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PostPosted: Tue Mar 18, 2008 8:06 am 
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I've been researching secure storage now that I've moved into a house and can set something up for the long term (like 10 to 30 years).

Once you have more then three or four guns, especially long guns, it's time to start looking into a large container to store them all securely.

Notice I said "container" and not "safe." That was deliberate. The majority of what are commonly called and sold as "Gun Safes" are actually UL (Underwriter's Labratory) listed as "RSC" or "Residential Security Containers" and not actual safes. This includes the "safes" available at big box stores like Academy, Gander Mountain, Sam's Club, etc, with brand names including "Liberty," "Winchester", "Browning," etc.

So what is a RSC, and how is it different from a true safe?

Simply speaking, a RSC is a large, sheet metal box with a lock. The metal for the sides and doors is typically 12 gauge or 10 gauge. The actual door or walls may be thicker due to the addition of gypsum wallboard or similiar materials designed to reduce (not eliminate) the effects of heat or fire. The other advantage, from a seller's point of view, is this type of "composite" or "clad" construction makes the door and wall look thicker and more secure to the average buyer and helps with sales.

The locks are usually UL rated and offer good security. The weakness is in the actual body of the unit.

The UL RSC classification means that any specific RSC labelled container will resist forced opening for up to *five* minutes by an attacker using simple, non powered, hand tools. We're talking screwdrives, hammers, and pry bars LESS then 18" long. RSC's are not rated against any attack by power tools or any attack lasting longer then five minutes.

Five minutes, that's it, and that's with just hand tools. And that's assuming a more or less amateur attack. To a pro, it might as well be unlocked. This attack does allow the attacker to knock the RSC over. It is much easier to get through the back or sides then the door or lock. The welded corners are especially vulnerable. For maximum security, RSC's should always be bolted down to keep them from being tipped over and attacked at the weak points.

Now, as long as you understand the limitations of a RSC, and don't pay too much for one, they do have a role. A RSC will protect you from your kids or unauthorized guests getting into your firearms (unless they are willing to destroy the safe to do so. Not likely if they just want to "play with daddy's guns.")

A RSC also helps protect you from quicke "Smash 'N Grab" burglaries, of the type typically done by teenagers and other 'ner do wells. The "smash 'n grab" robber wants to be in and out as quickly as possible and often won't take the time to try to defeat a RSC. You can add to your security by hiding the RSC to make it less likely they'll even find it in a quick run through the house.

Even though RSC's advertise fire protection, my sources tell me not to rely on that. At best, a RSC will help protect your firearms from a less-then-complete house fire. The shorter duration and lower the heat, the better. Don't trust the ratings advertised by the manufacturers though. The only consisent, reliable and independant fire rating that means anything is the UL 1 hour (or better) ratings. Unfortunately, there are no RSC's that meet this rating as the standard materials and construction required to offer this kind of protection are too expensive for RSC use.

Don't get me wrong though. Any fire protection is better then none, just don't believe the manufacturer's claims and don't rely on a RSC to keep vulnerable items like paper documents, jewlry, or electronic media safe, even from a smaller fire.

Enough about RSC's, let talk about true safes.

By comparasion a true, "B rate" (construction graded) safe will have a 1/4" steel body and 1/2" plate door, minium. That's the low end of a "true" safe and is based on construction materials, not resistence to attack. Some "B rated" safes may also have the UL RSC classification if the manufacturer choose to spend the money to submit that model to UL for testing. While these safes have the RSC classification, any RSC made to "B rate" construction standards will be head and shoulders above any other RSC rated container.

UL also lists safe with "TL-15", "TL-30," and higher ratings. This is a measure of attack resistence against attacks using power tools. A "TL 15" rated safe will resist attacks for 15 minutes, a "TL 30" for 30 minutes, etc. That extra resistence does come with a price though as the heavier materials used in the construction and better build quality add significantly to the expense.

There are also "E" and "F" construction ratings that are roughly comparable to the TL 15 and TL-30 UL ratings. These safes have not been submitted to UL for testing though (typically due to the expense of doing so).

