Maximize Space in Your Gun Safe with these DIY ‘Rifle Rods’

DIY Rifle Rods

Rifle rods fit down the barrel of a long gun and attach to the top of a safe with Velcro.

Rifle rods are handy pieces of plastic and Velcro that allow gun owners to store rifles vertically rather than at an angle. According to the product’s inventors at Gun Storage Solutions, vertical storage doubles the number of rifles that can be fit into a safe, delaying the need for larger (and more expensive) storage solutions.

The Velcro attachments also allow for much easier access to rifles stored at the back of a safe. I don’t have many rifles, but I’m constantly removing each of my long guns just to reach the one at the back. Rifle rods let me arrange my firearms in a grid, so if I need one at the back I only have to remove the rifles immediately in front of it.

But at $39.95 for the smallest kit, rifle rods from GSS have always struck me as overpriced. I don’t know what it costs to make a rifle rod, but it can’t be more than $0.50. I’ve also noticed that the plastic rods tend to bend on guns with heavy barrels or heavy scopes.

So, I decided to make my own. After a bit of internet research (thanks especially to Youtube user ramssl!), I came up with a solution you can make at home. Here’s what you need:

  1. Length of 3/16 in. or 1/8 in. steel rod, depending on the caliber of your rifles. Three-sixteenth inch works for .30 cal. bores, but it’s a bit tight for anything smaller.
  2. Wooden drawer pulls
  3. Velcro
  4. Black polyolefin heat shrink tubing
  5. Optional: Paint

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Shoving steel rods down a rifle barrel is a great way to ruin the barrel. But that’s where the shrink tubing comes in, which you can find in the electrical section of your local hardware store.

This list also assumes that your safe is already covered in carpeting. If it isn’t, you’ll need to attach a carpet-like substance for the Velcro to adhere to.

Step 1: Measure and cut the rod

Rod Cutting

Cutting the rod is easy with a hacksaw.

The length of your rod will depend entirely on your safe and your guns. I bought 48” rod and cut each piece in half. I have a top shelf in my safe, so my rods didn’t need to be any longer than 24”.

I used a simple hacksaw to cut the rods. I placed each rod in a vise and cut through in less than a minute.

Step 2: Flatten the drawer pull

Sand 2

Be sure to use a flat sanding block for this step.

The drawer pulls will need to be flattened to ensure sufficient Velcro attachment. If you leave them rounded, only the top portion of the Velcro will meet the carpeting.

A band saw would have expedited this process. Since I don’t have one, I just used extra-rough sandpaper and a block of wood.

Step 3: Attach rod to drawer pulls

Rod 2

No glue is necessary for the 3/16″ rod.

The 3/16” rod fit snugly into my drawer pulls. I used a hammer to seat the rod, being careful not to split the pull.

To attach the 1/8” rod, you can plug the drawer pull with a 3/16” piece of Dowling. Place a small amount of wood glue in the hole and cut the Dowling rod flush. Once the glue is dry, you can drill an appropriately-sized hole.

SEE ALSO: GunsAmerica’s Gun Safe Buying Guide

Step 4 (Optional): Paint

Paint Rod

You can also stain the drawer pulls or paint them a different color.

Wooden drawer pulls are handy because you can paint them or stain them however you think is best. I painted mine black so they wouldn’t be visible in my safe.

Step 5: Cut and attach Velcro

Velcro Rod

You can also purchase round Velcro pieces if you don’t want to cut these yourself.

I used a box cutter and a quarter to cut the Velcro into nearly circular pieces. The Velcro I purchased came with a sticky back, so once I cut the pieces I just had to attach them to the drawer pulls.

Be sure to test several different diameters of Velcro circles to determine which works best in your safe. If the piece is too small the rifle rod won’t securely hold your rifle. But if the piece is too large it might pull the carpeting in your safe or even detach from the drawer pull.

I found a quarter-sized piece of Velcro to be just right. I also secured the carpeting above my rifles with a few extra staples.

Step 6: Attach the heat shrink tubing

Heat Gun

A heat gun is ideal here, but a hair dryer works as well.

You can find shrink tubing in the electrical section of your local hardware store (be sure to purchase the correct sized tubing!). Cut a section of tubing approximately one inch longer than the steel rod and slide it up.

Heat the tubing with a hot air gun until it shrinks down to the size of the rod. If you don’t have a hot air gun (like me), a hair dryer works as well (though it takes much longer).

Rod End 2

I also wrapped the end in electrical tape to provide extra protection.

Keep a one-inch piece of tubing hanging off the end of the rod. This protects your bolt face in case the rod falls down the barrel.

Step 7: Enjoy all that extra safe space!

Feature Image Rods

Before (left) and after (right). All of my rifles are now readily accessible.

