It’s that dreaded bump in the night you hoped would never come.

Two o’clock in the morning. The front door caves in. Stomping feet in the hallway. And hushed voices rummaging in the living room.

But you were ready for it. You’ve trained for this. You bought your handgun, extra mags and self-defense ammunition.

And most important, you’ve stored your home defense firearm in place that won’t get in the way of keeping bad guys out of your home.

There’s no question that handgun sales are hot these days. 2013 might have been the year of the AR, but today’s firearms manufacturers report that pistols — particularly those designed for personal and home defense — are flying off the shelves. Just look at some of the top gun makers and what they premiered at this year’s industry shows. There’s a lot of compact coolness out there.

At the same time, with many new shooters entering the market and steady pressure on firearms ownership nationwide, the emphasis on safe handling and storage of guns and ammunition is more important than ever. And most industry insiders say safe storage should be a key element of any retail sales portfolio for rifles as well as handguns.

Of course, most retailers and their clients know that traditional gun safes are probably the most reliable way to keep weapons and ammunition away from prying hands and eyes. But as more people are buying more guns for personal defense — particularly handguns — not everyone wants a big steel box crowding out prime real estate in the bedroom closet.

So industry has responded with a new category of personal defense gun safes that are unobtrusive and not only fit into small spaces, but integrate seamlessly into a customer’s lifestyle in the home. These safes are designed to hold a handgun, spare ammo and maybe a light close to the bed or tucked into a drawer or shelf.

Not only are they good looking and fit into home décor without screaming “gun safe!” this new class of storage option includes high-tech locking mechanisms that allow the owner to access the contents quickly and without fumbling with keys, codes and combinations when time really counts.

The GunBox

One of the newest and most interesting products in this category is The GunBox. It’s simple name belies the complex engineering that makes this pistol safe so remarkable. Made of brushed aircraft-grade aluminum, The GunBox strikes a sleek, clamshell profile with lines that seem to blend into each other. The tolerances on the construction are so tight, there’s almost no seam visible between the top and bottom of the safe.

The GunBox’s modern aesthetics are perhaps its first line of defense from tampering and theft. It looks more like a stainless steel appliance than a handgun storage device — and even if a curious looker did scope it out, The GunBox exudes a strength that would take a block of C4 to break.

“During the development of The GunBox, I felt that if I made it super nice looking, even those not thinking of safety would find the design appealing,” says GunBox founder Ryan Hyde. “Whenever I search for gun safes, all I find are unattractive, bulky containers. I believe The GunBox will keep your firearm safe from little hands and will fit the decor of any home.”

But the beauty of The GunBox isn’t only skin deep. Crack the hood and the design incorporates smooth hydraulic arms that lift the lid automatically when the safe is accessed. This keeps hands free for quick deployment of the stored firearm when seconds count. While the dimensions are kept to a minimum, Shooting Sports Retailer testers had no problem fitting a full sized semi-auto handgun with a spare mag and tactical flashlight into the compartment.

The GunBox uses three levels of security to access the contents, including a radio frequency identification strip, fingerprint reader and key. Many customers might be leery of using so-called “biometric” keys on a gun safe — essentially the same kind of fingerprint reader used on today’s laptop computers — and GunBox engineers admit that though the technology has matured to be highly reliable, the additional RFID locking mechanism adds another option if the fingerprint reader fails.

“Biometrics don’t always work optimally under times of stress, but the best option is to leverage a biometric fingerprint reader with RFID,” Hyde says. “With RFID there is no worry about fingerprints that are too dry or sweaty hands due to stress, which are both issues that can occasionally be associated with biometrics.”

The GunBox comes with a bracelet that incorporates the RFID chip matched to the safe, as well as a sticker that can be applied to the back of a cellphone, for example, that an owner can simply wave over the safe to get it open.

Another cool feature is that The GunBox plugs into a wall outlet and includes a USB jack to recharge cellphones and other compatible electronics, making it a great addition to the bedside table or office desk. Some models of The GunBox feature a GPS-enabled geo-locating capability in the event of theft or loss, and there’s an internal battery that lasts about 24 hours in case the power goes out. Each model also incorporates a motion-sensing vibration alarm to let you know if someone’s been trying to access the safe without authorization.

