9 Myths about Gun Safe Fire Ratings

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This article is continued from the previous page… Click here to jump Back to the Beginning.

Myth:  This gun safe is has a UL fire rating.

This is false, unless you’re looking at a true safe.  There are a few ways that gun safe manufactures may try to confuse you about this.

  • When gun safe companies mention an Underwriters Laboratories rating, the rating usually applies to something other than the safe’s Fire Endurance.  There are over 19,000 UL product ratings for everything from batteries to outdoor decks to Christmas lights to gypsum drywall (Sheetrock).  The manufacturers play on this confusion.  What exactly is UL rated about the gun safe?
    • “UL Rated Fire Insulation” – This is the most common misleading claim.
      • Gypsum drywall has plenty of UL ratings including UL 100 Standard for Sustainability for Gypsum Boards and Panels and U419 for Fire Rated Assemblies/Wall and Partitions Systems.  Your coat closet has a lining of UL Listed gypsum drywall (Sheetrock).  Would you say your coat closet is fireproof?  Just because the drywall is UL Listed for use in an office building doesn’t mean your safe is fire rated.
      • Upper end gun safes may use other fire insulation like ceramic fiberboard or fiberglass.  These linings may have their own UL rating too.  These linings are generally better than gypsum drywall, but unless it was successfully UL 72 tested, the actual Fire Endurance of the gun safe hasn’t been verified.
    • The gun safe itself is a UL Listed Residential Security Container (RSC).  This is the lowest UL security test level for protection against basic hand tools, but doesn’t test fire endurance at all.  More information about this security rating can be found in my gun safe burglary protection article.
    • UL Listed Lock.  The lock may be “UL Group 2”, listed under UL 768 Standard for Combination Locks or another standard.  These ratings are very important and I’ll talk more about these in What to Look for in a Gun Safe, but they only cover the lock.
    • UL Listed Extension Cord.  I haven’t seen this claim yet, but the power extension cord installed in your gun safe may be UL Listed.
  • “Tested to UL standards”  – This could mean almost anything.  On a higher end commercial safe it could mean that the company paid for a UL 72 testing but failed for some reason.  They may have corrected the issue or not, but elected not to pay again to retest it.  Or it could mean that a gun safe manufacturer came up with their own fire rating test based on their interpretation of UL 72, in which case it means nothing.

You can check the difficult to use UL Certification Database to see if your safe has a UL 72 fire rating, but the odds are almost zero that it does.  If it does, it should have a label which says something like “Record Protection Equipment – Classified By  – Underwriters Laboratories, Inc – As To Fire Resistance – Rating: Class 350 – 2 Hr“.  UL 72 formerly used letters for test classes (Class B, etc.) instead of numbers (350, 150, 125), so older fire safes may have this notation.

Back to the Beginning

Myth:  Fire is a bigger risk to my guns than Theft.

It depends where you live, but statistically this is just plain wrong.  I saw one gun safe review website which made this statement after comparing the FBI robbery crime data to the number of home fires.  (Robbery is committing theft by using the threat of violence against the victim, the victim must be present at the time.  Burglary is breaking into a place with the intent of committing a crime, when the victim is not present.)  I covered burglary in more detail in the previous article.

StatisticBurglaryFireFloods and
Water Damage
Number per Year3,395,000 Total
(Attempted, Completed, & Not Reported)
381,000 House Fires730,000 Incidents
FrequencyEvery 9 secondsEvery 1:23 minutesEvery 44 seconds
Total Losses$4.6 Billion
(Reported to Police)
$7.2 Billion$9.1 Billion
SourceBJS 2011 and FBI 2011NFPA 2012FEMA 2012

As you can see from the table, burglary is over 8X more likely than a home fire.  To put these odds in perspective, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) posted the following statistics:

  • You can expect 5 home fires (1 every 15 years) of varying sizes in your household in an average lifetime.  Most of these will result in little or no damage and not be reported to the fire department.
  • The odds that your household will have a reported home fire in an average lifetime are 1 in 4.  This is a fire large enough to call the fire department.

