How to Find the Best Gun Safes for the Money

Is this the best gun safe for the money?Gun safes are an essential item to have in your home if you are a gun owner. They provide secure, safe storage for keeping your firearms out of little one’s hands, and they can provide additional security from fire or burglary attempts, not only for weapons but other valuables as well.

But, when deciding which gun safe to purchase, which features should you be looking at?

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What features should you consider in a gun safe?

Which top brands do we recommend?

Frequently asked questions.

Article Summary

Features to Consider / Compare When Looking for at Gun Safes

Size

Size is one of the first things to consider when buying a gun safe. Gun safes can be small enough to hold a single gun, or large enough to hold over 40 guns (or even more)!

The size safe you choose depends on the size of your current gun collection and your anticipated future needs.

No one has never come back to us and said, “my safe is too big.” But we hear, “my safe is too small,” all the time.

When choosing the size of your safe, choose a size that will comfortably hold everything you’re putting in it, then double that so you have room to 'grow.' It's very common to discover things over time that you'd like to put in your safe. Things you didn't anticipate at the time of purchase. Buying bigger is the best safe buying strategy.

Fire Protection

Another important consideration is the fire rating of the safe.

If you DO want fire protection built into your safe, how much fire protection do you need?  Is a 30-minute fire rated safe enough? This is partially dependent on where your safe will be placed.

A 30-minute fire rated safe (rated at 1200°F exposed temperature) can be enough for residential urban homes that have faster fire department response times. More rural areas take longer to get to, and commercial buildings tend to burn hotter, so higher 1 to 2 hour fire ratings are called for in these situations.

We did a video, “How Much Fire Rating Do You Need” our YouTube channel that you may want to watch. There’s also a video, “What Do Safe Fire Ratings Mean?” link that has a lot of good information about the different safe fire ratings.

Gun Safe Security & Durability

Beyond keeping your weapons out of little hands, a gun safe's primary function is to protect the content of the safe.

At the very least, you'll want a high-security locking mechanism, with a U.L. Listing.

Avoid safes that have simple key locks if you want to protect what’s inside. Also avoid those with plastic bodies or thin doors. Those locks and bodies can be opened too easily.

A gun safe should be made of durable steel that won't bend or flex when pried. There should be a thicker steel plate behind the door to provide extra drill resistance to the lock body. ¼” is the minimum door steel thickness we’d recommend, if theft is a concern, to prevent prying the safe door open.

In our YouTube video: “Burglary ratings explained,” we go into the UL safe burglary ratings and what they mean.

In another video, “Best 5 Features of Safes,” we go into detail on which of the bullet points within safe brochures really matter, and which don’t, when it comes to evaluating a safe’s security.

Levels of Gun Safe Security
When comparing two safes of similar size, a good rule of thumb is to look at the weight of each safe per cubic inch (or cubic foot). The heavier safe per cubic volume is going to be made of more robust construction materials and be the better safe.

What contributes to the weight? Better built bolting mechanisms, thicker solid bolts, thicker door plates to prevent prying, thicker body walls, and better fire protection materials.

One completely useless statistic that not-well-made safes often brag about is overall door thickness (the front of the door to the back of the door). While a brochure may brag of having a 6” thick door, most of that space is air. It's the steel plating behind the outer wall of the safe door that provides the protection against breaking into or drilling the safe, not the overall door thickness.

Warranty

Look for safes that have at least a one year mechanical and electrical warranty. This will give you plenty of time to use the safe and discover any issues. This warranty should cover parts and labor to repair the safe.

Many gun safe manufacturers will also offer lifetime fire and theft warranties. Meaning if the safe is ever damaged in a fire or burglary attempt, the safe will be replaced free of charge (but not its content).

Our Favorite Gun Safe Brands 

American Security (AMSEC) Safes 

When it comes to safes, no one in the US has the brand recognition of American Security.

They've been making safes since 1946, and offer every type of safe from small personal safes to vault doors. They have a reputation as the best gun safe brand because they've got solid experience making over 400 different sizes of safes, in dozens of different product lines, to meet a variety of budgets and needs.

