The Gun Safe Market

Insights For FFL Dealers

Image: Hornady

Gun safes have become one of the most popular purchases for first-time gun buyers and longtime shooting enthusiasts. Safes offer a significant revenue stream for FFL dealers, generating both add-on and repeat sales. With the demand for firearms lingering above pre-pandemic levels, the gun safe market is expected to remain strong across the country.

What are the most popular types of gun safes today? Which brands are selling best? Do buyers prefer the newest models with the latest technology, or traditional, old-school gun safes? How are retailers leveraging sales and merchandising tactics? What does the future hold for the gun safe market?

To get answers to these questions and more, we spoke with Stephen Hall, founder and president of Lock It Up Safe Company in Edmond, Okla.; Brice McCunn, owner and president of Iowa Safe Company, located at McCunn Specialty Firearms in Massena, Iowa; and Larry Hyatt, president of Hyatt Guns in Charlotte, N.C. 

SI: What factors drive sales of safes?

Hyatt: In a word — unease. While gun purchases have driven up our gun safe sales, economic issues and rising property crime rates have also driven sales on large fire safes. These allow customers to secure their firearms, as well as documents and valuables. 

Hall: Safes sell for a variety of reasons; emotion is toward the top of the list. The recent Silicon Valley Bank closure gave us a bit of a spike in sales, but it’ll wear off quickly. Many of our safe sales are family decisions, such as inheritance of firearms, first-time gun owners or moving homes and getting a new or bigger safe. Being a safe-only store, we don’t seem as affected by large market rushes. Even during the 2020 increase in gun sales, we ticked up a bit, but mainly just stayed steady, which is helpful from an ordering and delivering standpoint.

McCunn: Iowa Safes shares a building with McCunn Specialty Firearms, so it’s a big opportunity for sales. The guest may be here shopping for a firearm and notice a beautiful showroom full of safes. We hear the phrase “I’ve been thinking about a safe” a lot and when there is a great selection in front of a customer, it’s a good opportunity for a sale. 

“Giving our guest base a variety has helped win trust and increase conversion.”

Stephen Hall, Founder & President
Lock It Up Safe Company • Edmond, Okla.

SI: Which types of gun safes are the most popular these days?

McCunn: In Iowa, we’ve noticed a trend of larger safes being sold. For instance, 72″ tall safes are by far the most popular for our region, but we do sell a variety of sizes. We offer a variety in the store so the guest has plenty of options, especially if space is an issue in their home.

Hyatt: Small handgun safes remain our top sellers. We use these as add-on sales for every gun sold in our store and we offer a discount at point of purchase. We want to be a good steward of the world around us, so we feel responsible to educate customers about securing their firearms.

Hall: In our store, we tend to divide safes in a few categories such as pistol/travel, “home safes” (which usually means 44″ and shorter, small safes (think 1–20 rifles), big safes (20+ rifles) and extra-large safes, which can have capacities of close to 100. We seem to rotate through all of them pretty consistently, but if I had to pick one that’s a bit slow it would be the medium sizes such as 60″ tall and between 36″–42″ wide. Oftentimes, I think people want something much smaller or much larger.

SI: How popular are portable gun safes?

Hyatt: These are our top sellers by a significant margin. They are an inexpensive way to allow gun owners to secure their firearms, while still allowing easy access to them, both in the home and on the go.

Hall: Securing a firearm in a car is probably the most popular thing small handgun-style safes are utilized for. Vaultek has done a phenomenal job of addressing this with their LifePod and Barikade line of travel safes. They come in a variety of sizes, colors and features. Vaultek has biometric options along with keypad options, creating an option for most shoppers.

McCunn: Vaultek safes are a great seller for us. They offer multiple options for size and security and are great quality.

SI: Which brands are selling best?

Hall: In our store, we tend to sell by size. We’ve a few that pretty much sell as soon as we get them, such as the Rhino AIW series, but oftentimes we see our store go through phases such as small safes selling quickly, which then tends to slow and then big ones pick up. It’s so odd to watch because it’s like everyone who needs a small safe gets together and buys within a month or two. 

