Gun Safes and Home Safes – What You Need to Know Before Purchasing

Gun safes are like garages, it does not matter how big you get them, you always find yourself wanting more space. That’s because the main reasons for owning a gun safe, theft protection and fire protection, apply to many other things in your home. The secure nature of a gun safe make them perfect for jewelry, documents, coin collections, and other storable valuables. The fire resistance of a Gun Safe make them perfect for storing family photos or heirlooms. When safe shopping think ahead to other things in your house that you or another family member may want to protect.

Most gun safes list their capacity by the number of guns they can hold. This number may be a variable based on the different interior options of the safe or a single number which usually is the most from all interior options. This number may be true if all your guns are slim such as shotguns or scopeless lever actions. Often times one scoped bolt action rifle will use the space the manufacturer allowed for two guns in the safe. (unless you are willing to jam guns together like a jigsaw puzzle) This is true for all gun safe makers so we suggest taking the manufacturers capacity and reducing it by a quarter to a third to get a “real world” capacity of a safe.

Often two safes of the same size and appearance will carry vastly different prices. The first reason for this difference is the amount of steel in the safe. Safes manufactured from thin steel and composites (two layers of thin steel sandwiching a fire resistant board) may appear solid and carry just a good fire rating as safes made from heavy gauge or plate steel. They will not, however, be as secure as their heavier counterparts and may be vulnerable to being “axed” open.

Pay attention to the listed weight of the safes you are examining. Weight can’t be faked, plate steel safes will be far heavier then composite ones. You can also rap on the door with your knuckles, a composite door will have a “hollow” ring. Quality safes will also carry a UL listed label. To be listed the safe will have passed the Underwriters Laboratories test which consists of giving common burglary tools such as crowbars and drills to experienced safecrackers and giving them thirty minutes to enter the safe. If they enter the safe in that time period the safe fails.

The second reason similar looking safes may vary greatly in price is fire rating. More expensive safes usually carry better fire ratings. The fire rating is most often found on a label on the inside edge of the door. The rating will list two temperatures and a time. For example 1200 degrees, 30 minutes, 325 degrees. In this example the temperature the safe was exposed to was 1200 degrees and after 30 minutes of exposure the maximum recorded internal temperature was 325 degrees. No safe is truly fire proof, if exposed to fire temperatures for long enough the internal temperature of the safe will rise to equal the external temperature and any combustible valuables will be lost. However the nature of a house fire is to rise in temperature drastically and then fall off fairly quickly as nearby combustible material is consumed. Every fire pattern is different and there are never any guarantees but a safe with a better rating could well preserve its contents that would have been lost with a lesser safe.

There are two types of finishes found on gun safes. A textured paint finish or a glossy “car paint” type finish. The textured finishes are sprayed on in a single layer while it may take twenty or more layers of paint to achieve the smooth glossy “car paint” finish. The extra labor involved in building a glossy safe increases their cost at retail by up to several hundred dollars for a same sized safe.

Glossy finishes are most often selected for safes that will be on display in rooms such as living rooms or offices. They show dust and fingerprints very quickly so you will have to clean them regularly if you want them to look their best. Textured finish safes take much less care to look attractive.

If your safe will be in an unheated room or garage, or in an area of high humidity it is recommended that you install a dri-rod or use desiccant packs in your safe. The dri-rod is a small heater that installs on the inside of the safe. It provides a small amount of heat to the interior of the safe to keep rust and mildew off your guns and valuables. It is powered by electricity, a small hole is drilled in the safe near its bottom, (pre-drilled by manufacturer on most safes) just big enough for the electrical cord to pass through. Desiccant packs are large packs of silica gel that absorb moisture from the air. Over time they lose their effectiveness and will need to be replaced or dried in a oven.

A big part of protecting your valuables from rust and mildew is to keep moisture from entering the safe in the first place. Firearms wet from use in the field should be dried thoroughly before returning them to your safe. Anything else stored in the safe should also be dry before storage. If your safe is in an area that may be subject to flood or seepage install it raised off the floor high enough to be above any entering moisture.

Think carefully about your current and future needs when making your purchase. A gun or home safe is not an inexpensive investment, and once purchased it is likely to be with you for a long time.

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