For general Q&A, see the Gun Safe Frequently Asked Questions.
Below is a specific reader question that may be helpful to others. [Reader-identifiable information has been removed.]
Message Body:I have a shotgun, 3 pistols, and I am in the market for another pistol. However I am keeping these all at my dad’s safe AMSEC TL-30×6 half-ton safe back at my parent’s house. They are kind of useless if they are 15 miles from where I live in the event of an emergency. For now I rely on a replica sword from A Game of Thrones as my emergency protection, which is useless if that person is armed with any ranged weapon or a better swordsman than I.
Hello Mr. Capra, I am M.[Name Withheld]. I am an avid reader of your blog. It is concise, informative, and well-written. Over the past month I have been looking for a safe to buy but I am pulled in different directions. It is surprisingly difficult very difficult and multifaceted decision. My friend recommended you after reading your blog and he realized how useless his Gunvault 2000 Biometric Safe was (I told him several times but to no avail).
This decision is much more complicated given the fact that I live on the 4th floor of my apartment. I would imagine a 2000 pound safe would be out of the question, but also, I do not plan on having a large arsenal of weapons like my dad, so large safes would be a pointless waste of space. I modifying my apartment for my safe is out of the question as well.
I was planning on getting a small gun safe not more than 2’L * 2’H * 3’W that was TL-15 or better. But I was wondering, would it be better get a jewelry safe? I only plan on having 2 pistols in there and vital documents (my fiancee and I’s insurance info, bonds, SSN’s, emergency money, etc). My fiancee keeps her jewelry hidden in shoes (many, many shoes) so we are looking for that kind of protection as well.
Also, is it a good idea to bolt down the safe of a 4th floor apartment? I’m afraid I’ll hit electric or gas lines. I am aware either way I wouldn’t be getting my deposit back. Would bolting even be adequate if I can’t even bolt it to floor joists?
Lastly, I was thinking about getting another safe. It was an under-the-bed safe where a drawer pops out and you can grab your guns at night. But I looked at an Amsec model, the drawer looks flimsy and 2 minutes with a crowbar will get you in. Is there anyway to discretely and securely hide several weapons (preferably my shotgun and 2 handguns) to be within a few feet, or even under my bed? The walk in closet for our (my fiancee and I’s) bedroom is separated by our bathroom, and my master bedroom walk-in closet is dominated by my fiancee’s clothes and apparel, there is literally no room in there.
Anyways, I likely have some other questions. But I honestly can’t remember. I apologize for being long-winded, I have been working 60+ hour weeks at my work recently as our project is nearing its end. I do not know how to word things effectively with such little sleep. Any advice you can offer towards accommodating safes with apartments will be appreciated. Thank you and take care.
Thanks for the nice words about my site. I too was surprised myself how difficult the topic of gun safes can be.
I understand your situation pretty well; I was faced with a similar one at my last apartment. Here’s what I would recommend for you:You’re fortunate to have such a great safe at your dad’s only 15 miles away. I would keep any guns that can’t be replaced (sentimental value or highly customized) there. While you’re living in an apartment, it’s best to avoid putting irreplaceable valuables in harm’s way. If all your guns are heirlooms and you want a home defense gun for your apartment, consider buying an inexpensive shotgun or polymer pistol instead of a safe. If the self-defense gun gets stolen, you can use it as an excuse to upgrade to a new model.
In my apartment, I realized there was only a builder grade door standing between everything I owned and everyone else. My first layer of protection was to use customized renters insurance to insure my guns and valuables. That way if they got stolen, at least I’d get repaid. This is a good idea for your wife’s jewelry as well. Make sure to document your valuables, take pictures, register them with your insurance company if you need to, and get a replacement value rider so insurance will pay you enough to buy new things. These two links discuss insurance:
Anchoring a safe is difficult for apartment owners. Except to hang pictures, modifying your apartment is a violation of every rental agreement I’ve seen. Keep in mind that if you decide to take a chance and drill your floor or walls without the permission of your landlord, you can be liable for loss of your security deposit and even legal action to recover damages.