I have a rifle and a shotgun I rarely use, and three rifles I use all the time. Before installing the rifle rods, I was constantly having to remove two rifles to access the one I needed. Now I have all three lined up, so I can grab the one I need and get to the range.

While I probably spent more on these rods than I would have on official Rifle Rods, the result is higher quality. These rods are custom-fit to my safe and they won’t bend trying to hold up my heavy rifles. Plus, the next time I purchase a new long gun, I can make a new rifle rod with the leftover parts from this project.

{ 26 comments… add one }
  • RG January 26, 2018, 4:15 pm

    For my homemade rods, I used 1/5″ fiberglass garden stakes, 2 feet long each. They are tapered on one end for driving into soil, which helps them down barrels easier. Less than a dollar each, shipped from amazon.

    For the top discs, I cut circles out of some scrap 1″ thick fence boards I had lying around. Used a 1.5″ hole saw. And as an added bonus, the pilot drill left the perfect size hole in the center.

    I used some 5 minute epoxy to attach the discs to the rods. Then used some adhesive (hook side) velcro on the top of the disc.

    They stick great to the underside of my safe’s upper carpeted shelf. And ended up costing about a quarter of what the official rifle rods would have run me at $75/20.

    • Jeff February 27, 2018, 4:11 pm

      You may want to reconsider any future purchase through Amazon. They are pulling their advertising for NRA TV. I know, not everyone is thrilled with NRA, but they agree with me more often than not. I wrote Amazon telling them if they object doing business with NRA they also object having me do business with them. I got an insulting response from Amazon apologizing for my distress about NRA TV programming and sent me 5 bucks to shop Amazon. Really?

  • mrpski January 26, 2018, 1:43 pm

    I don’t remember where I bought my pre-made set a few years ago but I spent 30 something dollars & I got twenty four sticks. Yep, you could build this stuff yourself but I got better things to do because by the time I bought all the quality parts & put em together I do not think I would be saving anything. Bought these when my safe could not get close to another long gun in it and now, maybe 3 more long guns later I got room for at least another two I bet. Did the same with relatively cheap stick on holsters for the safe door and that is where the 20 or so pistols are. I agree on the gun socks got them all on my rifles that are my collector grade pieces and yep, agree also put the scopes on a shelf somewhere if you know what you are doing they will still be on the dot when you put them back on to use them-at least more so than banging the guns around trying to get to the one in the back. Amazing what you can get into a safe if you take the time to figure it out which we all do…..When nothing else will fit! I can see why this poor guy built his own only having 3 long guns that is like building a 4-car garage for your Honda fit.

  • Allen391 January 26, 2018, 10:45 am

    I use SEU’s (safe expansion units) ….. Otherwise known as gun socks. It does not solve the ‘move the gun’ problem, but it reduces the damage inflicted by moving guns around. Gun in sock = clean, No sock = dirty. (yeah, I know, guns shouldn’t be stored dirty, but life happens!)

  • Kimberpross January 26, 2018, 9:27 am

    I bought some of these from the NRA catalog. They were plastic and came with velco sheets and squares for the top of the rod. They worked great so I tried making some from wood, didn’t work. IT would probably be less expense to buy them from the NRA than buying the steel/aluminum rod, heat shrink tubing and pulls.

  • Steve January 26, 2018, 9:24 am

    I used brass rods. That way I didn’t need the heat shrink.

  • KB KING January 26, 2018, 8:56 am

    I read through your presentation on the gun rods and looked at the pictures. So, what I see is not the best arrangement for getting anything out of the safe safely except the small auxiliary items such as scopes. The concept of a “U” shaped storage space for long guns is the leads to more damage than any other shape. You also need to remove leather slings from any long gun since these will also cause crowding, snag on other items, and potential rust on adjoining guns if left very long touching the metal parts. Suggest that you store the scopes and other smalls in a separate space and leave the safe to do the job it was intended for.
    99% of gun safes/racks have the age old problem of storing the long gun with barrel up and stock down. I am waiting for someone to create a safe that will store the gun with the barrel down, thus eliminating the damage of oil penetrating the wood stocks. I know it takes a long time for the damage to take place, but it breaks my heart to see a real collector piece with the oil stain in the wood next to the wood/metal inter face. I do not have a good suggestion to cure this.

    • Infidel762X51 January 26, 2018, 9:20 am

      I adjusted ny ledge a little lower and store alternately muzzle u/nuzzle down. it gives me more room

  • Brad January 26, 2018, 8:46 am

    Instead of the steel rod you could use fiberglass rod and not bother with the heat shrink. Available at hobby shops.

  • Chris January 26, 2018, 8:28 am

    Great idea with the drawer pulls and velcro. I already use wood dowels (don’t have to worry about marring any bolts), but have just cut them to length. I like this idea of making the dowel shorter and ‘sticking’ it to the bottom of the barrel rest. Right now I have a shelf on the right-hand side beneath which I put all my short rifles and carbines. The barrel rests are exposed of course below the shelf (which just sits on the barrel rests), but the shelf prohibits the length of the dowel – it has to be exactly the right length to catch the rest and miss the shelf. This idea would allow me to make them of a short, uniform length – I like it.

