11 Myths about Gun Safe Theft Protection

Gun safe manufacturers make a lot of claims about security.  Most of it is smoke and mirrors.  This article shows you how these gun safes fail to stand up to burglars armed with even small tools.  After reading this you’ll have a realistic idea of how much security gun safes really give you for your money.

This is the second article in the series What You Need to Know Before Buying a Gun Safe.

Myth:  Any gun safe is better than nothing.

That depends what you mean by nothing.  Most gun safes are not that difficult to break into, which this article covers in detail.  There are plenty of situations where “nothing” would actually be better than a gun safe:

Gun Safe Burglary

Gun Safe Burglary

  • Instead of storing your guns in locked cases all around your house, you put them all in your gun safe.  Your wife also puts her jewelry in there, and you put your important documents and spare cash inside.  Then you come home to your gun safe on the floor, pried open using your own tools.  If you didn’t have a gun safe, you wouldn’t have put all of your valuables together in one place.  Then the thieves wouldn’t have found them all, but now you’ve lost everything.  This happened to a reader.
  • You put a gun safe in your living room.  An employee from a big box store drops off your new TV and sees the gun safe.  Later he’s at his friend’s house smoking weed and tells someone about “this huge gun safe in this guy’s house.”  Your house gets broken into by thieves prepared with cordless power tools who go straight for the gun safe.  If you hadn’t had a gun safe, the thieves would never have known you had guns.
  • You buy a gun safe and put it on the third floor of your condo but don’t bolt it down.  Thieves break in and take the safe.  They tip it over and push it down each set of stairs, tearing up your walls and floors as they go.  Insurance pays for the guns anyway, but not enough to cover all the repairs.  You have to get the drywall, hardwood floors, tile, trim, and paint repaired too.  If you didn’t have a gun safe it would have been cheaper and less aggravation.  This is a true story from a forum.  The owner said that for a couple of guns it would have been much cheaper if he had just left the gun safe door open.
  • You kept your pistol unloaded, in a locked case.  After getting a electronic fingerprint (biometric) handgun safe, you start keeping your handgun in the safe with a loaded magazine for home defense.  Your child breaks into after watching a Youtube video or a trick he saw on MythBusters.  If you hadn’t had a gun safe, your child probably wouldn’t have gotten your gun.  Even if he had gotten your gun, it wouldn’t have been loaded.

In each of these cases you would have been better off if you didn’t have a gun safe.  If it’s ever tested, “nothing” can easily be better than an improperly installed, poorly located, flimsy gun safe.

Back to the Beginning

Myth:  This gun safe has a thicker door, so it’s stronger.

A couple decades ago gun safe manufacturers started changing their designs to make them look more like commercial safes, while at the same time making them weaker.

Let’s look at a real safe, one with the type of door that many gun safes imitate.  Then we’ll look at a typical gun safe.

Real Safe Example

Graffunder C-Rate Safe

Graffunder C-Rate Safe

As an example I’ll use this 3600 lbs Graffunder C-Rate true safe, which was bought new for use as a gun safe.  The owner was kind enough to give me permission to post the pictures.  An insurance company might require a safe like this to insure a collection worth up to $55,000.

In case you’re wondering, in 2013 this safe cost about $11,000 installed–$7,000 for the safe + $1,400 for shipping to the dealer + $2,400 for local delivery and installation.  Don’t get sticker shock yet.  Surprisingly, used safes of this build grade or higher can be found for less than a new top of the line gun safe which offers much less protection.

Real Safe Door, a.k.a. “Plate Door”

Graffunder C-Rate Gun Safe Door

Graffunder C-Rate Safe Door, solid 1″ plate steel

Real safes have serious doors.  Plate doors like this one are made of thick sheets of metal with a bolt carriage and other parts welded to the back of it.  This door is massive with a 1″ thick plate steel outer plate.  Yes, that is a solid sheet of steel between his fingers.  

This door alone weighs around 1000 lbs, much more than most entire gun safes.  The locking bolts look to be 1″ diameter.  Ironically this is smaller than locking bolts that many flimsy gun safes use to impress their customers.

Real Safe Door Frame and Jamb

Graffunder C-Rate Gun Safe Door Frame

Graffunder C-Rate Safe Door Frame, solid plate steel

A door made of thick steel plate is great, but if the locking bolts don’t have a sturdy door frame to lock into, it’s useless.

The door frame is also welded from solid steel plate.  That door frame lip between his fingers in the picture is solid steel, extending all the way to the safe wall where it is continuously welded.  The door jamb under his ring finger is also solid plate steel continuously welded to the door frame and side wall.