Due to the relative risk of fire compared to burglary, and the difficulty and cost of getting decent fire protection in a gun safe, many gun owners decide to skip fireproofing and get a gun safe with better burglary protection.  Some take other cheaper steps for fire protection, like installing a sprinkler over their gun safe or adding fireproofing themselves.  The level of risk you’re comfortable with is up to you and your budget.  

Let’s assess your risk of fire.

Home Fire Risk Factors

Home fire risk factors are analyzed by FEMA’s US Fire Administration (USFA), the NFPA, and the Insurance Services Office (ISO).  The ISO services the insurance industry, including writing underwriting guidelines for homeowners insurance.

Here are factors which affect the risk of a fire, or a total loss fire.  These figures include single and dual family homes, apartments, condos, and other types of residences:

  • Neighborhood Factors
    • Geographic region – the Midwest has the highest rate of fire per person.  The West has the lowest.
    • Long distance to fire department – closer is better.
    • Limited fire department and dispatch capability – ISO assigns fire departments Public Protection Classification (PPC) Class from 1 to 10 for use by insurance companies.  Class 1 is the highest protection and Class 10 the lowest.  Your fire department may publish this online, like Evergreen, CO, or you can ask your insurance company or fire department what their PPC Class is.
    • Limited water availability – a hydrant close by with high water pressure is best.  The distance to and pressure of the nearest hydrant are factored by your insurance.  Mine was checking online with StreetView while I was on the phone for a quote. Draft sources such as open water or pumps can be used, but raise your risk over a hydrant.
    • High historical fire rate
    • Arson rate in the area – arson is the third leading cause of home fires.
    • High vacancy – vacant structures are more likely to experience arson.  Also people may break into and live in abandoned structures, light fires to stay warm, and be under the influence of alcohol and drugs.
    • Neighborhood decline – declining neighborhoods and property values can discourage owners from investing in maintaining their properties.   This includes the fire-critical heating and electrical systems.
    • Family stability – fire rates are 2 to 4 times higher in areas with low family stability.
    • Lower income levels – lower income neighborhoods statistically have more fires.
    • Housing affordability – neighborhoods with high rent and mortgage payment burdens have a higher fire risk.  This is probably because the residents can’t afford maintenance, fire protection devices, and may have their gas or electricity shut off and use space heaters to keep warm.
    • Difficult to access home – these mostly applies to rural homes.
      • Single road in/out
      • Unmaintained and unplowed roads in/out
      • Unpaved roads
      • Size-limited vehicle or 4WD limited roads
      • Steep access roads
      • Dead ends with no turn around
      • Limited access bridges with low weight limits
    • Natural fuel near house – dead vegetation, heavy conifers and hardwoods, tall thick grasses, small trees, and other fuels within 300 feet of your home raise your risk.
    • High lightning and/or wind area – lightning causes fire.  Winds spread fire more quickly, make it harder to put out, and spread wild fire.
    • Above ground electrical utilities – buried power lines are lower fire risk, especially for rural homes where tree branches may fall on power lines.
    • Steep property slope – makes fire fighting more difficult and provide more oxygen to a fire.  Hillside houses may also have stilts which can raise risk if not enclosed.
  • Household Factors
    • House age – the property age is a factor in home fires, especially for homes built before 1940.
      • Older heating systems –  Heating systems are the second highest cause of unintentional fires.  Home age correlates to the age and type of heating system.  Older homes often have inadequate heating systems and insulation, which may encourage the use of space heaters.
      • Older electrical systems – Electrical fires are the third highest cause of unintentional home fires.  63% of electrical fires are caused by wiring and related equipment.  Older electrical systems were not designed to support the loads of modern appliances and devices and lack modern safety features.
    • Heating type – the age and type of heating system has an effect on fire risk.  Despite the more moderate climate, heating equipment is a bigger risk in the South than the North.  Fewer Southern households have central heating.  These homes instead use less fire-safe methods such as room heaters, fireplaces, portable heaters, and wood stoves.
    • Open flame cooking apparatus – cooking is leading cause of home fires.  In over half of cooking fires oil, fat, or grease is ignited.  Gas stoves and others with open flames are higher risk.
    • Lack of fire safety measures
      • No smoke detectors – houses with smoke detectors have lower fire risk.  Possibly the residents are more safety conscious, live in newer structures maintained to building codes, or have a higher income to afford batteries and detectors.
