In 2016 alone, the FBI reported 803,007 violent crimes across the nation, with more than 332,198 of those incidents reported as aggravated assaults. Robberies constituted 26.6 percent of violent crimes, while 7.7 percent were rapes, and 1.4 percent, or 17,250 cases, were murders. While some would have you think you’re perfectly safe, you’re not; and, considering the separate statistic of 213,600 robberies committed in 2016, neither is your home.
Personal-defense expert, firearms instructor and friend Rob Pincus sums up the role we are called to take with respect to our families and our homes in four short words: “Protect what you love.” For me—and countless others—there is no greater responsibility than committing to that endeavor. Of course, such a call to responsible action not only drives good people with guns to rise against bad people with guns, it also drives a segment of our industry seldom discussed—firearm storage and access—and improves both our ability to strategize and protect people and property.
Making Gun Safes Great Again
My past experience with safes was like many of yours: little more than a heavy box in which to stack rifles. If you were lucky, the safe included a shelf for handguns, ammo and a few accessories. Today, a more realistic perspective on crime, especially in highly concentrated populations, coupled with rising interest in storing both firearms and non-firearm valuables, has sparked major innovation in both storage and high-tech security.
Reputation and a transferrable lifetime warranty led me to look at the products made by Liberty Safe. Liberty currently produces more than 450 American-made safes each day and is making gun safes great again with superb, multitasking innovation—something I noticed immediately at the 2017 SHOT Show. What I saw on the show floor made my choice just six months later an easy one: I ordered a Liberty Presidential 50 Gun Safe.
When it comes to innovation, protection and truly customizable storage solutions, Liberty has led the way in making gun safes the only multipurpose solutions you need to secure all things worth protecting. My Presidential 50 is a perfect attestation to such a fact.
Even better, for the likes of thugs, Liberty’s technological advances make accessing the safe’s contents without the proper procedure nearly impossible. Such protection is further safeguarded by the company’s warranty, and the beast weighs 1,500 pounds! It took two “warrior movers” to get Liberty’s Presidential 50 Gun Safe into our new home and put in place. So, if someone plans to open or steal the safe, I want some popcorn for the show.
Big Box Presence; Outside-the-Box Design
The most noticeable evidence of today’s multipurpose safe design lies in the shelving and compartmental rifle storage. My Presidential 50 includes two roomy, adjustable shelves spanning the width of the safe. The bottom shelf runs across the top of a vertical divider separating two independent long-gun compartments. For me, these shelves became a perfect place to store optics, magazines, slings, scope bases and other firearm accessories.
My wife’s favorite feature is the dedicated jewelry drawer. While she still keeps a jewelry box of lesser-valued items, her heirloom and more expensive pieces, along with a few of my own treasures, have found their new home in this fire-safe vault. More and more safe manufacturers are including jewelry storage as an integral part of the design, although Liberty is the only manufacturer I’m aware of that features a dedicated drawer.
Sensor-activated LED lighting is another great feature. Where battery-operated lights and flashlights were once the only way to get a bright, clear visual of safe contents, many of today’s safes include lighting that turns on automatically when the door is opened. On higher-end safes, LED illumination is more than bright enough to illuminate the entire interior.
Liberty’s Presidential 50 also includes a dehumidifier to help ensure valuables remain dry and rust free. Rust and corrosion have historically been major problems for safe owners, especially when safes are installed in garages, basements and other places where humidity is common. The last thing you want to do is open a safe after a long stretch of not checking to see that rust has reared its ugly head.
The door of my safe, as well as those of many other models from Liberty, is now home to a robust array of open and zippered pockets for handguns, holsters, magazines and other accessories. While today’s premium safes include fire protection, the Presidential 50 includes Cool Pockets to keep documents even cooler than the rest of the safe’s contents. These pockets are perfect for vital records, deeds, passports, contracts and other important papers.
To that end, today’s focus on protection of firearms and other personal valuables in a single-vault system is welcomed. Continued innovation from the industry’s best and brightest researchers, developers and engineers only means more jaw-dropping design improvements that are focused on securing a diverse array of prized possessions. Such improvements could mean even faster access, advances in biometric technology, increasingly optimized capacity and additional plug-and-play-type modularity for a more customized storage design, because not everyone who buys a gun safe does it primarily for firearm storage.
