View Full Version : Ever had a gun safe broken into? What were the specs?

July 25, 2011, 10:33 PM
I was looking into it, and researching the different classifications - "resists 15 minutes with suitable tools, based solely on thickness of steel..." "resists for 5 minutes..."

Anybody have any stats on firearm thefts from gun safes? First hand knowledge? How often does a gun safe get looted? Did you ever suffer a break in and see they tried and failed to open a safe? Either way, what were the specs?

One locksmith chimes in on gun safe threads, and says he regularly sees them broken into and he'd only recommend Class E safes, or commercial safes that are big enough. I may be misrepresenting his views. OTOH, I talked to a cop teaching an NRA home firearm safety class and he thought that was quite rare.

July 26, 2011, 08:32 AM
I have seen safes of all types, including gun safes, broken into.

Safes are no different than anything else. They are a tool, and they make different tools that do different jobs. You need to determine your true needs, then buy the right tool to accomplish the task at hand.

If you're going to use the "it rarely happens, so I don't really need anything good" argument, then you might as well not buy anything at all. If your house never burns down, the guns are fine under the bed. If the burglar will never touch the safe at all, they'll be fine in a $99 Stack On Cabinet.

Airplanes rarely crash into the water, but they all have expensive floating seats. Cars rarely crash (as a percentage), but they all have highly tested materials used for their seat belts. People rarely have $1,000,000 doctor bills, but they still have insurance policies that will cover those figures. Gun owners rarely face a situation where we would need to use it, but many of us still carry concealed weapons. If you're not prepared for a worst case scenario, there's no sense in making preparations at all.

An E rate safe is essentially a non UL rated, steel plate safe, that would have a UL TL-15 rating if tested. Around here, that safe would be insurable for over $100,000 worth of contents. If you have $50,000 worth of guns, it may be something to consider. If you have $5,000 worth of guns, you'll spend more on the safe than your guns are worth. It's all relative.

July 27, 2011, 05:00 PM
Excellent points...i was all into a very expensive gun safe but really it gets to be pointless almost (I have less than $5K in my guns)......I can see a stack-on mounted to the wall in the basement.....storage room out-of-sight.............save a lot of money and am already paying for insurance as is...that money could go towards different builds or better optics

July 27, 2011, 08:59 PM
I have a good 550 pound, concrete lined, fire rated safe. We don't just keep guns in it (I may or may not have a few), but spare car keys, car titles, birth certificates, spending cash, jewelry, etc. For me, a good investment for protection, and piece of mind when I'm not home.

On the other side of the coin, I had a buddy that built a false wall in his basement with an entry built into a large locker style cabinet (hidden switch) he hung old clothes inside. I doubt anyone without prior knowledge would discover it without hours of searching.

August 1, 2011, 08:08 AM
IMO gun safes are a case where the law of diminishing returns comes in. I've seen a case reported by an owner where a cheap Sentry Centurian that was bolted down stopped a 'smash and grab' type of attacker. I have also seen a TL15 rated safe that was cut open by the owner's tools.

A high quality RSC (a useless rating) can stop some pretty aggressive attacks with non-power tools (I.e., pry bars, sledge hammer etc.) A tool rated safe will certainly stop any attack that a lower rated gun safe can but it may or may not stop an attack involving power tools. So you can spend 5 times as much for a safe that weighs 5 times an RSC and still be volunerable.

I agree with gearhounds and diablo that concealment is the best defense against an attack. Best example I've seen is where a friend of mine created a vault under the concrete frost wall entry way to his house. He cut an access door to it from within his basement then hid it behind a tool cabinet that was on casters so he could move it out of the way when needed. The only person who knew it was there was his wife and the only reason I found out about it was because I helped him move.

August 1, 2011, 01:35 PM

Stack-on cabinet a friend was using at a worksite that was hit by smash and grab thieves one night. The cabinet was fortunately empty at the time except for a couple of packages of screws, my friend had been using it to lock up power tools, it was thrown around, jumped on, and had chisels and prybars used in the attempt to open it.

My opinion on them is basically that while they'll keep out some thieves, like in this case, that wouldn't of tried to carry out the cabinet, that's about all it will stop. Also if you're going to use one, understand that unless you bolt that sucker down to where there is no chance it'll be moved, don't put anything breakable in there. Judging by the damage done, any scopes in there would have been destroyed and a good chance that multiple firearms would mean at least some chipped crowns, among other damage.

