Safe Storage On The Go: Car Safes And Other Mobile Gun Storage Options

A combination safe. Binarysequence [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

If you’re going to leave a firearm unattended in your vehicle, you need to do it as securely as possible. With the prevalence of designated gun-free zones (think post offices, hospitals, your place of work), anyone who carries a firearm will have to stow their gun in their vehicle from time to time.

Leaving a gun in the car — even for a few hours — can present a hazard. This presents a dilemma for a lot of people who carry a firearm. What to do if you don’t want to chance violating the law (you shouldn’t) or your employer’s company policy?

You definitely don’t want to rely on the center console, glove box or an under-seat compartment, even if they lock. Someone who has broken in to your car will be able to get to a concealed pistol or other truck gun/car gun that’s stored there in less than a minute with a screwdriver.

And stealing guns from vehicles is an increasingly common way for criminals to get their hands on firearms. According to NPR, a number of cities and states are reporting increases in guns stolen from cars.

Atlanta had 1,021 such thefts in 2018 (up from just over 400 in 2009). St. Louis reported a jump from around 200 to almost 600 in the same time period.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation reported such incidents rose from just over 2,000 reported thefts of guns from cars in 2016 to more than 4,000 in 2018. The city of Nashville alone accounted for 659 guns stolen in such a manner in that year, some of which were used in crimes.

Obviously, you don’t want to be one of those statistics so safe storage in the car is a must if you’ll be leaving your gun in your vehicle.

What are some basics? First, it should have a lock. While most car storage options don’t offer Fort Knox-level security, there’s no reason to make it easy on crooks.

Second, your storage device should be secured to the vehicle in some fashion so it can’t be easily carried off. Lots of car storage options screw into the dash or center console or feature steel cables that secure to the seat mount to deter quick smash-and-grab thefts.

What sort of options are out there? There’s a huge range of options out there, but here are a few to consider . . .

Example of a portable locking box. Abc10 [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

In general terms most car gun safes are essentially just portable strong boxes. Many of the same features can be found on conventional pistol safes that you might consider for the home. For instance, you can get biometric safes for this purpose, combination lock safes as well as simple barrel- or standard key-operated car safes.

Digital locks depend on batteries, which need to be replaced periodicall. If you select a model with a biometric or other digital lock, make sure that it has a mechanical backup (i.e. it can also be opened with a key) and that you have the means to use it (i.e. have the key with you) ] if need be.

Depending on the car safe you choose, some are even water- and fire-resistant, just like a standard safe. These tend to cost a bit extra.

There are some standards for durability, specifically the American Society for Testing and Materials standards for safes, including child-proofing and pry-resistant standards. You want a safe that meets or exceeds them.

The feature that many come with is a locking cable, which tethers the safe to a part of the car interior. You’ll want to deploy the cable around the sturdiest object you can find.

Most people choose the car seat mounting brackets, as this allows the user to locate the lockbox or car safe underneath the seat and they happen to be one of the most substantial things in the cabin.

Unless, of course, your daily driver has an actual race cage, which is a little unusual. The only cars I can think of that has one that would be anywhere close to “common” are the Porsche GT2 RS and GT3 RS, which are not common in the least but one digresses.

The cable needs to be strong, so the higher the tensile strength the better. The same is also true of the steel the safe is made out of; the smaller the gauge, the thicker the walls of the safe.

Concealability is another factor you need to consider. Thieves tend not to steal what they can’t see.

Some safes are easily concealed from view, and others aren’t. Some all but require you to put them in the trunk. Vertically-oriented safes won’t be very concealable, as most spaces where they can be located in a car’s interior will be visible.

Let’s have a look at some options.

SentrySafe Portable Pistol Safe. Credit: sentrysafe.com

SentrySafe’s cleverly-named “Portable Pistol Safe.” You can find it for around $75 on Amazon and elsewhere. It’s a steel box, with a steel tether cable, said to be pry-resistant, but SentrySafe doesn’t explicitly say “meets or exceeds ASTM standards.”

The locking mechanism is barrel-key operated, which means you don’t have to worry about batteries, but you better not lose the key. The interior (9.8″x7.3″x3″, with hard foam lining) is large enough to hold a pistol and a few magazines, and possibly even a holster if your gun and the holster are small enough.

It’s pretty basic. It’s not too expensive. And will keep a gun locked up and secured to the interior.  Like any storage option, a determined thief with time on their hands can get into it. SentrySafe also makes a few models with digital and analog combination locks, if you want a keyless unit, but this is the model marketed for gun storage.

Hornady also makes a few safes under their RAPiD series, which feature RFID chip readers. Up to five coded RFID chips can be used to unlock them, though there are usually backups in the form of a barrel key as well as digital combination pads.

