Gun storage is a necessity for responsible gun ownership. But let’s face it: housekeeping and organization of a gun collection is boring, and expensive. That’s the reason why otherwise responsible, law-abiding gun owners often don’t take the necessary precautions.
We know that safe storage of our firearms is important. But we suspected there are other factors that only experts can help with. We decided that getting 25 experts in the field to weigh in on common mistakes gun owners make will help us provide you with a big enough sample that would cover the many situations.
We hired PR expert Minuca Elena and had her contact 25 of the experts for their answer to a simple question:
"What are the most frequent mistakes to avoid when storing your handgun?"
When you have these many expert hunters, gun experts, concealed carry enthusiasts, law enforcement professionals, and bloggers—you know that there will be insights you will find helpful.
Gun Storage Tips | Our Take
Most experts agree that not properly securing a gun is the biggest mistake. They also call out that proper gun care through cleaning; and proper storage conditions such as temperature and humidity are good for keeping your gun in good condition so that it is ready and functional when you need it in a hurry.
One interesting insight is that gun owners should consider multiple safes, each for a different purpose. A quick access safe with biometric lock is best stored close to where you sleep, while a larger, freestanding safe can be used to store long guns and located anywhere in your home.
Finally, the experts echo what we at USASafeAndVault have always emphasized: layered security measures (perimeter security, discrete location, etc.) used with a good safe, gives you the best protection.
See our analysis of the perspectives of the experts at the end of the article.
Now read on to get the details of what each experts said, and find your own insights.
Devin Hughes - GVPedia
One of the most tragic mistakes is not ensuring that the firearm is stored in a secure location that only you can access.
All too often, we hear stories of a child or teenager who gains access to an improperly secured firearm and harms themselves or others - and the common refrain from parents is that they had no idea that the children even knew where the firearm was or would do such a thing.
Properly locking up a firearm in a safe only you have the ability to open is the most effective way at preventing such tragedies.
Another common and often tragic mistake is leaving a firearm unsecured either inside the home or a vehicle. More than 200,000 firearms are reported stolen annually according to the FBI.
The mere act of locking up a firearm in a high-quality safe is often sufficient to prevent such thefts and therefore prevent future crimes with your firearm.
With modern technology, there is no longer the need to choose between safe storage and having a firearm available for deployment at a moment’s notice.
There are multiple quick-access biometric safes available that are designed for the home or vehicles for under $300. Safe storage is a foundational aspect of responsible gun ownership.
Jacki Billings - Pew Pew Tactical
If you’re new to guns, storing them might seem a little daunting, and trust me, we’ve all been there. When storing guns, there are a few things to keep in mind.
First, you want to store your guns so that they don’t fall into the wrong hands. That means seeking out good safes or storage options that are lockable but still accessible to you.
I tend to avoid overly complicated entry methods that are tough to manage when stressed out and instead opt for solutions with large buttons or handles that are easy to manipulate.
These keep unauthorized people from getting their hands on your goodies but still allow you to access your handgun if you need it.
Finally, keep your handguns away from moisture – so definitely don’t store them in the bathroom or laundry room.
Choose a location in your home that is dry in climate, or toss a desiccant packet into the safe with your handgun to keep moisture out, so your guns don’t rust.
John VanDerLaan - Deer Hunting Guide
The most important thing to remember when storing your handgun is safety. Not only your safety but the safety of other members of your household and children in particular.
Here are some mistakes that I have made in the past when storing my handgun that may help others avoid the same mistakes.
I was carrying my handgun in the small of my back on a particularly warm day. I arrived home and was running late for an appointment, so I removed the handgun from my waistband and put it in my handgun safe.
When I returned a few days later, the handgun was covered with rust, thanks to the sweat that I had left on it.
Always wipe your firearm down before storing it.
I like to have one of my handguns readily accessible on the nightstand next to my bed. I store it in an electronic keypad pistol safe. This is a different handgun than the one I carry most days, so it stays in that safe until needed for home protection.
One day I was going to take this gun to the range for some shooting. Imagine my surprise, when the safe would not open! This particular electronic case was battery-operated and the batteries had gone dead!
