Believe it or not, finding the best gun safe under $1,000 isn’t all that difficult. A gun safe isn’t exactly an item built with active “performance” in mind. Its design is tailored to exactly one purpose: guarantee that your firearms remain safe and secure until you and only you access them.
Although I can sum up what should be the foundation for your decision in a few general bullet points and a few key industry ratings and metrics will sum up just about everything you need to know, it bears noting that not all safes are created equal. A number of lower-priced gun safes under $1,000 skimp on quality materials and critical features that can mean the difference between damage or theft and your guns being among the few valuable that survive a break-in or home disaster. There are a few defining lines among these criteria that should make a deal-breaking difference in your decision to buy or keep browsing:
- FIRE PROTECTION
- BURGLAR RATING
If you and I think anything alike, your guns represent literally a lifetime investment. That’s no exaggeration whatsoever, either. Some vintage firearms that have enjoyed consummate meticulous care since being made over a century ago will still fire dependably today. Let’s look at the three gun safes priced under a grand each that I would recommend narrowing your shopping to in order to preserve your valuables.
5 Best Gun Safe Under 1000$ – Comparison Chart
Table of Contents
- 1 5 Best Gun Safe Under 1000$ – Comparison Chart
- 2 LEADERS OF THE PACK
- 3 LOCK
- 4 CONSTRUCTION
- 5 FIRE PROTECTION
- 6 BURGLAR RATING
- 7 OVERALL WINNER – Steelwater Heavy Duty 20 Long Gun Safe
- 8 Related Video: GUN SAFES – Must Watch Before Buying
- 9 Related Posts:
LEADERS OF THE PACK
- Steelwater Heavy Duty 16 Long Gun Safe – A quite solidly made safe with both manual and electronic locks and a free dehumidifier included in its price to prevent unwanted moisture from seeping in and rusting your rifles.
- American Security AM3020E5 Home Security Safe – Not a specialized gun safe, but a superbly designed security container from one of the most trusted names in the trade of locking down valuables.
- Steelwater Heavy Duty 20 Long Gun Safe – Not only one of the most solidly constructed safes around, but quite possibly the one with the most fortified layers of security in the event a persistent burglar should manage to get past one of them.
Let’s break down why any of these safes would make a perfect trustworthy guardian of your guns.
Modern gun safes rarely seal your valuables inside indomitable steel with a single lock. On the contrary, virtually any container worth looking at will include both manual and electronic locks with layers of redundancies and fail-safe mechanisms to secure the door in the event someone should get past one line of defense. Walk away from any safe not certified as a residential security container or doesn’t display an Underwriter Laboratories tool-resistant burglar rating of U.L. TL-15 or U.L. TL-15. Additionally, electromagnetic pulse (EMP) resistance is a must. An EMP fries the workings of anything with an electric charge within its range, including your safe’s lock.
- Steelwater Heavy Duty 16 Long Gun Safe – Your guns will be sealed behind a gear-driven system of nine one-inch-diameter solid steel locking bolts (six active chrome-plated bolts and three inactive bolts on the hinge side), a remarkably strong lock that defies brute-force drill, pry, and punch attacks. Beyond that, an unmatched drill- and ballistic-resistant hardplate safeguards the lock, relocker, and other vulnerable areas against any further penetration. Should a burglar manage to remove the lock, a spring-loaded re-locking bolt slams into place. Finally, there’s the EMP-proof electronic lock protected by a reprogrammable 3-8 digit user code and double-bitted emergency bypass key to stand up against assaults to the manual locking mechanism.
- American Security AM3020E5 Home Security Safe – Though well-built, this unfortunately might be the weakest of the trio in terms of layered protective redundancies. The huge door holds a three-wheel combination lock with three-way boltwork and five active 1 ¼-inch diameter chrome-plated steel locking bolts, all defended by a drill-resistant hardplate and optional UL-listed Group II combination or electronic lock. There’s just one problem: EMP vulnerability.
- Steelwater Heavy Duty 20 Long Gun Safe – The Heavy Duty 20 is the big brother of the other Steelwater selection on my shortlist. Its lock features the same gear-driven system of six active and three inactive bolts and drill- and ballistic-resistant hardplate. The locking bolt is also identical, as is the EMP-resistant electronic lock, but this version of essentially the same model includes a double-sided bypass key preventing you from being locked out after an unsuccessful break-in attempt.
