This article is continued from the previous page… Click here to jump Back to the Beginning.
Myth: My gun safe is so heavy, I don’t have to bolt it down.This is one of the biggest myths. Relying on the weight of the safe alone to keep it from getting stolen is naive.
Installing a gun safe without anchoring by bolting it down is like putting on a motorcycle helmet but not fastening the chin strap. The un-anchored gun safe looks like it’s doing something, but at the first sign of trouble it’s going to disappear.
Anchoring Makes a Gun Safe Harder to Steal
Given enough time and the right tools, there isn’t a safe made in the world that can’t be broken into. That’s why most thieves would rather take a safe or gun safe somewhere that they can take their time and make all the noise they want. One of the most popular methods for attacking gun safes is just to steal the whole gun safe, as the example above where burglars made off with a 1500 lbs gun safe. With lighter gun safes, it’s often easier to just take the whole safe then to break into it and then have to carry them all. These thieves stole 15 guns in a 500 lbs gun safe that wasn’t anchored in place.
If 2 or 3 guys got it into your house with a truck, 2 or 3 guys can get it out too. It may have taken the movers an hour or two to move it in, but most of that time was spent making sure they didn’t scratch your walls, floors, or the safe. Burglars do not care about destroying your house to avoid going to jail, or even just for the fun of it. You may be right that it’s almost impossible to get the safe out your complicated stairway without the proper equipment, but that doesn’t mean burglars won’t throw it down the stairs and through a wall trying. Career criminals are often very strong. They may have spent years on the street fighting and years in prison lifting weights. And they have friends. They may be strong enough to just drag it out.
Most people assume it’s impossible to remove a gun safe because they don’t think like thieves. Burglars usually adapt things they find around a home for all kinds of purposes. If they need to get a gun safe across a floor they may throw it on a big blanket and drag it out. Or they put it on something that will roll like pipes, golf balls, billiard balls, broken broom sticks, or the dolly in your own garage and roll it out.
If they know you have a gun safe ahead of time they may even bring some of those tools. The majority of thieves don’t carry around tools to break into houses because they know they can incriminate them if they’re caught with tools and no reason for having them. If a cop catches a guy walking around a neighborhood with a crowbar, it’s liable to get some attention. But if he catches the same guy with a bag of golf balls or some sections of electrical conduit, he may know something isn’t right, but what can he do about it?
Burglars can also use their vehicles in creative ways. In this example, thieves stole two gun safes out of a house, putting one weighing 1100 lbs on the roof of their car. They used the owner’s son’s scooter to wheel the gun safe out the garage, but were interrupted by a neighbor as they tied it down using the straps they had brought with them. Burglars can also pull a gun safe out of your garage with a tow strap and throw it in the back of a truck. Thieves have ripped heavy commercial TL-15 safes holding narcotics out of drug stores with stolen tow trucks.
When there’s something worth stealing burglars can be very resourceful, so you have to think like a thief to prevent burglary. Bolting down this cheap gun safe kept burglars from stealing it.
Anchoring Makes a Gun Safe Harder to Pry Open
Even if the burglars don’t try to take the safe, by not bolting down your gun safe you just made their life so much easier! Their first move will be to push the safe over. It’s difficult to get enough leverage to attack a safe door with a pry bar when it’s standing up. When it’s lying down, they can use all of their body weight to jump up and down on any lever they have available. Most of the pried open gun safes shown in this article were photographed standing up, but really were found lying down after the break-in.
Anchoring Makes a Gun Safe Harder to Hack, Saw, or Hammer Open
The door of any safe is the thickest part. By pushing the safe over, they can attack any of the other five sides which are much thinner. It also may be difficult to attack your vertical gun safe with an ax, sledgehammer, or other brute force tool. With the gun safe pushed over, they can position it however they want and swing down on it with all their might.
Anchoring is Necessary for Safety
Another reason your gun safe needs to be bolted down is for safety. Some safes, especially wide and shallow ones, will tip over if not bolted down. The door of a gun safe is 30 to 50% of its weight. When swung open, it can cause the gun safe to topple over and probably injure you severely and damage your guns.
You spent hundreds or thousands of dollars on a gun safe because you were afraid of burglars, but you won’t spend another $40 to secure the thing? It’s minimal effort and expense relative to the gun safe to secure it.
Myth: Gun safes intimidate thieves.
Most gun safe companies try to give you the impression that their gun safes’ imposing looks are sufficient deterrents to criminals. Don’t believe the hype.