Be aware that "burgler resistent" and "fire resistent" safes are two different things designed to do two different jobs. Typically, the construction methods and materials used for fire resistent safes don't offer much protection against forced entry and the burgler resistent safes don't offer much fire protection. The two goals are mutually incompatable to some extent. There are dual "burgler/fire" resistent safes available. My understanding is that they would protect adequately against either danger, but not as well against each specific threat as a safe designed specifically for that purpose.

Now the bad news. Typical B rated or better safes are *generally* much more expensive then RSC's. In most cases, the higher the rating, the higher the price. However, there is often a price overlap between the more expensive, "high end" RSC's, especially at full retail, and some of the lower end B rated safes. For about the same amount of money you can significantly improve your protection by looking for a B rated safe instead of some of the more expensive of the RSC's.

How much money you should spend depends on what you need to protect, from who, and the value of the items you want to protect. It makes no sense to spend $3,000 on a safe to hold $1,000 worth of Mosin Nagants or Mausers. Conversly, it's "penny wise and pound foolish" to keep a $10,000 collection in a $500 RSC.

A RSC is going to be easier to find, easier to move, and will protect you from unauthorized access and quick smash 'n grab robberies.

A safe is going to be a little harder to shop for, harder to move and install, usually be more expensive (but not always) and offer increased protection against a determined thief or an attack with power tools.

The best advice on RSC's I got from a locksmith and Safe Tech was this: Since the majority of RSC's offer essentially the same level of protection, you should get the least expensive RSC you can find that meets your needs.

If you compare RSC's that are the same size with the same storage capabilities, the more expensive models usually just have better finish, nicer trim, or more "features" that don't really make them more secure. So why pay more for things that don't help? He recommended the "Winchester" labelled RSC's available at Sam's Club for a good value in a RSC.

For safes, the brands I've been told are good and are commonly available include American Security and Graffunder. There are others as well, but those seem to be more common and a good value.

Another option is to hunt for a used commercial safe, usually from a Lock and Safe dealer. These will be made to "B" standards as a minimum and offer a significant savings over a new model. I looked at some TL 15 rated safes yesterday that were only $1,000. That's about a $5,000 savings over a new example. The downside is that they aren't configured for guns so you will need to hunt to find a unit tall enough for long guns. You'll also need to build or buy the gun racks yourself as the safe will either be empty or have simple shelves. (I passed on the TL 15 safes as they weren't long enough for rifles. They would have worked great for a large handgun collection though)

As with any business, used inventory turns over constantly. To find a used safe call around to local "Lock and Safe" stores. Use the yellow pages and google. Find out what warranty they offer and don't forget to ask about the cost for delivery and installation. Also make sure your floor can hold a heavier, "real" safe, as they can weigh up to several thousand pounds empty, depending on size and materials.

One last thought. Whatever you pick, RSC or safe, go with a good quality mechanical lock, not an electronic lock. If you don't believe me, talk to a few locksmiths. If you open your gun safe on a regular basis, all electronic locks WILL eventually fail. A mechanical lock, properly serviced, will last a lifetime. (Yes, mechanical locks do need service. How often depends on how much they are used. You don't service an electronic lock. You just cut it out and replace it when it breaks).

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 18, 2008 8:10 am 
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Here are some of the links from the research I did on safes:

Safe Buyer's Guide

http://www.6mmbr.com/gunsafes.html

Here's a list of threads on THR that discuss the difference between RSC's and safes. Pay attention to the posts by a1abdj and CB900F. They are both safe technicans and know their stuff. You really need to browse through these threads to educate yourself before buying.

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q...=Google+Search

Here's a more recent post comparing American Security, Graffunder, and Brown Safe.

http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=348483

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 18, 2008 8:20 am 
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Good post.

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 18, 2008 9:01 am 
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I use high security containers as part of my job, and have had to take apart more than one safe lock before.