      • No fire extinguisher – The majority of home fires are put out before the fire department is called.  Having a home fire extinguisher that was bought or charged within the last 5 years reduces your risk of having a serious fire.
      • No fire suppression – sprinkler systems are still rare in single family homes.  Many apartments and condos have them.
      • No security system – some monitored alarm systems are linked to the fire department.
    • Construction features
      • Wood decks and siding – decks and siding made of combustible materials increase risk.
      • Wood frame construction– wood frame is the highest risk construction, followed by masonry, and fire restive types.
      • Cedar shingle roof – untreated wood shake roofs have the highest risk, followed by treated wood shake, moss/needle-covered asphalt, asphalt, and metal or tile roofs.
      • Unenclosed features – unenclosed eaves, balconies, decks, stilts, etc.
      • Unscreened chimney – can allow wood stove embers to blow out the chimney and start a fire on the roof or nearby vegetation.
      • Adherence to building codes – rural and self-built structures are more likely to use low-cost building designs and materials that may not meet customary building codes.  Of course many homes which meet code aren’t built very well these days, but you get the point.
    • Minimal defensible space – room for the fire department to isolate a fire.
      • Close to surrounding buildings – attached or nearby structures like garages increase risk.
      • Close to natural fuels – if you have dense trees or grasses nearby, having them trimmed at least 100 feet away from your house reduces the risk.
    • Exposure to hazards
      • Fuel tanks within 30 feet – tanks like propane and oil heating fuel near the structure are higher risk.
      • Gas powered machines stored near house – lawnmowers, snow blowers, outboard motors, dirt bikes, etc..
      • Accumulated yard debris – grass clippings, leaves, and tree limbs left near the home.
      • Firewood stored under deck or eaves – nearby dry, combustible wood is convenient, but adds fire risk.
      • Open burning yard debris and trash – if you burn, a burn barrel used at least 30 feet from structures reduces risk.
    • Difficult to find house
      • No house numbers displayed – easier to find is better for the fire department.
      • Unregistered house number – rural houses may not have home mail delivery or registered house numbers, making them even harder to find.
  • Individual Factors
    • Unattended cooking – the biggest risk factor of all.
    • Space heaters – increase fire risk a number of ways:
      • Age and maintenance – of space heater.
      • Incorrect usage – of space heater, or too close to combustibles.
      • Inadequate ventilation – for non-electrical space heaters.
      • Presence of of children – around space heater.
    • Electrical overload – residents may compensate for an inadequate electrical system by running extension cords and placing increased demand on the remaining electrical outlets.
    • Smoking – careless smoking is the fourth highest unintentional cause of home fires.
    • Alcohol and drug abuse – intoxicated people are at high risk, especially those that smoke indoors.
    • Prescription drugs – drugs with strong side effects have risks similar to intoxication.
    • Candles – a significant cause of fire.
    • Occupant age
      • Children – under age 10 raise the risk of a fire due to carelessness or curiosity about fire without understanding the danger. Playing with fire is a significant cause of fire.
      • Elderly – over age 70, an individual’s risk of dying in a fire caused by negligence increases dramatically. Everyday activities like cooking are more dangerous if a person’s physical or mental capabilities decline, or for those on strong medications that make them less alert.
    • Mobility, cognitive, or sensory impairment – for much the same reasons as intoxication.
    • Parental presence – households where children are left unattended have higher risk.  If an adult is home at the time there is still a large risk posed by unattended children, especially if there are no working smoke alarms.
    • Single parent families – have only one income, and less flexibility to deal with household and child care contingencies.  Children may be left unattended more often.
    • Living alone – people who live alone have higher risk.
    • High occupancy – the more crowded the living conditions, the higher the risk.
    • Vacancy – the more the home is unoccupied the higher the risk of fire.
    • Lower income -increases risk, possibly due to limited funds for professionally maintained heating and cooking systems. Section 8 households are somewhat of a statistical exception as the apartments are inspected annually.
    • Lower levels of education – are linked to higher fire risk.
    • Male resident – males have higher risk than females.
    • Non-Caucasian – Caucasian have the lowest risk of all races.
    • Social deprivation – reclusive people have higher risk of fire.

