How Do You Secure Your Guns? A Safe? Cabinet? What Methods?

I need a new and improved gun storage method. Right now mine are stored in various locations in the house with standard locks, the combination style trigger lock and the cable gun locks. Those types of locks work fine if your objective is to keep little kids from pulling them out of storage, then finding the correct ammunition for them and then figuring out how to load them. That’s why I have the locks on, though in reality, my kids are not old enough to figure all of that out.

Photo by julishannon

So why do I even put the locks on? Well … I don’t know. I guess because, for my long guns anyway, it’s the only locking system I have. I could theoretically leave them unlocked, but most new guns come with locks by default and I’ve acquired a few free ones over the years, so why not put them on? That being said, when I was a kid gun locks were a foreign concept. I remember as a kid finding my father’s loaded snub nose .38 in his nightstand. I was probably looking for a Playboy or something, but I was familiar with guns at such an early stage that the loaded .38 held no curiosity value for me and I knew not to fiddle with it. I likely thought “that’s not what I’m looking for” and moved on.

Side note: sorry you had to read that, Mom. Yes, I know Dad had a few Playboys. Did you really think I wouldn’t find them?

Time ticks on and while I’ll teach my kids about guns and gun safety, today’s world is different. Even if I am able to trust my kids, I won’t be able to trust the friends they’ll bring over. The problem with trigger and cable gun locks is they don’t secure the gun in one location. You can still pick it up and walk out the door with it. The other problem is that the guns are not centrally located. This, for me, isn’t any type of SHTF “gotta get my guns quick” concern, but more of a house tidiness concern.

So what do I do now?

The obvious answer is – get a safe. That’s a fine answer, but a good safe is expensive. I’m not exactly swimming in cash. I’m looking for a lower cost alternative – if I can find one. I’ve read details about how some people build a concrete block “gun room” in their basement to store their guns and that seems like it’d be cool idea, but I don’t have enough guns to fill a room. I have enough to cover my bases. I’m not a collector.

The lower cost alternative is a standard gun cabinet, a sheet metal style safe wannabe. While these don’t offer fire protection, and a motivated thief can bust through one fairly easily, they do offer a locked layer of protection.

Should I really be concerned about fire protection, though? I’m not that far from the fire department, so there is very little likelihood my house would ever burn to the ground, and what if I did lose my guns in a fire, well – I lose my guns in a fire. If I had a pile of cash (ha!) and precious documents, I could just put those in a small, low-cost fireproof safe. Fire doesn’t concern me that much, it’s more the idea of a thief rushing through the house trying to steal something or my kids’ future friends that come visit that concern me more. Losing your guns in a fire is one thing. Losing a life at the hands of your gun is something else.

Right now I’m debating between a low-cost metal locking cabinet or making my own locking closet and running a 6′ gun vault cable through the rifles as a 2nd layer of defense. I’d want whatever I end up deciding on to accept a gun safe dehumidifier. I could build the locking closet to have a vapor barrier which would facilitate the dehumidifying action, but does a cheap gun cabinet have the same vapor barrier effect?

One disadvantage to a gun cabinet (and a safe for that matter) is that if someone sees it – they know where your guns are. So even if I had a gun cabinet, I’d want to conceal it somehow. Maybe I’m better off building my own locking closet? Maybe I’m better off just saving up and buying a real safe? Ugh – decisions!

- Ranger Man

BTW: I just want to thank to the person(s) that dropped a SHTF Blog link on their Facebook page. I don’t know who you are, but I appreciate the referrals. I also want to thank those of you that have been using the Amazon search bar in the sidebar to do your online shopping. The spare change adds up and helps defray the cost of maintaining this site.

  • j.r. guerra in s. tx. January 27, 2011, 8:48 am

    I think hardening a closet may be as good a solution as the safe, if you want to save money. Easier to conceal as well. In our old house, we had a closet with one end having a recess. We built a 24″ deep cart with dolly wheels, framed one end with a plywood panel and painted the interior faces of the wall. With curtain rod above the edge, hard to spot in a dim confines of a closet. Held about 15 guns, kept them in soft cases in case they fell over.

    Hope this helps.

    Reply
  • Jack January 27, 2011, 9:06 am

    I use the dispersal method, combined with the home alarms system. All my guns are scattered around the house in various closets and containers (hard cases and soft). I have a larger obvious combo safe with nothing much in it, just sitting on the floor (not bolted to the floor) in the master bedroom closet. Since I turn on the alarm every time I leave the house, a burglar would probably just grab the worthless main safe and run when the alarm went off. If I had a cheapo gun safe, he’d probably just grab that too. I don’t think he’d have time to go through all my closets to find all the guns with the alarm blaring.