If you're looking for a high quality mechanical lock, you should look for a surplus Mosler, Mas Hamilton or Sergeant-Greenleaf lock. They're all over the used market because the end of the Cold War coincided with the decline of paper-based records for stuff you dont want prying eyes to see.

Both KM and S-G locks come in versions that resist trained manipulation (ie, safecracking) for up to 30 minutes, and unskilled manipulation pretty much forever.


Other methods of fortifying a RSC could include installing a locking crossbar on the door of the RSC, with a high security padlock.

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 18, 2008 1:11 pm 
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What about building a vault into a home? Since my collection of long arms is at 20 and growing rapidly and that I have many other collectibles that need to be secured I would think a small vault would be the way to go. Now I've seen "vault" doors available for a few thousand dollars. Are these the B listed variety? I have no idea. What are your thoughts? Is this feasible or even a good idea?

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 18, 2008 1:45 pm 
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Just go out into your garage and have an appropriate sized rectangle cut out of the concrete floor. Dig down a few feet and concrete the walls/floor. After that all you have to do is put a substantial steel door on it. The most you might have to do is insulate the door, or put in 2 doors, the inner one being insulative and the outer one for security. Plus if it's under a car then it's not obvious and harder to get to. In Oklahoma it's becoming one of the popular places to add on a storm shelter.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 18, 2008 2:06 pm 
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Wow, it sounds like you've got this whole safe thing figured out!

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 18, 2008 3:54 pm 
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Talk to a Lock and Safe guy about vaults. I don't know much about them as it wasn't an option I looked into.

My concern would be the expense and the fact that if you only replace a door, they can still easily get through a wall. From what I've read, the best time to add a vault is during construction of the house.

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 18, 2008 6:08 pm 
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Trebor wrote:
From what I've read, the best time to add a vault is during construction of the house.



I don't know anything about vaults, but I know a little bit about houses, and I'm gonna have to agree, pretty much the only time you could build a vault room is during construction, unless its a completely separate building, like under a tool shed or something.

If you're gonna spend the big bucks to build your own vault, you might as well do it right. If I ever build something like that, I'd want it to be found 3 counties over, after a tornado, and still be locked up tight.

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 18, 2008 7:02 pm 
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Good post!

I'll have to come back later and read all of it.

I didn't really read all the way through it because I have seen this video:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=dPUrqStiSTQ

:shock:

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 18, 2008 11:33 pm 
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well i have a nice stack-on safe that fits all my handguns and about 5 rifles, but i really need to get another larger safer as ive got way to many rifles.

If I ever build a house, you can be sure it will have a large vault built into it as im sure my constantly growing collection will need one.


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 19, 2008 12:03 am 
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Nice job with the research, Trebor.

My future father-in-law lives in a pretty rural area - lots of modular homes, log homes & doublewides (very few brick homes). They had a rash of robberies last year where thieves would break into the houses of people with large gun collections when they weren't home, make a few cuts through the siding/sheet rock with a reciprocating saw, wrap the gun safe with chains, feed the chains out through the holes they had cut to a 4x4, and yank the entire safe through the wall of the house. :shock: My point is, if someone wants your guns badly enough, and has a reasonable length of time to work on the problem, they will get them. As you mentioned, I 'm primarily concerned with "Smash 'N Grab" robberies - those thieves want to get in and get out as quickly as possible with stuff they can easily carry & sell, which usually means guns, cash, jewelry, drugs (prescription & otherwise), and high-end electronics...


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 19, 2008 12:09 am 
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GeneralDiscontent wrote:
Nice job with the research, Trebor.

My future father-in-law lives in a pretty rural area - lots of modular homes, log homes & doublewides (very few brick homes). They had a rash of robberies last year where thieves would break into the houses of people with large gun collections when they weren't home, make a few cuts through the siding/sheet rock with a reciprocating saw, wrap the gun safe with chains, feed the chains out through the holes they had cut to a 4x4, and yank the entire safe through the wall of the house. :shock: My point is, if someone wants your guns badly enough, and has a reasonable length of time to work on the problem, they will get them. As you mentioned, I 'm primarily concerned with "Smash 'N Grab" robberies - those thieves want to get in and get out as quickly as possible with stuff they can easily carry & sell, which usually means guns, cash, jewelry, drugs (prescription & otherwise), and high-end electronics...


