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While waiting patiently for the delivery van (dammit, hurry up!), I’ll detail my thinking process on the gun cabinet safe versus several alternatives. My thought process involved looking at what I could afford, how many guns I’d need to lock up, where I could put the safe in the house and determining what exactly I’m trying to protect against. Pretty much in that order. So logically I’m going to explain it in reverse Polish notation . . .

What am I protecting against? 

In the deep dark recesses of my mind, I’m protecting against them little thieving bastards from the next neighborhood over who broke into my truck almost 30 years ago. But that’s a problem better handled through modern chemistry and anger management seminars. In reality, I’m concerned about unauthorized access, outright theft, and loss through disaster.

Unauthorized access ranges from the pitter-patter of little feet to the  teenage friend of a friend of my son who is “innocently wandering through the house” while looking for the bathroom. Also, repair men, carpet installers, general contractors, etc. who might be in the house at different times.

These days the pitter-patter feet belong to a Yorkie, so no real worries there until the grandkids start popping out. But the rest simply represent parties who may pick something up that’s laying in the open, but wouldn’t try forcing a lock or spend any amount of time trying to get to something hidden. Any type of locked storage would work here (assuming you actually lock up your firearms).

Outright theft would be a B&E that occurs while we’re not home or while we’re home. If we’re out, I want some firearms security that would take some time and effort to defeat. The more time and effort required, the greater the chance that the professional thief will skip it and look for an easier item to steal.

Unfortunately, that kind of protection requires some serious coin. And the world is full of amateurs. A locked steel cabinet would stop anyone not carrying tools, and only slightly delay someone carrying a pry bar. For anyone carrying the right kind of power tools, it’d take maybe 5, 10 minutes tops to get in. Counting the time to wind up the extension cord and sweep up the mess.

But people carrying power tools expected to defeat a gun safe are pretty much going to get in, regardless. It’d take almost an order of magnitude more money to protect against that scenario.

If we’re home when a break-in occurs, I’d be able to fight back or I wouldn’t. Regardless, the type of safe would be a non-issue at this point. So back to square one.

Finally, loss through disaster. I live in hurricane central, right on the corner of drought central. If I lost the house to flood, wind, or fire, I’d lose a lot more than guns. At that point it’s all insurance money and start over. Again, the type of safe purchased is a non-issue. I’d carry my favorite guns during the evacuation anyway and replace the rest.

Where can I put it?

My wife answered that question. Anywhere she doesn’t have to see it. So I chose a closet. So the safe had to be small, manueverable, lightweight. Not a lot more to discuss, other than I’ve owned four different homes, lived in three others, and never really had one with a suitable place for the “survive the nuclear holocaust” gun safe. I would put it in the living room right next to my Suzuki, given the option of being single again. But marriage does have a few benefits even if it means parking my motorcycle outside.

How many guns should it hold?

All that I currently own, plus everything I plan to buy in the near future, plus about a dozen others. And then some. Okay, maybe not. But a new 12-gun locker plus what I already have should be sufficient for now.

What can I afford?

I’ve seen several responses as to what you should be willing to spend on a safe. Some of the more glib comments assume that just anyone can drop several grand at the drop of a hat. Not in this economy! Anything over a grand is a no-go. Yes, it would cost more to replace the guns if stolen, but so what?

Right now I’d rather dump several grand into the kids’ college account than on a gun safe. Priorities. I’m willing to go up to $400 or so, but much more than that and I’d have to revisit the above three questions to see what I really need versus what I just want.

So, finally

So, finally, I need something that costs less than a used rifle, holds about a dozen long guns, can fit in a closet, prevents unauthorized access by friendlies, and will stop amateurs crooks while slowing down professionals. I’ll accept that some crooks, given time and tools, will get in regardless and not plan against that scenario. I’ll also accept that it doesn’t have to guard against natural disasters and take my chances with the insurance company.

Where does that leave me? With a steel cabinet locking safe. It’s not the final answer in protection, but it is a good mid-level answer to security. At least for me. More to come on the Homak once it arrives.

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  1. Don, you might be surprised at how far your money can go in this economy. Gun safes are luxury items and if you shop around you can find them pretty heavily discounted.

    You’re in Colorado aren’t you? Here’s a tip: Besides the “big box” sporting goods stores, check out the “Farm Stores” like Murdoch’s and Jax, they often have gun safes of various sizes and usually at pretty good prices.

    I did the “security cabinet” thing when I was single and living in an apartment – it was pretty much the best compromise. But you can now get a decent honest-to-god safe for less than $500, and it will be fire rated to boot. Keep in mind that a “gun safe” can also be used for family heirlooms, wife’s jewelry, important documents, etc. For that very reason, I would advise anybody shopping for a safe to get the biggest one you can.

    Trust me, you will find ways to fill it up (besides just buying more guns, which is still the best way to fill it up.)

