Are Gun Safe Security Ratings Outdated?

The Gun Storage Industry Today

In the gun safe industry, there is a major focus on safety and security. There is no doubt that securing your firearms is an incredibly important responsibility, but does the traditional gun safe offer your firearms a realistic level security from realistic threats? In most cases, the answer is “no”, unfortunately.

To understand why this is the case, it’s critical to understand what level of security gun safes use. The vast majority of gun safes on the market are listed as a Residential Security Container (RSC). This is something the gun safe industry promotes in their marketing, touting it as a high level of security — but what exactly is an RSC? How does it protect your valuables?

Exploring the Questions

To get the RSC certification the safe has to pass a test performed by Underwriters Laboratories (UL). The purpose of the test is to open the safe with a 4″ in diameter or greater hole. The test uses hand tools that must be shorter than 18″ and weigh less than 3 pounds. The testers have 5 minutes to open the safe, and if they fail then the safe can be labeled as a Residential Security Container.

UL Class RSC means

5 minute protection from these tools

Gun Safe Pry Test

Classs RSC is a 1970 standard designed to meet 1970 treats. Today thieves use power tools and can open safes in a few minutes. A modern battery powered a circular saw with a carbide blade cuts throuygh RSC gun safes like butter. You can still use an RSC to protect your firearms, but it’s important to understand the actual level of security.

Finding an Answer to the Problem

So what’s the answer to this threat? Stealth is always your biggest ally, no one can break into what they can’t find. The gun safe industry advertises safes as beautiful family heirlooms with images of a big safe in the den next to a fireplace and lazy-boy chair. Displaying your safe for all to see is in-congruent with basic security protocols. Safes should be hidden and always be bolted down.

Class RSC is no longer relevant

The RSC certification is at best an arbitrary safety standard created in the 1970s. Modern high power battery tools available open these safes in minutes. The standard is simply outdated. While an RSC could protect your valuables from a casual smash and grab, it will not hold up against modern power tools or the determined thief.

If you are determined to buy a big heavy safe:

Always choose a safe that is doubled walled with a cement or composite filling between the steel layers. The combination of steel and concrete will defeat most power tools, and give you the best level of home security. A professional thief can break into most safes. What you are paying for is time. The RSC standard gets you 1-3 minutes access from a pro. A good double-walled, filled safe gets you hours or a day.

Tom’s famous SHOT Show presentation


A detailed look at what went wrong
with the gun safe industry

Go lighter Go faster

DecentRALIZED
STORAGE

Where you store guns determines
your security and defensive capability.

CradleGrid™

Revolutionary CradleGrid Technology is the heart of SecureIt’s intelligent firearm storage system.

Firearm storage has not fundamentally changed in decades. Until now!

Are Fire Ratings Still Relevant?

Do you Actually Need a Fire-Rated Gun Safe? To answer this question, it helps to first answer a few other questions. Namely, how long does it take for your fire department to respond to a call? Is it a matter of a few minutes or will it take the better part of

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Gun Safe Corrosion – Should you be concerned

Gun safe corrosion is a real threat Why there are so many products on the market designed to slow or stop corrosion in a gun safe? Most armorers will tell you if a gun is properly cleaned and oiled it should not rust. Yet in safes, corrosion is a hot topic and

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Your Gun Safe vs. a $10 Saw Blade

Cheap Saw vs. Expensive Gun Safe

Most gun safes are built to protect against a 1970 threat level.
A modern saw will cut right through them

In this video I use an old skill saw and a modern carbide blade. It take about 15 seconds to get it started but then it cuts through a premier US made gun  safe like butter.

These saws blades are designed to field cut 1/2 thick rebar on construction sights.

Thicker steel means a more secure safe.   WRONG

Whether it is thin 1/16″ or 1/4″ plate, these saw blades go right through it. Thickness of steel is no longer a measure of security.

So what do you do?

You need to look at gun safes as preventing unauthorized access and the casual smash and grab thief. If heavy safes are not more secure, why deal with the hassle of all that weight? The average American moves every 6 years.  it will cost you more to move a heavy safes the the price to buy it.

 Use lighter smaller modular gun safes. Locate them is places where thieves do not look.

 

 

 

Common Security Misconceptions

What the gun safe industry refuses to acknowledge is that any gun safe can be broken into. They often push the idea that you’re getting greater security because of stickers and labels. The UL rating for security does not consider the use of an inexpensive carbide saw blade. It’s these types of blades that will destroy your safe.

