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Published Jul 5, 2022 6:36 AM

Safes are a must-have for gun owners. A safe keeps firearms secure and protected from curious children and would-be thieves, and some even protect guns and other valuables from disasters such as house fires. That said, not everyone has the space for a 24-gun safe with a two-by-three-foot footprint, and weighs 750 pounds. Additionally, a large gun safe is visually loud and expressive as to its contents, which may lead to questions, and presents a large target. 

Closet gun safes provide a more compact alternative, keeping firearms, documents, and valuables tucked away with your extra shoes and the odd spider. Smaller and lighter in weight, these are perfect for those in townhomes and apartments, as well as folks that just don’t need a steel behemoth in their basement. When properly secured, you maintain the advantage and peace of mind that comes from knowing that your firearms are safely stowed and hidden at the back of the closet alongside your favorite hat and that sweater grandma got you last year for Christmas.

Methodology

For closet gun safes, we looked for options that maintain the security of your valuables, while also keeping down on size and weight. Given that I currently live in an apartment, researching a topic like this means looking for the kind of product that I myself would use. To that end, I pored over technical data to find the best options possible. 

When I looked for gun safes, I used acceptable standards created by California’s Department of Justice for guidance. The standards cover things like the locking mechanism, boltwork, construction, and hinges. Plus, it must meet Underwriters Laboratories standards, which cover things like fireproof ratings. 

Typically, we would purchase the items ourselves. However, even closet-sized gun safes are bulky by nature, so we relied on reviews from end users to gather enough information to make the final decisions. Specifically, information from Mr. Safe House, The Truth About Guns, and Strong Gun Safes were critical to picking the best products. For more information on how we at Task & Purpose review products, please view our review guidelines.

Best Overall

The expression “If you want something done right, you gotta do it yourself,” is not often attributed to safes, but it applies here. The SnapSafe Titan arrives flat-packed and with the hardware and tools to assemble it yourself. This means that positioning the safe is a breeze, as you can build it where you want to place it. That’s a nice feature, given that the safe weighs 400 pounds assembled.

However, that weight comes from the sides, which are constructed of thick nine-gauge steel. This thickness, along with the one-inch thick locking bolts, means that when the safe is bolted to the floor, it exceeds the California DOJ standards for gun safes. Not only is this vault safe from thieves, but fire as well. This is due to the fire insulation which, according to the manufacturer, is rated for 2,300 degrees Fahrenheit for up to an hour.

The interior is well-furnished. It features a carpet-lined interior and shelves. The lining is installed during the assembly process but may be a pain to install, so take your time. The shelves can be adjusted to your preference, but to reach the maximum capacity of 12 guns, the shelves need to be outright removed.

Given all this information, the SnapSafe Titan is an excellent option and well worth your money.

Product Specs
  • Size: 59 x 22 x 17.5 inches
  • Weight: 400 pounds
  • Fire rating: 2,300 degrees for 60 minutes
  • Capacity: 12 rifles max
  • CA DOJ-approved: Yes
PROS

Thick 9-gauge steel construction

Modular interior

Excellent fire rating

CONS

Assembly required

Lining can be a pain to install

Delivered directly to your door and at under $1,200, the Steelwater Heavy Duty 16-Gun Safe promises security while still within the lower side of the budget. You’ll be grateful for the curbside delivery too, because this safe weighs in at 380 pounds. But the weight is worth it, as this safe comes packed with features. It has a carpeted interior with automatic LED strips already inside, and adjustable shelves to fit your personal style. With the shelves removed, it can fit up to 16 guns.

It’s as secure on the outside as it is nice on the inside. The Steelwater safe is CA DOJ approved, with 12-gauge steel sides, 10 bolts measuring 1.5 inches thick, and an EMP-proof keypad lock. However, the keypad does have a keyed entry as backup, which does present the issue that it could be picked. The safe also has holes drilled into them, but for good reason. There are five total, one in each corner, to secure the safe to the floor, and then one in the back for installation of a dehumidifier.

For the best bang for your buck, you don’t need to look much farther than the Steelwater Heavy Duty 16-Gun Safe.

