11 Myths about Gun Safe Theft Protection

Pages: 1 2 3 4

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

Myth:  Gun safes are safes.

Comparing a gun safe to a true safe is like comparing an airsoft gun to a real gun.  The two may look alike at first glance, but as you saw above, under the surface everything is different.

Gun safes are not safes.  What is a safe, exactly?

The requirements for true safes are defined by insurance companies.  After all, when safes fail, the insurance companies are the ones on the hook to pay for the valuables inside.  Over the years they have developed safe requirements based on statistics of their “claims” and “losses” (stolen/burned valuables due to failed safes).

The generally accepted safe Construction Ratings Broad Form Insurance Classifications (PDF link) were established by the Insurance Services Office.  Construction Ratings range from B-Rate to E-Rate.  An Underwriters Laboratory (UL) Performance Rating is required for ER-Rate and above.  These terms and ratings are covered in detail below. 

The minimum security container considered a safe by insurance companies is a “B-Rate” safe.  A B-Rate must have an outer shell of 1/4″ A-36 or equivalent (50 ksi or 50,000 psi) plate steel in all walls and 1/2″ plate steel in the door.  Most gun safes are made out of much thinner and weaker sheet steel like 12 gauge (0.1046″).

Gauge {ga}Plate Steel
Thickness {in}
Thickness {in}

Underwriters Laboratories (UL) has a set of tests for Burglary-Resistant Safes which are industry-standard benchmarks used by insurance companies.

UL was founded in 1894 as a non-profit independent testing organization to consult and perform certification tests for public safety.  There are over 19,000 UL product ratings for everything from batteries, to outdoor decks, to Christmas lights, to gypsum drywall (Sheetrock).  Products which successfully pass a specific UL test receive a rating label and are said to be “UL Listed” for that rating.

UL’s Burglary-Resistant Safes tests are covered under the UL 687 standard.  The lowest UL 687 standard, Class TL-15, effectively requires 1-1/2″ (1.5″) A-36 plate steel in the door!  That’s over 11 times thicker (>1100%) than most gun safes.  The other 5 walls must have 1″ (1″) A-36 plate steel!  In addition to that plate steel, these units also have another sheet of steel to contain the lining.

These aren’t an odd-ball or rare specifications.  TL-15 is the minimum safe rating for Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) storage of drugs.  It’s also the minimum for Government Services Administration (GSA) storage of many classified documents.

Construction Ratings and Performance Ratings

There are two types of safe burglary ratings:

  • Build / Construction Ratings
    • If a safe is built to, or exceeds, a minimum set of specifications, the company can claim the Construction Rating.
    • The construction specifications these safes are public, because they are defined in the Build/Construction Rating.
  • Test / Performance Ratings
    • To receive a Performance Rating, the safe must both be built to a minimum construction specification and be independently tested by attempted break-in to make sure it meets the standard.
    • Only parts of the safe may be tested for a Performance Rating.  For several UL 687 ratings, the door is performance tested, but the body is rated by construction.
    • Manufacturers are secretive about the construction of UL 687 Listed safes.  This is good, because if anyone could just call them and find out how a safe was built, it would make it less secure.  Instead, you’ll have to talk to a true safe dealer to learn more about the construction of TL-30 and higher safes.
TypeConstruction RatingApproximately Equivalent Performance RatingDoor Minimum Steel ThicknessBody Minimum Steel Thickness
"RSC"California DOJ Regulatory StandardsUL 1037 Registered Security Container Level 1 (RSC-I)1 Layer of 7 gauge steel (0.1793") or
2 Layers of 12 gauge steel (0.1046")
1 Layer of 12-Gauge (0.1046") or
2 Layers adding up to .100"
SafeB-Rate SafeUL 1037 Registered Security Container Level 2 (RSC-II)1/2" (0.5") plate steel
(+ Inner layer)
1/4" (0.25") plate steel, for concrete composite walls can be total steel thickness.
SafeC-Rate Safe-1" (1") plate steel
(+ Inner layer)
1/2" (0.5") plate steel
(+ Inner layer)
SafeE-Rate SafeUL 687 Class TL-15
ER-Rate Safe
1-1/2" (1.5") plate steel
(+ Inner layer)
1" (1") plate steel
(+ Inner layer)
Safe-UL 1037 Registered Security Container Level 3 (RSC-III)TBDTBD
Safe-UL 687 Class TL-30
F-Rate Safe
Varies1-1/2" (1.5") plate steel
(+ Inner layer)
Safe...and up......and up.........

