Ask Foghorn: Buying a Gun Safe

Nathan asks:

I’m in the market for a gun safe, and have been reading as much as I can about the topic, but still am not sure which way to go. I thought a story/review by one of your writers about their experiences with safes might be helpful to folks. Is it worth going big $$$ for a name brand or saving some coin and getting a cheaper one from a big box store? Are electronic locks better/worse than dial combination locks? How much fire protection should I get? Any brands to stay away from? How much weight can I put on the second floor of my house safely? Can I put a safe in an unheated garage?

I don’t personally have any experience with safes, but I do have a rather extensive background in risk analysis and lockpicking. And this, my friends, is a risk analysis question.

Gun safes are like an insurance policy — you’re setting out some money now so that you don’t lose all of your stuff later. That much is common sense, but how much should you invest? Is it worth it to get the super deluxe gun safe? In order to get to that number analysts like to use something called the “annualized loss expectancy” and extrapolate from there.

Annualized loss expectancy is a fancy word for how much money you should expect to lose from something every year based on the national average. You can calculate it pretty easily for things like air accidents and terrorist attacks, but surprisingly it gets a little complicated for guns. The reason is that while we can calculate out how often (on average) you can expect your guns to be stolen the actual value of those guns varies so wildly that a standard figure is useless. So instead I’m going to take a more personalized approach.

Let me set the ground work first. FYI, these are going to be back-of-the-envelope calculations so take the results with a grain of salt, but the method is rock solid and should be used to figure out this for yourself.

The best numbers I could find report that 189,000 firearms are stolen every year. Another source claims about 80 million people own a gun in the United States. That works out to roughly a 0.24% chance that your guns will be stolen in a given year.

Similarly shoddy sources report that 397,650 dwelling fires happen every year, and while not every fire results in property damage it’s a good enough number for me. The census bureau says that there are 131,704,730 dwellings in the US, meaning the chance of your residence being involved in a fire is 0.3%.

Since these events are joined by an “OR” operator (your gun can be stolen OR burned) we add the two percentages together to get 0.54%. By itself that doesn’t tell us much, so we have to plug in a couple of things.

First we need the actual ALE, so multiply that number by the replacement value of your current arsenal — how much it would cost if you were to buy everything factory fresh. For me that’s right about $15,000 counting only firearms and not accessories and equipment, so my ALE is about $81. I should expect to lose $81 every year to firearms theft.

That may not seem right at first glance, but that’s because the ALE is cumulative. If nothing is stolen and then my prized $3k Wilson Combat 1911 goes walkabout in 38 years I will have exactly met my ALE, since the combined expected loss for all those years is more than the replacement value of the gun.

The next number to plug in is how long you expect the security measures to last you. For me I’d expect a safe to last me a good 20 years, so I multiply my ALE by 20 and I come up with $1,620. Statistically speaking I should spend at least $1,620 on security because that’s the amount of money I would lose anyway in those years from theft if I had done nothing.

Now that we have a budget we can take a look at what’s out there, and in order to find the one that’s the right fit for you we need to scope your threat. It’s nearly impossible to account for every variation of attacker and fire scenario, so instead we narrow down the probable scenarios to the most likely set and work from there. And to make things easy we’re only going to talk about fire and theft.

For theft, the things you have to think about most are means and time. Safes are designed to slow down attackers and require a certain level of equipment, but if given enough time and resources any safe can be successfully cracked. The question you have to ask yourself is how long will an attacker have to crack your safe, and what will they have with them? Personally, I see two scenarios here:

  1. A burglar randomly chooses to break into your house when you’re not there. They stumble across your gun safe and decide to attempt to break it open. They have only the tools they brought with them plus anything they can find (and use) in your home. They don’t know when you will be back so their attempt will be rushed and relatively unskilled, opting to steal the flat screen instead.
  2. The attacker has been watching your moves for days, plotting your habits and figuring out when you won’t be home. They bring sophisticated equipment and a trained hand. In other words, you’re screwed.

You can pretty easily guess which category you fall into. If you lead a relatively low profile life and don’t open carry your M249 then chances are you’ll get a call from Mr. #1. But if you’re like our Fearless Leader who loves talking shop then #2 might be on the menu. The neighborhood you live in, the kind of car you drive, and the size of your dwelling can also influence which type of attacker chooses your home.

The common theme with both of these attack types is time. The more time the attacker has the more likely they are to succeed. So personally, rather than spending tons of money on that Fort Knox in your basement I’d invest in a good alarm system for your dwelling. Alerting the authorities immediately is the best way to keep your stuff safe, and while they may still be minutes away the acceptable quality safe you’ve purchased should probably keep them out until the cavalry arrives.

