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Published Jul 25, 2022 11:21 AM

A good, quality gun safe serves multiple purposes. In addition to helping prevent unauthorized access by children, family members, and burglars, they can also protect against fire and water damage, with some models even offering door seals that protect against smoke damage as well. We have all seen stories of mass shootings committed by someone who had access to a parent or guardian’s firearm that wasn’t properly secured, or heard of a person struggling with mental health finding a family member’s gun and using it to take their own life. Having your guns locked up is not a perfect solution, but it can help prevent tragedies like this from occurring.

Methodology

When looking for a quality gun safe for myself or someone else, I try to find one that’s feature-rich but not too expensive. I also consider the purpose of the safe. While they all generally do the same thing, trying to limit access to firearms is different than protecting them. 

For this article, I narrowed my search to safes that are California DOJ-approved since that’s where I live, and I figured if something is good enough for California, it should be good enough for wherever you live. I also considered feedback in product reviews and YouTube videos, and I relied on personal experience I’ve had throughout the years. 

Not all of the safes on this list are meant to withstand being pulled out of the ground and dragged away by thieves with a truck, but they will all offer protection from unauthorized access, at least temporarily. For this review guide, I graded the safes based on cost, features, ease of use, thickness of the walls, and locking mechanisms. 

For more information on our review process, check out the Task & Purpose review guidelines.

The Winchester 12-Gun Safe offers secure storage for up to 12 long guns as well as three handguns in the door panel. The door on this safe is secured via six steel locking bars and is opened via the programmable keypad on the door. If the keypad should fail, there is an included hard key to bypass the need for electronics. It’s fire-rated for 30 minutes at 1,400 degrees, but be careful with water as it is not rated to be waterproof.

The adjustable height for the rifle rack and shelf help to accommodate long guns of varying heights, which is especially useful when you own mostly carbine-length rifles and not long hunting shotguns and Mosin Nagants. The shelf is sturdy enough to hold a decent amount of ammunition or other heavy objects that you need to secure. The door panel includes sleeves that can hold three pistols, as well as two zip-up pockets that can hold magazines or other accessories.

Overall this option is a great beginner safe for someone who needs to secure some long guns, handguns, and ammunition. To get the most out of it, you should bolt it down to a solid floor with appropriate hardware. The fact that it is rated for fire is a huge benefit over a basic gun cabinet or locker.

Product Specs
  • Material:
  • 14-gauge steel construction
  • ⅝-inch fireboard
  • Six one-inch steel locking bolts on door
  • Fits:
  • 12 long guns
  • Three handguns
  • Ammunition boxes
PROS

Adjustable rack to accommodate longer/shorter firearms

Adjustable top shelf to accommodate ammo boxes, documents, additional handguns

Fire rated for 30 minutes at 1,400 degrees

Powder-coated finish to prevent rust

Fabric-lined internals to protect firearm finishes

CONS

No waterproof rating

Keypad is only covered under a one-year warranty

No internal light

The SentrySafe 1.23 Cubic Foot Floor Safe is a great option for someone who doesn’t need to store any long guns. Mount this safe to the ground and you’ll have peace of mind not only because of its four one-inch steel locking bolts and pry-resistant door hinge, but also its two-hour 1,850-degree fire rating and its water resistance up to eight inches of water for up to 24 hours.

This safe features an internal shelf with nine slots to choose where you want it to sit. The shelf has a built-in locking tray for documents or smaller items that you want to secure but are out of the way. The inside panel of the door also features storage areas for electronics such as phones or tablets and five key hooks.

Product Specs
  • 1.23 cubic feet of internal storage
  • Fire-rated and waterproof
  • Digital keypad as well as bypass key
  • Steel construction
PROS

Fire- and water-resistant

Quick access electronic keypad

Key override

Different storage compartments and removable shelf

CONS

Limited to handguns and smaller items

Easy to steal if not bolted to the ground

Honorable Mention

If theft is not a major concern for you and you just need a safe that meets the basic requirements, the Hornady RAPiD Safe is worth looking into. It is constructed with thick 14-gauge steel walls and two hardened steel locking lugs securing the door. It can be opened via RFID tags, the electronic number pad or, if all else fails, there is a backup hard key that can be used to bypass all the electronic features.

