If you’re in the market for a gun safe, especially when shopping for the first time, it’s important to note that gun safes vary a lot in both size and quality. By learning about the variables, you’ll be able to make a smart choice about the best gun safe for your needs.
Things to look for in a good gun safe
Always think about the size of your safe in relation to your gun collection first and foremost. What good is any safe if it can’t hold your guns? Many safes, even those rated RSC (Residential Security Container), the lowest official safe rating that marks the difference between a safe and a cabinet, may be dishonestly labeled regarding gun capacity. Most experts agree that the gun safes at $1000 are much better than a $500 safe and harder to open. Depending on the accessories you have on yours, like optics, a low-quality gun safe may only hold half of what it promises.
Fireproofing is a big deal for gun owners, because guns are a big investment and they like the security of knowing that if, God forbid, their house catches fire, their guns will survive. Unfortunately, this rarely the case. Safes may be marked as fireproof, when they are really just fire-resistant—or neither. If you want a safe that’s fire resistant, look for a UL (Underwriter Laboratories) classification measured in “350-X”, whereas X is the amount of time the safe is guaranteed not to be above 350 degrees Fahrenheit inside. This rating system goes from 350-1 hour to 350-4 hour, with typical safes being rated for one or two hours. Note that if your house is caught in a wildfire, your safe will be engulfed likely far beyond 4 hours, so it’s important to, once again, remember this is fire-resistance and not strictly fireproof.
Some safes will use drywall instead of quality materials for the interior. This adds unnecessary weight and some materials that are used inside safes may actually corrode your guns. Always ask for specifics about what your safe is lined with; this will reduce the possibility of corrosion.
Speaking of weight, it can factor into design. Some safes have to be very deep to accommodate the heavy weight of the door. That said, a safe with a very heavy door should be bolted down for safety.
Going back to safe ratings, RSC is the lowest UL safe rating, which means it can withstand a manual onslaught (such as a thief with a screwdriver) for five minutes. Higher UL safe ratings are available, and are strongly recommended if you are storing additional valuables like jewels or antique art, and may even be required if these are insured. The highest UL safe rating means the safe can withstand an assault with a torch on all six sides for thirty minutes. Half of the ratings only count for the door; the sides are the weakest part, so the more valuable your collection, the more likely you are to need a six-sided solution.