Fire is a whole different beast, and since I started firefighter training I’ve gained a whole new perspective on it.

The level of fire protection you need will depend on where you put the safe.

  • Basement — This is the worst place for your safe. If your house burns down, just like a campfire the place that stays the hottest the longest will be the bottom (your basement). It’s also a bitch to get at to fight a fire, so if your basement is on fire you can probably kiss anything in it goodbye. Like all things this depends on your specific house design, but in general if you’re going for a basement placement you should focus your spending on fire protection.
  • Upper Level — In general fires on the upper level aren’t as bad as fires in the basement, but due to the weight of the safe you have to think about the possibility of the safe falling through a weakened floor and landing in the basement anyway.
  • Garage / Outbuilding — This is the best placement for a safe in terms of fire protection, but garages and outbuildings typically are less secure than the main residence and can increase the risk from theft. Fire protection should be a secondary concern in these locations.

Safes are rated for temperature and duration, so a safe that is rated to last a short while at extreme temperatures will last much longer at lower temperatures.

The last consideration is size. If you only have one handgun and keep it on you at all times, something like a small bedside safe might be a good idea to keep it secure from unauthorized users. But a safe that small can still be taken away, and once under someone else’s control can be opened at their leisure. Small safes should only be considered as temporary storage if you’re not going to be leaving the gun unattended in such a way that intruders can get at it for long periods of time.

So, having said all that let me try and answer your direct questions:

Is it worth going big $$$ for a name brand or saving some coin and getting a cheaper one from a big box store? Check your annualized loss expectancy and base your own answer off of that number.

Are electronic locks better/worse than dial combination locks? Electronic locks allow quick and easy access to your guns, but they will fail if they run out of electricity or their mechanism melts. Mechanical combination locks generally stand up to heat much better, as well as the water that comes with putting out a fire, and there are no secret unlock combinations or backdoors possible. I’d go mechanical myself.

How much fire protection should I get? Depends on where you’re putting your safe. For the basement you’re going to need every bit you can afford. For a garage you’re going to want to focus on harder to crack safes instead.

Any brands to stay away from? Check the comments, our readers will doubtless have some answers for you. But personally I can’t recommend any.

How much weight can I put on the second floor of my house safely? Depends on the construction of your house and what else is on that floor, but the standard “live load” maximums for a household is 40 pounds per square foot.

Can I put a safe in an unheated garage? Yes. Your guns will just be colder in the winters, so knit them a sweater. Heat might also be an issue with wooden guns and their finish, so be aware.

[Email your firearms-related questions to “Ask Foghorn” via guntruth@me.com. Click here to browse previous posts]

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About Nick Leghorn

Nick Leghorn is a gun nerd living and working in San Antonio, Texas. In his free time, he's a competition shooter (USPSA, 3-gun and NRA High Power), aspiring pilot, and enjoys mixing statistics and science with firearms. Now on sale: Getting Started with Firearms by yours truly!

68 Responses to Ask Foghorn: Buying a Gun Safe

  1. avatarST says:

    Great article.

    I would like to reinforce N. Leghorn’s words on keeping mum on one’s gun collection. The less strangers know about one’s gun collection, the less likely said strangers will want to make an unplanned withdrawal from whatever safe is in residence.

    Speaking of safes, ive wondered about the problem which I state here: Say a gun owner lives in an apartment or condo which forbids modification to the walls and structure beyond a Boondock Saints poster. What is the best means of securing one’s collection in a safe which can’t be bolted to a building, besides disassembly of unused arms? Moving a safe in is easy enough, but unless its built into the structure all a crook needs to deprive one of all firearms within is to just wheel it right back out.

    • avatarBill says:

      Just make sure your on carpet and predrill holes into the joists and use washers and drywall screws. when you move or remove the safe the carpet will cover the holes. 4 screws will make it seem as though your safe is an immovable object. Of course if they gave it enough thought to bring a hand truck they probably brought other tools so your SOL anyway.

    • avatarMatt in FL says:

      Do it anyway. Pull the anchors when you leave.