“Continued innovation from the industry’s best and brightest researchers, developers and engineers only means more jaw-dropping design improvements that are focused on securing a diverse array of prized possessions.”
Little Box, Big Security
While today’s gun safes offer a great solution for securing firearms and valuables, their greatest value is to offer the protection you’re after when you’re not home.
Unfortunately, home burglaries are a regular occurrence, with more than 940,000 reported by 2017 FBI crime statistics. Of those burglaries, over 57 percent were forcible entries, and nearly 30 percent of burglaries occurred when at least one occupant was home. Fortunately, it appears most burglaries do occur during daylight hours, further reducing the odds that you’ll physically experience this type of crime. However, this data doesn’t include other crimes (such as rape) that specifically target and victimize people in their homes. The bottom line is this: Firearm ownership and presence in the home is a good thing when done responsibly.
My personal quick-access handgun safes are the Liberty Home Defender (HD) Series HDX-250 and HDX-350 Smart Vaults. Although I’ve trusted these two vaults for two years and one year respectively, they still appear to represent where personal firearm storage technology is currently.
With biometric capability as something of a litmus test for advanced technology, Liberty’s HDX Smart Vaults have been rock solid and offer a wealth of biometric latitude without compromising truly trustworthy security. How so? Both Smart Vault models are accessible with a simple fingerprint swipe. Even so, their robust biometric data storage allows for up to 15 fingerprint profiles on the HDX-250 and 30 profiles on the HDX-350. For me, this means my wife and I have several profiles programmed for each fingerprint, so even less-than-perfect swipes allow access.
Noise is also a factor. Years ago, I had a quick-access handgun safe in the wall next to my bed. It was effectively counterproductive, and I knew it. But I used it anyway—at least to keep a firearm somewhat accessible yet secure. Not only did the safe include a number pad and require a combination for access, it beeped loudly at the press of every numeric button and once more when it confirmed and opened.
Looking back at my days in the Marine Corps, the overwhelming theme in strategy was the element of surprise; nothing telegraphed—in this case, loud beeping of any kind. My Smart Vaults are whisper quiet. Opening them in the dark is easy. A quick swipe, and the only audible noise is a click and the subdued sound of the spring-loaded door opening. A blue light subtly illuminates the contents so I can grab what I need without losing any degree of night vision.
While both personal safes offer soft foam interiors, the HDX-250 is a down-and-dirty handgun vault. Behind the door lies a simple open chamber for a handgun and any other jewelry or trinkets you care to add. The HDX-350 is a bit more sophisticated and is my personal favorite. It’s a bit taller than the HDX-250—but for good reason: It includes a soft-lined, roll-out jewelry shelf. Below it is the open chamber for my handgun. Both Smart Vaults also include backup access keys and can be mounted in fixed positions to deter some thug from simply running away with them.
When it comes to positioning, it’s simple. The HDX-350 stays next to my bed. The location of the HDX-250 makes great sense to most but might raise the eyebrows of those who haven’t completely thought through their personal-defense strategy. We keep it in my son’s room.
Why? Truth be told, I’m inclined to believe there are precisely two places I’ll be if something goes awry: in my room or rushing to my son’s. Dashing to my son’s room means nothing if I don’t have anything accessible to protect us with once I get there. My son’s fingerprints are not programmed into the Smart Vault, so there’s no risk of his access. However, staging in these locations affords lightning-quick access in the two rooms I would move to in any SHTF moment.
- Security rating: UL residential security container (RSC-8M10)
- Door thickness: 5.5 inches total (1.25 inches composite; 0.25 inches steel plate)
- Door bar/bolts on four sides (total of 15)
- Lock: UL listed Sargent & Greenleaf (base)
- Fire rating: 2.5 hours at 1,200 degrees (F)
- Long gun storage capacity: Up to 39
- Exterior dimensions: 72.5x42x31.5 inches
- Interior dimensions: 67×35.5×18 inches
- Weight: 1,560 pounds
- MSRP: Starting at $6,299
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the April 2019 print issue of American Survival Guide.