Comparing Build and Performance Ratings

Before we get into the details of the ratings, it’s worth discussing how they relate to each other.  Comparing ratings can be tricky.  Let’s start with the easiest case.

Comparing Performance Rated Gun Safe vs. Construction Rated Gun Safe

Comparing “equivalent” ratings is straightforward.  An equivalent Performance Rating is better than just a Build Rating.

A Build Rating will specify the thickness of the safe door.  But, what you really care about is “how easy can someone break into this thing?”  To receive a burglary Performance Rating it had to be both built to a specification, and then tested by someone actually trying to break into the safe.  The Performance Rating ensures that there are no glaring flaws in the design.

Rating Example:  California DOJ Gun Safe Standards

For example, the California Department of Justice (DOJ) has a set of Regulatory Gun Safe Standards that are required for a security container be considered a gun safe in California.

The CA DOJ standards have both a construction rating part and a performance rating part.  The DOJ construction rating requires things like:

3. Boltwork shall consist of a minimum of three steel locking bolts of at least ½ inch thickness that intrude from the door of the safe into the body of the safe or from the body of the safe into the door of the safe, which are operated by a separate handle and secured by the lock;

Of course, 1/2″ locking bolts doesn’t mean the bolt bar isn’t so thin you can pry it open it with a house key.  That’s where test performance standards come in.

Gun safes can also meet the California DOJ standards if they have a Performance Rating:

OR 1. Is listed as an Underwriters Laboratories Residential Security Container;

A CA DOJ gun safe built to the Construction Rating, may still fail the equivalent Performance Rating test (UL RSC Attack Level I).  In fact there are common gun safes in this category like the USA-made 14 gauge Liberty Centurion.

RSC-I is a low bar, as described below in RSC Testing.   But a RSC-I has at least has been independently tested to a universal standard. 

Comparing Performance Rated Gun Safe vs. Construction Rated True Safe

Unlike gun safes, if a true safe does not have a Performance Rating like RSC-I, that doesn’t necessarily mean it couldn’t pass it.  

The commercial market for true safes is driven largely by insurance and legal requirements.  There are many specialized safe segments from cash boxes to pharmacy safes.  Some commercial fire safes could pass UL 72 Fire Endurance (covered in the next article), but have not been tested because insurance companies don’t require it for the application.  However, the manufactures whose unlisted fire safes could pass UL 72 actually do have other UL 72 listed products.

UL testing is expensive; you’ll see why below.  If customers for a true safe aren’t looking for a specific rating, the manufacturer may save money and not get the test done.  Or, since re-testing is required after making changes to the safe design, the manufacturer may not pay to get a previously-rated model re-listed after a minor change.

So, just because no one has independently tested how hard it is to break into a certain B-Rate safe, that doesn’t mean it couldn’t pass the UL Residential Security Container test.  On the contrary — the door steel in the very lowest grade true safe, B-Rate, is a 2.8X thicker than the RSC Level 1 requirements!  There is a large difference between the two.

So, any true safe burglary Construction Ratings is better than a RSC Attack Level 1 Performance Rating.

Comparing Gun Safe vs. Gun Safe with Same Performance Rating

If an industry-standard Performance Rating meets your requirements, you can rely on the rating and basically pick the cheapest one.  Independently-verified Performance Ratings are great for consumers.

Unfortunately, gun safes are far below actually meeting any true safe Performance Rating (RSC Level 2 and above).  This means:

  • The RSC-I Performance Rating does not pretend to protect from a large number of real-world brute force and power tool attacks. 
  • Expensive “upgraded” gun safes will have the exact same RSC-I Performance Rating.  Despite the difference in price, no one has objectively tested whether the more expensive model is better.

With so much difference between a B-Rate true safe and a RSC-I, it’s difficult to compare the hundreds of gun safes which fall in this range. Many gun safe manufacturers take advantage of the confusion. 