I was able to open the safe with a key, but imagine if I had to access it quickly with an intruder in the house! Don’t make this mistake!
If you are going to use a battery-operated electronic keypad gun safe, make sure that you replace the batteries often.
Whether you are storing handguns or long guns, always store them in a locked safe where they cannot be accessed by children.
Tim Carroll - Tennessee-Carry
Properly storing a handgun is crucial for the safety of yourself and others. Here are some of the most frequent mistakes to avoid when storing your handgun:
1. Leaving the gun loaded
Always unload your firearm before storing it. Leaving it loaded can lead to accidents, especially if someone else finds and mishandles it.
2. Failing to use a safe or lockbox
Storing your gun in a safe or lockbox helps to prevent unauthorized access. Never leave your gun in a drawer, closet, or other accessible location.
3. Not using a trigger lock
A trigger lock is an additional safety measure that helps to prevent accidental discharge. Make sure to use a trigger lock in addition to locking up your gun.
4. Failing to keep the gun clean
Regular cleaning and maintenance of your firearm are crucial to ensure that it functions properly and remains safe to use. Failure to do so can lead to malfunctions or other safety issues.
5. Storing ammunition improperly
Ammunition should be stored separately from your firearm and in a cool, dry place. Improper storage can cause ammo to become damaged, corroded, or even explode.
6. Not properly educating others in the household
If there are others in your household, make sure to educate them on gun safety and the proper way to handle and store firearms. This can prevent accidents or mishandling of the gun.
By avoiding these common mistakes and following best practices for firearm storage, you can help ensure the safety of yourself and others.
Scott Mangum - Best Survival
1. Not cleaning your gun before putting it into storage.
This is important especially if you have taken it out in the field recently. Make sure you clean and lubricate your gun before putting it into storage, which will help prevent rust.
2. Not storing your gun in an easily accessible location.
You want to make sure that it is out of reach of children. If you are storing a gun in a safe for self defense, you want to make sure you can access it quickly as well. You need to find the best place to store your gun that works best for your situation.
3. Improper ammunition storage.
Typically it's good practice to store your ammunition away from your guns, especially with children around.
If you are storing a gun for self defense in your home, you want to make sure it is loaded and ready to go in your safe. In the event of an emergency, you will lose precious time loading the firearm.
Natalie Strong - Elegant & Armed
1. Risking control of the firearm
One of the most important mistakes to avoid when storing a firearm is not using a secure storage system.
Keeping it somewhere like a kitchen drawer may provide quick access, but you run the risk of young children, an irresponsible friend, or a burglar finding it.
When not in use and not on your body, it should be locked away in an appropriate storage system that only the right people can access.
2. Finding yourself unprepared
Storing ammunition in a separate location is generally a good idea unless the gun is meant for home protection.
Having instant access to your firearm is essential in the event of a home intrusion - meaning it must be loaded and ready when you open the safe.
3. Failing to practice
It's important to remember that when under stress, our bodies lose the fine motor skills needed to type in a code or open a safe. As a result, you should practice opening your safe and pulling out the gun until it becomes second nature.
It's also important to store the gun in a cool and dry environment and ensure regular cleaning and oiling for its maintenance.
Remembering these tips will help you keep your firearm securely stored away while still being able to access it quickly and reliably when needed.
Jasmina Hinovic - Trade Smart Safety
As a safety company, we are constantly analyzing all the potential risks and dangers related to firearms, and that includes storing handguns. Here are some of the most frequent mistakes we noticed:
1. Unsuitable storage location
One of the most frequent gun storage mistakes is choosing an unsuitable storage location.
Leaving the gun in an accessible location, such as a nightstand or desk drawer, makes it easy for unauthorized individuals, including children, to access the gun and potentially cause harm.
2. Storing the gun in a humid or damp location
Storing your gun in a humid or damp location can cause serious damage to the firearm.
Exposure to moisture can cause rust and corrosion to develop on the gun, which can ultimately compromise its safety and performance.
Rust can eat away at the metal of the gun, weaken its structural integrity, and affect the functioning of its components.
3. Irregular cleaning and maintaining
Another common mistake is failing to clean and maintain the gun on a regular basis. This can lead to malfunctions or even accidents, as a dirty or poorly maintained gun can be more prone to misfiring or other issues.
