M1911.ORG Looks at Handgun Storage (and Stowage)

Now I’ve got it, where do I put it?

by Harwood Loomis for M1911.org

If you are reading this article, you probably own at least one handgun, and very likely at least one 1911 handgun. If you are like most of our members, you may even own more than one handgun, and more than one 1911. If you are fortunate enough to own multiple handguns, eventually you’ll be faced with the question of how to store them. A somewhat related question is how to transport them.

“In a gun safe, Dummy,” is a logical response for storage, but not what I had in mind. Few people would dispute that firearms should be stored securely, both to prevent theft and to prevent accidents due to unauthorized people (especially, but not limited to, children) gaining access to a loaded firearm and deciding to see what happens when they pull that trigger thingie. Let’s assume that you own several handguns, and you own a gun safe. The question is: How do you store the guns inside the safe? If you’re like me, you probably don’t want to just throw them in there in a random pile, like this:

Most handguns these days, if bought new, come in some sort of plastic case. Most have provision for attaching a small padlock to secure the case against unauthorized access. One option is to store each gun in the case provided by the manufacturer. However, this practical-sounding approach offers some drawbacks. First, often the manufacturer’s case is larger than necessary and takes up a lot more space than just the firearm alone requires. Some OEM cases have other drawbacks, as well, which we'll discuss below.

Many gun owners put aside the manufacturers’ cases the day they bring a new gun home from the store, and never look at them again. Some owners may discard the manufacturers’ cases, which would help explain why many used handguns don’t include any sort of box, case, or other protective enclosure.

We want to store the handguns in the safe, but we don’t want to just toss them in there loose, and let them pile up like a bunch of expensive pick-up sticks. We want them to be neat, organized, and protected. What can we do?

The Unboxing

One solution, favored by at least one of our M1911.org moderators, is in-safe storage racks. These keep the guns organized and visible, and offer the advantage of allowing air to circulate (as much as air circulates inside a closed safe) freely around the guns. There are rack solutions that sit on shelves within the safe, and there are racks (or, perhaps more accurately, rods) that attach to the door. If your safe is deep enough and the shelves themselves are deep enough to accommodate racks, these can be a simple and utilitarian solution. Aside from the air circulation going a long way toward preventing (or at least minimizing) rust and corrosion, the rack solution allows you to see the guns as soon as you open the door. No need to squint into the recesses and read labels to see where the gun you’re looking for is hiding today.

Rack storage devices are available from a number of sources. The basic type sits on a shelf in the gun safe or cabinet and cradles the guns in a plastic-coated wire loop. This type of handgun storage rack is available in capacities ranging from one to ten guns.

The bare racks typically look like this:

SnapSafe brand 4-gun rack

Versatile brand 4-gun rack

The on-shelf type of cradle racks are available in capacities ranging from one to ten handguns.



https://www.snapsafe.com/accessories/pistol-racks (A Hornady company)

A less expensive (and less substantial) type of on-shelf gun storage organizer is the WeaponRAC, from Benchmaster USA, which is owned by Altus Brands, LLC. The photos of these storage organizers make them look quite substantial, but they seem to be made of an unspecified type of plastic, and multiple reviewers of the product on Amazon’s web site complain that they are flimsy. These appear to be best suited for full-size handguns, and don’t offer much flexibility for properly accommodating smaller and pocket pistols. They are available in sizes from a single handgun up to twenty-four gun capacity.



A second type of on-shelf storage device is a simple, plastic-coated bent rod, one end of which is inserted into the muzzle of the firearm and the other end of which is bent to provide a stand that holds the handgun on the shelf with the muzzle tipped down at an angle of roughly 30 degrees. The ones we have seen come in two different styles, both from the Versatile Rack Company.

Versatile’s Rectangular Pistol Peg

Zig Zag Pistol Peg

Another type of handgun storage rack uses the inside of the door as extra storage space. This type makes access quick and easy, and there’s no need for special lighting to see deep into the recesses of a large gun safe. There are door-mounted racks that hang off a pegboard door liner, and there are vertical basket arrays that are mounted to the top of the door itself.

Versatile Pegboard Hanger

SnapSafe Door Hanger Racks

Lastly, there’s yet another type of rod hanger, this type configured to clip over a shelf with the rod for muzzle insertion located below the shelf. For safes that have a lot of height between shelves, this type of hanger allows for two-tiered storage.