The recent RSC-II specification is an attempt to bridge the gap between RSC-I and true safe performance testing.  But, the first gun safe to pass RSC-II meets B-Rate true safe construction specifications anyway.

Many gun owners don’t want to step up to a B-rate, but are willing to pay more for a gun safe which is better than a basic RSC-I.  Since these units haven’t been independently tested by anyone to prove they’re better, it’s important to consider the manufacturer.

Comparing “Upgraded” RSC-I Gun Safes

If a gun safe manufacturer also sells true safes with burglary Performance Ratings, they know how to build them properly.  Companies who build B-Rate safes usually also build models which pass UL 687 Class TL-15.  So, someone that works at the company knows what it takes to get a real safe rating.

Also, if the higher security and lower level safes are built in the same facility, they will probably use some of the same workers, construction methods, parts, assemblies, and/or materials to take advantage of economies of scale.

Another indication that a gun safe company knows what they’re doing is if their products are stable.  The expense of UL Performance Testing, which must be re-done after design changes, stops frivolous modifications.  The company will find a utilitarian design that works and stick with it.  They generally will not be coming out with new products constantly.

True safe manufacturers rely on the “goodwill” of their good name, gained from decades of business.

On the other hand, if a manufacturer has never gotten a safe to pass a true safe Performance Rating, don’t trust them to know what they’re doing.  The premium you’re paying to get something better than a RSC-I may not buy you much.  

Most manufacturers of RSC-I’s are gun safe companies who have no experience at all building real safes.  Zero. 

Many gun safe companies change their products regularly.  They add flashy features that you won’t see on true safes.  They’ll re-label and re-brand their products relatively frequently.  If one model gets a bad name, they’ll slap on a new label, make a couple superficial changes, and continue to crank them out.

In a comparison between two similar products, but one of the manufacturers also builds true safes, it’s a good bet those are better than the other.

Now let’s look at how experts break into safes to verify their performance.

Underwriters Laboratories Security Container and Safe Test Performance Ratings

Safe ratings can be confusing.  A number of different ratings over the decades like TR-30 have come and gone.  UL 72 Fire Endurance ratings used to use a letter classification (i.e. Class A) rather than a temperature (i.e. Class 350).  In old literature it’s easy to confuse the obsolete UL 72 Class B rating and think it means ISO B-Rate.  And, industry people use partial acronyms (“X6”), legacy test names (“torch & tool”), and categories (“high security”) interchangeably. 

Let’s sort out all the confusion.

UL 687, Test for Burglary-Resistant Safes

First let’s look at real safe ratings, UL 687 Test for Burglary-Resistant Safes.

UL 687 ClassAttack Test ForClassificationAttack Duration
Class TL-15Door / Front FaceTool-Resistant Safe15 minutes
Deposit SafeDoor / Front FaceTool-Resistant Safe
Class TL-30Door / Front FaceTool-Resistant Safe30 minutes
Class TRTL-30Door / Front FaceTorch- and Tool-Resistant Safe30 minutes
Class TL-15X6Door and BodyTool-Resistant Safe15 minutes
Class TL-30X6Door and BodyTool-Resistant Safe30 minutes
Class TRTL-15X6Door and BodyTorch- and Tool-Resistant Safe15 minutes
Class TRTL-30X6Door and BodyTorch- and Tool-Resistant Safe30 minutes
Class TRTL-60X6Door and BodyTorch- and Tool-Resistant Safe60 minutes
Class TXTL-60X6Door and BodyTorch-, Explosive-, and Tool-Resistant Safe60 minutes

Note that most of the UL performance tests only test attacks on the door and door face.  You still want to protect the sides and back of a true safe if you can.  The body is usually covered by the construction rating and not specifically tested.

Let’s look at the specific requirements for these tests first.  This will give you an idea of what’s important in a safe.