4. Failing to educate others about gun safety
If you live with others, it's important to educate them about gun safety. This can include explaining the dangers of guns or demonstrating how to safely handle a firearm. Educating others about gun safety can help prevent accidents.
Holden Jones - Springhill Outfitters
Here are some of the most common mistakes people make when it comes to storing guns:
1. Not using a gun safe
Many people fail to invest in a high-quality gun safe. A gun safe is essential for securing firearms and preventing unauthorized access. Without a safe, firearms can be easily stolen or accessed by children or other unauthorized individuals.
Improperly storing ammunition
Ammunition should always be stored separately from firearms, and in a secure and dry location. This can prevent accidents, such as fires or accidental discharge.
2. Failing to clean firearms
Proper maintenance and cleaning are critical to keeping firearms in good condition. Neglecting to clean firearms can lead to malfunctions, which can be dangerous.
3. Leaving firearms loaded
Many gun owners make the mistake of leaving firearms loaded, thinking it will make them more readily accessible. However, this can be extremely dangerous, especially if children or other unauthorized individuals gain access to the firearm.
4. Not keeping track of firearms
Some gun owners fail to keep track of their firearms, which can lead to theft or loss. It is essential to keep an inventory of all firearms and to report any missing firearms immediately to the authorities.
Glen Bhimani - BPS Security
The most common mistakes I see when storing a handgun come down to the way that the weapon is being stored and not where it is being stored.
Most people are pretty aware that you need to be storing your handgun in a gun safe since it's law in a lot of places.
What people don't seem to understand is that the weapon needs to be cleaned prior to storage and always needs to have the safety on unless it's unloaded.
People think that because the weapon isn't being touched by anyone that the safety doesn't need to be on, but that's not the case at all and a gun can go off during a tornado or earthquake if the gun case is rattled just right or crushed.
So always clean your gun (to prevent rust and decay) and keep the safety on when storing.
Trey Copeland - Made To Hunt
One of the mistakes I see people make about storing handguns is using older antique gun cases with a glass front on them.
First, you're showing everybody, possibly thieves, what all guns you have and the only thing separating them from the guns is a sheet of thin glass.
Kids can also see straight through and be tempted to gain access.
Another mistake is keeping firearms in a basement that isn't humidity controlled. Rust can start forming on firearms at about 60% relative humidity.
It's best to keep a dehumidifier nearby or don't store them in an uncontrolled environment like a basement.
Gray Spate - Atomic Defense
We have guns in and out of safes for testing armor products, vehicles, ammunition, and more.
Some of the biggest mistakes are the obvious ones like leaving ammunition in the gun. However, one overlooked one that no one seems to think about is the direction you place the gun. Up or down.
A common mistake here is cleaning the gun and then pointing the barrel downward. Any remaining cleaning solvent then drips out the front of the barrel and onto the safe floor.
Josh Rhoades - X-Ring Supply
Most people will store their guns in a gun safe, which is absolutely essential - but they will put their gun safe in an obvious location. You do not have to worry about a robber breaking into your safe if they never find the safe!
Locations in the master bedroom are usually the worst, as they are the first place robbers go.
Locations that are visually concealed or in an area that is less likely to be scanned by robbers is best, such as a garage, basement storage areas, or a kitchen pantry or under a bathroom vanity.
Wherever you put your safe, make sure it is properly secured to immoveable structures, ideally studs in the wall or floor joists.
Karen Hung - Wing Tactical
When storing a firearm, it can be tempting to put it in a foam case and leave it there for a while. These cases are perfectly fine for transport, but they are not ideal for long-term storage.
Foam cases combined with an oiled weapon, especially one that is over-oiled, can lead to rust and buildup. Foam cases and humid areas should be avoided.
Similar problems can occur when storing a dirty firearm. If you just spent the day at the range, make sure you clean your firearm before putting it in storage.
While firearms can be stored long-term, you should still take them out every few months to inspect them. Check for rust or buildup, make sure your handgun’s parts are functioning properly, and clean it if necessary.