We really value the brands we work with. American Rebel, Rhino, Champion, Dakota, Superior and Vaultek, just to name a few, all have a special niche in the market that make the end user pick one over another. We’re big believers in buying intentionally. There are a few things some brands do well others don’t. Having a wide range of product to show our shoppers addresses what aspects are important to them. Another thing we hear often is having an assortment of manufacturers helps the guest feel like they can make a wise and informed decision because they have seen a variety of options. There are some brands in the industry that want to be exclusive and there is a place for it, but we feel giving our guest base a variety has helped win trust and increase conversion.

Hyatt: We partnered with SnapSafe several years ago to brand safes with our logo. We sell a small car lock box, which includes a steel locking cable that makes it a “snap” to lock up guns in cars. We’ve offered several promotions in partnership with local law enforcement where we sold the safes at our cost. Champion remains our stalwart in the large safe space. Champion has great coverage across all price points, and we remain one of the few Champion dealers in our area. We started carrying Vaultek a few years ago, and it fits into a nice higher-end slot for small safes.

McCunn: Champion/American Rebel safes offer a very wide selection of colors, fire ratings and sizes, which make them a top seller for us. Browning/ProSteel safes have been gaining popularity as we’ve increased our inventory and they offer some unique features. Currently, offered brands in the store include: American Rebel, Champion, Superior, Safe Guard, Browning, Rhino Metals, Dakota Safes, Surelock Security and the new Hornady Security Safe, all of which are a big advantage to our guests over other single-brand safe stores.

SI: What strategies have been effective in selling gun safes?

Hyatt: The best strategy is add-on sales. When a customer is buying a gun, it’s the perfect time to let them know they need to keep it secured. 

McCunn: Iowa Safe Company offers delivery and installation for the guests. That is a huge selling point, and when offered, it almost makes up their mind for them. For the guest, knowing a professional can safely bring the safe into the home takes a lot of their worry away.

Hall: Our sales and delivery team. We’ve a five-star review on both our website and Google. The number-one thing you will read about is our team. We’ve outstanding guest service, which follows them home when we deliver the safe to them. We use the same sales team to also deliver. This helps with comfort to the guest by seeing us again, and also helps us sell safes as we know what it takes to get the safes in homes.

SI: What merchandising tactics work best?

Hall: We like to lay out our safes by size and style. We choose to go with a more upscale and homey feel. When you enter our store, our safes are always clean, have a few decorations on or around them and are fully set up and ready to be shown. We’ve staged a few safes to help the guest visualize what is inside a safe. All information about the safe can be found on an easy-to-read sales tag. We encourage our guests to take photos of the safes they’re looking at, as each tag has the dimensions of the safe so they can go home and measure.

Hyatt: End caps work best with bold signage. We like to remind our customers most guns used in crimes in our area were stolen from cars. No responsible gun owner wants their guns to be stolen and used in a future crime.

McCunn: With firearms readily available in the gun store, it is a good opportunity to grab a few and show guests how they can configure the safe to get maximum capacity. Showing them firsthand ways to organize and get the most out of the safe is a great tool. 

“We’re an old, family-owned store, and we’ve seen trends come and go. As experts in the field, we like to let our customers know what’s really important in a safe, and most times it’s not new technology.”

Larry Hyatt, President
Hyatt Guns • Charlotte, N.C.

SI: Do customers typically buy multiple types of safes (large, bedside, etc.)?

Hall: It depends on the guest. Many people really value protecting their items and also see the advantage to having a firearm ready for quick access. We’ll outfit multiple areas of a house for quick and safe firearm access along with a main safe for guns and other miscellaneous items. We see a lot of first-time safe buyers buying something small and non-intimidating, which quickly fills up.

Hyatt: Many customers will buy one large safe, and then several smaller safes to house guns close to where they may be at any given time. They may have bedside safes or car safes. It all comes down to their lifestyle. Do they have children in the house? Do they work at a place that doesn’t allow concealed carry on the premises? Will they be traveling through states that require guns to be locked up while in transit? Will they need to fly with a gun in checked baggage? These questions will help drive sales of particular products.

McCunn: We do occasionally see a guest buy a larger safe along with a smaller bedside or closet safe. The Vaultek is a good example as many of them will fit in a bedside table for safe, but quick access.

SI: What new technologies or products have stood out to you in this segment over the past year?