  2. avatarBill says:

    If your going to place your safe in the garage or anywhere with large fluctuations in temp. make sure your put a dehumidification rod in your safe along with some desiccant. And make sure you put a good coat of oil on anything that can rust you put in it.
    Other things to consider are; 1. does the area I am going to put it ever get water? if so they now have some that are waterproof to a certain depth of water. Or put the safe up above the floor. 2. how visible will the safe be? Does opening your door advertise the fact that you have something worth stealing? 3. how many guns do I need to store? Note this is not the number you have, because we all know what happens when you put things together in the dark. That’s right they breed. Make allowances for the future. Trust me your significant other will really roll the eyes when say “I think I need another safe”. When you hit three plus they usually have given in though.
    Also fwiw, the safes that have all the holes lined up right to left that make you take all the guns in front out to get to the ones in the back are not worth it. Trust me. the ones with the “u” shaped storage racks are much better and make giving your firearms a once a year inspection and wipe down much easier.

  3. avatarBrian says:

    With regards to “Are electronic locks better/worse than dial combination locks?” my electronic safe is only a mid level, but it has a mechanical key style lock “hidden” behind the electronic keypad. So electronic is for convenience not really security. Additionally many safes have a gasket that seals the door to the walls of the safe as it heats up. This is purposely engineered to keep water/heat/smoke out. So if it gets hot you will may need to cut it open anyway.

    Mr. Horn’s scientific analysis shows only that he knows statistics. I’m not sure why he feels a need to discuss a topic he admittedly knows little about. I’m not trying to be rude to Leg. I just hope it is taken with a grain of salt and other contributors have more to say.

  4. avatarGS650G says:

    I have an inexpensive stack-on box mounted in a location that makes it very difficult to remove. Not impossible but more work than a thief is willing to expend. It’s not fireproof at all, I don’t have space or money for something like that and most of my guns are common and cheap, not a prized rifle or collectable handgun. I would just replace them with insurance money.
    I also mounted the box to the house with lag screws and positioned the door to make prying impossible. It’s hidden deep in the house to avoid detection, an impromptu break in would probably not notice it anyway.
    I would rate it as kidproof and theft resistant.

    • avatarTim says:

      Ding! Ding! Ding!

    • avatarpair-o-dee says:

      I have one of those, too. Good protection for visiting children, would serve to slow down the amateur burglars in my area.

    • avatarBrian says:

      The gun “cabinets” are better than people give them credit for. I can tell you first hand it can be a PITA to open. I’ll spare you the details. I keep my overrun from the safe in the cabinet. I take out the bolts, put them in the safe, then put gun locks on them. It may be overkill, but I NEVER want any of my firearms, in the hands of criminals. I could never forgive myself if an innocent person was hurt with one of my guns. Remember that you MUST bolt that sucker to the floor and/or wall studs.

  5. avatarGarynyer says:

    What about an emp attack or something Hahaha

  6. avatarimrambi says:

    There is a gun safe buyers guide that covers various features and why each one is good.

    http://www.6mmbr.com/gunsafes.html

  7. avatarLeftShooter says:

    Nick,

    Very good & thorough article, thanks. I have only five things to add. First, NRA membership extends some form of gun loss insurance, up to $2,500 or so, I believe. Second, in some states, like my MA, gun safe purchases are not taxable—but many sellers, especially big-box stores, need to be informed of this. Third, I have an electronic combination Sentry safe that has a default key in case the combination element loses power or is damaged. (I’d probably keep the key in a different location.) Fourth, there are good, serviceable ways to extend the number of guns, particularly handguns, which you store in your safe. I have used “mats” that hang on the inner part of the door with Velcro “holsters” (the name of the vendor escapes me, sorry) and I have used handgun hangers from storemoreguns.com to great effect. Fifth, I set up a small, battery-powered motion sensor light that shines on the safe combination pad whenever I enter the dark room where I keep the safe. Helpful.

    Last, make sure you always use the safe. I’d be willing to bet most of those 189K guns that were stolen were not properly secured in safes. And, to reiterate what has been said, don’t broadcast that you have guns, a safe, etc. In other words, stay safe!

  8. avatarTim says:

    Are electronic locks better/worse than dial combination locks?
    -While electronic locks are likely more difficult to “crack” than mechanical ‘tumbler’ locks, the bottom line is: no one going to ‘crack’ the code to your safe. It’s not worth their time or effort. Nearly all burglars will attempt to lever-open your safe’s door with a crow bar, grab what they can, and get out. One strategy is to locate & position your safe in such a way (recessed spaces, closets, corners, etc.), that the burglar doesn’t have enough space to use long, pry tools. Ideally, they realize this is going to take too much time, get frustrated, and move on.

  9. avatarDyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    NB that most “gun safes” aren’t really safes, they’re rated as “Residential Security Containers.”