One of the biggest storage mistakes is storing a loaded weapon. While you should always treat a firearm like it’s loaded, actually storing a loaded handgun puts you at an increased risk for accidental discharge.
Unload your firearm and consider removing the magazine before storage.
Jacob Rieper - Gun Politics NY
I think the most important thing people forget is to periodically inspect and clean your handguns, especially if they are kept for self-defense purposes.
Dust and debris can accumulate on them and corrosion can occur which could impact the gun's ability to function.
Every so often owners should check their guns, wipe them down with a preservative, inspect their ammunition and verify magazine functionality.
Sam Jacobs - Ammo
Storing your handgun safely is very important for gun owners. It should always be stored safely, unloaded, and kept separate from the ammunition. Here are some frequent mistakes to avoid when storing your handgun:
1. Ensure that the handgun is always stored horizontally and never in an upright position.
Keeping handguns with the muzzle pointing upwards can cause gun oil to flow downward, leaving sticky residues that can affect the bolting action.
2. Avoid keeping your handgun in scabbards or non-breathable material like leather or waterproof fabric.
This can cause moisture to form, which is why one should always take steps to keep the handgun in a storage location that is dry and clean. Keep your guns cleaned thoroughly inside and out.
3. Never treat your handgun as an object of display.
Keep them always hidden and locked away. The best idea is to have a safe with anti-theft protection for your handgun, locked and safe from easy access by others.
Ted Werner - Hyskore
There are two parts to this question:
1. Custody and security
Not everyone should have access to a handgun. Keeping in mind the obvious, children, there are others that should never have access to a gun – you probably know who they are.
This means that as a responsible gun owner, your weapon(s) should be secured in a lockable, tamper-proof cabinet or vault that can have a mechanical, keypad, or biometric lock.
2. Care of the gun
If you need a gun, you want it to be in good working order. This means that you put it away cleaned, lubricated, and easy to get your hand on.
If you have one gun you can just lay it on its side, if more than that you need a fixture that keeps them separated and supports them in an easy-to-grab posture.
You do not want to just pile guns one on top of the other, especially if they are expensive ones as this can lead to scratches and damage. You also want to have something to reduce moisture to keep rust from forming.
Carly Brasseux - Miss Pursuit
Anytime I think of storing my handgun, I always think of safety first.
As a mom of two kids, when I store my handgun I have to consider two things:
Is my handgun stored where there is ZERO chance of my kid getting to it; and can I get to my handgun quickly in the case of an emergency?
The most frequent mistake made when storing a firearm is not considering these two factors.
Jason Hitchcock - Survival Stoic
There are two mistakes I most frequently see people make when storing their handguns.
Handgun owners do not store their handguns in a safe, or their safes are not in a climate-controlled area.
When your handgun is not under your control, it should be in a safe, or at least have a trigger or action lock on it. Many will just place it in a drawer or attempt to “hide” it somewhere.
Children are very curious and will often find “hidden” handguns. Locks are difficult to remove if you need access to your handgun quickly, so many do not use them.
If you want to have a handgun for home defense where you can easily get to it, you must have a handgun safe. There are multiple smaller handgun safes on the market that fit on a nightstand.
I have also seen people with multiple handguns store them properly in a safe, but they have the safe in a garage or basement that is not climate controlled.
Basements are often damp and humid. Garages can have extreme temperature fluctuations which can cause condensation.
Both of these areas will accelerate rust and corrosion on handguns and other firearms if not closely monitored. The best location for a gun safe is inside a climate-controlled area.
People often buy huge gun safes that won’t fit anywhere inside their homes. Multiple smaller gun safes are actually better than one big one for multiple reasons.
Brady Kirkpatrick - Gun Made
1. Storing a loaded gun
Storing a loaded gun is a mistake that can be easily avoided. It is important to unload the gun and inspect the chamber and magazine for any rounds that may have been left behind before storing the gun. It is also important to keep the gun unloaded and stored separately from its ammunition.
2. Storing a gun in an unsecured location
It is important to store your gun in a secure location that is not accessible to children or other unauthorized individuals.
A gun safe, lockbox or other secure storage option will help to ensure that your gun is out of reach and not easily accessible.
