Firearms security and firearms safety.

Updated page for November 2013, with new photos.

I bought a gun safe in October 2010. We got it because my storage location for my one pistol (at the time) was not quite secure enough, and I had been thinking of getting other guns anyway.

So, I wanted to share some thoughts about keeping guns secure, and as a corollary, using guns safely.

The Safe

That's it, in the photos below. It's a Stack-On GS-8 (bought on-line through Amazon). It's shown here with everything in place: all 5 of our handguns and all 3 of our long guns. (To see them all, click here.) The wooden parts you see are a custom shelving system, that I designed, built, and installed (thus letting me indulge my love of woodworking!). Ammunition and magazines are stored separately, in locked containers. The safe is also handy for things like keeping Christmas presents hidden...

Looking to the left, you see all the long guns, as well as my father's historic WWII revolver on the top shelf.

Looking to the right shows all three of my active handguns, at the top of the photo, in their vertical shelving spaces.


There are three basic purposes for a gun safe:

1. Security against theft: A major purpose for a safe is to protect the firearms from theft. Mine isn't the strongest on the market, but it's a real safe (not just a gun cabinet), with a combination lock and three locking deadbolts...and it's fastened securely to the structure of the house, so no one's going to pick it up easily.

2. Security against unauthorized use: Another very important purpose for a gun safe – and usually of more immediate concern – is to protect against unauthorized access. I use my safe in a way that provides several layers of security:

  • I keep my guns in the safe. Seems obvious, but unless they are actually put away IN the safe, they're NOT safe!

  • I keep my ammunition separate. The principle here is that guns and their ammo are never stored together. My ammunition is in separate locked containers.

  • The safe is out of sight. No need to advertise its presence. Note that I haven't told you where in the house it is...

  • And, I take advantage of my firearms' built-in safety features. For example, my semi-auto handguns have magazine disconnects, which means they can't be fired without a, I keep the magazines locked up elsewhere.

3. Security of the firearms: It's important to protect the guns themselves, too...they do represent an investment, and need to be kept in good condition. My safe is not fire-resistant, but I expect it would provide better fire and water protection than anywhere else in the house. I keep my guns clean, lubricated, and protected against corrosion, and the safe has several silica gel dessicant packs to reduce humidity.

Finally, the best security of all is educated awareness. My entire family has been trained in the safe and effective storage, transportation, and use of ALL our firearms. To date (June 2014), as a family, we've shot over 13,500 rounds together! (Which, just for fun, Dan calculated as approximately 164 pounds of lead downrange!)


Whenever I take anyone shooting, my safety briefing includes the following three basic safety principles. They are the National Rifle Association's 3 fundamental gun safety rules (also used by the Boy Scouts), and I like their simple statement of each principle:

  • ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction

  • ALWAYS keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.

  • ALWAYS keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.

If I may, let me expand on them:

  • ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction. PRACTICAL APPLICATION: When shooting at a range, always keep guns pointed downrange. If you really need to turn around and talk to someone, first put the safety on, then set the gun down with the muzzle pointing downrange, and then turn around. (Trust me–experience speaking here–it's no fun to be "swept," even accidentally, by the muzzle of a loaded firearm, being held by someone with her finger on the trigger...)

  • ALWAYS keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot. PRACTICAL APPLICATION: Don't ever pick up a firearm with your finger within the trigger guard, even though it feels natural to do so. Develop the habit of always holding a gun with your trigger finger alongside the gun, outside of the trigger guard, until you have the gun pointed at your target and ready to shoot.

  • ALWAYS keep the gun unloaded until ready to use. PRACTICAL APPLICATION: At the range, only insert a loaded magazine when at the shooting position, ready to shoot. When done shooting, remove the magazine and leave the action open.

You might notice that EACH ONE is sufficient, thus providing important safety redundancy. That is, if the gun is always pointed in a safe direction, no one will be hurt if it's loaded and the trigger is pulled (in fact, that's how it's supposed to work, especially at a shooting range!). If your finger is off the trigger, no one will be hurt if it's loaded and pointed in an unsafe direction; and if it's unloaded, no one will be hurt if the trigger is pulled with it pointed in an unsafe direction. YOU MUST, however, ALWAYS obey ALL THREE, because eventually human nature will result in a mess-up, and the redundancy is what will protect you and others!

There are, of course, other principles that are important to know and to follow, too.

Some are health-related:

  • Always wear eye and ear protection.

  • After shooting, wash your hands and face (to get rid of lead and gunpowder residues). This is also good practice after reloading.

Some pertain to the mechanics of firearms:

  • Know how your gun works before using it.  

  • Don't depend on any mechanical safety.

  • Be sure your gun is in safe operating condition.

And some are related to shooting procedures:

  • Be sure of your target and what's beyond it.

  • Use only the correct ammunition.

  • Keep your hands/fingers/face in the proper place, to avoid injury, especially from reciprocating parts and ejected shells. (Dan apologizes to everyone who's been "bit" by one of his guns...)

Comparison with other sets of firearms safety rules is left as an exercise for the reader. Some that you can find on-line are: The U.S. Marine Corps' four rules in Marine Corps Reference Publication (MCRP) 3-01B; Remington Arms Company's Ten Commandments of Firearms Safety; and Colonel Jeff Cooper's four rules of gun safety.

Would you like to come shooting with us? Even if you've never done it before, I'm always happy to share my guns and ammo. Give us a call!

See our list of quotations about firearms and shooting by clicking here!