Common material for gun safes and cabinets are 14-12 gauge steel. For 12 gauge that is about 1/10th of an inch, while 10 gauge is over an eighth inch. A fire axe has been shown to penetrate a safe’s side wall within minutes. There are two primary differences between safes and cabinets. Safes are more robust, usually double layering the material or using thicker steel and are lined with some sort of fire resistant material, generally some kind of gypsum product, well bluntly put “sheetrock”.
Fire Rated Gun Safes
Sheetrock or gypsum board is a mineral material resistant to heat and fire. It is a fairly effective fire resistant rated material but most sheetrock also contains formaldehyde. Formaldehyde in the Chinese manufactured safes is perhaps excessive, the smell readily detectable. Formaldehyde is a gas in these applications and thus can be breathed in through normal aspiration. It has a carcinogenic link to cancer. When it burns, formic acid is produced. Formic acid and formaldehyde together can cause optic nerve damage as in methanol poisoning. Supposedly non-corrosive in the vapor or gaseous state, but aqueous formaldehyde is known to be corrosive to carbon steel. Fire ratings for safes are given in minutes and temperature. A 75 minute at 1,400 0F is an example. However, the typical house fire temperatures are higher and last longer than any rating on the market. Essentially your guns are cooked and wood products reduced to charcoal while synthetic materials give of a plethora of toxic products, some like hydrogen cyanide and halogen acids. Most of those who die in fires succumb to the aerosols and toxic vapor present long before heat is an issue. If ammo is stored, cook-off explosions will exacerbate fire suppression and add a further danger to the fire fighting equation. Ammo should be stored away from the guns.
Moisture & Waterproof Gun Safes
Some safes offer water protection up to two feet depth, if the safe is properly secured. Most safety cabinets are merely steel shells developed to hinder access to firearms by children and cursory theft. Both gun safes and cabinets are easily breached by modern tools. The 4” or 4.5” grinders with a cut-off wheel can breach the typical safe in 10 to 15 minutes by cutting into the side. The primary bottom line in choosing a secure solution is weight and expense.
Size & Weight of Gun Safes & Cabinets
Gun safes run from about 400-500 pounds for the smaller one up to 800-1000+ pounds for larger safes. This makes it very difficult to move and hard to place in the typical home environment without specialized equipment. Most cabinets however come in sections and can be assembled in place. The safe/cabinet should be securely fastened to studs through the back or sides, or to the floor. This discourages hauling the safe away to be opened later, a factor for the lighter cabinets. Some prefer two smaller containers, either safe or cabinet or a combination of the two. One safe or cabinet used for direct access for defensive purpose or those firearms that are accessed on a regular basis. The other for storage of heirloom or seasonal firearms, collections and other valuables. For ammo storage, surprisingly enough, an old refrigerator with a hasp-padlock combo in the garage for ammo is a workable solution because these old fridges are heavily insulated. Though not fire proof they are heat resistant.