Gun Safes: They may not be what you think they are.

Gun safe fail

A Brief History

Safes in one form or another have been around since the days of Julius Cesar. While sometimes disputed, Jesse Delano is credited with the first fireproof safe design patented in 1826. The modern gun safe has its roots in the 1850s designs of Silas Herring. He used plaster and steel to create a fire rated gun storage safe. What’s interesting and disappointing is that gun safes of today are not built to standards anywhere near Herring’s 1850 design. Price and profit pressures have caused the whole industry to move away from true fire rated safes. The majority of what are commonly called and sold as “Gun Safes” are actually UL (Underwriter’s Laboratories) listed as “RSC” or “Residential Security Containers” and not actual safes. This includes the “safes” available at all the big chain with popular brand names including “Liberty,” “Winchester”, “Browning,” etc. Yes, you may have guessed it. The industry did not want to build to the UL Safe classification standard so they created a new standard, RSC – “Residential Security Container”.

Lear more:  Gun Safe: Understanding Ratings and Certifications


What is a RSC
(Residential Security Container)?

An RSC rated container (gun cabinet) will resist forced opening for up to five minutes by an attacker using simple, non-powered hand tools. We’re talking screwdrivers, hammers (must be less than 3lbs), and pry bars (must be less than 18″ long). RSC containers are not rated against any attack by power tools of any kind, or any attack lasting longer than five minutes.  This is security designed for 1850’s threat level. Today, a high powered battery operated grinder with a cutoff wheel can cut a “gun safe” (Residential Security Container) in half in less than 15 minutes. A small portable plasma cutter will do the job in under 3 minutes. People assume that because it weighs 1000 lbs it must be secure.

Fire Rating

RSC Certified gun safes are not fireproof.  Not at all.

ul class 350 gun safe

The only consistent, reliable and independent fire rating is the UL fireproof safe class rating. The lowest rating is “Class 350 1-hour” The ratings go up to 4 hour (Class 350-4).  Unfortunately, there are no RSC gun safes that meet this rating as the materials and construction required to offer this kind of protection are deemed too expensive by the gun safe industry.  The fire rating or “fire certified” sticker on the door of an RSC means very little as each gun safe (RSC) manufacturer creates their own standards and fire tests. If a safe does not have a UL class 350 fire rating then it is not a fire safe. It is a thin steel box lined with drywall and covered with some carpeting. The Drywall makes the safe real heavy and “feel” secure. It is not. Talk to fire fighters. “Gun safes” (RCSs) rarely ever survive a real fire.
go to:Gun Safe: Understanding Ratings and Certifications for more information

Guns Safes and Corrosion

Consider Corrosion

There are a lot of products on the market designed to slow the process of your guns rusting in a “gun safe”. There is good reason for these products. Drywall or Gypsum board used in RSCs contain several chemicals that are highly corrosive to your guns. Formaldehyde is used as a dispersing agent in drywall production and is highly corrosive to steel.  See: https://www.pharosproject.net/blog/show/44/formaldehyde-additives-drywall

Safes imported from China use drywall that contains additional threats to your guns. The Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) and other agencies have found high levels of pyrite (FeS2) which gives off carbon disulfide, carbonyl sulfide, and hydrogen sulfide — all of which are corrosive to firearms. 100% of the problem drywall coming from China also tested positive for the bacteria Acidithiobacillus ferrooxidans, which lives in pyrite deposits.  These bacteria consume iron and sulfur producing highly corrosive sulfuric acid. Have you ever noticed a mild sulfur smell when you open a Chinese import safe? There are many concerns about drywall from china please see: Chinese Drywall to learn more.

Other Disadvantages of Gun Safes.

gun safe moveThey are very big, very heavy and once in place cannot be easily moved. They are also big and heavy. Did I tell you they were heavy?  …You get the picture. In our modern, mobile society where people move on average every 6.6 years (US Census Bureau) does it make sense to own a 1200lb metal box full of drywall?

If you live in a condominium or town-home owning a heavy old safe is probably not allowed by your HOA.

The Industries “Little White Lie”.

gun safe capacity

This gun safe, rated for 29 guns can not efficiently store 11 modern rifles Gun safe capacity is a lie.

Gun Safe Capacity

gun safe capacity

When a safe manufacturer offers a gun safe (RSC) and claims a capacity of 30 guns what are they telling you. Keep in mind the RSC will not hold 30 guns, not even close. Either they are not very bright or they think their customers aren’t very bright. The VP of national sales for one of America’s largest safe manufactures told me it was the “industry’s little white lie”. It seems all safe manufactures state their capacity based on how many gun slots they can fit in the safe regardless of how many guns actually fit. In our product testing, using safes from several different manufacturers, we found the actual capacity for traditional guns is about half of what the manufacturers claimes. When you add in modern sporting rifles that capacity drops even further. We purchased a 29 gun Steelwater gun safe and were only able to fit 11 modern rifles and at that point they were packed in and hitting each other. Gun safe capacity is a sham.