Back to the Beginning

Myth:  The average home fire is…

Manufacturers make lots of claims and assumptions about the conditions in a home fire to brag about how they’re protecting you. Lets look at some real data.

Causes and Origins of Home Fires

NFPA Leading Causes of Home Fires

Leading Causes of Home Fires, NFPA

The NFPA tallied the results from the U.S. Fire Administration’s (USFA’s) National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) and the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA’s) annual fire department experience survey and came up with the following data.

The vast majority of home fires are caused by cooking, about 2.7X more than the next highest cause.  Cooking fires include fires caused by stoves, ovens, fixed and portable warming units and hot plates, deep fat fryers, and grills. Other than cooking, unintentional home fire are causes are heating equipment, electrical and lighting, smoking, forest fires, candles, and playing with fire. Arson is the third highest cause.

NFPA Leading Areas of Origin of Home Fires

Leading Areas of Origin of Home Fires, NFPA

The kitchen is by far the highest risk area in your home for a fire, 6X higher than the next highest area.  The next most likely sources are bedroom, chimney, living room/family room/den, laundry room, attic/crawl space, and outside your house.

Notably  attached garages aren’t included on the chart although they are generally a higher risk area.  That may be because single- and multi-family homes, apartments, condos, and other residencies are included in the data.  Only a small proportion of these have attached residential garages.

How hot does a typical home fire get?  Lets take a look.

NIST FR 4009

NIST FR 4009 Full-Scale House Fire Experiment

Full-Scale House Fire Experiment (NIST FR 4009)

A full-scale home fire test (PDF link) was done by the National Institute of Standards  and Technology (NIST) to test the conditions inside a real home fire.  The house used for the experiment was an unoccupied two story single family home with four bedrooms and two bathrooms. The house was wood framed with wood clapboard exterior and pitched asphalt shingled roof.  The interior had gypsum drywall (Sheetrock) interior walls and ceilings except for two walls in the living room which had laminated pine wood paneling. The whole house had hardwood floors except the vinyl floors in the kitchen and bathrooms.  There was a  full basement, but it did not extend under the attached garage.  Sounds like a pretty typical American home.

Sensors were set up to measure the temperature at different heights off the floor in the first floor living room and dining room.  Then a fire was started in the living room.  You can see that the temperature in the first floor at eye level hits 1200 °F in about two minutes!  The temperature only 1.5 feet off the floor is at 600 °F within 6 minutes.  For this experiment they set off a fire suppression system about 6 minutes after starting the fire, so this is all the data from this test.

Is this test representative of a gun safe?  The FR 4009 fire in this test was started in the living room, which is over 10X less likely than the kitchen.  However, many homes have adjacent kitchens and living rooms, often with open floor plans.  So a kitchen fire could quickly be in the living room, and the living room is a popular location for gun safes.  Bedrooms are also a popular location for gun safes, and the second most likely origin of fire.  

So, it is likely that a gun safe would be located in the same room where a fire started.  Regardless, temperatures in the adjacent dining room during the test were very similar so I didn’t include them in the chart.  Given these facts, I think it’s reasonably representative.