    If you want to see how a real safe is constructed, look at Graffunder’s web site, then compare their construction and ratings to what you’ve been looking at:

    http://www.graffundersafes.com/

    The big issue is fire protection, and most safes deliver protection by having moisture boil off their insulation. Once that’s gone, the internal temps will start rising rapidly.

    As for theft security: Make sure the safe cannot easily be put on it’s back on the floor. Once that happens, the differences between a RSC and a real safe become evident very quickly. If they can get it on the floor, taking the door off a RSC requires only two men with prybars and about five minutes if they’ve practiced a couple times.

    And one more tip: If your safe is located in your shop, lock up the regulator(s) for your oxy-acetylene torch. Unless your safe has the safety feature of a layer of stainless steel on the body, it’s easy enough to burn through the steel with a oxy-fuel torch.

    • Great points @Dyspeptic_Gunsmith…

      Interesting article and approach. I haven’t seen a quantitative risk analysis of gun safes. A couple of the assumptions require a deeper look though.

      The way the $1,620 ALE is being applied assumes that by spending that much you can prevent loss due to burglary or fire. As @Dyspeptic_Gunsmith pointed out, gun safes are not safes and offer far less protection. With a RSC, you can spend $1,620 and still have a burglar break into it, or have the drywall fireproofing fail in a fire. http://gunsafereviewsguy.com/articles/myths-about-gun-safe-theft-protection/

      Homeowners insurance policies (like mine) usually include anything bolted to the gun towards the firearm coverage limit. These policies usually have standard firearms coverage of only $2,500. So, excluding the scopes, accessories, and equipment as described can leave you under-insured.

      Also, the ALE calculation doesn’t take into account factors other than burglary or fire. One example would be reduction of civil or criminal liability. Many “dark blue” states have firearm locking/storage requirements, and mandatory 7 day stolen firearm reporting, making you criminally liable if you fail to comply. In these and even other states a gun owner might also be faced with a civil lawsuit for crimes (or god forbid accidents) committed with a stolen firearm.

      I also agree with @SC_Econ that the garage has a lot of issues with respect to both burglary and fire risk.

      +1 make sure you bolt it down.

  10. avatarold and scarred says:

    another consideration on a safe, whom will be in the home regularly? if you have kids, grandkids in mine, a safe is a good thing to keep the two separated, except when you want them to mix.

  11. avatarTTACer says:

    “The attacker has been watching your moves for days, plotting your habits and figuring out when you won’t be home twitter/facebook account for days when you twit/post “Off to Tahiti for two weeks, so excited!” They bring sophisticated equipment and a trained hand. In other words, you’re screwed.”

    Even if don’t do anything quite that egregious be sure to turn off geotagging on your iphone.

    • avatarTom says:

      GREAT point about publicizing vacations or trips away in SM. I have a neighbor of mine who posted pics of their family in wine country in California right now…they live in FL with someone watching their house occasionally. I talk about my trips AFTER I get back and then post pics. Good advice, gun owner or not.

  12. avatarAnonymouse says:

    A few things to add:

    a: I’d actually go with a good digital lock: as long as the battery is changeable from the outside you don’t have to worry about the battery failing, and its much easier to use. In case of a fire, you may have to pry things open afterwards anyway.

    b: Make sure it is at LEAST a UL listed Residential Security Container (RSC), and bolt it down! That, BOLTED TO THE GROUND, is tested for 15 minutes with tools.

    There are a lot of “safes” out there that don’t even meet that spec, and the below-RSC level things can basically be opened with a crowbar and 20 seconds… Which is all fine and good for keeping a kid from getting your bedside pistol, but useless if your threat is a burglar.

    A real safe (something rated for 30 minutes+ burglary) is probably overkill unless you are in category 2: a specific target.

    c: Even if you have no guns, buy a good sized (24 gun) UL RSC gunsafe. Its the cheapest RSC or higher level protection you can get, to store your cameras, computer backups, important documents, etc.

    d: DON’T FORGET A DEHUMIDIFIER! I ruined my passport (in my old firesafe) by not including a dehumidifier.

    • avatarCrazy Mel says:

      Re DON’T FORGET A DEHUMIDIFIER! I ruined my passport:

      I once bought and used a cheap small fireproof safe which after a few months mildewed a wad of cash (which I simply deposited in the bank to get rid of the mold). My other fireproof safe, which I’ve used for many years in the same house, never spoiled paper. Afterwards, I used the worthless fireproof safe as a decoy for burglars by “hiding” it under my bed where most burglars would first look.

