A great recent development in security is the electronic safe lock. The majority of gun safes, vault doors and commercial safesgun now come with them. They are easier and faster to use than traditional combination locks. Another advantage is that owner can easily change the combination himself, whenever he wants, without calling a locksmith or safe expert.
Well, while working on a project last week I discovered something interesting. One of the safe manufacturers told me they actually – intentionally – make it hard for consumers to find instructions on changing codes for their electronic locks. They do this because most of their dealers don’t tell the consumer how to change codes and don’t give them operating instructions. That way the dealer can charge a fee for going to the customer’s home and doing it.
I don’t know whether this is treating the consumer unfairly or not, but it seems greedy. We always provide personal instruction as well as owner’s manuals for electronic locks. We do charge when changing combos on mechanical locks because there is potential for the safe owner to make an expensive mistake.
When buying a safe, gun safe or vault door with an electronic lock, make the dealer give you instructions for the lock.
Does “Made In American” mean anything to you? Far too many people just do not care anymore. I believe our federal government is largely to blame for this. They have done whatever it takes to pass trade deals like NAFTA which immediately lead to American jobs going to other countries. There are entire industries in which the U.S.A. no longer competes.
“Made In America” DOES mean something here at Hoogerhyde Safe where we do not sell foreign made gun safes. And our customers truly appreciate that we take a stand. Michigan is still a manufacturing center, but we know what it means to lose hundreds of thousands of jobs to other countries — where workers are grossly under-paid and the environment is destroyed with pollution.
We are proud to sell high quality U.S. built gun safes by Fort Knox and Graffunder. We also sell American Security’s domestic BF and RF series gun safes, but we will not sell their Chinese units. I have written about many of the specific quality problems and mis-representations concerning foreign made safes. (Remember in the past, when someone mentioned “Chinese junk”, you knew they were talking about a kind of boat?)
Be part of the solution, not part of the problem. Take a stand and Buy American when it comes to your gun safe. The rewards include a feeling of patriotism as well as a feeling of having better security.
In 2012 a man bought a 3025# Graffunder gun safe from us, but the delivery was especially tricky. The only way to get the vault into the basement was to go over the house, then go in through a lower level door. Lifting something that heavy, that high, then extending the boom far enough, requires a special crane and a talented crane operator. Even the condition of the ground where the crane sits has to be right. Everything went smoothly.
Well, last month our customer moved to a new home, so we needed to reverse the process. After making the vault “fly” again and taking it to the new location, it actually needed to go up some stairs too. We had to build a special structure to accomplish this part of the move. Obviously, this is not work for amateurs. It takes special equipment and lots of experience. It is not inexpensive, either. But if you really need a high security gun safe, like a Graffunder or a Fort Knox Safe, delivery cost is just part of the investment. Buy your gun safe from a company that is highly skilled at delivering safes.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, 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.
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.
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.