When addressing this issue, another common misconception is that the saw cutting the steel will create smoke. If you’re assuming conveniently placed smoke alarm will scare off a would-be thief, you’re mistaken. The apparent “smoke” is actually not smoke at all. What you’re often seeing when this is demonstrated is the dust from the drywall inside of your safe.

The drywall itself is another security concern that gun owners should be aware of. It is often assumed that the weight from these “safes” is due to the steel. That is incorrect. What you are often getting is thin steel that is then layered with drywall and carpeting. Once a thief has made their way through the steel, the drywall and carpeting are gone in under a minute along with your valuables.

The Solution

So, how do you solve this problem? With a double, steel-walled cement filled gun safe. These safe have been on the market for some time but are often looked at as unpopular because they “don’t look pretty” and aren’t a showpiece. But the truth is, security should always come first when considering a gun safe. With a gun safe like the TRUE, security is the primary focus. This security is a function of steel and the cement composite.

Even if someone were to cut through the outer steel wall, once the saw blade hits the cement that blade is toast. Furthermore, if someone were to be successful in removing a section of steel, they would then have to work their way through 2.5” of cement and then another wall of steel. You now have time on your side whereas a residential security container disguised as a safe can be cut open in seconds.

Are Fire Ratings Still Relevant?

Do you Actually Need a Fire-Rated Gun Safe?

To answer this question, it helps to first answer a few other questions. Namely, how long does it take for your fire department to respond to a call? Is it a matter of a few minutes or will it take the better part of an hour? If you are protecting documents, should you consider an actual fire-box that’s designed to protect documents, instead of a safe that’s meant to slow down the heating process? It’s well documented that traditional safes do not perform as they say they do. Are you able to afford a true, poured concrete fire safe? Even if you could, do you really need one?

A good suggestion is to consider response time of your fire department — go ahead and call them, they can tell you how long it takes to get to your house. Pair that with the physics of how fires burn.

In today’s gun safe market, fire-resistance is a ubiquitous marketing tool companies use to sell their gun safes. It’s meant to make customers feel good that in case of a fire their safe would protect their firearms or valuables. The truth is many of these safes would fail miserably in a real fire. How did fire ratings become a false badge of merit?

History of the Fire-Resistant Gun Safe

In the early-mid 19th century fire was a serious problem. In fact, one of the patents for the first fire safe was destroyed in a fire. Back then they were made out of Plaster of Paris, and then cement, as the plaster caused water damage. In both cases, during a fire, the water in the poured fillings would soak up massive amounts of heat energy from the fire, and fill the safe as steam — protecting the contents from a fire.

Today, fires are not nearly as common. Building codes and modern materials are effective at reducing the impact and chance of a fire, however they still happen and should still be taken seriously. The problem is that the original designs (Plaster of Paris) have been replaced by drywall because drywall is cheaper and fire-resistant. You see, making fire resistant safes is somewhat easy, but making fire-resistant gun safes is not. Guns safes are a lot larger and require more material, so manufacturers switched to cheaper materials to boost their bottom lines. The issue however, is drywall, while fire-resistant, is practically useless against a fire because it doesn’t keep the heat out.

Some people might say, “Well, something is better than nothing.” That’s not true. In this case the drywall being used is ineffective and can actually damage your firearms. The materials used in imported drywall are corrosive to your firearms and ammo — this is something we discuss in depth in our corrosion article.

Unless it has some type of poured filling, don’t count on it protecting your guns in a fire.

Design and Build a Custom Gun Wall / Gun Room

Building a gun room and gun walls has become very popular in America. There are many reasons to consider a gun room.

 

  • If you have a large collection, safes and cabinets may not work well for you.
  • Security can be easier with a properly constructed gun room with a vault door.
  • Rifle displays look great in the ultimate man cave

 

The purpose of this article is to give you a solid understanding of the gun storage system and how to best optimize space in your room.

What You’ll need:

  • SecureIt CradleGrid panels
  • 2 x 4s/Plywood
  • Level
  • Measuring Tape
  • Drywall Screws
  • Screw gun

Time:

  • 1-2 Days
  • 2 people – for system layout and installation. Custom Woodwork or cabinets will add to the time.

Initial Planning

What is the purpose of the room or wall? There are unlimited possibilities with the CradleGrid system: High-density mass gun storage? Show and display? Storage and gun maintenance? Reloading? Most likely your project will be a combination of some or all of these.

You can custom design a gun wall or gun room to meet your exact needs. Also, consider SecureIt pre-configured gun wall kits. These are complete systems that are ready to install. 