UL 687 TL-15 Label

UL 687 TL-15 Label

  • UL 687 Class TL-15
    • Signifies a combination-locked safe designed to offer a limited degree of protection against attack by common mechanical and electrical hand tools and any combination of these means
    • Construction Requirements
      • UL 768 rated Group 2, 1, or 1R combination lock
      • All iron and steel parts painted, plated or equivalent to protect against corrosion
      • 750 lbs minimum or anchors with instructions for anchoring in a larger safe, concrete blocks or on the premises where used
      • Body walls of material equivalent to at least 1″ open hearth steel with a minimum tensile strength of 50,000 p.s.i.
      • Walls fastened in manner equivalent to continuous 1/4″ penetration weld of open hearth steel with minimum tensile strength of 50,000 p.s.i.
      • One hole 1/4″ or less, to accommodate electrical conductors anywhere except in door and arranged to have no direct view of the door or locking mechanism
    • Performance Requirements
      • Successfully resist opening the door or making a 6 square inch opening entirely through the door or front face for a net working time of 15 minutes when attacked with common hand tools, picking tools, mechanical or portable electric tools, grinding points, carbide drills, and pressure applying devices or mechanisms
UL 687 TL-30 Label

UL 687 TL-30 Label

  • UL 687 Class TL-30
    • Signifies a combination-locked safe designed to offer a moderate degree of protection against attack by common mechanical and electrical tools and any combination of these means
    • Construction Requirements
      • Same as TL-15 except:
        • Clearance between door and jamb not greater than .006″ or designed so that no direct access is provided through the door and jamb
    • Performance Requirements
      • Same as TL-15 except:
        • Net working time of 30 minutes
        • Addition of abrasive cutting wheels and power saws
  • UL 687 Class TRTL-30
    • Signifies a combination-locked safe designed to offer a moderate degree of protection against attack by common mechanical and electrical tools and cutting torches and any combination of these means
    • Construction Requirements
      • Same as TL-30 except:
        • UL 768 rated Group 1 or 1R combination lock
        • 750 lbs minimum weight
    • Performance Requirements
      • Same as TL-30 except:
        • Opening must only be 2 square inches
        • Addition of impact tools and oxy-fuel gas cutting or welding torch (test gas limited to 1000 cubic feet combined total oxygen and fuel gas)
  • UL 687 Class TRTL-60
    • Signifies a combination-locked safe designed to offer a high degree of protection against attack by common mechanical and electrical tools and cutting torches and any combination of these means
    • Construction Requirements
      • Same as TRTL-30
    • Performance Requirements
      • Same as TRTL-30 except:
      • Net working time of 60 minutes
  • UL 687 Class TXTL-60
    • Signifies a combination-locked safe designed to offer a high degree of protection against attack by common mechanical and electrical tools, cutting torches, high explosives and any combination of these means
    • Construction Requirements
      • Same as TRTL-60 except:
      • 1000 lbs minimum weight
    • Performance Requirements
      • Same as TRTL-60 with addition of nitro-glycerin or other high explosives equivalent to not more than 4 ounces of nitroglycerin in one charge (entire test must not use more explosive than that equivalent to 8 ounces or nitroglycerin)

High explosives?  TXTL-60 looks like a fun test to perform. 🙂

15 or 30 minutes may not sound like much time, but there are a couple factors which give the UL testers a huge advantage.

  • UL tested their first safe for burglary resistance in 1923.  The testers are experts at breaking into safes and have many years of experience. 
  • Regardless of how many people are permitted to work on the safe in a specific test (2 people for UL 687, RSC Attack Level 1 tests are restricted to one person), there is a team there watching and consulting to assure the best approach and methods are applied.
  • The safe manufacturer gives UL blueprints of the boltwork and relockers. Having the blueprints to the safe door is a type of James Bond scenario which represents the worst case.  
  • If the workers have any doubts about a safe’s construction, they disassemble it to inspect and plan their attack.
  • The attack time specification (15, 30, 60 minutes) is “net working time”, which counts only time where a tool is on the safe. 
    • A single “15 minute” test may take an hour or more.
      • If the testers want to stop and talk over their approach, they stop the clock.  
      • If the testers want to stop and inspect the construction of the safe, they stop the clock.
      • If they want to stop and modify, bend, grind, or shape a custom tool, they stop the clock.
    • If testers find several potential weak points, multiple “15 minute” attacks may be attempted on each one, depending on the test.
  • At the start of the test they have all the tools they need.  If they need a special tool they can stop the clock and find it.  A burglar will have to find similar tools in your house (which they do), or bring them with them.
  • No fear of being caught. It’s just another day at the office for them, blowing up safes with nitroglycerin.
  • No burglar alarms going off, dogs, or other distractions to deal with.
  • Success is defined as making a 6 square inch hole for TL tests, or a 2 square inch hole for TRTL/TXTL tests (presumably to put explosives in).  6 square inches is enough to stick your hand in and grab some cash, but you’re going to have a hard time pulling many guns out of a hole that size.