Its small size, low weight, and multiple anchor points make it ideal for stowing firearms in a vehicle for short amounts of time. While it is not ideal for this purpose, it is certainly better than leaving an unattended rifle in a vehicle as it will at the very least slow someone down if they are trying to break in and steal your firearms.

Product Specs
  • Fits two carbine-size long guns
  • 14-gauge steel body construction
  • Two hardened steel locking lugs
  • 1,500-pound rated steel locking cable for added security
PROS

Minimalist construction takes up very little space

Multiple ways to open in case speed is a concern

Three possible anchor points to secure to various objects

Foam interior prevents damage to firearms/accessories

Competitive price at $350

CONS

Loud opening sounds when using number pad

Not fire-rated

Not waterproof

Will not stop thieves with a little bit of time on their hands

If space is very limited and you want to take a more hidden approach, you may want to consider getting an in-wall safe — yes, like we have seen in countless spy movies! We have all seen scenes where a character slides a painting to the side, revealing a safe filled with cash, jewels, sensitive documents, and a firearm. This hidden-in-plain-sight approach could work well if you conceal it well enough, but with a little creativity, you can have a safe that can hold an entire AR-15 and more behind a painting that you paid $5 for at your local thrift store.

I chose this option as opposed to the popular sliding mirrors as it is a lot more secure should a thief find it. Most of the sliding mirrors, or bookshelves that plop down to reveal a tray containing a long gun and a couple of handguns, can be defeated fairly easily as they usually have small flimsy lugs that are defeated by using magnets placed in specific areas.

Product Specs
  • Shelving options to accommodate multiple handguns, ammunition containers, or other valuables
  • 16-gauge steel body construction; 8-gauge steel door
  • Electronic lock with key backup
PROS

Low profile, no handle to snag when moving concealment object out of the way

Electronic number pad with key backup so you won’t get locked out

Shelves can be removed to make room for one or two long guns

Mounts directly to studs in wall

CONS

Not fire-rated

Not waterproof

Vulnerable to pry attacks

What to consider when shopping for gun safes under $500

If you are in the market for a gun safe (which you absolutely should be if you own even one firearm), there are some basics that need to be covered depending on what or who you are trying to keep away from your guns. Keeping these requirements in mind will help you make the best decision on what product to spend your hard-earned money on. 

The first thing to consider is what level of security you are looking for. Similar to shopping for a holster and deciding how much retention you need, safes are very similar. If security is not as much of a concern for you and you just need the basics to comply with a safe storage law, a lockbox with an anchor cable could work for you. Some are built to be very sturdy like the RAPiD safe by Hornady, and some like the SnapSafe lock box are more bare-bones and designed to offer the minimum amount of protection from theft or unauthorized access. 

After determining how much security you need, the next big thing to consider is going to be environmental protection. By this, I mean fire and flood. While getting out of the house safe and uninjured should be your first priority, keeping your valuables safe is a close second. The average house fire burns at 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit, so finding a safe that can withstand that temperature for long enough to allow firefighters to put out the flames will help save you a lot of headaches.

Lastly, you may want to think about how much space you have and how many firearms you need to store. If space isn’t an issue, then something like the Winchester 12-Gun Safe is a great option for storing multiple long guns, handguns, and accessories/ammunition. It can be bolted down to the ground for added security and it is rated for fire up to 1,400 degrees, so your investments will be safe from all types of threats. If space is an issue and you can’t store something as big as the 12-gun safe, but you can spare some room under your bed, the RAPiD under-bed safe by Hornady will work well for you. 

Types of gun safes

Long gun safes

These are what we traditionally see and think of when we think of gun safes — a big, tall, sturdy safe with a large door that swings open to reveal rifles and shotguns lined up along the interior walls with some shelves for handguns and ammo. These safes tend to be bulky and hard to move but offer great protection from theft and fire due to the fact that they can be secured to the ground with bolts and have plenty of insulation protecting your investments from fire damage. 