    Reply
  • Nightshift January 27, 2011, 9:17 am

    Another option my father used…..an old school fridge with the top ice box removed. A padlock or two. Will resist fire damage for a while too. Ever seen a house fire where the fridge contacts are intact….It happens. An old fridge in the basement may be overlooked by a burglar also.

    Reply
  • Spook45 January 27, 2011, 9:31 am

    This is a good one. My primary method is a safe. Not a keyed safe but a big, heavy, bulky, 3/8 welded plate steel safe! Mine is not fire proof, but it is very heavy. I make ends to place my safe in the smallest most constricted space I can and still have access, bolt it to the wall and to the floor, and clutter other storage up around it so that it is hard to get too. I make it as difficult as I possably can for anyone who would dare try to get in it. One of my friends had a keyed safe, and it was ok. They are heavy gauge sheetmetal, reinforced etc. not bad for the money. His room mates had some “undesirable” types of freinds and I warned him just a wk before, his safe sat out in the open against a wall. I told him, put it in the closet, bolt it down, but he wouldnt listen. A week after a falling out with the room mates, he was broken into and what did they take? They passed up DVDs(quik sale at any pawn shop) PS 2 and games, computers, stereo and various other electronics and took the safe. There had to be at least three of them, cuz it was full! They got away with over $5000 in guns, knives and collectables in one pop and took nothing else(except a 2 liter pepsi from the fridge, all that work must hv made them thirsty) and after filing a police report he recovered nothing. He didnt have any kind of insurance, so that was out the window, which brings me to my most important point! RECORDS! You need to keep and updated record of all of your guns for monitary and liability reasons. If he had been able to provide serial numbers, makes models and even pics, he might have recovered some of his guns. Also, even the big heavy fireproof safes can be pillaged if given enough time. I worked a case where one was breeched from the bottom(the weakest point on the safe) with a pick, an axe and some other basic common hand tools. All of the contents were pulled out thru the hole in the bottom. None of the guns were recovered(again, they had no makes,models or numbers) A freind in an adjouning jurisdiction had one from some folks who had a summer home there and came and went with work rotations at a power plant. They were away, so the perp had lots of time to work. HE simply used and agle grinder with a cutting wheel and cut the locking bolts off anf opened the door, luckily they had some records of what was there and a good portion of it was recovered. Sometimes the best safe is a hiding place that is either not viewable to the naked eye, or a lil outside the box. Yes, sometimes it is better to hide them than to try and secure them. One might have two safes, a hidden safe(where all of the goodies are) and a safe out in the open bolted down etc. and weighed down with sand bags or blocks or whatever. Very often a perp will take the whole safe instead of trying to open it on sight. The longer they are there, the higher the chance they will get caught. Fore thought should be fore most in your choice of gun security. And remember folks security is not an endstate.

    Reply
  • Cliffystones January 27, 2011, 9:43 am

    I have one of those “Stack On” gun cabinets in my basement workshop. It was light enough to get down there without a crane or “The force”. I anchored it to the basement wall with concrete anchors. I also have a 2-drawer locking file cabinet with some ammo in ammo cans, my CZ-52 and my .357 revolver. One of us is usually home during the day, and at least three of my neighbors in our cul-du-sac also work from home, so the odds of a break-in are minimal. Oh, and humidity here is pretty much non-existent.

    While i don’t have any personal experience with them, I’ve kept away from those safes with electronic locks. We have one small one with our vital records in it and it the old fashion dial type. Those electronic locks depend on batteries, and we’ve all seen how those can corrode if not changed out over the years. The mechanical locks are certainly more reliable than some cheap, Chinese-made microchips.

    When I was growing up my parents had a built in ironing board in their bedroom. My dad removed the ironing board from the wall cabinet and set it up to store his hunting rifles. Then he put the dresses with a mirror in front of the cabinet to conceal it. This worked quite well. We kids knew where the guns were kept. We knew that all we had to do was ask to see them anytime and Dad would get them out. We knew that attempting to access them without asking was a “corporal offense” :).