So, you can see that “30 minutes” of a TL-30 really represents worst case.  Before insuring the contents of the safe, the insurance company evaluates the commercial burglar alarm response time of the local police against the safe rating to insure it is within the policy guidelines.

Here’s a video with highlights of a TL-30 test being performed.  Notice when the door is open that the locking bolts on the inside of the door actually extend inward all the way across the safe, unlike a gun safe.

An abrasive wheel gets the UL guys through the outer steel on this door in minutes.  But, that’s just the beginning because under that is high strength concrete!  Safe manufactures also add proprietary additives like metal shavings and chunks of abrasives to the concrete poured in the doors and walls.  These additives eat up abrasive cutting wheels, drill bits, and saw blades.   Note that cutoff wheels and power saws aren’t even tested below TL-30.

TL-30X6 also adds performance testing to the other 5 sides of the safe besides the door.  Here are TL-30X6 tests being performed.  Note all of the steel structure in the walls required to prevent power tool attacks.

UL 1037 Section 54, Residential Security Containers
UL 1037 Section 54 Residential Security Container Label

UL 1037 Section 54 Residential Security Container (now Level 1) Label

Now that we’ve seen a real safe, let’s take a look at the category that typical gun safes fit into.  The Residential Security Container test is Section 54 of the UL 1037 Standard for Antitheft Alarms and Devices.

On September 9, 2016, UL 1037 Edition 6 was released.  This revision adds two addition (higher) levels to the RSC standard.  All earlier RSC certifications are backwards-classified as Attack Level 1.  If you have an older RSC, it’s a Level 1 now.  The first RSC-II gun safe was released in 2018. 

  • UL Residential Security Container Attack Level 1
    • This category covers residential security containers which are secured by means of a combination lock and designed to offer limited protection against unauthorized entry with the use of common hand tools.
    • Construction Requirements
      • Combination or key locked unit designed to offer protection against entry by common mechanical tools
      • Steel body and door construction of at least 12 gauge in thickness
    • Performance Requirements
      • Successfully withstand 5 minutes of consistent prying, drilling, punching, hammering and tampering attacks by the UL technicians.  Multiple 5 minute attacks may be attempted if they have multiple ideas for weak points
      • The tools used in the test are to include hammers, chisels, adjustable wrenches, pry bars, punches, and screwdrivers.  The hammers are not to exceed 3 lbs in head weight, and no tool is to exceed 18 inches in length.  The only power tool allowed is a 3/8″-chuck handheld drill, and bits are restricted to 1/4″ or smaller.
      • The product under test is to be mounted securely in its intended position, and the attack is to be carried out by one operator.
        • There is a drop test for products weighing 750 lbs and less, which simulates attempting to gain entry by forcibly dropping or knocking the safe to the ground.  This test is skipped if the unit can be secured to a surface and the manufacturer provides provisions and instructions.
      • Performance tests are conducted against the entire unit.
UL 1037 Residential Security Container Level 1 (RSC-I) Test Tools

UL 1037 Residential Security Container Attack Level 1 (RSC-I) Test Tools Example

  • UL Residential Security Container Attack Level 2 (Effectively TL-10)
    • Performance Requirements
      • Successfully resist opening the door or making a 6 square inch opening entirely through the door or front face for a net working time of 10 minutes when attacked with common hand tools, picking tools, mechanical or portable electric tools, grinding points, carbide drills, and pressure applying devices or mechanisms
UL 1037 Residential Security Container Level 2 (RSC-II) Test Tools

UL 1037 Residential Security Container Attack Level 2 (RSC-II) Test Tools Example

  • UL Residential Security Container Attack Level 3 (Effectively TL-10X6)
    • Performance Requirements
      • Same as RSC-II except:
        • Addition of abrasive cutting wheels and power saws
        • Required opening of 2 square inches instead of 6

The RSC-I test costs the manufacturer about $15,000 (figure is probably out of date) to run whether the gun safe passes or fails.  

