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Published Apr. 13, 2022

If you’re not using it, the safest place for a handgun to be is stored in a handgun safe. You put the cookies in the cookie jar, the milk in the fridge, and your money in the bank, and none of those things can take human life as quickly as a handgun. I doubt there’s more than a handful of Task & Purpose readers out there who have their firearms laying around on desks, tables, or chairs, and are tripping over them on the way to the bathroom, but there are a lot of choices out there when it comes down to how and where you’ll secure your weapon when not in use.

You can get lost for hours down the rabbit hole of gun safes and pick up a huge 6-foot-tall safe that will hold a pile of rifles and has shelf storage for a dozen pistols and hundreds of boxes of ammunition, but that is not what we’re focusing on today. Instead, we’ll be focusing solely on handgun storage with quick access for one or two pistols, with maybe enough room for a spare magazine. Think bedside storage and home defense, not the weapons depot from ‘Boondock Saints‘ or your local gun shop. Everyone has their own requirements, but for the most part, I took the view that we want a pistol safe that will prevent anyone but myself (such as children or guests) from accessing it immediately and won’t break the bank. If it’s hidden or looks nice, that’s a bonus, and high build quality is more important than price, but at today’s ammunition prices, a penny saved is a penny earned.

More than two dozen pistol safes were considered, including everything from wall safes to hidden safes to vaults and car safes. Read on for our top picks and why they stand out as the best.

Methodology

While I only have a single pistol safe in my home, I have done extensive research into more than two dozen safes in order to ensure that the information presented in this article is both timely and accurate. Hours spent scouring user reviews, testing specifications, manufacturing practices, fire ratings, and even burglar prevention technologies went into this assessment.  Rest assured, the products in our gear guides have passed our own rigorous protocols and met our criteria.

If I were shopping for a handgun safe today, this is the one I’d fork over my hard-earned bills for. Vaultek is a well-known name when it comes to handgun safes, and it makes a few different lines including compact, sliders, and high-capacity models. Of these, the VT Series falls squarely in the middle. The safe is large enough to hold a few full-size pistols along with a few mags, and maybe some cash or other valuables.

The Vaultek VT features eight backlit keys that come alive at the slightest touch, and it offers up to 19 million different multi-digit combinations to open this sleek, powder-coated safe. If you prefer biometrics, those are an option as well, and you can add up to 20 fingerprints for access.

With the higher-priced option, you get the NanoKey, which is a mountable remote button that will remotely unlock and open your safe. The Bluetooth access on a mobile app provides historical information such as openings, open attempts, movement, and access management for fingerprints and codes, battery status, and can even act as a remote opening device. Lastly, the interior light can be adjusted for brightness, and the sounds can be muted for stealth openings.

All-in-all, the VT Bluetooth full-size safe is worth every penny and deserves strong consideration.

Specs
  • Dimensions: 18 x 13 x 7 inches
  • Weight: 16 pounds
  • Security features: Fingerprint scanner (20 prints), Bluetooth smartphone app for tracking the history of opens/tampering, remote access
PROS

Multiple access methods

Long-life rechargeable lithium-ion battery

Security cable included

Mountable for extra security

CONS

Relatively high price

OK, maybe this isn’t technically a safe, but it will keep your pistol and/or valuables safe by securing them out of sight. This isn’t rocket science — it’s Q Branch meets woodshop — but really high-quality woodshop, not the crooked-ass birdhouse that you made in eighth grade.

The Tactical Traps End Table is solidly constructed and available in several finishes like cherry and walnut, or unfinished for you to stain or paint as you see fit. This table is made to be seen. Use it as a bedside table and rely on the quiet-open drawer with lighting, or use it in your living room by keeping the RFID opening device on a coaster that you just slide over the locking mechanism to open.

Tactical Traps offers plenty of options besides the end table such as shelves, lamps, and wall decor, but the end table looks the most benign, and as long as you don’t tell anyone it’s there, your pistol will remain safe.

Product Specs
  • Dimensions: 18.75 x 15.75 x 24 inches
  • Trap features: RFID locking system, LED lighting system
PROS

Functional end table

Solid wood

Made in America

Many finish colors available

CONS

Relatively high price

For more than 75 years, the folks at American Security have been building some of the highest quality and most secure safes in the world. Today, they make more than 400 models of state-of-the-art burglary- and fire-resistant safes.

The TL15 is one of their smaller models, but at more than 400 pounds, it’s far from tiny. You can’t drill this safe thanks to the extra-large drill plate that automatically engages four-direction re-lockers. In fact, you can’t use explosives for the same reason. The electronic lock has proprietary countermeasures that make it resistant to modern burglary tools and techniques and closes eight large-diameter bolts deep into the body of the safe upon locking.