    Reply
    • Spook45 January 27, 2011, 1:35 pm

      Yea, as far as safes go, I wont have one with an electronic lock. They are fast, but they are not too hard to get into. anything computer has a default code, if you forget your code, you can go to the manufacturer to get the default to get it open. What if the batteries go dead at the WRONG TIME and then you ar in trouble. WHat about EMP? are they EMP proof? I mean, its a stretch, but if it happened, you would definately need your hardware! The hidden compartment is a great idea. In old houses, the designs were not like today. There was a lot of wasted space and very often there would bo hollows behind and between walls, over the tops of cabinets under cabinets, etc. I had a friend once who was tearing down an old house close to Memphis and found one such hollow. In it, there were two large crates marked “COLT” when he pryed the lid off of one, it was a full case of peacemakers still in grease. Both cases were full. The job super found out before he could “export” them and didnt even get to keep one. These are great places to hide stuff because most people would never know they were there unless they tore the house down. If they cant find it, they cant steal it! And as I said before, security is not an endstate. IT is a never ending game of one upmanship. You take action ot secure your goods, the bad guy takes action to breech your security. You update and harden, he finds a new way in. I change and rearrange things routinely so that no one can ever figure out just whats going on.

      Reply
  • TMM January 27, 2011, 11:14 am

    I use the Stack-on brands… not so much to avoid theft but to keep the young ‘uns out. No matter how well you teach your own, they bring friends over. Mine are secured to the wall studs (they have mounting holes and lag bolts included) inside the bedroom closet. Clothes hang in front of it. Won’t stop a determined thief, but someone rushing through looking for easy pickings is liable to miss seeing it. And I have the key and access it easily enough…

    As a side note, I also use a seperate one for ammo in a different closet. Again, keeps control from rug rats, and if someone is trying to rob me and finds it first, by time they get done breaking into it (and making a LOT of noise in the meantime) they will only find the ammo, and may decide they don’t have enough time to look for the actual firearms…

    We usually have someone in the house though almost 24/7 so not as worried.

    Reply
  • Rockwood Armz January 27, 2011, 12:25 pm

    Allot of good ideas! I like the fortified closet. Bolting down a sheet metal type safe/cabinet just makes sense. Bolting a cabinet inside a closet is even better! It constrains the room available for crooks to move around while breaking the thing open (if they find it). Legally some states require you by law to keep firearms “locked” & not available to young people. Your cable locks, Ranger, should satisfy that. A gunsafe is like a garage, always get a bigger one than you think you need. I’ve up sized a couple times now & should again. I say I’m gonna thin out the herd, but its damn hard!

    Reply
  • Rick January 27, 2011, 1:23 pm

    Ranger,
    I am kinda in the same boat as you. My little guy is too small to even worry about yet, but he won’t stay that way. Most of our guns are scattered about the house. We live in a low crime area and my wife is a stay at home mom. (As are several of our neighbors). If we ever leave for an extended time I usually bring most of our guns with us. An attic that is inaccessible without a ladder is a good spot. Also the space between the basement ceiling and upper floor works well too. I like the idea of a small safe tucked into the back of a closet. These are only good short term places tho. I personally am trying to save up for a good solid safe.

    Reply
  • Cliffystones January 27, 2011, 3:13 pm

    Spook45,
    My heart sank when you told me about those Colts. And not at least allowing him one as a finders fee! That’s just plain stingy!

    Reply
    • Spook45 January 27, 2011, 3:26 pm

      Yea, SOME PEOPLES KIDS! What do ya do eh’ THat was back in hte early 80s, I can only imagine what they are worth today. IT is cool how he found them tho. At that time, we lived in a house that had been built in the late 1800s and reamodeled and added onto. It was formerly a baording house, whoch was cool cuz I had my oown entrance and exit, porch etc. rooms were realy big, great old house. As I started to explore and poke around I found lots of cool hiding places made from the poor designs fro mthe construction of that era, There were hollows and dead spaces all thru the house. There was a small hidden room in the attic, and a crawl space under the back porch. Thats What Im talking about right there, places no one would find without days or even weeks to search.

      Reply
  • ChefBear58 January 27, 2011, 3:16 pm

    Where I live I am not monstrously concerned with someone breaking in because someone is here all the time and we are all well versed in what to do just in case. There also isn’t little ones here, the only time there is, is when my brother brings my niece over and she is 8mo. old. So I don’t have to worry about curiosity for quite some time and even when she is old enough we are planning on teaching her how to shoot and that will hopefully take away the mystique like you mentioned Ranger Man.

    For my rifles I have a simple cedar gun cabinet that I bought from a yard sale. It has a lock, but it would be easy enough for a motivated thief to break into it with the right tool. As Spook45 mentioned I rely more on concealment, the cabinet is in the corner of the front room where there isn’t much light and it kind of just blends into the other furniture in the room. I did stain it a dark mahogany color, and the glass that was in the door I replaced with 1/2″ Plexiglas that I etched a design into with my dremel tool. I have never had a problem with humidity in the wooden gun cabinet, but I could always place one of those desiccant cans in there if I did. They even have some that last for a couple years all you need to do is empty the bottom of the can once in a while.