Graffunder C-Rate Gun Safe Door Gap

Graffunder C-Rate Safe Door Gap

Even the thickest of steel can be defeated if a thief can get enough leverage, so real safes also have tight door gaps.  Higher end burglary ratings have a maximum door gap specification.  

This door gap too thin to get a credit card in, so inserting a pry bar or even screwdriver is going to take some magic.

Real Safe Body

The outer walls, top, and bottom of the safe are 1/2″ plate steel.  Then a 3/16″ (0.1875) steel inner shell is welded inside.  The inner shell alone is thicker than the steel on most gun safes.  Finally a 1.5″ thick fire-resistant concrete amalgamate mixture is poured between the inner and outer shell.

True Composite Walls (with Concrete)
Graffunder C-Rate Safe Cross Section

Graffunder C-Rate Safe Cross Section

Fire rated true safes or those with burglary ratings usually use true composite wall construction.  A steel inner liner welded inside (3/16″ in the above example).  The gap between the two is generally poured with a fire-resistant concrete amalgamate cement (1.5″ thick in the above example), although it can be other materials.  I’ll talk more about fireproofing in the next article.

Construction of commercial safes varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, but the diagram below will give you some idea of how they’re put together.  

The outer shell is A-36 or equivalent plate steel (1/2″ in the above example), continuously welded together all around.  A door frame made from plate steel (3/4″ in the above example) is continuously welded into it.

Commercial True Safe Construction

True Safe Construction

Gun Safe Door Locking Bolt Bar with Anti-Pry Support

Locking Bolt Bar with Anti-Pry Support (different model)

A plate steel locking bolt carriage (1/2″ thick in the above example) is continuously welded onto the outer door plate.  The bolt carriage holds the locking bolt against the inside of the door frame.  For leverage against bending in a pry attack, locking bolts extend far into the door, or are attached to a gusseted locking bolt bar.

You can see in the cross section above that the concrete amalgamate is sandwiched between two layers of steel to make a “composite wall”.  

The door also has fireproofing but gets most of its strength from solid steel, and therefore the door is referred to as a “plate steel door”.  The thicker the plate, the stronger the door, and the easier it is to hold it shut in an attack.

Gun Safe Example

The average gun safe a couple decades ago had similar construction to a B-Rate safe (rating explained below), except using half the steel.  These vintage gun safes had doors made from 1/4″ (0.2500″) plate steel, and walls made from 1/8″ (0.1250″) steel.  This meant that gun safes were lighter and more affordable than a true safe, while still offering security from brute force attacks.  

Because most gun safes were made the same way, there wasn’t much difference between gun safes from different manufactures.  This made the market very competitive.  The introduction of cheap knock-off gun safes from overseas made the competition even worse.

Some other changes were happening in the gun safe industry as well.  Instead of being sold at real safe stores, more and more gun safes were being sold at “big box” stores.

Many of these “big box” stores re-labeled their products to make it harder to compare models and prices with their competitors.  For example, Dick’s Sporting Goods is the exclusive distributor of Field and Stream gun safes, but these gun safes are really just re-labeled Stack-On gun safes. 

At a big box store, the employees generally knew very little about what they’re selling, and knew barely more about gun safes than the customers.

Without a knowledgeable salesman there to tell a customer “this one looks stronger, but this safe here is really better”, customers were on their own to compare two gun safes and decide which one was better.

Faced with more and more competition, gun safe manufacturers were under intense pressure to add “special features” for “market differentiation”.  In other words they wanted to make their gun safes seem better than a competitor’s.  Meanwhile gun safe salespeople and consumers were less and less informed about the products. 

Gun Safe Door, a.k.a. (Drywall) “Composite Door”

Some gun safe manufacturers realized that if the outer door plate looked thicker, they could sell more than their competitors.  But steel is the most expensive material in a gun safe or true safe.  So, using thicker steel wasn’t an option they wanted to consider.

Gun Safe and Gun Safe Door Construction

Gun Safe Construction

Gun Safe Door

Gun Safe Composite Door looks thick, but is mostly drywall. Don’t believe me? Look at the door label below.

Instead they got rid of the “thin-looking” 1/4″ (0.2500″) outer door and replaced it with thinner sheet metal wrapped around a sheet or two of gypsum drywall (Sheetrock).  Voila!  This made a door which looked like it had an outer plate of solid 1/2″ to 1″ steel like the real safe above.

Unfortunately though, the composite door was usually just 12 gauge (0.1046″) steel.  While it looked thicker, it was actually 2.4X thinner than the “thin-looking” door it replaced!  (Note that the 12 gauge (0.1046″) steel outer shell and door of most gun safes is thinner than the 3/16″ (0.1875″) inner fire liner of the C-Rate safe above.)