Product Specs
  • Size: 59 x 22 x 16 inches
  • Weight: 380 pounds
  • Fire rating: 1,875 degrees for 60 minutes
  • Capacity: 16 rifles
  • CA DOJ-approved: Yes
PROS

Pre-drilled for power

Pre-lit interior with LED lighting

Excellent fire rating

CONS

Heavy

Includes key bypass feature

Honorable Mention

On the far end of compactness and lightweight is the Hornady RapidSafe AR Locker. We’ve looked at this before for our bedside gun safe picks, but the RapidSafe is also an excellent option for keeping firearms in the closet. It’s small and light, just large enough to fit two rifles, and can be quickly accessed in the event of an intrusion. This is because it allows for entry via an RFID chip. The chip can be placed on your phone via a sticker, but keychains and a bracelet are also included, allowing you to always have the means to access the locker. The chip isn’t the only way to get in, as there’s also entry via the keypad or with a physical key.

At 62 pounds, this is very lightweight and easy to position, and even has handles to allow you to carry it with ease. It can also be bolted to the floor either horizontally or vertically to allow you to place the locker in the most optimal position for easy access.

The RapidSafe isn’t without drawbacks, though. The lock makes a lot of noise when opening. It’s tiny too, with barely enough room for the guns, and no room for ammo or accessory storage, or for storage of valuables or documents. Additionally, the locker is made of 16-gauge steel, which is relatively thin, and the addition of keyed entry means that enterprising thieves have multiple ways to get into the safe.

That said, this option is California DOJ-certified, and while it might not be the best option for long-term storage, it excels as an option for storing your home defense weapon for rapid deployment.

Product Specs
  • Size: 42 x 15.25 x 10 inches
  • Weight: 62 pounds
  • Fire rating: Not fire rated
  • Capacity: 2 rifles
  • CA DOJ-approved: Yes
PROS

RFID lock allows for quick entry

Locking mechanism can be plugged in as an alternative to batteries

Extremely lightweight and compact for easy positioning

CONS

More like a cabinet than a safe

No fire rating

Lock opens very loudly

Best Biometric

At the cheapest price point on this list, the Barska Biometric Rifle Safe is among the few rifle safes that come standard with a biometric lock. It’s quite light at 62 pounds, making it easily portable, and comes with holes drilled into the bottom and the back to make securing the safe quick and easy.

It’s not the best safe in terms of security. It has three deadbolts along the door, but none along the top and bottom edge or near the hinge. There’s no fire insulation or interior padding for that matter. And, while there’s not a thickness given for the steel, given the weight, it can be assumed that it’s light, likely 16-gauge. That said, it is California DOJ-approved.

Honestly, I’m not a fan of the biometric lock. The reviews are mixed, with several people mentioning that they had issues getting in. If you’re set on getting a biometric lock and getting it on the cheap, this is the best option. Just keep in mind that it is more of a gun cabinet than a safe.

Product Specs
  • Size: 57.2 x 9.75 x 8.63 inches
  • Weight: 62 pounds
  • Fire rating: Not fire rated
  • Capacity: 4 rifles max
  • CA DOJ-approved: Yes
PROS

Biometric lock for quick access

Shelf for additional storage

Light and easy to position

Very affordable

CONS

Not fire rated

Biometric lock’s quality control a concern

More a cabinet than a safe

The Surelock Security Concealed 4-Gun Safe is arguably the best option for a closet safe where size is the most important factor.

Though advertised to hold four guns, this seats two far more comfortably. That leaves room to adjust the three included shelves to hold ammo and accessories. The walls are padded to avoid scratching your gear, and have fireproofing material to get a fire resistance of 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit for half an hour.

It’s constructed of 14-gauge steel, and only has five bolts. Three are on the main edge of the door, and two are deadbolts on the hinge side of the door. Thicker steel would be appreciated, though the thin walls mean that it’s fairly light, but it’s still California DOJ-certified, meaning you can be secure in the safety of your valuables while away from home.

Honestly, given the price, this is probably the best option if you’re shopping for a closet-sized safe on a budget. It allows for some fire protection and security in an extremely small form factor for less than $600.

