View Full Version : Negative experiences with gun safes?

March 25, 2002, 12:12 AM
I've searched and researched TFL, researched nearly a dozen manufacturers, and am just about ready to plunk down a couple of grand on a ton (literally) of steel box. However, I'm curious if anyone has had any negative experiences with a safe - I'd appreciate your feedback...

Here's a couple of things that I'm weighing:

1) Most 'fire-resistant' safes contain simple drywall or sheetrock as the fire barrier. This material keeps internal temps low by releasing stored moisture when exposed to high heat. The nature of this process will expose the contents of the safe to VERY high temps and humidity. Has anyone had their fire-resistant safe survive a fire - and what happened to the stuff inside?

2) Most every safe that I've researched DOES NOT come with a burglary rating - only a statement that it is a 'residential security container' (RSC) - the lowest rating possible. What that amounts to is that either the manufacturer hasn't subjected their product to appropriate testing, or it doesn't stand up to determined attack. Here too - has anyone experienced a break in where the bandits were successful at penetrating a RSC?

3) Finally, in terms of maintaining a 'safe' environment for the firearms stored within the safe, has anyone experienced problems with the air being too DRY - to the point of the wood stocks / grips / etc. having problems.

Thank you for your thoughts and input.

March 25, 2002, 08:07 PM
No safe is 100% theft proof< But I sleep better knowing if I go up town that I have some degree of safety knowing that if an intruder wants them they are sure gonna have to work at it. most burglaries are the hit and run type. foreget about the fire rating, mine was bought for the (common) thief.........

Lord Grey Boots
March 26, 2002, 11:48 AM
In my research I came to the conclusion that the most important feature was the body thickness. 1/4" real good. 0.10" not so good.

Despite what some say, the biggest risk is not a house fire, but burglary.

Get a big safe.
Hide it.
Bolt it down.
Put in a golden rod (or even just a small light) to prevent condensation.
Digital locks are a good idea.

March 26, 2002, 08:09 PM
I'm with Grey Boots. While I'd like a much bigger, heavier, thicker safe, the reality is that if true pros break in, my guns are gone. But the vast majority of break-ins are done by snatch-and-grab types. They have neither the tools nor the now-how to break into your basic safe. A cheap gun cabinet, sure they'll pry it open. But a decent gun safe bolted to a concrete floor? They'll jiggle the handle and move on, I suspect (and hope :mad: )


ammo dave
March 27, 2002, 03:54 PM
I have a small Browning (not fireproof) that I've had for years and I can't believe the average burgular could penetrate it without some heavy duty tools and plenty of time. Conversely, I recently acquired a small Stack-On gun cabinet that I could probably open with a crowbar in five minutes. I use the Stack-On for inexpensive long guns that won't fit in the Browning. Unfortunately I didn't have any more room downstairs for another safe and didn't want to try to muscle a real safe upstairs.

Double Naught Spy
March 27, 2002, 07:46 PM
Most gun safes are glorified gun lockers. They are probably better for fire protection than burglary. Compare a comparable sized jeweler's safe that runs closer to 6-10 grand as opposed to a gun safe that runs just 2 grand.

When our family sold jewelry and made the jewelry shows, we saw a wonderful 'safe' demonstration where two guys broke into a safe, a very expensive safe, in a little over half an hour, closer to 45 minutes before they were able to extract anything they wanted out of the box. Did they go through the drill resistent and heavily reinforced door? Nope. They went through a side. What type of sophisticated equipment did they use? Did they use specialized safe cracking stuff? Nope, they used a couple of 12 lb sledge hammers and they went through the 1/4" outer shell, fire lining of cement (about 2-3" thick), then inner shell that I think was another 1/8" or 1/4" inch.

Most of us could get into a gun safe with a claw hammer in the same amount of time. They are rarely made of really heavy duty metal, thin fire lining that is not burgar resistent, then a thin inner lining. A gun safe is a time delay security option, but won't stop a person with time.

So when you buy a gun safe, understand this aspect. It will protect your guns better, but like so many considerations, if the thief finds the safe, has a little time, they are going to get into it. For example, say you are away for the weekend and they know it. We all know that the safe is where the valuables are, right?

Remember, thieves don't steal what they can't find or don't find. For thieves, well hidden beats better protection anytime. The only problem is, it is hard to well hide a cache of guns in an environmentally protective manner within the confines of one's house such that a thief with a little time won't find it. That is why people often turn to disguised safes where they are built into walls and covered with some other furniture such as a bookshelf.