      Fireproof safes have diff techniques for being fireproof. Obviously that “cheap” one was full of humidity/watervapour/etc, but leaked. Make sure that your guns are not in such a high humidity container or they might rust. Test out the interior humidity levels first.

  13. avatarWindy says:

    I watched the things like web want adds and local auctions of factories and found a beauty of a 1929 Diebold from a factory that made jewelry for less than 400 bucks at auction… about its scrap steel price at the time;
    Hiring riggers to move its 7,000+ lbs into my walk in basement cost quite a bit more but its security and fire rating are far above what “gun safe” models provide. I did have to do a bit of DIY modification to the inside to change part of it to long gun storage (as mentioned above there are lots of storage items for this sold on the web).
    The result is also quite a thing of beauty with all the nickel plating and gold leaf decoration. Industrial safes of this vintage made a statement about your company offices back then and could have a lot of decoration.

    I also have an acquaintance that bought the 1950s vintage bank vault door from a bank being torn down and his door weighs more than 5 times as much as my safe. it is also a Diebold and he is having it built into a new home he is designing.

    This may be over kill, but his gun collection must be worth well over 1,000,000 and it is large as well. He will have a nice den/man cave/ collection room behind the vault door.

    So lots of ways to skin a cat here but do not depend on those $1000 gun ‘safes’ to do more than keep your kids and grandkids out of your guns.

  14. avatarRoy says:

    Did some research on ammo storage recently, basement was said to be least hot area, if against an exterior wall. Last area of house to get hot. Have had my safe in the garade for over 10 years, no problems with rust , golden rod heater does the job. I also live in a relatively low humidity area. I you live in Fla. or near salt water, watch out. Have been considering a large, costco firesafe, just for ammo. Newer home basements are not that humid for gun storage (safe), bare tool steel show no sign of rust forming. Info to think about.

  15. avatarjoe says:

    Don’t advertise on your motor vehicle-I know it’s nice to have an NRA sticker,but it also is a “follow me home”sticker.Or,I hate to say this-a good chance for a burglar with a friend in the police station or motor vehicle bureau to trace your plates.

  16. avatarSC Econ says:

    Great article. Only take exception with one point, and that is fire being a secondary concern for placing a safe in a garage. Outside of the kitchen, the garage is the most likely place to have a fire in the home. The garage is where most people not only store mass quanties of fuel (cars, lawn equipment, gas cans, paint, solevents, lots of dust, etc) but the means by which to ignite them (power tools, extension cords, hot engines, manifolds, exhaust, projects gone wrong, etc.). If someone fancies themself a mechanic of any degree…avoid putting the gun safe in the garage. Garage fires are often times far hotter (due to various fuels present) than a general room and contents fire in another part of the home. Most departments are going to be far more cautious (take their time) supressing a fire in a garage, as compared to some other room in the house. Too many things go boom in a garage to warrant getting a line crew too close. Think 20 pound propane tanks, or 5 gallon gas cans.

    If you live in the humid South, forget putting the safe in the garage. Besides, why would you place the safe where it is easily loaded into the back of a truck and hauled off to be cracked somewhere more discrete? I can just imagine the truck/van/uhaul backing up to my neighbors garage door (his safe is in his garage). Once past the aluminum garage door, a would be theif only needs a little leverage to get that sucker loaded. Bad idea.

    I retired from the fire service nearly 10 years ago, so much of my opinion is merely anecdotal. However, a close look at home owners insurance tables will let you know that a home with a detached garage is cheaper to insure than a home with the garage in the basement.

  17. avatarGMAN says:

    How about a simple cost benefit analysis. I have $3500 in guns…does it make sense to buy a $1800 gun safe?

    Also, what about floods? I would guess that would be as big a risk as fire or theft in some areas (especially with basement storage). Granted, less damage possible for certain guns…but still worthy of consideration.

    Thoughts?

    • avatarJohn Fritz says:

      It makes the most sense to add a replacement cost rider to your homeowner or renter insurance policy.

      I have personal experience with this and it’s worth every penny regardless of the yearly cost. I know no one wants “another damn insurance bill” but this one is worth it.

  18. avatarapplebutter says:

    Whatever you get, don’t forget to lag it down to the slab if you have one.
    A few years ago I heard stories about gun safes that were stolen by passing a winch cable from a truck through a window close to the safe, then secured around the safe. After it was attached, the truck was driven away, dragging the cable through walls until it formed a straight line between truck and safe, then continued to pull until the safe was pulled outside the house. This breaks interior and exterior walls and doors and windows and furniture and anything else that might be in the way. Then the truck comes back, loads the safe, and drives away.

