Fireproof gun safes: Good or Bad experiences?

Discussion in 'Firearms' started by Dennis DW, May 9, 2006.

  1. My neighbor had a house fire Sunday afternoon which was contained to the basement. The only place structural damage is visible is the basement and the upstairs has a lot of smoke damage. He has a fireproof gun safe in the basement so he thought he was ok but when he opened it yesterday, the day after the fire his guns inside were all rusted. It didn't sound like anything was melted inside the safe. He said that the gasket did not swell to seal the safe. I've been thinking about buying one of these for a while. Has anyone had any experiences?

    Thanks for your input.

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  2. FIJI

    FIJI IZ Kamakawiwo'ole lives!
    Premium Member

    no safes are truly water tight (heck, they're not air tight either).

    If they are going in a basement a high fire rating is usu a waste of $$$ (heat rises). As your neighbor found out the big danger in a basement installation is the thousands of gallons of water the safe will be submerged under. Mine is in the basement and I gladly trade the water risk for safety, convenience and security that a thief is not going to walk off with my entire safe :bloos:

  3. I was looking at gun safes and researched them a while back. One of the things that caught my eye were many seemed were made of 10 gauge or even 12 gauge sheet metal. Some only had a rating of 1200 degrees for 30 minutes or even less. To me to protect guns and other valuables, that's not enough. I think a criminal with a good power tool could get into that fairly quickly.

    There are some safes that are 3/16" steel body and fire rated at 1680 degrees for 90 minutes. IMO, that is worth the extra money. I don't know about water but when our house burnt down when I was a kid, I saw how hot they get when it melted the aluminum on a '72 Yamaha snowmobile that was parked 15 feet away. Beads of aluminum were on the ground. Putting it maybe in a garage or pole barn may solve any water concerns, I don't know.
  4. my brother works part time as a fireman. according to him, its all about eliminating fuel sources, and examining how a house burns.

    heat rises. a basement of a fully engulfed house will be receiving somewhere in the neighborhood of 40-60,000 gallons of water. a portion of that water will evaporate quickly, but the net affect is that the basement stays relatively cool.

    additionally, there's not much fuel source in an outside corner of a garage. a fire there would quickly consume its fuel, and move on.

    i think i remember my brother saying that the average house fire temp is around 1300 degrees, in the center of the heat. locating a safe in the basement or garage would most likely not reach these levels, or if so, would not be sustained for long.

    i certainly think 10 gauge steel is sufficient. that's going to make one heavy safe.

    my hunting partner purchased a champion safe recently, and that's the one i'll be getting sometime soon. apparently, the family that makes liberty safes had a little falling out, and thus, champion was born about 10 years ago. they have all the features of a quality safe - double locking bolts on all 4 sides of the door, a re-locking mechanism should someone try to tamper with the dial, and heavy gauge steel. additionally, their warranty is second to none in the industry - if anyone trys to break into it, take it, or it burns in a fire, they replace it for free. not bad.

    the one my hunting partner got is the Champion Victory 50 (41"W X72"H X28"D). it weighs 1250 lbs empty. i highly doubt that any theif is walking away with that, even though he has it in the garage.

    depending upon the safe that you get, you might be limited as to where you can put it anyway. most places i've checked into will deliver it to your driveway, not in the house. getting one into the basement is sometimes impossible, and in today's age, it will probably cost you $200+ to have a moving company (if you can find one that will do it) put it in the basement for you. obviously it all depends on the size of the safe, but ....

    i think we need to be realistic about what a safe provides - that is, a secure area for our valuables. i've talked to a number of gun dealers, and firemen who've inspected safes after fires. i think the difference in burn ratings on a safe will make the difference in whether you can read serial numbers and such. any fire, unless contained quickly, will likely (at a minimum) damage the surface of guns in the safe. that's what insurance is for, i guess.
  5. rzdrmh, you make some good points and provide some good insight on information you know. I personally lean towards a little extra protection as I still remember when our house went, it was an old farmhouse and it burnt to the ground. My dad lost some great old guns but the thing that if they could choose to have would be sentimental stuff such as family heirlooms, home videos, pictures, etc. That's why I tend to lean towards a higher rating for fire protection, just for a little added security for things that insurance can't replace. Criminals with a little time can get into a safe, I've seen one that did with one of those large 6' prybars and a few tools, but that was a business safe. In a home, generally the chances of them taking the time to get into a safe there are pretty low. Ususally they want to get in and get out as quickly as possible with what they can get. So I suppose as long as a 10 gauge has good fire protection, it should fill the bill. But I know everyone has their budgets and what they feel is adequate for them. I just hate to see someone go through what we did and even now 25+ years later my parents still talk of things they wish they could've saved and none of it was anything insurance can replace.
  6. m1 - by all means, i sympathize with those that lose guns this way... sure, my m94 30-30 could be replaced, for not that much money, but it was my dad's, and that individual gun can't be replaced.