From this chart, a couple things are obvious if your gun safe is exposed to a fire:

  • In a home fire, temperatures get really hot, really quickly.  Within a few minutes your gun safe may see 1300 °F depending on where it is.  A fire protection test that ramps up over a long period is not representative of a real fire.
  • The top of your fire safe will have to deal with much hotter temperatures than the bottom.  You can see this in the burn patterns on gun safes that have survived fires.
  • In a fire, the second floor of your house is going to get hotter than the first.
NIST Typical Ventilation-Limited Fire Behavior

Typical Ventilation-Limited Fire Behavior, NIST

  • In the plot above, the temperature peaks around 1300 °F and starts to fall again.  This appears to match the characteristics of a ventilation limited fire (see graph).  In other words, this fire was starved for air.  Once the fire department ventilated the fire, or the fire burned through a wall or window and got more oxygen, the temperature would actually get much hotter.

Wild Fires

People in the western states and wooded areas also need to be concerned about forest fires.  In a forest fire, the temperature on the forest floor can reach 1,470°F, with hotter and hotter temperatures the higher you are off the ground.

Not only do these fires burn hotter than many single home structure fires, but they also burn longer.  The fire departments will generally be focused on slowing the spread of the fire and protecting entire communities, not putting out individual home fires.  So no one may come to fight your fire at all.  

After your home and the surrounding trees burn to the ground the area will still be hot and inaccessible, so the fire safe will roast in the heat of the ember piles before firefighters are able to move in and extinguish what’s left.

Based on this information, the UL 72 temperature curve looks realistic, probably why the NFPA adopted a similar standard NFPA 75.

Home Fire Duration

Fire Department Response

Fire Department Response

Assuming a home fire is not limited by fuel, heat, or oxygen, a typical house fire will double in size every single minute.  

There is a lot of variability to home fire duration and fire response.  A home in my high school rival town, located directly across the street from the fire station, burned to the ground!

The duration of a home fire depends on a number of factors including:

  • Type of fire – wildfires are a totally different animal than a single structure fire
  • Local fire department response time
  • Size of the structure
  • Number of stories – multi-story homes are harder to put out than single-story ranchers
  • Types of building materials
  • Intensity of the fire
  • Location of origin
  • Presence of fuels
  • Danger to fire fighters

This last point is especially of interest to gun owners.  Ammunition rounds cooking off in a burning home will slow down firefighting.  When a round cooks off in the open, there’s no barrel to build up pressure.  The bullet is the heaviest part of the cartridge and it may only move a foot or two, but the brass casing will explode sending fragments flying.

The fire department’s number one priority in a fire is the safety of people.  If there’s no one left in the house to rescue, there’s no reason to risk a fireman’s safety unnecessarily if ammunition is cooking off.  You’re not going to be able to convince them to run inside the house and risk injury because your fire safe only has a 30 minute rating.

Back to the Beginning

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What do you think? Leave a comment below, your thoughts are welcome.


  1. Excellent article, many good points I hadn’t thought of. I would like to point out that citing burglary vs fire incidences without knowing whether guns were stolen is meaningless. It is very possible that a home is burglarized but the guns inside even the cheapest Stack-On safe weren’t made off with, whereas if someone has a house fire, their guns are toast unless, and occasionally even if, they have the best safe money can buy.

    • Good point J. In most burglaries, no guns are taken. Guns are stolen in 4% of reported burglaries; then only 17% of stolen guns are recovered. There aren’t any statistics on what percentage of home fires result in damage to guns. So any comparison to burglaries is going to require lots of assumptions.

      One way to compare the two would be the average damage caused by each. The average loss per reported burglary (2,110,000 in 2012, FBI) is $2,200. The average loss per reported fire is about 9X higher at $19,000. So, you’re about 6X likely to have a reported burglary than a reported house fire, but on average a house fire does 9X more damage. Guns are stolen in about 4% of burglaries, but probably damaged in a higher percentage of fires as you pointed out. On the other hand they may not be completely damaged by a fire (need a new scope or stock), but when they’re stolen they’re completely gone.

      To add another wrinkle, there are no loss stats which include gun safes. For example, how many of the 4% of burglaries where guns were stolen involved defeating a gun safe? It’s really easy to get lost in statistics.

      Which risk (burglary or fire) gets someone’s attention probably has something to do with personality. The burglary/home fire comparison is similar to saying that motorcycles are involved in far fewer accidents, but motorcycle accidents are more deadly. Some people are more comfortable with a severe risk which is unlikely compared to a lower risk which happens all the time.

