3 Things You Need to Know about Fire Ratings on Gun Safes

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Gun safes are advertised as a way to protect your protection at home.

They stand as a guarantee against planned and unplanned attacks on your home. A planned attack may come in the form of home burglary and an unplanned attack may be common household fires.

While fires might not be on the top of everyone’s list of events to look out for, foresight goes a long way.

Fires are products of many other kinds of accidents —problems with electrical wiring, a gas leak, and overheated appliances are some common causes of fires.

They don’t always have to come from your home as well. Fires eat through homes quickly and while they are unlikely, they happen enough for anyone to be cautious.

Finding the ideal gun safe isn’t as easy as checking the labels, there needs to be research done beforehand when looking for one.

There might be claims about the product that are solely based on estimates because of how the materials work hypothetically.

When it comes to selecting fireproof gun safes, there are a couple things you have to keep an eye out for:

  • check
    Is it really a safe?
  • check
    Has it been properly tested?
  • check
    If it has been tested how well does it work against a fire?

The general disclaimer is that there is no foolproof gun safe. As much as companies promise the integrity of their safes, each fire is unpredictable and a gun safe stands as contingency plan with no guarantees.

Is It Really a Safe?

Safe

If it is a big box with heavy metal doors and fancy lock, it does not always mean it is a safe.

Safes have different specifications which allow people to find the right product for the right price.

These are usually tested, categorized, and certified. Double check if your gun safe is truly a safe.

Residential Storage Containers (RSCs) have been called a “gun safe” in North America but do not follow the same standards of other Underwriters Laboratories (UL) standards against theft and tool resistance. 

They are only used for non-commercial settings and are a popular feature in homes.

The problem with RSCs is that this goes against the purpose of getting a gun safe. In weighing out the odds between a theft and a house fire, which one is most likely?

To serious athletes and gun collectors, whose major investments are in guns, this does not provide the right amount of protection.

This gap between real gun safes and RSCs are that they are being sold in popular chains by people who don’t know much about the product they are selling. There are manufacturers who make use of this lack of information and take advantage of uneducated customers.

Going to a specialty store will probably give better results. So, after identifying the difference between an RSC and a safe, there is still the issue of the fire rating.

Has It Been Properly Tested?

UL Logo

UL is the American authority on certifying safes, they have an hour and two-hour fire labels. These labels mean that it can keep the interior temperature at less than 350°F when exposed to a fire for one or two periods of time.

In order to get this, there are three tests: fire endurance, explosion hazard, and fire impact.

A fire endurance test has the safe exposed to evenly distributed fire, there are heat sensors and paper are placed inside. The heat is carefully regulated at 1700°F for a period of one hour, or 1850°F for two hours. It is left to cool.

When the safe is opened, it is examined for its usability. They check the mechanisms for security and check if the interior was damaged in any way.

An explosion hazard test is having the safe inside a furnace at 2000°F for 30-45 minutes. If it doesn’t explode, the unit is cooled and examined for usability.

A fire impact test happens after the explosion hazard test. After it is taken out of the furnace it is dropped onto brick and heavy concrete. The unit is then examined for deformation or other damaged parts.

They check if there are any openings. Once it is cooled it is heated again at 1550°F for a period of 30 min. (2-hour test: 45 min. at 1638°F). After it has cooled again from its second stint in the furnace, it is examined for usability.

Besides the certification of UL with the safe, take a look into what keeps the safes fireproof in the first place. A popular choice makes use of a welded inner and outer shell with a concrete amalgamate fireproofing poured in between. The safe is tapped to get hid of the air bubbles.

For high-security safes other materials are added to the concrete amalgamate to increase its strength against cutting tools. However, more additives also increase the heat transmission and would make it difficult to maintain the ideal interior temperature.

Gypsum drywall (Sheetrock) is also used to slow down the spread of fire. The problem with Sheetrock is that in a fire it reacts with the heat and begins a process called calcination. This produces a lot of steam. When protecting your gun, it might not be burnt but the added humidity and water might add damage the exterior of your guns.

If It Has Been Tested How Well Does It Work against a Fire?

Burning House

The general consensus is that there is no way to really know how well a certain safe will do in a fire.

Each fire is wild, reckless and completely unpredictable. If it is a real safe and certified by UL there is a higher chance that it will work against a common household fire.

There have been enough cases where even at a total loss, the guns have managed to survive the fire unscathed.

When it comes to buying fire ratings on gun safes it is best to not only carefully do research beforehand and read the labels but to have someone who knows the product well.

It would also be best if they can properly find the right kind of safe for the right kind of gun. A contemporary semiautomatic might not be so difficult to store, but for older brittle pieces, it is always best to get a second opinion.

  • February 10, 2018
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