    your advice is good advice - basically, get the biggest, best safe you can afford without causing a divorce... ;-)

    the fire rating gets a little confusing to me.. for example - i've narrowed the field to the following:

    champion victory (either a 50 or 35, size is only thing that differs)
    browning medallion (44 long gun capacity)

    the champion has a burn rating of 60 minutes@1350 degs, while the browning has a burn rating of 30 minutes@1550 degs. which one is better?? wish they'd pick a base temperature, and give their respective rating.

    some additional things to consider between the 2 safes:

    There are a few, what I would call, insignificant differences.
    Browning Medallion Champion Victory 50
    Bolts 3 way active bolts (no bottom bolts) 4 way active bolts
    1 1/4" chrome 1" chrome
    14 bolts 16 bolts

    rating 30 mins at 1550 60 mins at 1350

    Capacity 52 long guns 44 long
    *An additional 12 inch top shelf
    Weight 950 lbs 1125 lbs
    Cost $2200'ish +shipping probably $2400'ish +shipping

    And a few significant differences.

    Warranty: Browning has a 5 year limited lock warranty. Champion's
    warranty is amazing. A complete warranty for the lifetime of the
    original owner. That includes damage from fire or an attempted break
    in. The likelihood of taking advantage of this warranty is pretty slim,
    but it's nice to know it's there. Advantage - Champion.

    Browning offers external hinges which allow for the door to be opened a
    full 180 degrees and removed if need be. Advantage - Browning.

    Both use 10 ga steel. Both have elevated floors. Both have lighting
    and electrical options. Both have auto relocking mechanisms that they
    claim are superior. Both use Sargent and Greanleaf locks.

    i think the champion is the better value in the end, and i'm probably going to get it. (someday, when the wife ok's it.. ;-)

    m1 - do you have a recommendation of a safe that's using heavier steel?
  7. I personally liked the Ft. Knox safes. Good protection and a lifetime warranty. I also liked some of the Heritage safe models and the AMSEC HS series. They all have lifetime warranties as well. All of them also offer the lighter 10 ga bodies with lifetime warranties as well. I have a few of their sites bookmarked:

    I just have to save up to get mine, hopefully soon.
  8. I have been thinking about buying a gun safe for a while now, but I know it would be difficult if not impossible to put it in our basement. Has anyone here ever put a safe in the garage? I'm just worried that because of the temperature changes that it would increase condensation and rust. Thanks for the help.
  9. most people i know that have safes in the garage use some sort of dehumidifier. i'm not so sure the temp causes problems as the humidity. a "golden rod" or other similar compact dehumidifier, coupled with some "damp rid" seems to keep things very dry.

    i've also heard guys say that in the garage, during the winter, a 60 watt light bulb continuously burning will keep the temp in the safe 30-40 degrees warmer than outside temps. you might get a month or two out of a single light bulb...

    basically, yes, there are a lot of guys putting safes in the garage nowadays.

    m1 - thanks for the websites - i'll check them out..
  10. They are very good, and I have had this one for 10-11 years I think. I have all the guns insured as just because they are in the safe.....they can still rust, or be damaged....a fire safe isnt going to protect for 100%. [I oft check them as they are wiped down and individually put into treated gun socks. Humidity is always a problem to watch. I also keep some valuables in a smaller fire safe inside the Browning safe......although a safety deposit box is also where I keep most of the valuables.
    Although they are heavy, you can usually move them with a few extra helpers......My wife reminded me of this when she wanted new carpet in the bedroom. Would recommend the Browning or Fort Knox [we used theirs at the gun shop I worked at long ago--top notch stuff]. I know everyone cant spend a fortune on safes, but Id buy the best you can afford.
  11. Thanks for all the input. I will most likely be purchasing a safe in the next 3-6 months. All the information is great to think about. Do any of you know if the Cabela's Outfitter series safes are made by one of the better known safe manufacturers? I have a few large gift certificates to Cabela's that I was possibly thinking about using on a safe. If their safes are not great I will just have to use them on a gun to put into a well known brand name safe.

    Thanks again.
  12. I have my gun safe in my garage and I have a golden rod in my safe, plus a few little moisture boxes. I thought I would have to drill and hole in it, but looked at the bottom and found two holds I think were made just for the cord for the rod:D So, to me it would be very hard to have them completly sealed off. My guns have been in this garage for over five years and none of my guns have any signs of rust. I agree you should have all of your guns insured:) I have all of mine on our homeowners policy.
  13. If I were to put my safe in the garage I would be interested in bolting it to the floor. Forgive me, but I'm about the least mechanically inclined person one may run into. Could someone here describe how you put the bolt into the floor.:help:
  14. Steel has a melting temperature of around 2,000 degrees. The thicker the steel, the longer it will take to heat up and cool down, that's about the only benefit. Concrete that is used in safes (that's where the weight is) conducts heat good, but it takes longer to heat up and cool down (additionally because it's thicker). Somewhere around 2000 degrees concrete will spatter and shatter, ask anyone that used a cutting torch on concrete. Any plastic parts on guns in any safe that's heated up will most likely be gone.

    Just giving you some facts. Though I'd like a really nice safe, I really can't justify one for what I have. I just have two of the cheepo joe's.

  15. They make floor anchors. You drill a hole and the put them in. Several different variaties, some work a lillte better, but for the majority, you'll have to cut the off when you leave.

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