I decided to test a few of the common methods of securing a firearm at home. I looked at the ability to store loaded, the time to gain access in an emergency, whether the method was likely to keep a child from accidentally shooting the gun, cost, and how much trouble it was to use each method.
Ease of access and security must be balanced. You should be able to get to your gun in the middle of the night when someone is breaking in, but no one else should be able to get in there without your permission.
Young children should be unable to get access to your guns. Older children should be taught proper gun handling when mature enough to handle the responsibility. Burglars should not be able to leave with your weapon in hand.
The decision about whether to keep your gun loaded and close at hand is a personal one, but some states have entered into the discussion, so check the regulations in your location.
|Method||Store Loaded||Time to deactivate||Childproof||Cost||Convenience|
|Biometric/ Gun Vault||yes||5-7 seconds||yes||$100+||medium|
|Locked Cabinet||yes||2-3 seconds||yes||$5+||medium|
|Trigger Lock||no||10-15 seconds||yes||$10+||medium|
|Manual Safety||yes||1 second||no||included||high|
Plenty of gunowners have a pistol sitting on top of the nightstand and a rifle in the corner behind the front door. This method is the ultimate in convenience because there are no barriers between you and your gun.
You can have it ready the moment you hear someone break into your home. With proper positioning (never point a gun at anything you are not willing to destroy) you can have it within reach in a holster attached to your bed or secured with a magnet to the underside of the bedframe for a quick response.
The problem with this method is that it offers no protection for a child living in the home or a grandchild who visits. It also offers no barrier to access if a thief enters your home when you are not there.
Modern handguns often include a lever you can press to make it more difficult to discharge the weapon accidentally while carrying it. My husband’s FNS-9 has a lever that can be moved into place to keep the slide from racking. It is a quick and easy one-finger operation.
Manual safeties do more to make a gun drop-proof than childproof. Don’t depend on the manual safety to protect your child or to keep a burglar from getting your weapon.
Hammer Locking Key
My Taurus 5-round .38 Special revolver has a small lock located at the bottom of the hammer. When I turn it clockwise with a special key, a pin protrudes, preventing the hammer from cocking so the gun cannot fire.
To reactivate the gun I use the same key to turn the lock counterclockwise. Now the hammer is free to move into position for firing.
This is a storage option only, as you will not want rounds in the chamber when you are working with the hammer. It is childproof as long as you store the key separately from the gun.
The problem is that you can easily lose such a small key and the gun is unusable with the hammer pin locked. It does nothing to deter a burglar from taking your gun.
With the key in hand, it took me 3-4 seconds to insert it and twist it. It would take longer if I was in a hurry because of the small pin and I would not be able to do it in the dark.
A trigger lock encases the trigger so that you can not get your finger into the trigger guard to operate it. Unload your gun before you apply a trigger lock because you don’t want to shoot it accidentally when removing it. Here’s a 3-pack of trigger locks from Brownell’s.
To apply a trigger lock you assemble its two parts with the trigger guard between them. A combination model requires turning the dials and a keyed lock requires turning the key.
You have to remember the combination or retrieve your keys to open it. It can be awkward to hold all the parts while you assemble the lock.
This is good for childproofing but does not prevent a burglar from stealing your gun and using a screwdriver to open the trigger lock. Relying on the trigger lock in the case of a break in will require you to have the key on hand or remember the combination. It will be hard to get it open quickly in the dark.
Cable Gun Lock
A gun lock typically consists of a cable with a padlock at the end. You insert the cable through the barrel, the action, or the magazine well and close the padlock. It prevents the gun from functioning. Here’s a bright red cable lock from Gritr Sports.
A zip tie is a low tech version of a cable. Guns are often zip tied at gun shows to prevent use of the gun without permission.
The zip tie was small enough that I could activate the trigger once with the chamber in the right position but I could not advance to the next chamber.
I put the cable through the empty chamber of my revolver. The barrel could close but not lock into place.
I then removed the magazine from my husband’s FNS-9 and racked the slide in an open position, using the slide lock to keep it open. To see how to do this safely, read my article, How to Rack the Slide Without Pinching Your Hand. I threaded the cable through the magazine well and up through the opening where the cartridge would be chambered if the gun had been loaded.
