Best Way To Store Gun Without A Safe

by Travis Pike

March 9, 2022



Gun safes are great. Big, massive metal beasts that protect your gun from thieves, unwanted users, prying eyes, and of course, curious children. Owning firearms is as much a responsibility as it is a right, and part of that right is ensuring they are secured. Gun safes provide the most secure means to lock those firearms up. What can you do when a gun safe isn’t an option? Or is a gun safe isn’t an option right now? You’ll still need the means to secure your firearms. 

The good news is you’ve come to the right place!  

The Issue 

Gun safes are massive, hefty, and not always an option. If you rent an apartment on the second story, a gun safe can be nearly impossible to get up and out of stairs. If you rent in general, moving a metal box that weighs hundreds of pounds every time you move is a nightmare. It’s pretty easy to damage floors, doorways, and the like when moved and installed. 

Also, who knows where you plan to move in the future and if the gun safe will fit? These are all serious considerations, and for the casual gun owner, a massive gun safe can be a pain to store just a shotgun and rifle. 

Gun safes are also expensive, and after you buy a gun, it might not take a week or so to deliver it. What can you do in the meantime? 

Other situations include maybe traveling with guns. A hotel doesn’t have a gun safe for you to use, and locking them in your car might not be the best option. The same goes for a hunting cabin or other traveling situation where you’ve likely brought a long gun. 

The solutions listed below will help ensure your guns are safe from unauthorized users and most casual thieves. A gun safe provides the greatest protection possible to your firearms and should be a priority eventually. However, in the meantime, here’s how to keep your guns a bit more secure. 

Okay, I know this is an article on gun safe alternatives and how to store guns without a safe, but hear me out. Have you shopped for modern safes? Some can be quite minimalist these days. Hornady, in particular, has a series of small safes for minimalist homes. 

These include the basic RapID safes that utilize keys, combinations, or RFID keys to unlock and access your firearms. The handgun models securely encase the guns, and the shotgun and AR safe variant encompasses the actions of the long guns. These safes can be locked down and bolted to wall studs for more security and ease of access. 

Hornady Rapid Safe AR gun locker is small enough to slide under a bed and large enough to secure a few long guns and handguns safely without being overly bulky and a pain. These small safe alternatives make it easy to store your firearms safely and secure them correctly. 

These small options ensure you can rapidly access your firearm and that they are locked up when necessary. The smaller safes allow you to bolt them down and even hide them when necessary. 

When I say gun cabinet, I don’t mean the old school wood and glass cabinets that show your collection off. These are good-looking but can hardly be considered secure to any thief with a  brick. A modern gun cabinet can be confused for a gun safe, but the difference is weight and security. 

A gun cabinet is often thin sheet metal of the 14 or 12 gauge variety. Cabinets from Stack-On offer a very affordable and decently secure option for firearm storage. These are the second-best alternative to a dedicated gun safe. They are often rather lightweight and easy to safely move up and downstairs. 

They do a good job of securing guns, especially from little ones. Dedicated thieves might be able to get through a gun cabinet, but your casual smash and grab thief will likely not have the time to get through a gun cabinet and getaway. 

A Stack-On 10 gun security cabinet will do a wonderful job of securing your weapons on a budget. It’s also relatively small and easy to transport and move from place to place. It won’t defeat a drill or torch, but it can withstand hand tools well and will certainly keep your guns out of the hands of your children. 

Solution 3

Gun cases, specifically polymer cases, from brands like Pelican and Plano can be used to secure your firearms. Specifically, these cases need to be the locking variety with lock ports. Slap a few locks on the case, and it becomes rather difficult to open. 

Go a step further and use a cable lock to secure the case even further. Tie it down to a heavier object or use a bolt that secures it to a stud, and it becomes quite hard to steal. Not impossible, but this combination of gun case, locks, and cable locks keeps unauthorized users out. Thieves with power tools, not so much. 

If I had to choose one case for this setup, I’d choose the Pelican 1700 Series rifle cases. Pelican cases are incredibly durable, proven, well made, and full of foam that keeps your firearms protected. While it will help keep your firearms secure, it also rules as a case for transporting your firearms. Lock it down with quality locks, like the Master Lock M175XDLF series. Combine that with a Master Lock 719D Steel Cable, and you’re gun’s locked and loaded down. 

This is my most common go-to for traveling to gun classes and similar events. This allows me to lock the guns down and not rely on my vehicle to be a gun safe. 

Being sneaky goes a long way in keeping your firearms safe. If you have a gun or two and need a quick solution to securing them, look around your home for clever hiding spots. Obviously, places like an attic make it easy for you to secure your weapon out of the reach of most. A good spot to hide most firearms can be in the area where your air conditioning filter resides. There’s often plenty of room to stash a gun. Just ensure it’s wrapped in a gun sock, trash bag, or something similar. 

