How to Choose a Gun Safe

Kerneels

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How to Choose a Gun Safe
by Philip Massaro - Thursday, May 26, 2016
SOURCE: https://www.americanhunter.org/articles/2016/5/26/how-to-choose-a-gun-safe/
massaro_ballistic_labs_safe_f.jpg

Owning a firearm is a serious responsibility, one I’ve never taken lightly. Gone are the years when Dad would set the deer rifle and rabbit gun into the wooden rack that hung on the wall; we wouldn’t touch them, because we understood what they were all about. However, in this crazy age of mandatory trigger locks, corporate culpability, legal finger-pointing and other common-sense-defying legal situations, a gun safe makes a whole lot of sense. While there are many models, types, shapes and sizes to choose from, there are certain features that I appreciate. Depending on your situation, the amount of firearms you need to store, and the room you have to store them, certain features may appeal to you. Let’s take a look at some of the choices available.

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A gun safe can be a couple of different things. It can be, simply put, a means of securing your firearms and ammunition so that they don’t fall into the wrong hands. Or, it can be a means of disaster insurance, protecting not only your firearms, but other valuables and irreplaceable items from fire. I like to note this here, with no intended offense to the safe manufacturing companies: I’ve never owned or seen a safe that will actually hold the amount of firearms that the manufacturer has indicated. I’ve tried to stuff them in the safe like rakes in a shed and rearranged them in a Tetris-like fashion, but I can’t get to the number they indicate. So, my first piece of advice is to "overbuy." While the majority of my firearms are common-place—lacking any fancy engraving or marbled walnut—I do have a handful that might be deemed as pretty, and the last thing I want is to have my investment scratched or dinged because of cramped quarters. So, I personally like to keep things rather loose inside the safe.

The majority of my firearms are long guns, so when I went shopping I wanted a configuration that would center around them, with the capability of neatly storing my handguns as well, in addition to some of my valuables (there are far less of these than I’d prefer). I was in the market for a safe that would hold right around 40 long guns, and was settled upon a certain model, when a friend called me to deliver the news that he’d been transferred from New York to Georgia for a job opportunity. He had a Timber Ridge 64-gun safe, purchased from Gander Mountain, and due to the immense size, he wanted to sell it rather than try and haul it down the East Coast. Long story short, I became the new owner of a safe that doubled as a small office—and I’m glad I did. The over-sized (at least in comparison to what I thought I’d need) body allows me to store my firearms in a "roomy" manner; the opportunity for dings or scratches is, at least, minimized.

My own safe features a manual, dial combination lock, with a three number combination, as well as a key lock to secure the mechanism. I’ve since looked at some of the models with the electronic locks, and while their design seems to be sound, I am dear friends with Mr. Murphy and his close-following Law, so I tend to try to keep things simple. I can report that in three years of ownership, I’ve had no malfunctions whatsoever with the locking mechanism. The Timber Ridge series is manufactured by Liberty Safe, and they have a great reputation for customer service.

The choice of lock mechanism is ultimately up to you, as I feel that both will work, but I’d highly suggest that you take a good, long look at the fire rating of the safe you're interested in. Each safe will indicate at what temperature, and for what length of time, the contents will be safe. Please keep in mind that while paper—as Mr. Bradbury so eloquently related—will ignite at 451˚F, many of the synthetic stocks will melt at temperatures around 250˚F, and the steel barrel of a firearm will act as a heat-sink, trapping and holding the heat of a fire. As it stands, there is no standardized rating system for a fire-proof gun safe, so the consumer will have to do his or her best to interpret the data, so as to best serve their needs.

Most of the gun safes lock up with round, protruding steel rods, much like a bank vault. You’ll want a sturdy, tamper-proof locking mechanism, so that thieves can’t break in easily. Many gun safes come pre-drilled with holes in the floor, for bolting the safe to the floor. This makes a lot of sense, as I’ve known folks who have been robbed, and because the thieves couldn’t break into the safe, they simply stole the entire affair. Bolt that thing to the floor and you’ll more than likely find it where you left it.