Thinning the metal had the added benefit of making the gun safes lighter, which cut shipping cost as more and more were being made overseas.

Gun Safe Door label showing construction

Close-up of door label showing “composite door” construction.

In an effort to make gun safes even cheaper, gun safe manufacturers started making as much of them as possible out of bent and stamped sheet metal.  This cut down on the cost of steel, and minimized labor-intensive welding.  

On the door, the outer door sheet was bent around in steps and continued inside, with holes punched to use it as the locking bolt carriage.

Gun safe manufactures realized that “multiple massive locking bolts” sold more safes, especially to uninformed customers.  The “bolt work” or locking bolt bar assemblies were made out of the same sheet metal as the gun safes to cut costs.  Comically-thick but short locking bolt stubs were bolted to the sheet metal with a 1/4″ bolt.

Bigger and bigger cosmetic locking bolts could be now bolted on to justify “premium” price tags, without adding much actual cost (or security).  Under the surface of the door, the “premium” models were built the same way as the cheap models for greater profit.  Here’s more on the “big locking bolt scam“.

Concrete Composite Wall vs. Drywall “Composite Door”

To make the weaker door sound like a benefit, marketers hijacked terminology from the concrete composite walls of real safes.  The (drywall) “composite door” was born.

The “composite” term between a true safe and a gun safe is describing apples and oranges.  For one, true safes don’t use composite construction on their outer door shell, which instead is solid steel.  Gun safes don’t include this solid steel plate, and replace it with drywall. 

Secondly, the gypsum drywall fire board in a gun safe “composite door” offers absolutely no burglary protection, as anyone who’s ever punched a hole in drywall with their fist can tell you.  By comparison, the concrete amalgamate mixture in a real safe’s composite body does offer some burglary protection from brute force attacks and even torches.

Gun Safe Door Frame and Jamb

Gun Safe Door Frame

Gun safe door frame made out of bent sheet metal.

Inside the gun safe body, manufacturers also wanted the door frame to look sturdy like a commercial safe, without the expense of plate steel and all the welding.  So, they bent the sheet steel so that it looked like thick plate.

Bent sheet metal can’t hold tolerances as well as a plate and door fitting and adjustments costs money.  So, the tolerances all around the door got looser.

Gun Safe Door Gap

Gun Safe Door Gap with Dime for reference.

Gun Safe Security Issues

From a security perspective, there are several fundamental problems with the construction of most gun safes.

Gun Safe Door Pry Attack

Gun Safe Door Pry Attack

Gun Safe pried open with Screwdrivers

Gun Safe pried open with Screwdrivers

1. Bent sheet metal and no custom fitting means looser tolerances on the door gap.  This makes it easier to get a tool in there.  You’ll see in videos below that a small pry bar or a large screwdriver can easily be jammed in, and on some gun safes that is all it takes to get the door open.  

On the others, the small tool is used to widen and hold the gap to get a big tool in.

Gun Safe Pry Attack

Gun Safe Pry Attack

2. The outer lip of the door is not solid, and neither is the door frame.  It doesn’t take much to bend the steel and collapse the drywall inside the outer step of the door.

3. The locking bolt carriage is thin, and prying attacks can tear the locking bolt holes wider.  What good is a 1.5″ diameter locking bolt if it’s held in place by a hole in a flimsy 0.1046″ thick piece of steel?

Bent Gun Safe Door Locking Bolt Carriage after Being Pried Open

Bent Door Locking Bolt Carriage after Being Pried Open

Gun Safe Door Locking Bolts Bent and Bolt Carriage Torn

Locking Bolts Bent and Bolt Carriage Torn by Prying Open with Screwdrivers

4. The door frame is also made out of thin steel making it easy to bend away from the door.  Once this happens, there’s a lot more room to get some real leverage deeper and deeper between the door and frame.

Gun Safe Door Frame after Burglary

Gun Safe Door Frame after Being Pried Open

Gun Safe Door Frame after Burglary

Gun Safe Door Frame after Being Pried Open

Gun Safe Torn Door Jamb after being Pried Open

Torn Door Jamb after being Pried Open

Gun Safe Door Frame after being Pried Open

Gun Safe Door Frame after being Pried Open

5. The locking bolts are short, barely extending inside the locking bolt carriage.  The locking bolt bar is thin sheet metal and doesn’t have much leverage against bending.  This is an easy problem to solve, but this part is inside the door where no one usually sees it.  So it’s a place where companies can cut corners without most people noticing.