    Oh, final point: Bolt it down. A small safe should be bolted down to prevent a burly thief from just picking up and throwing it in his truck; a large safe should be bolted down to keep it from falling over and crushing someone. If you can’t bolt it to the floor, bolt it to studs in the wall.

    • Texas, actually, but given the triple digit temperatures all summer, Colorado is looking nice. Too bad all the jobs I’m qualified for are down here.

      I did look around some safe sales, and there are bargains out there, but look at “Where can I put it” section above and you’ll see my limitation on the size and weight. Trust me, I wanted bigger and heavier, just no real place in my house to put it.

      And yes, bolted to the wall studs in four locations. Definitely.

  2. You can set it up so that any unauthorised personnel who attempt to access it with power tools get more than they bargained for… With the plethora of information available over the internet I’ll leave it up to your imagination.

  3. Buttress a locked cabinet with a security system. It greatly reduces the time available to cut open a safe and makes the neighbors a more attractive target. You need just enough security to outshine the rest of the residents since thieves are nothing if not lazy.

  4. I decided to buy a REAL gunsafe: UL listed RSC (Residential security container), 30 minute fire rating, even though the only “guns” in it are BB guns. Its for storing everything else: hot-space computers, cameras, backups, documents, jewelery, passports, emergency cash, etc.

    There is a lot of stuff I want to protect against fire & earthquake, as well as theft.

    Basically, UL RSC means: Even a pro WITH the right tools takes >5 minutes to get in. Steel (and lots of it), relockers, etc. Anything in the amateur-hour category is strictly SOL, while an amateur can break into those gun cabinets without breaking a sweat. (Heck, half the locks on them I could pick, and I can’t pick locks!)

    And a UL RSC rated gun safe is not that expensive. It was $700 delivered, in a little over a week, for a 24 long-gun + plenty of extra space, 400 lb, UL RSC/30 minute fire safe from Costco.

    In fact, real gun safes are the cheapest real safes you can buy: gun owners will pay for real security, so a big gun safe is cheaper than a small UL listed RSC.

  5. Those security cabinets should all come with carry handles so that thieves will have something to hold when retrieving the luggage full of guns you packed for them. Also -20 seconds with an $10 automotive dent puller will open that cabinet.


    They keep children out, but they are not otherwise very secure. Bolt it to the ground and to the back of a stud on its vertical surface. Also put something very heavy in the thing to make it harder to lug around…I have a bag full of lead smelted from wheel weights to add couple of hundred pounds. The objective is to delay and not prevent. The security system and insurance should take care of the rest.

  6. I purchased a Centurion by Liberty Safes from Cabela’s for under $500.00. It’s not the biggest or longest fire safety safe around, but it holds all of my long guns and all of my ammo. Oh, and I bought it during one of their employee pricing sales, which knocked the $500.00 price down to around $424.00 before taxes. The only draw back, is that it has a rotary dial combination instead of a key pad, but since I carry “always” it’s not really a problem. And with the ammo and firearms plus misc items, the whole thing weighs around 800#. Most bad guys aren’t prepared to carry off something that heavy.

  7. Reverse Polish Notation? Heh. Once upon a time, I got one of the very first Apple LaserWriters – essentially a Canon laser printer with an Apple processor with built-in PostScript and some RAM. PostScript is a “page description language” – a method of describing how to draw and put text on a page with a language, so that the printer takes on the heavy lifting of converting arcs and Bézier curves into X number of dots per inch.

    PostScript is written in Reverse Polish Notation. For those of you in the TTAG Reading Audience that are not propellerheads, RPN’s syntax is…well…backwards from what you’d expect. Instead of writing a statement as a = 2 + 2, you’d write it as a = 2 2 +.

    RPN is devilishly difficult for coding. It requires you to think like you’re an immigrant speaking in a tongue not your own. After two years of this madness, Adobe released Illustrator (a program that would let you draw on the screen and print, without knowing even one RPN command.

    For those of us who wrote in PostScript, we note with a wry smile that PostScript has been called the World’s Worst Polish Joke.

    I can’t argue with that.

    • I’d like to claim some obscure tech credibility by stating that I knew that, but I get my RPN from the old HP-12C calculator. Which required reverse Polish notation for the simplest functions. Instead of entering “2 + 2 =” and getting “4” for answer, you’d press the following sequence: “2 enter 2 +” and “4” would pop up on the display. It meant almost no one in your class could borrow your calculator.

      • HA! I’ve been using HP calculators since 1977, so RPN is just natural to me. I prefer it. In some of my college classes we were allowed to share calculators during tests. Invariably, some guy next to me would ask to borrow in a whisper. I’d silently pass it over. Next came, “Hey… where’s the ‘equals’ key on this thing.”

        There isn’t one.

        “What do you mean, there isn’t one?”

        I mean there isn’t one. It’s an RPN calculator.

        Then all I got was a “Hmmmf!” and the calculator being handed back. 🙂

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