      Thanks for the great comment!

      • The point that he was trying to make was not that anyway, so not sure why you brought that up?

        The point he was trying to make was that water caused the most damage and was more frequent.

        So to say he was wrong in his statistics is not correct, because fire to theft was NOT what he was trying to compare.

        If he was comparing theft to fire, than your comment would be valid. But since he was really comparing flooding / water damage to both theft and fire, your comments regarding his statistics simply do not apply.

        With that said, it was still an interesting point on it’s own merit, but was no need to make it look as if he didn’t know what he was talking about.

        Statistics are always misleading and another variable left out was this. What percentage of homes burglarized were NOT because of a known gun safe in use?

        And was only 4% where guns taken because only 4% had guns to be taken, making it 100% positive that a house with guns will lose them?

        It’s VERY complicated, but his point was made regardless of the statistics, which was, be more worried about water then theft or fire.

        One thing that SHOULD have been talked about more was the smoke damage. Adding on that a simple gun sock or any protective material will prevent the smoke from destroying the finish, was a must but omitted 🙂

  2. I think your very first point in interesting. As you say, a fireproof safe might help. However, I think many people buy a fireproof safe with the idea that it is totally immune to fire. Thank you for going into the importance of fire ratings, as it is important to understand that the term “fireproof” is relative.

  3. Fantastic website!

    If the concrete is a good fire-proofer, would something like fire bricks inside a job site box help in a fire?

    • Interesting idea. The concrete in poured fire safe linings is mixed with other things that give it more fire resistance. The three physics principles behind its fire protection are Thermal Mass, Thermal Conductivity, and Latent Heat of Vaporization. This comment sums up some fire safe concrete additives. How would fire or refractory bricks stack up?
      – Thermal Mass: The fire bricks will certainly add some Thermal Mass to the walls of a job box. This means it will take longer to heat up the contents in a fire.
      – Thermal Conductivity: Fire bricks are made to insulate heat, which is a plus. However, if you just line the interior of a job box with fire bricks, there isn’t much stopping the air from transferring heat between the hot outer shell and the inside contents. True fire safes have a continuously welded liner, which helps separate the hot air and gasses in the fire lining from the inside.
      – Latent Heat of Vaporization: Fire bricks are made to withstand high temperatures without falling apart. Concrete fireproofing amalgamates use additives which contain some bonded water, like Vermiculite and Perilite. In a fire, these water molecules change phase to steam. In the process of changing to steam, the materials absorb heat (like an air conditioner evaporator) but are also destroyed. Fire bricks don’t offer this type of protection, otherwise they’d be single use only.
      – Door Seal: Job boxes do not have an intumescent fire seal (like Palusol). The lids aren’t usually designed for these types of seals. So a job box will not be able to seal out hot gasses very well in a fire.
      – On the plus side, job boxes are much lower to the ground than a typical vertical gun safe. Since there is a huge temperature difference from the floor to the ceiling in a fire, this could buy you some time.
      – Fire Insulation Thickness: The lid of a job box is the highest point, and would need the most protection. Practically, hanging fire bricks on the lid would take some work and make the lid much heavier. If you slam the lid, you won’t want one of the bricks cracking loose and damaging your guns.

      It’s hard to say how much protection the fire bricks would provide. Without a fire liner, it might be marginal. Some other low-cost options for gun fire protection include high temperature fiberglass insulation like Sturdy Safe uses, sheetrock/fiberglass-reinforced sheetrock, installing a sprinkler head, etc..

      All in all, it depends how much protection you’re looking for. It’s good to remember that fire protection will eat up room inside. Job boxes and gun safes fill up quickly. Many rifles with barrels over 22″, and assembled hunting-length shotguns, will have to go in a 48″ job box on a diagonal if fire proofing is added.

  4. Jennifer says

    I would like to give my appreciation for the insight provided in this article. For those not familiar with the regulations and standard guidelines that exist or rather do not exist this sheds light to the consumer in a very direct and informative manner. Thank you!