Weak Gun Safe Door Bolt Bar bent by Burglars

Weak Door Bolt Bar bent by Burglars

Gun Safe Door Locking Bolts Bent after being Pried Open

Locking Bolts Bent after being Pried Open

Gun Safe Door Bent Locking Bolts after being Pried Open

Bent Locking Bolts after being Pried Open

Gun Safe Door Pried Open

Bent Locking Bolts after being Pried open with Screwdrivers

Gun Safe Hacked open with an Axe

Hacked open with an Axe

6. The “composite” construction of gun safe doors and walls is nothing like a true safe.  Drywall (Sheetrock) fireproofing adds absolutely zero security, in fact it makes the outer door lip weaker.  

Some fireproofing concrete amalgamates have low strength compared to normal concrete, but even these mixtures are much stronger than the gypsum which drywall is made of.  They also adhere to the steel walls and fill up any voids.   In a true composite safe, the strength of the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  “Composite doors and walls” made with drywall have none of these benefits.

Is it really that easy to get into a gun safe with a pry bar? Here is what looks like an old Chinese Liberty Centurion model getting pried open in less than two minutes by two guys who aren’t in much hurry.  Many other gun safes have similar pry attack resistance.  The attack starts at 2:30.

Seemingly in response to this video, Liberty has since created their own similar and somewhat misleading marketing video.  Instead of the same Chinese Centurion model it shows the stronger American-made version of the Centurion getting attacked.  This model had some small anti-pry tabs stamped into to its bolt carriage.  Interestingly the American Centurion has different anti-pry tabs than those shown in the video.  The video shows the stronger tabs of their high end models.

In the Liberty version of the video, you can see the door and frame flexing from the start.  However, the guys in the video spend all of their time on the same corner of the door instead of working around to find the weakest point.   This prolongs their attack.  But even Liberty’s video doesn’t pretend to resist prying for more than 10 minutes.  After the “pry test” the video goes into marketing gimmicks which are covered in these articles.

Gun safe manufacturers love to brag about the total thickness of their doors and the size and number of their locking bolts, but these don’t have much to do with the security of the door.  The Liberty Centurion above has four 1″ locking bolts.

In comparison here is a Sturdy safe which also has four locking bolts.  Sturdy’s locking bolts are actually smaller at 7/8″ (0.875″).  And for this video two of them were actually removed.

Simple and Sturdy Gun Safe Door Locking Bolt Carriage

Simple and Sturdy Door Locking Bolt and “C” Channel Bolt Carriage

This safe door stands up to a similar pry attack with only two 7/8″ (0.875″) locking bolts.  These locking bolts however extend over 5″ into the door where they are supported by a 3/16″ (0.1875″) thick steel 4.75″ wide ‘C’ channel.  The door sheet is also thicker, making it easier for the bolts to hold the door shut.

You can see the strength of the safe comes from the construction and the steel in the door, door frame, locking bolt mechanism, and walls.

Gun Safe Bolt Work

Elaborate Locking Bolts Designed to Impress Buyers

Elaborate Locking Bolts Designed to Impress Buyers

Elaborate bolt work systems are mainly designed to impress a buyer enough get his credit card out.  Doors with dozens of locking bolts are impressive to look at, but mean nothing if connected to a locking bolt bar carriage, door jamb, and door all thin enough they can be easily bent during a pry attack.  This also applies to top, bottom, and corner locking bolts.  These “features” are not found on most true safes.

Bolt work with lots of gears and moving parts actually adds more points of failure and mechanical maintenance with a negligible increase in security.  Some complicated bolt work systems even give a burglar more options for attacking the gun safe.

Gun Safe Top Locking Bolt after being Pried Open

This Top Locking Bolt didn’t stop Burglars

High security safes often have only 3 moving locking bolts.  These will be located on just one side of the door!  The hinge side will have fixed bolts or a welded tongue or wedge.  

Any additional bolts beyond that just reduce the mechanical reliability.  And any increase in pry attack protection will be negligible.  A well-built 3 locking bolt system can be stronger than 30 bolts.

In summary, gun safes are constructed much differently than real safes.  Gun safe companies love to advertise things like “bank quality protection.” They make their safes look like a commercial safe, rather than as build them like one.  Don’t be fooled.

Later in this series, What to Look for in a Gun Safe has an easy to follow list of things to look for so that you know what you’re getting for your money.

Back to the Beginning

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


  1. Thank you so much for this information. I have a decent off-brand safe, one thought to be a high quality safe. Now that I better understand the construction requirements, I realize that my safe is very vulnerable to attack and will be sure to bolt it down in the next 10 days! While I think a 7 – 10 ga plate safe can be constructed to be very strong, I now know that size does matter in wall thickness and construction. Thanks for the education!