  • Willman January 26, 2018, 8:03 am

    Great idea but why not save the cost of steel rod and heat shrink tubing and just use wooden dowels? There’s no real pressure on the dowel, it’s just balancing the gun and also no fear of damage to the barrel.

    • Kimberpross January 26, 2018, 9:24 am

      Wood won’t hold them, especially shotguns. They flex too much and the rifles will fall over. Only way to make it work is put in place the shelves in the gun safe with a very short clearance from the end of the barrel to the shelf. The problem I had was I have some Carbines with long barreled rifles that the distance was large enough the dowels would flex and let the rifles fall over.

  • SC January 26, 2018, 7:22 am

    All good ideas; I would think wooden or aluminum dowel rod would work as well w/o the possibllity of barrel damsge. Also you could use a cheap magnet glued to the end if your safe doesn’t have carpet. You’ve encouraged me to give this a try to alleviate long gun crowding ing my safes. Thanks.

    • Kimberpross January 26, 2018, 9:20 am

      Wood doesn’t work, tried it. The dowels are too flexible and over time will bend enough to not hold the rifle straight up, may even fall over..

  • Steve January 26, 2018, 6:48 am

    $39 is well worth buying them. If you factor in all your time of going to the store and making them…. They work great and do free up space in your safe

    • Rock January 26, 2018, 7:50 am

      I agree they are worth it, but I will be making some to replace the rods that bend, as stated, with heavier barrels or scopes attached.

    • Ed January 26, 2018, 10:33 am

      Oh, come on….$39 for each one is worth it? I have 12 rifles, it’ll be a cold day in hell before I shell out $468 for a dozen rods I could make in a day for less than $50! Heck, with the savings I could buy another rifle!

      • Tom January 26, 2018, 10:48 am

        Oh c’mon Ed, read before commenting. That cost is per kit, not per rod.

  • Jack January 20, 2018, 3:49 am

    That’s a good tip. TY for sharing. For example, I have many rifles, but I’m afraid of changin it with my own hands.

  • Blue Dog January 10, 2018, 2:00 pm

    I didn’t realize so many gun owners needed more “safe space”! Like the college students!
    Maybe this is why there should be limits on the number of firearms people can own? To reduce the need for safe space?

    • DC January 26, 2018, 5:52 am

      Uh hum I think your on the wrong site to go spitting that nonsense please go leave us alone and go troll some other site. I’m pretty sure you’ve been on here a few other times looking for an argument go get a life and leave us good folks alone. Or if u just want to argue all the time go get married that’ll let u argue all u want and take up your time so you’ll leave us be

      • Jay January 26, 2018, 7:35 am

        DC, Don’t be so hard on Bur Dog, he is just one of those stupid people who wants to stop your individual rights while not realizing that stopping yours also prevents his. He just can’t rationalize that when one right is stopped it takes with it other rights for it to be enforced. He is to stupid to rationalize anything but what is in his utopia based thinking, which has no basis in reality and no proof of ever being possible except to him! He only comes out of his Utopian existence in Mamma’s basement to make some off the cuff comment so he can get his jollies for his rosy palmed addicted sex! I mean come on, he obviously knows what he is talking about when it comes to “Safe Space”

      • Scooter January 26, 2018, 7:42 am

        DC, Look up the word sarcasm, then take a course or two in grammar.

        • jerry January 26, 2018, 10:04 am

          I too, thought sarcasm when I read it. Maybe because I’m kind of a sarcastic guy myself.

    • That One Guy January 26, 2018, 8:37 am

      I looked at his safe picture, and thought to myself “beginner”! You need more firearms! 🙂
      (Not intended as anything other than a joke and a jab at the troll – it looks like he has some nice equipment in the safe)

    • JW January 26, 2018, 9:13 am

      Blue Dog I\’m glad you started that sentence with the word \”Maybe\” because this tells me that you are open to discuss the opposition\’s side to your idea of putting limits on the number of guns a person can own. Let me start with a few points and maybe some of my Pro 2nd Amendment Brothers & Sisters out there can add to the list:
      1. The Bill of Rights was adopted on December 15, 1791 and ratified by three-fourths of the States. The 2nd Amendment included in the Bill of Rights states, \” A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.\”
      2. This comes after only the 1st Amendment in the Bill of Rights which states, \”Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.\”
      3. I will respect your Constitutional rights including your right to free speech.
      4. You will respect my Constitutional rights including my right to keep and bear arms.
      5. \”Arms\” as stated in the 2nd Amendment is plural, therefore I will bear as many arms as I deem necessary.

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