Monthly Archives: February 2016

Gun Safe Boltworks: Part 3

Other factors that determine how strong a gun safe or vault door is against a prying attacks include the length of the bolts, and whether pressure is deflected or distributed to parts besides the bolt bar.

Imagine a safe in which, when it is locked, the bolt bar goes right up to that part of the door which frames in the boltworks, lock, re-lockers etc. — that piece about 3” wide through which the bolts stick out. If the bolt bar fits up tight to that frame, and someone is prying on the door, then all the pressure is put right on the point where the bolt is attached to the bolt bar. That point of attachment and the bolt bar would take all the stress.

Now assume that when the gun safe is locked the bolt bar does not go right up to the frame, but stays, for example, 1” away. If someone pries on that door the frame will absorb most of the stress, at the point where the bolts come through the holes. Having a second point of contact makes a huge difference in strength. But some manufacturers use only 12 gauge steel there. Also, the size of the whole that the bolts go through can make a difference. If that hole is much bigger than the bolt itself, then the bolt has more room to move and more of the stress will be passed on to the bolt bar. It is best when the hole is just big enough for the bolt to go through, so any pressure immediately puts the bolt in contact with the frame. Naturally, thicker steel in the frame makes the whole unit stronger

BOLT BARS 017Boltworks 005

The pictures show several methods of adding strength against pry attacks. On the left, for each bolt there is a welded guide piece to keep the bolts aligned. It also acts like a spacer that keeps the bolts back from the frame about ½”, and it makes a third point of contact that absorbs pressure from prying. The bolt bar itself needs help in this safe because it is weak. Note how much of the bolt bar is cut away to reduce material cost, and the steel is only 12 gauge to begin with.

On the right is a brand of safe we sell. Notice that the frame is ½” thick! Bolts are welded to the bar, not attached with a fastener. The bar is 2” X 1/4” and is arranged in a way that yields maximum strength. Incidentally, these safe bolts are stainless steel, not plain steel.

People come to our store from all over the state because they know they will really learn about safes here.  A store or safe dealer should be willing to remove the inner door panel before you buy a gun safe, because you can learn a lot by looking inside. Don’t buy until you see what’s inside.

Gun Safe Boltworks: Part 2, Bolt Bars

The last post said that the size of the bolts in a gun safe makes no difference in a pry attack, but mentioned that there are other potential weaknesses. Flimsy bolt bars are a major problem in many safes.


The picture on the left shows the bolt bar– the vertical angle iron to which the bolts are attached — from a safe we sell.   The picture on the right shows the bolt bar from a well-known brand of gun safe that we will not sell. The safes are the same size. The bolt bar in the safe on the right is extremely weak compared to the one on the left for four reasons:

  • The one on the left is slightly longer than the one on the right.
  • The one on the left is 23% bigger: 2” x 2” vs. 1.5” x 1.75”.
  • The one on the left is 44% thicker: .1943” VS .1345”.
  • The one on the left is a solid piece of steel, while the other piece has 12 extra holes punched into it, each of which makes the piece weaker.

I believe the extra holes are there so the bolt bar can be used interchangeably in other safe models – good for manufacturing efficiency, bad for security.  Smaller dimensions and thinner steel also keep manufacturing costs down, but they’re bad for security. Take all these things together and there is a huge difference in strength.

Bent Bolts 2

So why is that important? The next picture shows a safe which uses that same flimsy bolt bar. Burglars successfully pried this safe door open.  Pressure from their pry bar caused the bolt bar to bend, which allowed the bolts to fold over enough for the door to open. This manufacturer talks about protecting your valuables, but in reality all they want to do is make more money. They make more money by going cheap on one of the most important pieces in their safes! The same principle applies  to vault doors.  This is why you need to talk with real experts when buying a gun safe, not a box store or a gun dealer who also happens to sell gun safes.