The Complete Guide to Buying a Gun Safe

Plus, gun-safe recommendations for every budget

browning hawg 49 wid gun safe
The Browning Hawg 49 gun safe has room for—you guessed it—49 guns.Browning

A gun safe is a big investment—and it’s just plain big, and heavy. You should approach gun-safe shopping as if you’re making a lifetime purchase, because you are. Once the safe is in your house, it’s there for good, and you don’t want to move from room to room either. Here are some tips to help you through the purchase of a gun safe—from choosing the right safe for your collection of rifles, shotguns, and handguns, to choosing the right place in your house of for the safe.

1. How Big of a Gun Safe Should You Buy?

“The number one piece of feedback I get from dealers and consumers is they wish they had bought a bigger safe,” says Browning Safe Product Manager Nathan Chapman. He’s right. Rifle and shotgun collections grow. Plus, people find all kinds of things besides guns to store in a safe. A good rule of thumb: Pick a safe that’s 1 ½ times as big as what you think you’ll need.

Safe capacity is rated by the number of gun slots in the safe, which is not the same thing as how many guns it holds. Capacity is based on un-scoped rifles or shotguns. Scoped rifles, ARs, and shotguns with extended bolt handles all take up more room. Figure that in as you’re determining the size of the safe you need.

2. Maximize Your Storage Space

Choose a safe with adjustable shelves and interior. Chapman says a modular system, such as Browning’s Axis system lets you tailor the interior of your safe. Several manufactures offer storage on the inside of the safe door for guns you use most often.

3. Choose a Gun Safe with a Raise Floor

The drawback of safes is that guns can get dinged as much going in and out of the safe as they can in the field. A raised floor is a nice touch. It helps keep you from banging the toe of the stock against the bottom of the door as you take guns out.

4. Don't Let Your Safe Go Up in Flames

Every manufacturer offers fire-resistant safes. Be aware that fire ratings aren’t tested by a single outside source. Instead, safe manufacturers contract with independent labs, and as a result, their claims often conflict. Do your due diligence.

The average home in town fire burns for about half an hour at 1,100 to 1,200 degrees. If you live in the country, far from a fire station and the nearest hydrant, you risk a longer fire. Burglaries are much more common than catastrophic house fires, but you still might want fire protection. After all, burglars won’t take the precious family photos. Fire will.

5. What Kind of Gun-Safe Lock is Best?

Choose a gun safe with an electronic lock. Electronic locks become more popular every year. They are reliable, and less expensive to replace or repair than conventional locks if they are attacked.

7. How Do You Keep Guns from Rusting Inside a Safe?

If you live in a humid climate, you might want an optional dehumidifier for your guns. You can choose among electric, rechargeable, and non-electric desiccants to keep your guns from rusting in storage.

8. Where to Put a Gun Safe in Your House?

Many people keep their safes in a garage, says Chapman. They can be bolted to the floor to keep them from being moved. A dehumidifier is essential if you do choose to keep your safe in an unheated, un-airconditioned garage.

Keep your safe a secret by keeping it out of sight of people who come to the front door, or may peek into a window. The basement makes a great out-of-sight spot, and the coolest place in the house during a fire is in the basement near an outside wall, away from the furnace. Be aware that safes aren’t waterproof. If there’s a chance the basement will flood, put the safe somewhere else.

9. Moving the Immovable Object

Most gun-safe dealers will arrange for delivery and setup. It’s money well-spent to let professionals move a chunk of steel that can weight more than 1,000 pounds. If you must move a safe yourself, get an appliance dolly and two or three friends to help. Be sure any stairs can withstand the weight of a safe and the people before you take a safe down to the basement. And be careful. Safes aren’t safe when they fall on top of you.

The Best Gun Safes for Every Budget

There’s a safe for any budget and any size collection. Here’s a sampling, from small to huge:

Stack On
Stack On 14 Gun SafeStack On

Stack-On 14 Gun Safe

With 14 gun slots and shelving for pistols and other small items, this safe weighs less than 300 pounds and costs about $500. It meets California DOJ safe standards (secure storage is required in California) and is a good choice for someone with a very few guns whose main concern is keeping guns out of sight and keeping honest people honest.

Liberty Centurion 24Liberty

Liberty Centurion 24

One of the best-known names in gun safes, Liberty offers an entry-level line starting right around $1,000. The safe provides 30 minutes of fire protection and comes either in an all-long-gun or half gun, half shelf interior. The 24-gun Centurion weighs 365 pounds.

Browning SporterBrowning

Browning Sporter Series 49 HAWG Wide

The wide HAWG safe has room for 49 gun slots, plus storage on the inside of the door for scoped rifles and most-used guns. It has 60-minute fire protection, weighs 630 pounds and sells for $1,779.

Browning Hells Canyon 65Browning

Browning Hell's Canyon 65 Gun Safe

One of Browning’s most popular models, the 65 extra-wide Hell’s Canyon safe offers 90 minutes of fire protection and a body made of heavy 11-gauge steel. It weighs 1,055 pounds but measures just 60 inches tall, making it easier to fit in some spaces that won’t accommodate a taller safe. The safe starts at $3,169.

Fort Knox Titan

With 100-gun capacity and 69 cubic feet of interior space, the Titan swallows up most gun collections. Rated for 90 minutes at 1,680 degrees and boasting a 10-gauge steel liner, the Titan keeps guns about as secure as they can be kept—and it should, given that it weighs 2,200 pounds and starts around $11,000.