    This is a whole lot worse than just losing your guns.

    So lag it down, and don’t let anyone know what you have.

  19. avatarNR says:

    I thought the basement floor was the best place for a fireproof safe. The idea, as I understood it, was that the safe only needs to resist heat until the fire department arrives. When they start putting water on the house, it quickly starts to pool in the basement, keeping the safe cool.

    • avatarMartin Albright says:

      AFAIK most gun safes are NOT rated for being waterproof, so in such a scenario your guns may not be burned up but they will still be ruined.

  20. avatarSid says:

    Place against an outside wall. In a fire, that is the least hot location. Most likely, if you live in an area with fire services the home will not burn to the ground. The least likely place to burn completely will be the exterior walls. Most safes have a fire rating and will tell you how long an exposure they can resist.

  21. avatarMartin Albright says:

    WRT the electronic vs. mechanical lock issue, most of the high-end safes I see have Sargent and Greenlee (S&G) electric locks, so I’m thinking they must be pretty robust. One nice thing about the electric locks is that you can change the combo at a whim (you can also have multiple combos.) This could come in handy, for example, if a trusted friend or family member becomes not-so-trusted. By contrast, the mechanical locks come with a factory combo and can only have that combo changed by an authorized locksmith, and trying to change it yourself will void the warranty (or so I have been told.)

    As for the plastic mechanism of the electric lock melting in a fire, yes, of course it will. As will the plastic components of the mechanical lock. If your safe is in a fire, it will need to be opened by a locksmith. Some of the more reputable safe companies offer this service for free with their safes, in fact some of them offer to replace the safes at no cost in the event that an attempted burglary or fire causes damage to the safe (my guess is they want your old safe so they can analyze how well it did its job.)

  22. avatarHere Iam says:

    I knew a retired cop that swore he’d never put a “safe” in his house. Years ago he investigated an apparent break in & missing person. It took them about a week to discover the homeowner’s body, locked in his safe…

    If you need a safe that is large enough to hold you, perhaps make sure that there’s enough solid (not easily removed) shelving, etc in there that you can’t fit…

    Just a thought…

    • avatarYeah, that guy... says:

      A safe is only secure from the outside. The safes I know of have a back plate that you can remove with a screw driver and directly access the lock and bolts. If you can keep your head about you, I don’t think it would be difficult to get out of a locked safe… hide a couple of screw drivers in it if you’re that worried.

    • avatarStephen says:

      …. THE most ridiculous argument I’ve heard in over a year.
      shame

  23. avatarLS says:

    I have a Homak in the wall gun safe, (Amazon, $120), simply as a deterrent to someone breaking in and being able to just walk away with my firearms. The advantages are, it is inexpensive and it doesn’t require some floor space, just a wall where I can mount it between the studs.

  24. avatarMr. Carpenter says:

    Did research for a year on this. Best bang for lowest cost is Winchester 24 gun safe. 12 bolt system with electronic lock. 1 9 volt battery does everything. tamper and fire proof. Has door storage rack too. Heavy safe at 500+ lbs. Lowest cost for best safe at $699.00. Sold at all tractor supply companies. Look up Cabellas, gander, dicks..all have same size safe for double the price.

    • avatarJohn Fritz says:

      I looked into this myself over several months last fall and I reached the same conclusion as yours. Until you start spending well above a grand, the Tractor Supply safe you reference is by far the best value out there. And that’s even compared to every safe I looked at up to around a thousand dollars. The Tractor Supply safe will cost you nowhere near that amount.

      I also swapped a couple of emails with a customer service rep at Winchester Safes. My questions all were concerning design and construction difference between the Winchester Ranger 19 and the Tractor Supply TS-22-11. The TS-22-11 is the safe we’re talking about here. These two safes appear to be practically identical on paper and I could not understand why there was the substantial price difference between the two. I was convinced there was some sort of shortcoming with the Tractor Supply version of the Ranger 19.

      As it turns out (assuming I was not misled and I do not think I was), the differences are relatively minor. The Winchester has slightly thicker fireboard used in it, providing a 1 hour/1900 F rating compared to the TS-22-11′s 30 minutes / 1900 F. But the TS-22-11 uses 12 locking bolts in its door, the Winchester uses 10. And there’s a slight difference in weight, a few pounds more for the Winchester. Probably due to its thicker fireboard.