    For my handguns, drywall covers some pretty slick hiding places! I won’t say where my pistols are currently for safety reasons, but I will explain my old hiding spot. I cut an 8″ square hole next to the window in my bedroom between studs in the wall. Then I toed in a a piece of 2×4″ for a floor and one up top for protection from any insulation that might possibly come down from the attic. I got a piece of scrap drywall from a friend who works construction which I cut to exactly the right size for the hole in the wall (after smoothing down the edges and trying to get the perfect fit several times). I used drywall tare on the edges so it wouldn’t crumble when I pulled it open and fitted it in, after placing a .45 in there. My little hiding spot is right next to the window, so I got curtains that were about 20″ wider than the windows to cover the sides evenly. I have asked a couple of my friends to try and find my pistol and so far nobody has been able to figure out where its hidden.

    Reply
  • Chris January 27, 2011, 3:16 pm

    I believe survivalmom posted it on facebook?

    Reply
  • Wolverine January 27, 2011, 4:03 pm

    Guns and Safety Thoughts

    Rangerman,

    I read your post today and wanted to share a few things with you. I hope that what I share will help some folks with the problem of kids and guns. I know this worked for me, but I can’t assure everyone it will work for them.
    I am a gun collector among other pursuits. Also being preparedness minded I realize that an unloaded gun, while safe, is pretty useless. I chose to be very pro-active in training my boys in gun safety very early.
    I agree with you that kids will find a hidden gun. I also feel that making it a mystery for “when you are old enough” only adds to their desire to check them out and use them. If kids would wait there wouldn’t be all the teen drinking and sex that goes on. I decided early on to take the mystery out of my guns.
    I showed the boys where they were at and showed them that they were loaded. I started this when they were about three. Every time we looked at a gun we opened it to check if it was loaded. We went over the safety rules every time. If the boys wanted to see a gun I would stop and we would look at it. I managed to buy a nice Ruger Bearcat pistol that is small enough to teach a youth to shoot. That was their gun when we went shooting.
    I found that with the mystery out of the gun they ignored them for the most part. The only time they were interested in then is when a buddy would come by and we would talk guns.
    When my oldest was about seven or eight my father-in-law bought a hammerless .38 to carry concealed. It held five rounds. After I looked at the weapon I put one round in the cylinder and closed it so the round was lined with the barrel. (It would take several trigger pulls before the round would fire.) I then called my son and asked if he wanted to see grandpa’s new pistol. My father-in-law started to protest about the round in the gun but I held up a finger and told him it was ok. I handed the gun to my son and didn’t say a word. I watched as he opened the cylinder and told me it was still loaded. He handed it back to me still open. I took out the round and then he checked out the gun. My father-in-law was awe struck that a boy that young knew that much about gun safety already.
    My youngest got really good at shooting and enjoys it so much that he joined the Marksmanship Team when he was in college. He has several medals for his shooting ability both collegiate and from ROTC.
    Like all things the more education you have the better off you are. I educated my sons in guns and gun safety early on and it has worked wonders for us.
    Wolverine

    Reply
  • Prepared N.D. January 27, 2011, 5:01 pm

    I keep my long guns in one of those cheap sheet metal gun cabinets that I keep in a locked closet. Each gun has a cable lock on it. The closet is only locked to keep kids from screwing around with my gear.

    If I lose my guns via fire or theft, I have insurance for that. The reason I keep the guns cable locked in the safe and unloaded is because I wouldn’t want my guns used against me in the event I walked in on a burglary. They could still clip the cable and load them, but I imagine they would be more concerned with quickly getting them loaded up in a car rather than loading them with ammo. Accidental discharge is also prevented by having them triple locked and unloaded. By the time the kids are old enough to figure out how to get in, they’ll be old enough to respect firearms. Only me and my wife have the keys, which stay on our person at all times.

    There is only one loaded gun in this house, and it’s on my side. That carries a risk in itself, but is mitigated by proper handling.

    This is for today. If it were TEOTWAWKI the situation would be different. Depending on the situation I may be more concerned with readiness than accidental discharge. I’d just have to keep a closer eye on the kids.

    Reply
  • Ranger Man January 27, 2011, 5:12 pm

    All of you have offered awesome advice – thanks a lot. One of the best things about running a blog like this is I can write a post that I want reader input on.

