In the roomy home that is the norm for most suburban and rural families, there is often an inner sanctum of sorts—the space away from the traffic of everyday life where firearms are stored. That tall combination safe, preferably bolted to the foundation, might live in the garage or in the recesses of a large closet. Wherever it may be, it’s likely that there is an area of the home devoted to little except the existence of guns.
It’s a familiar picture, and in most ways a good one. These dedicated gun spaces tend not to attract the eyes of children and strangers, and the combination lock on that old Liberty safe isn’t subject to dead batteries or faulty electronics. While engineers are continuing to develop new technology to use in safes, the market isn’t overwhelmingly future-oriented, largely because for many people, the old stuff really is just as good—or better.
But for urban dwellers, the amenities of city life are balanced with the necessity of living in a smaller space. Traditional gun safes aren’t always conducive to that lifestyle. Where are you going to put that contraption—your living room? How are you going to bolt it down? And if someone kicks down your front door, you’ve got nowhere to retreat to. How quickly can you get that combination lock open?
There have been notable developments in the world of gun safes over the past few years that can radically improve their accessibility and adaptability to small-space conditions. Here we look at a few of the more exciting brands. One criterion that we’re going to stubbornly stick to: Quick-release electronic locks are nice, but a safe that sports one is only as good as its backup. The combination lock in your grandpa’s safe is going to be going strong long after your biometric safe is burned out. You’d better make sure that your guns cannot get stuck to the point where you need to call in a professional to drill them out.For those who live in more confined quarters and want to ensure safe storage plus faster access to firearms, electronic locking mechanisms and space-saving designs can be huge conveniences—and maybe even lifesavers.
Tactical Walls specializes in concealment, and the company’s gear is a tad more sophisticated than that old hollowed-out book in your library. You can store your guns and ammo behind a mirror, inside a display shelf—even inside a clock! Now there’s no need to retreat from the main living area to retrieve your firearms in an emergency situation. Plus, most of these options double as fantastic display environments for when you have the right kind of friends over. Note that not all Tactical Walls products lock—of note if children will be poking around—and the magnetic locking mechanism might be a bit ponderous compared to the speed of a biometric or RFID lock. However, we like that the mechanism is tough to defeat without the key, but not susceptible to basic electronic failure—a triumph of simplicity in design. This is also the only one, out of our three brands, that thoroughly caters to long guns.
GunVault has been in the business for long enough to have garnered lots of reviews on their products, and the reviews are good. Their flagship safe is the SpeedVault, available in digital keypad and biometric versions. This ergonomic handgun safe can be mounted to any surface and is ideal for quick home defense gun retrieval—the pistol rests at a natural angle for drawing. It is easy to place the SpeedVault in a discreet location where it will be of optimal use. GunVault also makes a number of other safes designed for convenient storage and easy access, mostly for handguns—although there is an ARVault on the way. One of our favorite things about this brand is that every one of the company’s gun safes has an old-fashioned key backup entry in case the electronic lock goes on the fritz.
The GunBox rode in on a wave of hype due to sleek aesthetics and a successful crowdfunding campaign, but it appears there was more to that initial excitement than hot air. The GunBox is remarkably beautiful for what it is, and in terms of portability and ease of access it is unsurpassed. Biometric and/or RFID access mean that you can quickly get to your pistol. Of course, the downside to that portability is that someone can just waltz into your living space and steal the thing. Whether or not they manage to open it, you’re still out a gun. Fortunately, you can mount it using the pre-drilled holes or use a cable lock (sold separately). You can even buy the premier model that comes with GPS tracking and monitoring. In a worst-case scenario you can locate a lost or stolen GunBox, but the additional subscription fee required for this is a bit painful.
Our main problem with The GunBox is the lack of an easy backup system. Customer service techs are available to walk you through an opening procedure, but this seems both inconvenient and possible for a thief to take advantage of. We will say that, disadvantages aside, there probably isn’t anything more convenient for keeping in your car and at your bedside—and there almost certainly isn’t anything that looks as sleek. The GunBox is also good for hiding in plain sight, as there isn’t anything about it that screams gun.
Nothing is likely to beat a classic gun safe in terms of security—e.g., being difficult to steal and hard for kids or thieves to access—but there isn’t one size that fits all in this world. For those who live in more confined quarters and want to ensure safe storage plus faster access to firearms, electronic locking mechanisms and space-saving designs can be huge conveniences—and maybe even lifesavers.