Product Specs
  • Size: 55 x 12 x 12 inches
  • Weight: 165 pounds
  • Fire rating: 1,400 degrees for 30 minutes
  • Capacity: 4 rifles max
  • CA DOJ-approved: Yes
PROS

Extremely compact

CA DOJ-approved

Very affordable

CONS

Low fire rating

Thin steel sides

Best Heavy-Duty

The Ft. Knox Maverick is about as big as you can get while still fitting it inside the closet. It’s gonna be a pain to get into position too, because it weighs a whopping 580 pounds. It owes that weight to the fact that it’s made of 10-gauge steel. It’s also quite expensive, quoting a basic model at just under $2,750.

On the bright side, you can configure the safe to your specific needs, and change things like the color and the liner, add accessories like lights and dehumidifiers, and change the dial mechanism to a keypad or biometric lock. However, these modifications will cost you.

The base design seems quite secure, but it doesn’t advertise itself as being California DOJ-compliant. However, they have been tested by Underwriter Laboratories (UL) for security. The California DOJ specifically states that if a safe has been tested by UL and passes, it is to be considered DOJ-compliant. To that end, you can rest assured that your safe is certified and secure from attacks.

Product Specs
  • Size: 60 x 24 x 18 inches
  • Weight: 580 pounds
  • Fire rating: 1,200 degrees for 75 minutes
  • Capacity: 16 guns max
  • CA DOJ-approved: N/A
PROS

Thick 10-gauge steel construction

No key backup

Entirely user-customizable

CONS

Heavy

Expensive

If modularity is what you’re looking for, then look no further than the SecureIt Answer 52 Pro 8. Constructed of 12-gauge steel, the Answer Lightweight’s back wall is entirely covered in slats that allow you to configure the included hooks, shelf, and trays to however you see fit. Additionally, a power strip is built in, allowing you to run lights and dehumidifiers inside with ease.

It’s quite large (the same size as the Maverick, in fact), but almost half the weight, at just under 300 pounds. The weight difference is partially due to the thinner steel, but also due to the lack of fireproofing material. This safe isn’t California DOJ-rated, either. However, it has an excellent keypad and thick bolts that make it extremely secure, with plenty of space for your rifles, pistols, and accessories.

Product Specs
  • Size: 59 x 24 x 18 inches
  • Weight: 299 pounds
  • Fire rating: Not fire rated
  • Capacity: 8 rifles max
  • CA DOJ-approved: No
PROS

Extremely modular interior

Comes with shelves, bins, and built-in power

CONS

Not fire rated

Not CA DOJ-approved

Our verdict on closet gun safes

A closet gun safe needs to be light enough to be easily moved, while strong enough to properly secure your valuables. The SnapSafe Titan allows for strength while being easy to assemble and place, while the Steelwater HD 16-Gun Safe provides the best bang for your buck while providing excellent security. Either of these options would be an excellent pick for your closet safe.

What to consider when buying a closet gun safe

There are a few key factors that need to be considered when choosing a safe. Security, price, and size are all main concerns for buyers. Additionally, things like fire safety rating and entry method should be thought of prior to purchase. Consider your needs as well as your environment to make the best purchase decision.

Key features of closet gun safes 

Secure design

Security should be the priority when selecting a safe. After all, the main feature of a safe is that it is, of course, safe. To that end, there are a few factors that contribute to how secure a safe is.

How thick is the steel? Steel is measured by thickness in gauge. Similar to a shotgun, the smaller the number, the bigger (or in this case, thicker) it is. Per the California DOJ, the minimum thickness should be 12-gauge steel. Obviously, thicker is better. However, the thicker the steel, the heavier the safe. 

Also consider the locking mechanism. Many locks offer a key entry as a backup. However, these can be picked and should be considered cautiously. Ideally, if the safe features key entry, it should be hidden behind the keypad inside the battery compartment. Also, if the lock is electronic, it MUST have a non-volatile memory, meaning that when the batteries die or are removed, it retains the entry code and doesn’t reset to the factory code.

