Many of our readers have thought about purchasing their first gun safe, and after exhaustive searches comparing everything from gun capacity to the number of locking bolts they have made their purchase. The problem is that once you pay for the safe and take it out of the store no one cares about it anymore. There are some “after purchase” tips that we have learned the hard way and decided to pass on to our readers in this article we entitled How To: Gun Safe Tips 101. Some of these tips will be common sense and some might be things you overlooked or never thought of. There’s no 100% absolute way to do any of this, just ideas we learned along the way.
#1 Tip: Remembering the Combination.
This may sound sacrilegious to some but remembering an endless string of numbers sometimes sucks. Think about it you have to remember your debit card number, social security number, passcode for work number, wife and everyone else’s birthday, the password and numbers for bank accounts, retirement accounts…The list goes on for ever. Most of the time we have these numbers securely stored in a book or folder in the house, but how often have you ever wrote your gun safe number down someplace? Many of the people I asked think this is a form of gun heresy. More than once I stood in front of my gun safe and drew a complete blank, thank god my wife was home so I could ask her the combo. Im not an ancient man (42 years old isn’t that old) but I decided that I had to have a way to remember it in the “Oh Shit” moment or incase and my wife needs in the safe when Im dead or incapacitated. To me the easiest way is to store the combo in a secret place in the house. This trick is as old as hiding the house key under the welcome mat, but with a modern twist. It’s simple but it works, and the only people that need to know where that combo is hidden would be the people who matter the most.
#2 Tip: Fight the Moisture
Most people when they get a new gun safe put it in their garage or basement, well in areas of the country that have the luxury or having a basement. The problem with these places is that they are usually cool, dark most of the time and can get relatively damp or chilly at certain times. Places like the basement or the garage are perfect places for trapping moisture in things, and a gun safe makes a really nice and inviting moisture trap.
This trapped moisture cools and becomes condensation which settles on guns and gear and turns quickly into a gun’s worst enemy, RUST. This is a real battle in some areas of the country, but it doesn’t have to be for your gun safe. There are both passive and active easy ways to combat this infestation of moisture. The cost level and complexity that you chose to employ is totally up to you, but here are a few of the things we have found that are effective in our experiences.
- Electric Dehumidifiers (Commonly found at Lowe’s, Home Depot, Bass Pro Shops etc)
- Refillable Silica Gel Cans
- Silicone Gun Socks (Claims vary on effectiveness)
- Open Can of Baking Soda (Ghetto Method but will work for a short time)
I personally use a method of silica gel cans and electric dehumidifiers or “goldenrods”. I have a great deal of time and money invested in my gun safe and my firearms collection and wont skimp when it comes to protecting them for the elements.
#3 Tip : Secure Your Safe
Securing your safe in place with proper anchors is as much about safety as it is security. A safe weighing between 500 and 700 lbs unloaded can be tipped over, often with less force than you might think. If you happen to live in earthquake country then you know that when things begin to shake they move around, generally a good deal more than you expect them to. Now image that safe with all your guns falling over onto a loved one or just falling over onto the floor. It’s a giant chore to install safe when its empty, imagine trying to set it back up fully loaded. The other benefit from securing your safe to the floor is protecting the most vulnerable part of the safe from attack, and that is the bottom.
One of the features most people tend to forget about their safes is that the bottom of the safe is generally the thinnest part and offers little to no insulating qualities. There are two issues to worry about here, the first being that if a burglar wants the easiest route to your guns with an unsecured safe all they have to do is tip it over and cut through the much thinner bottom material. The less aggressive problem that shows up in gun safes is corrosion of the bottom of the safe due to moisture. Even with the above moisture control tools in your safe you can still have the bottom of your safe face serious corrosion issues. The best method to combat this that we have found it to provide your safe with a barrier between it at the surface under it.
The goal here is to make some form of gap or moisture barrier between the floor of the safe and the concrete floor its resting on. If you can find a way to slightly elevated your safe and still keep it secured this would be best. Doing this will allow air to circulate around your safe preventing moisture from getting trapped under neath it. I have seen people make a 2″x4″ frame with pressure treated wood frame under their safes and use slightly longer anchors through the steel bottom and the 2″x4″. Other methods that you can try are laying down a roll on style epoxy resin as a chemical barrier or doing what I did and finding a 1″ thick section of High Density Polyethylene board and securing the safe to the barrier and into the concrete slab.
Tip #4: Buy Bigger Than You Need
It should go without saying, buy the highest capacity gun safe you can afford if it meets your basic requirements. Going cheap or buying one of the small Homak Wal-Mart brand gun safes maybe good for a short term fix but it’s not a viable long-term option. A gun safe is an investment in your firearms and the protection of your personal property, it’s not the most glamorous purchase you are going to make but it might be one of the smartest. One thing that seems to be a universal constant is that other people in your family like your wife, in laws or children will always want you to store something in your safe. That extra annoyance and loss of space of storing other peoples stuff or non-gun-related items is why you need to buyer much bigger than you think you will need.
In closing I would like to say that when you start shopping for a safe, remember to shop around and take notes on prospective models you are looking at. All safes will look alike in short order after looking at 20 or more safes in the selection process, keep a notebook. Also don’t forget little things like the door-mounted handgun sleeves like the one in the picture will help add flexibility to your purchase. Personally, I would avoid models that have rifle racks on the door. Remember the old adage, buy once cry once, buy the right safe the first time, trust me on that one.
If we here at The Arms Guide can help you in your search for a safe let us know, I think most of the writers will tell you what safe they have or what attributes they find important with safe selection without violating any sort of OPSEC/COMSEC rules.