Hyatt: Biometric technology was a big deal when it was first announced. Unfortunately, the technology is still not fully perfected. We’ve also seen safe technology hardened to electromagnetic pulse. However, the best technology we’ve found is old technology. Heavier steel, longer fire ratings, number of bolts, and overall quality construction are the most important aspects in safe shopping. We’re an old, family-owned store, and we’ve seen trends come and go. As experts in the field, we like to let our customers know what’s really important in a safe, and most times it’s not new technology.

McCunn: Biometric tech is still relatively new, but seems to be gaining popularity. The tech has improved over the years and guests do like the easy and fast entry into the safe. New designs to maximize firearm capacity is also key. Rifle rods are an easy way to gain room for a few more long guns.

Hall: The Rhino SAFEX system really has our attention as it seems to address a weak point on many safes. We’re definitely keeping our eye on it. One trend we see is some companies are switching to a thinner steel to stay at a price point. While keeping the price of entry attainable to consumers is very important, I really like Champion/Superior’s motto “built up to a standard, not down to a price.” Some companies are trying to use security grades to not publicly mention they’re thinning steel, but everyone we carry clearly lists their steel thickness. Vaultek’s DS2i has been wildly popular since release a few months ago. The product is dual feature.

SI: What advice would you offer dealers who are considering stocking gun safes or expand their current offering?

Hyatt: Safes take up a lot of space. They’re heavy. They’re expensive. They’re hard to move. They require a lot of expertise to sell effectively, so it makes them difficult to stock. We took the risk many years ago to build a warehouse and a showroom strictly to house safes. We stock more in-stock safes than any other retailer in our area. We offer bonded delivery utilizing former sheriff deputies, who are very skilled in delivery, moving and securing safes, even upstairs and in difficult and tight locations. We went all in at the beginning and it has paid off for us. It’s really the only good way to get into the business. 

McCunn: For new dealers, offering delivery and install is key. Also, offer incentives. Match manufacturer promos or offer your own. A good marketing plan can create sales you didn’t know where there.

Hall: The two things I would recommend: having an in-house delivery crew also able to double as safe salesman, and have a good offering from a good, better, best perspective. 

(Online-Only) SI: How frequently do customers buy a second or third gun safe after purchasing the first one?

McCunn: Surprisingly, often! We’ve had many repeat guests buy two or even three safes over the past few years. One safe may be for firearms where another is for personal items. A safe can fill up rather quickly, especially with those items guests cherish.

Hyatt: A second safe is usually the most purchased safe. A certain percentage of first-time gun buyers get bit by the “gun bug” and become gun enthusiasts. After purchasing their third or fourth gun, they realize they need something to secure those guns.

Hall: Honestly, it’s really common. It’s always kind of funny when we see someone a few months after we just delivered their safe. It sounds like such a salesman thing to say, but when shopping for a safe buy as big as the space can fit or as large as you ever see your collection growing.

(Online-Only) SI: How well are gun safes selling this year? How do sales compare to last year?

Hall: It can be a little challenging to tell, but as of right now, we’re up in sales over where we were last year at this time. We find sales tend to be a bit cyclical. First quarter is usually pretty good along with fourth quarter. At least in Oklahoma, the heat seems to slow down our summer sales.

Hyatt: With the pandemic surge in gun sales came a similar growth in safe sales. In particular, our top sellers include small handgun safes that are easy to conceal under car seats. We continue to push new gun owners to secure their firearms to help stem the supply of illegal guns stolen from legal gun owners.

McCunn: First quarter 2023, we’re down about five percent from 2022, but March was a very strong month. We anticipate the second quarter being busy with a good selection of inventory in stock.

(Online-Only) SI: What do you think the next year will bring for gun safe sales?

McCunn: I look forward to the remaining months of 2023! Availability from manufacturers has increased and lead times on special orders have come down drastically. Shipping has also improved from the last couple years, which has helped with pricing as well.

Hyatt: We expect to see a slight leveling of the growth, but a lagging economy, crime, and still robust gun sales will continue to drive sales.

Hall: We’re hoping to see a jump in just regular safe sales. With the climate the way it is, guests are getting scared of banks closing down, and civil unrest. We’re headed into interesting times, which normally means big sales in the safe industry.

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