  2. Juan Carlos says

    Very informative web site. Haven’t taken it all in yet, but here’s an important point: you can have the best safe in your state, but if you’ve got family (especially kids) – it’ll be easy for the bad guys to get in. You’ll open it for them. Have heard some very disturbing trends that cartel/gang folks are using. Even if you’re willing to die for the contents – if your kids are there you *will* open it for the crooks.

    Loose lips sink ships is one of the most important parts of this whole website!

  3. Good info there my neighbor has his small business safe broken into they used something to widen the box so the door would come off. They only targeted the safe as it held 25k in gold. He suspects it was exterminator company as they were the only ones who went into the room in the year. I have been very concerned I have is 1990’s amsec not very good only 1/4 ” door and 3/16 box. I need to upgrade, but I have installed a camera system and a cellular connected security system which is battery backed so nothing other then a cell jammed could stop it. I still want to upgrade my safe. I think the only thing that will let me sleep at night is a TL-30 safe. We had those in a pawn shop my family owned robbers attempted to pull one over with a tow strap didn’t work just spun their tires as it weighed in over 3800 lbs.

  4. NickyBalls says

    I have a Liberty safe, which the delivered to my door for $2200 total. It has 1/4 plate steel construction, and a very thick plate door. I opted for their fireproofing, which adds 3″ of fire proofing fiberglass, as well as a q4ga inner steel shell.

    Ironically, the Field and Stream “safe” at Dicks (on sale for 799 plus 200 delivery), was made entirely of 14ga steel…LOL!

    In other words, just the inner liner of a Sturdy Safe is equivalent to a Field & Stream from Dick’s. We won’t even get into pry resistance, etc. , as there is NO contest!

    My buddy spent 2900 on a Liberty “top of the line” safe, and after seeing my Sturdy, he is ordering their largest safe!!!!

    • I wouldn’t buy snitching shirt of a graffunder. You will hand that safe down to generations of kids. I sent to a amsec and graffunder dealer and saw for myself the pried open safes and why graffunder is the way to go. It’s $7500 entry fee but I’ll never replace it.and let’s face it, it’s just a bad ass safe.

      • Anything short of a graffunder

        • I wouldn’t be so quick in your assertions. Sturdy safes may not be as pleasing to the eye as some others, but their safes are top quality and should be on anyone’s short list.

    • Kell490 says

      I was going to buy liberty but after seeing how easy it is to cut though them with a gas powered cutting wheel I’m rethinking my decision.

    • What liberty safe is 1/4 plate steel would have to be 3 gauge to be 1/4″? Liberty doesn’t make anything thicker then 4 gauge that is there presidential starts at $4000+. You said you got one delivered for $2200. I would say that is 14 gauge those are very easy to use a rechargeable sawzall on like the jewelry story in this blog they had a liberty safe see how they sawzalled into it. I would get rid of that cheap safe and get a sturdy safe. You probably think it’s 1/4 thick because you see the folded steel door looks thick it really just just folded 14 gauge steel. Those are easy targets for pry attacks.

      • I wondered the same thing
        I know liberty presidential has 7 ga. Walls…that’s the best they have…
        I opted for AmSec BF HD gun safe…11 ga. Outer walls
        4 ga. Inner walls 1/2 in.door
        and still I’m concerned about power tools….!

    • 2900 is not going to buy anything close to top of the line in a Liberty. Dead in the mid line is more like it.

  5. Love all of this information. Even the name brand trusted companies websites are using various terminology that sounds fancy but really doesn’t disclose the doors construction or thickness of steel. While I’m sure some of this is security reasons it doesn’t help the consumer to know if they can trust even the cheaper versions of the real quality name brand companies anymore. This information has clarified alot of what I’ve read online to look for with pictures so I can put hands on safes in showrooms and determine if I’ll be trusting that I’m paying for quality security and not false security. Thank You!

  6. John Bannon says

    I ran across your article while looking for UL and CEN comparison for some UK safes I have purchased. I have printed your article and will use it to educate. I do not sell junk safes. Your article had some great points I had not thought of. I am sometimes at a loss of words when I am trying to educate a client. This info will help, and I will read it many times. Thank You and Warm Regards, John Bannon.

  7. Thanks for showing how the bolt is supposed to work on a gun safe. My dad has a gun safe, and he’s been working on ways to make sure it’s not accessible unless he needs it. I’ll have to show him this article. Thanks for sharing!

