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Gunsafe: Storage Options for the Responsible Shooter

Like all power tools, firearms are inherently dangerous.  Home and apartment owners should take reasonable precautions to keep dangerous substances and objects away from children and careless or incompetent adults, and firearms are no exception.  Firearms actually warrant even greater control because of their high value and potential desirability to criminals.  A circular saw in the wrong hands is extremely dangerous to the user and others, but circular saws not very likely to be concealed by anyone for holding up the local liquor store!  Every firearm owner should realistically assess the threats to their firearms, as well as their options based on financial resources and space.

At the most basic  level, firearms should be kept away from unsupervised children and untrained or careless adults.  This is the least diligence required of responsible gun owners.  Gun owners will have to look at their location and situation to determine how much additional security is required.  For many shooters, securing firearms from unauthorized individuals and from opportunistic thieves will be enough, but some individuals with valuable collections or in higher-risk areas will need storage options that can resist a planned and determined attack by experts with tools.  Gun owners also have to evaluate accessibility in emergencies.  An AR-15 in the right hands is a superb home protection tool, but if it’s secured in a way that takes several minutes to retrieve, it has become a simple range toy.

Let’s start at the simplest storage options.  Firearms are mechanical devices, and in every gun, parts can be removed that will prevent the firearm from functioning.  At the most basic level, ammunition is the “fuel” of the firearm.  Separating and controlling ammunition can be easy and inexpensive.  Locked metal cabinets and sturdy lockable plastic bins can keep ammunition away from people who should not have it, while also giving shooters a practical way to store their ammunition, and find it when they do want it.

Ammunition can be secured from curious youngsters.

Ammunition should be secured from curious youngsters.

Many firearms have parts that can be quickly and easily removed to render the gun nonfunctional. Bolt-action rifles can have their bolts removed. Semi-automatics can be separated from their magazine, and in many cases, upper and lower halves can be quickly separated, as well. Some revolver cylinders can be easily removed.

Separating firing mechanisms from firearms for storage.

Separating firing mechanisms from firearms for storage.

Some modern firearms have built-in locks that will disable the firing mechanism by simply turning a key. The pictured Taurus could be rendered very safe by removing the magazine and verifying the chamber is empty, and then turning the key. Readying the pistol for firing would take less than thirty seconds.

Many new firearms now come with a maker-provided gun lock that either covers the trigger guard, preventing the trigger from being operated, or with a cable lock that prevents the gun’s action from being closed.  Cable locks are inexpensive, and can also be obtained free from the National Shooting Sports Foundation Project Childsafe.  Instructions for using cable locks can also be found on Project Childsafe’s site.

A cable lock through the barrel prevents this revolver's cylinder from closing.

A cable lock through the barrel prevents this revolver’s cylinder from closing.

Shooters with only a few firearms may find lockable hard cases useful. There is a great deal of variance between cases, so if you are choosing to store a firearm in a hard case, make sure it is a sturdy case designed to secure your firearm, not just transport it. Pelican and Starlight are two companies especially known for extremely sturdy gun cases.

The very sturdy Starlight Travel Vault next to a standard hard case.

The very sturdy Starlight rifle case next to a standard hard case.

Depending on the type of firearms owned, some shooters may be able to store multiple firearms in certain hard cases.  Buy military surplus containers from retailers or directly from the Defense Logistics Agency’s Government Liquidation and Uncle Sam’s Retail Outlet websites.

Carbines locked in surplus Pelican-Hardigg case.

Carbines locked in surplus Pelican-Hardigg case.

Military surplus can provide gun storage bargains, but be careful. This Pelican-Hardigg case, for instance, neatly secures 12 standard AR-15s, but is too short for most hunting rifles and shotguns.

Caveat emptor.

Caveat emptor.

When I was growing up, I saw some “gun cabinets” that were wooden cabinets with simple glass that allowed the guns to be displayed.  A storage solution that is defeatable with one blow from a heavy object is not a reasonable option for most of us.  Sturdy locking cabinets can be a storage option. They can be portable, or gun owners who are good with tools can build them into housing structures.

Sturdy lockable cabinets are an inexpensive and practical storage option.

Sturdy lockable cabinets are an inexpensive and practical storage option.

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This lockable cabinet was built into a house by a gun owner.

For gun owners who have large or very expensive collections, safes or gun rooms should be considered. Gun safes can range from single handgun quick-access safes like the Gun Vault (a bargain at $130 on Amazon), to fire-resistant safes that cost thousands.

GunVault MiniVault Deluxe

I had the chance to see the gun room of a popular author and friend some years ago. It was a concrete room with built-in slots for rifles and shotguns.  Most of us don’t have enough firearms to warrant an entire hardened room to store them, but no matter how many or few, it is our obligation as responsible gun owners to find storage solutions that help us accomplish our ultimate goal of protecting those around us.

Written by

Former infantryman, martial artist, Army Reserve officer, History BA and MAT.

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