A good reason to never, ever, put a safe on a exterior wall. I've heard of this before too.

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 19, 2008 12:36 am 
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GeneralDiscontent wrote:
They had a rash of robberies last year where thieves would break into the houses of people with large gun collections when they weren't home, make a few cuts through the siding/sheet rock with a reciprocating saw, wrap the gun safe with chains, feed the chains out through the holes they had cut to a 4x4, and [b]yank the entire safe through the wall of the house.


There are ways to prevent that as well.

The first thing you need to do is bolt down any RSC (light "gun safe"). Use proper sized lag bolts and bolt it down. Putting it on concrete is best, but bolt it to a floor joist if that is all you have. If they can tip the RSC over, they don't even need to take it out of the house. Remember, they are rated for only five minutes against hand tools. If it stays upright, it's harder to break into as the seams are the weak point.

With a *real*, class B construction or better, the weight of the safe itself helps keep it in place. A tall enough safe for long guns can easily weigh 1,000 to 3,000 pounds, empty. That's going to be MUCH harder to yank through a wall. You can still bolt them down as well, but it's not as vital as they can't be tipped nearly as easily as a RSC.

Even if they get a real safe out, they still have to get it open. At that point they are really going to need to know what they are doing and have access to some really good power tools. I wouldn't be surprised if the unopened safe was found somewhere nearby after they gave up on opening it. (Assuming they got it out of the house in the first place).

Don't forget your safe is your LAST line of security. Install GOOD deadbolts, reinforce your door jambs and strike plates, and put another deadbolt on the room where you store the guns. The more layers of security they have to go through, the more likely they won't be able to get in, and, if they do get in, the longer it will take. The longer it takes, the more likely they are to be discovered and the more likely they give it up as a bad job before breaking into the safe.

The more research I do, the more I think a used commercial "real" safe, grade B or better, is the way to go. They aren't going to be able to get into it, and it's going to be much harder for them to move it to attack later. The downside is the weight. Make sure your floor can support that weight before you buy and plan on having professionals move it and install it for you. The cost is within striking distance of a high end RSC.

Oh, and lock your tools up as well. Don't have tools handy in the garage that they can use to break into your RSC. That goes double if your RSC is also in the garage.

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 19, 2008 1:00 am 
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Trebor wrote:
Oh, and lock your tools up as well. Don't have tools handy in the garage that they can use to break into your RSC. That goes double if your RSC is also in the garage.


Big +1 on this one

Frankly speaking, you shouldn't have angle grinders or cutting torches available at all within your residence. For much of us, that's simply an impossibility. This is also why firearms insurance is as important as having a safe. If you're an NRA member you automatically have $1,000 of insurance. This can be expanded using Armscare Plus through the NRA. If you don't have it, you need to get it. It's only $1.66 per $1,000 of coverage annually.

Link to Armscare

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 19, 2008 2:44 am 
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Had a friend who's uncle got hit by the cut a whole and pull it through the wall thing- it was a ranch style home in rual kansas, and they sawz alled through the wall, and yanked the safe FROM THE MIDDLE OF THE HOUSE THROUGH THE FRONT WALL- sheared off the bolts where he had bolted it to concrete, and did an obscene amount of damage to the house as it went through a few walls (and rooms) before going out the front- they did this with his own 4x4, which they also, of course, stole..... I like the garage floor vault- or hell, do that on any slab house.... put a plastic liner in when they pour the floor, so it wont get moisture, and then a layer of fire proofing, then top it with an nice steel door, with nothing to attach a chain to, and bingo- seems like it could work elsewhere than a garage- (though putting one of those plastic oil drip guards over it would hide it well in a garage even if the car was gone.....)

