YOUR CONCEALED CARRY FIREARM—your security blanket in a time of stress—also needs security when you’re not wearing it. Count yourself fortunate. Options are available for every need and in every price range. Let’s take a look at a couple of them.
At Home, Within Reach
GunVault (800-222-1055; www.gunvault.com) has developed numerous options for securing firearms, options that give owners quick access. Depending on the size you buy, these little safes also provide hidden storage for valuables and, of course, keep small children at bay.
Exteriors are typically 16-gauge steel, about .06 inches thick. Inside, they’re lined with protective foam. That’s sturdy enough to secure your gun from the common thief, says GunVault’s Kevin Renwick, some nervous teenager in a hurry who might carry a screwdriver or maybe a hammer. An experienced burglar who walks into your home with industrial grade bolt cutters and a 4-pound bash sledge, though, will walk out with your gun.
Including fires from cooking, electrical malfunctions, smoking, and heating, the Federal Emergency Management Agency says a quarter-million U.S. homes go up in flames each year.
These affordable protective units can be mounted in practically any direction under a table or on a bookshelf. Plenty of features and options are available depending on the unit: separate over-ride key locks, tamper indicator, interior light, spring-loaded door, 9-volt battery operation with low battery warning, motion detector and audio alarm, and additional security cables.
The option that sets GunVault apart is biometric technology: fingerprint scanners that provide quick access. The 9-pound MiniVault Biometric (GVB 1000), for example, measures about 5x8x12 inches outside with an interior that is 3x7x11.
The fingerprint scanner allows fast, codeless entry. There’s no combination or code to remember and the standard unit accepts up to 15 prints so your spouse or brother or even a different finger can be used to open it if your primary scanned finger is covered in sweat…or blood. If the battery fails, there’s a power adapter for access.
The uniquely designed SpeedVault Biometric (SVB 500) uses a fingerprint scanner and activation button. The 7-pound unit “remembers” up to 120 individual fingerprints and is an option for home or even the office because it has multiple mounting options. The SVB 500 measures 6.5×3.5×13 inches outside and 2.25×5.75×8.5 inches inside. A separate model, the SV 500, uses a four-button keypad.
At Home, Heavy Duty
If you have multiple firearms at home, if you hunt and shoot three-gun competition or perhaps collect early-model Smith & Wesson revolvers, a heavy-duty floor safe looms in your future. Here, America’s obsession with shopping can go a long way to giving you just what you need for security and access because in the world of behemoth safes, practically anything goes.
Vault Pro (800-299-6929; www.vaultprousa.com) builds big, solid, heavy-duty safes. At 5 feet high with a 25-inch width and depth, the Warrior is a small Vault Pro model that is designed to maneuver into a narrow space such as a closet. Its 10-gauge (.13-inch thick), bent three-piece steel body is complemented by a .25-inch solid steel front plate/composite steel door and a .63-inch steel frame. Base models weigh 500 pounds—650 pounds if they’re double-stepped.
Although the feature increases a safe’s weight, a properly built stepped door locked against a stepped frame is far superior to a flat door. Vault Pro hand cuts and fits step system doors that provide extra protection against some thug jamming a thin pry bar between the door and frame. Step systems use seamless bent steel on the outside edge of doors and layered steel within frames. This provides additional strength and a door that’s resistant to warping even in hot home fires.
The Warrior has external hinges. Vault Pro’s Tony Darling says this may not look as good—or seem as secure—as invisible internal hinges, but the Warrior comes with steel locking rods (bolts) on both sides, plus top and bottom. If a thief were to grind off the outer hinges, the door would remain solidly in place.
Hinges (and weight) are important because they may determine safe placement. Internal hinges may only allow doors to open 90 degrees, which can complicate a room’s fixed design. External hinges allow 180 degrees of door movement.
To protect contents during a fire, the Warrior uses Palusol sodium silicate-based gaskets to seal the door closed. This stand-up safe is rated for content protection for 40 minutes when the safe is exposed to 1200-degree F heat—about the intensity of a typical home fire. Additional fire protection can be guaranteed with heavier steel plating.
Everything about the Warrior can be upgraded, from the shell, upgraded to 3-gauge (.25 inch) steel, to digital locks and ceramic fire-proofing (to 2300 degrees F and two hours of protection).
Including fires from cooking, electrical malfunctions, smoking, and heating, the Federal Emergency Management Agency says a quarter-million U.S. homes go up in flames each year. And judging by videos posted online, it only takes a few minutes for a home to become completely engulfed. You will not have time to open the safe and grab your guns and valuables and make sure the spouse and children, your wallet, credit cards, car keys, smart phone, and computer are all outside in the yard before billowing, choking black smoke suffocates you. Vault Pro reinforces vital areas such as locks to protect against drill and punch attacks.
The Warrior’s 10-bolt locking system uses a formidable Sargent & Greenleaf lock. According to Tony Darling, some safes are padded with layers of commercial-grade drywall, which is inexpensive, but limited in its protective ability. Concrete is used for layering in others, but concrete is heavy and absorbs water that can cause rust and deterioration. Vault Pro offers a ceramic filler option, because ceramic is a dry, lightweight material that provides fire-proofing well beyond drywall and with no corrosive properties.