All models have 14-gauge steel shells, with internal locking lugs and are said to exceed ASTM child and pry resistance standards as well as drop, pick, saw and hinge tests.

Hornady 2600 KP pistol safe. Credit: Hornady.com

The 2600KP, 2700KP and 4800KP are rather standard lockboxes with security cables.

Hornady RAPiD Vehicle Safe. Credit: hornady.com

Hornady’s RAPiD Vehicle safe has an interesting feature; an inflatable bladder that can be inserted between the center console and a seat to wedge the safe in place (it comes with a security cable as well). These start at about $160, but do have a bit more in features.

Dan Z for TTAG

For those who aren’t messing around, you could also get something a little more sturdy. If you don’t care as much about portability and want the utmost in security, a good choice of car safe is the American Security Easy Carry Handgun Safe (our review here). This thing is a tank.

It comes pre-drilled for mounting bolts, which will require modification to your car to install. However, once it’s in…it isn’t going anywhere. The box is 14-gauge steel, with a 3/16″ steel door and pluck-adjustable foam interior. The locking mechanism is a Simplex punch combination lock, which is mechanical, but allows for fast access if needed.

It weighs in at 14 lbs and measures 10.09″ x 12.26″ x 4.13″, so it could go under some car seats. You’d have to decide whether you want to try to install bolts there or not, of course. Price is about $200.

DU-HA storage racks for guns. Credit: du-ha.com

There are some other storage solutions out there such as DU-HA’s Cab Storage racks, which add a storage compartment underneath the rear bench seat of most pickups.

While they will hide guns (in case you keep a shotgun or rifle as a truck gun) they don’t always come with a locking mechanism. However, DU-HA does sell a pack of steel cables and a pair of padlocks as an optional add-on kit, which will secure the rear seat. Low-tech…but effective. The rear seat organizer is $200 for most models, and the locking kit is another $20.

These, of course, are just a few of the available solutions on the market. Plenty of others exist out there, but hopefully you’ve gotten the picture of what kind of car security options are out there.

Is there a different storage option that you prefer? A type of car gun safe that you recommend? Think the Raiders haven’t drafted their way out of the AFC West basement yet? Sound off in the comments.

comments

  1. avatar Owen says:

    In a lot of cars there are holes in the steel upper part of the trunk compartment. You can loop a cable lock through there to secure it.

  2. avatar Swarf says:

    I wonder if the Zore X lock has a place for a cable loop? I can’t seem to find out, and I don’t want to buy one before I know. Hell, even if there were a place to safely drill a hole to put some wire rope through.

    If I could attach one side of the cable to the car’s frame, and swage the other to the Zore, I’d feel pretty good about that as far as a compromise between accessibility, security and ease of deployment.

    I might do the same with a nightstand.

    1. I have a ZORE X Core and no, it doesn’t have a place to attach a cable loop. And I wouldn’t recommend drilling into it, either.

      https://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/2018/10/daniel-zimmerman/gear-review-zore-x-core-gun-lock/

      1. avatar Swarf says:

        Too bad.

        Thanks for the response.

        1. avatar J B says:

          You can still use a cable attached to the car, passing through the grip and the ejection port, and still attach the Zore X.

          Once engaged, Zore X will attach itself to the barrel, not to the part, so you can still move the slide backward even if Zore X is installed.

  3. avatar StLPro2A says:

    Security is an illusion. Small cable cutter and these boxes are gone with the gun. All they do is allow you to state on the police report that the gun was locked up. The anti-gunners force a CCW carrier to leave his gun in the car and then blame us when they are stolen.

    1. avatar WI Patriot says:

      Only keeps the honest, honest…

  4. avatar Specialist38 says:

    I have a StackOn keyed cable lock boxing bought for 19.99.

    Now they are 9.99 (or were), so I bought everyone in my family one.

    I use it to make it tougher for a thief.

    Past that, I dont sit and worry that someone may steal my gun from my vehicle. Even if it were laying under the back seat.

    If someone breaks into my car (or house) and steals my guns, I will be pissed.

    But I am not responsible for them obtaining said guns….that’s on them.

    So while I recommend some type of lock box (usually cheap) I dont gasp if I find someone leaves their gun in a locked car.

    Too much is made of the gun owner being responsible for making their weapons un-stealable. This is another attempt to blame legal owners for,the actions of criminals.

    1. avatar Grok says:

      Bravo!

    2. avatar Bleeding Sympothy says:

      “Too much is made of the gun owner being responsible…”

      Exactly! Why should I be responsible for my gun or my actions with it ? That is the governments’ job.

