Tag Archives: gun safes

Beware of Gun Safes Which Are Mis-represented

One of the fastest growing companies in the gun safe industry does not make anything, they import their gun safes from China.  This blog has referred to them in the past because they are most flagrant liars, the most deceitful people I know.  (Fear of getting sued prevents using their name.)  They came around again last week with a cube truck in which they display a number of products.  Giving them another chance, I climbed into the truck and listened to the national sales manager for a minute about how great their Chinese gun safes are.

Their top-of-line gun safe is supposed to be built of 8 gauge steel, which would be pretty good, but feeling the steel was enough to tell that this was another lie.  With a micrometer and gauge chart it took about 30 seconds to show he was wrong.  The steel was 10 gauge – a big difference.  Even after proving the lie he made up stupid stories to weasel out of the problem:  “Well the supplier’s paperwork says 8 gauge”; “it depends on which gauge system you are using”, “maybe this is one of the old models”, etc.

This guy stated that their gun safes are better than other imports because the factory they use is the best one in China.  But this factory is one which I know uses skip-welds. It also uses drywall construction scraps for insulation.  This company claims that one of their product lines is “Made in America” even though they are, in fact, made in China.  Apparently, if you install the lock and a few little pieces in the U.S. you can claim the whole safe is American.  I could go on….

The point is that these crooks claim to be protecting your valuables while intentionally misleading you.  Dishonestly selling JUNK at low prices is why they are growing.  If you buy a safe to protect the guns which are your passion, or to protect a significant part or your net worth, you darn well better buy your gun safe from someone who knows and cares and is honest about what they sell!

Most Gun Safes Do Not Seal Properly in Fires

Earlier posts talked of the problem with gun safes having only one seal.  We have two safes in our shop from different manufacturers that went through fires, and they demonstrate the point perfectly.

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Gun safe manufacturers all talk about having the intumescent seal which is supposed to protect your valuables in a fire.  The theory is that when you have a fire, heat will cause the intumescent seal to swell up and seal the door shut.  But in many fires the gun safe does not get hot enough for the seal to work, allowing heat and smoke to enter between the door and frame.  Pictured is a gun safe with a “60 minute fire rating” which uses only the intumescent seal.  While the safe got coated with sooty smoke it did not get very hot, so the seals did not expand.  The paint will clean up fine; everything inside, however, was damaged by heat, acidic smoke, cinders and ash.  You can see that the seals never expanded.  Pictures of the interior show damage from smoke, ash & cinders.  Ironic:   The “Fire Safe” label is coated with soot and smoke that the “fire safe” did not protect against.

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The plain fact is that for good fire protection gun safes need at least two different seals.  One needs to seal the door ALL THE TIME, whenever the door is closed.  See posts dated 7-6-15 and 7-20-15 for details.  Fort Knox gun safes use an airtight fin-type seal on most of their units and Amsec uses a foam cushion.  In both cases the gap between the door and frame is closed even when the safe is cold.

Seal systems on gun safes and vault doors are not a minor point – they are one of the most critical features.  Yes, you might need to pay a little more for real protection, but there is no point in paying less for a product which does not work!

Putting a Safe or Gun Safe in a Garage, Part 2

If you need to put your safe or gun safe in the garage here are the steps you should take:

  • Invest in a heavier, higher quality vault, preferably TL-rated like American Security’s RF series gun safe.
  • Conceal the safe the best you can. Build a cabinet around it or drape a blanket or something over it.  American Security sells what they call a “Safe Cloak” for gun safes which is a fabric cover that makes your safe look like a cheap storage cabinet.  It attaches to you gun safe with a magnet across the top and hangs down to ground level.  If possible, put the safe in a back room or around a corner.
  • Don’t allow service people or delivery personnel to go through your garage.
  • Keep your garage door locked at all times to keep people out.
  • Increase the perceived risk to a burglar — put up a sign stating that the house and garage are monitored. It helps to install a very conspicuous camera, even if it is fake.
  • Anchor your safe to the concrete floor using high grade anchor bolts.   Most fire safes are light enough to be picked up.  If you don’t have the right tools or skills, hire someone who does.
  • Don’t keep pry tools, sledge hammers, torches, etc. in the same area – keep them locked up in the house.

To avoid problems from cold and fluctuating temperatures in northern states:

  • Use a dehumidifier rod (heat bar) inside the safe to keep temps as stable as possible.
  • There can be a problem in those first warm humid days of spring when the ground is still very cold. The cold floor will keep pulling warmth from the safe causing condensation, making the safe sweat, which encourages rust.  Antique safes are especially prone to rust.  It is best, therefore, to have a small amount of contact with the floor.  Thin squares of wood or plastic at the corners will minimize the problem.  We usually use pieces of the plastic shims used to install windows and doors.  Important Note:  Don’t raise the safe too far off the ground; the bigger the gap there is between the floor and the safe, the easier it is for someone to move the unit.  A big gap makes anchoring less effective too.
  • Battery life in electronic locks will be shorter in cold situations. I would guess that electronic locks themselves would have shorter lives, but that is just speculation.  Dial locks are less affected by cold.

