Keypad can be programmed for single- or multi-key entry. LED light turns on when vault opens. Well-padded interior.
Short mounting screws. Only room for one handgun.
Small enough for easy portability. Usable in the home or a vehicle. Cable can be attached anywhere.
Has a strange smell that a few users find overpowering.
Works with electronic keypad or manual key. Unlocks quickly for fast access. Excellent customer service.
Can only hold one handgun. Short mounting bolts.
Holds up to 5 handguns. Easy electronic access. Can be bolted to a floor or wall.
Red interior light is dim, making it difficult to see.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
The American Academy of Pediatrics estimates that around 2 million children in the US live in a home with loaded, unlocked handguns. Around 500 people die every year because of “negligent discharge.” A handgun safe is an effective answer and can be surprisingly inexpensive.
A handgun safe can prevent unauthorized use of your weapon and so dramatically reduce the chances of an accidental shooting. It deters the opportunistic thief, yet it can offer rapid access if you discover an intruder. A portable safe is also invaluable for anyone who travels with their firearm.
After extensive research, we’ve assembled a range of options that provide what we believe are the best handgun safes on the market in terms of security and value. We look at their features in more detail in the following buying guide. It should provide all the information you need to make an informed decision that fits your particular circumstances.
All handgun safes (except lockboxes) have at least two methods of access. Usually the second is a backup key if the primary system fails for some reason. Some offer keypad/RFID or keypad/biometric combinations, thus offering you plenty of choice.
Lockbox: The most basic handgun safe is a lockbox with a key. These are low cost and convenient, particularly for people who are often on the move. They’re also easy to conceal in a closet, drawer, or under a car seat.
On the downside, access is comparatively slow, and their portability can be a drawback. They may not be easy to break into quickly, but they could be taken away for a more deliberate assault. For this reason, many manufacturers add a locking steel cable for securing the safe to a stationary object.
Keypad: More advanced handgun safes offer keypad access. Even a basic four-digit keypad has 10,000 possible combinations, so it’s almost impossible for anyone to guess the code or hit it at random. Although most only require a four-digit code, some provide eight keys, upping the possible combinations to 100,000,000. Keypads may be backlit to aid use in low-light conditions.
On the downside, access is comparatively slow. A surprising number of people choose 1111 or 1234 as their code, which is much too easy to guess. People also write down the code and leave it in a purse, wallet, or even a drawer near the safe.
RFID: Some handgun safes offer radio-frequency identification (RFID) in the form of a keyring, pad, or even a small adhesive sticker that you can attach to just about anything. There’s no need to remember a code. Access is fast: the RFID chip is a proximity sensor, so it doesn’t have to be in contact the safe to open it. Only someone with a tag can open the safe.
The weakness lies not with the safe but with the security of the RFID device itself: it can easily get lost or stolen.
Biometric: The most advanced handgun safes are biometric models: they scan fingerprints into a memory chip. These offer one-touch access and absolute security — nobody else has your fingerprint. The memory capacity allows a few or dozens of people to have access. You decide.
Many of these safes have smartphone apps, so you have user logs, alerts if tampering occurs, or the ability to open them via WiFi, for example.
On the downside, cheap biometric handgun safes have been criticized for inconsistent recognition. It might take more than one attempt, thus negating the fast access they’re intended to offer.
When using a portable handgun safe, choose one that can accept a steel cable lock for added security.
If your handguns are likely to stay inside a locked safe for some time, add a desiccant like silica gel to control moisture.
Don’t just look at external size. It’s important to check internal dimensions to make sure your handgun (or guns) will fit. Don’t forget space for ammunition, too.
Hinges: The hinges are almost invariably hidden to prevent tampering.
Door: Seams and doors are precisely fitted so there’s no way to get a pry bar or other effective lever into the casing. Many handgun safe doors auto-lock on closure so you don’t have to remember to do it.
Thickness: Steel thickness varies from 16 gauge (the thinnest) to 12 gauge, which is really the thickest practical on casings of this size.
Size: This varies considerably from holding a single handgun to storing as many as eight. With the variety of handgun sizes available, it’s vital to check the safe’s internal dimensions to make sure yours will fit. Some are specifically designed to take a spare clip, with others you’ll need to check if there’s space for additional ammunition. Some safes also have removable internal shelves.
