“Gun Safe Survey, Comparison & Consumer Report”
Welcome to the first ever honest blog about gun safes. You are probably here because you are total confused. There are over 25 gun safe companies and everyone claims to be the best, highest rated or #1 Selling Gun Safe in the Industry. Everyone can’t be the best, so I am going to breakdown the whole industry for you so aren’t ever confused or mystified by a gun safe again. And I am always here for questions. I’ve been a safe expert for over 35 years. So contact me with any questions you have. The responses will be quick and honest.
The Gun Safe is a relatively simple devise. It protects the owner’s belongings from fire and theft. Here are the six components that make up a gun safe.
1) Steel — About 85% of gun safes are made in China. With cheap labor aplenty in the Orient, most gun safe companies run East to have their gun safes made to maximize profits. Besides the philosophical and economic reasons for not buying China’s gun safes, I have one practical reason. The steel is soft. Roughly 25-38% more mild than American steel. It’s important to have steel with a good Rockwell hardness on your gun safe so burglars can’t penetrate your gun safe with grinding devices or drills. So make sure your steel and hardlate is American. Gun Safe companies who manufacture in America are Sportsman Steel Safes, Fort Knox, National Safes and Halls Safes. These gun safes have the highest quality steel.
2) Fire Insulation – In recent years gun safes have really improved the quality and level of their fire ratings. But almost all fireproofing material is still drywall. And not American drywall. Chinese drywall, which is not as good. And they have to put a lot of drywall in your gun safe to adequetly fireproof it. This will reduce the space in your gun safe. Most gun safes have 30 minute fire ratings, but many fires run past 30 minutes. You want to buy a gun safe with at least a 50 minute fire rating. 60 minute fire ratings are ideal. A gun safe with these fire rating will last through almost any fire. But that’s only if the door and body are manufactured perfectly; just like the gun safes the manufacturer send out to be tested. But they seldom are. Most gun safes sold to the public have doors that rattle and do not seal well. These gun safes won’t be as fireproof as the manufacturer claims. For example, a gun safe with a 50 minute rating witha “rattling-poor fix door” will only last 40 minutes in a fire. But there’s hope! If you do these three things when buying a gun safe, you’ll be golden. Demand from your salesman, your gun safe door and body must NOT RATTLE. You want a tight fitting door. No gaps. A “No-Gap Door” will seal better during a fire. And try to buy a gun safe with a concrete fire insulator or a ceramic AND drywall fireproofing. Gun safe companies that have advanced fireproofing are Halls Safes, National Safes and Sportsman Steel Safes.
3) Z-Shaped Doors or Step Doors – Most gun safe have flat doors that only seal where the door meets the body. A few companies now sell a step door that seals on four steps the way bank vaults and commercial fire safes seal. The first gun safe manufacturers to construct a Step Door are Sportsman Steel Safes and Champion Gun Safes. Sportman’s Step Doors are more affordable, but Champions Z-Shaped doors are just fine. And rememeber, when you get a “z-shaped door”, it comes with a two gaskets that expand in a fire and swell up three times better than a normal gun safe. This insures the customer their door will have “no gasps” that hot air can penetrate during a fire. Also, step doors come with thick step frames that protect and shield your bolts during attacks. A normal gun safe that protects bolts is usually 3/16″ thin steel. It’s ok, but not as good as “Z-shaped doors”. So… my recommendation is to buy a Z-shaped door if you can get on for a good deal. Good deals on step doors are about $200-300 more. For info on step doors, call a commercial safe company, Sportsman Steel Safes or Champion Gun Safes.
3) The Body – This is the six-sided rectangular part of the gun safe your belongs fit into. The Steel is usually 12 gauge or 10 gauge thick. Roughly 1/8″. Some gun safes can be ordered with thicker steel like 1/4″. Important: when buying a gun safe make sure “the body” is Bent Press-Broken Steel. Make sure the steel isn’t welded up on all six sides. When companies weld up all six sides they grind off the welds for cosmetic reasons. This weakens the body because the weld is ground down to near nothing. They’re easy to break into. You just grind the weld to nothing, pound the corner with a sledge hammer a dozen times, stick a shear-spike in the broken weld and whack it all the way down the body. The body will peel back and the door will open with a prybar. So… make sure you get a Bent Steel Body. Companies that have bend American steel are Sportsman Steel Safes, Halls Safes, Fort Knox gun safes and National Gun Safes.