March 28, 2002, 09:33 PM

Yes, I've heard the same story about the two 'professionals' who opened a safe with the sledge hammers. It is obvious that one with time can do most anything and all a safe does is buy some till the good guys can get there.

I've personally decided that glossy paint jobs, gold plated 5 spoke handls, and fancy pin stripes don't do much for me. I like the idea of cold, hard steel - lots of it.

Accordingly, I'm going to acquire a 'C' rated safe: 1/2" thick walls (and top and bottom), and 1" thick door - removable thank you, and plant it in a recess in my basement office. My plan for fire protection is to install a dedicated sprinkler directly over the beast.

So far, I'm liking www.brownsafe.com - any other sources would be appreciated. From what I've found, their prices are much more affordable than others like Liberty, Fort Knox and others in that realm - and I honestly believe that 1/2" thick plate steel holds aces over 10GA (0.120") sheet metal any day of the week.

Double Naught Spy
March 29, 2002, 12:08 AM
dsjsd, you are a man with a plan!!! You apparently are not buying the cracker box glorified gun locker that most of us have. Good for you! Don't get me wrong, I have a nice glorified cracker box. I just understand its limitations is all. I helped drill the anchor bolt hole. It took about 2 minutes. With a hole drilled, a few blades and a few minutes with a sawzall and I could be through my two 1/8" panels separated by drywall.

The only negative I can see is one of weight. This is an issue with all safes, more so with heavy duty jobs like what you describe. Find a good home for it and make sure you have the foundation under the safe to hold it securely. If you are only dropping a couple of grand, it sounds like a bargain. I take it that you are getting the safe at the "wholesale" price listed? That would be really cool.

As for hearing the story, I watched the two guys finish the safe at the jewelry show in Dallas in the 1980s. It was a loud event, but one that really struck home about what security really is.

March 29, 2002, 01:35 AM
IMO, when talking about safes, people have a strong tendency to get carried away. I don't think anyone honestly believes that their safe is really safe under all conditions; everyone knows that someone that has the right equipment and the time can breech our safe. You can beat a safe open with a sledge hammer, you can blow the doors off with C4, you can shoot a 20mm cannon at the doors, you could bust a master safe cracker out of the joint by helicopter and have him pick it while sanding his fingertips on sandpaper..........................The reality of the situation is that everything in life is a comprimise. Security is no exception. Not many people live in something like the missle silos at Cheyenne Mountain. With safes we comprimise on price, we comprimise on weight on and on. It will never be full proof so buy what fits your needs and your budget and be happy; remember, NOTHING is going to stop everyone.
Fire protection is the same senario. Most people cite the worst case senario; a completely closed house which doesn't allow the fire to vent, the fire is in the room the safe is located in, and the fire department never fights the fire. Then they tell you that if your safe can't handle that, then fire protection is a waste of time. BS. Again, buy the best you can and be content that it is the best you can do. Odds are that the fire won't start in that back bedroom where the safe is, odds are that long before these fabulous temperatures are reached the FD will be on the scene knocking down the fire in it's incipient stages.
And let's say the worst case senario happens. The master safe cracker can't find anything better to steal than our guns or the FD is out on strike and your house burns down. Are you really any worse off for having bought the safe ? Would you feel better if you said, I knew something like this would happen, so I didn't bother buying a safe ? Hell no. On the other hand, if a group of teenage punks break in your house and can't get in your safe, it will all be worth it. Or if you have a grease fire on the stove and the house fills with smoke, but your guns are enclosed in a safe and receive no damage, you can pat yourself on the back for thinking ahead.

Double Naught Spy
March 29, 2002, 08:22 AM
444, I don't really agree about most people having very realistic expectations. I think a lot give lip service to safe shortcomings, but feel they are buying "security" when they get a safe. My point is that is does not take skill or special equipment to get into most gun safes. Gun safe makers usually put up a big front about how well protected the door is, but fail to mention how crappy the sides, top, and bottom are. It is great when you have 8, 1/2" thick locking pins to keep your hardned, drill proof door secure when a teenager and a claw hammer can get in the side of the safe in a few minutes.

I think most of us think we are safer than we are because we keep paying for crap that isn't doing us much good, all in the name of more secure safes.

