from Lawyers
The title is meant to be tongue-in-cheek and not anti-lawyer, but a gun safe offers some protection in legal circumstances and insurance claim disputes. If your guns are stolen, it helps to be able to demonstrate that you took measures to safely and securely store them.
There are many ordinary circumstances where someone might have access to your house: you forget to lock you front door and your neighbor comes in, your little cousin comes over to feed the dog while you’re on vacation, your friend has an emergency copy of your house keys but leaves them where her drug-addict brother-in-law finds them.
Let’s say someone steals your guns and then uses them in a liquor store holdup. The robbery goes bad and the guy behind the cash register is shot and killed. His family finds out you were “improperly storing your firearms” and file a lawsuit against you. If you live in an anti-gun state you’re probably in a lot of trouble. Even if the storage of your guns was totally legal, you might have to spend tens of thousands of dollars to defend yourself from this frivolous lawsuit. Do you think those legal fees are covered by your homeowner’s insurance? Think again.
I’m not a lawyer and this isn’t intended to be legal advice, but in a legal situation lawyers look to assign blame. The chances of a lawsuit are mitigated by owning some sort of gun safe.
In about 1 out of 13 forced entry burglaries, someone breaks into your home without leaving damage (e.g. using a slim jim on a window latch or picking a lock). Without any proof of forced entry, in these cases the police generally classify it as an unlawful entry, the same classification as if you hadn’t locked it at all. Depending on the laws in your state, the fact that there’s no proof you had your guns locked may come back to haunt you. This is especially true if someone commits a crime with your gun, and especially if it’s someone you know. Around 20% of burglaries are carried out by people who are known to the victim.
Many people who’ve had to make an insurance claim will agree that some companies seems like they’ll do anything to get out of paying a claim. Being able to demonstrate that you were taking steps to protect your valuables makes your life easier and faster in getting paid back for your loss.
10. Protection from Fires
In most homes, everything would be lost if there was a significant fire. A gun safe with fire protection provides some protection for your guns and other valuables from fire.
There will be much more detail on fire protection in a following article, as the realistic protection offered by most gun safes is debateable.
11. Protect Other Valuables
You probably have many other valuables which you want protected from fire and theft and pass on to the next generation. Because of its size, many things can be accommodated in a gun safe: deeds, stock certificates, bonds, titles, gold and silver financial assets, passports, birth certificates, marriage license, family heirlooms, jewelry, photos, lifelong collectibles, tax records, important papers, etc..
Some of these items are replaceable but to do is a real pain. Unlike a safe deposit box you have 24 hour access; no driving to the bank, waiting for it to open, or taking time off work to get there before closing. However, a gun safe may not be the best place for these valuables; more on this below.
12. Your Kids will be Fighting Over It
In a time when the lifetime of a new smartphone or electronic device can be measured in months, precious few things these days will last long enough that you could pass them on to your kids.
It took dozens of devices to do what one mobile phones can today, tablet computers are already replacing laptops and desktop computers–who knows what the world will look like in 30 years. But one thing is for sure, the value of your guns will probably outlast you, and with your guns your kids will need a place to put them.
A quality gun safe from a reputable manufacture should be here long after you are gone. It’s something you can pass on to the next generation.
13. Quick Access
If you have a gun for home protection, you’re aware how important quick access to your firearm is. Many manufactures make small and large gun safes with locks which can be opened in seconds to keep your home protection gun secure until you need it.
If you’re keeping your guns in different cases with different locks right now, a gun safe will be easier than having to find the right key every time.
14. They Look Good
It’s hard to deny that gun safes look cool. Painted in deep glistening lacquer and accented with shiny plated hardware, the size and heft of a gun safe is really attractive.
15. Concealed Carry
If you carry a concealed weapon, you probably have a whole other set of legal requirements in your state to deal with. You’ll also want a place to put your carry gun at the end of the day.
When you get to your place of work or a gun-free zone, where do you put your gun? Different states have various laws regarding if and how a firearm can be left in a vehicle–who’s property you can park on with a gun in your car, where in the vehicle a gun can be, if it has to be locked up, if it must be unloaded, and what is specifically meant by “unloaded”.
A vehicle or portable gun safe for your car or truck can keep you compliant with all the laws. It’s often preferable to having to pop your truck to secure your gun, which can alert anyone watching that there’s a gun in your trunk.
16. Tax Deduction / Rebate
A couple states offer a tax credit if you purchase a gun safe.
In a growing number of states like Connecticut, Michigan, New Jersey, Washington, and Massachusetts, gun safes are exempt from sales tax. You may have to remind them of this in big box stores. A bill is being considered in Congress for a federal tax credit for a gun safe.
Some cities offer incentives for buying a gun safe, like Northglenn, CO’s rebate. To be eligible for the tax credit the safe may have to have a test rating of UL 1037 Residential Security Container, so check before you buy.
