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2023 Gun Safe Buyer’s Guide: The Many Different Types of Gun Safes Reviewed

Types of Gun Safes

So you’ve purchased a gun.  Now there are a few things to consider.  Where, in your home, are you going to put it?  How should you store it?  What should you store it in?  What are the different types of gun safes?

According to The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, a secure gun storage or safety device is defined as any device that is designed to be used or can be used to store a firearm and that can only be unlocked only by with a key, a combination, or other similar means.  Gun safes are categorized by lock type, size, properties, and installation location. 

Locks on gun safes range from dial locks, biometric locks, and electronic keypad locks.  Handgun safes are smaller, more portable, and will hold a couple of handguns.  Long gun safes can be space-saving, fit in a corner, and can be used to store rifles and shotguns.  Some gun safes have protective properties against natural forces and can be fireproof or waterproof.  Gun safes can be installed in the wall, in a vehicle, under a bed, or as a diversion safe that blends into surroundings as an everyday item like a can of soup or decorative object.

What Features Should You Consider for Your Gun Safe?


When you begin looking for a gun safe, you want to consider the size gun safe you need.  It is recommended that you get one that will hold your entire gun collection with room to spare in case you grow your collection.  The interior of your safe should be versatile and customizable to your needs.  As your collection grows, or if you decide to store valuables in your safe, you need the freedom and flexibility to move things around.


When considering the weight of your safe, remember that the heavier the safe, the more unlikely it is that a thief will walk out of your house with it.  Heavier, thicker material is also harder to breach.  Your safe should be constructed with at least 14 gauge steel, but 12 gauge is less penetrable.

Fire Rating

Gun safes are available with multiple fire ratings to prevent damage in the event of a fire.  A good safe should stand against a 1200 degree Fahrenheit fire for at least an hour. Some safes even resist temperatures as high as 1800 degrees Fahrenheit.  The best way to truly know the fire rating is to find out how many layers of fire-board are used in the construction of the safe.

Type of Lock

The locks should be dial combination or electronic locks.  They have similar security values but electronic locks are considered faster to use.  It is ultimately about firearm owner preference.  Regardless of the lock you choose, the lock should be UL listed–meaning it has been tried and tested by the Underwriters Laboratories.  They provide unmatched safety and reliability testing.


Many safes come equipped with Relockers.  These are fail-safes that will take over if the lock is compromised.  They will keep the bars and bolts in the locked position even if the lock is removed.  Speaking of bars and bolts, basic safes will have bars or bolts opposite the door hinges.  More superior safes will also have bars on the top and bottom of the doors, while the ultimate protection also provides bolts on the hinge side of the door.

Other Benefits of a Gun Safe

Because your firearms are in one location, a safe makes for quick, easy access in the time of an emergency.  You don’t have to try to sneak off to where you have your firearm hidden in the event of an emergency; you know right where it is in your safe and, if you have biometric access to your safe, you can have it open in a matter of seconds without dealing with a key in a lock.

Gun safes also conveniently provide additional space to store valuables and important documents.  Alongside your rifles and shotguns, you can store your passports, birth certificates, jewelry, and cash.  If you have a fireproof safe, you have the added bonus of these priceless items being protected from fire damage.

While your insurance company may also require that you keep your gun in a gun safe to have full coverage, in some cases, proof of a fire-rated, secured safe will get you a discount on your policy.  And, when it comes to insurance, safe certification also enables faster loss recovery if you have firearms stolen or damaged in some way.  Some states even provide a tax credit or some other sort of rebate with the purchase of a certified safe.

Why Do You Need a Gun Safe, Legally?

Gun safes keep your firearm from being stolen.  Not only can your gun provide timely protection but it’s also a pricey investment that you do not want to have stolen.  If a thief uses your firearm to commit a crime, you can have a lawsuit filed against you and a safe can prevent your gun from falling into a thief’s hands in the first place.

Children will find the very thing you do not want them to find so if you have hidden a gun where you think they will not find it, they will prove you wrong.  Guns that are not properly locked away are responsible for countless accidental shooting deaths of children.  A gun safe will protect your children, as well as any other children who may visit your home.  There are 27 states that have Child Access Prevention Laws of some kind and these laws generally state that gun owners are legally required to keep firearms in safe and secure locations, like gun safes, to keep children from accessing them.  Minors aside, having your gun secured in a safe can also keep you from getting sued for irresponsible handling of a firearm between adults.

Since the majority of states require you to secure your gun in some kind of locker, your best bet is with a certified gun safe.   Owning a gun safe makes it apparent that you are a responsible gun owner who respects the law and the safety of others.

How Much Do Gun Safes Cost?

Gun safes range in price, depending on how many bells and whistles are included.  The high-end safes could cost $4000 or more but you can get a reliable safe for a quarter of that price.  If you don’t have an extra $1000 sitting around because you spent all your money on a gun, you can find basic safes for around the $600 price point.  The general recommendation is for your safe to be between 10-20% of the value of everything in your safe.

Our Recommended Budget Gun Safe

GunVault MiniVault

Gun Safe Alternatives

If your budget is tight, your storage space is limited, or you are striving for a certain aesthetic, here are some alternatives for firearm storage:

  • Job boxes, like a contractor’s job box, come in various sizes and almost always have a lock.  They can tuck away in a large drawer, truck bed, under a bed, or inside a closet.  If you have multiple guns, you can have multiple job boxes without breaking the bank and have your guns in different locations in your home.  You can get a decent job box for $100.
  • Gun drawer safes are sleek, lightweight, drawer-style safes that can fit under furniture.  These tend to cost $350 or more but are great options for the safety measures they have along with their low profile.  Like larger safes, these come with options to unlock with a key, code, or biometrically.
  • Pistol boxes can run less than $100 but provide a secure way to store your gun or even 4-5 pistols.  They can be hidden away in the same places as a drawer safe but can also fit in a dresser drawer or bedside table drawer.
  • Traditional gun cabinets are the largest of these alternatives.  They tend to resemble a display cabinet, made of wood and equipped with glass in the doors and a light in the top for showing off gun collections.  Gun cabinets do lock and will provide some resistance against theft but are far less secure than a safe.  Gun cabinets also have additional space for storing straps, ammunition, and other accessories.  You can get a traditional gun cabinet for around $200 or spend upwards of $1500 for quality Amish craftsmanship.
  • Steel gun cabinets are lighter than gun safes and come in various sizes.  Steel gun cabinets tend to be constructed with thinner, 18 gauge steel but higher-end models may be made of thicker, 14 gauge steel.  Most gun lockers today open with a key but there are some that have codes or biometric fingerprint technology.  You can find steel fun cabinets for under $200 but higher-end steel gun cabinets with UL locks and 14 gauge steel will cost around $800.


Our Recommended Steel Gun Safe

RPNB Rifle Safe

The bottom line is gun owners should understand the level of accountability that comes with owning any amount of firearms.  If you own a gun, for the safety of your family and those that visit your home, it should be secured.  There are plenty of options for any budget and any amount of space that you should have no trouble finding the perfect fit that will provide the necessary accessibility and security you desire.

Thanks for reading!  If you are a gun enthusiast, be sure to check out our other product guides such as our review of the main types of gun holsters.


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