Home Gun Safe How Do Gun Safes Work

How Do Gun Safes Work

hand getting pistol from a selection of guns in safe

Responsible gun owners lock up their firearms when the gun isn’t actively being used.

Latching a lock to a gun case is the simplest way of doing this, but it won’t do much to actually protect your gun.

And if you have a large firearm collection, you’d be forced to get an overwhelming number of gun cases!

I believe that everybody who owns a firearm should have a safe to store them in.

Gun safes work by being lockable and concealable to restrict firearm access only to the owners so that guns do not get into the hands of children or unwanted users. They protect guns from theft by being heavy and secured to the floor or wall (which makes them difficult to move), and with their tamper proof access panels. Gun safes are often constructed of heavy-duty materials such as steel and gypsum to be fireproof.


A Gun Safe’s Purpose

under the bed gun safe with guns and bullets

The goal of a gun safe is to prevent unwanted people from accessing the firearm.

This can mean burglars, criminals who invade your home and steal from you. A gun is a powerful tool and keeping them out of the hands of criminals is a noble cause.

However, “unwanted people” also means unsupervised children.

Kids do not fully understand firearms. To them, guns are either scary or nifty devices, but always full of mystery and allure. Their instinct may be to play with any guns they find, which can easily end in tragedy.

Guests in your home may not know how to safely handle a firearm either. And anyone in your home who may be emotionally distraught or struggling with mental illness can be a danger to themselves or others with a firearm. So it’s a smart idea to keep the guns locked away so you’re in complete control over their access.

But how do gun safes work to protect your guns, anyway?


How a Safe Works

hand getting pistol from Hornady gun safe

Safes secure your firearms via multiple means.

Most obviously, a safe is a container that completely encloses the gun and has a lock. So only you and anybody you trust with the key or code can access the firearms inside.

But it’s more than just a lock that makes a gun safe a gun safe.

After all, a gun case can be locked as well, but those aren’t safes!


Gun Safes Have Locks

gun safe locks upclose, hand unlocking using biometrics

Any gun safe has a method for locking the safe so only authorized users can unlock and open the safe.

This is the primary line of defense keeping kids, teenagers, and house guests away from getting to your guns.

A gun safe lock can be physical, such as a combination dial or a keyhole. It can also be electronic, such as a keypad, biometric scanner, or even RFID device.

What’s important, though, is that you can unlock the safe and other people cannot.

Any lock can eventually be defeated. Keyholes can be picked, dials can be cracked, etc. But a lock is vital anyway and is good enough to keep all but the most determined thieves out.


Gun Safes can be Hidden

gun safe with open doors in the closet

A gun safe out in the open is an invitation for thievery.

Firearm vaults are supposed to be hidden away, out of sight and out of mind; don’t brag about your new gun safe except to your most trusted friends!

The standard place to hide a gun safe is in the closet. They can also go in the basement or even be hidden behind a full-length mirror or bookcase.

There are even hidden gun safes for your car or truck.


Gun Safes are Heavy

men carrying gun safe to an empty room

If a thief knows about your gun collection but doesn’t have the time or tools to break into a lock, they will be tempted to carry the safe out of there.

Proper gun safes are heavy enough that you’ll have a hard time moving it around your home with a group of friends and a dolly, let alone a lone burglar with a prybar and a flashlight.

This isn’t to say that smaller, lighter gun cabinets don’t have their place. They do.

But some people don’t consider them “safes” until they’re heavy enough where someone can’t pick them up.

To aid in this, nearly all firearm safes have mounting holes so you can bolt them to a solid surface. Even single-handgun lockboxes typically include this feature.

You don’t want to use wood screws for this. Big bolts and lag screws are the best choices. The stronger, the better.

Make sure the safe is mounted to structures that can handle this tough job. Wall studs and floor joists work. Drywall and carpet, however, will NOT hold a safe in place.

A concrete pad makes for an excellent foundation to which you can anchor a high-quality rifle safe.

You can help your safe stay in place by removing any gaps between it and the walls and floor. A small gap allows for someone to get a prybar in there, which can let them get the leverage a robber needs to pry the safe away from its anchors.


Gun Safes Resist Physical Attempts to Open Them

men forcibly opening a gun safe

There are less visible design details that safes use to protect against forced entry, too.

The door can be extra thick so a prybar can’t get under it. And if somebody tries prying from the side, well, locking pins and locking bars positioned all the way around the door will cause this action to tighten the door to the frame.

Safes are made from high-quality steel, and hardened plates are often added to prevent drilling into the safe.

Some safes have hidden devices which move into place if somebody tries to drill out the lock. This locks the safe even more securely. It’s a pain to get into a safe once one of these devices has been activated, but it does keep your guns from being stolen!

Some electronic safes connect to the Internet and can alert you about any access attempts. This allows you to respond to the attempt before the thief escapes.


Good Gun Safes are Fireproof

gun safe after an extinguished fire

All gun safes are technically fireproof because steel won’t burn. Good gun safes, however, will absorb heat and prevent it from torching the items inside.

Any insulation, even the carpet that lines most gun safes, provides a small amount of protection for the guns inside.

Fire-rated gun safes will include one or more layers of fireboard. This is an industry-standard term for a material such as gypsum that absorbs heat at a greater rate than steel or carpet alone.

Fireboard also won’t ignite if the temperature gets high enough. It can crumble after absorbing enough thermal energy, though.

This is why home gun safes are rated to resist a certain temperature for a given amount of time. Better safes will also tell you how many BTUs they can absorb before the heat inside gets high enough to damage paper.

Once the paper ignites, you’ll have a fire inside the safe and the fireproofing goes out the window.

That’s why it can be worthwhile to pay the expense for a home gun safe that’s rated to a temperature above 1,700 degrees for an hour or more.



All of the above factors combine to keep your gun collection safe.

Sure, a gun case can be locked, and you can also cover your guns in a fire blanket.

But a gun safe combines many different protections in a secure way that cannot be accomplished by layering the protections on each other separately.

And imagine how difficult it would be to get to your favorite rifle if it was in a locked gun case, buried in fire blankets, and buried under 500 pounds of concrete!


Recommended reading:

Gun Safes: Top-10 Facts & Tips You Must Know

How Do You Move a Heavy Gun Safe Around Your Home

Best Home Gun Safes

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Andrew Jackson learned to walk in the mountains and has spent much of his life exploring the outdoors. He is equally at home in the woods, at the range, or on the gunsmithing bench, and loves to build guns almost as much as he enjoys shooting them. His travels have taken him to the four corners of the United States. Though his favorite hunting spot is in Alaska, Kansas deer taste better.


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