August 1, 2011, 02:09 PM
My safe is what many would consider inexpensive. It was, and is, all I could afford. It is not, unfortunately, fire resistant.
But, I am confident, it would thwart any thief that did not bring welding equipment. The safe is bolted to the wall.
I am also confident that most house thieves are too stupid to do much planning ahead with things like welding equipment.

Double Naught Spy
August 1, 2011, 03:36 PM
A "safe" is just a delay mechanism, be it a delay from fire or a delay from theft. I watched two guys break into a monster jewelry safe at an industry show. It took less than 45 minutes with sledge hammers before they were reaching in and pulling out drawers.

Most good gun safes are decent fire protection and fairly low grade theft protection. They will stop your low brow quick-in quick-out burglars who want a quick score, family members, and neighborhood kids, but won't stop professionals or anybody with 5-25 minutes and a few tools, such as a sledge hammer or in many cases, just a simple crow bar, which is a common burglary tool.

August 1, 2011, 03:45 PM
Guess I need to lock the head to my plasma cutter in the gun safe.

Never though of that before.


August 1, 2011, 04:03 PM
Just the other day I was on the phone with emergency dispatch as they relayed information between myself and a local fire department regarding a child who was locked inside of a Liberty safe at Lowe's.

It was 9:30 on a Saturday night, and I was grabbing everything I needed to hop in the work truck and head out that way to assist. The fire department wanted to know if it was OK to take the jaws to the door of the safe. I said it was fine as I stepped through the front door. By time I got in the truck and started it, dispatch advised me that they had it open.

It took them less than 30 seconds.

August 1, 2011, 07:42 PM
Wasn't a "gun safe" per se, but I had a digital combo fire safe that I probably picked up at the local Costco a few years ago. Well ... the digital part failed and left me with locked box with a nice pistol inside. I popped an abrasive blade on my circular saw and was amazed at how quickly that safe surrendered ... we're talking under 2 minutes :eek: and it dropped apart like an avocado that you slice in two with a really sharp knife. A little noisy? Yes, but nothing totally out of the ordinary, even in an urban setting. I'd imagine that this approach would work for a large part of the safes out there that are not access limited.


August 1, 2011, 08:42 PM
Well ... the digital part failed and left me with locked box with a nice pistol inside. I popped an abrasive blade on my circular saw and was amazed at how quickly that safe surrendered ... we're talking under 2 minutes and it dropped apart like an avocado that you slice in two with a really sharp knife.

This is why it's important to know how a safe is built, because they are all very different from one another.

Chances are you had a document safe. If you look close, many are not even made of steel, and a few of the companies use a lot of plastics. The fill is very loose and wet because its sole purpose is to protect against fire.

If you had a safe with thicker steel walls, or a fill material that was a bit more robust, it may have slowed you down quite a bit. The average safe shopper sees a square box with a dial lock, and assumes they are all the same. They also assume that weight equals burglary resistance.

August 1, 2011, 09:05 PM
This is why it's important to know how a safe is built, because they are all very different from one another.

Amen to that! This one was mild steel on the exterior ... probably about 0.1 inches thick ... and I'm sure that it WAS designed as a document safe. I'd be interested in how someone not in the profession would come across solid info on the construction of a safe. I have not yet replaced that one, and someday I'd like to make a better choice. For sure, I am now biased strongly away from digital controls and in favor of the 150 year old dial technology!

I'm assuming that a TL-15 rated safe will resist my circular saw, but what will one of those bad boys cost?? Is there a way to find a safe in the sub-$2000 range that will be big enough to hold long guns AND resist simple tool (e.g. circular saws, etc) attacks? I'm pretty sure my actual gun safe would open almost as easily as my "document safe" did :(

Thanks for sharing your expertise ...


August 1, 2011, 10:14 PM
Someone once told me that they leave their safe a decoy and hide their guns somewhere else. Not recommending it or anything but just an interesting idea. I have a cheap stack-on safe. I don't expect it to do any good against any serious thief. Is more of a keep my younger siblings and their friends away from my guns kind of thing.

Buzzard Bait
August 1, 2011, 11:00 PM
A few months ago I saw a story in a news paper about a highway patrol officer who saw sparks going down a road across a open field some distance from where we was. It was at night and so he went to investigate and found a thief who had stolen a gun safe from a house out in a rural area and was dragging it behind his truck and the metal safe dragging against the road surface was putting up a spray of sparks that were visible at night from a long distance. Apparently the thief was unable to lift the safe into the back of his truck so he used a chain to drag it off.

