by Tim Makay
Owning a gun is a right, but any right worth having carries with it responsibility. Gun ownership is a great example. In the U.S., our natural right to keep and bear arms is further codified by our constitution, but we would be poor exemplars of that right if we did not take the time and put in effort to keep our guns from unauthorized or unsafe hands.
This is simple for the most part when we have the gun on us and under our immediate control. It is more complicated when we do not. When storing your gun, or other guns that you are not using, you will need practical solutions that will keep them safe and sound
The obvious choice is a gun safe, but that is not the only option. Luckily the smart gun owner has access to a variety of devices and techniques to ensure or increase the physical security of their firearms. In this article, we’ll be taking a look at a variety of security containers, locks, hiding places and clever hiding places to make sure you keep your guns out of the wrong hands.
What does “secure” mean? I don’t mean the definition, I mean the status of our guns in the context of our discussion. Depending on who you are, what you do and what your home, work and family situation is, your “secure” pronouncement may look different than mine.
If you have family in the home, you will doubtless be concerned with keeping the gun out of the hands children. We have all heard the terrible tales of what happens when an untrained and unsupervised child finds a loaded gun.
Some people may have to deal with innocent but nosy and histrionics-prone relatives. Some people simply entertain plenty of guests and so having a gun in a position to be easily stumbled upon is a bad move. Keeping your guns secure is of obvious benefit in the case of a burglary or home invasion.
Depending on your situation and concerns, you may want the gun ensconced in a hardened container, big or small, disabled with a locking device or by some other means, or properly hidden to preclude it being found by all by a diligent and thorough search of the house while ideally remaining reasonably accessible to you.
None of these solutions is explicitly right or wrong. The most commonly recommend proscription, a large gun safe, is a good one, but you would do well to remember that even this beastly containers are not unbreachable or defeatable.
No security system is, not even the mightiest vault or most impenetrable fortress. All security systems do is buy time against deliberate attempts and force. With enough time and enough force, any secure container or location can be defeated.
Hopefully it will cost the thief or attacker so much time that they give up for fear of discovery or intervention by a defender. That’s where you come in. If hidden well enough, we hope our would-be interloper or thief will never even know the gun is there, or if they do, they will give up in frustration long before they zero in on the hiding place.
At the end of the day, with few exceptions, most of us do not linger at home day in and day out where will incidentally (or purposefully) be ready to respond to any would-be thief or nosy relations. Keeping that in mind, you must assess how much and what kind of security you need versus your desired level of accessibility.
Accessibility and Security
Balancing speed and security is never as easy as we would like it, and often more complex than we might imagine. There is no baseline for this, and deciding on the right balance between the two is up to the individual. Needless to say, you must take great care when determining a storage solution for a gun that will be loaded, as the stakes, if it is discovered, are far higher.
If the gun is going to be placed in storage without any kind of defensive purpose then speed of access is less important than if the opposite was the case. If that is so, you must ensure that you can access the gun as quickly as you can under less-than-ideal conditions, say for instance like 3AM after being wakened from a sound sleep by a crash in the house. What is easy when bright eyed and bushy tailed may be far more error-prone then…
Concerning speed of access, faster is always the preference but sometimes the price of speed may be one that is too steep to bear depending on your circumstances.
Take the classic example of a gun kept on the nightstand; very, very fast, but not secure. Stepping up security in the same scenario would be a compact quick-open safe, perhaps one with an electronic lock for “fast” access.
Sure, those units are secure in the context of someone accessing the gun in a short time frame, and can be fast, but they are far from error-free; a fumbled entry on the keypad when the pressure is mounting will cost time you do not have in an emergency.
The same class of safe with a simple mechanical lock or dial would offer more reliability than an electronic lock, but is even slower. Remember what I said about this being less than easy? You are starting to get it by now no doubt.
I am not saying all this to frustrate you, only to make you aware of the very real tradeoffs present in any security system. Sometimes all you can do is pick a solution that means you’ll sacrifice the least important factor to you.
Remember: there is no one perfect security solution! You must weigh all of the variables against your desires, concerns and requirements. Somewhere in the equation lies your answer.
Secure Storage Options
Next we’ll take a look at various methods you can employ to secure your guns. As a reminder, do not expect that all of these various methods will appeal or even work for you depending on your circumstances.
Nevertheless, learn from the following so you can make an informed and wise choice.
The following is not listed in any order whatsoever. As I mentioned earlier, all have their own advantages and disadvantages.
Gun Safes, Strongboxes, Vaults
The go-to solution for many gun owners and with good reason. No matter what size, placing a gun under “lock and key” will always afford good security against unauthorized access unless the combo or key is compromised.
Depending on the size of your collection, you can get safes in a wide range of sizes and construction, anywhere from tiny, single pistol strongboxes to enormous safes weighing nearly 1,000 pounds. Locking systems could be anything from traditional dial to an electronic biometric fingerprint scanning lock.
As a rule, the larger the safe the more logistical concerns you’ll be dealing with on delivery, emplacing and moving of it. A smaller safe is much less fuss to haul home and put in place, but no matter what size you buy you must bolt them to a firmpoint in the wall or floor to properly secure them.
