We’re here to help! We’ve compiled a list of the top 5 questions you should ask before you purchase a safe.
#1: How many guns and valuables do you have to store?
If it’s just jewelry, medication, and a few documents, you don’t need to pay for a huge safe. Consider a compact vault or handgun vault. Even if you don’t own a gun, these safes are a great way to store small items.
If you need a little more room, look at a mid-sized or what’s sometimes called a home safe. These are about half as big as a full-sized safe. That gives you plenty of room for jewelry and medication, plus collectibles, passports, and a few larger items.
If you have a lot of valuables to protect, or if you have guns to store, you’ll need a full-sized safe. These come in many different sizes, so take stock of all the items you want to store before you pick a size. You may even want to gather all your valuables together in one spot. That way you can visualize how much space you need. Don’t forget things like photo albums, camera equipment, and external hard drives.
If you’re a gun owner, check to see how many guns a safe holds. Most companies list this on their website. Keep in mind that the gun count is usually based on the number of gun slots in the interior. If you have large guns, like AR-15s, or scopes on your guns, you won’t be able to fit as many.
And no matter what you’ll be storing, remember that size really does matter. The most common complaint among safe owners is that they should’ve bought a bigger size. They fill theirs up faster than they think they will.
#2: How much fire protection do you want from your gun safe?
Most companies start with 30 minutes, and some have safes that offer as much as 2 ½ hours of fire protection.
So, what’s the best safe fire protection? It’s a little tricky to decide how much you’ll need. There’s no real average for how long it takes to put out a house fire… too many factors go into an equation like that. If you live out in the country or far from a fire department, you’ll definitely want a higher fire rating. Otherwise, you just need to make an educated guess. If you’re storing expensive items, or you travel a lot and may not be home if a fire breaks out, you’ll want more fire protection.
Of course, you get what you pay for. Typically, the higher the fire rating, the more expensive the safe will be. We recommend at least 60 minutes of protection, but if you can afford more, this is definitely a good feature to upgrade.
One thing you should know is that there is no regulation for fire protection claims. This means it’s a good idea for you to do some homework. Does the safe company actually test their safes in a furnace to see how they hold up? Do their safes come with a fire seal that protects against heat AND smoke? Fire ratings are based on the steel thickness and the number of fire-board layers inside the safe, so look at those two things when you’re comparing models. If you’re looking at safes in person, you can do a quick check. Place one hand inside the safe and one hand outside on the ceiling and walls. How much space is there between your hands? The thicker the walls, the better the fire protection.
#3: Where is the safe you’re researching manufactured?
Many safes are imported from China or Mexico. If it’s important to you to have a product that’s made in the U.S.A., you’ll want to pay attention to this. Imported safes are sometimes more affordable. But American-made safes generally involve a greater level of control over the materials and manufacturing processes used to make it. That typically gives you a better chance of buying a quality product.
#4: What is the safe manufacturer’s customer service like?
Do they offer a warranty on their safes? The best safe companies offer a lifetime warranty for fire and theft. That means if someone ever damages your safe trying to break into it, or if it’s involved in a fire, the company will replace it. And how do you check up on their level of customer service? Find them on Facebook and see how often they respond to customer questions in the comments section of their posts. Search the company name and “reviews” to see what you can learn about them. And check their website for a customer service number, email, or even online chat capability.
#5: What level of security are you looking for?
There’s no standard for security levels in the industry, but you can figure it out for yourself. Compare things like steel thickness and the number of locking bolts or locking bars contained in the door. The more bolts or bars, the stronger the safe. Does it have bolts or bars on all four sides of the door? And how is the safe constructed? If the body is made from individual pieces of steel that are welded together, it won’t be as strong as a safe that’s bent into shape from fewer pieces. Welds can be a weak point in safes, so the fewer the better. The higher the security level, the more expensive the safe, so compare a few models and decide how much security you can afford.
Once you answer these five questions, you can feel confident about being able to pick the right gun safe for you.