    It’s confirmed, I’m ruling out a full on gun safe. I’m going to pursue the hidden/locked idea further. Keep the ideas coming.

    Reply
  • Brad in South FL January 27, 2011, 5:52 pm

    I recently got married and have a step-son. I have taught him gun safety and he loves to shoot. As everyone stated above I don’t trust his friends. I spent $900 on a good combo lock safe (450 lbs empty) with fire protection rating bolted to the concrete floor. They delivered it in a refrigerator box so the nosy neighbors didn’t have a clue. I have all of my guns in there with room to spare(guess I need to buy more). I also put my important papers, jewlery and precious metals(what little silver I have!). I used to keep my guns in hard cases locked up. I have always had the fear of some knuckle head stealing my guns and hurting someone! When I bought the new place the safe was delivered before I moved in with the new family. It is nestled right in my closet in the bedroom, the wifey has her own closet!

    Stay Safe!

    Reply
  • DixieDennis January 27, 2011, 5:56 pm

    A good cheap gun safe is one of those metal job boxes-jobsite tool box. Turn it up on edge, bolt to floor/wall. It has spots for 2 locks. I built shelves for ammo & racks for weapons. I even duct tape some “special” ammo to the inside of the door for quick access.

    Reply
    • Anonymous January 27, 2011, 8:13 pm

      That is an awesome idea!

      Reply
    • Ranger Man January 27, 2011, 9:24 pm

      That is an interesting idea, but do they make them long enough? It’d be good if I could find a used one. The new ones don’t seem cheap.

      Reply
      • DixieDennis January 28, 2011, 2:08 am

        I can get everything in there except the 50! The box is 60″ tall.
        As for price, I think I gave $260 a few years back.

        Reply
  • leo January 27, 2011, 7:26 pm

    Sentry Fire resistant gunsafe at Academy for 350 bucks or Walmart will ship to your local store for 399 holds 14 long guns abd has a shelf for pistols or other stuff

    Reply
  • Liberty January 27, 2011, 9:40 pm

    If locking & bolting a metal gun cabinet in a closet. Line the inside walls, floor, ceiling & floor with metal, or even if it’s plywood. This Stenghtens the closet & a better surface to screw the cabinet to. Put up a solid door on the closet, or if this may attract attention, screw plywood or metal on the door from the inside. And how about a horizontal deadbolt on the closet door ? or the room that the closet is in ? Security is a layered thing. PS- stay away from the cheap locks at Home Depot.

    Reply
  • ryan January 29, 2011, 8:26 am

    The real question is about who you are trying to prevent from accessing the guns. Also how big of a factor cost is for you.

    If your goal is to prevent children from accessing your guns then just putting a lock on a small closet would work. However a small locking metal cabinet will likely work better. Those Stack On ones are cheap at a bit more than $200. As for someone seeing it and knowing where your guns are. I would put it in an area of your home where casual visitors don’t go. They are easy enough to stick in the back of a closet or in the basement or whatever. Toss an old blanket over it and a few boxes of books/ old clothes/ boring stuff in front and it will escape all but the closest scrutiny.

    For burglars a big heavy safe that is bolted in a concrete floor is the best easily accessible way to go and works for fire also. However as you mentioned they aren’t cheap. If you can compromise on accessability some there are all kinds of cache options in and around the house. Or you could split the difference. Depending on the size of the RM gun cache you could keep say a couple defensive weapons and whatever you use regularly (.22, hunting rifle, etc) accessable in a steel cabinet or safe and the rest either in a less accessible safe or a cache.

    Reply
  • Delta Echo January 29, 2011, 10:50 am

    Something I’ve learned along the way is the idea of hiding things in plain sight. One idea that has stuck with me is the idea of using an older soda machine for gun storage. They have a unique style lock that takes one of those circular style keys. You gut the inside out and customize it to your needs. If you sit it in a corner of your garage and stack stuff on top, it just looks like a future rec-room project.

    Reply
    • Delta Echo January 29, 2011, 10:55 am

      I forgot to add what I currently do. My gun storage is currently a stack on cabinet in the back of a closet.

      Reply
  • sanityjones February 4, 2011, 12:01 am

    One of my hiding spots is also one of those big metal job boxes, only I screwed plywood to the exterior of mine (screwed from the inside via drilled holes) and built a plywood table top for it (fastened the same way) and it sits in my shop in plain view. I drilled out the plywood with a 4 inch hole-saw to access the locking tabs and made plugs to refill the holes. Everyone thinks it’s just a crappy shop table. Fact is it holds about 7k worth of gun related paraphernalia.

    Reply