You can’t store a loaded gun with a cable through it. You have to keep the key separate from the gun in order to make it truly childproof. It took me only two to three second to insert the key and turn it once I had practiced a few times, but there is a high probability of getting the key stuck if you are trying to open it in a hurry, so this one is for storage only.
A gun vault is a cross between a box and a safe. It is typically fireproof and very heavy for its size. A burglar might want to take it with him, but the logistics of moving a big heavy box will deter him.
Gun vaults may have cables attached as well that can loop around a piece of furniture to prevent theft. Here’s a biometric gun vault from Gritr Sports.
You can set a code requiring you to push buttons in a specified order. A biometric vault can be set to work only with your fingerprints. You will have a backup key in case the battery fails. You can spend some serious money here with $100 representing the entry level.
The mechanism used to unlock it meant that opening my husband’s gun vault took five to seven seconds.
This is a place to store a loaded gun. You can use your fingerprints or a touch sequence in the dark without too much trouble. The few extra seconds to open it might be worth the extra security, but there is a whirring noise that a burglar might notice.
A locked storage cabinet can be anything from a wooden case to a metal box with a lock. A padlock, keyed lock, or combination lock will prevent unauthorized access. If you have a little technical skill, you can install your own lock on any cabinet or drawer.
The aforementioned methods can be vulnerabe to theft, but a burglar is unlikely to remove a cabinet from your wall or a desk from your office.
The downside of the locked cabinet is that you will have to travel to the room where your cabinet is located to retrieve your gun. Unless the cabinet is in the room where you sleep, this is a drawback for dealing with intruders. You are keeping track of a key or a combination with this method.
The guns in a locked drawer or cabinet can be loaded and ready to go, and children are unlikely to gain access. You can add another layer of protection with the wi-fi enabled “Puck” from Lockdown. It monitors your gun storage and notifies you when it is breached via an app on your phone.
The Holy Grail for the gun lover is the gun safe. Similar to the vault where they store the money in old bank movies, this is an extremely heavy insulated box with an electronic combination lock or an old-style mechanical lock.
My husband’s safe has carpeting, shelves, and a refrigerator-style light that turns on when you open it. He has it bolted to the floor. It only weighs 850 pounds. Buy your safe at Cabela’s.
You could burn the house down and still not gain access to a safe. A one hour fire rating at 1200 degrees Farenheit means that a safe in a house fire will take an hour to reach 350 degrees. Typical ratings range from 30 minutes to several hours.
It took me 6 to 8 seconds to type in the code to my husband’s safe and wait for the door to unlock. I also had to walk to the room where the safe is located and remember the code.
A safe is definitely childproof and burglar proof. It can store large quantities of loaded guns plus accessories and ammunition enough to host an extended firefight. It is the best option for safe storage of your long guns.
A safe is great when your home is under attack, but getting out of the bed and crossing the house in the middle of the night may not be convenient when dealing with a lone burglar. You can invest in several smaller safes and locate them throughout the house.
How to Choose
You will likely want to use a combination of these methods to keep your home safe. If you have a lot of guns, consider keeping most of them in your safe or locked cabinet.
You primary home defense gun is best close at hand in a locked box or drawer by your bedside. Some locked boxes can be attached to the bed or nightstand with magnets or screws.
Cable locks and trigger locks are good for guns that are not used often.
Other Safety Considerations
Children in your home or those who will visit you need to know the difference between a toy and a real gun. The Eddie Eagle Program run by the NRA teaches children:
- DON’T TOUCH
- RUN AWAY
- TELL AN ADULT
Teach your kids about gun safety at a level appropriate for their ages. Don’t allow visiting children any access to your guns. Read my post on gun safety for children.
Follow general home safety rules: lock your doors and windows, use motion detectors to light up your yard, pay attention to the traffic in your neighborhood, and consider a home security system. The best home defense prevention.
Maintaining safe and accessible storage for your firearms will help you achieve your goal of keeping your family secure.
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