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Build a Gun Room

Guns in cabinets are not really very satisfying. You get the inevitable rubbing of hammer against stock, or barrel against barrel. You have to empty ten guns out of the cabinet to find the one you need – and then try and fit them all back in again. No; ‘safes suck’, as my American friends would say, if they had to use the stupid things. There must be a more satisfactory alternative.

There is. However, few people exercise the option because they think they lack the space or because the police make it as hard as they can to persuade us not to. The answer to the prayers of the serious gun collector is a dedicated gun room. Once upon a time every important house had one. Mine needs one, so I thought I would share with readers the process involved, as I negotiate the minefield of regulations.

Having moved from London to the rural wilderness, from whence I came, I find I now have a very big house with more rooms than I need and  no real excuse not to treat my guns to the kind of environment once reserved for my ex-girlfriend’s Manolos and Laboutans. Yes indeed, instead of a walk-in wardrobe (which I did consider) I’m going for the walk-in gun vault.

I read the Home Office guidelines to police forces carefully. They allow for a gun room instead of a cabinet or safe. They specify door types, window bars, alarms, hinges and wall and ceiling reinforcement. I decided to interpret the pages of information thus:

The room I will use is on the first floor and is rectangular, with stone walls covered with lath and plaster. Floor and ceiling are made of wooden boards, lath and plaster and not accessible from any other property.

I already have a monitored alarm, which helps. As a first step, I had to ensure the walls were sufficiently resistant to attack. I instructed my builder to clad them with marine ply and to attach to this a layer of expanding steel mesh. This stops angle grinders from cutting through and resists sledge hammer blows too. On the inner surface, I considered applying plaster board and a skim of plaster but opted instead for tongue and groove, untreated oak floor boards; a full inch thick. This provides a sandwich of lath and plaster, stone, marine ply, steel mesh and oak boards. Each wall is a minimum of two feet thick now. That should do! The floor and ceiling got the same treatment.

However, any room is only as safe as its weakest access points. My room has a door and a window. The window looks out over the high street and is secondary glazed behind the Georgian sash. I decided simply to add custom-made bars of blacked iron, hand made by a blacksmith friend, carefully lined-up to mirror the wooden structure of the original sash window and therefore invisible from outside. This was important as my new place is Grade 2 listed and there are restrictions as to what I can do to alter the appearance.

The wooden door was replaced with a steel frame, disguised with a wood surround and a steel door, without any kind of handle; just a key hole. Locks fitted are to the required British Standard, which is the same as required for your gun safe.

Once the perimeters had been secured, I could begin to consider the internal layout. A gun room needs a solid table with natural light for inspection, cleaning etc. It also needs racks, which I designed and built in oak, to match the walls. The finish is a dark stain and natural oil, rather than a varnish. An extractor fan will enable me to remove stale air and cigar smoke from time to time.

The final result will be a comfortable walk-in gun room, lined with guns properly stored in individual spaces, immediately visible and isolated from any others. Cleaning, measuring and maintenance equipment is on hand, along with essential reference material. The addition of a nice leather chair, a humidor with a few cigars and a framed photo or two and we have a very male, and rather civilised, way to store and access a decent collection of firearms.

Much better than multiple safes.

Perhaps when next considering a re-decoration of the house, readers may consider how useful that spare bedroom actually is. Maybe the possibility of putting future guests on a sofa bed in the sitting room and elevating your guns to the position they deserve, in a room of their own, will be a debate with the wife worth having. Pour yourself a stiff drink and go for it!

For a comprehensive description of the Home Office regulations regarding the security of firearms, including the building specifications of a gun room, see:

http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/publications/police/operational-policing/firearms-handbook-2005/firearms-security-handbook?view=Binary