A man whose gun safe we drilled open in late November relayed the following story:
Early in 2015 Jeff purchased a gun safe at a box store thinking it was decent quality and American made. (It wasn’t because this “manufacturer” imports 100% of their product.) Jeff’s safe malfunctioned and locked him out in late September. He was disappointed but not too concerned because opening day of deer season was still eight weeks away — surely he would have no trouble getting to his favorite rifle by then.
Jeff tried numerous times to call the company’s warranty department to arrange for the gun safe to be opened. Eventually he got an answering machine and was able to leave a message. After waiting a week or so without getting a return call the process was started over again. A few weeks later he reached a real person who apparently dropped the ball, because nothing happened again. He started over once more but the “customer dis-service” continued until after opening day of deer season. Jeff ended up borrowing a rifle to hunt with. He was not happy.
Obviously, few warranty issues take that long to get resolved, but some gun safe companies are known for their poor customer service. A little online research will tell you which companies to avoid. Buying you gun safe or vault door from a business that can service them will also save you from this kind of trouble.
About six years ago a California company wanted me to buy some of their chinese made gun safes which have a nice patriotic, all-American name. The prices were very good for safes with 11 gauge steel bodies. I ordered two to test the quality. When the gun safes arrived the steel was 2.5MM rather than 11 gauge — 17.7% less steel than advertised. (This is a very common lie, Chinese steel is usually in millimeters but importers advertise guage thickness.) The paint was also flawed, shelves were weak and the seals were coming off. We sold these units at our cost and never bought any more.
That company is still selling these products online directly to consumers, and through a few resellers. A small number make it into our area that way. We do service work for this California company when their products have problems. Their quality still sucks!
Last week we got a call from a lady whose husband had purchased one of these gun safes online. He has died and she did not have the combination. We told her that we could open it for a reasonable fee. We also told her that if she could find the serial number the company may have a record of the combination; but it might be a hassle to get it from them because they have no idea who she really was. I explained that they would probably want a notarized letter proving who she was, and might also ask for a death certificate. That made sense to her.
The woman called back 20 minutes later. She was shocked that the company gave her the combination without even asking her last name!! She thought we should know how careless the company is with people’s security.
People selling gun safes talk about protecting your valuables. But you need to be aware that many of them, especially online sellers, are just there to make easy money. Once they get your money they don’t care about you or the fact that you may put your life savings in their safe. They don’t want to be bothered by following appropriate security procedures.
Think about this: A visitor to your home might be able to write down the serial number of your safe, and then get the combination just by making a phone call! He could open your safe when you’re gone and empty it, leaving you to wonder how someone cleaned you out. Comforting, isn’t it? How much would you lose if this happened to you? You need to be really careful about what gun safe or vault door you buy and where you buy it.
The majority of gun safes and vault doors come with cam drives. Turn the handle and the spindle transfers that motion to some kind of cam inside the door. The cam then transfers the motion to some type of linkage that moves the bolt bars in or out. Safes with cam drives are easier for burglars to open than safes with gear drives. Why, then do most gun safe manufacturers use cams? Because they make more money selling cheaper (less secure) safes. Consumers almost never see what’s inside the door of their safe, and store personnel don’t know enough to tell them. Without good information, consumers will sacrifice security for a cheaper price.
Besides offering better security, gear drives make for smoother operation when opening and closing the safe. On most gun safes, whether operated by cam or gear, the handle turns about one quarter to one third of a turn. I especially like the “cool factor” of a handle that spins completely around several times, like Fort Knox’ 5 to 1 rack & pinion drive mechanism.
The safe on the left with a cam drive is much less secure than the unit on right. Both are made in American, but notice the difference in quality and craftsmanship . It is hard to tell from the picture but the cam is assembled with press-on fasteners, and the external re-locker was installed incorrectly at the factory.
When looking to buy a gun safe, learn about all the major features – the locks, the type of insulation they use, how the insulation is mounted, how much steel there is, how the boltworks are made, etc. Buy from a place that knows the differences and is willing to show you.