You might be able to get a write-off if you keep your tax documents and business papers in a fire-rated safe. A gun safe for a FFL will probably also be a write-off. Check with your accountant before buying a safe.
12 Reasons NOT to Own a Gun Safe
Now that we looked at the reasons to buy a gun safe, it’s only fair to go over their many drawbacks. The series of articles cover these points in more detail.
1. You Probably Won’t Be As Protected As You Think
You go out and buy a beautiful gun safe. You sleep a lot more soundly knowing that your guns are secure. Then a few months later you come back from a holiday barbecue to find the door is broken. In your bedroom, the safe is lying on the floor, pried open. All of the contents are gone. They used a pry bar and curb pin from your own garage.
Or one winter night you wake to a fire and rush your kids outside. After the fire is out you make it through the rubble to open the safe. But the charcoal and steel inside bears no resemblance to the beautiful checkered walnut and blued steel that was there the day before.
These scenarios are unfortunately very real.
Safes have been around for over a hundred years. Most commercial-quality safes are traditionally not very large. They were designed to hold money, jewelry, and other smaller valuables. Storing a long gun in them would have been impossible, so larger gun safes were created.Even a modest “24 gun safe” has about thirty-times larger volume than a common B-Rate (explained later) home “jewelry” safe. If you construct a gun safe using the same steel thickness and concrete based fire lining as a true safe, the weight and cost quickly scale out of hand for most gun owners.
Most gun owners just wanted a locked place to put their guns, even if it was less secure than a true safe. The gun safe companies responded by cutting the steel thicknesses in half and using lighter fireproofing. Everyone was happy for a while.
Then the gun safe industry got more competitive. Some companies realized that if they made their gun safe look more like a high security safe than their competition, they could sell more. They made a number of changes outlined in this series of articles, which actually made them much less secure.
The old adage “you get what you pay for” is no more true than it is with gun safes. However, in most cases, “what you pay for” means nice paint, chrome, decorative items, interior features, and the appearance of security in a “gun safe” that can be broken into in a minute or two with pry bars or an axe.
If that’s what you’re looking for that’s fine with me, to each their own. But most gun owners are expecting actual protection for their money. So, “buyer beware” has never been more true though than it is today with gun safes. A higher price doesn’t necessarily mean more security.
This site is dedicated to making sure you know what you’re getting before you spend all that money on a gun safe.
2. Centralizing Portable Wealth
Once you’ve bought a gun safe and put all of your guns in for protection, the missus will probably want to put some things in, maybe her grandmothers’ jewelry. You also put all of your bonds, your great grandfather’s gold pocketwatch, your collection of silver coins, spare cash, some gold, and all of your other valuables in it. If a thief breaks in you’ve just put all of your portable wealth in one single and potentially large, easy to find location!
If you intend to put all of your valuables inside your gun safe, and a burglar is able to steal or break into your gun safe, they will usually get everything of value that you own. Keep this in mind when you’re figuring out how much you need to spend on a safe.
Remember that gun safes were invented because making a true safe large enough for guns would cost more than most gun owners wanted to spend. So compromises were made in both theft and fire protection. Also, a gun safe is designed to protect guns; even if your guns survive a fire in a gun safe, many of your other valuables couldn’t withstand the same conditions.
If you can accommodate the cost and weight of commercial-quality safe large enough to fit your guns, by all means do so. If not, it will probably be cheaper to get a secure fire-rated safe for your small valuables, a fire-rated media safe for your photos and electronic media, and a gun safe. All three of those usually cost less than a gun safe with the same security and fire rating as the small safes.
3. Gun Safes are Expensive
There are lots of ways to overpay for a gun safe, but even the best gun safe for the money still costs a pretty penny.
We all have bills to pay and many of us have families to support. Saving up hundreds or thousands of dollars these days isn’t always easy. Compared to spending your spare cash on a rifle, scope, boat, dirt bike, ATV, trailer, stroker engine, guitar, or other large purchase, gun safes are not very exciting. It’s no contest comparing a gun safe to my $500 truck. After a couple repairs it served me for years of tailgating, moving stuff, shooting, riding in the woods, sliding around in fresh snow just for fun.
Despite the large sticker price, for the money gun safes are low in excitement per dollar. Aside from looking cool and protecting your stuff, the gun safe just sits there. That is until you have to move the thing, when it’s much less fun than even that.
On top of that, gun safes often don’t offer the best bang for the buck protection-wise. Many people who come to this site looking for a gun safe would be better off first spending less money in other ways.
For example, before spending hundreds or thousands on a gun safe, many gun owners would be better off hardening their exterior doors. Likewise a fireproof gun safe is lower priority than ABC fire extinguishers for the kitchen, garage, furnace room, and any room with a fireplace or candles. A later article in this series has over a hundred different ideas for saving money protecting your guns.
4. Difficult and Expensive to Move
Gun safes are big and heavy. A minimum level of protection starts at around 800 lbs, with commercial-quality gun safes weighing in well in to the ton(s).
