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Safe Sense

Safe Sense

Are your guns safe from boogeymen, fire and kiddies?

For a gun owner, the question should not be “Do I need a safe?” It should be “Which safe should I get?”

Hunters are often hesitant to spend money on a gun safe. That cash could go toward a new rifle or a guided hunt.

Many think they can hide their guns from burglars. Most of us believe we’re smarter than the average criminal, but thieves are professionals and have learned where common folks hide the expensive stuff.

I worked in law enforcement for 13 years and investigated many firearms thefts. Some of those guns were hidden under mattresses, in lofts and even behind false wall panels. In some cases, the location of the firearms was known to the criminal because someone friendly with the victim told the bad guy where to look. This is more common than you might think.

Of all the burglaries I investigated, however, none involved a bad guy breaking into or attempting to break into a safe. Criminals know this is an option, but recognize it’s a low-percentage, time-consuming and noisy affair.

My first gun safe came from an auction held by the state of North Carolina. It was confiscated from a drug dealer who used it to store guns, money and illegal substances. It sold for about $1,000 new, but I got it for $300. The downside was that it smelled like marijuana. Now the odor’s gone, the safe is full, and I’m looking for a second one.

A gun safe provides security from theft, protection from fire and restricts access from children or untrained hands.

Safe SenseWhen considering a gun safe, start with size. Based on how fast my safe filled and friends’ experiences, I suggest selecting a model that will store twice as many firearms as you currently own. The good news is that size is not the determining factor in cost. Generally, you can double the capacity with only about a 20 percent increase in price.

You might be worried about weight. A 35-gun Cannon Series safe weighs 890 pounds. Most residential homes are designed to accommodate a live floor load of 40 pounds per square foot. This means in a room measuring 12 feet by 12 feet, the maximum live load would be 5,760 pounds (144 square feet multiplied by 40 pounds per square foot.) So unless you’re planning on regular disco parties with 20 or more people, that room should hold a full 900-pound safe and just about anything else you put in it.

If you are still worried about the floor collapsing, put the unit against a load-bearing wall. Alternatively, you can add more supports under the area where the safe will be. When I put a new addition to my home, I did just that because I knew the safe would not be against a load-bearing wall.

Another consideration is how much theft protection a safe offers. All safes look impenetrable, so how can you be confident in one’s security? Underwriters Laboratory has been the standard in third-party safe security testing. Safes passing UL tests are given a label that’s placed on the inside door frame.

Also consider getting a safe that has a pre-drilled bottom to simplify attaching it to the floor. This could be important if your home is hit by a team of body-building burglars. (There are documented instances of entire safes being stolen.)

Don’t assume that a higher fire rating means added theft protection. Safes with a higher fire rating typically weigh more.

The degree of fire protection a safe offers can be confusing. Aaron Baker of Cannon Safes says, “When a safe is certified at a certain temperature for a certain period, it means that the internal temperature of the safe did not rise above 350 degrees Fahrenheit during the time of the test.”

Safe Sense“Paper chars at 423 degrees, so most of a safe’s contents should survive,” Baker continues. “With regard to items like film and storage disks that are very sensitive to heat, I would recommend keeping them in another fire box inside your safe.”

When shopping for a safe, look for one that has been tested and certified by Intertek-ETL, Baker suggests. They are the industry standard for fire validation and enable consumers to actually confirm manufacturer’s claims.

When evaluating fire protection, look for an Intertek-ETL certification logo and make sure the fire rating for the safe you are buying is the rating for that size safe, not a smaller one with the same design. All things being equal, a larger safe will have a lesser fire rating than a smaller safe.

Most safe manufacturers offer dehumidifiers as accessory items. These protect guns from rust by removing excessive moisture. Lights and rack/shelving configurations are options, too.

Companies like Browning, Cabela’s and Cannon all offer customizable and convenient internal organizers. Possibly the most important accessory is a light. My confiscated safe did not come with one, and I have to keep a flashlight resting on top of the unit to help me find stuff inside. Cannon offers lights as a standard feature on their Traditional and Cannon series safes.

Also consider how your safe will be delivered. Cabela’s offers curb-side delivery of its Ambassador and Outfitter Series safes. You will have to get it in the house, so have some hunting buddies over on delivery day and rent an appliance dolly.

Safe SenseMost gun safes up to 1,100 pounds can be easily moved with a healthy brother-in-law and a good appliance dolly.

If you’re buying a safe from a local dealer, it’s a good idea to insist on delivery to the spot where it will reside in your home.

Do the math: Four rifles with scopes, a couple of shotguns, one pistol, a camera, a rangefinder and a binocular can easily total more than $6,000. For about a fourth of that, you can protect them and a dozen more guns from fire-breathing dragons, bad guys and little hands.

Hey, my first safe came from a criminal. Even he, perhaps more than anyone else, knew the importance of having a good safe!

This article originally appeared at Buck Masters.