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The Four Rules of Gun Safety

1. Train your family in the Four Rules of Firearms Safety

The best safety for any gun is between your ears. And the ears of everyone in your family. Everyone who may have access to firearms should understand and respect The Four Rules of Gun Safety.

As a responsible firearm owner, you should know that any safe storage device can be breached, from simple trigger locks or other locking devices to a tank-like safe. All a good burglar has to do is either A) use enough force, or B) use the combination. If you think your kids (even young children) are too weak or dumb or unmotivated to get unauthorized access to your guns, you’re only right until you’re not. They can be very resourceful.

It must also be said: we’re all human. It’s entirely possible that you’ll leave your safe open by mistake. Or forget to put your gun away. Or a guest may not safely store their gun in your house.

The only way to increase the odds of preventing a potential storage-related tragedy is to make sure your family members know how to safely handle guns.

2. Home carry

Home is where you spend most of your non-working time and where your most precious things — your family — are. Don’t be one of those gun owners who thinks he’ll have plenty of time to go fetch his gun in an emergency. Turning home defense into a foot race to a lock box or safe is a bad idea. And in terms of gun safety, home carry is is the safest way to go.

What gun do you handle most? Your carry gun, right? If that gun is on your person, you’re in control of it and it’s right there if and when you need it for self-defense.

But you can’t carry all your guns around the home, or even one gun all the time. So you need to . . .

Dan Z for TTAG

3. Get a “proper” safe

Plenty of people keep a shoebox-sized biometric lock or combination lock gunvault by their bed to lock up their gun. Some use cable locks or other forms of gun locks. Some have small gunvaults placed strategically around the house. There are plenty of viable options for safe gun storage.

If family members have been trained and are gun-safe, OK, sure, that works. As long as you understand that it takes only seconds to prise open any small gun box.

But every gun owner with a long gun and/or multiple handguns needs a “proper” safe for secure firearm storage. By that I mean a larger unit — let’s face it, we tend to accumulate them over time — that’s a difficult to open by unauthorized persons without the combination or tools and a lot of time.

There as many big safes on the market as there are gun guys warning you how easy it is to defeat them. They’re not entirely wrong; research your safe purchase thoroughly. That’s why Al Gore invented the internet, right?


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  1. Hey staff writer, there are other equally good ways. Under pressure to write something?

  2. For the price of a good rifle and scope you can buy a decent safe. No excuse for not having one. Back in the day before safes were common I was burglarized. If for no other reason the peace of mind a safe gives you is more than worth the expense.

    • For about $750 you can even get a true fire-rated safe that’ll hold about 20 long guns on paper, and likely 10-15 in reality (plus as many pistols as you want, within reason). That’s a pretty damn good investment. I would imagine this would cover about 90% of firearm owners reasonably well.

      If you have a larger collection or simply have a LOT of guns passed down in the family, the lesser-used guns can be stored in a self-made safe that essentially functions as furniture. My father made something like this that basically works as a TV hutch in a bedroom. Underneath a false top, there is a door (as in a full room-sized door) laid flat with two deadbolt locks. There’s so much steel stored inside that no one could reasonably move it without accessing the inside and emptying it. It’s solid too… just think of your grandfathers self-made workbench in a garage and you’ll understand the materials used in the build.

      • Much as I don’t like them, Cabela’s occasionally has significant sales on safes.

        Five or six years ago I picked up a 40 gun 90 minutes fire rated Liberty safe from them for $750 plus tax.

        So for larger collections or people who know they’ll add a significant number of guns over time, waiting for such a sale is totally worth it.

        • Plus tax???? Get ahold of your elected officials ,

          Washington state, no tax on gun safes we have RCW 82.08.832

          It’s not much in my liberal state but it’s better than nothing

      • The 750 “fire” rated safe, is just a “residential security container”. Also that fire rating is really a bunch of BS. Do you really want a gun that has been cooking inside a oven. Better to just have your homeowners up to date.

        • Most homeowner policies have a cap on what they will pay on firearms, jewelry, etc. You know, the stuff thieves are most likely to steal. My insurance agent advised me to join the NRA and purchase firearms insurance through them.

        • Called a rider. Any issuance company will issue one, if not, time to get a new one. You “base” insurance may not cover it. Inventories are usually required.

        • And a whole lot better yet to store your important documents inside the same safe. Any heat that didn’t scorch paper, didn’t hurt a firearm’s temper. -metallurgy 101

        • Yeah, insurance with riders works since most homeowners doesn’t cover firearms.

          However, at the price it costs, at least as far as I’ve been quoted you might as well just save up the cash. With a fire every 10 years or so and the price of the individual riders put in the bank, I could buy almost everything back with the cash, forget the stuff I don’t shoot much or really, really like, and have money left over.

          I don’t have the safe to prevent theft or to stop a fire from destroying things. That’s what a safety deposit is is for. I have the safe as an added layer of protection if shit goes missing, gets misused and I get sued over it.

