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. Three basic rules apply:
- Do not put anything in your gun safe that narrows your spread of risk.
- Do not put anything in your gun safe that increases the hazard (including humidity or fire hazards) to your guns.
- 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.
- 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
- A 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).
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.
One thought on “What’s in Your Gun Safe? No, Besides the Guns?”
This article is aimed at people who already own gun safes, so my advice is probably too late for them, but if you’re considering buying one I would recommend a thorough investigation of it’s construction.
Most of the boxes sold as gun safes are made of only 12 gauge steel, and although the door might seem like impressive protection, it’s incredibly easy to cut into the side of the box in minutes with a hand-held grinder. These things will only provide security if the burglar is unprepared for it (don’t know in advance that it’s there).
Don’t buy any of the safes on display at the sporting goods store. An internet search will find many safes available made of 1/4″ thick steel, sometimes in two layers, that would require hours to break into. They’re going to be a bit more expensive, but they’ll provide real security, which is why you’re buying the thing in the first place.