This safe isn’t pretty, it’s unwieldy, it’s relatively slow to open compared to the other safes on this list, and it’s not cheap, but there’s no safe that is more secure unless you head down to your local bank and deposit your pistols in their vault. Unless you know the code, you’re not getting into this safe.

Product Specs
  • Dimensions: 15.875 x 14.25 x 11.5 inches
  • Weight: 485 pounds
  • Security features: 4-way active bolts, electronic locks, large tamper-proof re-locker
PROS

Most secure safe

90-minute fire rating

Weight

CONS

Relatively high price

Weight

If you need a safe to store a handgun, but can’t spend a lot of money, go with the SentrySafe QAP1BLX biometric gun safe. This option is big enough for a full-size handgun, a magazine, and maybe a little more, but if you’re on a budget, you probably don’t have gold bullion to fill it with anyway. For right around $200, you come away with an interior light (you can save another $20 and get one without), an assisted-open lid, and a one-second biometric scanner that recognizes up to 10 fingerprints.

For the budget-conscious, this is a no-brainer, especially since it’s California-compliant and runs on common AA batteries. There are cheaper safes out there, but this is the least expensive option I’d go with and still be confident that my pistol is secure but easily accessible when I need it.

Product Specs
  • Dimensions: 9 x 12.1 x 3.2 inches
  • Weight: 12 pounds
  • Security features: Biometrics, digital keypad (4 keys), override key
PROS

Multiple access methods

Single hand access

Interior hinges

CONS

Takes AA batteries

Small size

Honorable Mention

A slightly smaller cousin of our top pick still offers great security from one of the most respected names in pistol safes. Vaultek’s NanoKey-compatible safe may have only five keys on its illuminated keypad, but it’s still made of carbon steel, still has the tamper-proof interior-mounted hinges, and still works with your phone. Roughly half the size of our top pick, this safe still packs a ton of security and modern features into a safe that is budget-priced. This is a serious safe with serious security, packaged as a compact and slightly less expensive iteration. You’ll only be able to fit a single pistol and magazine in this safe, but otherwise, this little fella almost took our top spot.

Product Specs
  • Interior Dimensions: 9.875 x 5.375 x 1.5 inches
  • Weight: 7.2 pounds
  • Security features: Auto-open lid, Bluetooth, interior light, interior-mounted hinges
PROS

High build quality

Bluetooth- and NanoKey-compatible

Backlit keys and interior lighting

CONS

Compact size

Fastest Access

If John Wick didn’t bury his weapons in the basement, this is what he’d use under his desk or in his glove box. More of a mount than a safe, the Reach 2S only releases your pistol via 20-fingerprint biometrics, which the company claims offers the fastest safe ever with a 0.3-second unlock. While this is certainly appealing, I’ll file this under “not kid-friendly” or “most likely to terrify the housesitter,” namely because the Reach leaves your pistol in plain view, and ready to grab and use at a moment’s notice when you wrap a very specific set of fingerprints around the handle, brush the ultra-fast biometric sensor, and go.

The Reach is mountable to nearly any solid surface that you can drill into, and is itself very tiny, coming in at only 4 x 3 x 7 inches, so the possibilities for mounting are limited only by your imagination. Still, if you’re interested in one, the Reach is back-ordered for months, so if you’re shopping for Christmas, you might not want to wait until Black Friday to order one.

Product Specs
  • Dimensions: 4 x 3 x 7 inches
  • Weight: 2.35 pounds
  • Security features: Biometric sensor for up to 20 prints, 350-pound pull resistance, mechanical keys
PROS

Fast draw

Advanced biometrics

Mount location options

CONS

Backordered

Not hidden at all

Best Vehicle Pistol Safe

Even if the law permits you to carry, there are always places where you will be prohibited from carrying. When you’re forced to leave your pistol in your car, it’s still your responsibility to prevent theft, and empty vehicles with valuables in plain sight are the perfect target for a smash-and-grab.

When it comes to securing your pistol and other valuables in your whip, there’s no substitute for the OG console lockbox kings at Console Vault. This isn’t a safe you slide under your seat, or that you try to squish between the seat and the console. This is a vehicle-specific, semi-custom lockbox that you install directly into your console to turn it into a safe.

While some people have had issues with fitment, Console Vault always seems to come through for them at no additional cost, so it seems you’ll be able to count on great customer service after the sale. Console Vault makes a version to fit most vehicles and even has an option for your Harley.