Fire rating

Fire protection is one advantage offered by most safes, including many listed in this article. Fire protection is typically offered in one of two ways. The first uses fireboard, a material similar to drywall. Fireboard carries a layer of moisture within itself. When heated, the moisture is released into the safe, creating steam, cooling the safe and the contents within. The alternative to a fireboard are insulators. Insulators work to prevent heat from entering in the first place. 

Additionally, most fire-resistant safes have heat seals on the doors. Just like fire caulk (which should be used to insulate holes drilled for power cords), these seals expand when exposed to heat. This stops hot air and smoke from entering the safe through the door gaps and prevents smoke damage.

The typical base rating for fire protection is 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes. Testing typically occurs by placing the safe inside a furnace, and is heated to the test temperature and held until the interior of the safe reaches 350 degrees Fahrenheit. To learn more about fire resistance testing, see this piece from DeanSafe.

Size

When a safe manufacturer gives the maximum number of firearms that can be stored in its safe, they’re typically being overly optimistic. By that, I mean that they’re giving a number based on placing slim guns like shotguns and bolt-action rifles inside without optics. Take the number given with a grain of salt and drop the number just a bit.

Pricing for closet gun safes 

Budget 

Priced below $1,000, you’ll find two types of safes in this range. These safes are typically either made with thin cheap metal and poor design, or are of decent quality but small in size and short on features. While they will do in a pinch, it’s worth considering saving a little longer to be able to purchase a higher-end safe.

Mid-range

Sitting between $1,000 and $2,000, this is the price range where most of the options can be found. With quality steel and decent lock design, the safes in this price range often have features such as fire ratings, are approved by the DOJ, and are big enough to store your collection without bankrupting yourself.

Premium

Spending over $2,000 will get you a safe that is almost certainly impervious to theft and should come with all the features that you can hope for. However, you are reaching the point of diminishing returns, and while your valuables will certainly be safe, you honestly could save a little here and use the saved money to purchase something worth stealing.

A note on biometric locks

Biometric entry, typically in the form of a fingerprint reader, has become popular for gun safes. Typically used for small handgun safes, the technology allows for authorized users to quickly access the safe. That said, the tech is rarely seen in full-size gun safes. For some customizable safes, it can be added on or purchased as an aftermarket upgrade. But considering that these typically cost upwards of $250 to add on, and typically have digital and keyed entry, in my opinion biometric locks are a gimmick and not worth spending money on.

Tips and tricks

  • Bolt your safe in place. Almost all closet safes come pre-drilled for floor bolts to improve security and to prevent thieves from making off with the whole safe to open at a later time. 
  • If your safe uses a battery for a digitally controlled lock, keep spare batteries and change them regularly, just like your fire alarm.
  • Add LED light strips to your safe. Strips that are motion-sensitive and battery-operated can be found at cheap prices, and make things easy to see, especially in the back corner of your closet.

FAQs about closet gun safes

You’ve got questions. Task & Purpose has answers.

Q: Will a gun safe damage carpeting in my closet?

A: Yes. Over time, heavy objects will cause indentations and flatten the carpet on which they stand. However, things like vacuuming and steaming the carpet, or even placing an ice cube on the carpet, can lift up the crushed fibers and help restore the carpet towards its original state. 

Q: Is the closet a good place to put a gun safe?

A: A closet is an excellent place for a gun safe, especially for those living in smaller homes where floor space is at a premium. Placing a safe in a closet keeps the safe out of sight, keeping your firearms or valuables relatively easy to access, while not giving up space in other parts of the home.

Q: What size of gun safe is suitable for my firearm?

A: That is dependent on the type of firearm. Shotguns and hunting rifles are longer than AR-15s and require a taller gun safe, while pistols can fit into safes that are far smaller.

Q: Do gun safes need to be climate-controlled?

A: That depends. If the location where the safe is kept is climate-controlled, the safe will maintain a similar temperature. However, if you live in a location that sees high humidity, then it may present a rusting issue. To combat this, safes may be modified so that power can be run inside the safe. From there, a small dehumidifier can be installed to help prevent mold and rust. 

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