      All other aspects of design and construction are identical. At Christmas they (TS Co.) were selling this safe for $599.00 cash-&-carry and that is one heck of a deal. Don’t know if we’ll see that price again, maybe this summer.

      One last thing, I had read online people saying that it only took two of them to move this safe around OK. I had my doubts, 510 lbs sounded like it’d be a major PITA to deal with. But now I can verify that it’s about like moving a great big ‘fridge around. As long as there’s no steps involved and you have a decent hand truck, you and a buddy will be good to go. So fear not the 510 pound spec. The safe comes wrapped with nice thick corrugated cardboard all around it. You can slide it into and out of a pickup truck bed with a little ass behind it and not much else.

      Go get yourself one!

  25. avatarMark N. says:

    When you are talking large floor safes, the cheaper models have low fire protection values and can be pried open in about five minutes with a pry bar. There’s even a vid on the nets showing how to do it. Meaning you have no protection from thieves or fire if you buy cheap.

  26. avatarGMAN says:

    Question for the AI…

    I just bought a safe (storage container, RSE, etc.) with a keyed lock. Where do I hide the keys? I have 2 young children. Is up high and out of sight enough? How close to the safe?

    G

  27. avatarThomas M. says:

    I’m planning to upgrade to a Sturdy safe. I haven’t yet made a purchase, and I do not work for any safe maker, but the Sturdy safe construction really appeals to me.

    http://www.sturdysafe.com/

    -Thom

    • avatarChaz says:

      A Sturdy Safe seems the cat’s meow for resistance to break in. They’re probably immune to attack with hand tools and very resistant to power tools and torches. I’d like to have one.

      Ultimately, however, my budget took me to a less formidable but still reputable Liberty Safe model. I traded off the thicker steel for a larger size and the convenience of a local dealer who delivers and installs.

    • avatarJoe says:

      I bought one 2 months ago… it’s awesome and in the long run worth it if we ever get a fire here like what happened in most of Denver.. I can also say the customer service was beyond par.

  28. avatarJ in Ga says:

    Think about how you’re going to get a safe into your home. You can even buy safes online, but anything but curbside delivery is at least an additional $150. Also, think about getting it up or down steps, around corners, and across wooden floors or thresholds. Can that staircase hold you, two or three friends, and 500 lbs of safe?

    If you opt to get it yourself, spend the extra $20-$30 to rent a dolly with big rubber wheels so you don’t gouge your floors and buy a nice strap while you’re at it.

    Finally, just because a gun is rated to hold 12 guns doesn’t mean it will hold your 12 guns. 12 gun safes hold 12 tiny, skinny guns (like a Red Ryder!) without scopes. A 50mm objective and high rings practically count for two guns. An AR-15 with a bunch of junk hanging off the rails will take up an entire corner. Look and see, does that long barreled target rifle or trap shotgun fit under the upper shelf? Things like safe doors having rifle racks are really helpful too. They only add a few inches of depth to a safe, but make it much easier to get closer to the advertised long gun capacity.

  29. avatarDon Curton says:

    http://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/2011/09/don-curton/gear-review-homak-gun-safe/

    Did a short series on this a while back. Basically the Homak “cabinet” is good for keeping out small kids, curious teens, and the complete amateur break-in artists. Pros are going to get what you have regardless. Home insurance covers fire loss. Put it in a closet, bolt it to the wall studs, and there you go.

  30. avatarMark Smith says:

    Excellent post, nice to see some sort of useful metric to go by.

  31. avatarGraybeard says:

    Another factor to consider is the non-market value of the firearms. For instance – if the gun is a heirloom piece from your great grandfather (even if “market value” is just $100) you may want the best protection you can afford for that gun – fire & strength-wise.

    I’ve looked into some of the high-fire-rating/high-capacity gun safes to store some family history papers (such as handwritten letters home from ancestors in the Late Unpleasantness, WWI and WWII). If you have just a couple of everyday guns, an heirloom piece, and some irreplaceable family mementos a larger gun safe may just take care of all of that for you.

  32. avatarkoolaidguzzler says:

    I can’t address most of your more technical questions, except to make three observations based on my gunsafe experience and the gunsafe owners I’ve known —
    1. If you intend the move the safe yourself if you relocate, then don’t go overboard on weight and size. They are a bitch to move around, even the humble 14-gun safes.
    2. Don’t go out of your way to fireproof a large safe. They’re heavy and tend to be unwieldy. That’s what insurance is for. If you have priceless gun collections, consider an off-residence storage arrangement.
    3. IMO, most people get too much safe for their realistic risks.

