The photo shows a Graffunder vault door waiting to be delivered and installed (handle spokes not yet installed). This unit is an in-swing version, in the smaller of their two sizes, a VB7834. The paint is textured “Medusa Gray” with chrome hardware, which I like because it seems to show the depth and the lines.
Even though this is Graffunder’s smaller size and lightest construction it still weighs 1300# and has plenty of strength built into it. The door is ½” solid plate steel, the outside and inside frames are 5/8″ and ½” respectively, and the threshold plate is 1” solid steel. Like the doors on Graffunder gun safes, Graffunder vault doors fit tighter into the frame than any others on the market. There is absolutely no way to insert any kind of prying tool. They also have special lock protection, unique relockers and other security features not found on other units.
Graffunders are the very best. Other good, less expensive options are American Security, Golden Spike or Fort Knox vault doors. If you are building a new home, or if your existing home has a place for one, a walk-in vault door is a terrific addition that adds value to your home.
The vast majority of fire or fire/burglary safes, are built with an outer steel shell and an inner steel shell. The space between the steel layers is filled with a poured-in composite material similar to concrete. (Note that box stores sell frequently sell safes with plastic inner linings, and even plastic on the outside — don’t waste your money.) Photo on left shows a high quality Gardall fire safe, with steel interior and poured in composite insulation.
Almost all gun safes consist of an outer steel shell lined on the inside with drywall, and no inner steel. Most use Type X drywall which contracts and breaks into pieces during a fire. Drywall is a poor insulator compared to the poured-in composite. That causes manufacturers to misrepresent their fire ratings. Photo on right is a typical gun safe – fabric covered drywall, no inner steel.
Most quality fire safes have an Underwriters Laboratories fire rating of one or two hours. These safes have been tested independently under standard procedures at temperatures up to 1700 and 1800 degrees, respectively. Some have also undergone a 30 foot drop test. Imported units are normally tested according to Korean or Japanese standards, which are similar to U.L.’s. Gun safes will rarely pass U.L. tests so most manufacturers and importers do their own tests, or they make up numbers without testing. They often mislead consumers by mentioning “U.L. Rated”, but the U.L. rating they refer to has nothing to do with fire.
There are all kinds of ways to cheat when you test your own product. I have been told by people who worked there, that one company actually caulks the door shut during their fire test. Another way to fudge is to put the inside temp recorders in the bottom of the test unit where temps are lowest. Putting some kind of thermal barrier in front of the safe during the test also works well. For instance, remember how effectively even a sheet of paper blocks radiant heat coming off a camp fire.
If you want to protect papers or cash in a safe with the very best fire ratings available, you really should not get a gun safe. If a gun safe with inner steel and poured-in composite makes sense to you, look at Graffunder safes or Amsec’s BF series.
“Where’s the Beef?” That famous line sold lots of hamburgers for Wendy’s because it pointed out that their competitors’ burgers had very little meat. In the same way, when it comes to gun safes sold by big box stores, you could ask “Where’s the Steel?” Gun safes found in box stores usually have very thin steel in the doors and bodies, in spite of the manufacturers’ claims of security. The doors appear to be strong because they are up to 1 ½” thick; but that is usually just thin steel wrapped around drywall. One manufacturer brags that they have “thick 12 gauge” steel. Really? 12 gauge steel is barely one tenth of an inch thick! And that is supposed to protect your guns worth thousands of dollars? Steel that thin is easily cut by power tools, or pried open with basic tools.
Try this test with a gun safe in a box store: With the door open, put your knee into the front of the door and then pull hard toward you at the top. You can probably feel the door flex a little. Imagine how easily it would bend if someone used a pry bar!
The picture on the left is Brand X. The door looks good because the edge is 15/16”, but the steel is only a roll formed 12 gauge, just .1046 of an inch. The center picture is Amsec’s BF gun safe. The edge is only ½” thick, but that is a solid steel plate – 4.7 times thicker steel. On the right is a Graffunder Castle series door edge: 1” solid steel plate, 9.5 times thicker than Brand X! If you want to protect your valuables don’t settle for 12 gauge steel. Gun safes with steel plate all the way up to 1 ½” is available. You won’t see them at a box store, however; you will need to go to a safe dealer. Will they cost more? Of course they will. But it does not make sense to keep your gun collection (or silver, gold, cash, jewelry, etc.) behind a flimsy safe door that can easily be pried open or cut.
One other thing . . . Safe manufacturers that do put lots of steel in their doors will tell you that! They want you to know it. If a brochure (or sales person) won’t tell you specifically how much steel is in the door it will be 12 gauge or less. Visit a knowledgeable, honest safe dealer – not a box store – to be sure you are buying real security.
Does “Made in America” mean anything to you? It does to us. We proudly take a stand on this issue. Of the 45 gun safes we have in our showroom, only one is imported. We do not sell that model very often, but comparing it with U.S. made safes helps to sell higher quality products. The differences are huge.
Shopping for cars may be different. American cars are full of parts from China, Mexico, Korea and who knows where. Likewise, foreign car brands have significant American content. But a Chinese made safe is all Chinese. We as a country are too anxious to sacrifice quality — and American jobs – to save a few dollars. And then we complain about lack of jobs, low wages, etc. Do you think that we get a fair “social trade” with China? Our shop sells American made Fort Knox, Amsec and Graffunder gun safes, for good reason. But if you don’t like these, then buy a U.S. made Browning, Champion, Heritage or Liberty. Check closely for country of origin because they all have imported models, too. Take a stand to help keep jobs in The States – BUY AMERICAN!!
