Gun storage is not a one-size-fits-all topic. We constantly hear the rhetoric around what’s called “safe storage,” which the narrative needs to change to “responsible storage.” Regardless of what side of the debate an individual is on, there are plenty of firearm storage solutions out there and I stumbled upon a product a few months ago that’s worthy of discussion. Steelhead Outdoors, a manufacturer of safes, modular safes, lock boxes, safe doors, and accessories, rolled out a line of lock boxes. In August I got my hands on one of their Large Heavy Duty Pistol Boxes, and it’s a hulky item, no doubt.
The Large HD Pistol Box is a steel-constructed box that weighs about 11 pounds. The manufacturer touts that the units are made of 12-gauge steel, and they are designed to conceal what I’d consider vulnerable areas of the box as a theft deterrent.
The hinge system is nearly integral to the box metal, and rather than being a feature of the unit, it is welded in to be part of it. The hinges are constructed from the same gauge metal that the box is and the hinge pin is concealed. There’s hardly any foolproof design when it comes to hinges, but this appears to be about as secure as they may come, especially for a pistol lock box. The hinge allows for the lid of the box to open 180 degrees. The system is so stout, I’d almost expect it to be outfitted with a grease zerk for lubrication – I jest.
The locking mechanism uses a proprietary key/lock system – with two keys included – and the keys appear to be difficult to duplicate. The cuts and biting on the keys are on both sides of the blade and there’s a raised section to mate with the lock’s warding on one side of the key blade, as well as the opposite side having a recess. These raised and recessed areas allow the key to be accepted into the warding of the lock only one way. Once open, the key cannot be removed while it’s in the unlocked position- a good reminder to users to re-lock the box after opening.
The box is designed with an anti-pry design. Within the bottom side of the box is a steel flange that mates up with the lid when closed. The flange is also 12-gauge steel and is welded to the box bottom with several, about one-inch long, stitch welds. For the intended purpose of the flange, the stitch welds seem more than satisfactory to ward off any attempts to disrupt it, especially since the flange appears to be made of one piece of steel bent and rounded at the two corners. These features would make it incredibly difficult – if not impossible – to penetrate the box in short order with everyday tools.
This storage solution is keyed, so in my opinion, not the best option for use when quick access is wanted. Steelhead does have a solution for those who are seeking quick access. In October they released a box that is configured with a Simplex mechanical push button locking mechanism. The Large HD Pistol Box is a keyed lock and as such, I utilized it only for firearms I was not worried about getting to in a hurry.
Mounting and security are always a concern with gun storage options. The Large HD Pistol Box is fashioned with four holes drilled in the bottom, beneath the foam, to allow for easy mounting to sturdy surfaces. If this box is being used more on the go, an optional nylon-coated galvanized steel cable can be used for securing the unit – purchased separately.
The cable is thick with a thimble swedged on one side and a small metal barrel swedged on the other. The swedged end can be wrapped around whatever you want to use to secure the box, have it threaded through the thimble, and then the barrel can be placed inside the box, with the cable running through a small opening in the box. When the box is locked shut, the cable won’t budge. This is a great option if you’re looking to secure the box in a car by tethering it to seat hardware, or anywhere else you’re using the box on the go/in a temporary location.
To protect the heavy metal steel of the Large HD Pistol Box, there’s a very aggressive coating on the exterior. This is not a flimsy paint that you might find on cheap lock boxes, but rather a rugged powder coating.
Dimensions of the Large HD are noted to be 8 & ½” x 11” x 3”. The interior is roomy enough to put two large framed pistols inside it. I was able to easily nestle a Glock 17 and Beretta 92FS inside the box – nose-to-toes configuration – between the flat bottom foam and upper egg crate padding.
I used my Large HD Pistol Box for several months to house my EDC when not being carried – and will continue to do so. I was easily able to put my sub-compact EDC inside the box while it was still in its Kydex holster, as well as my extra magazine in a magazine carrier, with space to spare.
Obviously what you can fit in the box depends on the size of what you’re carrying and want to keep secure. For me, my items would actually handily fit in the Small HD Lockbox, also sold by Steelhead Outdoors, but the large one could probably accommodate most people’s full pocket dumps if they wanted to secure all their stuff.
The Large HD Pistol Box fits in many different standard drawer sizes and would also make itself at home mounted in a closet or other location. For car secure storage or use on the go, again, it can be tethered to hardware if you purchase the cable. In the case of vehicle use, it can be permanently mounted if there’s room/allowances for such a configuration in the vehicle. According to the product page, the box is “TSA compliant.”
If we’re going to talk about lock boxes, we have to have an honest conversation about storage. If you’re looking to just meet statutory guidelines for firearm storage and that’s the entire reason for getting a lock box, then a flimsy budget model box might be for you. But if you’re serious about security and keeping the unauthorized from gaining access and or having a firearm subject to theft, the Steelhead Outdoors HD line of boxes offers a real solution. In comparison to other lock boxes, this has to be the most stout box I’ve had a chance to manipulate.
Pluses: Super secure design. Heavy gauge steel. Proprietary key/lock combination. Anti-pry design. Heavy-duty hinges. Durable powder coat finish. TSA compliant – according to the product page. Ability to tether with an optional cable or mount to study surfaces. Free shipping for the “lower 48.” Made in America.
Minuses: Heavy in weight. Limited 2 year warranty. Keys are slow to use and can be lost. No fire protection.
Overall, the Large HD Pistol Box is a great firearm storage solution. The online and suggested MSRP of $190.00 is more than many would pay for a box that stores only two large framed handguns, however, you’re getting a lot for what you’re paying for. There are not many comparable products that I’ve seen on the market and this box is for people who are serious about security.
Would I buy one of these? Yes. If I were in the market for a box like this, I’d say this is a good option. As with any storage solution, each buyer needs to weigh their individual needs and what compromises they’re willing to make. For an all-around secure lock box, this unit is up there on observed quality. Would I suggest a friend or student buy one of these? Yes. If a friend or student was in the market for a storage solution that this box would fulfill, I’d recommend buying it.
Author’s Note: This review is intended to inform readers of my opinion of the box being described under everyday use. I did NOT do any destructive or “torture” tests of the unit. If requested and supplied with several samples, I’ll gladly try to break into the box via different methods. I cannot certify that the box cannot be broken into, and or what degree of force/implementation of tools would be needed to breach the unit.
Some information about the Steelhead Outdoors Large HD Pistol Box from their product page:
Our American Made, Large Heavy Duty Pistol Boxes are designed with industry leading security features
- Weighs in at just over 11 lbs
- 8.5 inches wide x 11 inches deep x 3 inches tall
- Four mounting holes on the base to facilitate anchoring
- Laser cut, formed and TIG welded from 12 ga steel throughout – more than twice as thick as most key lock boxes
- Massive 1/4 inch hinges that are staked, welded and feature an integrated pin guard to prevent punch attacks – more than twice as thick as most hinges
- High end key lock with a lock pick proof multi-sidebar design, 6 billion key combinations, and a hardened drill resistant body with additional hard pins behind the face – a major upgrade from a tubular or wafer lock
- Double shear lock mechanism to provide increased pry support
- 270 degree, welded reinforcement hoop
- Durable black textured powdercoat finish with a charcoal grey handle
- Two layers of 3/8” foam in bottom to protect contents and provide adjustment
- Thick convoluted foam in lid to keep contents in place
- Optional 6,000 lb rated, 1/4 inch 7×19 galvanized cable that is nylon coated to 5/16 inch
- Includes 2 keys
- TSA Compliant