Keeping your gun safe in the garage is less than ideal.  Minimize risk by taking proper precautions.

Gun Safe Destroyed in Fire

It has been a long time since I wrote about the inferior insulation used on most gun safes, and the inferior way it is installed.  The photo below prompted me to comment on the subject again.  The picture shows a gun safe (made by the best-known manufacturer) which went through a fire earlier this year.  As you can see this gun safe failed completely.  The “Type X” drywall is in pieces in the safe, along with the remainders of expensive shotguns.

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Brief refresher:  Type X drywall shrinks and breaks into pieces when heat from a fire cooks out the moisture.  Glue used to install the drywall gets soft and lets go, so the drywall caves in.  That glue probably burns, too.

Do not buy a gun safe that uses Type X drywall installed with glue!  There aren’t many good choices because almost every gun safe manufacturer uses this type of construction.  Try Fort Knox, Graffunder and American Security’s BF line.

Interior Options on Gun Safes

If you have shopped for a gun safe you have run into the “one size fits all” interior configurations.  Everyone is supposed to want the same set-up – a vertical divider in the center and 10 to 15 gun spaces on each side.  But that doesn’t work well for everyone.

I sold a gun safe to a woman this week who has just two rifles, and plans on one more.  She has lots of other stuff that needs to be secured, however.  So why should she waste half of the interior space for just two rifles?  A Fort Knox unit in the 60 X 31 X 27 size with a four-gun interior works perfectly for her.  She has four full width shelves for jewelry, pistols and documents with just a small area dedicated to long guns.

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Fort Knox has many different interior configurations so the owner can use the space efficiently.  A 60 X 31 X 27, for instance, can be set up to handle 4, 8, 13, 18, 26, 31, 36 or 40 long guns.  If your needs change in a few years you can order different shelving.  The photo shows a small unit, 60 X 26, with a 3 gun interior.  Lots of usable shelf space.  Other alternatives include the “all gun” rack shown at the bottom, which has 18 spaces.

Fort Knox dealers will have lots of gun safe options in stock, and lead times for special orders are usually only about 6 to 8 weeks.  Fort Knox specializes in allowing you to get exactly what you want by offering many sizes, security levels, colors, lock arrangements, etc.  Don’t “make do” with a gun safe that doesn’t fit your needs, just because it’s the only choice offered.  Go to a Fort Knox dealer and spec out a unit that is exactly what you want, including the right interior.

Gun Safes Make Great Christmas Gift, But . . .

Gun safes, as well as regular fire/burglary safes, make terrific Christmas gifts provided that the unit selected is appropriate for the recipient’s needs.  That can be a problem, however, because the well-intended purchaser often does not appreciate the differences in quality, and they may not know about everything the user will store in the safe.  The buyer is usually a spouse or “significant other” who is buying an special, useful gift.  Understandably, they are focused on price because even a cheap gun safe is a big purchase.

Big box stores take full advantage of this situation with Black Friday sales and Christmas sales.  They sell thousands of cheap Chinese units which, to the person who doesn’t do proper research, appear to be suitable.  The result can be that the gun owner ends up with a safe he would not buy for himself.  It might not offer the protection he knows he should have.  While truly appreciating the thought behind a major gift, he may have unspoken doubts about it, and it’s a difficult gift to return.  We have all been there with one gift or another.

So here are my suggestions:

  • Don’t buy a gun safe as a surprise. Talk about it in advance.  Get his/her input about brand, size, and value of what it will be used for.  Select a manufacturer like Fort Knox that offers a range of security levels.
  • Be wary of Black Friday and Christmas sales.
  • Don’t buy only, or primarily, based on price.
  • Don’t buy a Chinese product.
  • Both parties should learn the basics about gun safes, the differences in brands and models. A good place to start is by reading my earlier posts about gun safes, safe locks, etc.
  • Buy from a legitimate safe store, not a gun store or big box. Your research should include talking directly with safe experts who actually service different brands.
  • If cost of a good unit is too high, then agree that this gift will be for Christmas and the next birthday, or this Christmas and next, or have them pitch in on the cost, or get their family to contribute.

Honestly, a quality gun safe or fire/burglary safe is a gift they will actually use and remember for years, even if they need to help with the cost.  But the memory will be less positive if it is one of those gifts that he/she would secretly prefer to return for something better.

Gun Safe Ruined by Locksmith

The previous post was about a gun safe that was destroyed by a locksmith who had no idea what he was doing.  Last week we had an even worse instance of this kind of work by a different locksmith with similar lack of knowledge.