Firearm presentation: This is worth thinking about. Cheaper handgun safes are simply a secure box that can be used for other valuables. To allow for faster access, some of these have lids that are spring-loaded, others have gas struts. Multi-gun safes often allow you to slot your firearms in, one alongside the other. There are also rapid-access models (usually for a single firearm) that flip open or slide out, presenting your gun to you in the ready position.
Mount: Many handgun safes offer a variety of mounting options so you can fit them to a desk, inside a closet, bolt them to the floor, etc.
Batteries: All but the most basic handgun safes need batteries of some kind. Often these are non-rechargeable alkaline. Better models use long-life lithium-ion versions that can be recharged in-situ via USB cable.
Padding: This is usually provided to prevent damage to the firearm and/or hold it in the correct position. The thickness can be substantial, so it’s often removable if you want extra space.
Lights: Some safes have internal lights to aid in low-light conditions. The brightness is adjustable on premium models.
Security, accessibility, and discretion
Designed to fit neatly on the side of a nightstand or under a desk (with numerous alternative mounting options), this slimline handgun safe opens at the perfect angle to present your firearm ready for immediate use. Heavy-gauge steel and four-digit lock prevent unauthorized access. There’s an internal light and a foam interior to protect the contents. It’s stylish, effective, and very popular.
Inexpensive: You can buy cheap steel lockboxes for around $20 to $30. These provide basic security, but in our opinion it’s vital you secure yours with a security cable, or a thief has the opportunity to walk off with the box and open it at their leisure.
Mid-range: In the $50 to $170 range, you have tremendous choice. You’ll find keypad, RFID, and biometric security, different mounting options, and single- and multi-gun safes. We think the majority of gun owners can find what they’re looking for in this bracket.
Expensive: High-end handgun safes can run anywhere from $200 to $600. Some offer rapid presentation of your firearm. Many take more than one gun. You’ll get things like auto-opening and rechargeable batteries, and several have smartphone apps with online monitoring. These are feature-rich models for the enthusiastic gun collector.
High capacity, cost-effective
Here’s a safe that offers great versatility, with the ability to hold three handguns in the ready position, plus another two laid down. Access is via four-digit code with a key as a fallback. The spring-loaded, drop-down door makes it quick and easy to get to your firearms, and although there’s no mounting kit, the supplied steel security cable gives you the option of fixing the safe to an immovable object.
The AdirOffice Portable Travel Gun Safe is very low cost, but it provides effective if basic security for the handgun owner on the move. It’s available as a straightforward lockbox or with a dial lock, and it comes with a steel anchor cable.
The Fortress Small Personal Pistol Safe gives you the option of RFID or four-digit access. It has a spring-loaded door for fast entry and includes mounting hardware. It holds two pistols and has a useful removable shelf.
If you want almost instant access, the Vaultek Essential Series Handgun Safe presents your firearm in the ready position in less than a second thanks to a bearing-guided precision rail system. It has internal lighting and takes a handgun up to eight inches long, plus a spare magazine.
Q. Are handgun safes waterproof or fireproof?
A. Not the handgun-specific type we’re looking at here. There are safes that are waterproof and fireproof, and you can put your guns in them, but they are larger, general-purpose freestanding or wall-mounted models. The ones we’ve reviewed in this article may provide fire or water protection for a short period, but it’s almost impossible to create an adequate water seal on a small door that needs to be opened frequently, particularly a portable item. In terms of fire protection, the casing may resist fire damage for some considerable time, but it can’t absorb or deflect the heat, so items inside will be damaged by that rather than by naked flame. If you need hazard protection of that level, look for safes that are certified by the independent testers Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
Q. Is a handgun safe a legal requirement?
A. Currently, only Massachusetts requires all guns in the home to be kept in a locked safe. California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, and New York have partial restrictions in some situations. Our opinion is that it’s not really about the law; it’s about providing the best protection for you and your family. Handgun safes improve security and prevent accidents.
Q. Can I carry a handgun safe on a commercial flight?
A. We checked the Transport Security Administration (TSA) rules, and yes, you can, but it must be in checked baggage, not a carry-on. It must be unloaded (including removal of chambered rounds), though in most cases ammunition can be carried in the same box. You need to declare it when you check in, and you may be questioned, so you can expect some delay. We’d recommend you refer to the TSA website for current information before you fly. Bear in mind that these rules only apply to US domestic flights. Other countries have their own regulations, so you’ll need to check with the appropriate authorities. You need a permit from your destination before you travel; however, these are rarely issued to members of the general public.
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