Dealer at gun show, "You aren't getting through this door with a torch, drill, or even a sledgehammer for a very long period of time."

Me, "But if attacked from the side, how long would it take. 10 ga. walls with sheetrook and another 10 ga. wall doesn't look all that thick."

Dealer, "Well, most thiefs think you have to go through the door to get into a safe."

Me, "Oh, so long as I get a dumb thief, I am protected, but if the guy has seen a safe and has a hammer, how much time to get in through the side?"

Dealer, "Well, it won't take quite as long as through the door."

Me, "Great, thanks. How much is one of these puppies without all the extra front door security that isn't protecting the rest of the safe."

Dealer, "We don't sell them like that. If that is what you want, why not get a locker."

Me, "That's what I want, a locker like yours, but without the heavy door."

Dealer, "We don't sell lockers."

Me, "Really? But this is only safe from the front."

March 29, 2002, 10:58 AM
I agree with the safe dealer, very few people would think about trying to beat their way though the side of a safe with a hammer. I am no expert on the demographics of criminals but I can make some guesses. Most of them are not too bright, that is why they are criminals. Most of the criminals that are breaking into residential homes are drug addicts or alcoholics or probably both. Possibly teenagers. They are not professional thevies who have given the break-in a lot of thought and preparation.
I also contend once again, that some preparation is better than no preparation. And, a safe is only one link in the chain of security.
I have heard that story about beating the safe with sledgehammers a half dozen different times, I am not sure if you told it each time or not, but the reason it is worth mentioning is because of how unusual it is. You make a point in telling the story of mentioning that they never touch the door etc. That is because most people who would try to break in a safe would try to defeat the door. Also the guys breaking in to my house don't even have room to swing a sledge hammer against my safe. This is assuming they survived me, and my Rottweiler, and assuming that they have a pretty decent amount of time, and assuming that they anticipated there being a safe so they brought their sledge hammers and assumining that the police don't get there before they get in (my next door neighbor is a state highway patrol officer). Then of course there is the idea of where you put your safe. If you put the safe in a corner, there definitely isn't room to attack the sides with a sledgehammer. If you put the safe in a closet, there definitely isn't room to attack the safe with a sledgehammer. Etc.
The real test of whether a safe is worthwhile is this; How many people do you know that have had their safe defeated ? I don't know any. I have never heard of any. I have been reading these on-line gun forums for years and have never heard of one. All the rest is speculation.

March 29, 2002, 11:05 AM
Whatever you do, dont leave your torch in the garage with your safe. The dealer I bought my safe from told me of someone else he sold a safe to who did just that. Came home and the side was cut out and all was gone. Kind of adds insult to injury to know you provided the tools, huh?

March 29, 2002, 11:25 AM
My original intent on posting was to solicit experiences from those who had 'negative experiences' from break-in's, fire, whatever. I've seen that there've been alot of reads, but not many posts, suggesting that either people haven't had these experiences, or are unwilling to comment.

Either way, I am making a decision based upon value, knowing the only certain things in life are taxes and death. For what a fancy, pretty Residential Security Container is going for, I can get a genuine it'll-bust-your-balls SAFE. Given, it ain't gonna be the Holy Grail, but I WILL feel a whole lot better knowing that what I've got will address MY concerns.

I'm sure that my decision won't be the best route for everyone - but it works for me. Particular selling points from my perspective:

1) The door is removable, effectively cutting the weight of the safe in half. This way, I won't have to reinforce the stairs leading to my basement. Keep in mind that the particular model that I'm looking at weighs in somewhere North of 2000 pounds.

2) Steel is steel, and the more of it I can get between the outside and the inside, the better. Layers of steel and other materials (insulation, dry-wall, etc.) aren't the same as a single plate of equal thickness. Given the $$$'s involved, I'm goin' for more steel.

3) Fire protection is not a REAL concern for me. The safe will be in the 'coolest' part of my house. Furthermore, if a fire-resistant container were to be exposed to the heat of a fire, I'm sure that the contents inside wouldn't be of much value afterwords. Reason being is that most materials used in a gun-safe emit moisture when exposed to high heat, effectively turning the interior of the safe into a sauna. Once again, not for me.

4) This thing isn't going to be a decorative centerpiece. I don't WANT people to take notice anyway.

Once again, these are things that I've considered to be important to ME. Others likely have other opinions, needs and values. For me, dollar for dollar, I'm going for something that's specifically RATED to address my concerns.