Handgun safes

Handgun safes tend to be much smaller and have limited space. Most can be bolted down to the ground to prevent someone from simply picking them up and walking away. Quality handgun safes have insulation to protect against fire damage and flooding, while cheaper options will only offer the bare minimum level of protection against theft or child access. Some handgun lockboxes such as the SpeedVault by GunVault can be mounted to a bed frame and be opened quickly with the firearm being in an easy to access position allowing for a full firing grip from the get-go.

Lockboxes and locking cabinets

These options can be used when security is not a major concern as they offer the lowest level of security. A few minutes with a simple crowbar and any thief with some upper body strength will be walking away with some shiny new guns. If a lock box or cabinet is going to be your choice, it would be wise to layer your home security with things such as heavy doors, alarm systems, big scary dogs, etc., because these safes are not going to slow someone down on their own. 

Hidden safes

Hidden safes come in different forms, but most of the time they require the user to cut a hole in the wall of their home and secure the safe to the studs. Up until recently, these safes followed more traditional designs and would require that the user place something over the front to conceal the door. Today, there are more options with everything from shelves to mirrors that are both the “safe” as well as the concealment furniture. Safes that are hidden in plain sight can help mitigate the risk of a burglar finding where you keep your guns if they are just inside for a short amount of time in a smash-and-grab type of robbery. Most thieves will know to look in the common areas for unsecured firearms such as under the mattress, inside a closet, or in a dresser, so having a more incognito place to put your guns could work better in some cases.

Key features of gun safes

Security

The biggest feature has to be security. A quality gun safe needs to check all the boxes when it comes to protecting your firearms. This applies to theft, unintentional access, fire, flood, and smoke damage. There are many options out on the market today that meet these criteria and still manage to keep the price below $500 as I have shown in this article. 

Ease of use

Having a quality safe is great, however, depending on what you need it for, you might want to also consider how easy it is to get into. A combination dial that requires you to be precise might not be what you want if you are going to store a home defense firearm inside. If you need quick access, a biometric or number pad with a hard key override is the way to go. 

Size

If you have a limited amount of space, this will also play a part in your purchase. Smaller safes are available that can fit a couple of long guns and a handgun or two and can offer all of the same protection from theft, fire, and flood as their bigger counterparts.

Gun safe pricing

With gun safes, you really do get what you pay for. Lock boxes and gun cabinets can range from $50 for small single pistol cases meant to secure your gun in your vehicle, to $350 for a more secure locker like the Hornady RAPiD gun locker. However, for the same price can get you something far more secure from not only theft, but fire damage as well, such as the Winchester 12-Gun Safe. As I have shown in this article, it is definitely possible to get a safe that not only secures your firearms, but also protects them from almost anything that can be thrown at them, so throw away the useless cable locks that come with your gun and invest in keeping your tools safe.  

FAQs about gun safes under $500

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

Q: Are gun safes strong?

A: Yes, if you pick a good, quality safe from a reputable manufacturer, thieves will have a very hard time getting inside and stealing your valuables. 

Q: What is a good gun safe made out of?

A: Most quality gun safes are made out of hardened steel outside and insulated with a material called Gypsum, which releases water vapor once heated to 262 degrees, keeping the inside of the safe cool.

Q: Can’t someone just break into a gun safe? 

A: Yes, like a house or a vehicle, gun safes can be broken into as well, but if precautions are taken, it can be much harder and take a lot more time to get into the safe.

Q: How quickly can I get into a gun safe?

A: This will depend on the type of lock your safe has, but numbered keypads and biometric fingerprint scanners are the fastest options on the market today and have become very reliable.

Q: Where should I put a gun safe in my home?

A: This will depend on what you need your gun for. If it is a home defense gun, it should be placed wherever you can quickly get to it. The door should be free from obstacles (don’t pile up boxes in front of the door) and there should be enough light to where you can see the lock or number keypad to unlock the door. 

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