Something new has come to the safe industry which is especially important in relation to gun safes. Underwriters Laboratories has come out with a new security rating.
Many years ago U.L. created a rating system, primarily for commercial insurance purposes. Initially, ratings started out with TL-15, “TL” being short for “tool”. To get TL-15 rating a manufacturer’s safe had to keep two of U.L.’s expert safe crackers from breaking in for at least fifteen minutes. That 15 minutes means “time when a tool is in contact with the safe”, so actual elapsed time of the test is much longer, maybe several hours. The testers have access to an extensive array of manual and power tools.
The ratings then go up in time to TL-30 and TL-60. “TRTL” ratings mean the testers also can use torches. An “X6” designation means that the safe cannot be penetrated in any of the six sides. So “TRTL30X6” means that U.L. could not break into the safe with torches and tools, through any part of the safe within 30 minutes. TRTL30X6 vaults are large and extremely heavy.
Some years ago a Residential Security Container (RSC) rating was introduced. The test is significantly less vigorous – it is a five minute test by only one person, who has access to a smaller array of tools.
Some RSC rated gun safes are actually quite easy for two people to forcibly open, while some are very difficult. Because of the huge jump in security level from RSC to TL-15, U.L. has just introduced the RSCII rating to fill this gap. The test for RSCII is a 10 minute test where two men can use all the tools available in the TL test. Basically it is a “TL-10”, however that is not what they call it.
To my knowledge, the only manufacturer that makes RSCII rated gun safes is American Security (Amsec). To make this higher rating they had to add more steel to their BF safe and put in a different boltworks. The price of a new Amsec “BFII” is about half way between their standard BF and their least expensive TL-30 gun safe.
No doubt most Graffunder Safes and some Fort Knox vaults would also pass the new test. A few “non-gun” fire/burglary safes would also probably pass. The problem is that U.L. testing is very expensive, which will keep many companies from ever offering RSCII rated gun safes.
If you deal with a knowledgeable safe dealer you can learn enough to determine what level of security is right for you, and how to get the most security for your money. In Michigan you would come to Hoogerhyde Safe.
Does “Made In American” mean anything to you? Far too many people just do not care anymore. I believe our federal government is largely to blame for this. They have done whatever it takes to pass trade deals like NAFTA which immediately lead to American jobs going to other countries. There are entire industries in which the U.S.A. no longer competes.
“Made In America” DOES mean something here at Hoogerhyde Safe where we do not sell foreign made gun safes. And our customers truly appreciate that we take a stand. Michigan is still a manufacturing center, but we know what it means to lose hundreds of thousands of jobs to other countries — where workers are grossly under-paid and the environment is destroyed with pollution.
We are proud to sell high quality U.S. built gun safes by Fort Knox and Graffunder. We also sell American Security’s domestic BF and RF series gun safes, but we will not sell their Chinese units. I have written about many of the specific quality problems and mis-representations concerning foreign made safes. (Remember in the past, when someone mentioned “Chinese junk”, you knew they were talking about a kind of boat?)
Be part of the solution, not part of the problem. Take a stand and Buy American when it comes to your gun safe. The rewards include a feeling of patriotism as well as a feeling of having better security.
Earlier posts talked of the problem with gun safes having only one seal. We have two safes in our shop from different manufacturers that went through fires, and they demonstrate the point perfectly.
Gun safe manufacturers all talk about having the intumescent seal which is supposed to protect your valuables in a fire. The theory is that when you have a fire, heat will cause the intumescent seal to swell up and seal the door shut. But in many fires the gun safe does not get hot enough for the seal to work, allowing heat and smoke to enter between the door and frame. Pictured is a gun safe with a “60 minute fire rating” which uses only the intumescent seal. While the safe got coated with sooty smoke it did not get very hot, so the seals did not expand. The paint will clean up fine; everything inside, however, was damaged by heat, acidic smoke, cinders and ash. You can see that the seals never expanded. Pictures of the interior show damage from smoke, ash & cinders. Ironic: The “Fire Safe” label is coated with soot and smoke that the “fire safe” did not protect against.