Versatile under-shelf rod hanger

Rod hangers: https://www.versatilegunrack.com/col...hangers-4-pack


Not everyone, however, wants to store his or her handguns open on shelves in the gun safe, whether the guns are organized in racks or on hangers, or not. Some of us want a bit more protection against dings and scratches, and that means some kind of protective enclosure for each handgun. Most (but not all) handgun manufacturers today ship new guns in some sort of case. These are generally made of plastic, they are hinged, and they usually offer some provision for adding a padlock for security. Many of the cases used by manufacturers are, in fact, the very same gun cases available on the aftermarket, and which we will discuss in more detail below. For long-term storage, however, the manufacturers’ cases aren’t ideal, for a couple of reasons. Fist, many of them provide cushioning for the gun by using “eggcrate” foam padding. That’s good for transportation and shipping, but in long term storage the foam attracts and holds moisture, resulting in rusting, corrosion, and finish deterioration. They are also somewhat on the large side for compact storage of multiple guns in a safe.

Other manufacturers use blow-molded plastic cases that utilize formed recesses on the interior to securely hold the gun, magazine(s), and accessories. These don’t suffer the issue of retaining moisture in contact with the gun, but … they’re BIG. A 1911, for example, is thickest at the grips. With standard grips, a typical 1911 is a little less than 1½ inches in thickness/depth. The blow-molded cases that ParaUSA shipped their pistols in before Remington discontinued the ParaUSA brand name represent a good example of this type of gun case. The inside looks good, but … when closed the case measures four inches in depth, to hold a pistol that measures less than an inch and a half.

A standard ParaUSA case with pistol and accessories

A ParaUSA gun case with no contents, illustrating the molded recesses

End view of the ParaUSA gun case, illustrating the overall thickness of the case

The manufacturer’s standard case has its purposes, and we feel this relates more to transporting than to storage. We’ll discuss that a bit later. For now, let’s continue the discussion about storage. There are “cases,” and there are “boxes.” To me, the word “box” brings to mind cardboard. Some gun makers, in fact, still ship new pistols in cardboard boxes. Even so, I prefer something that creates a bit of organization, and organization to me includes uniformity. My storage cabinets (for structural reasons, I don’t feel comfortable entrusting the weight of a true “safe” on the floors of my older house) aren’t laid out to be able to use the rack solutions discussed above. For awhile I kept new guns in the manufacturer’s cases, but those aren’t all the same size, the cases from different manufacturers don’t fit together well, and they use up a lot of volume. I needed something else, something neat, orderly, reasonably durable, and consistent. I found my solution in the pages of Shotgun News (which has now renamed itself Firearms News).

Robert’s Arms Specialties, in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia, offers a complete line of high-quality, chip board gun storage boxes. They offer sizes to fit pretty much anything from a small, pocket semi-automatic pistol to a cavalry model 1873 revolver with the full 7½-inch barrel. They sell them under the name Protecta-Gun™. I have been buying and using them for years.

The box I use the most of (by far) is their “Large Automatic” size. This box appears to have been created specifically for the M1911 pistol. A full-size M1911 is a perfect fit. It also looks familiar, so for comparison I was able to photograph one of Robert’s Arms Specialties’ Large Automatic boxes next to a Colt Model O1911 WW1 reproduction. There is a tiny discrepancy in size, but you have to look for it to see it.

Colt Model O1911, in factory packaging, top; Robert’s Large Automatic box on bottom

Colt Model O1911, in factory packaging, top; Robert’s Large Automatic box on bottom. In the upper box, there is a Colt Model O1911 M1911 reproduction in the factory waxed paper gun wrap.

The same Large Automatic box works well for Commanders and Officers ACP pistols, although the smaller pistols can move around a bit inside the box. Going beyond 1911s, Robert’s Arms Specialties offers a full line of these boxes in assorted sizes, to fit virtually any size of semi-automatic pistol or revolver.

Some of the box sizes offered by Robert’s Arms Specialties

Robert’s Arms Specialties’ full line of storage boxes

Robert’s Arms Specialties sells labels for their boxes that are perfectly serviceable. I prefer to use fully printed labels, so I worked up a template for Avery self-adhesive labels that I can batch print in a laser printer. For protection of the guns in the boxes, Robert’s offers two types of gun wrap. One is a heavy, double-waxed paper that appears to be identical to what Colt used for the WW1 reproduction pistols. The other is what they call “Gun Wrapper,” which is a heavy brown (Kraft?) paper with a plastic coating on one side. Both types of wrap are reported to be resistant to oil, so storing a pistol with a protective wipe of oil on the outside won’t bleed through and ruin the box.