A couple decades ago, the daunting appearance of a gun safe may have been enough to scare thieves into finding an easier target, but not anymore. Gun safe manufacturers have been cutting corners for so many decades now that the word is out. Any thief can Google “safe cracking” or find YouTube videos to learn how to get into a gun safe. Also battery powered tools are ubiquitous now. A cheap cordless Harbor Freight saw will make short work out of a RSC gun safe.
I see many people buy a bottom level safe and say “it’s something to deter the smash-and-grab druggies, and nothing is going to keep out a professional safe cracker anyway”. Both of those statements are true, but that generalization totally overlooks the Career Thief discussed below.The Smash & Grab Junkie may be deterred by a gun safe or he may not be. He may have heard about mandatory minimum sentences for gun crimes in your state and want nothing to do with guns. But even so, if he’s willing to steal money from his mom’s purse to get high, I’d guess he’s more than willing to trade information about your easy to break-in house with the huge gun safe for drugs or favors.
Once arrested and convicted, burglars have the highest rate of recidivism (further arrests and convictions) of all property offenders (burglars, robbers, thieves, car thieves, car jackers, etc.). Criminals talk and share stories, especially in jail.
Safes in general are not intimidating and I’ll prove it to you. If you heard that your next door neighbor had put in an expensive floor safe, what would your first thought be? My first reaction would not be intimidation. I might ask myself, “I wonder what he’s got in there that he needs a safe?” Safes are intriguing. Safes just scream “Look inside there’s something good in here!”
As soon as a burglar sees or hears about a big safe in a home, he knows guns are in it – probably at least a handgun, a shotgun, and a rifle. He also knows that all the other good stuff in the house is probably inside too. If he reads or hears about the name on the gun safe door before he breaks in, he probably has some idea of how hard it will be to get into it too.
Pretend that you’re a thief. You just broke into a house and found a gun safe. You now know that what you broke into the house for is probably inside. You’ve got two choices, either leave the house and maybe come back later, or take a crack at it for a couple minutes.
Most thieves take a crack at it. The average burglary is pretty short, but thieves who attack safes and gun safes seem to plan a little better than most. Quite a few of the gun safe burglars I’ve heard about spend hours inside the house working on the safe.
Despite what some gun safe companies may lead you to believe, there is such thing as 100% security for your guns – except to not own them in the first place. Given enough time and the right tools and skills, it is possible to break into anything. Without giving away any information that isn’t already widely available on the internet, the most popular methods of gun safe attack are:
- Steal the safe – You did bolt it down, right? Remember, if they want what’s in the safe, they do not care about what damage they do to the house to get the safe out.
- Hammer the door – Almost every gun safe will get hit with a hammer during a burglary. Unless the thief is purposefully testing the welds, this isn’t very effective. Any UL listed lock attacked with a hammer should prevent the safe from opening. I cover gun safe locks in the article What to Look for in a Gun Safe.
- Pry attack – About 3 in 5 gun safes have something jammed into the door in a burglary in an attempt to pry it open. If they can tip the gun safe over and get enough leverage, they’re often successful. You did bolt it down, right?
- Peel attack – Attacking the corner of the door or a corner of the safe with pry bars, sledgehammers, and chisels. Once the steel is severed, they can peel back a corner of the door or side enough to get your guns. You did bolt it down, right?
- Hack a side or edge – If the thief can get access to the side/top/bottom and has an ax or other brute force cutting tool they may put a hole in the wall. You did bolt it down, right? If he finds power tools in your garage you’ll probably never see your guns again.
- Skilled attack – An experienced thief might try lock bolt punch attacks, lock punch attacks, lock drilling attacks, or other stereotypical safe attacks. These are not common. It’s probably more likely to be attempted by a novice thief who found a drill and is trying some things he saw in a movie or YouTube video.
- Torch attack – The decline of the trades in the US means that very few people know how to use a torch any more. It’s a shame for US manufacturing, but it does mean that these attacks are more and more rare. Few thieves will drag a torch with them to attack a gun safe, but keep this in mind if you have a torch or plasma cutter at your house.
- Safe cracking techniques – The professional Safe Cracker thief type would use methods that a safesmith would use to open a damaged safe. They may find templates or procedures to open damaged safes on the internet. Once they reached your safe, they will be able to get in with little noise or damage. Your best change of stopping this type of thief is other anti-burglary measures, but this type of attack is extremely rare.
Myth: Most burglars are….
Statistically your average burglar is:
- A white male under age 25 lives within a few miles of your home.
- In the majority of cases he is a stranger. In about 1 of 3 of cases you know him, even if just as an acquaintance or by sight. He may have mowed your lawn years ago or helped you move.