      1. avatar Specialist38 says:

        I am responsible for my actions with a gun.

        If omeone violates my vehicle or home to steal a gun, I am not responsible for that.

        The government has nothing to do with it whatsoever.

        And I notice you left out part of that sentence. What I would expect from a leftist whiner.

        Dont believe in “attractive nuisance” laws either. If someone scales a fence to swim in poolmthat is not theirs and drowns….its on them not the owner.

  5. avatar Dude says:

    “The anti-gunners force a CCW carrier to leave his gun in the car and then blame us when they are stolen.”
    Good point.

    1. avatar WI Patriot says:

      Nobody forces anything on anyone…it’s a choice to shop where “weapons” are prohibited…

      1. avatar Michael in AK says:

        don’t get that choice if you have to go into a federal office or courthouse to do business…

        1. avatar Mark N. says:

          Bingo. Here, ,when I go through court security, I have to remove all metal objects, including my belt, also my wallet, and if I am wearing shoes with steel inserts, those too. There is no way I am going to stand there and whip out a holster (that had been attached to my belt) and put it on the conveyor through the metal detector, and then try to put it back on when it comes out the other end. And I hate leaving a firearm in my car–which happens to be a convertible. I just don’t carry when I have to go to court. Not worth the hassle. Plus, if there is any risk at all, it is between my car and the courthouse door, when I am completely disarmed.

        2. avatar WI Patriot says:

          That’s a completely different animal…some even in the same category…

        3. avatar Whoopie says:

          If I have to go into the courthouse or somewhere I know there’s a metal detector I leave the gun at home. Otherwise, when I see a “gunfree zone” sign I ignore it. Surely such signage only applies to criminals. My gun is well concealed and lawfully carried.

      2. avatar SGT Preston says:

        Excellent point..we don’t have to shop at places that forbid CWP. I made the choice years ago, that I would not.

  6. avatar GunnyGene says:

    Perhaps this advice should be passed along to the FBI, ATF, and local LEO.

    1. avatar Specialist38 says:

      Along with “dont pick a pistol up by the trigger”.

  7. avatar WI Patriot says:

    I have a portable cabled to my seat, the only time it ever sees a gun, when I go to the VA, have to secure it in the vehicle…

  8. avatar GS650G says:

    Friend of mine tack welded a box to his floorboard under the seat. It’s not going anywhere and it’s very hard to get any leverage because it’s tight on space.

    1. avatar Scotty Crawford says:

      If you weld on the body of today’s vehilces without a little net research first, you may be real sorry you did.
      Welding on cars requires specific knowledge and prep work, or you could eat thousands of dollars
      Most importantly, there are integrated circuits all over the car, and a voltage spike could fry ’em*. There is also a variety of computers, not just an engine management computer, and they could suffer the same fate, and mechanically, you can ruin wheel bearings with damage called “brinelling” by welding elsewhere on the vehicle.

      * The German cars are just the absolute worst at protecting their electronics inside a vehicle.Example: BMW 7-series cars have had many dashboard/instrument clusters fried just from jump-starts….or even charging from a charger while in the vehicle: 22 hours of shop labor and thousands of dollars for the instument module.
      So do your homework, boys and girls!

    1. avatar MCamWV says:

      I love my console vault. I had one in my old RAV 4, and when I was looking to trade the RAV4 in on a different car, I only considered car models that had console vaults available. I ended up buying a Subaru Outback and a new console vault for the new car.

      1. avatar Rick_in_NH says:

        I second the Console Vault. I keep my vehicle registration in it, plus my check book, spare cash and anything else I do not want stolen when traveling. In my camper I keep a Gun Vault safe for larger items. You can’t be too safe. s/o

      2. avatar Just Dean says:

        Where did you find one for your outback?!? I must be looking in the wrong places, I have wanted one for a while and haven’t found one.

  9. avatar daveinwyo says:

    My vehicle gun safe is a 90 pound German Shepherd.

    1. avatar Anthony says:

      woof

  10. avatar Red says:

    I go in Post Offices, hospitals, etc. They simply cannot see that I am carrying because I carry it extremely snug on my body. I go right up to the counter in the Post Office. Can’t see anything. Actually, if you want to get legal about it, you can’t even bring your car on Post Office property with a gun in it, period. Safe or not. The stupidity of the federal government on full display.

    1. avatar BobS says:

      Why wasn’t this higher on The Donald’s checklist of things to fix when he took office?