You also need to be cognizant of the weight of your safe; some of the larger models can easily weigh in excess of 1,000 pounds, and that can test the strength of your floor joists. If I had to wager, I’d say the model I own weighed more like 1,500 pounds, and the house simply couldn’t handle it, so it resides in my shop.

And this brings me to the last tip: be aware of the humidity conditions in your area. Here in the Northeast, where it is very damp throughout most of the year, my safe in the shop is challenged by moisture, which leads to rust, and I hate rust. I use a dehumidifier made under the Remington brand, which uses water-collecting beads to draw the moisture away from my firearms. The beads are blue when dry, and change to a pale-pink color when saturated. You can then plug the apparatus into a wall socket, to dry it out again. This handy little tool keeps things dry inside, and it’s simple enough to maintain. Other safes use light bulbs to keep things dry, and having light inside the safe is a nice feature. I’ve rigged up several different light sources, but I truly wish my safe had a permanent, fixed lighting system.

My own safe has a rack system for holding my rifles, but there are other systems. Some of the nicer Pendleton safes have a Lazy-Susan style rotating rack for easy removal or addition of your firearm. The Pendleton’s have some of the neatest graphics on the market—really classy stuff.

Choosing a gun safe is one of those things that need to be well researched, but I feel that you ultimately need to see and feel the safe before you buy it; a blind purchase from the Internet can easily result in disappointment. Choose wisely, and make sure you have some strong friends on hand for the move!
 

CAustin

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Yep bought a Liberty gun safe 17 years ago. Just one problem.....I didn't get the biggest on they had! I now have a lot more guns and stuff than I had back then!
 

wesheltonj

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Ive been looking at safes, not residential security containers and the price difference is huge. Along with the weight and quality of the build.
 

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Best tip I ever read on buying a gun safe: Buy the largest gun safe you can afford, even if it is larger than you what you currently need. You can always buy more guns.

I bought my Browning Gun Safe from a wholesaler. You essentially buy it before it's even built at the Browning factory in Utah. It's shipped direct to your house. Then you need a local safe mover to move it into your house. A few friends and co-workers have also bought safes from this place and they were happy.

If anyone is interest, the guy's name is:

Norm Dion and his email is: BrowningSafes@comcast.net

Browning Safes, Discounted & Delivered

Description:

BROWNING GUN SAFES UP TO 35% BELOW RETAIL

* Various sizes, capacities, colors, game scenes, and options
* Custom trimmed to your specifications
* Models to fit anyone’s security needs, home decor, and budget
* Drop-shipped to your door from the factory
* There is no sales tax
* I sell these safes nationwide at the lowest possible prices
* My fast, personal service makes your purchase simple, quick, and easy

Why would you buy anything less from anyone else?

References and credentials available on request

If you would like a list of sizes, weights, options, colors, prices, and freight rates,
let me know by email reply or by phone (253-565-2753--PT).
 

cpr0312

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Fire rating, quality, and size. Like others mentioned, get the next size or 2 up from what you currently need
 

salesman

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I bought my first safe a few years ago. At the time I bought it I was using the metal "security" cabinets that are sold by many dealers in several sizes and configurations. They are alright for keeping the kids out and anyone that is honest, however a determined thief could probably be in it in 5 minutes or less. They also provide no fire protection.

As I have gotten older my firearms inventory has increased significantly in number and value. I travel a lot and came to the conclusion that one of these days I was going to come home and my firearms would either be gone thru robbery or destroyed thru a fire or natural disaster of some type. I spent about a month educating myself on safes. Here is a description of my current safes (I now have two as I outgrew the one, they are identical).

