A modern guide to guns and hunting

Building a Pistol Rack Into Your Safe

Making a great product just a little better.

Many of you are already familiar with the beautiful gun racks that John Austin makes. (For those not familiar, you can acquaint yourself with them at Gun Racks Online. As nice as they are, however, people like me who live in heavily-regulated states simply aren’t permitted to keep them out in the open. (Plus, to do so is to invite theft.) The obvious solution is to put them into the gun safe, but unless your gun safe has lots of empty space (hah!), doing so can really make them more difficult to use.

In order to make the racks more convenient, I hit upon the idea of mounting them on low-profile drawer sliders. This article briefly outlines the steps in doing so.

These slides should be available at any major hardware store; I got mine at Home Despot for about $12 for the pair. The part that mounts to the shelf is separated from the part that mounts to the drawer (or in this case, the rack), and each part is screwed in. Here’s a picture of the shelf mount; sorry about the poor image quality. This picture is of the back of the shelf and slides.

It’s pretty important to keep these as parallel as possible when installing them. Fortunately, a 2×4 is the PERFECT width for this. I just know that John foresaw this when he designed his racks!

Another note when positioning the slides: The frontmost inch or so of the rack is very slightly recessed from the bottom. With the slides I used, this meant that part of the slide doesn’t contact part of the rack’s bottom. It’s not a big deal, but just be sure to position the slide with care, so there’s not too much overhang.

Once the shelf slides are in place, re-insert the rack slides and place the rack on the slides where you want it to sit. I opted for about 1/4″ from the edge of the shelf. The next step can be kind of tricky, and the details will depend on the brand of slides you use. Moving the rack back and forth, and using a ruler, you should be able to determine where your first screw hole should go in the bottom of the rack. Note the distance from the edges of the rack, turn the rack over and measure out your first screw hole. Remember to keep your front/back and left/right orientation correct, or you’ll do this twice (like I did).

Drill just ONE hole, and mount the slide to the rack. Carefully connect the two slide pieces and close to verify the rack sits where you want it to. If not, do it again. Remove the rack, loosen the screw and properly position the slide to be parallel with the rack. Use the screw holes to mark the spots for your additional pilot holes. Remove the slide and drill the additional holes, then finish mounting the slide.

A tip for easier drilling: the felt that John uses in these racks can get twisted up in the drill bit and pull off the wood. To prevent this, I used a grommet hole cutter to remove the felt from the areas where my pilot holes went.

Once you have the first slide in, it’s a fairly simple matter to mark the holes for the second slide. Put the rack slides back into the shelf slides and measure the distance between the holes. Use a T-square or similar tool to transfer the hole locations for the second slide. Drill and mount as above.

If you’ve done everything right, the rack should slide into the shelf mounts without incident. If the rack refuses to slide in, or is really stiff, you may need to adjust the slides a bit. Loosen the screws just enough to allow the slides to move a bit under pressure, and try to re-install. If this fixes is, gently remove the rack and tighten the screws in place. If this doesn’t fix it, you may need to re-mount one or more of the slides.

If the shelves in your safe install like mine do, they just sit on top of the mounting clips. This means that when you pull out the rack, there’s nothing to prevent the shelf from tipping forward from all the weight hanging over the front. I solved this with a couple of small angle brackets (you can see them at the back of the shelf).

Once the shelf is secure to your satisfaction, you can go ahead and slide the rack into the shelf slides. Double check that it seats OK and all that good stuff.

And, be gentle the first time you close the safe door after installing the rack, just in case something doesn’t clear. You don’t want to crunch your nice new rack.

And here’s the finished product: 6 revolvers stored in under 16″ of depth, and all available to you by pulling out the rack. $12 worth of parts, and an hour’s effort, makes these racks much more usable. Cool, huh?

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  • Tim Shaffer

    Guess what I’m doing as soon as mine arrives. Very ingenius. Looks very well thought out and executed. Thanks for the sharing this with all of us. I am sure I won’t be the only “duplicator”. Copy-cat sounded too kiddish…..

  • JohnAustin

    Very cleaver idea, I never had thought of that.


  • ShaunL= L.

    That is a great idea!

  • David D.

    One minor suggestion. Extend the edges (front and back) so that largest pistol’s trigger guard is blocked. Then drill to holes and elongate to create a vertical slot. Run a rod or cable through the holes, trigger guards and then lock in place, or lock to the cabinet, vehicle, or whatever immovable object the rack is in or near.

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