Product Specs
  • Dimensions: Vary by vehicle
  • Weight: Varies, not applicable
  • Security features: 3 lock options, 12-gauge steel construction, hidden location
PROS

12-gauge steel

Triple Guard lock system

Lifetime warranty

Custom fit

CONS

Self installation

Loss of console space

Our verdict on handgun safes

Biometric security has come a long way and is here to stay. There are plenty of choices out there when it comes to securing your handguns, and you can’t go wrong with any of the ones listed above. Eleven states now have “safe storage” laws concerning firearms, but it’s every firearm owner’s responsibility, everywhere, to ensure that their weapons don’t end up in the hands of the wrong people. Many of the safes we recommend perform double-duty as storage for other valuables as well, and may even save you money on your home insurance. If you own a pistol, pick one up today.

What to consider when buying a handgun safe

You can keep your pistol in a shoebox at the bottom of your closet, but that doesn’t make it a handgun safe, nor does it meet the legal requirements in states that have them. Security features, fire protection, entry methods (RFID, biometrics, physical key, keypad, remotes, and Bluetooth), size, stealth, and mounting options all factor into which handgun safe is right for you. Take a look at your particular environment, people in your life, and how you access your firearms (i.e., are you looking for self-defense access or will this safe be for storing your range toys) while considering which one is right for you. 

Key features of a handgun safe

Lock and key

The way in which you unlock the safe might be the most looked-at feature of a handgun safe. While it might be equipped with one locking mechanism, it might have multiple ways to unlock it. These include: 

  • RFID: Radio Frequency Identification is a small fob that emits a radio frequency. When placed in a specific position on or near the safe, it unlocks the safe. 
  • Biometrics: More often than not, biometrics means fingerprint identification, but it could also mean voice recognition or eye scan technology. 
  • Combination: On most handgun safes, you punch in the combination code on a keypad. 
  • Physical key: If all else fails, you’ll still have a physical key to open the handgun safe. 

Material and construction

Why buy a safe if it’s not secure? Look for a safe made of steel that has internal hinges and continuous welds to hinder brute force attacks.

Mounting security cable 

Pistol safes are usually small — just a bit bigger than a handgun — so they could just as easily be picked up and stolen themselves. Therefore, you’ll want to find one that you can secure to a wall or another piece of furniture. Usually, this is a steel security cable rated for at least 1,000 pounds of tension. 

Handgun safe pricing 

Budget

Budget safes (under $200) are fairly easy to find but don’t offer much in the way of security or biometrics. If you’re shopping for a budget pistol safe, take a look at the low score reviews to get an idea of the flaws before you pull the trigger on one.  

Mid-range

Between $200 and $400, you’ll see a dramatic increase in features such as pry-proof edges, interior-mounted hinges, higher-quality steel, etc. You’ll also see more advanced locking mechanisms such as biometrics, remote access, and Bluetooth. In this range, there are plenty of good safes to choose from that should suit your needs. Just pick the one that is right for your particular situation.

Premium

If you’re willing to pay over $400, you can really go all out and get a very secure safe for your pistols that is easy to charge, has multiple mounting options, and offers a plethora of features. If you decide to pay top dollar, make sure your safe has the security features you need and is made by a brand you trust.

Tips and tricks

First things first, figure out what pistol (or pistols) you want to keep in the safe, and where you want to store it. This will determine the interior/exterior size of the safe you need, and from there you can begin to look at the features and benefits that you want.

Also, learn from my mistakes and use your personal email or calendar to give yourself a regular reminder to charge your safe. If it’s lithium-ion, change your batteries as needed based on the safe’s instruction manual. While you’re at it, set one to change your smoke detector batteries at the same time.

FAQs on handgun safes

You’ve got questions. Task & Purpose has answers

Q: What is the most difficult gun safe to break into?

A: There probably isn’t a specific answer to this question, but there is a list of qualities. The most difficult gun safe to break into is one that’s in a secure location, constructed from thick steel, and equipped with a dependable lock.

Q: Where should I put a pistol safe?

A: There are two schools of thought here. School A is concerned about nefarious characters coming for them, and they say to put safes anywhere/everywhere that you might need a firearm.  School B says to put them somewhere that isn’t obvious, because if it isn’t noticed, it’s less likely to be stolen. For most people, finding a place in your bedroom that is easily accessible is ideal.

Q: Where should I keep my gun when I sleep?

A: Keep it somewhere secure to prevent unauthorized access by children, guests, or intruders.

Q: Is it OK to keep a gun loaded?

A: It depends. Legally speaking, the District of Columbia is the only place that has rules regarding unloading your firearms before storing them, but some states have laws that require you to lock up your firearms when they’re not in use, according to the Giffords Law Center. Otherwise, most gun groups — pro- and anti- — recommend storing your guns unloaded, locked up, and away from ammo, and some groups suggest you develop a storage plan in case you want to access it in a self-defense scenario.  

Q: What should I put in my gun safe?

A:  Your pistol, grandma’s pearls, silver bullets, and anything else you want to limit access to.

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