  8. To the commentor Kelly who wants a TL-30 safe. This is a fire rating, not a security rating.

    I googled TL-30 safe and seen a guy on the AR15 forum who bought a used one from a jewelry store that went out of business. It had the TL-30 fire rating and he was crowing how good a deal it was at only 250.00.

    He had taken photos of the door inside and it had sliding tabs instead of locking bolts. I noted the tabs only went through 1 thin outer later of steel and then were secured inside via small looking bolts through them. In other words there was scant little protection against a pry-bar attack.

    Those tabs would have folded and allowed the door to be pried open pretty easily if the door was loose fitting enough to allow pry-bars in.

    So the point is a TL-30 safe has a 2 hr fire rating, the TL-30 rating does not mean it is more secure, though it would most certainly be better then a cheap gun safe.

    After reading this article I am going to have a utility room size cement pad poured at my next house that will support a lot of weight and then have a shell of a room built. I’ll then line the walls with 12 inches of re-bar reinforced concrete and build my own door to secure it. I’m a welder-fabricator-machinist so this will end up being bank vault level door and it will be a permanent feature of the house. I plan on it being large enough to use as a panic room as well as a vault and gun safe. It will be hidden behind a false wall in a closet that will not be easy to spot unless you know it is there and then I’ll put a small bait gun safe in a closet but concealed so any labor or delivery guys in my house will not know it is there but burglars will quickly find it.

    Link below to the AR15 post with the great deal on a TL-30 safe. Take a look at the photos of the door and notice how the large locking tabs and poorly supported inside the door. Would I buy this safe for a cheap price, sure but I would then dismantle the door and weld in supports for the tabs so they would not be easily bent. This safe is better then a cheap-o gun safe but still not great just because it is TL-30 rated.


    If this link does not work use the one my sig is linked to, I used the same link as the one above to the AR15 forum article.

    • I love the idea of a concrete room and have thought of the same thing for my next house but wouldn’t a stihl concrete saw and jackhammer make quick work of the concrete wall?

      • GoingBonkers says

        If you’re in the Panic Room with your guns odds are the sawcutter criminal will have sawed his last piece of concrete.

    • Actually, that’s not quite right. TL (tool), TRTL (tool & torch), and TXTL (tool, torch & explosive) are burglary ratings, meaning the safe will withstand an attack against the rated attack ‘tools’ for a specified period of time – 15, 30, or 60 minutes. That’s against the door; the addition of x6 means the rating applies to all sides, not just the door. A TL 30 safe would be a pretty good barrier against theft.

    • Robert,
      The website went over what TL-30 means the safe has withstood 30 minutes of professional safe crackers. He even shows a video of UL doing the test on a TL-30 has to last 30 minutes of brute force attack. Those old TL-30 Jewelry safes with the small bolts are much better then any sheet metal gun safe. It’s not the size of the bolts but the type of steel used if they bolts are made from hardened steel it won’t bend even if they look small. Read the entire website before you commit.

  9. Very good information. I debated back and forth about getting a gun safe for my firearms but in the end I decided against it. If a burglar comes into your house and sees a gun safe he will realize you have firearms and direct his attention to the safe and possibly get into it and steal everything anyways. I personally decided it would be better to just hide all the guns and to anyone entering my house you would have no clue that I am a gun owner. I know it is taking a risk but even my closest friends who know I OWN guns don’t know where I keep them, so a total stranger would have no idea that there are any guns in the house and will move onto other less valuable things like tv/computer/etc…

  10. Bill Lowery says

    It appears to me that one key element to prying the door open is laying the safe on its back, and having ample room to work the pry bars. In a situation where the safe is in a confined area, and bolted down prying open the door would be most difficult as you would not be able to manipulate the bars for leverage. Proper placement of the safe is not really discussed. I believe this is of the most importance.

    • Absolutely right Bill. A confined area and bolting the gun safe down (so it can’t be attacked on its back) are huge factors in protection. They’re covered in detail in Where to Put a Gun Safe. The Ideal Closet Location shown there takes advantage of confining your confined area element to protect the non-hinge side of the door against pry attacks.

    • Exactly! Nobody ever does a real world test. How about taking a Cannon or Winchester safe say a 64 gun safe that you can get at TS and mount it to the floor and against a corner wall and see how easy it would be to pry on with a wall that in the way of a large pry bar. I think the crook would just use a grinder with a cut off wheel. You could just put a sticker that says 100 pounds of black powder inside. Or really store gun powder on the one side that is exposed. Won’t be a good day for him that’s for sure! ????

  11. What about buying a cheap gun safe or a decoy and leaving it empty, or filling it with popcorn foam? The thief will waste all of their time breaking into the decoy and afterwards probably be completely freaked out that they just got punked.