      • A while back I built an entertainment center for a friend with a hidden drawer at the bottom you’d never know was there, fits his AR perfectly. Takes a magnet to get it open, was kinda proud about that one.

  3. Most of these “safes” are only residential security containers, because they don’t meet the standards of a true safe. Criminals can get into those with a pry bar or grinder in a matter of minutes.

    • Having worked thousands of burglaries I can tell you the professional burglar is a rare bird. I never worked a scene where the suspect brought a grinder. In fact, if a tool was used at all it usually belonged to the victim and was used after being found by the suspect at the scene. In my case the suspects saw my wife leaving the house. They said that they knew if she was going to the store for milk and bread they had twenty minutes. Just opportunity.

      • I do not keep all of my eggs in one basket. They( whomever they may be) do not get the whole shiteree in one fell swoop. A fire got most of mine , had I had all my firegums in one place I’d have been wiped out.T hat fire could have very well been the Feds or some other form of criminal.

      • If you have a pry bar store it in your safe. I also recommend a caution black powder sticker on your safe. I would place about 2.5lbs in a bag inside so if they actually risk using a grinder they will end up destroying the contents. Double it and they won’t be walking away. The purpose of a security container is to keep the bad guys out 1 minute longer than the expected response time of your security system. The GSA containers used to secure TS information are good for 30 minutes. The security police will be there long before that.

        • Yes. It’s a great idea to lock up, or at least hide prying tools (I.e. bars and very large screw drivers), power tools (grinders and drills, or at least the drill bits and cutting discs), and hammers.

    • True!
      Is someone wants your stuff, and plans well… they will probably get it.
      Stopping the smash and grab is the main point – which some containers generally accomplish.
      Something is better than nothing.
      A true “safe” that’s concealed is best if one can afford it.

  4. MAN BEAR PIG!! Priceless, article makes good points.My first safe was a stack-on since I didn’t have a lot of $, mounted it in the closet and it did it’s job. Get what you can afford and make it work.

    • education: not a form of storage.
      carry: not a form of storage.
      storage: a form of storage.
      you’ll need your own padding, but the old jobo x might not get tampered with. “contents: sakrete, battery acid.”
      come to think of it a big yella hazardous chemicals cabinet could deceive.

  5. Or you can just install a deadbolt on a spare bedroom. It also gives you a place to stash all your other gear. Plate carriers, cammies, and other junk takes up a lot more space than you would think, especially if properly racked for easy access.

    • I like this idea so long as the door is hidden. Deadbolts can be bypassed in moments. Even with an upgraded door frame/door to prevent the door from being kicked in or expanded the lock itself can be picked quickly.

      It’s actually pretty impressive how easy even “pick resistant” locks are to open with manual picking if you practice it a bit. It doesn’t take long to learn how to get around them and once you do it usually takes less than a minute to bypass the lock. With a snapgun, it takes no skill and usually <10 seconds to pop open a residential lock like that.

      When I got my first set of lock picks back in the day people said I was stupid. I had successfully picked every lock on the house and a pile of padlocks within the first day or so of having that set. When I upgraded to a better pick set it just got easier. Personally I find the hardest part of picking a lock on a door is finding a position that's comfortable to attack the lock from since my right knee sometimes doesn't like me squatting down for more than 20 seconds.

      • they used to issue pick sets to meter readers. i was already proficient from moto repo.

        • indoor services typically in basement/ garage/ sun porch/ attic (hated those ‘hoods- whole blocks of third floor meter bungalows). apartments would have multiple banks in the laundry room and many businesses had demand meters which were not to be missed. b&e was encouraged. incentives were early outs and bonuses. stout screwdrivers were the norm. an index card size flexible plastic sheet could get more than half of the doors open. pretty useful skillset.
          our reader in the ’70’s found no one home, so he broke the backdoor window to get at the knob. my old man tanned my ass refusing to believe i hadn’t lost my key. i shrugged it off at the time, even showed him my key but, y’know, pops. years later it dawned on me…

    • You need more than a deadbolt, like a steel security door. Interior doors with real locks usually mean “goodie room” and you need to slow them down.

      • Slightly related, I recomned Door Armor Max for solid core and metal doors. I have these on my front door, side garage door and house/garage door.

        • Armored exterior doors are of limited utility. Most people forget that their exterior walls are basically two sheets of plywood, some insulation, drywall, and siding. If someone wants in, unless you live in a cast concrete structure, they are getting in. Same thing for reinforced interior walls except more so as you typically only have two sheets of drywall separating rooms.

    • “Takes up a lot more space than you would think” Yep, had to build an extention off my garage for that very reason. Well that, and the reloading bench. Man cave!

  6. You can get a REAL safe for $500. Not a gun safe. Go on Craigslist, in the business section and search on safe. You can buy a TL rated safe (not a RSC like most gun safes) for well under $1000.

    Most of these safes sell for 20% of their new cost. I’m talking about a $5000 TL15 safe for $1000.