4) Relocking Devices and Internal Boltwork – A gun safe relocker is a device that locks your safe during a burglar attack. It’s a cylinder of steel with springs that shoots behind your boltwork when your safe is drilled in the lock area. The boltwork is the locking system that secures your door to the body during an attack. It’s important to make sure your boltwork is made from steel thicker than 16 or 12 gauge. Most China gun safes have boltwork that is thin and non-hardened steel. If the boltwork is too thin, a hole can be drilled in your door and a stike can push back your boltwork to defeat the safe. Thicker steel boltwork will prevent this from happening. Most cheap gun safes made in China (85% of all gun safes). Try to order an American gun safe with boltwork constructed with 10 gauge or 3/16″ steel. And make sure the boltwork has a bend in it. This will reinforce your system and make it near impossible to “push-back”. Many relockers in the gun safe industry, mainly on Chinese safes, have relockers that are thin 3/16″ roll pins with spring mounted nearby. Because the relockers are very short, it only has to be drilled out once to defeat. Try to order a relocker that is 3″-4″ long. This way it will have to be drilled out more than once to be defeated. An important reminder: make sure you have hardplate infront of the lock, the relockers, the lock bolt and where the boltwork locks behind the lock. These areas MUST have hardplate to protect your gun safe’s vunerable areas. Many Chinese gun safes don’t have hardplate in those areas. So… I recommend buying a gun safe that you can confirm has hardplate in all these “Vunerable Safe Areas” – VSA.
5) Custom Interiors – Attention – Guns do not fit in gun safes! This is a fact. Scopes, bolt-actions, machine guns, oddly-shaped weapons will take up too much space and will not fit in your gun safe like you hope. Chinese gun safes sell cookie-cutter gun racks that are all the same size. Your guns will not have a lot of room. So try to buy from an American gun safe maker who can customize your gun rack to fit “your weapons”. Tell your salesman the kind of guns your have. If he says, “I can’t sell you a custom gun rack”, that means it’s Chinese and I’d look elses where. If your gun rack is too small and not spread out, your guns will get scratched, dented and banged up over the life of your safe. If you don’t believe me, ask a friend who has a gun safe. I’d bet you $10 bucks to your $1, he’ll tell you his guns don’t fit in his gun safe well. Trust me when I tell you, get your gun rack custom built. This way, your guns will have plenty of elbow room and won’t get damaged over the years. You can get after market gun racks purchased exactly the way you want from Halls Safes, Sportsman Steel Safes, Pro-Steel Gun Safes and Fort Knox gun safes.
6) Life Warranties – Warranties have improved of the years in the gun safe industry. Mainly because of competition from Chinese gun safes. But gun safe companies and dealers go out-of-business. American Safe, Treadlock Safes, Star and many others. They had life warranties, but owners of those gun safes are out of luck. That’s why it’s important to buy from gun safe companies that have been around a while. Don’t buy from a 3-4 year old company. They’re more likely to close up. The older, more established gun safe companies are Fort Knox, Sportsman Steel Safes, Liberty and Browning. They’ve been around over 25 years. Ironically, these gun safe companies were rated in the top levels of protection in “Gun Test Magazine’s Gun Safe Review – ’91, ’92”. Now let’s talk about Fire Warranties. These warranties usually say “if your gun safe exeriences a fire, they’ll replace your gun safe for free”. That’s fine, but the customer is responsible for shipping there and back from the company. That’s a good deal. So enjoy that. But the Mechanical Warranty on your gun safe is another matter. Gun safe companies will usually fix problems with the safe for life, with exception to the lock. Locks usually have 3-5 year warranties. The problem with that is the only part of your gun safe that goes bad over the years is… the lock. My advise is to pay an extra $20-30 for an extended warranty on your lock. It’s good insurance if the lock ever malfunctions. A faulty lock can cost $400-$600 to fix. Finally, let’s talk about your”Break-In Warranty”. A BI-Warranty means if your safe is broken into, the gun safe company will fix or replace your gun safe for free. But the problem is you have to pay for the safe to be shipped back and forth from from the company. That will cost $500-900. And you have to drill the safe open to remove your belongings before you ship it. That will cost $300. So getting your safe fixed for FREE will cost you $800-1100. But you can get your safe fixed in your home town by a SAFTA locksmith for $400. So the Break-In Warranty is worthless. The best way to insure your gun safe will last a lifetime is buy an American Made S&G Locks (Sargant & Greenleaf). These locks are the best, most reliable locks in the gun safe industry. You can buy after-market S&G locks from www.pentagonsafes.com.
Hope I enlightened you a bit of gun safes. But here’s why everyone is here. Here’s my recommendation of the three best gun safes on the market. They are not in any specific order. They’re simple the best for the money. And they’re all American Made!
1) Sportsman Steel Safe – 1/4″ Body, 1″ hardplate, 2″ Step Door ($1300 and up)
2) Fort Knox – Yeager Edition – 3/16″ Body with Stainless Package ($2000 and up
3) Halls Safes – 1/4″ Body, 1″ Hardplate with Step System Door (2500 and up)