- He is on foot during the day in the month of August carrying no tools.
- He is opportunistic and hasn’t done much planning.
- He’s doing it to use the money for drugs and partying, or even just for the thrill of it.
- He will try to verify no one is home, possibly by ringing the doorbell.
- He gets in through an open door or window.
- He goes straight to your master bedroom and then to your home office.
- He’s inside your house for an average of 8 to 12 minutes.
- He steals $2,116 worth of household electronics/appliances, jewelry, a purse/wallet/cash, and/or tools.
- He stashes the loot in a semi-public location and then disposes of it within 24 hours for a fraction of what you paid for it.
- You discover the theft and call the police. They come, search the scene, and write a report.
- You never get your stuff back and no arrest is ever made.
- You now have a 4X higher chance of being broken into again, often within the next six weeks but only after enough time has gone by for insurance to have replaced your stolen items.
The problem with these statistics is that they don’t necessarily represent gun thieves. Guns are stolen in 4% of burglaries. I’ve known a couple ex-criminals, one of whom at one point had bought a stolen gun. I asked him what he paid for it. I was surprised that he paid closer to retail price than I expected for a crappy model pistol (my opinion anyway) and a few boxes of ammo.
Aside from cash, few things a burglar can steal will net the kind of return that guns will. Jewelry, electronics, and tools will only get pennies on the dollar. But as you know, guns hold their value. A gun that can’t be traced back to a particular criminal is very valuable to him.
If you’re interested in a gun safe for protection from burglars, it’s important to look at the thieves that are actually stealing guns. I haven’t found any specific statistics for burglars who target guns. I don’t know if there are any available, especially because so only 14% of burglaries are ever “cleared” with an arrest.
From reading burglary accounts, news stories, and statistics I’ve put together the following non-scientific profile of types of gun thieves:
|Number of Guys?||Physical|
"Smash & Grab"
|Daytime||1 to 2||Varies||Rarely||On Foot||Rarely||Maybe|
|2 to 4||Strong||Sometimes||On Foot / |
Crime reports show that novice burglars tend to commit crimes close to where they live, but older more professional burglars are more mobile and travel farther. Based on my research I think a good portion of thieves that target guns are my second Career Thief type, so this is a lot of my focus.
A Safe Cracker type thief will have absolutely no problem with a gun safe. Fortunately these types of thieves are very rare. If you’re a FFL with significant inventory, you have NFA / Class 3 weapons, or some otherwise valuable collection you might attract that caliber of criminal. In that case you’re going to need a serious commercial safe or vault, but your insurance has probably already told you that.
Myth: My burglar alarm will protect me.
There is some truth to this, as statistically houses with alarms are almost 3X less likely to be burglarized. These statistics may be misleading though, because most burglar alarms require a monthly monitoring fee. Due to the fee they are purchased by higher income homeowners, who have lower risk of burglary.
Burglars Often Defeat Alarms
Plenty of alarms are circumvented by all types of criminals.
Novice Smash & Grab thieves by definition get in and out before the police could possibly respond. This happened during 2 of my mother’s 3 burglaries (the third was to a storage building which wasn’t alarmed).
Career Thieves will do things like cut the phone wires leading to the house so the alarm cannot call the alarm company. Then they set off the alarm and wait outside for the police; when the police don’t come they go back inside and tear the alarm off the wall. Many alarm companies offer cellular options so that the lines can’t be cut.
The biggest drawback of the 15 million monitored alarm systems in the US is caused by the number of false alarms. Nationwide, between 92 to 99% of all burglar alarm calls made to the police are false alarms, representing 10 to 25% of all police calls. Another way to look at it is that false alarms account for 35,000 police officers nationwide working full time.
Some police departments have started to charge homeowners fees of over $100 for responding to false alarms. In many precincts, residential burglar alarms are assigned the lowest priority. That means if a cop is responding to the burglar alarm and almost any other crime occurs, he or she will do those calls first. Their shift may end before your burglar alarm call is answered, passing it to the next cop.
In many communities, the average response time to a burglar alarm call is hours.
Best Use of Burglar Alarms
No study has ever shown that alarms actually help catch burglars in the act, and alarms do nothing to help identify the perpetrators. In general, the purpose of an alarm is to act as a deterrent, and to shorten the time of a burglary. Without an alarm a thief might be able to spend hours in your house without much risk of getting caught. Burglar alarms work best if part of a layered plan of protection.
Click below to continue on the next page…
What do you think? Leave a comment below, your thoughts are welcome.