    Who cares if it doesn’t have a “gun interior”. Put the long guns in socks and use the shelves for the handguns. Or make tyour own interior.

    • Hmmm… that sounded like a great idea, so I just went onto my local Craigslist business section to search for a safe. Nothing…lots of storage cabinets, some other odds and ends, but no traditional safes. Maybe small businesses don’t use them any more?

  7. Years before wireless technology and motion detectors, someone I knew had the best wired alarm system with every door and window covered. He was broken into anyway, they used a electric chainsaw to cut a hole in the side of his home…. They want your stuff, they find a way. Safes keep armatures out mostly so it’s still recommended, (or a “safe room” if you have the space) , some determined crook will get everything you have if he wants it and has opportunity for it. Get good insurance, wireless cell-based alarm, get photos and serial numbers, save receipts and store that outside of your home, safe deposit box for all if possible. The worst that can happen you interrupt a hostile bugler in the process, nothing you own is worth your life. That being said. If you have no choice and you or family are in danger, eliminate the threat, deal with repercussions later. ( for those of you who live where self defense is forbidden )

  8. Buy the best thing you can afford without hurting yourself or your family.

    The guns you keep around the house depend on your situation. What I do today is not what I would have been doing 25 years ago.

        • Possum is still freaked out about that video Strych(?) posted of a giant spider dragging off a small possum to have for lunch…

        • That video is now my go-to argument when people say “You don’t need a 30 round…”.

          Oh, yeah? Have you seen this fucking thing!?

          Since most grabbers are stupid and because most people have no sense of relative size I can splice in a scene or two from Starship Troopers and soccer moms will be running out to grab an AR immediately, probably whispering “Creedmore” to the clerk at the LGS too. For the children.

  9. I started home carrying a year before I started concealed carry, it was great practice, I learned a lot, and I still home carry. Just know your house/property boundaries and if the castle doctrine applies, if you dont have your CCW license yet. I also have a few HD pistols hidden and locked throughout the house.

  10. I paid $425 for a decent Liberty 12(more like 7)rifle safe at ACE hardware. Bolted it to the wall and floor in a corner(exterior walls) and built a 4′ x 2′ security closet to house it(In a recess alongside an existing closet). The safe is boxed in by built-in shelves alongside and over the top and a heavily reinforced wall in front of it with boards glued and screwed to the floor to block moving it. Even if you could manage to get through the solid fire rated door it would take quite some time and serious effort to get near the safe itself with any tools to even start to try and get it open. Total outlay roughly $800 and now have a rather large, relatively secure, storage space for ammo and gear and a very secure safe for the firearms too. If someone wants access to my safe, ripping off the outside corner of my house and working your way in from there would be the easiest way I would guess. (I think the neighbors would notice that though)

  11. 3 ways to safely store your guns at home:

    (1) In a holster on your right hip
    (2) In a holster on your left hip
    (3) On a sling over your back

  12. The best way to safely store your guns at home is to have them stored somewhere else.

    And stolen from there.

  13. Do you think thieves would worry about pie while in the act of thieving? Thinking of putting all mine in a pie safe…

  14. I reccomend a safe if you can afford it. If not, something you can lock and keep kids and most liberals out.

    I would hate to have my guns stolen and I wouldn’t leave loaded guns laying around willy nilly as part favors.

    That said, a safe is not an absolute necessity. A firearm locker or gun cabinet keeps them safe away from all but criminals.

    Keep a liist of your weapons and serial numbers in amsafety deposit box….along with a spare pistol and ammo.

    Understand that your guns can be stolen because some hoodlums are persistent.

    Knew a guy that ran a gun shop with a massive double door at the back. Thieves tried with sledges and crowbars ( real ones) to break in. When they couldnt, they doused the place with gasoline and burned it down. Cant plan for every outcome.

    • Stolen safe story from 15 years ago. My buddy’s next door neighbor did not practice opsec. Told a lot people he was going on vacation. It is believed thieves used a big truck and chains to rip out the bolted down safe from the concrete garage floor. Over $20k worth of stuff gone.

  15. If you are going to go “cheap” on a gun safe it would behoove you to just get an iron box with no fire rating….those clever Chinese have found another way to market their sulfur laden drywall to American consumers besides just home building materials used by contractors trying to cut costs…….you guessed it….your ( I got a fantastic deal on a) Gettysburg or Stack-On gun safe you just purchased from your favorite “Big Box” store is made in China ……and guess how these “cheap” RSC’s get their fire ratings…….don’t take my word for it…do your research ie. Google search, Youtube…….Chinese drywall in home construction and gun safes……

  16. My “proper” safe is now full and I have overflow and I don’t have a good place to add another “proper” safe.

    Now what?

    I do have a security alarm and the police do usually arrive in less than 5 minutes though.

    • Noticed that problem happens to a lot of us in the gun world, my safes starting to stretch at the seams too. If I sell some, I’ll only get more, if I get another safe….I’ll only get more.

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