I recently received an email from a US locksmith company (Locksmith Sarasota) telling me that my site was “Good Stuff”. Why thank you!

In this email they went on to talk about how important gun safes are to anyone who owns, or is looking to own firearms, and I couldn’t agree more. Firearm safety begins at home, in the case of securing your firearms, absolutely. So they put together a blog describing the key aspects of what to look for and what to consider when choosing a gun safe.

I’ll link to that below.

The reason i’m writing my own blog, in answer to their blog is simply because, unlike in the USA, the UK have rather stringent rules that must be obeyed by anyone wishing to own firearms. Those rules include a minimum standard of security that must be adhered to by anyone wishing to obtain a firearms or shotgun license. So I’ll go into those stipulations below, and then I’ll link through to the blog written by Locksmith Sarasota so you can be armed with the information you need on a minimum level of security for choosing a Gun Safe in the UK.

The Law

UK Firearms rules 1998 prescribe a safekeeping condition attached to all firearm and shotgun certificates, so much so that non compliance of these conditions can lead to a maximum penalty of up to 6 months in prison, a fine, or both. Not only does this condition apply to firearms, it also applies to “Section 1 Ammunition”, that is to say any legally owned live round of rifle or pistol ammunition. There are other types, such as Section 5 ammunition (Armour piercing for example) which would also be subject to this condition, but you should check your certificate for any stipulations. Shotgun Ammunition (Except Slugs and special rounds) do not carry the same stipulation.

The safekeeping condition as mentioned is as follows [Items named above] must be stored securely to prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, unauthorised people taking or using them. Any other person who does not hold a firearm or shotgun certificate is included in the term ‘unauthorised’.

What constitutes as ‘safe storage’ in the UK is not legislated in law, however the Home Office have written guidance for police officers of what they consider strong enough and ‘approved’.

Gun Safe UK Guidance

The police when gauging whether or not to issue a certificate will assess the circumstances of each case individually, usually this involves them visiting your house and checking that what you have is safe, secure and installed satisfactorily (For example, you havent used the incorrect type of screws into an un-sound wall so the cabinet could be removed with little force).

When considering each case, there are 3 levels of security that are generally accepted.

Level 1

This will be applicable in most cases and can be met by using a suitable gun cabinet. Where one firearm only is held, a gun clamp may suffice. Other considerations would be a low crime rate area and whether the property has outer doors and windows fitted with suitable locking devices.

Level 2

This will be applicable where extra security is desirable. This may be because of a high crime rate location, repeat victimisation or that a substantial number of firearms are being held. Additional security would be exit doors fitted with locks to BS3621, an audible intruder alarm covering the area where the guns are stored and possibly splitting the risk by the provision of more than one cabinet.

Level 3

Where the risk is deemed the greatest, then splitting the risk is desirable especially where large numbers of guns are involved. Additional target hardening of the storage cabinet(s) and an audible intruder alarm protecting the whole of the premises may also be considered.

Gun Cabinets in the UK

As commercially manufactured firearm cabinets are widely available, this will probably be the preferred method of security for most people. There is a British standard for gun cabinets (BS 7558 – BS 7558 is a test where an identical cabinet that has been made is subject to an attack and can withstand a 5 minute attack using common hand-tools. The tools listed are Club Hammer 1.8 kg, Flat cold chisel overall length 200 mm and blade width 25 mm, Jemmy.). Before you buy a cabinet you should ask the seller to show you a test certificate to confirm the cabinet meets the above standard. It is not compulsory to have a cabinet that meets the British Standard however, and having such a cabinet does not necessarily guarantee that you are meeting the safekeeping condition.
Alternatively, you can get a cabinet made specifically to your requirements if you know a fabricator or can fabricate yourself.
The recommended features of Gun Cabinets in the UK are as follows;
  • It should be made from sheet steel at least 14 swg (standard wire gauge) (2 mm) thick. All seams should be continuously welded, or the cabinet body formed by bend construction.
  • All hinges should be on the inside of the cabinet, but if they are external or exposed, then hinge bolts, blocks or anti-lever bars should be provided.
  • Lock mechanisms should be on the inside of the cabinet. The lock should contain at least 5 levers to BS 3621 standard or equivalent. Alternatively, good quality hardened padlocks and staples should be fitted to the cabinet.
  • Full-length side hinged cabinets should have two locks at points one third and two-thirds the height of the cabinet.
  • The cabinet may contain, or have attached, a separate lockable container to store ammunition.

It would be my opinion that although these requirements are guidance, some “store-bought” gun safes are made to these as goals, rather than something to be bested. Over engineering, using thicker and harder materials and locks to slow down would-be criminals is always a good thing so consider going for over-engineered cabinets rather than those that just pass the bar, where possible.

Other methods of security

The UK Government also consider other methods of security enough, that could be;

Gun Clamps

Steel Cables

Gun Rooms

These alternative methods contain their own set of guidance surrounding them, and personally I would always go for a cabinet over the first 2, and if you have room, a dedicated Gun Room would always come top of the list, however I will not go into the guidance surrounding their construction, at this time.

Gun Safe Placement

The Home Office has also given guidance on placement of Gun Safes, whilst most of this should come as common sense if you are trying to make something secure, they cover it to make certain.

Any security device should be securely fixed to the fabric of the building.

  • For preference it should be in a room or area that does not have direct access to the outside of a building.
  • It should not be in a garage, shed or other outside building, except in certain circumstances.
  • When considering large or heavy gun cabinets, you should consider the load bearing strength of your floors.
  • Wherever possible, it should be fixed to a wall that is built from bricks or concrete blocks or to the floor
  • The container should be out of sight (unless the firearm is held for display purposes). If it is in a corner, it is more difficult for a thief to attack it.
  • You should avoid fixing the container near any heat source.

Further Gun Safe Reading

As mentioned at the start of this blog, Locksmith Sarasota sent me an email containing a link that goes further into this subject, and although is aimed at the US market, the points raised about security still apply. You can read more about gun safe selection on their website: How to Choose a Truly ‘Safe’ Gun Safe for Your Home