I like the boxes, but for storage I’m looking for something to provide at least a bit of corrosion protection. Brownells offers two products for this purpose, and I use both. First up is a vapor-emitting wrapping paper. The chemical vapor neutralizes corrosive moisture vapor in the air and helps protect against rust in storage. It’s sold in 12” x 12” sheets for handguns. Rather than using an entire sheet to wrap each pistol, I cut the sheet into quarters. I bend a quarter sheet over the slide and place the pistol with the vapor paper into a zip-lock food storage bag. Brownells says the vapor emitting paper is effective for 10 to 15 years. (Caspian Arms uses a similar product—the full sheet—to wrap slides and receivers for shipping.)

Brownells vapor-emitting gun wrap paper for handguns

Brownells also sells a product they call Rust-Blox Vapor Tabs. These are small tabs of what feels like plastic, impregnated with a rust-resisting chemical that is given off as a vapor. As a “belt and suspenders” measure, I typically drop two of these tabs into the food storage bag along with wrapping the gun in the vapor-emitting paper for a double whammy. Brownells says the tabs last for a year, so for these it’s better to buy in smaller quantities and replenish annually.

Brownells Rust-Blox tabs


While manufacturers’ gun cases generally don’t make for efficient use of the space in a gun safe for long term storage, they do have a role, so don’t throw them out. The laws of some states require that firearms must be secured in a locked case when being transported. This becomes especially important when traveling from one state to another. The federal Firearms Owners Protection Act (FOPA) is a federal law that was enacted to alleviate the problem of law-abiding gun owners being arrested for violating the laws of some state when traveling from one state to another. Unfortunately, as written it is less than clear as to how (or even if) it applies to travel by bus, train, or aircraft but, even with that lack of clarity, other federal and airline regulations get us to the same place: when traveling interstate, for best protection against legal problems it’s best to carry any firearms (other than the one on your hip, if you are in a state in which it is legal for you to carry) in a locked case. The trunk of a sedan satisfies this requirement if you’re driving, but pickup trucks, vans, station wagons and SUVs don’t have separate trunks. To be legal in such vehicles under the provisions of the FOPA, all firearms must be in locked containers. The same holds true when flying with a firearm.

Most manufacturers’ gun cases and most aftermarket gun cases conveniently provide holes through which you can insert a small padlock, thereby putting your transport into compliance with federal laws and regulations. There are several makers of affordable gun cases, and many of these same brands are also used as the OEM gun cases by gun manufacturers. At what we’ll call the “affordable level” we’ll discuss three brands, but there are more. The three we’re familiar with offer a good cross section of what the industry has to offer.

The type of gun cases we’re looking at consist of an impact resistant outer shell and two (sometimes more) interlocking layers of “eggcrate” foam padding to cushion the gun(s) from shock and damage. Most of the manufacturers offer a variety of sizes, to fit anything from a single pocket pistol up to multiple, large revolvers and/or semi-automatic pistols. The brands we’ll mention specifically are Berry’s Manufacturing (a company better known for their extensive line of plated bullets for reloading), MTM Case-Gard, and Plano Molding Company. (Note: All three of these companies also offer ammunition boxes and other accessories. We’re only looking at their gun cases.) There are, of course, other companies offering rigid gun cases. We discuss these three as examples, not to imply in any way that they are significantly better than competing brands.

While a closed, clamshell type case with foam padding inside is not good for long-term storage because it can trap moisture against the metal surfaces of the firearm, this type of case is useful for short-term storage, and is appropriate for travel with a handgun. Within your own home state, especially if you have a carry license or permit, secure storage between your home and the range may only need to provide minimal padding for protection of the firearm. However, for traveling from one state to another and when flying with handguns, laws of the several states and the federal Firearms Owners Protective Act (FOPA) probably require that all firearms be in a locked, hard-sided container. Since these cases virtually all include provision for securing with one (sometimes two) small padlocks that can be found in the hardware department at any Walmart store, they are a good choice for travel.