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The “victim” came to our shop needing to buy a replacement gun safe.  His had been ruined when he called a locksmith to open it.  The locksmith told him the only way to get it open was to cut a hole in the door. It had been a good safe with heavy steel and good boltworks.  As you can see the safe was butchered.  The locksmith left a pile of metal shavings on the floor and filled the customer’s entire house with drywall dust.  The customer was charged $1200! And now he needed to buy a new gun safe!!

The real tragedy is that the problem was a loose spline key in the lock (see July 25 post) which we would have opened without even drilling a hole!

The man is now the proud owner of a Fort Knox gun safe, but he is very angry at the guy who cost him lots of money.

Again – if you have a safe problem, call a trained safe tech, not just a locksmith.

Why a Safe Lock Quits Working Gradually

Here is a call we often get that drives me crazy:  “My safe quit working today and I can’t get it open.  The lock started acting up about four months ago and kept getting worse, but now it won’t open at all.”  The safe now needs to be drilled open and they complain about a bill of $300 to $400.

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The most common reason a combination lock goes bad gradually, and then fails completely, is a loose “spline key”.  When you turn the dial on a good combination lock a spindle transfers that movement to the lock body which is mounted on the inside of the door.  Three or four wheels and some other parts are held in place on the spindle by a tiny L-shaped spline key, pictured on left.  The other photo shows the inside of a Group 2 lock.  At the center of the “drive wheel” is the spindle.  It is grooved to hold the spline key (here pointing to 10:00) that in turn unites the wheels to the spindle.

When the spline key gets loose the wheels move, so they are no longer in sync with the dial.  The lock will not open consistently even when dialed accurately.  Keep trying to use the lock and the spline key will loosen up more, until it hits the inside of the lock cover or it falls out completely.  In either case you are locked out of your safe.

When your safe acts up, don’t put it off.  Avoid paying to drill it open by calling a competent safe technician immediately when you have problems.

Gun Safe or Burglary Safe: The Affect on Insurance

Customers always ask about insurance coverage when they have a gun safe or burglary safe.  There are lots of assumptions and questions, so I called several agents that handle home insurance, and here is what I was told.

One said that usually, if you have a burglary safe you can get a small savings on your annual insurance cost, probably around $10; the other disagreed.  Ask your agent.  The next paragraphs talk about coins in particular, but collections of guns, jewelry, watches, etc. will be similar.

They both said that, if you don’t have your coins scheduled or itemized on a rider, your policy will usually cover up to about $500, whether they are in a safe or not.  But they will only be replaced at face value, so numismatic value will not apply.  A penny that is worth $50 to a collector will still be reimbursed for $.01.  Value of the silver or gold content most likely will not count either.

If you have your collection appraised and covered on a rider, they will be covered up to the appraised value.  (My coin guy charges $50/hour to do written appraisals.)  When that value is based mostly on the gold or silver weight, however, be careful.  If the appraisal is done when gold is $1300 per ounce, and you are robbed when gold is worth $1600 per ounce, you will be reimbursed at the original $1300 value.  Cost of the insurance rider will probably run about $38/year for every $10,000 in value provided the collection is in a safe.  Cost will go up about $4 to $5 per $10,000 in value if there is no safe.

All kinds of variables affect insurance, including where you live, which insurance company you use, your loss history, etc.  For an extremely high value collection there may be better coverage with a TL-rated safe.  There might be specialized policies for high value collections, like there are for classic car collections.  Some items are irreplaceable because of sentimental value, like Great Grandpa’s old rifle or Grandma’s wedding ring.  To the insurance company they are probably only worth generic value.  I am certainly no expert.  Don’t make assumptions – ask your agent lots of questions.

You should always have insurance coverage on your valuables.   But the best protection against theft in the first place is to have a really good gun safe or burglary safe and good home security.  Don’t take a chance that you may not be properly reimbursed after a loss.  Prevent the loss!

Coolest Gun Safe on the Market, From Fort Knox

Fort Knox Safes is famous for allowing the consumer to customize the gun safe he wants.  This year Fort Knox introduced two more options that offer cool new looks, more ways to get your gun safe your way.

Old, very retro industrial design is fashionable.  This is especially true where old factories and warehouses are being converted into desirable apartments and condos.  Fort Knox’ new “Distressed Industrial” finish fits right in.  Each gun safe is different with the addition of big rivets and random distress marks to the paint.  Besides rehabilitated industrial buildings these units look good in your work shop area or man cave.

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The other terrific new option is Fort Knox’ crane hinge.  This is also a throw-back to the old days.  A hundred years ago very heavy safes and vault doors were frequently built with crane hinges to help the doors move more freely.  This system makes safe doors that are actually double-hinged, so they move in a more three dimensional manner.  Crane hinges are available on all Fort Knox gun safes (except Mavericks) and in all finishes.  D6031 and D7240 shown.

If you want to really impress your friends — and get serious security at the same time — get a Fort Knox gun safe or vault door with the new Distressed Industrial finish and crane hinges.  Awesome!