The capacity of my safes are supposed to be forty five long guns each, that is a stretch, comfortably the number is around 37 depending on type/configuration. Most of my rifles have quick detach scope mounts so that helps a lot. Both safes have an empty weight of approximately 1950lbs., and they are lag bolted into the concrete of my shop. They are constructed in the following manner:

The entire outside is 3/8" steel plate and the door is 1/2" steel plate. The inside is 1/4" steel plate. Between the outside & inside layers is 1 3/4" of concrete with the door having a 2" layer. The reason for the concrete as my safe salesman tells me is that in the event of a fire the concrete is far superior to the usual sheetrock material used in most safes. As he says when the safe heats up from a fire the moisture content in the concrete is more that the moisture content in sheetrock and creates more steam and heat prevention. The concrete is also far superior in defeating the efforts of thieves, if they manage to get thru the outer steel plate. My salesman claims it would take an experienced thief up to 8 hours to cut a hole in it larges enough to get a hand in with normal tools. I am skeptical of that, but do feel it would take a long time and make a lot of noise.

The locking mechanism is the electronic type. It a very handy and quick. Up to this point I have had no problems with it, I replace the 9v battery once a year. In the event a thief takes a large hammer and busts the control pad off he will most likely break the glass on the back of the door and that activates the "re-locker" system. This glass also defeats drilling the lock or thru the door itself. Once the glass is broken the door lugs (total of 14 lugs) are immovable, and the safe will have to be opened by a professional.

Something else that I learned about safes concerning fire. My safes have a gasket around the door that is heat activated and seals the door in the event of fire. However, by the time it is activated by heat hot smoke will have already gotten into the interior. It is advisable to keep every one of your long guns in a gun sock and handguns in a case. Also any other valuables should be in a protective box/case. Most damage is created by the super hot smoke that adheres to whatever it touches in the safe, not the fire itself.

For moisture protection I use a heating rod in both safes. Have never had any moisture problems to this point.

The safe brand I have is called a Griffin. It is imported by a local guy that sells several different well known brands, this is one that is manufactured and labeled for him.

I will say it really gives me peace of mind knowing that my firearms are in those safes, and that is worth a lot.
 

wesheltonj

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I looked at Brown Safes (not Browning) and Graffunder. Leaning towards the Graffunder. The door gap tolerance appears to be better on the Graffunder. Now just have decide on a E or F rating.
 

petrusg

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Nice post! my advice is as big as possible and one that you can remove your rifle from without moving other rifles around......
 

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Another point about safes and smoke ... several years back, Brian Pearce wrote in Rifle magazine about a friend's experience with a house fire. The door seal worked, until ... the water used by the firefighters cooled it down. Smoke and nasty chemical fumes then entered the safe and damaged the firearms.

If you are buying a safe, I suggest that you locate the article and treat it as consumer advice.
 

Ray B

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A year or two after we moved into our present house (29 years ago) I purchased a Fort Knox safe. I forget which model it is, but it was the largest then available- it weighs well over 1,000 pounds. Some friends and I slid it down the stairs into the basement, which was a large open room at the time. We drifted it on 2x12s and parked it against what was to become one of the walls to "my" room. I then built walls making the basement into four rooms, The safe is larger than the door into my room. So when I'm gone and the house sells, the safe will go with the house unless someone wants to knock a couple walls out and winch the safe up the stairs. All that I can say to them is GOOD LUCK.
 

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glad this thread popped back up... I'm in the market for a new/larger safe now.. I plan on keeping the old one to use for other valuables.. but need something larger than what I've currently got to fit all the guns (I made the mistake of buying what I needed at the time, but not thinking about what I might need 10 years down the road.. and now have more firearms than my current safe can hold)..

this thread reminds me of a few key things I need to consider prior to making a final decision on a purchase..
 

Dwight Beagle

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Always buy twice the stated capacity of what you need. If you have 24 long guns you need a 48 gun safe. If you plan on acquiring more firearms then go even bigger.
 

CAustin

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I would really like to have a vault combination safe room! However, a bigger safe would allow me to give the current one to my son!
 

mdwest

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FWIW Gander Mountain has a pretty decent sale going on right now on their Liberty safes...

The Timber Ridge (line only sold at GM) 48 gun safe normally retails for $1299.. from now until Nov 19th its $799 ($500 off).. and they are offering no interest financing for up to a year..

The Liberty Franklin (a couple of steps up from the Timber Ridge line in terms of strength and fire protection) 27 gun safe is normally $1799.. its on sale for $1499...

and the Liberty Franklin Fatboy 64 gun safe is normally $2299.. its one sale for $1799...