Although not all their products are, many of AMSEC’s gun safes are made in America.

Their popularBFX Gun Safes and BFII gun safes, are two of the very best, high security, safes available having doors of up to ½ inch solid steel.

Hollon Safe Company

Hollon Safe was founded in 2007 by a locksmith who was frustrated by the high costs of a quality-built safe, and the cheap construction of more affordable safes.

They don’t offer the very high-end products that you’ll find in AMSEC’s line of safes, but instead choose to focus on a mid- to high-end safes delivered at a great value.

Hollon’s gun safes are assembled in Texas using American and global components. Dollar for dollar, Hollon is one of the best gun safes you can buy at their price point; sometimes costing 25-30% less than their competitors while still offering 2-3X as much security.

What about Those Big Box Store Safes

In short, we don't recommend them. Just look at this photo. “Caution Fragile” on a safe? Really?A Cheap Gun Safe

They tend to 'look' like a value, but if you look at the inner door components, the quality just isn't there. The bolts will be thinner than the above brand safes, the steel will be less thick, and the fire-resistance-rated temperature may be lower than 1200 F degrees.

These safes can sell cheap because they are made cheaply.

Safes are like parachutes: you don't want a cheap one when you need it.

Other Safe Brands that deserve a Mention

Fort Knox Safes are a very good safe, and their high-end safes hold their own against AMSECs high end. We do feel you’ll get a little bit more for your money when choosing AMSEC, but Fort Knox Safes are a good alternative when you want a top-of-the-line gun safe.

If your ONLY concern is to abide by gun storage laws and fire protection, Sentry Safes can be the most affordable solution.

Choose one of their UL-rated fire safes, and you will get the fire protection promised. Just don’t choose Sentry if theft or security are a concern at all.

Frequently Asked Questions About Gun Safes

Can a gun safe be fireproof?

Gun safes are not completely fireproof. But you can get different levels of fire protection, commonly from 20 minutes to 2 hours.

See out YouTube video, Safe Fire Ratings Explained, for more information.

Can a gun safe be waterproof?

Gun safes cannot be completely waterproof. But they can be water resistant. The main reason most gun safes won't be waterproof is that there are holes in the bottom of nearly all gun safes (for bolting down the safe).

Water can rise up from underneath those holes. Some safes, such as those by Sentry, plug these holes to help solve this problem. But, without bolting a light safe down, you’re susceptible to the main method of attack, tipping the safe over and prying the door. You’ll have essentially zero protection from theft.

Read our article Are Safes Waterproof for more information and recommendations to maximize water protection.

Are gun safes worth the cost?

The safety component alone makes gun safes worth the cost. Keeping guns out of curious little hands is priceless. For this reason, gun safes are required in several states. Additionally, since gun safes hold more than just weapons, they are versatile for protecting many different types of items. Based on volume, they are one of the most affordable ways to protect large collections.

After that, what you spend on a gun safe should be in line with your budget and security needs.

Which gun safes should be avoided?

We’d suggest avoiding safes with a single-point lock (such as a keyed lock) or constructed in a way where the door can be pried or manipulated open using little or no force.

Avoid safes that don't have some sort of hard plating that protects the lock. The door of the safe should have either active (moving) or non-active (permanent) bolts around the entire door to prevent the safe door from being removed if the hinges are cut.

Article Summary

When it comes to protecting your firearm collection, and other valuables, a gun safe really is a must-have item.

  • Find a safe that is the right size for your future needs
  • Consider fire and theft ratings, then buy the best safe you can afford in that category
  • Keep in mind the best safe is not always the cheapest safe, and it's better to have a quality safe in the size you want than an over-sized safe made cheaply at the same price point
  • Consider all local gun laws and regulations to be sure that your purchase will meet them.
  • When you do make that purchase, remember to have the safe serviced periodically (or service it yourself if you are comfortable) to ensure the safe mechanisms will remain trouble free.