The top of a closet can be used in a  pinch, but consider equipping these guns with a trigger lock or cable lock. The minigun cable locks that are often included with firearms are great for securing guns when hidden. Another high and dry spot can be the top of cabinets in kitchens, bathrooms, and the like. 

This is truly a temporary option and nothing more. There is no dedicated security to protect these weapons, and they can be easily swiped by a clever thief. If that occurs, a trigger guard or cable lock will be nothing more than an inconvenience. This may work when friends with kids pop by for a visit, but beyond that, it’s not the best way to keep firearms secure. If you combine this solution with our next solution, it can be rather safe. 

Guess what happens when you remove the bolt from an AR-15? It doesn’t go bang anymore. The same goes for basically any gun, and taking a firearm apart can be a sure way to secure it against unauthorized users. If you take a critical component out of a firearm and lock it into a lockbox, the firearm can effectively be rendered safe. 

This does nothing to prevent thievery but can be a quick and improvised means to secure your weapon. Most kids won’t be able to open a locked box, remove the bolt, and assemble the gun to the point where it can fire and harm someone. Most thieves will now be tasked with finding two parts to make a functioning gun. It won’t likely stop them from stealing the firearm, but it will make it a lot tougher to use if the thief decides to. 

On one hunting trip, my family stayed in a small cabin, and there weren’t a lot of good options for safely securing my firearms post-hunt. I ended up unloading the gun and removing the barrel from my Mossberg shotgun. I put the gun in the case and locked the barrel in my vehicle until it was needed. 

Locks on closets are rarely a thing normal people have. In fact, when you think about it for too long, it sounds kind of creepy. However, a locking closet door can be a thirty-dollar solution to a gun security problem. Installing a locking knob, or even a deadbolt, secures the entire room. If you’re willing to speed a little more, you can get a combination activated locking closet, which both feeds my James Bond vibes and makes it super convenient to access your firearms. 

Locking a closet can be a bit of a pain when you gotta fish around for keys to grab a pair of jeans, but it’s a simple solution to a painful problem. Installation is simple, and no permanent modifications are made with this upgrade. 

A locked closet can secure your firearms against unauthorized users easily enough, but it’s not the best solution for thieves. Breaking down a closet door is rather easy to do for a thief looking to score. If you combine this solution with any of the above solutions, it might help with security. Busting a door down, then fighting with a gun case that’s locked creates a lot of time to steal a firearm or two. 

One of the simplest and relatively rough means to secure your firearms is a strong cable lock and an eye screw. Take an eye screw and drive it into a stud. Purchase a quality cable lock, again the Master Lock 719D cable lock works, and secure the gun to the eye screw. Hell, don’t feel the need to use only one. Cable locks are cheap, and two are better than one. 

It’s really raw but does secure the gun in one way or another. I’d insert the cable lock through the action of the weapon to ensure it can’t be fired while attached to the wall—a little extra level of safety. A thief would have to cut through a cable lock or two to get your firearm. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s a capable one. 

Obviously, the weapon should remain unloaded, and if you were really worried, you could remove the bolts and lock them in a small lockbox separate from your firearm. Heck, combine a cable lock, an eye screw, removal of the bolt, and secure the weapon higher up, and things get a little tougher to access. 

This solution requires very little modification to your home and costs nearly nothing to secure your gun. It’s far from perfect, but it’ll work in a pinch. 

Staying Secure 

These are all solutions for when a gun safe isn’t an option. If a gun safe can be an option, then that’s the best way to deal with this problem. Don’t use these solutions if you can purchase a gun safe. Gun safes secure your weapon completely from authorized users and thieves and fire. Never cheap out, just to cheap out. 

Also, be aware of your state’s laws regarding safe storage. These states may require you to lock your firearms up and won’t accept the above solutions. You might be forced to buy a gun safe or gun cabinet built to specific standards. It’s worth a Google search to know your local firearm safe storage laws before you go off half-cocked in purchasing an alternative solution to a gun safe. 

Speaking of, most of these solutions allow you to mix and match to create a more secure solution. Remember owning a firearm is both a right and a responsibility and securing the firearm is on you. Keep it secure, keep it locked down, and ensure safety reigns supreme. 


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About Travis Pike

Travis is a former United States Marine Corps Infantryman and currently a firearms writer, instructor, and works in Emergency Management.

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  1. You made a really good point about how the handgun versions safely enclose the weapons, whereas the shotgun and AR safe models include the functions of the long weapons. For further protection and accessibility, these safes may be locked and fastened to wall studs. As soon as the weather warms up, my husband wants to get a rifle so he can go hunting. Thanks to your essay, I now feel comfortable storing the gun safely while not in use, therefore I’m pleased I read it.

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