3. Not cleaning and maintaining the gun
It is important to regularly clean and maintain your gun to ensure that it is working properly and safely.
It is also important to clean the gun after each use to prevent any dirt, dust, or other debris from building up and causing corrosion or malfunction.
4. Not securing your gun when not in use
When storing your gun, it is important to secure it with either a trigger lock or some other type of safety measure.
This will help to ensure that the gun is not accessible to anyone other than the owner and will help to avoid any unauthorized users from getting access to your handgun.
John McAdams - The Big Game Hunting Blog
There are three important mistakes to avoid when storing handguns: make sure unauthorized people (especially children) do not have access to them, store handguns out of sight, and never store a handgun in a soft case, especially if the case is wet.
The first point is the most important and goes along with the second.
Keep in mind that while keeping firearms out of sight will reduce the odds of a thief or nosy guest finding them, it’s not enough just to store firearms out of sight. They must be secure as well.
Ideally, secure storage will take the form of a lockable safe, closet, or cabinet.
Many companies also produce handgun safes that are easy for the owner to retrieve in an emergency while still preventing children and other unauthorized individuals from accessing them.
Finally, do not lock up a handgun in a soft case. Especially in humid environments, long-term storage in a soft case can result in rust forming on metal parts of the firearm. That’s even more likely if the case itself is wet.
Instead, take the handgun out of the case, quickly wipe it down with gun oil, and store it out of the case in a safe or cabinet. This will allow air to circulate and reduce the odds of rust forming.
Dave Chesson - Gun University
One thing a lot of gun owners forget about when storing their guns is to ensure they maintain humidity levels and create dry storage. This helps with the longevity of some of the guns, as well as the ammunition you keep.
Now, for some of the polymer guns out there, this really isn’t too much of a problem. However, I have an HK p7 and live in Tennessee.
Because of this, I need to not only ensure I have a dehumidifier in my safe, but I also coat my gun in a fine film of oil so that it doesn’t rust.
But taking the right action with regard to humidity in your safe not only protects your items but increases their longevity and thus their reliability over time.
Camron Stover - Hunting Gear Deals
Handgun safety is the first thing that comes to mind when someone asks me about proper storage.
Your first consideration before worrying about how to store a handgun is to take a firearms safety class.
For me, it started with my Hunter's Safety Course as a kid, then followed up with my concealed carry permit once I was old enough.
Learning the basics of firearms safety from the start is the first step in storing any firearm, especially a handgun.
John Heise - Top Protection Products
One of the most common mistakes when storing your handgun is making it hard to access if you need it to defend yourself. Keeping your handgun secure is vitally important especially if there are children in your home.
However, if you have a handgun for self-defense you also need to be able to access it quickly when needed. Many times in a self-defense situation you only have seconds to access your handgun if you need it.
Having your handgun in a conventional combination safe will not allow you to access it quickly, especially since fine motor skills are diminished in stressful situations.
Conversely, handguns need to be secured for safety and security reasons. Finding secure storage that allows for quick access is ideal.
Additionally, practice accessing your handgun under stress. This could be timing yourself or running in from another room and accessing your handgun.
Many people don’t think about the fact that they will be under great stress if they need to access their handgun to defend themselves. Practicing retrieving your handgun under self-induced stress will help if you need it to defend yourself.
Michaelka Fialova - Michaelka's Hunting
Sometimes when you have a long day at the shooting range, you can get a bit tired and forget to clean your gun.
It's ok when you go shoot your handgun often, but it might be a big problem when you put your gun into storage and forget it there for a couple of months or weeks.
But still, a handgun is a handgun. If you have a good one it should survive everything.
Bob Serva - Fusion Firearms
Some of the most common mistakes include:
1. Failing to properly secure the firearm in a safe or lockbox.
2. Storing ammunition in close proximity to the firearm.
3. Neglecting to regularly inspect and maintain the firearm.
4. Failing to educate others in the household on proper firearm handling and storage protocols.
Summary of Gun Storage Tips
Here’s a quick summary of the topic areas, these experts say are where the most mistakes are made:
Do you make any of these mistakes? If you are ready to fix them, read more about:
Thank you to all the experts that have contributed to this expert roundup!
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