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Be ready for surprising answers when shopping for gun safes

When the 2019 edition of the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show gets underway Jan. 22 at the Sands Expo and Convention Center, you can bet attendees will find a wide array of firearms displayed on the show floor. After all, firearms and their accessories are what the show is all about.

And among the accessories on display will be products and programs designed to promote firearms safety in the home, at the range, in the field and places in between. In my Jan. 2 column, I highlighted a few options for the safe storage of firearms, but I think gun safes are deserving of a more in-depth discussion.

Your first step toward purchasing a gun safe should take you to a retailer where safes are a specialty and not a sideline. You want a place where the sales staff speaks the language of safes and will take the time to interpret it for you.

Before you take that step, however, you need to decide what you hope to accomplish with the purchase of your safe, explained Jeff Webb, salesman at The Safe Keeper. Are you looking for something simply to keep firearms out of the hands of children? Are you looking for theft protection or something that will stand up to the heat of a fire? Or do you plan on having your safe serve double duty as a place for valuables as well as firearms?

The answers to these questions will provide your salesman with a starting point, but you also need to have a budget in mind.

Serge Bashir, sales manager at Nevada Safes, said safe buyers “need to consider what they feel is feasible that they can actually invest in the security and the safety of their weapons, and of their household belongings.”

You can spend hundreds or even thousands depending on your objective, personal taste and need. During my visits, I learned that all safes are not created equal. For instance, what looks like a door made from a heavy steel plate might only be made from a thin sheet of steel bent over to look that way while others really are made of a thick steel sheet. And the interior of one safe might be lined with fabric while another is lined with cedar wood, which makes for a beautiful product by the way.

Be prepared to ask questions and spend time looking at the details beyond the price and color.

Webb showed me a pair of safes that had been worked over by thieves bent on stealing their contents. The thieves made quick work of the first safe because the door frame was not solid but only appeared to be. With leverage applied to right spots, they ripped the door right off. The second safe had several locking bolts around the edge of a heavy door. Though the safe carries scars left behind by their efforts, the thieves never opened the door.

A quality safe deters theft by demanding a thief’s time and causing him to make noise while trying to open it.

Something else to consider is a location for your new safe and how much room you have, said Bashir. There is no wrong place, but you do need to ask yourself some more questions. Such as, do you have a lot of room or are things a little snug? Are you looking to put your safe in a specific location? If so, how wide is that spot and how deep? How tall is that space? Is it upstairs, in the basement or in the garage?

Also, “are you looking to put your safe in a location where in an emergency scenario you could have access to it easily and readily?” Bashir added.

Another component to think about is the type of locking mechanism you prefer. “In the case of an emergency scenario, an electronic lock would be recommended,” Bashir said. On the other hand, “If you’re really not concerned with that, and your quite happy putting your safes out of the way in your home, possibly on a different level, if you’re comfortable going with a mechanical combination lock, that’s absolutely your personal choice. Just remember, you won’t have as quick access to your contents as you would with your electronic lock.”

Keep in mind that something is better than nothing, and you always can upgrade.

Freelance writer Doug Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His “In the Outdoors” column, published Thursday, is not affiliated with or endorsed by the NDOW. Any opinions he states in his column are his own. Find him on Facebook at @dougwritesoutdoors. He can be reached at intheoutdoorslv@gmail.com.

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