Gun owners who intend to travel interstate, especially through states that don’t recognize their home state license or permit, should become familiar with the requirements established by the FOPA in order to be able to travel through “hostile injun territory” with firearms. Rather than try to interpret it for you and run the risk of not explaining something adequately. We’ll simply repeat the full text of the law. It’s not long.

18 U.S. Code § 926A - Interstate transportation of firearms

Notwithstanding any other provision of any law or any rule or regulation of a State or any political subdivision thereof, any person who is not otherwise prohibited by this chapter from transporting, shipping, or receiving a firearm shall be entitled to transport a firearm for any lawful purpose from any place where he may lawfully possess and carry such firearm to any other place where he may lawfully possess and carry such firearm if, during such transportation the firearm is unloaded, and neither the firearm nor any ammunition being transported is readily accessible or is directly accessible from the passenger compartment of such transporting vehicle: Provided, That in the case of a vehicle without a compartment separate from the driver’s compartment the firearm or ammunition shall be contained in a locked container other than the glove compartment or console.

There are too many manufacturers of plastic gun cases on the market for us to name all of them or to look at all the options available in the marketplace. Just to convey a sense of what's available, we'll take a quick look at some reresentative offerings from a few of the better-known manufacturers.

Berry's Manufacturing is perhaps best known as a source for hard-cast and plated bullets for reloaders, but they also sell other products and accessories for shooters. Among those are a couple of affordable hard-sided, foam-lined gun cases. One is sized for a single handgun, the other is sized for two handguns. Both have positive latching, and both are equipped with holes for attaching padlocks.

One of the better-known manufacturers of hard-sided gun cases is MTM Case-Gard. They offer a variety of styles and sizes of handgun cases, and MTM cases are used as the OEM cases by a number of firearms manufacturers. MTM offers a variety of sizes in two different series. The entry-level series include the 803, 806, and 808 cases. These are similar in construction, and sized (respectively) for small, medium, and large handguns. This series are very economical, but are only suitable for occasional use. The reason is the hinge. Rather than having a separate top half and bottom half connected by a hinge with a steel rod or wire through it, these cases use what are sometimes referred to as "live" hinges. In fact, it isn't a hinge at all. The top and bottom are molded in one piece and just folded over. Plastic, like most materials, is subject to repetitive motion fatigue. After too many cycles of opening and closing, these so-called "hinges" eventually crack and break. The latches are of similar construction; they are molded integral to the top half of the case, and snap closed by tension. There is no hinge at the latches.

MTM 805 (left), 803 (center), and 806 (right)

MTM 803 showing "live" hinge construction

[i]MTM 803 (top) and 805 (bottom), showing difference in latch construction

Most handgun manufacturers who use cases from MTM Case-Gard choose cases from the more robust 805 / 807 series. These are both sized for a single handgun, and differ only in size. This same series also includes the 809, sized for two handguns, and the 811, which holds four handguns. Cases in this series have true hinges, and the latches are also true hinges rotating on steel wire axles. As with the 803 /806 series, the interior is lined with eggcrate foam to cushion the pistol and any accessories carried with the firearm.

Plano Molding Company is perhaps best known for manufacturing fishing equipment and accessories, but they also offer a fairly extensive line of handgun cases. The Plano cases are all of similar constriction, featuring rigid tops and bottoms (except for a soft-sided model) connected by true hinges. Like the Berry's and MTM cases, the interiors utilize eggcrate foam for cushioning. In the hard cases, Plano offers sizes for a single handgun, two handguns, four handguns, and a double-level case for toting lots of guns and/or gear.

At the upper end of the price spectrum are a different class of firearms cases. There are multiple manufacturers at the upper end of the price range, just as at the lower and mid-range levels. At the upper end, one of the best-known names is Pelican. Pelican cases are used by the United States military for firearms transportation. They offer a wide variety of sizes and internal configurations. There are far too many to cover in an overview article. If you want to get the same thing Uncle Sam uses, go to Pelican's web site and check out their offerings. Some representative models include the following:

There are far too many products and options available in the marketplace today for any single article to cover everything. We hope that this brief overview will help our readers to get a sense of the breadth of choices available to them, and spur them to do additional research if none of the products we've looked at seems to be exactly what they're looking for. If any of our readers knows of another product that other people should know about, please feel free to mention it in the discussion thread for this article here

You may discuss this article in our Forums site, in this thread.

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