March 29, 2002, 09:33 PM
Ok, so what are you buying ? I need a new safe.

March 29, 2002, 09:52 PM
Right now, I'm leaning towards the http://www.brownsafe.com/7228.html pending a quote for a similar model from Meilink from a local shop. Either way, I'm going to go with a 'C' rated safe, since that buys me the most protection for my budget. Note, I could go for a heavier safe (read: thickness) or one that is rated TL-30, 60, whatever - hell, I could even get one that is rated to resist explosive devices (yikes!). But for the $$$ I've got budgeted, the 'C' will do me just fine.

March 29, 2002, 10:06 PM
What floor plan are you going to go with ? I currently have 15 rifles leaning against the wall because I can't get them in my current safe. However what I really would like to have is the ability to hang my pistols from pegs on the door. Everytime I think that I can't possibly get even one more pistol in the safe I go ahead and buy one anyway.
I am holding back on buying a safe because I sort of considering moving into a bigger house and I don't want to have to move this safe, let alone a bigger one.

March 30, 2002, 08:57 AM
I have been waiting to spend some real $$ on a good one with these features:

heavy guage steel

Full interlocking bars (locks) and no exposed joints/hinges

fire and humidity resistant, with access for a Goldenrod

High-capacity storage (12-16 long guns, some extra shelves for handguns or whatever)

A latch or bar or something to allow the locking down of the long guns while in the safe.

Any safes like this exist? I expect to pay a bundle.

March 30, 2002, 11:55 AM

I'm planning on going with a naked safe - I'm a hobbiest wood worker, and am looking forward to building my own interior. That way, I can customize the layout to meet my particular needs.


Don't know of any ONE FACTORY safe that has what you're looking for, especially when you want to lock down the long guns... However, fire AND humidity safes can be had - they're called 'data safes' and are intended to store things like computer disks and tape reels. Lotsa bucks for something large enough to swallow long guns.
Another alternative is to look for a safe that uses an insulation other than plaster, gypsum, drywall, etc. This stuff emits moisture to keep the temps down inside the safe. You could also consider a 'jacketed' safe, where you literally fill the void between outer and inner walls with concrete. The sheer mass will absorb the heat of a fire, but depending on the construction of the inner walls, may introduce moisture to the inside of the safe.

Search the web for manufacturers that specifically produce a 'data safe' - like this one http://www.meilinksafe.com/products_FireKing/DataSafespecs.htm

April 7, 2002, 02:09 PM
I just dug a section of concrete out on my patio then I threw my guns in ziplock baggies and poured concrete over them. Then just dig em up with the sledge when I go shooting.

Seriously tho I just bought a HOMAK pistol safe. With the key pad and electronic lock. What a peice of crap! Last night I hoped up in the middle of the night to se how well I could open it when I was tired and it was dark. Well I couldn't tell which button was which and After teh FIRST!! wrong combo it went into lock out mode for 10 minutes! So I resigned myself to the fact that had I truely needed my gun I would have been dead! It is getting returned today! Anyone know anyhting about the MiniVault? Its got that hand print thingy.:confused:

April 8, 2002, 11:28 PM
I personally don't think fire resistant safes are worth the extra money. I bought a small fire safe and keep that in my big safe for important papers that I hope will make it through a fire, but I have all my guns insured full replacement coverage. If they get stolen or burn, no problem. The safe I have is a Visalia, it is 1/4" plate steel, with 5, 1" dead bolts, it holds 15 long guns and plenty of room for pistols, it measures 5'HX30"WX20"D, the best part, it was only $700. The one thing that sold me was it has a integeral continuous piano type hinge. You can't cut this hinge off. That is the easiest way to open one of these safes.

The usual break'in on homes are young teenage burglars that are probably local to the neighborhood. They are not safe crackers, and in my case I have my safe bolted through my floor with one inch diameter bolts that go through 6"X 8" floor joist, reinforced with 1/4" plate steel.

April 19, 2002, 03:17 PM

The minivault (GV-2000) rules for small safes... electronic access with key override (HIDE IT FAR AWAY), a way to test if someone has been fudging with the access code, and a spring loaded door which opens QUICKLY when the right combo is entered.

Love mine.

Installation was a snap. Bolt that sucker down in the right spot, and you will feel much more secure. Also, take digital photos and get everything documented.