  12. What’s the best safe for $2,000?

    • www vaultandsafe com/tl-30_jewelry_safe.shtml

      • Criminally high prices. This is a liberty safe branded as winchester that was on sale at cabelas last week for $129.99.
        www vaultandsafe com/safes/EV-1200-B.shtml

  13. could you get a medium range safe and add steel to the inside of the jamb so it couldnt be forced open as easily?
    seems like a guy with a welder and some steel bar stock could design it to be alot more pry resistant.

    • Ron,
      They could but it’s about cost of steel now older gun safes going back in the 90’s had thicker steel but the locking system wasn’t good no re-lockers in most case so drill attacks on those safes today with cheap flexable inspection camera it’s easy to see how to open it after a few drill spots using a unibit step drill bit. Those drill bits cut very fast even 4 gauge steel. Now days drill protections and re-lockers are a must. People don’t want to spend $4000-5000 on a safe they want to spend around $2500 or less. My best advice for small collections is use the NRA insurance and get a sturdy safe brand they are the best for the money.

  14. steven marlowe says

    they use the weight of the safe against the strength of the doornot saying it could not be done but bolted to the concrete floor would make a difference

  15. I’ve been going crazy studying these things to find the right one. Weight is a major issue as I have a 1926 wood floor 2 story house. Of course I want the thing in my bedroom on the second floor. At our local gun shows, we have 3 different companies that exhibit. My point, is i practically climbed into a liberty, with my flashlight, and gave it a very thorough inspection. Not only are the bolts pressing against the very thin steel of their safe body in a pry attack, but I found parts without fireboarding. The boarding in the bend of the body to make the area for the door, the fireboard fell off into my hand, it was stapled into place by staple gun, and it barely was enough to keep it in place. They look so solid, but they definetly cut corners. And the video on their website prying the revolution/centarioun model, you can see where it’s right about to pop open , if they only had 5-10 more seconds, ohp! They failed, they couldnt get in, oh what a wonderful safe, they failed to break in! LOL.

  16. Kevin j says

    I learned more in this one article than I have from the days and days of searching the Internet to learn more about safes, trying to make a wise purchase. Thank you so much for your research and links.

  17. Why not Just get a decent safe and a kickass alarm system? Unless you have to evacuate your home the alarm system will get the police and yourself there within a half hour. I think you should have both.

  18. Frank Dolatshahi says

    Thank you so much for this video. Great education for someone like me who is looking to buy a safe and confused by all the marketing gimmicks! It seems like the only real protections these safes can offer is protection from Fire to some degree. I’ll focus on getting a decent safe with Fire protection in my focus now. If the thieves want to break in your house (when you’re not home) really nothing will stop them. Unfortunately you can’t booby trap inside your home either because then the thieves can sue you if they get hurt!! Silly laws! (Ok, I won’t go there… another topic that burns my behind!). Thanks again.

  19. Clyde Z says

    I was doing my due diligence in purchasing a gun safe. After starting my research I quickly found myself looking for commercial safe as most of the “readily available” (meaning price right and local/on shelf) are poorly manufactured. Then I said I better learn more before I make a foolish purchase. Thank you for this article. I will save some more money and make a better purchase.

  20. GoingBonkers says

    Just when I thought I knew which gun safe to buy!! You have seriously educated me on safes and looks like I’ll need a second job to afford the one we need. Dang!! Thank you for the terrific & enlightening information. I now see how most of us are duped into purchasing subpar equipment. Hubby is going to be disappointed without a big box under the Xmas tree this Christmas.

  21. Kevin M. says

    Build a little stage out of wood and place it in the corner of your basement, then put a cheap drum set on top, but build it so the bottom of the stage has a removable, slide-out with your guns.

  22. A Private Person says

    “•An average of 172,000 guns are stolen per year, totaling $27 million annually.”

    That stat doesn’t pass what data scientists call “The Snicker Test.”

    In fact, it may be off by as much as a factor of 10.

    • Hello Private,
      Thanks for your comment. I try to keep the data on the site as accurate as possible, and so appreciate when anyone draws my attention to a potential error.
      Those figures come from the Us Department of Justice Crime Data Brief “Firearms Stolen during Household Burglaries and Other Property Crimes, 2005-2010” NCJ 239434.
      From Table 2 “Average annual burglaries or other household property crimes involving the theft of at least one firearm, by theft characteristic, 2005–2010”, the Number of stolen firearms listed is 172,040. Lower down on that page (page 3) on the left is the bullet “Property crimes involving only stolen firearms resulted in an average annual loss of $27 million.”

