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.
In 2012 a man bought a 3025# Graffunder gun safe from us, but the delivery was especially tricky. The only way to get the vault into the basement was to go over the house, then go in through a lower level door. Lifting something that heavy, that high, then extending the boom far enough, requires a special crane and a talented crane operator. Even the condition of the ground where the crane sits has to be right. Everything went smoothly.
Well, last month our customer moved to a new home, so we needed to reverse the process. After making the vault “fly” again and taking it to the new location, it actually needed to go up some stairs too. We had to build a special structure to accomplish this part of the move. Obviously, this is not work for amateurs. It takes special equipment and lots of experience. It is not inexpensive, either. But if you really need a high security gun safe, like a Graffunder or a Fort Knox Safe, delivery cost is just part of the investment. Buy your gun safe from a company that is highly skilled at delivering safes.
The photo shows a Graffunder vault door waiting to be delivered and installed (handle spokes not yet installed). This unit is an in-swing version, in the smaller of their two sizes, a VB7834. The paint is textured “Medusa Gray” with chrome hardware, which I like because it seems to show the depth and the lines.
Even though this is Graffunder’s smaller size and lightest construction it still weighs 1300# and has plenty of strength built into it. The door is ½” solid plate steel, the outside and inside frames are 5/8″ and ½” respectively, and the threshold plate is 1” solid steel. Like the doors on Graffunder gun safes, Graffunder vault doors fit tighter into the frame than any others on the market. There is absolutely no way to insert any kind of prying tool. They also have special lock protection, unique relockers and other security features not found on other units.
Graffunders are the very best. Other good, less expensive options are American Security, Golden Spike or Fort Knox vault doors. If you are building a new home, or if your existing home has a place for one, a walk-in vault door is a terrific addition that adds value to your home.
The vast majority of fire or fire/burglary safes, are built with an outer steel shell and an inner steel shell. The space between the steel layers is filled with a poured-in composite material similar to concrete. (Note that box stores frequently sell safes with plastic inner linings, and even plastic on the outside — don’t waste your money.) Photo on left shows a high quality Gardall fire safe, with steel interior and poured in composite insulation.
Almost all gun safes consist of an outer steel shell lined on the inside with drywall, and no inner steel. Most use Type X drywall which contracts and breaks into pieces during a fire. Drywall is a poor insulator compared to the poured-in composite. That causes manufacturers to misrepresent their fire ratings. Photo on right is a typical gun safe – fabric covered drywall, no inner steel.
Most quality fire safes have an Underwriters Laboratories fire rating of one or two hours. These safes have been tested independently under standard procedures at temperatures up to 1700 and 1800 degrees, respectively. Some have also undergone a 30 foot drop test. Imported units are normally tested according to Korean or Japanese standards, which are similar to U.L.’s. Gun safes will rarely pass U.L. tests so most manufacturers and importers do their own tests, or they make up numbers without testing. They often mislead consumers by mentioning “U.L. Rated”, but the U.L. rating they refer to has nothing to do with fire.
There are all kinds of ways to cheat when you test your own product. I have been told by people who worked there, that one company actually caulks the door shut during their fire test. Another way to fudge is to put the inside temp recorders in the bottom of the test unit where temps are lowest. Putting some kind of thermal barrier in front of the safe during the test also works well. For instance, remember how effectively even a sheet of paper blocks radiant heat coming off a camp fire.
If you want to protect papers or cash in a safe with the very best fire ratings available, you really should not get a gun safe. If a gun safe with inner steel and poured-in composite makes sense to you, look at Graffunder safes or Amsec’s BF series.