With that said, I’ve done it when I needed to. I’ve drilled holes through walls to run wires and screwed curtains and heavy picture frames to the wall. When I moved out I repaired the holes with spackle (joint compound) and mesh tape. When I didn’t have time to use spackle, I used white toothpaste to fill small holes. Rental laws vary by state; where I lived landlords couldn’t charge for “normal wear and tear”. This meant that if I lived in an apartment more than a few years, they couldn’t charge me for repainting or new carpet as long as everything was clean and I repaired the holes in the walls. So I didn’t get charged for drilling the walls.
Generally screwing something to the wall is easier to repair than screwing something to the floor. So, a gun lock which bolts to the wall (like the ShotLock) is lower risk for getting into trouble with your landlord. In your situation you have other valuables you want to protect, you’re probably going to want some sort of security container, not just a ShotLock.
Normally, a jewelry safe is the perfect option for your type of valuables. Unfortunately apartments don’t give you a lot of options for hiding or anchoring a safe. The bedroom closet is the easiest location, but also the first place a burglar will look. Any safe is going to instantly draw a burglar’s attention to your stuff. If you can’t anchor a safe, it may actually make your valuables more likely to get stolen. A TL-15 jewelry safe is relatively difficult to break into, but easy to move with common household items. This burglar stole a jewelry safe from a Queens apartment using just the victim’s office chair.
Decide if you’re willing to anchor a jewelry safe in your apartment. If you have anything other than carpet, you probably won’t be able to get away with drilling the floor. The majority of apartment buildings use repeating floor plans which make it relatively easy to guess what’s under your feet. A trusted friend familiar with construction should be able to help you figure out if there’s a risk of hitting something with a drill or screw. As you mentioned, you can’t plan to hit a joist. However, you could use a fixture to spread the force over a larger area. See the section I just added Screwing a Gun Safe to the Subfloor for an idea about how you could anchor a jewelry safe through carpet to the subfloor.
If you don’t want to anchor a safe in your apartment, your current strategy of hiding things is arguably the safest. If you had a break-in today, a burglar isn’t likely to look in all of your wife’s shoes. Building on this idea, other household items would make more convenient hiding spots. For example, a heavy gauge two-drawer filing cabinet from a used office supply store can be locked, and makes a relatively inconspicuous place to hide valuables. False books would also make a good hiding spots for your gun and/or wife’s jewelry. More ideas on hiding valuables can be found in the section on gun safe alternatives article.
One major advantage of not buying a jewelry safe is that it’s one less thing to move. Even if you can anchor it in your current apartment, you might not be able to in your next one. I grew so tired of moving I decided to stay in that apartment until I bought a house. Unfortunately, a new property management company bought my complex, and I had to move anyway. You never know what life will throw at you!
So my recommendations for your situation would be
- Keep irreplaceable guns and anything you can’t insure in your father’s safe.
- Document and insure all of your valuables fully.
- If you can anchor it, get a jewelry safe.
- If you can’t anchor it, improvise inconspicuous places to lock up your valuables.
Hope this helped!
Wow, thank you for the timely advice. I apologize for not being as timely as the past 2 weeks have been very busy.
You truly are an expert in this field! I hadn’t thought of many of these things.
Luckily I do have an uncle who is an electrician and a family friend that lays pipe for a living. They have worked on several apartments and their input will come in handy.
We still have a year on the lease and we might renew it since we really enjoy the property.
Luckily my closets are carpet so if things work out I will probably go with a jewelry safe. I have 2 walk-in closets that are both connected to the master and guest the bathrooms. I will consider hiding my glock-17 in a pistol box inconspicuously in my bedroom (to be in accordance with [my State] laws) while hiding some possessions in the jewelry safe in the guest bathroom walk-in closet. Sometimes my fiancee’s nieces and nephews come over and I’ll put the pistol in the safe while they are over to prevent them finding it.
But in the meantime this is probably going to have to wait until after my fiancée and I’s wedding as a lot of money is being saved for that. I showed her the price of some jewelry safes and got sticker shock.
I appreciate the advice and will take everything you said into consideration while my fiancée and I make our decision.
Thank you Mr. Capra for sharing your knowledge and expertise with me,
What do you think? Leave a comment below, your thoughts are welcome.