Best Gun Safe: The old saying “you get what you pay for” does apply to gun safes, but not how you might think. With most gun safes what you pay for is nice paint, chrome, decorative items, and interior features.
In other words, most gun safes sell the appearance of protection in a security container that can be broken into in a couple minutes with pry bars or an ax.
If money was no object we’d all store our guns in a bank-quality vault. Of course the reality is that we all have a budget. Below, recommendations for top rated gun safes are broken into 3 different protection categories:
You don’t have to buy new though. You can often find a used true safe for less than the new cost of a cheap gun safe. If you are looking to buy new, check out the best winchester gun safe reviews here.
Best Cheap Gun Safe (RSC)
If you’ve decided you want a traditional-style cheap gun safe, you’ll be looking at models with and without Underwriters Laboratories 1037 Residential Security Container (RSC) ratings. A RSC rating means that the gun safe was independently tested at UL to take 5 minutes for one person to break into it with basic hand tools. Larger tools, two guys, or power tools will get inside most RSC in less than a couple minutes. A description of the UL Ratings can be found on this page. Do you really need a gun safe
Tool Storage Chest used as a Cheap Gun Safe
Sometimes the best cheap gun safe is a job box. A happy reader took my advice and bought this one at Home Depot for $250.
Without a minimum rating of UL RSC, a cheap gun safe is basically an overpriced gym locker. Often non-RSC cheap gun safes also come with an unreliable lock. In that case you’re better off buying a toolbox, gun cabinet, building a closet gun safe, hidden gun safe, or one of the many other gun safe alternatives. I’ve put together a list of over 100 money saving ways to protect your guns.
RSC is the highest rating that 99% of gun safes meet. But gun safe prices range from the hundreds to the tens of thousands of dollars. Despite the huge range in prices, they all have the exact same RSC security rating.
Safe technicians who drill open locked safes for a living disagree about a lot of things. They do all agree on one thing, though. That is, despite the premium price tags of high-end RSCs, there is not much difference in real security between them and a cheap RSC.
Most of the “features” offered in this cheap gun safe class can be ignored. For example, the number and size of the locking bolts is all but meaningless for RSCs. For the locking bolts to make a difference, they must be supported by a strong enough door and door frame. This is covered in detail, with pictures, in my theft protection article.
Likewise, you can ignore the “fire rating” for RSCs. For the fire rating to matter, it would have to be independently tested to an accepted standard. An explanation of how gun safes measure up to real fire safe standards can be found in my fire ratings article.
With the exception of the *Exceptional Gun Safes (RSC) in the next category, paying more for an expensive RSC doesn’t really buy that much more protection for your dollar.
For this reason, if you’re looking for the best cheap gun safe, buy the cheapest RSC that has the features you want.
What features are worth looking for? Ideally, that cheap RSC would meet the recommendations I outlined in this article. Specifically in this class, make sure to look for these features:
UL 768 Rated Group 1 or 2 Combination Lock – Not all cheap RSCs come with UL rated locks. This is a very bad area to save a buck. Unrated locks have lots of issues.
Continuous Welds – not all RSCs come with continuously welded body seams. Those that don’t are much weaker and can be opened with just a hammer (pictures). Continuous welds are required for true safe ratings, but not for RSC classification.
Country of Manufacture – gun safes made in USA are preferred. The cheapest American RSCs are a couple hundred dollars more expensive than ones made in other countries. But keep in mind the issues with Chinese gun safes, including that their locks or RSC rating stickers may be fake.
Best Value Gun Safes (RSC)
Liberty is the largest manufacturer of gun safes. They are aggressive marketers and make some misleading claims that I’ve highlighted on other pages in this site. However, they are pretty good at customer service and stand behind their products better than most. Compared to many of their competitors, Liberty will give you less aggravation and usually respond faster. Because of this, they’re my first recommendation for best value RSC gun safes.
Another benefit comes due to their size. Liberty is the largest domestic gun safe manufacturer. They’ve invested in serious infrastructure like robot welders for the body steel. Thinner-steel gun safes are harder to weld. Cheap models benefit the most from better welding equipment, as discussed in the welds section. Robot welders enable Liberty to keep prices low on their low-end units while maintaining consistent built quality.
The Liberty Centurion has been a point of confusion, so I’ll try to clear it up. Liberty is now advertising that their new Centurion is made in the USA. The new Centurion comes in 12, 18, and 24 gun sizes. Current production Centurions do not meet the UL RSC requirements, as described below.
However, in case you run across one, the old Liberty Centurion models were RSCs. Old RV17 and RV20 models were made in China and sold at big box stores. Liberty also used to make both a Chinese-made Centurion and an American-made Revere, both named RV20, but sold through different stores. You can see Liberty hasn’t always been straightforward about where their overseas products were made. This has improved.
The current “American made” Centurions are priced from $500 to $750 for 12, 18, and 24 models. Based on the specs, these actually may be made domestically, as the steel is only 14 gauge thick. Unfortunately 14 gauge doesn’t meet the RSC construction requirements, which specify 12 gauge thick body steel. 14 gauge is thinner than your average $250 jobbox toolbox. Because these are not RSCs, you’re better off stepping up to the Revere, or going with a gun safe alternative.
It’s worth mentioning that the 14 gauge Centurion is great for one application. The base models do have a proper UL listed S&G mechanical dial lock. So, if you’re looking for a cheap decoy gun safe, the new 14 gauge Centurions are a good match.
The next step up from the Centurion is Liberty’s Revere RV23 and RV30 models. These are made in the USA from 12 gauge steel. Revere’s have always been American-made gun safes. The confusing American Revere RV20 was discontinued.
The American-made Revere models start at around $1,250 for the RV23 up to around $1,350 for the RV30. These Liberty Revere models are a best value gun safe.
Liberty has a wide dealer network. A lot of gun shops carry Liberty, and cheap gun safes are easier to handle and install yourself. So, they’re a great opportunity to support your local gun shop by buying one locally. You can also buy online from Liberty (click here for RV23 and RV30).
Liberty isn’t the only company that makes a good RSC gun safe. Browning, Dakota, and American Security (AMSEC) also have respectable budget gun safes (RSC).
Remember that RSCs do not provide much protection, so in this category just look for the lowest price RSC with the options you want. Gun safe shootout
The models in the next category start at $1,650 without fireproofing and are much stronger.
For most people burglary risk is about 5X higher than fire anyway. And, you can improvise your own fire protection yourself. So, skipping fireproofing to get more burglary protection often makes more sense than getting minimal protection for both.
Or, if you don’t have that cash right now, consider buying a $250 toolbox or other option for now. Then save up for an *Exceptional Gun Safe (RSC) with fireproofing.