Buying a Gun Safe
There are so many reasons to invest in a gun safe, from wanting to make sure your children can't gain access to your firearms to protecting your valuables from fire damage. That doesn't make the buying process any easier, though. With so many different manufacturers, models, features, and colors to choose from, it can be a daunting task to single out which safe is right for you.
There are quite a few functions that every decent gun case needs to perform:
- Physical protection from both theft and fire
-Can Maintain internal temperature below 350°F in a 1300° fire for ~1 hour
- Box assembled with continuous welds
- Combination or electronic (keypad) lock
- Easy to conceal within home
- Attachable to the fabric of your home (i.e. floor or wall)
- Holds existing collection with room for more guns in the future
- Interior lining to protect guns’ finish
- Dehumidifier and lighting options available
Safe size may be the most important factor to consider when choosing a safe. Our general rule of thumb is that bigger is better, as the number one complaint customers have after buying a safe is that they wish they had bought a larger safe. After all, just because a safe says that it will hold 10 rifles, that does not mean it will comfortably hold your 10 rifles with expensive scopes and other aftermarket accessories. Also, keep in mind, it won't just be your current collection of guns going in that safe. It is likely that you will be buying more guns in the future. There's a lot of fine ammo that is going to need to go in there. Important family documents and items of value belong in that fancy safe too. A smaller, cheaper safe may work for you now, but buying a safe that is too small for your future needs will end up costing you more money in the long run.
It's amazing the lengths a burglar will go to, trying to pry the door open, cut a hole in the body with an ax, or even using a torch. This is where the steel comes into play, as the fire barrier in the walls does nothing for security — gypsum or concrete, it will crumble.
Many in the industry set 14-gauge as the minimum for the body of the safe. The door, in most cases, is thicker than the body, given this is a main area of attack. However, don't let you eyes play tricks on you when looking at steel size. In many cases, those massive walls and door are that way due to the fire barrier sandwiched between them. In certain cases, a thin door might offer better security than something that looks half-a-mile thick. Finally, it is important to pay attention to how all that steel is stitched together. Full, continuous welding, as opposed to bolts or spot welds, makes for a sturdier box — not only against thieves, but also fire.
You may be buying a safe thinking that its primary function will be to thwart burglary, but the reality is that fires are the number one risk to firearm owners. We recommend that you purchase a minimum 1-hour fire rated safe. Safes with less than a 1-hour fire rating will not provide adequate protection to survive a typical home or business fire. Why spend your hard earned money on a safe that won’t protect your guns, ammo or other valuables during a fire? If you are on a limited budget, then select the safe with the longest fire protection that you can afford.
* A typical house fire burns in the 800 to 1200 degree temperature range. If your safe is close to the starting point of the fire it would be subjected to higher temperatures than if it was in a different part of the structure.
Pros: Low maintenance; no batteries; more difficult to observe combination sequence.
Cons: Slow to operate; can be temperamental; unless a reputable brand is used, the combination may be easier to defeat; must have locksmith change combination for you.
Pros: Easy to use; cost effective; flexible (high-end models can integrate with home security/surveillance systems); more features (multiple user combinations and penalty lockouts); does not require a locksmith to change the combination. Ask the salesman which lock they selected for their personal safe. Several we spoke with use an electronic lock.
Cons: Require battery changes. If you frequently change and, as a result, forget the combination, a locksmith will have a hard time opening it. (Fingerprint wear on electronic locks is a myth. They actually use a non-wearing material.)
Pros: Similar to electronic locks-speed, ease and flexibility; most allow for the storage of several fingerprints.
Cons: Not 100% reliable (if your finger is dirty, the lock may not work); expensive; still a developing technology. Should be much better in a few years.
*Redundant locks give you the best of both worlds, as they consist of a mechanical and electronic lock in one... if one fails the other will allow you access to the safe
*Most mechanical lock manufacturers recommend that you have your lock serviced at least every 5 years by a qualified safe technician
*Electronic locks are sealed from the factory, and if opened, will void the warranty from the manufacturer-- about the only maintenance is replacing the battery
Installation can be one of the most daunting aspects of purchasing a gun safe. That's a lot of weight to move around! Make sure you buy your safe from a business with plenty of experience and resources dedicated to moving your newly purchased safe. Be sure to get price quotes on installation before purchasing your safe, and pay attention to the differences between curbside delivery, in-home installation, etc.!
*Please make sure to anchor your safe during installation! Most safes have anchor hole(s) and are fairly simple to anchor into concrete. If you have a wood sub floor be aware that simply putting a wood anchor in your floor will not provide adequate protection, one of the most effective ways to secure a safe to a wood sub floor is to drill holes in your floor and extend long threaded rod down below the floor joist and take a long piece of 2 x 4 or angle iron and span multiple floor joist and secure the threaded rod and bolt down the safe.