Gun Room Sample Images

high density gun storage

Daniel Defense high density armory

Gun room gun wall display

Gun display wall

Gun room work bench

Gun work bench and reloading area

SecureIt gun wall in gun room

guns and gear storage and display

Gun Room / Gun Wall Considerations:

Space:

For estimating space requirements the general rule of thumb is 12 vertical rifles per row every 36″ of linear wall space. For horizontal displays, estimate 4 rifles for every square yard. When storing rifles vertically the length of the rifles will determine the vertical space required. We will go into more detail below.

spacing for rifles

Vertical storage – How to store the second row.

When storing rifles vertically, there are 2 ways to hold the second row: using our 6 rifle stock shelf or using individual rifle shelves.

Rifles on 6 capacity rifle shelves VS Rifles on single stock shelves

6 capacity rifle

Gun wall shelf

6 capacity rifle shelf

Supports rifles using stock bases

Gun Wall - Rifle and Gear Shelf

Shelves also hold books, ammo and gear

6 capacity rifle shelves fit anywhere on the system. The stock base supports sit on the shelf.

Single stock shelves

SecureIt Single Stock Shelf holds rifles off floor at desired height in CradleGrid system

The single stock shelves work well when you have a wider variety of rifle lengths and you need maximum vertical efficiency.

Construction:

Are you using existing walls or are you building new?

Existing walls – Normal walls (studs and drywall) should be covered with 1/2″ or 3/4″ plywood.

If building a new you can substitute plywood for drywall. – depending on the wall layout and other items (doors, windows, electrical) it may be beneficial to build the wall with drywall then cover the area for the gun wall with plywood.

Construction Note

The louvered panels attach to the plywood via 1″ drywall screws. There are holes punched every 2″, normally you will use 6 screws for the 16″ panels and 8-10 for the 36″ panels. If there are shelves that are holding a lot of weight (for example: full ammo cases) you may want to add additional screws to support the load.

SecureIt Small Steel Louvered Grid Panel 6 columns by 8 rows

Planning and layout for a gun wall

How many panels will fit?

To determine the maximum number of panels that will fit use the formula: wall length in inches divided by 17.25 (the width of one panel)

Our room dimensions

Above is a drawing of the room we will turn into an armory. The right side of the room is open. We will build a wall with a secure double door system.

This is the room with the gun storage system, workbench, wall built and double doors drawn in

.

Let’s look at each wall:

Here we have a small drawing with the walls labeled and the back wall “A”, this has grid panels and our workbench. To calculate to a number of panels: the wall is 9′ = 108″ each grid panel is 17.25″ wide so 108 divided by 17.25 = 6.26 we can fit 6 panels on the wall. these are centered and our workbench sits in front.

Wall “B” we use the same process here: wall – 18′ 6″ = 222″ — 222 / 17.25 = 12.86 so we use 12 panels.

Wall “C” On this wall we are using hardwood between the panels. This gives the system a softer and warmer look. We installed the plywood, then used 1×4 hardwood to create the framework, then the panels were attached in the center sections.

Normally we would do all walls the same, however, we wanted to use this room as a showpiece for different styles and looks.

System Height

Determine what height is right for your wall. There are two lengths of panels, 16″ high and 36″. Two rows of the large panels fit most applications. This yields 6′ of vertical grid wall. In our room, we start the bottom panels 14″ off the floor. The bottom row of rifles sits on the Stock bases on the floor. 14: off puts to the top of the system at 86″ in a standard room with 8′ ceiling the results look good and work well. You can also start panels on the floor, use Two 36’s and one 16″ panel this will give you a total height of 88″. With this option, you will have the ability to use bins, shelves, and other accessories for the floor up.

drawing

In the image above we show a 72″ high system 14″ off the floor. There are 24 rifles stored vertical and 3 horizontal. The rifle barrels at the top can be taller than the system. Next, we show floor to ceiling using 3 panels.

Option:

use 2 x 12 lumber or build a wood base on the floor for stock bases. This gets the rifles off the floor. Painting the wood Black or an accent color will give you a nice finished look.

Plywood

Plywood is placed over the drywall and painted (we recommend dark grey or black) so you can attach the panels. We use 1″ drywall screws to secure the panels to the plywood. The screws will go through the plywood and into the drywall. If you want to option to remove or move the gun storage system with minimal impact on the wall. Install the plywood with furring strips to give you enough space for the screw. This is also the method for installing a gun storage system into brick or concrete walls.

