Gun Safe Boltworks: Part 2, Bolt Bars

The last post said that the size of the bolts in a gun safe makes no difference in a pry attack, but mentioned that there are other potential weaknesses. Flimsy bolt bars are a major problem in many safes.


The picture on the left shows the bolt bar– the vertical angle iron to which the bolts are attached — from a safe we sell.   The picture on the right shows the bolt bar from a well-known brand of gun safe that we will not sell. The safes are the same size. The bolt bar in the safe on the right is extremely weak compared to the one on the left for four reasons:

  • The one on the left is slightly longer than the one on the right.
  • The one on the left is 23% bigger: 2” x 2” vs. 1.5” x 1.75”.
  • The one on the left is 44% thicker: .1943” VS .1345”.
  • The one on the left is a solid piece of steel, while the other piece has 12 extra holes punched into it, each of which makes the piece weaker.

I believe the extra holes are there so the bolt bar can be used interchangeably in other safe models – good for manufacturing efficiency, bad for security.  Smaller dimensions and thinner steel also keep manufacturing costs down, but they’re bad for security. Take all these things together and there is a huge difference in strength.

Bent Bolts 2

So why is that important? The next picture shows a safe which uses that same flimsy bolt bar. Burglars successfully pried this safe door open.  Pressure from their pry bar caused the bolt bar to bend, which allowed the bolts to fold over enough for the door to open. This manufacturer talks about protecting your valuables, but in reality all they want to do is make more money. They make more money by going cheap on one of the most important pieces in their safes! The same principle applies  to vault doors.  This is why you need to talk with real experts when buying a gun safe, not a box store or a gun dealer who also happens to sell gun safes.

Gun Safe Boltworks: Part 1

Do bigger bolts really make a difference?

One of the biggest misconceptions relating to gun safes  is that “the bigger the bolts are, the more security you have against pry attacks”. The idea is that if someone is trying to pry open your safe, 1” bolts will break before 1 .25” bolts, and those would break before 1.5” bolts. Bigger bolts do look more impressive, but they are primarily cosmetic. Manufacturers use larger bolts to differentiate between lower priced and higher priced safes.

Consider this: If you are towing a 5000# trailer where you are stopping, starting, slamming on the breaks, etc., your whole rig is usually held together by just one 5/8” bolt in the hitch. Ever hear of that bolt breaking? So how would someone break the bolts on a gun safe or vault door, even with a long pry bar?

Bigger bolts make no difference in prying attacks – the weakness is somewhere else. The next post will tell how prying attacks DO open some gun safes.

P.S. It is appropriate to note that if someone uses power tools to cut through the edge of a safe door, then cuts completely through the safe bolts, bigger is better. But this kind of attack is extremely rare and doesn’t even make sense. Someone with that kind of tool will go through the side of the safe much quicker.

Buy Your Gun Safe from a Local Dealer, Not Online

Someone asked about “Reason #4” in the last post, “Internet sellers usually do not know as much about gun safes and vault doors as a good local dealer . . .” Here is why that is true.

Internet sellers offer no service. They show a picture of a safe, a brief description, the price, “click here to add to cart”, and it gets dropped off outside your home. They may have inventory or it may be drop shipped from the factory.  But they don’t learn the products intimately.

A good safe company/dealer will work with the gun safes and vaults on a whole different level. Local safe companies are the people who see the safes after a fire or burglary attempt — the internet sellers don’t. Local dealers see which units survive or fail in a fire. We know which locks are prone to failure because our technicians are the ones that open safes when locks quit working. We know which safes are easy to drill or pry open, which ones have effective relockers, which ones have effective “hardplate”, which ones have drywall insulation that is pieced together from construction scraps, etc. Local safe businesses are the people who go out to perform warranty work, not the online seller.

Occasionally, we hear people’s anger when they discover that the safe they bought online was misrepresented. Pictures on a website may look good, but poor quality is more apparent when the safe shows up in your driveway. Disappointment is especially common with vault doors purchased online. A local business is likely to be more truthful because they have a hometown reputation to protect.

