Picture the scene: Two masked burglars enter your home and head directly to your office. One burglar places his ear to the lock of your in-wall safe and expertly turns the dial, carefully dialing in the secret code…1….2..3…4. The safe pops open with a light showing off your earthly treasures—over 200k in Marlboro bucks! Gone! And you were so close to getting the Members Only Marlboro jacket.
Joking aside, a good quality safe is one of the most important investments you can make as an adult. We know why gun owners should have them, but safes are for much more than just firearms. Where are your important documents like deeds, wills and testaments, birth certificates, irreplaceable photos, car titles, etc.? A safe can act as a repository for all your valuable documents.
Usually the shell will be a steel that is then lined with hardened metal plates or concrete; it can include fire-resistant materials such as fireboard or ceramic fiber insulation. How secure a safe is depends on the thickness of the metal, the gaps of the seals, the hinges, and lock mechanisms.
The thicker the gauge of metal used in a safe, the more secure it generally is. Just as with shotguns, a higher gauge number indicates a thinner metal, while a lower gauge number indicates a thicker metal. In general, safes made with thicker gauge steel are more resistant to forced entry, drilling, and other forms of attack. The most secure safes typically use steel with a gauge of 10 or lower, while lower-end safes may use steel with a gauge of 12 or higher.
The next biggest thing to pay attention to is the fire rating. Safes receive fire ratings based on their ability to withstand fire and protect their contents. To determine a safe’s fire rating, it must undergo a series of tests to measure its resistance to high temperatures and heat transfer.
The two main standards used to rate the fire resistance of safes are UL (Underwriters Laboratories) and ETL (Intertek). These organizations subject safes to a series of tests that simulate fire conditions and measure the temperatures inside the safe over time. Both UL and ETL rate safes based on their ability to withstand fire for a certain amount of time, typically 30 minutes to 2 hours, while keeping the interior temperature below a certain threshold. For example, a safe with a 1-hour UL fire rating means that it can withstand a fire for 1 hour while keeping the interior temperature below 350°F (177°C).
Common features that fireproof safes may have:
Fire-resistant materials: Safes may be constructed with materials that are resistant to heat, fire, and smoke, such as fireboard or ceramic fiber insulation.
Thick walls and doors: The thickness of the safe’s walls and door can help to provide insulation and prevent heat transfer to the inside of the safe.
Sealant: Fireproof safes may have a sealant around the door that expands when exposed to heat, helping to keep out smoke and fire.
Intumescent seals: These seals expand when exposed to heat, filling any gaps in the safe’s construction and providing additional insulation.
It’s important to note that while fireproof safes can provide protection against fire damage, they are not completely foolproof. Extreme temperatures or prolonged exposure to fire can still damage the contents of even the most well-designed fireproof safe.
After security and fire then next threat a safe can face is humidity. It’s important to dehumidify a safe because high humidity levels can cause moisture to build up inside the safe, which can damage the contents. Humidity can promote corrosion, mold, and mildew, which can ruin paper documents, money, jewelry, and other valuables.
In addition, high humidity levels can also cause the safe’s locking mechanism to rust or corrode, which can affect its ability to function properly. This can lead to difficulty opening or closing the safe, or even complete lock failure.
Dehumidifying a safe involves removing excess moisture from the air inside the safe. This can be done through the use of desiccants, which are materials that absorb moisture, or through the use of electric dehumidifiers, which use heat or cold to remove moisture from the air. I personally don’t like to leave things to chance and use both electronic heaters and desiccants. That way if the power is out for a couple days I am still protected.
So how big a safe do you need? If you live on the third story of an apartment, you will need something lighter than my 800-pound walk-in safe. Snapsafe has some great options that are modular. They ship in multiple flat packs that you can assemble without extra tools since the wrench is even included.
The next question you need to answer is what do you need to secure? If you need to keep one pistol and your wallet safe, that’s a different need than storing several hundred firearms. My advice? Always go bigger than you think you need.
Securing the Safe
No matter what safe you get, you really need to secure it in place. In my case that means multiple large concrete anchors— if a tornado blows away the whole house, the safe will still be there. You can also secure it with lag bolts to the wall into studs. Make it impossible for someone with a hand truck to get it out. Another trick I use is to install a security camera eye level, so if that door opens I get an alert.
Of course you can order one online at snapsafe.com, or your local sports store. But have you thought about a good used safe? Check out your local auction houses, you will be amazed at how cheap safes can go for—until you remember that no one wants to move the damn things, and you can get a great quality safe for literal pennies on the dollar. (It will cost you in sweat equity though, because you bought it, now you need to move it.) In the past I bought a safe door and frame that spent its first hundred years protecting county documents. It got it for $50; another $50 and I had a locksmith set my preferred code. This is now the entrance to my walk in safe at my workshop.
Auctions and places like Facebook marketplace are also great resources to find businesses that are going out of business. You can find some high quality commercial safes for cheap. Just make sure that you have at least one key and/or combination! If the safe can be opened when you buy it, leave it unlocked when you take it to your reputable locksmith. With the door open the locksmith can easily access the tumblers and give it a new combination.
Really there is no excuse to not secure your valuables. Don’t be one of those people who closes the barn door after the horses already escaped.
—James the XDMAN Mr. UnPewFessional himself
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