|Selecting a Gunsafe
Points to consider; size, level of security, amount of fire
protection, finish, where you will place it and budget.
Size –You need to determine what capacity you currently need and
determine your future needs. It doesn’t make sense to buy a safe that is
too small to begin with. Also you need to try to project your future needs.
Buying the next size safe now is less expensive than upsizing in the near
future. Also remember that you may wish to store other valuables such
as jewelry, collectables, documents, family photos, etc.
Locks -The standard lock that is used on most gunsafes is a Sargent &
Greenleaf Group II lock. These are very good locks and are used on
most commercial safes. Another choice of lock is the electronic lock with
a digital keypad. These locks actually have a slightly higher security
rating and are easier to operate. Another benefit of the electronic lock is
that they can easily have their combinations changed and they can be
programmed to open on more than one combination. A new type of lock
that is now available is the biometric lock. Biometric locks are unlocked
by using your fingerprint or a digital keypad. I personally prefer a
combination or electronic lock over a key type lock. For one thing if you
lost a key ring someone else would have a key to your safe. For backup
you would need a second key and a place to hide it. To me it is easier to
memorize your combination, also if you needed quick access to your
safe you would not have to look for the key. Most gunsafes have
devices to protect their locks from drilling & cutting attacks. Hardplate is
a steel plate that is heat treated to increase its hardness. Normal drills
and saws are not able to cut hardplate. The hardplate is placed
between the dial and lock. A safe may have relocking devices. If a safe
lock is attacked by a sledge hammer the relocking devices are triggered
and then a safe will not open even if the lock is completely destroyed.
Safes with higher levels of security may have multiple relockers and
glass plates that will break if a safe is drilled. The broken glass would
then trigger a relocking device making a safe very difficult to penetrate.
Steel Thickness -Most manufacturers produce safes made of steel that
range from 12 ga. to 3/16” thick. (12 ga. =0.1046”, 1/8”=0.125”, 10 ga.
=0.1345”, 7 ga. =0.1793”, 3/16”=0.1875”) Of course the thicker the steel,
the better the safe. Generally it is considered that 12 ga. is a minimum,
10 ga. is good and 3/16” steel is very good. Anything thicker is difficult to
form and too expensive for a home gunsafe.
Door Construction –Doors are usually constructed of either a single
steel plate (Champion and Superior safes both feature double step
plate steel doors with an inner steel plate, this gives incredible door
strength and security) or a composite of more than one piece of
material. The first gunsafes had one piece doors that were 3/16”, 1/4”
or thicker steel. Now most of the doors are composite meaning that
they are composed of more than one piece of material. Usually these
doors have layers of fire rock built into them which gives a better fire
rating. The lighter composite safe doors may have one thin layer of
steel and a layer of firerock. This type of door may not hold up under a
serious attack. The better doors have an outer layer of steel followed by
a layer of firerock and then an inner layer of steel and then another
layer of firerock. This type of door would be difficult to cut through even
with a torch and it would hold up very well in a fire. Doors usually have
heat expanding door seals that swell up several times their thickness
when they are heated up during a fire. This seal greatly enhances a
safes fire rating.
fire & theft
silver, software, etc,
covers guns up
Locking Bolts -Another factor that determines security would be
locking bolt count and size. Sizes usually range from 1” dia. to 1½” dia.
Another locking bolt factor is coverage. Some come out on 1 side, 2
sides, 3 sides or 4 sides of the door. Generally the more sides with
locking bolts the better the security. The locking bolts not only improve
security they also improve fire protection by keeping the door seal
more secure (when metal heats up it tends to warp which could allow
hot air and flames to enter a safe).
Fire Protection –a minimum fire rating of 1,200°F/30 for 30 minutes is
usually for entry level safes. If you have a house constructed of brick,
concrete slab and sheet rock this type of safe may give you enough fire
protection. When a gunsafe is tested for a fire rating it is usually heated
to 1,200°F within 10 minutes and then remains at or above that
temperature for at least another 20 minutes. The inside temperature
should not go above 350°F- this temperature was chosen due to paper
charring at about 420°F. Since most houses only burn for about 30
minutes this type of safe may be sufficient. If you have a safe with a
higher temperature rating in the same fire the inside temperature would
then be lower. Fires are unpredictable and therefore most of us prefer
to have a better fire rating just in case we have a hotter than normal fire.
Finish -is a matter of personal preference. Some prefer a gloss finish
while others prefer a textured finish. Usually the gloss costs more due
to more labor involved by the manufacturer. Both should be durable
and if a safe is not placed in a harsh environment the finish should last
Location – The best place for a safe is one that is convenient other
wise you may not always use it. Places that people put safes range
from closets, bedrooms, dens, garages or work shops. If you end with
your safe in a garage or other space that is not heated and cooled
you should use some type of dehumidifier.
Budget – A safe will last a lifetime and therefore buy a safe that
you have confidence in.