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 The problem is that the original designs (Plaster of Paris) have been replaced by drywall because drywall is cheaper and fire-resistant.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.