The product knowledge issue also applies to gun stores that sell gun safes as a sideline. If they do not have real safe technicians with the ability to service safes, they just do not have the same knowledge that a safe company has.

Buy your safe locally from a full service safe and vault business!

Top 10 Reasons Not To Buy a Gun Safe Over the Internet

Top 10 Reasons Why You Should Not Buy a Gun Safe Over the Internet

“Top 10” lists are very popular since David Letterman used them every day on his show. Here is mine:

#10 Internet sellers do not support your local economy. You should support your local main street type businesses.

#9 Internet sellers usually do not arrange to have the gun safe installed in your home.

#8 Internet sellers certainly will not come to your home to service your safe.

#7 When purchasing a safe over the internet you cannot see it and “kick the tires” before you buy it.

#6 Most internet sellers specialize in selling cheap, inferior, Chinese made (junk) safes. This often leads to #5.

#5 Internet sellers frequently misrepresent what they are selling.

#4 Internet sellers usually do not know as much about gun safes and vault doors as a good local dealer, and the local dealer can show you side-by-side comparisons between different units.

#3 Internet sellers are disgusting, good-for-nothing, miserable excuses for human beings, whose mothers abandoned them at an early age down by the railroad tracks. Haha.

#2 Things can get messy, and buyers tend to get angry, when they find problems with their new safe after it is unpackaged and the delivery truck has already left.

#1 How do you know that the delivery driver, or someone else in the freight system, has not removed the box from your safe long enough to write down the combination? And the address to your home is on the outside of the box!

I probably exaggerated on #3, but the other points are real concerns – these things really happen!

Vault Doors & Vault Room Ventilation, Part 2

There is a basic contradiction with vault rooms: You need them to be air tight in case of a fire, but you also need them to have good air quality the rest of the time. How do you accomplish both goals?

  • It is absolutely critical that you buy a vault door from a reputable manufacturer like Fort Knox, Graffunder or American Security who is telling you the truth about their product. There are very few doors that have ever been tested for fire resistance because of the high cost of testing. So almost every manufacturer who claims to have a 1, 2 or 3 hour “fire rated” door is starting out by lying to you. Equating several layers of drywall on the inside of the door with a “fire rating” is just plain bogus. Most of the heat and smoke pass through between the door and frame. If the door does not seal tight all the time it will not be effective at keeping out heat and smoke. Just putting on one or two heat expanding seals won’t do the job either.

I am certainly not an expert in this area, but following is basic information on fire and smoke dampers:

  • Fire dampers protect against fire spreading through ductwork or other access points into a room. My understanding is that the most common and cheapest fire dampers are controlled by thermal links. A piece of metal melts (or somehow changes position) at a relatively low temperature which allows a spring to quickly close the damper. It seems to me that if a thermal link is used at the opening to the vault, lots of heat would already have passed into the room before the damper closes. There are other methods of control.
  • Smoke dampers keep smoke from spreading through ductwork or other openings. They are usually controlled by electric, pneumatic or spring loaded actuators.
  • There are also combination fire and smoke dampers.
  • Dampers can be round or rectangular, as small as 4” x 4”. Use products that have been tested by U. L. for air leakage.
  • Greenheck, Metal-Fab and Ruskin are among the damper manufacturers; I found the folks at Ruskin to be very helpful.
  • Dampers/actuators can be connected remotely to fire alarms, smoke detectors, humidity monitors, etc.
  • For maximum protection inside your vault room, if money is no object: A blower outside the home, or a plenum fan, could force air into the vault room in case of fire. Pressurizing the room will prevent smoke and heat infiltration through the door, vent openings, etc.

Now, about buying a quality, American made vault door from an honest dealer, the best thing to do is call Hoogerhyde Safe.  We can deliver it locally or have it shipped anywhere in the country.