When it comes to buying a safe to protect your valuables, you have a lot of things to consider. Most people let the price tag be their deciding factor. Even though this is an important part of buying, it is not always the most important one.
When looking at safes one of the biggest things you should look at is the fire rating. This will let you know how protected your items will be when it comes to a potential fire, but it is often something that confuses people. Below will help you understand gun safe fire ratings, which is not as complicated as it may seem.
Why Worry About Fire Ratings?
A fire rated gun safe is designed to ensure the things you put inside of it are safe from thieves and other things that may happen within your home or business, such as fires. Most guns are able to handle extreme heat. Even though they are metal, a house fire could cause damage to them. Combine that with the fact that most gun safes are used to store other valuable items. These other items probably are not metal objects that can withstand the same heat as your guns and you can begin to see where a fire rated gun safe would be valuable to have.
The longer the safe can resist high temperatures, the more likely it is you will still have all of your valuables after a fire occurs. A fire rating lets you know what kind of temperatures the safe can handle and how likely it is that your valuable papers, heirlooms, or guns will be safe from damage.
What Do the Ratings Prove?
One of the first things you want to look at when it comes to a gun safe fire rating is whether it has the UL rating on it. This simple logo can tell you a lot about the gun safe because it means that it was tested and certified independently. The UL rating shows that Underwriters Laboratories (a company that is dedicated to testing products for more than 100 years) has tested and approved the fire safe rating for that particular gun safe. If the safe does not have a UL rating on it, then it may say, “Factory Certified”. This simply means that the manufacturer tested it. A safe does not have to have the UL rating on it, but without it, there are some safes that have not been tested as thoroughly as they should have and you should take caution.
A test on gun safes to see what its fire rating is requires the safe to be put into a furnace. The temperature of the furnace is set to about 1000 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature must be reached quickly and then sensors that are inside of the safe are monitored by a computer. The test is complete when the safe’s interior reaches 350 degrees and the rating is based on it. Engineers then check the items inside to see if how damage they are and if they are still usable.
There is also a test that further ensures the safe’s fire resistance based on whether it may explode during a fire impact. The fire impact test is not required, but it means that if the safe falls through a floor or something falls on it, it will not sustain damage. This test is performed by dropping a safe 30 feet after heating it.
A lot of safes also go through an endurance test to ensure that once it is cooled, the safe is still going to work well against thieves or other possible fires. In all ways, the more tests that are done, the safer you know your guns or valuables will be.
How Much of a Fire Rating Do You Need?
When trying to figure out what type of rating you need, you should consider a few things about your environment. Meaning that certain aspects of where the safe will be located, can impact its durability during a fire. A home made of wood may burn hotter than a concrete home and brick homes become an oven so they stay hotter longer. This could have an impact on the safe you need.
From there, you need to understand that a typical house fire will burn at less than 1200 degrees and it has been proven that a fire department needs about 20 minutes from their arrival time to put out a house fire. This means if you have a UL rating of 1200 degrees for 30 minutes, chances are you will have some damage to the inside of your gun safe. However, if you have a UL rating of 1200 for an hour, you should come out with minimal or no damage.
You should also consider what you hope to store within your gun safe. Paper is easiest to damage. It can become scorched at 360 degrees and will burn when temperatures hit 451 degrees. Plastics are slightly more durable unless you have the very thin plastic which may hold coins. It does not take much heat before it begins to melt. Guns are the hardest to damage, but even they have a limit to what they can handle.
All safes are made of steel, but there are variations on how it can protect you. For instance, some safes have fire board inside of them, which uses moisture that is released upon heat exposure. There is also a composite material that resembles concrete. It is lighter than fire board, but its sole purpose is insulating the safe. With these two options, thicker is definitely better. Another option that is available, but not dependable is K-wool. Most companies who use it claim that it is rated to handle 2300 degrees. However, most feel that it is a false claim because K-wool is used to insulate pipes which should not withstand that type of heat.
You can consider a cheaper safe with no or a low fire rating, especially if the location it is stowed has a sprinkler system. However, if you choose to do so and then later decide to move the safe to a new location without a sprinkler system you may have to buy a new safe.
As you can see, there is a lot to know when it comes to understanding safe fire ratings. The good news is once you know what to look for, it really is not too complicated. Check out our best fireproof gun safe here!