      All the sources cited can be found in the Sources section, along with a caveat about statistics.

      • Please ignore the naysayers. Your site helped me make a well informed choice. I just had a Sturdy Safe delivered with lots of steel upgrades. Thank you for the hard work you have put into this tutorial.

  23. Great writeup! This is the best summary online anywhere!!!

  24. Jaime,

    Great site and thank you for sharing your detailed and deep knowledge of gun safes. Love the clear, factual presention of the material.
    Have you ever reviewed Brown’s HD Plus TL-30, or TL-15 gun safes? While they are not UL 72 certified (and I’m beginning to wonder more and more what non-UL 72 certified fire proofing is really buying me) Their HD TL line seems to be pretty well constructed and do seem to be UL 687 certified.

  25. Richard Trawick says

    Great articles on Gun safes!

  26. Its a disgrace the false security these safes give. I was a believer so just as this says, put everything valuable we owned in it and slept peacefully, we shouldnt have.

    Lost a lifetime of irreplaceable valuables and keepsakes.

  27. I bought a Liberty Fat Boy because it was pretty much all I could find within a convenient distance while I was having my house built. I did have it bolted into the floor and surrounded by framing and a wall on the non-hinge side and cabinetry on top and on the hinge side. The back of the safe is against a wall, and there’s no way someone would go through it.

    To get into the safe, I think burglars would either have to destroy a whole lot of cabinetry or go straight in through the front door with a crowbar — the gap between the non-hinge side and the framing is about an inch.

    Thus, I don’t think the easy YouTube breakin will happen, but after reading this stuff I’m worried about a straight-in crowbar attack. I kinda-sorta wish, in retrospect, that I’d gotten something different given what I’ve read here. Are there any retrofits I should think about?

    • Sounds like you did a great job. If there’s a wall next to the non-hinge side, that should block longer prying tools.
      Gun Safe Ideal Closet / Built-In Location

      After that good additional steps are to hide the gun safe door somehow, lock up your power tools, and verify the security of your doors and windows (which I’m guessing you did when you spec’d the house). All in all sounds like you’ve got a good setup going without breaking the bank.

  28. There’s a lot of great information on this post and it hits close to home for me. My grandfather was shot and robbed in the middle of the day at his house. Everyone think’s it will never happen to them until it does.

    He was 78 years old and they rang his doorbell. When he opened the door 3 guys were on their knees with one holding a shotgun and they shot him in the face. Most the damage was done to his lower face and jaw.

    He passed in the hospital from it and they stole his guns and other random items from his house.

    It’s always important to have home security cameras and self protection.

    • So sorry for your loss Wesley. I pray for you and your grandfather, and that by relating this story, you may help others protect themselves and their loved ones from such terrible acts.

  29. Thanks 🙂

  30. Hey Jaime, great review of the many irrational thoughts commonly held about securing valuables.

    We were particularly interested in the statistic of a break in. We actually took the BJS source you quoted, and reverse engineered it in to a “at-risk-of-burglary” calculator.

    The calculator is at http://fortifiedestate.com/burglary-calculator/

    Maybe it would be an interesting resource to include?

  31. so basically why bother. I will just leave my doors unlocked, lay my guns and valuables all over the place and not give a rats a$$ is what this article is saying.

  32. This is a great and very informative website. Thank you for all the work and study to produce it. I have been looking for home security for years and found most safes to be as good as you pay for them. I am currently looking at the Steelwater Co., do you have any research on them?

  33. Very informative! I’ve had a Liberty safe for about 14 years and I came across a link to this site in a Ruger Guns FB thread. I was NOT happy that, like others, I had been sold a line of BS when I purchased the Liberty! Looked for a long time but the Liberty is now my ammo safe and I keep guns & documents in a Hamilton Safe I found. It is 60″ tall 36″ wide and 26″ deep. Body is 1″ solid steel, door is 1 1/2″ solid steel with a 1/2 drill stop plate welded in all the way across and about 24″ tall protecting the locking mechanism. This unit weighs about 3500 pounds ( the door is about 1400 ) There is a second compartment with an independent lock inside the main safe the side of the internal box is 3/4″ plate. all continues welded. The guy I purchased it from is a retired vault specialist. ( Calling him a locksmith would be an insult) My house is on a slab so the weight is not a problem but rather an asset, (Getting it into the house was challenging}. This cost me $1500 delivered and installed. (Hamilton website shows this safe at about $9,000 depending on options) Is it overkill? yes, I have don’t enough valuables to justify this level safe, but I consider the safe itself an investment in the house.

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