August 2, 2011, 09:22 AM
Depends on the safe, tools and person. I watched a lock smith open a Liberty safe, he called liberty to obtain the correct drill spot, to not hit the double lock, and it still took him 4 hours. He didn't know what he was doing, masonry bits in a hand drill. With my mag drill and a carbide single flute drill it would have been a 5 min job.

A friend of mine buys and sells safes, he simply cuts a hole in the back to remove the lock cover from the inside so he can tell a buddy turning the dial what way to go and how much. Once open he welds the back back in place.

Those crappy sheet metal safes are to keep them out of childrens hands, they could get to them too with a screw driver but Dad would find out once he got home.

August 3, 2011, 05:46 PM
no safe is going to provide 100% protection. its all just a matter of time against fire, water and burglaries. the more $ = more time

Mr Dish
August 3, 2011, 06:13 PM
I was looking for a gun safe for several months. Watched the videos on youtube showing how easy it was to break into any and all safes. It was pretty discouraging stuff.
Then I talked to an old timer (old timers have a wealth of information) and he explained that yes, any safe can be broken into given enough time and the opportunity. Most break ins are smash and grab so they arent going to spend too much time on anything they can't haul away. So I bought a large one that takes 3-4 men to move, bolted it to the floor, put most of my guns and cash into it and went on living my life as usual.
The best 'safes' I've seen amazed me. Both were 'fake' rooms in the house. There was no way for a stranger to know they were even there.

I'm not going to spend much time worrying about someone stealing my possesions, if they get past me and the dogs, then I geuss they can have them. I have much better things to worry about...like my new Grand Daughter and what kind of playhouse I'm going to build for her next summer.
How I'm going to keep building the retirement portfolio. How do I get my employees to work harder...etc.

August 3, 2011, 08:54 PM
My safe is bolted to concrete floor in a closet corner. Thieves would have to defeat a security system and escape scrutiny of helpful neighbors. I'm protected against bust-in-and-run thugs and this thought comforts me. Having a secure storage space when guests are here is another good feature.

1776 Patriat
August 3, 2011, 09:16 PM
Just spend the $$$ and get yourself a quality safe. Just bolt it down, and be done with it!!

August 4, 2011, 03:55 PM
This is just my opinion but unless you are doing it for a fire rating, I believe any money is better spent in concealment. Like one poster said, his buddy has a spare room in his basement and the entrance is well concealed. You could do something similar and make a void behind a painting or mirror, wall in an old closet etc etc. If you DIY then you are probably going to end up spending less and getting more in the way of theft protection.

I live in a small condo, I have a non-walk in closet that is way too wide to the point where I cannot easily get into one of the corners easily. I have been thinking about blocking off and creating a 2-3' deep void in the closet to store valuables, guns etc because I have no real good place for a safe. Total project cost is probably under $500.00 because my labor is free, you cant even begin to touch a really good full sized gun safe for that money.

September 12, 2011, 05:26 PM
Combine a good safe with a good alarm system and they won't have enough time to get in it unless they come with tools before the police arrive, five to fifteen minutes in my neighborhood.

September 12, 2011, 09:19 PM
We picked up a Champion brand safe from our local distributor for my FIL, and, being a lover of locks, safes and nonsense like that all my life, I went poking around the warehouse...



Some punk kids worked on this safe for 6 hours and never got it open. That is not to say they were skilled (or sober/straight) but it's the story I got from the dealer.

I always figure it's a law of averages. If someone is determined and knowledgeable, they can breech my safe and get my goodies. Hopefully they will be in a hurry and miss it, or decide it's not worth their time (they are too busy tearing my TV off the wall and packing my stereo up with the silverware.)

September 12, 2011, 09:57 PM
Keep a few bucks sitting on top of your safe for the petty thief or drug addict that might break in and he will probably grab in and run without damaging your safe. Just another part of the plan.

September 13, 2011, 08:06 PM
Some punk kids worked on this safe for 6 hours and never got it open. That is not to say they were skilled (or sober/straight) but it's the story I got from the dealer.

From experience, I find that hard to believe. That's no more than 15 minutes worth of lazy work.

Keep in mind that a safe rated for 15 minutes of burglary, made out of the same steel as that gun safe, is going to have 1" solid walls, and a 1.5" solid door. Since your average gun safe is 12 gauge, that means the walls are 10 times thicker, and the door 15 times thicker.

