What’s in Your Gun Safe? No, Besides the Guns?

We’ve discussed physical security a lot here, and have also discussed gun safes at some length. In the course of normal operations, things other than guns may come to lodge in your gun safe. This is, in general, not a good idea, unless the safe is a commercial safe, professionally installed, and therefore very difficult to brute-force open.

A typical gun safe can only trouble a burglar by imposing delay, inconvenience, and the necessity to break such noise and light discipline as burglars may possess. These things are still worth doing, but against this you must set the fact that you have consolidated a great deal of burglar bait in one place. There are things that we do not advise storing in a gun safe, and things other than guns that should be in your gun safe. Threee basic rules apply:

  1. Do not put anything in your gun safe that narrows your spread of risk.
  2. Do not put anything in your gun safe that increases the hazard (including humidity or fire hazards) to your guns.
  3. Do put things in your gun safe that make it easier to use, more secure, and less likely to damage your firearms.

Don’t Put This in There

  • Things like jewelry. They may be a hair safer than in your master bedroom (the first place that burgs generally hit) but they’re not all that safe, and does this mean that someone else is opening and closing your safe? Tell you what, check it now to see if she spun the dial when she closed it. We’ll wait.
  • With enough burglars and a few tools, they take the whole thing with them. You did bolt it down, right?

    With enough burglars and a few tools, they take the whole thing with them. You did bolt it down, right? And the inventory isn’t inside, is it?

    The only copy of the safe inventory. What if they boost the whole safe?

  • Important papers like a title deed, a will or power of attorney, citizenship or adoption papers, original DD214s. Or any papers at all. This is not because Cleofus the Wealth Redistribution Engineer will have any interest in your papers, unless one of them is an oxycodone prescription, but fire is another story. Your safe should contain nothing that’s more inflammable than the stocks of your firearms, or as little as possible.
  • Ammunition. More than one gun collection has been destroyed in a survivable fire because the ammo stockpiled in the safe reached combustion temp and let go. This doesn’t blow the safe up like a cartoon explosion, but it does burn up as much as the available oxygen supports. Keeping ammo in a separate, locked (and ideally, nondescript-looking) container is a capital idea. Ammo in a locked box is safe enough; it burns, and will not blow up. We like the metal job boxes you can get at home stores. We chain them to stuff to complicate the stealing thereof.

Do Put This In There

safe light

  • safe litA light, or two lights. A dark safe is a safe where the rust gremlins can get up to their magic. We like these: they’re cheap, and the batteries (AAA, not included) last a long time. To the right, there’s a shot of a safe with one side lit by one of these, and one not: it’s motion activated and stays on for a minute, unless you gesture. (You can also set it to work manually). Reading the reviews, there are two squawks with these el-cheapo Chinese made light units: (1), a significant number of them have the motion detection DOA, so buy it where you can return it. (They don’t croak after a while — either they’re born dead, or they work fine, right out of the bubble pack). Ours have worked fine. And (2), the provided attachment methods stink, which we can confirm by hands-on practice. The velcro is fine, but the adhesive on the velcro will not stick to your safe wall or shelves. Short fix with MDF or wood shelves: staple the velcro on. Right fix is to screw the retaining base on with wood screws, but the supplied screws are tiny and won’t do the job, either, so you’ll need screws of your own — with small and/or countersunk heads, or they’ll prevent the light from going on to its bracket at all. Because of the strength of the typical MDF shelf, we made pilot holes for the wood screws with a 5/64 drill in a drill press (but holding the work piece by hand; however, the press still ensures an orthogonal hole).
  • A rechargeable dehumidifier. The cheap way to do this is with a can of silica that you reheat every once in a while in the oven. If Herself does not like you monkeying with her oven, there are electric ones that plug in and recharge in a few hours. This unit is cheap (the same Chinese gadget is available with many brand names, at many prices).

Rechargeable safe dehumidifier

It’s also a good idea to have a dehumidifier in the room. In a basement, humidity can get very high (in ours, it’s routinely in the 70s) and a dehumidifier is available cheap and runs cheap, and keeps our basement sub 50, just with the factory settings. No fancy dehumidifier, just a WalMart special by “Haier,” which we assume means “Long March People’s Sweatshop No. 32767.” This dehumidifier removes about 7.5 gallons of water from the air down there in a 24 hour period. You can have a kid dump the bucket, or nowadays most dehumidifiers can run a hose right to your sump.

Before you do that, check operation of the sump pump(s).