Below is a smaller portion of the test curve which was shown in the previous blog. Note how with the three inferior safes the inside temp shoots almost straight up at the beginning of the test. Then at about four minutes the curve turns back down slightly before shooting up again. This momentary reversal happens when the expanding heat seals get hot enough to expand. It does help, but it is clearly inadequate.
If there is a large gap between the door and the door frame, or the door does not close snugly, then heat and smoke will just pour in. In theory when the insulation gets hot enough to release moisture it provides a degree of cooling. And the resulting water vapor should create a positive pressure to keep really hot air from coming into the safe. But these affects are not enough to overcome poorly designed doors which do not seal.
So why did the American Security safe perform so well? First, these safes have plate steel doors that have tight tolerances so the doors fit properly. Second, these units have two types of seals. They have an expanding seal like other safes (top edge of door in photo above). But they also have a cold seal (in door frame) that keep out heat and smoke even before the expanding seal gets hot enough to work. Makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? None of the test safes were by Fort Knox, but most Fort Knox gun safes also use double seals. The inner seal (see photo below) expands, while the outer seal is a fin-type which is very air tight all the time. Graffunder gun safes use double seals, too — see earlier post.
Why don’t other safe manufacturers use double seals? Some choose to sacrifice real protection in favor of lower costs. When buying a gun safe, make sure the door fits properly and make sure it has both hot and cold seals
Tight fitting doors and heavy steel construction of Graffunder gun safes were discussed in earlier posts. There are many other features that make Graffunders the very best safes you can buy. For example, the bolts are machined stainless steel rather than just chrome plated steel, making them more difficult to cut with standard tools or torches. The boltworks are controlled by a heavy gear driven system, rather than by a simple cam system like most gun safes. Locks are protected by being completely encased in thick hardened steel. There are also hardened steel ball-bearing anti drill barriers in the door. In addition, on Emperor and Fortress models the safe bodies also have ball bearing anti-drill barriers in critical places.
Machined stainless steel bolts, 1″ thick solid plate steel door, 1 of two heat seals, Made in U.S.A.
Fire rated Graffunders are rated for 1 hour/1750 degrees. The insulation is concrete based composite material, which is poured in between the heavy exterior steel plate and a 14 gauge inner steel liner. More steel! As tight as the doors fit there are still two smoke/fire seals between the doors and frames. (I plan to write about the importance of having two seals in a future blog.)
Once you have decided on the model and size you want, designing your customized safe can be fun. You can choose from six textured paint colors for the exterior, three styles of handles, chrome or gold hardware, six interior fabrics, six interior shelf configurations and four different locks. Really dress up your safe with a beautiful high gloss door insert in one of four colors. Still can’t get exactly the look you want? Just tell us what you want and the good people at Sage Safe will make it happen your way!
Visit our shop to see Graffunders on display. We will help you to design your special one-of-a-kind high security gun safe.
Aside from having doors that really fit, Graffunder gun safes feature plenty of steel. And you need lots of steel for high security. The Bishop series have a ½” of solid steel plate in the door and ¼” throughout the body. The Castle series has twice as much – 1” steel plate on the door and ½” plate on the entire body. What other gun safes can claim that? Emperors have 1 ½”steel plate in the door and a full 1” steel plate throughout the body. Move up to a Fortress and the door is 1 ½” of steel and manganese laminations. Manganese is for torch resistance. These safes are impressive!
Graffunder Castle with 1″ solid steel plate door
Door jamb: 1″ plate steel safe front; 3/4″ plate steel reinforcement
Even the door frame is extra secure. Instead of the thin roll formed steel door jamb that most safes have, the door of a Graffunder gun safe closes against a welded ¾ steel plate.
The only downside of Graffunder safes is that they are heavy. Here in Michigan where everyone has a basement, placement is an issue. Neither Castles, Emperors nor Fortresses can be set on a main floor above a basement unless the floor is braced from below. They can rarely go down stairs either, unless the steps are concrete or steel. We frequently install Graffunders in homes which have walk-out basements, where the safe can go into the basement through a ground level door. Other common placements are in homes which are on concrete slabs, garages and pole buildings.
More on Graffunder Safes in another posting soon . . .
In my opinion the absolute best gun safes being produced are Graffunders by Sage Safe Company. There are only a few Graffunder dealers (we are the only dealer in a four state area) so these safes are not well known. They are also beyond the budget of most buyers. But if you are willing to pay for extraordinary quality and security be sure to check them out.
In this, the first of several posts concerning Graffunder Safes, we start with the basics. Four series are offered starting with the Bishop, then progressing up in security to Castle, Emperor and Fortress. These correspond with B-rate, C-rate, E-rate and F-rate security designations.
Pry tools cannot be inserted
Graffunder Castle C6032
The first really impressive feature you notice, even before the safe is opened, is the fit of the door. With every Graffunder we have had in our shop (we normally stock Castles), the door has fit so tight that a business card will be held firmly between the door edge and the frame. That is true craftsmanship! Ever notice that with “box store” safes you can stick a pry bar in all the way to the back edge of the door? With a Graffunder you simply cannot pry the door open because you cannot insert a tool. That is just the beginning; more information will follow in future blogs.