  5. Danny Dabney says

    Good article, the one thing I did want to note is the temperatures involved. I had a small business near town. I got a call 1 am of a fire. When I pulled up the fire was already out. The fire chief finished his calculations on the fire. A spark from the fuse box started the fire. But the fire smoltered for about an hour with temps above 900 degrees. The roof had little damage, the compressor exploded and that is what got the fire going. The compressor was 30 feet from the fire. I’d be wondering what my guns would have looked like in a safe. Gooday..

  6. FYI, you can go to the UL website and see what safes are UL 72 Listed and see where the manufacturer is located. http://www.ul.com

    Find: Resources: On-Line Certifications Directory at the bottom of the UL home page, right side of page. This will take you to the UL search page.

    Type in RYPH for the UL Category Code for the search of UL 72 Listed products.

  7. Great article, lots of good points……I bought a Griffin concrete gun safe a few years ago and I love it! I feel like I have the best of both worlds fire protection and burglar protection. Mike the owner is very knowledgeable about all types of safes so you will get a good education on safes just by stopping by. I truly feel like he has the best gun safe on the market. I watched his YouTube video before I went in to look at his safes and I had already made my mind that I had to have a griffin safe before I ever went in to his show room. If you are interested in a gun safe I would take a look at his videos you will be glad you did. http://www.griffinsafes.com/youtube-video.html

  8. I was thinking about putting some ammo in the bottom of my safe for a few reasons:
    1. I need a spacer as some of my long guns are too short to reach the barrel holders.
    2. Even though the safe is bolted down, added weight wouldn’t hurt anything.
    3. More theft protection. A couple of surplus cans filled to the brim is a few hundred dollars.

    This article has somewhat changed my mind. Although since I keep all my ammo in 30 and 50 cal boxes, I was thinking that the airtight seal and the metal of the can would contain any explosions. So now I’m on the verge.

  9. Good article, that offers plenty to consider. I will however give you one reason why some of us want to store ammo in a safe.

    Everyone’s specific needs will vary. In my household environment, I’m not overly worried about theft, nor keeping ammo out of the hands of children. My main concern IS that of a fire, and I’ll quickly point out that it has nothing to do with actually saving my ammo in a fire. Heck, I’ll have many more things to be concerned with, than replacing my ammo.

    In the event of a house fire, I want the firemen to fight the fire to their full ability, in hopes of saving as much of my possessions and house as possible. Yeah, we’ve got insurance, but everyone knows there will be plenty of out of pocket expense even with great fire insurance. Then there’s the irreplaceable items that you hope are never lost to a fire, many of which that don’t fit into household sized safe.

    Mind you, the severity of home fires varies widely. However, after talking with a number of firefighting professionals about this issue, I’m of the opinion that many firefighters are use to hearing ammo bake off in a fire. It does make them nervous. Some firefighters might back out of the fire. However, my impression is that most will continue to fight the fire. However, if there are larger amounts of ammo continuing to bake off, then I believe most firemen will pull back. This is realistic scenario that I don’t want to face; where I watch my house burn to the ground because firemen decided there were excessive risks to them from ammunition baking off. It’s an occurrence that does happen.

    Obviously, firemen will be especially watchful of a fires proximity to the garage, which they know will have plenty of gasoline, etc. If you’re at home during a fire, you may be asked about explosive materials located in your house, including guns/ammo. From my discussions with firemen, I’m fairly convinced that an answer of “YES” to the question of chambered rounds in guns that are within the proximity of a fire, will cause most fire departments to back away from a fire after everyone is safely out of the house.

    So with all that in mind, I decided to store my bulk quantities of ammo in a fire resistant safe that’s dedicated just to ammo. Obviously, this is for containment purposes. The added security benefits of a safe is just a slight bonus for me. However, it does help me keep all my ammo organized in one spot… and admittedly, that’s helpful to me.

