Protecting your firearms from theft, fire, and unintended users is part of being a responsible gun owner. But there’s something important you’re not being told…
by the ShootingDaily staff
Here is the uncomfortable, unspoken truth of the sporting goods industry: you are probably better off having NO GUN SAFE in your house than having one of the gun safes purchased from the big sporting goods box stores or department stores.
Gun safes aren’t sexy, and all of us would much rather spend our extra money on another firearm, a stash of ammunition, or a premium riflescope. Yet have you ever added up the value of all the guns you have in your home? If you are even an average gun enthusiast, hunter, or firearms collector, chances are the replacement value of your armory would exceed the cost of a quality gun safe by four-fold or more.
Now consider the cost of a five-minute home burglary or, worse yet, a fire.
All of a sudden, talking about gun safes makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it?
But don’t run out and buy a safe just yet. The most important gun safe fact you need to know is (excuse the cliché) that all gun safes are not are created equal. Furthermore, most of the gun safes purchased today are only slightly more effective than cardboard boxes at protecting your investment. In fact, you may be better off NOT BUYING a gun safe than purchasing a safe at your local sporting goods emporium.
Here’s why…NEARLY ALL GUN SAFES PURCHASED IN BOX STORES CAN BE BROKEN INTO IN LESS THAN TWO MINUTES!
The Dirty Secret
Go online or visit your local gun safe dealer and try to learn the key construction details of a popular gun safe brand. We’re talking about the metal content here—metal thickness and number of layers. Many safe manufacturers and retail sales clerks will play up a safe’s wall or door thickness. The problem is, “thickness” means absolutely nothing when it comes to a safe’s ability to resist breaching. That’s because most safes are manufactured overseas using 12-gauge or thinner sheetmetal that is stamped or bent to give the illusion of substantial thickness. In reality, that thin sheetmetal exterior is backed by weak gypsum board or a heat-resistant amalgam and covered with carpeting or cloth material on the inside. Added together, it may give you walls and doors that are three to five inches thick, but as you can guess, that thickness does not increase a safe’s resistance to forced entry.
If you have any experience with metal, you already know that a box made of a single layer 12-gauge sheetmetal is little more than a tin can that you can cut, bend, pry, or rip open easily with simple hand tools. We’re not talking hand drills and power saws, but screwdrivers and pry bars—tools of the trade for any residential thief.
And this is the shocker that we want to repeat again: a thief can open one of these “bargain-priced” safes with a screwdriver or pry bar in less than two minutes! It doesn’t matter how many locking bolts are on the door, or whether the safe has redundant locks or not, or how big of a “thud” that door makes when it’s closed. If a safe’s chassis is not made of quality metal and lots of it, it presents only a minor speedbump on a thief’s path to getting your guns and valuables.
And this is why we say it may be better not to have a cheap gun safe than no safe at all. Thieves know the score on these safes, and rather than being seen as a deterrent, a cheap safe is actually a magnet for home invaders because they know it’s easy picking time.
The truth is, you’ve spent good money on your firearms and other valuable possessions, so why gamble with the false sense of security offered by bargain bin gun safes?
Now that we’ve established that chain store gun safes are one of the worst investments you can make, the question becomes, where do you turn for a safe that will give your valuables a fighting chance against thieves, as well as protection in the event of a devastating fire?
Underwriters Laboratories (UL) has developed a standard (UL 687) that covers a wide range of construction and performance ratings for safes, spanning Residential Security Containers (RSC) and Class TL-15 safes up to Class TXTL-60X6 safes. For a little perspective, Class TL-15 safes must resist penetration of the door by common hand tools (manual or electric or both) for 15 minutes. Class TXTL-60X6 safes must resist penetration from all six sides for 60 minutes by means such as tools, torches, and explosives. As you can see, a gun safe without at least an RSC label would be downright pathetic.
As you can imagine, most of the bargain-priced box store safes aren’t able to meet even the minimum TL-15 Test Performance Rating. On the other hand, a TXTL-60X6 rated safe is so expensive and massive that it would bust a hole in your wallet and your sub-floor should you want to install one in your house. The middle ground for a gun safe that is both affordable and practical is found, well, somewhere in the middle. During our research, we came across a gun safe company that delivers just that.
The Ft. Knox Difference
At first glance, Ft. Knox gun vaults don’t look much different than the safes we find in the big retail stores, which just goes to show that a pretty safe isn’t necessarily a practical safe. Any similarities, however, end there.
One of the biggest differences we found with the Ft. Knox vaults is their metal construction. Since Ft. Knox is all about building safes to customer specifications, you can choose how much more metal you want in your safe. The minimum chassis steel thickness of a Ft. Knox vault is 10-gauge, but you can upgrade the outer wall by choosing 3/16- or 1/4-inch plate steel. If that’s not enough metal for you, you can also line the inner walls of your vault with up to three additional layers of 10-gauge steel plate. Furthermore, the plate corners feature both penetration welds (outside) and reinforced welds (inside) to maximize strength and impact resistance. If you still want more, you can step up to a Level 3 ballistic vault by selecting the 7-gauge ArmaKnox AR 500 steel plating option.
The other thing that sets the Ft. Knox vaults apart from the bargain bin herd is their fire protection capabilities. By incorporating UL-listed C-rated fireboard insulation on all six sides, and using a stud-weld process to create an air pocket between the outer steel chassis and the fireboard insulation, these safes can withstand 1,680-degree F fire temperatures for up to 90 minutes (@ 350-degrees inside). When opting for the Inferno Shield Level 120 fire protection, fire protection extends to two hours (@ 350-degrees inside). By contrast, most of the cheap import safes are only good for around 30 minutes at 1,200 degrees F.
Ft. Knox vaults also offer something you can’t get from off-the-rack gun safes. Ft. Knox vaults are custom-built to your specifications. This goes not only for the chassis construction and exterior finishes (up to 17 colors and 3 finishes, depending on the model), but also the interior shelf and rack configuration, handle finish, and interior fabric trim. In addition to these basic construction options, the company also offers many accessories and upgrades, such as lighting, lock configuration, hinge type and location, dehumidifiers, and more.
For a good overview of some of the key features that separate Ft. Knox vaults from the vast majority of gun safes on the market today, check out this video…
Finally, Ft. Knox offers its customers a true Factory Lifetime Warranty on its vaults. Many safe manufacturers’ “lifetime warranties” rely on the buyer’s homeowner policy to cover the safe in the event of a fire, flood, or attack. So, if the manufacturer won’t cover their own safe with a factory warranty, it begs the question, “why not?”
The Ft. Knox warranty stands apart in the industry. Theirs is a factory lifetime warranty that does not rely on a homeowner policy. Furthermore, this warranty goes beyond the expected replacement due to material defects or workmanship to include actual performance. If your vault is broken into or damaged during an unlawful attempt to break into it, the company will replace the vault free of charge. Now that’s a guarantee that inspires confidence.
Hedging Your Bet
The truth is, no gun safe is impervious to breaching. There is always a way in—from brute force prying to drilling to plasma cutting. The key is buying a safe that increases the time or difficulty it takes to successfully break in. As we said, most box store safes can be easily breached in under two minutes with simple pry and crow bars. The longer it takes to breach or the more tools that are required to breach, the less likely a thief will spend time trying to break in. Also, professional thieves know which safes are easy pickings and which are more trouble than they are worth. If you buy the “monthly special” gun safe at your local EverythingMart, expect potential thieves to salivate.
We’re not willing to make it that easy for them. Are you?
Article copyright 2015 by ShootingDaily.com; promoted by Ft. Knox, Inc.