For brick or concrete walls use furring strips

Block wall detail for gun room

Mounting the panels.

In a 2 panel high system, we start with the top panels. measure the height where you want the bottom. Snap a line where the bottom will be, make sure it is level. We normally will screw a temporary ledger board onto the plywood at the line so to support the panel during install. When installing screws into panels, make sure to center the screws in the holes. If a screw is off-center it can push the panel off the line as it is tightened. – quick fix: if a screw is off a bit, leave it loose until the other screws are seated then tighten this will keep the panels straight.

We install screws every 3 -4 louvers and every 2-3 rows. adding a few screws to the panel joints will keep things straight and clean.

When the panels are installed you can start adding components and firearms. There are unlimited options as far as how you store things!

Gun room with reloading bench

reloading bench in gun room

Gun Room Reloading bench

gun room reloading

Reloading dyes stored in the gun room.

Gun Smith bench in a gun room

 

 

SecureIt Gun Room Overview:

Learn More: Modern Gun Storage

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A Brief History of the Gun Safe & How an Industry Lost Touch

What’s in this article

Gun  safes: from 1850s till now
How venture capitol  killed quality in lieu of profits
Why security and fire ratings are no longer valid

What you need to know

Gun Safes are not secure against modern threats
Modern gun safe ratings are vastly overstate

In the past 10 years we have seen wall street investment firms move into the gun safe business. Liberty Safe in owned by an investment firm. in 2018 Canon safe company purchased the larger Stack-on company. This was funded by Wall Street investment money. When gun sales surged in the Obama years, Wall street looked at the safe industry as a growth opportunity. The result is these poplar safe companies are no longer working to make the best product possible for their customers. They are all working to maximize shareholder value. The result is make the cheapest safe you can and sell it for as much as possible.

 

SHOT Show Presentation

Tom takes you through a detailed look at the gun  safe industry and how it failed.

Gun Safe History

The gun safe industry is as American as apple pie and the wild west. Built on thick heavy US steel, glossy paint, and fancy pinstriping. Unfortunately, this industry has lost its heritage. Gone are the days of real American gun safes and the men who built them, the achievers, the men whose word was their bond. The American “modern gun safe” industry is now run by wall street, spreadsheets and analysis reports. This is a brief history and an unfortunate story.

Early Safes

Safes in one form or another have been around since the days of Julius Caesar. The first safes were used centuries ago in many cultures and nations. Egyptian vaults and treasure temples are one example. The Greeks stored a variety of valuables in safes made from bronze. Leaders in the ancient Roman empire created iron and wooden chests to store valuables.

As time went on, safes became increasingly complicated. They were not practical and were frequently cumbersome and difficult to operate. The first safes with swinging doors were manufactured in the 1700s in England.

chubb safe

It wasn’t until 1835 Charles Chubb, an English locksmith patented the first burglar-proof safe. He established a large safe-factory in London. He died in 1845 and was succeeded in the business by his son John. John Chubb patented various improvements in the products and grew the company significantly. Today known as Chubb Locks.

In the US, as any history buff of the mid-1800s and the turn of the century knows, safes have played an important role. Gold was king in the development of business, commerce, and outlaw gangs. But the history of safes extends far beyond Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

“Iron chests” as they were called then, were designed to protect against burglars. They were not fit to protect against fires or other natural disasters.

In the 1820s, Jesse Delano started manufacturing safes in New York City. He created a new way of producing fireproof safes. He coated the wood foundation with a clay and lime, to render it incombustible. It was then lined with thick steel. Jesse is credited with the first US Patent for a fireproof safe design.

The First Gun Safes

The modern gun safe has its roots in the 1850s designs of Silas Herring. He used thick outer steel, plaster, and thin inner steel to create a fireproof gun storage safe. His basic design is still used in fire safes today. Some of the materials and filler have improved to meet modern demands. But for the ultimate in fire protection double walled steel filled with plaster or cement, is still king.

Modern gun safes, unfortunately, no longer use this construction method. Gun safe manufacturers split from the rest of the safe industry in the 1980s.

delaono-herring-safe

Are Gun Safes No Longer Fireproof?

Gun safes of today are not built to Herring’s 1850 standards. To reduce costs and speed production, gun safe manufacturers have cut corners in a massive way.

