Gun Storage for Beginners

One thing new gun owners quickly learn is that firearms have certain storage requirements. Whether you’re a hobbyist, or just buying a single firearm for self-protection, guns aren’t something you just leave lying around. But there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to that problem since literally everyone’s situation is unique. Fortunately, the industry has stepped up and provides lots of alternatives to suit our needs. The days of keeping your guns in the closet are gone, so here are some things to consider.

handgun storage options
There are lots of gun storage options. Find the ones that suit your needs. (


The first thing to do is envision how your firearms are used. What is each one’s purpose? For instance, I have a single-shot 20-gauge shotgun that was my first firearm back in 1977. That shotgun obviously fills a different role than my concealed carry sidearms or my nightstand gun. I also have dedicated hunting rifles and shotguns, several self-defense rifles, and a few firearms that I think of as “fun guns.”

Deciding that the hunting rifles and shotguns live in the safe, unloaded, is easy. They serve a particular purpose that doesn’t require immediate employment. Likewise with the fun guns. They are range toys or just things I think are cool. My military surplus weapons fall into that category. Again, there’s no need to access them quickly or keep them loaded, so they are either in a safe or a locking steel gun cabinet. All but one of my defensive rifles live there too.

My carry guns, nightstand gun, and number one AR-15 are different. All four of those guns are always loaded. After all, an unloaded firearm is nothing but an overpriced paperweight. My carry guns are with me from the morning until I go to bed, whereupon they have a spot in my bedroom. My nightstand gun is just that. It lives on my nightstand and doesn’t move unless I take it to the range or service it. My number one AR-15 also stays in my bedroom within easy reach. In case you’re wondering, my bedroom stays locked when I’m not in it and only I and my adult son have keys.

Gun safe and storage cabinet
There are many sizes of gun safes as well as less expensive steel gun lockers. (

So, I store my guns based on their purpose. I choose not to employ quick-access handgun safes because I don’t feel the need for them, since I live alone. If other people were in and out of my house a lot, I would probably change. I have several for just such an occurrence, whether it be the holidays or whatever. Which brings us to…

Changing Circumstances

My gun storage philosophy is not based entirely on each gun’s purpose, but also on my living situation. When my children were, well, children, and lived at home, my current philosophy would have been reckless. Yes, I know children should be taught firearms safety from a young age, and mine were. But I also know how curious children are, and leaving guns where they can get their grubby little paws on them is never a good idea. That might be a mistake you only get to make once. It’s not worth it. Do what’s right and lock up any guns not in your direct control when kids, or other people, are present.

Remember those quick-access handgun safes? Now is when to use them. When my kids were at home, my nightstand gun stayed in one and my carry gun went into another when I took it off. My other handguns and all my long guns stayed locked up. I indulge myself with the AR-15 nowadays because I can.

Large gun safe
Large fireproof gun safes are awesome if you can afford and accommodate them. (

To Display or Not to Display

When I was a kid, my Dad had a fancy wood gun cabinet with glass doors. He owned some very nice hunting rifles and shotguns and liked visitors to see his collection. It was a nice piece of furniture and many of his friends did enjoy seeing it. For my part, I loved looking through the glass at those beautiful wooden stocks and sleek barrels. The doors had a lock but, frankly, it was a joke. He kept the keys with him, but I have no doubt that even a moderately skilled burglar could defeat that lock easily. Failing that, breaking the glass would work too. The lock served to keep me and my brother at bay, but that’s about it.

Another problem with my Dad’s setup was that he advertised what he had to anyone who happened to walk into that room. Certainly, none of his friends were ever going to steal his guns or otherwise take advantage of that knowledge, but it only takes one person casually overhearing an innocent comment for bad things to happen. Of course, things seem to have been a little different in small-town Virginia in the 1970s and 1980s.

Personally, I would never display my firearms collection. They are all stored in rooms the rare visitor would never have occasion to enter. And even if they did, they would see a heavy safe and two locking steel cabinets. It isn’t hard to guess what’s in them, but there are no glass panes making it obvious. Whether you display your guns or not is your decision. But it isn’t 1975 anymore.

Long Gun Storage

Once you decide on your gun storage philosophy, you’ll have an idea of what you need to actually do it. There are some very nice fireproof safes out there, many which advertise space for dozens of guns. That’s great if you have the money. Those things are expensive. Like thousands and thousands of dollars. Plus, the larger ones require a concrete slab on which to sit because they are so heavy. Another cool feature of those safes is they can be anchored to that slab. Even Danny Ocean would have a hard time with those big boys.