  33. avatarFed Up says:

    Your expected loss is not the MINIMUM you pay to offset that loss.

    Spend less than that $1600, and buying the security is a rational economic choice in all circumstances.

    Spend more, and you’re sacrificing expected value in exchange for some other benefit, like peace of mind, or because you’re adverse to economic risk. (nothing wrong with being risk adverse, most people insure their homes against fire despite the insurance purchase being a negative expected value transaction, because $1000 a year doesn’t impact their quality of life as much as losing their home would)

  34. Your figure for probability of robbery may be high. It assumes that each gun theft scores only one gun. It’s more likely that some gun thefts involve more than one gun, hence the number of guns stolen is an overestimate of the number of gun thefts. I have no idea how much that changes your figures, though.

    On another matter, when I used to deal with classified information, we were forbidden to keep money (coffee fund, etc.) in classified document safes. That made them attractive to ordinary thieves, not just spies. I’d recommend against putting money or valuable papers in your gun safe. Get a separate fire-proof safe for those. I have a small one that fits under my desk. It holds auto titles, insurance papers, wills, etc., but nothing of monetary value. The guns go in a separate gun safe.

  35. Whatever safe you choose, a little DIY fireproofing never comes amiss: Three layers of fire resistant sheet-rock added to the sides & top of the safe can significantly extend protection against heat.
    A friend of mine built his into a closet like this & even added a hinged “false wall” of sheet-rock to the front. Not only does it increase the fire resistance but it makes finding the safe bloody hard too.

  36. avatarStephen says:

    Tool and Torch rated @ 30 min. on 6 sides.
    That is the minimum specs for an actual SAFE.
    I believe you guys are actually discussing “Security Containers”.
    Just sayin.
    If you want to get serious, look here:
    Graffunder

    • avatarMark Smith says:

      Some security is better than no security. For most people, an actual safe is far out of their budget. Better a decent residential security container than nothing eh? Don’t be so quick to dismiss.

  37. avatarStephen says:

    Graffunder…

    “Good Luck”!!! :-)

  38. avatarPaul says:

    For those of you that want a true safe, check out:
    http://www.brownsafe.com

  39. avatarJake says:

    Basement is NOT the worse place to put a safe. Would you want fire on all four sides and the top of your safe or fire on all four sides, the top, and underneath licking up the safe? A concrete floor is always going to be added fire protection. A corner with 2 concrete walls is even better. Of course you need to take care of the moisture problem.

  40. avatarRoger says:

    Tractor Supply online have the best prices on a gun safe.

  41. avatarRocksteady says:

    For my part, I have a cheap lock box with an electronic lock and I’ve played around a good bit with one of the mechanical push-button style locks on a similar box and I’d much rather have the push-button mechanical. It’s every bit as fast as the electronic to me and feels a lot more reliable.

  42. avatarTodd says:

    For anyone thinking about buying a gun safe in the near future, please visit our website where we have tons of user reviews for various gun safes on the market today.

    http://www.thebestgunsafereviews.com

  43. avatareric says:

    Here is a good youtube video on buying the best gun safe:

  44. avatareric says:

    Here is a good youtube video on buying the best gun safe:

  45. Great article! Thanks for sharing this! My gun safe uses biometrics and is installed into my wall behind a locked door. This way if I ever have a robbery happen at home and I’m not there, they won’t be able to take my weapons and use them against someone else!

  46. Pingback: What Everyone Should Know About Gun Safes | Outdoor Blog

  47. avatarCarrie says:

    For anyone out there looking into safes. I feel an obligation to tell you about my recent experience. 4 years ago I purchased a Winchester 24 gun safe. My VERY OCD husband took very good care of his guns and even purchased a dehydrating machine and made sure it was in working order each week. About 2 months ago he took out one of his guns and noticed that the barrel had been rusted so badly it took off all the bluing…down the the raw barrel right where the gun had been resting in the devited shelf. Then realizing all of the guns that rested against that shelf had also rusted down to the barrel.
    He took out the shelf and had it over a heater to dry…3 months later it never dried. During this 3 months we called and called Winchester, sent pictures and no one has EVER called us back. I feel like suing..it will cost $200 each gun for the re-bluing to be done like new. No one has any idea why or what made this happen. May have been just the glue in the ribbing that leaking some acidic oil??? A gun smith even said it was NOT water that could have rusted it so badly.
    Good luck to you all….just stay away from Winchester

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