Gun Safe Designs

In the 1970s gun, safe manufacturers dropped the Silas Herring design. They eliminated the thick outer steel; they eliminated the concrete or plaster filler. The thin inner steel became the outside of the safe. They then lined it with drywall and covered that with carpet. They claim the drywall is for fire protection. I believe it was to add weight back into the safes. There is a perception that a heavy safe is a secure safe. Weight has nothing to do with fire protection or security.

original gun safe design
modern chap safe design

 Original Silas Herring fire safe design  Modern RSC design

We all believe that these modern safes are fireproof. However, per U.L. Laboratories Standard 72, they are not fireproof. Technically, they are not even considered to be true safes.

This move to cheaper materials and designs happened slowly and almost secretly. When the move was made to a single wall, the industry did something a bit sneaky. They no longer met the UL standard for a gun safe. They went to Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and created a new classification. These new cheaper cabinets are classed: RSC – “Residential Security Container”. Notice the classification does not use the word “safe”. UL would not allow the word safe in the classification. Because the RSC containers do not meet the minimum performance standard to be called a safe.

Please note:

In all fairness, there are still some “real” gun safes made in America. Amsec makes a few U.L. Class TL-30 gun safes and there are some very well made custom safes available.

Fireproof? No

As technology advances, you would think that gun safe fire ratings would improve. Just the opposite has happened. The industry has completely moved away from fireproof gun safe production. The U.L. RSC classification has nothing to do with fire ratings. There is no fire component to the RSC rating. A sticker on the door that says “Fire Certified” or “Fire Tested” really means nothing. Unless it says “UL-Class 72 350-X”, it is not a certified fireproof safe. The fire rating and tests are created and conducted by the manufacturers. They basically create a test that they can pass then put a sticker on the door that says certified fire resistant.

See “Your gun safe is NOT fireproof! Just ask any fire chief”.

Gun Safe Interiors

gun safe interior

Early gun safes were designed for basic Winchesters. Rifles of the day were simple compact with iron sights. There have been many changes since then. In recent years, we have seen great advances in rifle, shotgun, and optics technology. The modern sporting rifle (AR15) is the top-selling rifle in America. These new firearms do not fit into the old gun safe interior designs. The industry has had many years to adapt, but they haven’t.

Gun safe fail

The gun safe industry has not changed interior design one bit. Why are they so slow and hesitant to adapt?

Military style storage

In 2016 SecureIt introduced CradleGrid to the US consumer market. Cradlegrid technology was developed under contract with US army special forces. It is a simple system by which US military forces store and organize weapons and associated gear.

US Military Force Modernization

Military weapon storage

In the late 1990’s, the military replaced the traditional battle rifle with the modular M4 and incorporated optics and electronics. While the result was a superior fighting force, there were still problems. Gun racks and storage systems were designed for basic M14s and M16s and the new weapons and gear would not properly fit.

M4 and M16 Basic M16 rifle replaced by M4 weapon system sopmodm4 SOCOM M4 with SOPMOD Block 1 & 2

The Gulf Wars created a rapid advancement in weapon technology. Things were changing so fast storage designs could not keep up. The armory storage problems came to a head when several Special Forces armories failed basic inspections. Army Special Forces Command (USASFC) put out a solicitation for an arms room assessment program. SecureIt won the contract. They spent the next 18 months working with Special Forces units and command. The task was to identify problems and make recommendations. The result was CradleGrid Technology. A simple easy to use and understand weapon storage platform. Cradlegrid had just one moving part. It can store all weapons in a military armory and provides proper storage for precision rifles with optics. Introduced in 2008 CradleGrid has completely changed the way the military thinks about weapon storage.

SecureIt Various Weapon Racks

The consumer hunting and sports shooting market has gone through similar changes. There has been a broad move to MSR style modular firearms. The basic shape of the rifle has changed. The introduction of affordable quality optics has further complicated storage. Even traditional rifles and shotguns now have scopes or red dots. Will the gun safe industry adapt to these changes? No. It does not look like they have anything in development.

The future of firearms storage has to accommodate the changes in rifle format and optics. The gun safe industry continues to build what they want to build and repeatedly ignore the needs of their customers.

Through the introduction of CradleGrid Technology, SecureIt revolutionized military armories and is doing the same for home firearm storage. With SecureIt now in the leadership position for firearm storage, will the traditional gun safe industry be able to catch up?

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SHOT Show 2017 – Tom takes aim at the gun safe industry exposing it for what it really is.

In this presentation from the SHOT show, Tom goes through all the ways the gun safe industry manipulates the facts and distorts the truth about safes and gun storage.

When you understand the truth about this industry you will be in a position to make much better decisions.