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Safe at Home

Keeping your firearms secured is the best way to prevent off-duty firearm accidents.

July 01, 2002  |  by Roy Huntington

Mechanical Solutions

After arriving home, depending upon how well your children have been trained, you have many options to secure your duty or off-duty guns. Keep in mind, your own kids may not be the problem. That nine-year-old miscreant next door with the green hair needs to be kept at bay too. If you allow neighborhood kids inside, you have just assumed a mega-sized bit of liability so a high level of protection is called for. How would you ever begin to explain how your intentions were good, but little Bret still got to your Glock?

At the most basic level, a partial disassembly could do wonders to prevent accidents, but who, in the real world, would do it? If your off-duty gun is also your home protection gun, you'd be silly to make it not work.

Serious gun collectors and shooting enthusiasts should invest in a gun safe like this upright model manufactured by Sentry Group.

Trigger locks (devices that cover the trigger guard) are good and bad. Many can be defeated easily (think about how much you paid for it) or may still allow little fingers to manipulate controls like magazine releases and safeties. If the gun is visible, it's attractive to any three-year-old's eyes.

While a good trigger lock may prevent the gun from firing, more can be done with little effort. If you're really anxious, combine a trigger lock with a small, locking box of some kind. Homak, Gun Guard, Doskocil, Odyssey Automotive, and others make small boxes for as little as $10 to as much as $300 (for fancy, electronically controlled locks). Secured to a drawer or wall, or at least put away, a gun surrounded by a box soon loses interest to the pre-teen crowd.

Trigger locks, like these Remington- branded models, allow tiny fingers to still play with safeties and other mechanisms. They work best when combined with a lock box.

The Life Jacket is a good example of an inexpensive way to cover the gun, yet still have it accessible for an emergency. It can also be secured to a bed stand or wall.

Do you still carry a revolver? Small, J-frame sized revolvers (like the S&W and Taurus models) ride in thousands of cops' ankle holsters and fanny packs. A simple padlock, closed around the top-strap when the cylinder is open, effectively renders any revolver defunct. It can still be "played with," but unless your kids play with hacksaws or know a five-year-old who is a locksmith, the gun can't hurt a soul unless it's used as a club.

Cable locks are often an extension of the padlock idea but with longer hasps, usually made of steel cable. Able to be put through a rifle's action, a shotgun's open port, lever guns and many handguns, cable locks (depending upon quality) can be a reliable method to secure your gun. Still, they allow the nimble fingered to push buttons and twist levers.

This Phoenix USA wall safe features an electronic keypad for easy access. Keypad systems can be pricey, but if you want rapid access to your guns for home defense and you’re worried about home firearms safety, they are well worth the money.

Bore locks usually consist of a rod inserted in the bore of a handgun and secured with a keyed lock at one end. They seem to work, but all the bits and pieces can get lost in the shuffle.

The Big Guys

The final word in security may also be the most effective in more than one way. Nothing works unless it's used and frankly, the vast majority of trigger locks, bore locks, and other clamp-on, twist-on, and screw-on goodies simply don't get used. Think of your own experiences. If it's lots of trouble, you won't do it.

The other thing is just as important. If your off-duty gun is indeed your home protection gun, chances are pretty good you don't want it out of commission to the point it takes an engineer to get it up and running again. While not intended to demean any of the quality devices (they do work, if used), people being people (and cops being cops), we are inclined to take the easy way out. Even when it comes to gun safety.

A hidden wall safe, like Phoenix USA's Gunlocker, actually mounts between the studs and opens quickly and easily with a push-button combination. You get home, you push a few buttons, you stash your Colt and shut the door. If you hear the bump in the night, four quick touches and you're armed again. This concept works in the actual, real world of lazy people.

The free-standing heavy steel floor safes (like Cannon, Browning, and Heritage, to name a few) and steel cabinets (like the Homak brand) are the final answer. Virtually impregnable to anyone unless they have a cutting torch, they are quick to use and very secure.

Factory Gun Locks

This is a delicate subject but one we'll take a hard look at. Many manufacturers are installing built-in locks in their firearms. Some Smith & Wesson, Taurus, Glock, Beretta, and Remington models come with locks built into the gun itself. Using a proprietary key, the owner can lock the gun, making it unusable for anyone including the owner until it is unlocked.

Several manufacturers have started to build locks into their weapons. Pictured is the Beretta 9000S with B-Lock. Built-in locking systems like Beretta’s proprietary B-Lock make sense for civilians with one or two guns, but weapons with this feature are not a good gun security choice for law enforcement officers, who may be forced to use their duty or off-duty guns at a moment’s notice.

Which bring us to the next point. Does a factory-installed locking system belong on a duty or off-duty handgun or long gun? That's a tough question. When autopistols became popular with law enforcement, barrels of ink and thousands of hours were spent fighting over whether an officer should carry his or her auto on safe or off.

Many agencies mandated one way or the other, with no choice possible by individual officers. The double-action-only auto solved some of the problem by not having a safety at all.

To this day, some agencies advocate "on-safe" carry, some mandate "off-safe" and some simply leave it up to the individual officer. It can be a very personal decision or it can be mandated. Either way, this brings up a point.

If your personal protection handgun or long gun (whether an on- or off-duty weapon) comes with a factory-installed lock, you have to decide how to best handle the matter. The problem is obvious. If you lock the gun at some point, will you remember to unlock it later. Unlike trigger locks, box locks, or products like the Life Jacket, a gun locked with a factory internal/external lock may not obviously be in one mode or another.

If a duty weapon is locked at the wrong time, it could lead to a catastrophe. None of the factory locks disengage quickly and easy enough to handle once the situation warrants a response.

For a home defense gun, perhaps the factory internal lock is easier to manage. Get up in the morning, lock goes on. Go to bed at night, the lock comes off. Can you extend this to duty and off-duty situations? Only you can decide.

Final Thoughts

If you have an extensive personal collection of firearms, chances are pretty good you own a safe or other method to secure them. But chances are if you simply have a duty gun or two, you have, just maybe, been less than comprehensive in securing them at times.

The nimble, tiny fingers of children can find a handgun with the same speed and dexterity they can locate a fresh oatmeal cookie in a sealed container on the "tippy-toes" top shelf of the kitchen cabinet. The 30 seconds you spend to properly secure your gun when you get home at night only shows you care, and is arguably the most important 30 seconds of your day. Just make sure you spend them.

For More Information on Gun Safe Providers

Alchemy Arms




Gun Guard





NRA (Eddie Eagle Gunsafe)

Odyssey Automotive

Phoenix USA

Sentry Group

Roy Huntington is a retired cop and the former editor of POLICE. An internationally recognized firearms expert, Roy is editor of American Handgunner magazine.

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