Having UL’s experienced security testers take a shot at opening the RSC-I goes a long way to making sure that there isn’t a glaring defect in the design, especially when a company with no safe experience has designed it.  For example, a 1/4″ drill allows them to probe weak spots in the RSC’s internal mechanisms.

However, the RSC-I security bar is set pretty low — so low that RSC-I’s generally aren’t acceptable for business usage.

Limitations of the UL Residential Security Container Tests
Gun Safe after Saw Attack

This Gun Safe was easily sawed open with a Sawzall.  Power saws and cutting tools are not tested at all in the UL RSC-I or RSC-II ratings.

  • Lock requirements are minimal.  Low level RSC-I’s have pretty crappy locks.
  • Tool restrictions
    • RSC-I’s 18″ length limit is a huge restriction for pry bars.  The average crow bar is longer than this.
    • RSC-I doesn’t include common brute force tools which can hack through 10 or 12 gauge steel like fire axes, axes, pick axes, and chisels.  Fortunately the new RSC-II does.
    • RSC-I and RSC-II Power tools are limited to drills.
      • For one 5 minute attack, UL usually drills a ring of 1/4″ holes in a 4″ diameter circle in the side of the safe and tries to bang it out with a hammer.  This is an interesting test, but not very common in real life.
      • A drill is useful for finding flaws in the bolt work design, punching the locking bolts (video below), and other higher skilled attacks.  However, these aren’t a very common burglar tactics.
      • Reciprocating saws (Sawzalls) and abrasive wheel cutting tools are more common in gun safe attacks.  Cordless power tools are common and cheap now.  These tools aren’t included until RSC-III.
  • “Mounted securely in its intended position”  If the safe is tipped over the attacker can use his body weight for leverage, suddenly the little RSC-I 18″ pry bar may be enough to rip the door off.  If you don’t bolt your gun safe down, getting in will be even faster.
  • “Carried out by one operator”  Most of the thieves you need a gun safe for protection from will have at least one friend with them.

Here is a locking bolt punch attack that I mentioned above.  This was the best example I’ve found, which just happens to be another video from Sturdy Safe.

How easy it is to hack through a gun safe?  Most gun safe manufacturers sell low-end 12 gauge steel models, so they would never make a video showing how easy it is hack through.  Sturdy doesn’t have models thinner than 10 gauge, so they make the only axe attack video I found.

Here’s how hard it is to hack through 10 gauge steel with a fire ax.

Fire Axe Attack on 12 Gauge Gun Safe Steel

Fire Axe vs. 12 Gauge Gun Safe Steel

Remember the higher the gauge the thinner the metal, so 12 gauge steel is much easier to hack through than the 10 gauge steel in that video. The picture on the right shows less than a dozen blows with a fire axe on 12 gauge, the thickness most RSC-I gun safes are made out of.

Residential Security Container Attack Level 1 is the minimum rating which I recommend in a full sized gun safe.  All safes which have passed the RSC Level 1 are not the same, some are stronger than others.

Gun Safe Hacked open with an Axe

Gun Safe hacked open with an axe while a second burglar hammered the door lock. The guy with the axe got in first.

But the truth is, that using brute force to compromise any security container with less than a B-Rate isn’t that hard.  The steel is just too thin.  Many power tools will chew up a B-Rate safe pretty quickly too, but at least with more noise.  

Remember the lowest true safe burglary performance rating is UL 687 TL-15, and those safes have 1″ plate steel in the walls.

This jewelry store owner made the mistake of believing the gun safe hype, that his top of the line Liberty National Security Gun Safe offered the same security as a commercial safe.  Thieves made off with $200,000 in merchandise, which undoubtedly wasn’t insured because an insurance company should have required at least a TL-15 safe.

Jewelry Store Gun Safe Burglary
Back to the Beginning

Click below to continue on the next page…

Pages: 1 2 3 4

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.

Comment on This


(Your email will not be published.)

+ five = 8