Our 1st Pick for LOCK: Steelwater Heavy Duty 16 Long Gun Safe
Our 2nd Pick for LOCK: Steelwater Heavy Duty 20 Long Gun Safe
Virtually everything comes down to thickness. To be blunt, the 14, 16, or 20-gauge steel common to lower-end safes will break under as little as the pressure of a hammer and screwdriver. At minimum, your safe should be fabricated from 11-gauge steel, and 10 or 7-gauge is vastly preferable. As for the door, a ¼-inch plate of solid steel or an equivalent composite is the bare minimum industry standard, but each of these safes sports a ⅜ to ½-inch plate.
- Steelwater Heavy Duty 16 Long Gun Safe – The good news is, the Heavy Duty 16 seals your guns behind a 12-gauge steel composite measuring 4 ¾ inches thick. There’s no doubting the toughness of its body and door. Unfortunately, it tends to face some harsh reviews for its disappointing storage space. Though it advertises accommodating up to 16 long guns but customers tend to attest that it holds about six to eight guns and quickly becomes cramped with scoped rifles.
- American Security AM3020E5 Home Security Safe – Once more, American Security’s safe falls short for lack of design with guns specifically in mind. The high-strength 12-gauge solid steel body and gargantuan 1 ⅛-inch recessed door’s ¼-inch solid steel plate will turn back any assault. There’s even a lot to be said for its handsome all-velour firewalls and back-cover inside. However, much like the Steelwater Heavy Duty 16, capacity is a major issue for anything bigger than most handguns.
- Steelwater Heavy Duty 20 Long Gun Safe – Once again, the Steelwater Heavy Duty 20 is nearly identical to its little brother in every meaningful way. It only gets the nod here because of its larger capacity and fewer customer issues with cramped quarters, but don’t let this safe’s name entirely fool you either: it may suggest it holds up to 20 long guns but its product listing indicates it averages anywhere from 12 to 16 rifles and shotguns. Nevertheless, it’s enough to get another nod.
Our Pick for CONSTRUCTION: Steelwater Heavy Duty 20 Long Gun Safe
Fire protection is one of the factors that owners overlook far too often. Although experts typically urge passing up any safe with less than a one-hour fire rating, none of our three safes quite meet that standard. However, they do boast three of the longest ratings for their price range. I also can’t stress enough the importance of a quality fire seal that will both hold moisture out at all times and expand during a fire to seal smoke and fire out entirely.
- Steelwater Heavy Duty 16 Long Gun Safe – Both Steelwater safes are 45-minute fire rated at 1,550 degrees Fahrenheit, about as close to that one-hour ideal as anything under $1,000 will get. It also includes a heat-activated expandable door seal that will lock down the contents in airtight and watertight safety.
- American Security AM3020E5 Home Security Safe – For all the dangers the American Security AM3020E5 will hold harmlessly at bay, it is easily the most vulnerable to fire. It offers no sealant and despite being built to hold an interior temperature less than 350 degrees Fahrenheit, it is only rated for 30 minutes of protection at 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Steelwater Heavy Duty 20 Long Gun Safe – It’s a theme I cannot ignore: the Steelwater Heavy Duty 20 remains identical to the Heavy Duty 16, with the exception of its greater capacity. It focuses its marketing on the exact same fire rating. All other variables held equal, bigger is better.
Our Pick for FIRE PROTECTION: Steelwater Heavy Duty 20 Long Gun Safe
Definitely think of this as a culmination of our first two criteria. The burglar rating measures just how tough each safe will be to crack into as a whole. It shouldn’t be the sole decider of your purchase, but it should absolutely be the firmest basis.
- Steelwater Heavy Duty 16 Long Gun Safe – Though I couldn’t track down a specific rating, I can confirm that the Heavy Duty 16 has been independently certified by Underwriter Laboratories.
- American Security AM3020E5 Home Security Safe – This safe is also U.L.-certified as a Residential Security Container.
- Steelwater Heavy Duty 20 Long Gun Safe – Shares the same U.L. certification as the Heavy Duty 16.
Our 1st Pick for BURGLAR RATING: American Security AM3020E5 Home Security Safe
Our 2nd Pick for BURGLAR RATING: Steelwater Heavy Duty 20 Long Gun Safe
My three best gun safes under $1,000 made for a bizarre comparison. The American Security box will almost certainly protect staunchly against most physical attacks, falls a full 15 minutes below the two Steelwater safes’ 45-minute fire ratings even at a 350-degrees-lower temperature and offers no EMP protection. Meanwhile, the two Steelwater models are far and away two of the sturdiest safes in their price range in just about every way, especially the vast redundancies and triple-tough construction. The Heavy Duty 20 gets my recommendation based on the greater capacity and addition of a digital override to get back into the safe after a break-in fails.