    Depending on where a fire is located and how big it gets, hopefully a fire rated safe will significantly delay, or completely prevent ammo from baking off in a fire while the firemen do their job. If I get asked the question from firemen about explosive materials in the house, I can tell them my ammo is secured in a safe where if it does start to bake off, it’ll be contained. Likewise, I can tell them exactly where all the ammo is, and they can decide if they want to give the safe some additional attention with a hose.

    I just can’t imagine having to face myself and my family, telling them we lost everything when the Fire Dept let my house burn to the ground… just because my ammo stash started baking off, and drove them from the house. I’m sure the insurance company would be none to thrilled with that knowledge either.

    Lastly, for me, this means keeping my safe in the basement. It gets located in corner with concrete walls, away from potential fire sources (furnace, hot water heater, workshop). Certainly, I could also make a fire resistant container for storing ammo. For me however, the safe is a better option for several reasons which I won’t delve into, as this has already gotten to be a bit lengthy.

    • Hi Don,
      Thanks so much for your detailed comment! I tend to leave long web comments too; guess I’m not cut out for the twitter/texting generation.

      I absolutely agree with everything you said. After going back and rereading this section, I realized I hadn’t made the distinction here. Namely that the warning doesn’t apply to storing ammo in a different container than the items you’re trying to protect. I mentioned storing ammo in a separate Job Box or Decoy Safe in Money-Saving Ways to Protect Your Guns, but not here where people would be looking for it.

      Thanks for catching that, and helping other gun owners figure out how to protect their arms!

  10. G’day,

    This is something I have wondered about for some time. I eventually bought an old bank vault. It weighs 1 ton empty and has composite layers in the walls for security and possibly fire resistance.100mm thick walls with 130mm in the door. I am hoping it is fairly fire proof.
    Anyone have a rough idea how fire proof this might be?
    It is installed in the garage simply because it required a tractor to install it.

  11. Great article and I completely understand all the negative and possitive things about safes. However, despite all negative ones, I am planning to buy a fire resistant safe. As we say in Russia огнестойкий сейф является лучшим! Wich means they are really the best. 🙂 Just in case…

  12. Tedd Johnston says

    Champion claims to have several containers with UL 72 ratings, but I cannot find Champion listed in the UL database.


    • The UL 72 web database is unfortunately unreliable. Searches I’ve done for known UL 72 firesafes have returned cryptic entries, or none depending on the search term. It’s a nice thing if you can find a web database entry, but you can trust a UL placard on the door (from an established firm).

      Many manufacturers aren’t completely straightforward in their advertising and marketing. But forging an industry standard third-party safety certification is another matter altogether. I assume that could be potentially company-ending liability in the litigious US.

  13. The recent horrible wildfires in California have shown that if you live in such an areas your home may burn completely the ground, the fire may go on for hours, if not days, and that firefighters may only get to it after the fire has burned itself out. Is there any safe that withstand such an inferno?

  14. I live in CA and am concerned that one day I will be in a fire zone. Thoughts or recommendations on an underground safe? Maybe constructing a small concrete bunker in the garage for valuables? All of the reviews and blogs tell me that a fireproof safe will fail in a house fire due to time or temperature. Sounds like a waste?

    • You don’t have to live in a Urban Interface or wildland area to have a fire conflagration. Just a few that will aid are wind, lack of water and resources, and or close proximity to your neighbors home. I wouldn’t pick the garage for a fire safe but maybe a bunker, they usually have a higher and hotter fire load stored in them. For your “have to save” you may want to look at a ul fireproof media safe.

  15. Chuck Mullen says

    Jaime, do you have a specific recommendation on how to store ammunition in order to keep fire first responders safe? I have storage solutions for my guns, but would like to store ammunition separately, with an eye to fireman safety. Thanks for your great website, and any guidance you can provide.

  16. Lol. You lost me with your statistics. 3/4 of all reported burglaries are outside the home and in automobiles. I have had to cut open numerous gun safes and have been surprised at how well they work. Water from the firefighters cause more damage than the fire. Even cheap Walmart sentry safes tend to survive fires. The trick is in the time rating. Anything under a hour I have not seen survive.

  17. Very informative. Thank you

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