September 13, 2011, 08:55 PM
You can get into most any of them in about 5 minutes if you know that's what you're going after. My brother has been hit twice. A known high dollar collector, he has had a Browning and a Winchester safe cut open. The clowns brought a circular saw with a carborundum blade in it and cut the door open. It's amazing just how fast you can cut one open. We played with the hulks afterward to see just how easy they are to cut. We now have a 12'x 20' concrete building with 8" solid walls with a steel pinned door. Inside is lined with prison bar you can't cut with most common tools. It's also wired for heat, radar, noise, and is hooked up to the Sheriffs dept. Not saying it can't be broken into but they'll still be trying as the sheriff pulls up. See, we now keep the counties machine guns and ammo in it. Not only do we perform a service to the county, we get to play with their toys too.

September 14, 2011, 08:27 PM
Here is ont that will be tough to get into!
And it IS for sale!

September 15, 2011, 03:06 PM
Good design and location helps strengthen even the weaker safes.

Put your safe in a corner, with the hinge line situated furthest from the corner. Bolt it down to the concrete or floor. Now they can't pry the door as easily, and can't tip it to get leverage. Better yet, keep it in a closet where there's no room for leverage on either side of the door, and keep it distant from any outlets. Make sure there's no straight line from the safe door to an exterior door where a vehicle could apply force (no safe in the garage!!)

Keep your saws, grinders, prybars, extension cords and welding torches locked up separately.

Do all of that, and they have to work with tools they've brought. You can't stop everyone, but that would stop a good percentage of folks.

September 15, 2011, 03:12 PM
I've never been tempted to put a safe in the garage ... but only because it was too visible for my tastes ... I had never even considered this very good point of denying a perp the opportunity to use their Ford 350 to pull it out ... this is a good point!


September 18, 2011, 06:39 AM
My safe ( 3 of them ) are intended to SLOW down the thief.

locks only keep the honest people out ..

A well motivated thief will be able to break any safe, given enuff time,
my job is to slow them down,
1. dog
2. locked doors and windows
3. well light house
4. informed and involved neighbors.
5. security system whole house
6. and lastly, gun safe.. and I lock the safe each and every time.

funny how I see some safes , all bolted down and secure as all get out,, and the door is left open / unlocked..

September 21, 2011, 12:09 AM
So seeing this and living in an apartment, what is a good defense for a safe in that case? I am planning on one soon.


Kevin Rohrer
October 2, 2011, 08:52 AM
Burglars, like all thieves are lazy, stupid, and more afraid of you than you are of them. But they aren't normally completely stupid and most operate under the premise that all houses are alarmed. This means that many if not most time themselves to be in a home no more than 10-minutes.

Put your safe in the basement; burglars seldom if ever go there. They concentrate on bedrooms (cash, guns, and jewelry), closets (cash and guns), and rooms the electronics are in. They also sometime check the frig for something to drink.

I have owned an inexpensive Treadlock w/ 12-gage walls for >30-years that is just as secure as a bank vault because of its location. And I own nothing that would give burglars a means of gaining entry. If a burglar enters your home w/ the tools needed to get into your safe, he/they had prior intel, which means shame on you for allowing that intel to get out.

October 2, 2011, 11:26 AM
Rdmallory has the right idea.

Something people tend to forget about when considering a break-in is the tools the burglars will bring. Chances are, not many. HOWEVER, even a novice criminal would know to use YOUR tools to get into the safe.

Is the safe bolted up nice and tight? Oh yeah. At this very moment, are all of your power tools put away and locked? Hell no, that would be a nuisance for me (I work on my cars a LOT).

Even an expensive safe is no match for an oxyacetylene torch with a full five-foot cylinder and twenty minutes. And if I was a burglar (and I had a friend with me), it wouldn't be beneath me to drag that SOB up/down stairs to the safe, knowing it would crack it like an electric knife to a cantaloupe.

October 13, 2011, 05:37 PM
I bought a large two-door safe from the estate of a jeweler and gun dealer. At the time, I didn't know that there was a difference between theft and fire resistant safes. A fire safe will withstand heat to a certain degree for a certain length of time but would be easier to break in to.

My suggestions: put the safe in the basement or bolted to the garage floor. Don't use it as a piece of furniture in the den or living room.
The safe should be hidden from view, especially when the garage is open.
Do not store any tools likely to help a burglar attack the safe where they are readily available. My safe is in my basement workshop (took eight men to get it down there) but all heavy tools such as crow and pinch bars, sledge hammers, lump hammers etc are locked in the garden shed.
Try to disguise the safe in some manner for those times when you must admit service and repairmen to your home.
Place a decoy safe in the master bedroom. Fasten it to the floor so that a burglar must waste valuable time in prying it out. Fill it with worthless foreign coins.

It's not practical to measure the value of guns against the value of a safe. Should your guns end up in high profile crime, there could be civil consequences for you.