Gun Safe Are Too Deep

Manufacturers all focus on making real heavy complex doors and lock systems in an effort to make you think the cabinet is secure. These doors are so heavy that the cabinet has to be deep. Deep enough to offset the weight of the door so when it is opened the cabinet does not tip over. This depth is counterproductive to proper gun storage. You end up with guns packed in and you have to dig through to get to the rifles stored way in the back.
Please note: a thief ignores the door and just cuts through the thin steel on the side or back of the RSC.

Gun Safe Interiors

Gun safe interior design has never changed.
American gun ownership has changed dramatically and the safe industry refuses to address it. The number one rifle sold in America is an AR15 and most shooters now have some sort of scope or optic on every rifle and shotgun. The gun safe industry not only failed to anticipate these market changes they appear to have buried their heads in the sand and refuse to even acknowledge that there has been any type of change. Gun safes simply do not have the ability to properly store modern rifles.

interior-2 safe-interior

This is the typical safe interior. Even with stripped down Henry rifles you will not fit guns in every slot, there simply is not enough room for the stocks. AR platform rifles will not fit well at all and there is not room for optics of any kind.

You can upgrade gun safe interiors to SecureIt CradleGrid Technology: Gun safe upgrade kits

“They’ve buried their heads in the sand

Why does a whole industry fail to address a big market change? It almost appears like all gun safe manufactures are in a big game of chicken. They all produce basically the same product and are all afraid of being the first one to be different. In most industries manufacturers actively look for points of difference.  But not with “gun safes” (RSC containers). It is very unusual and not in the best interest of the consumer. These manufacturers and products are dinosaurs and perhaps, soon be extinct.

We see this as a complete lack of respect for the firearms they store, and their customers who shell out big money expecting secure fireproof storage yet really only have a steel box with some drywall and fancy paint. The only advances in gun safe manufacturing in the last 100 years has been the move to cheaper materials, lower standards and misleading certifications.

So do you need a so called “gun safe” or RSC?

The answer is probably no. 

If you think you will sleep better knowing that your rifles and stored in a big 1200 lb. gorilla in your basement, then it may be the right product. You have to understand however, that the security against both theft and fire is really smoke and mirrors. The whole industry is built around a false perception that because these things weigh 1200lbs, it must be safe and secure.

When you consider that these so called “gun safes” (RSC) are no more secure then a simple steel cabinet and fire ratings (which do not meet even the most basic UL Certification) are simply made up by manufacturers, you have to really question the decision.

  • They are very difficult and expensive to move.
  • They are corrosive to your guns by design.
  • They do not properly store precision rifles.
  • Older homes may not support the weight and you certainly would not put a safe in an upstairs location.

So what do you do?

There are several very inexpensive steel gun cabinets on the market. Products like Stack-On will store guns, however they have very basic locking and the interiors that mimic guns safes so you will struggle with the same inefficient and damaging storage issues.

This year SecureIt introduced the Model 52 Ultralight gun cabinet with CradleGrid Technology. The first in a series of modern modular gun storage cabinets and provides proper storage for 6 rifles, handguns and lot of gear. The Model 52 is manufactured out of the same 14 GA steel as many traditional gun safes (RSC) but doesn’t have the ridiculous weight, or the corrosive interior.

Patented CradleGrid Technology was developed under contract with US Army Special Forces. The modular system provides simple, adjustable, proper storage for rifles, shotguns and handguns and allows you to organize and store firearms along with associated gear.

In our modern, mobile and fast paced society why tether yourself to a 1200lb gorilla? It will be parked somewhere in your life and eventually left behind somewhere. Otherwise It will require a great deal of work, time or money every time it must be moved. It provides no additional security over much lighter and easier to deal with cabinets and the materials used in its construction can be corrosive and detrimental to firearms.

Knowledge and Education is Power

Take the time to learn as much as you can before you spend your money. Here are links to articles that we have found to be informative and accurate.

11 Myths about Gun Safe Theft Protection

9 Myths about Gun Safe Fire Ratings

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Tom Kubiniec

The Gun Storage Guru Considered the leading authority on weapon storage and armory design. Tom has designed and built weapon storage systems for all branches of the US military in all theaters of operation as well has foreign military forces in South America and the Middle East.

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