The location of a gun safe is one of the most important factors on how secure your valuables are. Smaller, lighter models can be delivered and installed by you and a couple friends, but the weight of a gun safe quickly becomes prohibitive.
If the path to where you want to put it includes stairs and corners, it’s going to make it that more difficult to get there. The price of delivery will reflect this. If the installation crosses a fragile tile floor, you’re going to have to make sure you hire a skilled delivery team.
Delivery is a double-digit percentage of the cost of a new gun safe. When you move you’ll have to pay that again and again, or find a way to do it yourself.
5. You Move a Lot
The things you own wind up owning you. – Tyler Durden in Fight Club
Anyone that moves regularly understands that statement. A gun safe just adds to that burden.
Your new gun safes may fit perfectly in your current house, but it may be a little too big (or small) for the perfect spot in your next one.
There are some types of gun safes are easier to move, such as modular take-down safes, which may be disassembled and moved in pieces. Also the door on most models with external hinges can be removed to take it up or down stairs.
But, a gun safe isn’t something you’re going to be excited to drag from place to place.
6. You Can’t/Don’t Want to Make Modifications to your House
To properly install a gun safe, it must be securely bolted down to the floor or otherwise anchored. If you’re renting and can’t make modifications to your place like drilling holes in the floor or wall, this is going to restrict you.
In many cases, inexpensive modifications like building a short wall to enclose the exposed side of your gun safe will offer protection similar to spending another thousand dollars for thicker steel. But if making modifications to your home is out of the question, you’re going to have to pay more for the same protection.
7. Gun Safes “Shrink”
Gun collections grow over time, and if you buy a safe that’s just barely big enough now, this will become painfully obvious when you try to cram everything in a couple years from now. The perfect gun safe now will probably be annoyingly overcrowded in a few years if you don’t plan ahead.
If the price tag of a gun safe is hard to stomach, imagine the frustration a few years from now of having to sell it at a loss and buy a bigger, more expensive one. And then you’ll have to pay for shipping and delivery all over again and probably find a different spot for the bigger model.
Steel and other material prices are getting higher every year. Like ammunition, gun safes are only going to get more expensive.
8. More Difficult to Access
If you’re used to having your guns in the corner of your bedroom closet, putting them in a safe is going to make them more difficult to access. The safe may be located in a different room or floor of your house other than the bedroom.
If you decide to use a dial combination lock especially, it’s going to take you at least 20 seconds to get in each time even if you don’t make a mistake. Most guys will need good light to see the dial, and you won’t be able to get in in the dark.
All of these things are important to consider when buying a gun safe. Many people wind up with a large gun safe somewhere in the house, and a small quick-access bedside gun safe for home protection.
9. Lack of Flexibility for Placement
A gun safe is generally a big rectangular box with a door that swings open to the right. There are some specialty left-hinged, corner, double-door, and round gun safes, but in general that’s what you’re dealing with.
Because the location of a gun safe is so important for protection, you’re not going to have many options for which room to put it in. Once you have a room picked out, you then have to deal with the size of the safe and its large right-swinging door.
10. Ammo Is Valuable Too
If you’re on this site, no one has to tell you that the cost of ammo has been soaring. Demand and raw material costs has risen, as well as political factors. A couple cases of ammo can be more valuable than the gun that fires it.
Putting ammo in a gun safe though is not a good idea if you’re at all worried about fire protection. With your ammo outside of your gun safe, the fact remains that you’ve spent a lot of money to protect your guns, but haven’t bought any protection for your expensive ammunition.
11. Another Thing to Deal With
Like most large purchases, your gun safe will be one more thing to deal with and keep track of. Even though top quality safes are built to last for decades, they still need maintenance.
Graffunder for example recommends having a locksmith do an initial service on their safes after the first year of ownership, and every 5 years after that for residential owners (annually for commercial owners). This is a good idea to prevent issues with your bolt work in the long term. Your door may require adjustment during this service as well.
Dial locks can last forever with proper lubrication and adjustment, but skipping maintenance will void most warranties. Even if maintenance wasn’t required you may need to call a professional. To change a combination on many dial locks require a locksmith.
Expect an electronic keypad to wear out and need replacement once or twice a decade. People often forget their new electronic lock combination right after changing it and need a safe technician to open the safe. Over time the connections in your electronic lock may get corroded from heat and humidity in your Florida home. Your kid might hang on the handle of your budget safe and break the shear pins, requiring it to be drilled open.
A safe is one more thing to keep track of.
12. You Have to Hide It
Your gun safe has beautiful paint and chrome and you want to put it on display. Unfortunately, having a safe on display means more people will see it, talk about it, and makes it more likely a burglar will hear about it.
Your safe offers the most protection when no one knows it’s there. Because of this, many of the safest locations are tucked away out of sight where you don’t get to enjoy all the paint and chrome.
What do you think? Leave a comment below, your thoughts are welcome.