The plain fact is that for good fire protection gun safes need at least two different seals. One needs to seal the door ALL THE TIME, whenever the door is closed. See posts dated 7-6-15 and 7-20-15 for details. Fort Knox gun safes use an airtight fin-type seal on most of their units and Amsec uses a foam cushion. In both cases the gap between the door and frame is closed even when the safe is cold.
Seal systems on gun safes and vault doors are not a minor point – they are one of the most critical features. Yes, you might need to pay a little more for real protection, but there is no point in paying less for a product which does not work!
If you have shopped for a gun safe you have run into the “one size fits all” interior configurations. Everyone is supposed to want the same set-up – a vertical divider in the center and 10 to 15 gun spaces on each side. But that doesn’t work well for everyone.
I sold a gun safe to a woman this week who has just two rifles, and plans on one more. She has lots of other stuff that needs to be secured, however. So why should she waste half of the interior space for just two rifles? A Fort Knox unit in the 60 X 31 X 27 size with a four-gun interior works perfectly for her. She has four full width shelves for jewelry, pistols and documents with just a small area dedicated to long guns.
Fort Knox has many different interior configurations so the owner can use the space efficiently. A 60 X 31 X 27, for instance, can be set up to handle 4, 8, 13, 18, 26, 31, 36 or 40 long guns. If your needs change in a few years you can order different shelving. The photo shows a small unit, 60 X 26, with a 3 gun interior. Lots of usable shelf space. Other alternatives include the “all gun” rack shown at the bottom, which has 18 spaces.
Fort Knox dealers will have lots of gun safe options in stock, and lead times for special orders are usually only about 6 to 8 weeks. Fort Knox specializes in allowing you to get exactly what you want by offering many sizes, security levels, colors, lock arrangements, etc. Don’t “make do” with a gun safe that doesn’t fit your needs, just because it’s the only choice offered. Go to a Fort Knox dealer and spec out a unit that is exactly what you want, including the right interior.
Gun safes, as well as regular fire/burglary safes, make terrific Christmas gifts provided that the unit selected is appropriate for the recipient’s needs. That can be a problem, however, because the well-intended purchaser often does not appreciate the differences in quality, and they may not know about everything the user will store in the safe. The buyer is usually a spouse or “significant other” who is buying an special, useful gift. Understandably, they are focused on price because even a cheap gun safe is a big purchase.
Big box stores take full advantage of this situation with Black Friday sales and Christmas sales. They sell thousands of cheap Chinese units which, to the person who doesn’t do proper research, appear to be suitable. The result can be that the gun owner ends up with a safe he would not buy for himself. It might not offer the protection he knows he should have. While truly appreciating the thought behind a major gift, he may have unspoken doubts about it, and it’s a difficult gift to return. We have all been there with one gift or another.
So here are my suggestions:
- Don’t buy a gun safe as a surprise. Talk about it in advance. Get his/her input about brand, size, and value of what it will be used for. Select a manufacturer like Fort Knox that offers a range of security levels.
- Be wary of Black Friday and Christmas sales.
- Don’t buy only, or primarily, based on price.
- Don’t buy a Chinese product.
- Both parties should learn the basics about gun safes, the differences in brands and models. A good place to start is by reading my earlier posts about gun safes, safe locks, etc.
- Buy from a legitimate safe store, not a gun store or big box. Your research should include talking directly with safe experts who actually service different brands.
- If cost of a good unit is too high, then agree that this gift will be for Christmas and the next birthday, or this Christmas and next, or have them pitch in on the cost, or get their family to contribute.
Honestly, a quality gun safe or fire/burglary safe is a gift they will actually use and remember for years, even if they need to help with the cost. But the memory will be less positive if it is one of those gifts that he/she would secretly prefer to return for something better.