The Warrior gun safe will hold 20 long guns with room for handguns and ammo, but the most popular configuration is a split interior. One side holds eight to 10 long guns; the other side is adjustable shelving with a full-length top shelf.
Advice? “Get something larger than you need today,” Darling says. “Your gun collection is only going to grow.”
If the Walls Could Speak
Wall-mounted safes are popular in movies. Hidden behind painted mountain landscapes, they seem secure, invisible. These are excellent attributes because the U.S. experiences more than two million home burglaries a year.
American Security (951-685-9680; www.amsecusa.com) builds a series of wall safes that fit between wall studs. Their wall-mounted WEST2114, for example, has a heavy duty steel body with a .19-inch steel door and flange. Dual live bolts help protect against pry attacks.
The electronic touch-screen lock of the 2114 has a 3.75-inch touch screen LCD input display. It accepts two user codes and shows door-open events for the most recent 14 entries, plus low-battery indicator, time, date, and touch keypad.
The 2114 comes with an emergency key-lock override with two keys, a power override battery box, built-in spy-proof function, motion detector alert, and has two removable shelves inside. Weighing 31 pounds and with a 733 cubic inch interior, this safe measures about 22x15x4 inches. It shouldn’t be hard to find a picture to cover it.
Safe Buying Considerations
What do you have to secure? Jewelry and firearms, of course, but also collections, family heirlooms, and important paperwork (birth certificates, passports, stock certificates, bonds, an honorable discharge, and the title to your home). If you expect to have little in the way of valuables, then a small-to-medium safe is practical. If you live large and have a big family, a more substantial investment is warranted.
In their online brochure, Cannon Safe (909-382-0303; www.cannonsafe.com) suggests that safes weighing less than 1000 pounds can go on the second floor, but a safe weighing more than that should be placed on the ground floor. Cannon, which builds safes in many sizes and colors, may overstate the case, but argues, “A beautiful and elegant safe can be an attractive feature to your home décor and make a nice addition to a room.”
Money should not be a consideration when protecting your firearms and valuables, but everyone—everyone I know, at least—has a budget, and big companies like Browning (801-876-2711; www.browning.com) have a safe for every budget. Browning’s 58x30x20-inch, 490-pound Sporter SP20 with a mechanical lock holds 20 guns and accessories. It can be purchased for about $1100 or less with free shipping and set-up if purchased locally. The Sporter is built with 12-gauge (.11 inch) steel with a 1-inch composite door and is fire resistant to 1200 degrees for 45 minutes.
At the high end, Browning’s Pro Series Pinnacle 47-gun safe is three times as heavy as the Sporter, but offers an extra foot of headroom. Pinnacle safes offer twice the fire protection, and with a much better UL burglary protection rating, expect to pay five to six times the cost of the Sporter, or about $6300 plus shipping. At the opposite end of the budget spectrum, the small Gun-Vault Biometric GVB 1000 carries a suggested retail price of $320.
Several testing companies offer product certification for fire. Check the standards posted such as “1200 degrees for 45 minutes” and then check for the closest fire station, assuming that closer equates to quicker response time. Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and Intertek (ETL) evaluate safes, and ETL actually allows consumers to confirm a seller’s claim for fire protection (ETL 30, 60, or 90 minutes at 1200 degrees F). Liberty (801-925-1000; www.libertysafe.com) notes that safes defend against fire with layers of fireboard and thick steel.
Fireboard is drywall with a layer of fiberglass reinforcing the gypsum. More fireboard layers and thicker steel plus a good door seal give valuables better protection and, of course, cost more. (The Palusol heat-expanding seal expands up to seven times its size.) Liberty’s 545-pound, 17-gun Deluxe 17 ($1100) offers 75 minutes of protection from 1200-degree fires, a 92,000 BTU heat absorption rating. The Deluxe 17 has four layers of fireboard in the ceiling and three in the walls, door jambs, and door. The slightly smaller Explorer 12 ($500) in Liberty’s Centurion line offers 30 minutes of protection at 1200 degrees F (62,000 BTUs) because it is built with only two layers of fireboard in the ceiling, one in the walls, and two in the door and door jambs.
a. Interior outlets for 110, RJ45, and USB to plug in items such as dehumidifier rods (recommended) and electronics without drilling holes through the safe body.
b. Adjustable shelving, padded interior flooring, an accessory door-component hanger or shelving, and interior lighting for dim light access.
c. Check the warranty for length of time, repair, and parts replacement. Will a representative repair the safe in place or does it need to be returned to a dealer? Is the warranty transferrable in case you sell the safe?
d. Your needs may run to jewelry trays, pistol racks and rifle rods, desiccants and/or dehumidifiers, blackpowder warning stickers, motion sensors and tampering alarms, special “cool pockets” for accessory items, and lighting kits. Wherever you position your safe, make sure it is bolted as securely to the floor and/or wall as possible.