GunBox officials say the three different models are available for retailers ranging from $279 to $475 MSRP.

“We have received calls from large retailers asking to stock our product nationally,” Hyde says. “On many occasions, these retailers say that numerous customers have come in the stores asking to purchase our product. These are major players and we are working with them to stock our product.”

The RadioVault

While not technically a gun “safe,” the RadioVault is a good option for easy-access, secure storage in a covert package.

Made by Cannon Security Products — which is a division of Cannon Safe, best known for its nearly Armageddon-proof series of home and office safes — the RadioVault’s main security comes from its seeming ordinariness.

The system incorporates an iPhone docking station, digital clock and an AM/FM tuner that hides a biometrically-secured drawer at its base. The genius of the RadioVault is that the front face of the safe is stippled to appear like a speaker for the radio or iPhone dock.

“The RadioVault is designed for stealth security for your everyday needs,” says Cannon marketing director Pasquale Mureno. “At every show customers ask us for products to have out in the open but do not look like a safe, that’s why we designed the RadioVault.”

A RadioVault sent to Shooting Sports Retailer for test and evaluation showed plenty of room for a full sized handgun, extra magazine and small tactical light. Be warned, however, the safe is constructed largely of plastic and therefore Cannon prefers customers not use it as a secure storage option for firearms. But because the RadioVault looks like an ordinary bedside alarm clock, it tends not to draw the eyes like other safes might and keeps curious hands at bay.

The RadioVault does use a biometric fingerprint reader to unlock its mechanism that SSR testers found reliable — though sometimes after several swipes. The key is to slowly swipe the entire pad of the finger. So retailers should make sure to advise their customers that relying solely on biometrics means you have to keep your cool.

And Mureno recommends plenty of practice.

“Practice with your safe just like you would with anything else,” he says. “During a high stress situation you may forget a combination but you can always swipe your finger. If you program the same finger in different ways you will gain quicker more reliable access.”

The GunVault

If The GunBox is too sci-fi for you, or the RadioVault not tough enough, Cannon Safe also has a line of more secure pistol safes that might fit your customers’ needs under the “GunVault” line.

One of the newest entrants into this class is the GunVault MVB500 Micro Vault. This little safe is sized to perfectly fit into small areas like desks, backpacks and bedside tables. The MVB 500 uses an advanced biometric reader that’s self-learning, integrating an individual’s unique swipe and fingerprint deterioration over time.

“This self-learning algorithm of the GunVault Bio adds new minutiae to the fingerprint templates each time a user touches the finger print scanner, which decreases the likelihood of [false rejection rate], updates slight changes that might occur over time to an enrolled fingerprint, as well as to help distinguish variations,” the company says.

Perhaps the biggest advantage of the Micro Vault is its burly design. Made of 20-gauge steel and weighing in at about four pounds, the diminutive safe clearly punches above its class. With pry-resistant seams and a tamper-proof override, the Micro Vault may not win any beauty contests, but it’ll do a darn good job keeping a customer’s home defense handgun secure.

GunVault offers a couple different models of the Micro Vault, including a biometrically secured model for an MSRP of $249 and a digital combination-locked version at $149.

Keeping it Safe

Clearly firearms sales go well beyond the actual gun and the ammo that goes with it. Part of a retailer’s overall portfolio usually includes accessories like holsters, pouches, belts and lights.

And while most operations are well aware of larger gun safes that hold multiple arms, it’s important to recognize the market for customers who want a secure, covert solution to storage and security for their home defense handguns. Companies are getting smarter about what the market wants. And increasingly those new gun owners don’t want something that screams to kids and guests — not to mention intruders  — “here’s where all the guns are!”

So take a look at new options for safe and accessible gun storage that integrate well into the any room of a customer’s home. With new technology and new players in the market, the options are getting better — and cheaper — with every new innovation.