Larger safes than you might think have been carted off by a team of burglars using hand trucks or good old fashioned muscle, to be later broken into at their leisure in a location of their choosing. It goes without saying smaller strongbox is usually easy to break free and tote away entirely, but these units are designed more for the prevention of unauthorized access than asset protection.
Take care when settling on a locking system: traditional mechanical locks of all kinds, be they dials on large safes or Simplex buttons are highly reliable and nearly maintenance free, but not swift or easy to open under stress.
Any electronic lock may well be simpler and faster to open, but if batteries run out you are out of luck until they are replaced or you fetch the backup key if it is so equipped. Biometric locks offer the ultimate in speed and convenience, but are not reliable enough in my estimation for keeping a defensive firearm ready to use.
In this category, trigger locks and cable locks are the most common, but also included are devices like locking racks and wall mounts. Depending on the precise configuration, these may or may not even allow a semblance of speed for a defensive gun, or may not even permit the gun to be loaded at all by design.
A trigger lock fits over the trigger guard area of a firearm to prevent the trigger from being reached or pulled. Some units are designed to fit a particular firearm, but most are universal-ish.
While the trigger locks themselves are compact and often very rugged, they can be picked, and care must be taken to ensure that they cannot be pulled themselves to activate the trigger!
Cable locks are another convenient option to temporarily disable a gun, and are designed to thread through the barrel or action of a gun and close on a padlock to prevent it from being loaded or the action going into battery, thus preventing it from being used. These work well at their purpose, but all are vulnerable to being cut off easily with bolt cutters or other tools.
Locking racks can afford a decent blend of security and speed of access, but invariably must be mounted to a wall or other fixture. Depending on their design, they may allow a gun to be kept out of the way and still easy to access. Some will have integral locking systems while others require the use of a separate lock.
Concealment Fixtures, False Furnishings and More
Sort of blending the attributes of a secure container and a hiding place, the new and popular category of décor is intended to offer the best of both worlds: household fixtures and furniture than invisibly blends into the rest of the house but have specialty compartments built in to hide the guns in plain sight. Anything from shelves, lamps, sconces, tables, mirrors, picture frames and more may be found on the market today.
These units may or may not feature locking systems, and are built to varying levels of toughness. Some units are essentially disguised metal strongboxes while others are merely wood or particle board with a specialty compartment and hidden closure for access. Investigate the construction and features of any prospective unit thoroughly before purchase to make sure you like what it offers.
Success with these units hinges on placing them believably in your home and still maintaining easy access: do they match your décor, or standout, and can you actually get to your gun in a time of need? You must consider your habits and how you move through your home as well; a gun hidden in a special shelf that resides in the home office you never, ever use may not be ideal.
The biggest shortcoming with these devices is that they are typically for keeping one or two guns at the ready and reasonably easy to access. They are not ideal for collections (unless you stud your entire house with these things). If discovered or suspected by a thief, most will be broken open easily, so that is one more thing to consider.
Even with these drawbacks, solutions in this class afford some real benefits for a savvy homeowner or apartment dweller.
Sneaky Hiding Spots
A proper hiding place can be a great way to keep your guns out of others grubby mitts, be they family, guests or crooks, but you must be really, really committed to utilizing good, out of the way hiding spots, not the top of the fridge, in a shoebox or under your socks. You won’t fool anyone, least of all a thief.
The real challenge with hiding places is choosing a spot that will be overlooked or skipped in a search while still affording you easy access. This is if you want to keep the guns handy of course. If you are worried more about secure storage and less about frequent use or readiness, then you can utilize more obscure or concealed methods.
Another quirk of hiding places is that hiding a gun from a thief and hiding a gun from a visitor or family member in the house can sometimes be mutually exclusive. Most serious thieves know all the usual suspects for hiding valuables, including guns, and will check them if given time and opportunity.
Busting a thief by using one of the example places below will usually put the gun “in harm’s way” of being found by a relative or guest in some occasions. Read on and you’ll see what I am talking about.
Some ideas for hiding places:
- Stuffed under the clothes in your laundry hamper.
- Hidden in a vent, access box or similar fixture.
- Hung from a hook or wire beneath high in a floor-level cabinet, basin or vanity.
- Concealed in a false wall or other compartment.
- Hidden in a stack of towels in the bathroom closet.
- Hidden in a box or similar container that is at home in your pantry.
- Beneath carefully blended false flooring.
See what I meant when I said a spot that may flummox a burglar may put others on a path to finding the gun? Yeah, you can assume the gun will be found in the bathroom towels or laundry eventually by someone, even if a thief would not give that location the time of day.
The choice to keep a securely stored or hidden gun loaded is up to you. Please keep in mind, no matter what any local or state laws have to say about storage of firearms or negligence regarding a gun falling into unauthorized or criminal hands, you have a moral responsibility to do everything you reasonably can to prevent that from happening.
Some things unfortunately cannot be avoided no matter what you did; no matter how well hidden or how strong the safe. That should never be an excuse though for haphazard or careless storage. Any storage decision you make must be well thought through. You must plan and execute as if someone is actively searching, right now, for your guns. One day, they might be.
No matter where you live or what your living arrangements look like, secure storage of guns is achievable, even on a zero-dollar budget if you are creative.
A safe, locking system or clever hiding spot is all you need to keep your guns from fomenting tragedy in the wrong hands. One of the above techniques or devices will instead keep them where they belong; in your hands.