The external dehumidifier reduces the burden on the internal one you put inside the safe.

6 thoughts on “What’s in Your Gun Safe? No, Besides the Guns?

  1. Arcane

    If you don’t mind me asking, what do you recommend with regards to a safe, or some other product, in order to secure my guns if I live in an apartment?

    Thanks.

    1. Hognose Post author

      Here’s a few dashed-off thoughts.

      – a steel rack and chain, in a location other than the family room (second target of burgs, where the electronics are) or MBR (first place the burgs hit, because they know money and jewelry may be there).

      – closet in a spare BR is good, but if you’re in an apartment you may not have a guest bedroom. Kids’ bedrooms are seldom a prime target of burgs, but may not be optimal for other reasons (i.e. kids).

      In an apartment, raise the risk, hazard, and inconvenience of your apartment and they will move on to another. (Not very neighborly, but there it is). Best results may be hardening your perimeter (doors/windows). Landlord will probably permit you to add deadbolt(s). Film on the windows makes them resistant to being shattered (especially important if you have a ground floor slider, or on on a balcony easily reached by an athletic burglar or one with a ladder). Don’t tolerate ladders, crowbars, etc. being left around by the landlord or workmen, they’re a big risk.

      A crossbeam makes it hard to kick the door when you’re inside (no help when you’re out). Cameras streaming to an offsite server will help catch perps of a homicide, home invasion or other violent crime, but most cops could not be bothered to investigate burglaries (too much work for too little reward, and more pressing crimes need the effort).

      Also, maintain strict opsec. No one needs to know you own guns, because everyone has family, and every family has a black sheep.

  2. Aesop

    The average sofa carcass is about the same length and depth as the average cheap Stack-On gun box.
    Someone who’s any kind of hand could carefully open the fabric layer under the cushions, and arrange to place said gunbox, otherwise worthless for protection, in amongst the sofa framing, cover it with a removable sheet of 3/4″ plywood and padding, and with nothing more complicated than Shoe-Goo, affix Velcro strips/patches to the sofa and fabric such that you can now remove the fabric flap and access the lockbox. Criminals and burglars may do a lot of things, but tossing over sofas looking for your gun stash is rarely among them.

    A sturdier safe could be installed at one end of a closet, and through-bolted to the floor and on two sides, making both forcing it open or carrying it off far more problematic than the average intruder will be able to accomplish unless they have substantial tools and plenty of time and solitude. It won’t be the Pink Panther or the Ocean’s Eleven gang breaking into your apartment.

    There is also, AFAIK, no law whatsoever anywhere from acquiring some P.O.S. wall hanger firearm or three, and/or replicas and starter pistols, and for the actual firearms, drilling holes into the chambers and welding obstructions in the barrel, removing firing pins, etc., such as to render them non-firing non-guns. And then storing them in a conspicuous and totally simple-to-carry-off and unbolted-down gun locker. If you should happen to put several of your spare 50# weightlifting plates, collection of found wheel weights, and perhaps a bag or two or sand, kitty litter, etc. in the bottom, all the better.
    A truly evil person would get a sturdy old safe/gunsafe from Craigslist etc., fill it full of 3-4″ plumbing pipes filled with concrete, have the door welded shut, and leave a convenient dolly (with a broken/sabotaged wheel, natch) nearby. An utter monster might go so far as fill a couple of military ammo cans with sand or gravel and epoxy or have them welded shut as well, then repaint them. This last also works with those little Sentry carry-away valuable/fire safes. It’s a cruel world.

    Be sure with the latter to install a good HD hidden cam, aimed to record good facial shots, feeding a DVR hidden somewhere else (or to a web cloud), to record the hijinks for both YouTube, and for the use of the local constables in case of something untoward happening to your “bait” safe.

    This also works if you leave an old wallet with maybe $8 cash, and an assortment of shiny but worthless gift cards and no actual ID of you in the credit card slots, along with a wiped/gutted/dead/obsolete cell phone, ring of keys that open nothing you own anymore, on a dresser etc., in obvious plain sight, and once again, with a handy hidden cam to get good face shots.

    Criminals, while clever, are also lazy, stupid, opportunistic, and impulsive, as demonstrated by 3,000,000 studies and 6,000 years of recorded history.
    Take full advantage of those traits and facts, and make them your bitch.

    Overworked detectives need a laugh from time to time too.

  3. Mark D.

    Another thing TO put ithe safe is your cutting torch head and/or the tips for your plasma cutter. A cutting torch laying on the workbench can be used as a master key for your safe.

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