    2. avatar daveinwyo says:

      This^

  11. avatar BobS says:

    I’d like to know the frequency of negligent discharges during administrative handling, before entering or just after exiting Victim Disarmament Zones. Requiring all those movements from holster to lockbox, then re-holstering, can only increase the Bang-Ooops incidents. People are naturally in a hurry in transition areas, and they’ll be attempting to keep it all discreet, especially since anyone who’s watching will know there’s an unattended firearm inside a vehicle that’s about to be unattended for a while.

    1. avatar Graybeard says:

      Practice safe firearm handling procedures and this is a non-issue.

      Darwin Award candidates will not do that, but….

  12. avatar Graybeard says:

    I use a GunVault NanoVault 200, a key-locked cabled metal safe, when I have to leave my pistol in the vehicle.
    One problem I had was that the end of the cable had bare metal where the cable was looped and clamped, and it was marring my pistol, so I put some heat-shrink tubing on it and solved that problem.

    I run the cable around the seat brackets, and either stuff it under the seat or lay it on the passenger seat with a pillow over it. I am retired from a prison system, and this was accepted by the state prison system as a reasonable method to store the firearm in an area where convicts might be able to access the vehicle. In a locked safe which is attached to the vehicle, out of sight, and the vehicle locked as well.

    Can a thief get it eventually? Sure. They can steal the whole car, as a matter of fact. But LEO agencies almost universally tell us that it is when a) valuables are left visible in the vehicle or b) the vehicle is left unlocked that one is most likely to have a thief strike. Gun shows are a big target because the thieves are almost guaranteed that any vehicle they hit has a firearm in it. Take appropriate countermeasures and deal with it.

    As far as US Post Offices, anyone who carries anyway is an idiot, and a black mark on legal carriers everywhere. Don’t be That Guy.
    I tend to park in a parking lot across the road, lock it up, tend to business, and get back to the vehicle. I also do this in daylight in a reasonably safe part of town. For courthouses, medical facilities, and other areas where it is illegal to carry, lock it up and go do your business.

  13. avatar rsu11 says:

    Glad to see this article. I went through a lengthy problem solving process on how to secure my pistol in my car but still have reasonably fast access. I drive a sports coupe with a tight interior, so lack of space meant all the big box truck/SUV solutions wouldn’t work. I initially went high-tech and tried Hornady’s rapid safe wedged between the passenger seat and center console. No dice. Too big and no other place to put it. It’s a well-made product, though, and worked as advertised, but back it went.

    There are an amazing number of whiz-bang car safes out there, but none were configured to work in my car. So I went the other way and got a simple-but-strong keyed lock box, big enough for a G19. I mounted the box to the front frame of the driver’s seat using heavy steel straps and through-bolts all around. The bolts are not visible or easily accessible. A cable is attached and is not visible. The box sits vertically under my knees and swings open right to left (I’m a righty). The box is covered in the same leather as my seats and is visible, but doesn’t look like a gun safe. The G19 sits vertically in the box foam, grip on the right side.

    It’s about as secure as I can make it, but what about quick access? Using a key to open it under stress wouldn’t work, so I made a knobbed “U” shaped clamp to hold the door closed when the lock was open. The clamp is not easily visible but I can reach it immediately. Off comes the clamp, the door swings open and the G19 is in my hand in about 3 seconds. Box is unlocked on entry and locked before getting out of the seat. The movements to do this are not obvious to onlookers and quickly became muscle memory for getting in and out of the car. I also regularly practice getting the pistol out and up safely.

    One downside is that I can’t see the pistol to access it, so I’m working on adding a trigger cover tethered to the inside of the box. Would not slow down access but would keep my finger out of the guard as I’m removing the pistol.

    Depending on your vehicle, the electronic safes are a good option, but in my case a simple, low-tech approach has worked well.

  14. avatar Clark Kent says:

    AAAAARRRRRGGGGHHHHH! In a 33+ year career in law enforcement as a street cop in a large metropolitan West Coast department I took dozens and dozens of car prowl reports where a firearm was stolen. ANY AND ALL vehicle firearm ‘safes’ can be easily opened within the vehicle with simple tools or instead removed from the vehicle to be opened at a later date. DO NOT EVER LEAVE YOUR FIREARM IN YOUR UNATTENDED VEHICLE, period, end of story. P.S. NO ONE can predict where the ‘reasonably safe’ part of town is located. That is like claiming you won’t get into a car crash in a certain part of town.

    1. avatar Specialist38 says:

      I have done it for 40 years and will continue to do it until I can carry everywhere, all the time.

      Otherwise, your choice is to leave your gun at home od you are going to the courthouse, post office, and any number of state buildings.

      What do you propose Superman?

  15. avatar Gregolas says:

    SOMEBODY needs to make under-the-rear-seat lock boxes for passenger AR’s and SUV’s like they have for pickup trucks.

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