I'd been debating whether to get a Liberty or a Cannon.. and whether I needed something in the 36 or 48 gun size for the past few months.. I couldn't resist the price and picked up a new safe at the local GM last weekend (to be delivered next week!)..
 

Ray B

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As to the number of long guns a safe will hold- THEY LIE!! The only way the number would be accurate is if the guns were all dowels. There are notches for X number of guns- but there is insufficient space for the buttstocks, in either muzzle up or muzzle down configuration. This conflict of space is particularly noticeable when the long guns are to be positioned in a horseshoe shape along the sides and back of the safe, The barrels fit fine but there are five stocks competing for the space used by one.
 

mdwest

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^^^^ truth ^^^^

My current "18 gun" safe holds 12 (plus some shelf space for some odds and ends.. but its tight in there)...

I out grew it years ago.. and have had rifles in cases laid under beds, in closets, etc.. for far too long at this point...

I'm counting on the 48 gun safe I just picked up to MAYBE hold 30-36 if I am lucky..

But.. I plan on moving all of my ammo, accessories, and other "stuff" to the old safe.. and only using the new one for firearms (shelves will have pistol racks... and the racks below will only have rifles/shotguns).. so I should be covered for a while.. (I don't have 30 long guns in my collection)..
 

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I buy the cheapest safes I can find. Usually the Bass Pro or Cabelas models. With the savings I buy more guns and ample INSURANCE.

Do you really want your guns back after your house burns down and the metal is annealed, the bluing is rippled, the stocks at minimum have blistered? Give me the check, I'll buy new ones.

As to safes, I spend my time in security/risk management and the bottom line is nobody cracks a safe. Robberies are smash and grab, quick in, quick out affairs. Usually robberies are done by people with substance abuse issues and they just need a quick grab to pawn for more drugs. Hence, I buy cheap safes with cheap locks which are MORE than sufficient for 99.99% of all burglaries. What are the odds that someone is going to take the time to crack a safe and is trained enough to have confidence in its low quality and already knows that the output of effort will yield results because they are sure of the contents? Nah. Doesn't happen.

If I had to do it all over again I think I'd display all my guns museum style in the open without locks at all and I'd have a hardened, climate controlled vault to protect the ammunition. I couldn't care less about the micro-odds of a theft or a fire but I do care about safety of guns and ammo near one another. (Presently I have a vault in the back fo my truck that holds all my ammo so I don't keep ammo in my residence.
 

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I really like the guns on inside of the door feature on my Browning. I can put the guns I use the most on the door for easy access. Then pack the other ones I am not using in the notches. That way I am not always banging guns around trying to get them in and out of the safe.
 

Ray B

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Rookhawk- Do you live in Morton Grove or Chicago? I checked on itemizing a gun for insurance- the premium was 5% of the guns replacement cost (minus the deductible)- 20 years of the gun not being stolen and you bought it twice.
 

sierraone

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Once again primarily agree with Rookhawk. Most burglars are looking for a fix. They don't know and don't have the time to break into a moderate security safe, let along a high security safe. When I am home the only gun I own that is not in my safe is my Glock .40 cal. It's by the bed. When the grand kids are coming, I unload it, place it on a high shelf with the mag on a different shelf. I carry about $14000 in insurance on my guns. Mined you, I don't have any rifles and guns like Rookhawk. What I have considered is buying a beater, that's what my son calls them, AR15, pour some liquid lead down the barrel, and leave it where it is easily found with a loaded mag nearby. I am sure that if some scumbag injured or killed himself, I would probably be arrested, but it would still be funny, particularly since I am not an AR fan, and have never owned one, but have used them many years at work.

I do hate it that in modern times, we all must have safes for our guns. When I was a kid/teenager in east Arkansas, lots of farmers had money and they all displayed their Brownings, Winchesters and Remingtons in gorgeous built in gun cases, behind glass only. But no more, too many POS's roaming the world. No sympathy at all for them!
 

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