But not everyone can afford a large safe, and many don’t have an appropriate place to put it. Safes like that just don’t work for apartments, unless you’re on the ground floor. But safes come in many sizes and varying price points. My local outdoor store has 12-gun safes for less than $300. But one word of caution on that: those safes don’t always hold 12 guns, or whatever they advertise.

gun safe burglar and fire resistant
Certain safes are very resistant to burglars and fire. They are worth it if you can afford them. (

If you have slim hunting rifles with no scopes or heavy slings, you’re good. If you have scopes, slings, bipods, lights, or whatever, that ain’t happening. My safe supposedly holds 14 guns. In reality, it’s more like six or seven, depending on what I have going on. Not being able to shell out top dollar for a huge safe, or even multiple smaller safes, I bought sturdy steel cabinets with integral locks and slots for rifle barrels. I have the same space problems as the safe, but the cabinets cost a lot less. Do what you can, but don’t take the capacity claims at face value.

I also have one quick-access wall-mounted safe for pump and semi-automatic shotguns. It’s electronic, with RFID technology and a backup key if the power and batteries fail. It’s a quality, but niche, product, and I use it sometimes. I wouldn’t want it anywhere other than my bedroom because it’s so obvious.

For handguns, I have shelves in the upper parts of my cabinets and safe. Some safes offer more space than others, so shop around for what you need. Finding that kind of capacity is much cheaper than buying multiple handgun safes or lock boxes. Speaking of which…

Handgun Storage

As I noted, most of my handguns live in the upper shelves in my safe and cabinets. But I also have three quick-access safes and several handgun lock boxes. I don’t currently use them, but I have in the past and I can again if need be.

Lock boxes are lock boxes. Just get something sturdy that’s designed for handguns. There are varying levels of quality and sophistication for quick access safes. Some are glorified lock boxes, while others have electronic keypads and/or biometric and RFID capabilities.

The strong suit of these devices is their flexibility. Many are low profile and unobtrusive, making them easy to overlook for the casual observer. They work for nightstands, closets, end tables, bookshelves, or wherever your feverish little mind can envision them. Many are compatible with car interiors and can be bolted to the floor or secured to the seat frame with a cable.

gun storage for cars
Some safes and lock boxes are designed specifically for automobiles. (

Just make certain you know how to operate them properly. Biometrics and electronics can fail. Always have an alternative method of entry, like a key. I have a couple of lockboxes with push buttons like those found on older car radios. Only by pushing the right combination at the same time can you gain entry.

Niches and Novelties

I mentioned my niche shotgun safe. Those things have their place, assuming they are quality products. Likewise, we often see novelty gun storage systems like false coffee table tops, bookshelves, or wall sconces. I have no experience with those devices, so I cannot speak to their quality or utility. They seem like gimmicks to me, and some require modification to your home’s walls. My only advice is to do your homework and make certain you know what you’re getting into before purchasing something like that.

As far as the fake books that open up to reveal a handgun, well, I can’t say that I would want something like that. Yeah, it’s a cool concept but do you really want someone casually picking up that book and glancing through it? I don’t. It all depends on your situation and comfort level, but it’s hardly secure.

“Safe Storage” Laws

I support storing firearms safely and effectively. I do not support so-called “safe storage” laws. As we’ve discussed, everyone’s situation is different. Anti-gun politicians who support such laws know nothing about guns and even less about how you might need, or wish, to use them. But some states have them, nonetheless.

Most require that guns and ammo be locked up separately, which totally negates the purpose of a defensive firearm. That requirement either demonstrates politicians’ lack of knowledge or the fact that they don’t give a damn about your ability to protect yourself. It’s probably both. Some are even worse, with the additional requirement that guns be disassembled. Back up a couple of sentences for why they do that.

I can’t tell you what to do in those instances. I certainly can’t tell you to break the law. But I can point out, once again, that a “defensive firearm” stored under such circumstances is nothing of the sort. You may be better off looking for more workable solutions. Like moving to a free state. But that’s me.

All Joking Aside

Proper firearm storage is a serious business. Your safety and that of others depend on it. So does the condition of your expensive firearms. Don’t store your guns in damp or humid areas. If you live in Mississippi, I get that you don’t have much choice. But you can mitigate that situation by placing a dehumidifier in your gun storage area. I do that in the spring and summer.

desiccant pack with firearm
I keep my Taurus G3 Tactical in its case in the gun locker. So, it gets its own silica gel packet. (Author’s photo)

Another easy thing you can do is get those little desiccant packs that come in certain foods and products and put them in your safe, cabinet, or whatever. They are made from silica gel and suck the moisture right out of those enclosed spaces. I save them from whatever products they come in, but you can also buy them. They are cheap and effective.

Storing your guns properly isn’t hard, but it does require some thought. Understand what you’re trying to accomplish and then get yourself set up to do it. Only you can decide what works best, but buying a bunch of stuff you don’t need or can’t use gets real expensive real fast. As always, just a little planning will save you money, headaches, and make sure you have what you want and what you need.

If you want to check out various gun storage options, you’re in luck. Gun Mag Warehouse has many in stock. Check ’em out.

William "Bucky" Lawson is a self-described "typical Appalachian-American gun enthusiast". He is a military historian specializing in World War II and has written a few things, as he says, "here and there". A featured contributor for Strategy & Tactics, he likes dogs, range time, and a good cigar - preferably with an Old Fashioned that has an extra orange slice.

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