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 19, 2008 9:49 pm 
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Also, don't forget alarms. A house alarm with service is great. A great addition is a REALLY loud alarm in the same room as the safe, especially if you have strobe lights in the room and on the exteror of the house. A decent safe or vault takes time to defeat, and a good loud alarm that gets attention may help put that extra bit of pressure on.

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jamoni wrote:
Also, don't forget alarms. A house alarm with service is great. A great addition is a REALLY loud alarm in the same room as the safe, especially if you have strobe lights in the room and on the exteror of the house. A decent safe or vault takes time to defeat, and a good loud alarm that gets attention may help put that extra bit of pressure on.


I should really do an extensive post about the onion layers of home security.

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DavePAL84 wrote:
I should really do an extensive post about the onion layers of home security.


I was thinking of posting the same thing.

Why don't you do it though? I'd like to hear other opinions.

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Not to burst your bubbles, but there was a pretty good one about a year ago, it covered security-in-depth pretty thoroughly, and covered using terrain, location of foliage, and the use of dogs, as well as the more conventional physical security mechanism such as bars, windows, doors, locks, and alarms. Maybe we could necro that thread and add to it, because I'm always down for more knowledge and stuff.

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Good post, Trebor!

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 30, 2010 1:16 pm 
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Thought I'd bump this for the newbs.

Also, Dave, you ever write that post on the onion layer theory of home security?

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 30, 2010 4:16 pm 
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I just read a book by a professor at Penn State entitled, "Confessions of a Dying Thief: Understanding Criminal Careers and Illegal Enterprise." It's basically an interview and analysis of a guy who was a professional safecracker, con-man, and theif. Pretty interesting read, especially since he talks about the entire process of safecracking....from finding a mark, to preparation, to the actual cracking, fencing, ect.

Anyway, he basically said the same thing that's been said all along, in that, residential safes are usually little more than cabinets with a bit of sheetrock-like material inside. With chisels and pry bars they could be in and out in less than 10 minutes. He also said that sometimes they wouldn't even bother opening it right away. If they could, they would rather just carry it away to another location and work on it there (and they would bring along the things they needed to do so). One of the things he mentioned was that a good safe that was recessed into a concrete floor (and properly anchored) was usually a pain to deal with. This is because you've only got one side of the safe to work on and it's the side that is usually the most well protected. The one exception was older/cheaper safes that the dial mechanism could be punched out, then it didn't matter. With a punch and a heavy hammer you were in.

It comes down to that old idea that you tend to get what you pay for. A $300 walmart safe your brother-in-law screwed into your floor for ya most likely isn't going to be as secure as a $3,000 safe installed by an honorable professional. You have to decide the level of security that you feel is most appropriate for your needs and do your homework on brands, security levels, installation techniques, ect. A TL-30 X6 rating isn't going to do jack if the thief can steal the whole thing and work on it at their leisure.

A buddy of mine, who is a locksmith, suggested something to me years ago that I thought was pretty interesting. He said, if you really need security, it's best to have multiple safes, hide them well, and then never tell anyone what's in them. Why? First, because you never want to "put all your eggs in one basket." If, by chance, they do get away with one safe, it shouldn't contain all your valuables. Second, if you've only got one safe, someone trying to steal your stuff knows exactly what they have to focus all their effort on. If you've got multiple safes, you can cause confusion/doubt and lost time, which could cause them to screw up or give up. Finally, if you've got multiple safes, and someone steals only the one that has the most valuable items in it, chances are it's either someone close to you that did it, or you screwed up and couldn't keep your mouth shut. Therefore, you'll most likely have an idea who did it, or you'll have no idea who did it, but you'll know not to flap your gums as much in the future. :wink:


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The information in the OP is why the German minimum requirement for gun safes is "a full workshop and 30 minutes", "a full workshop and one hour" for handgun safes, and "you'll need something thermonuclear" for safes in which you want to store guns and the ammo that fits them. Safes with more than five rifles or with handguns also need to weigh at least 200 kilos or be securely bolted to a floor or wall.

Interstingly enough, the requirement for ammo storage is "steel and locked", so I could just chuck it in an old ammo can an put a 99 cent padlock on it.

_________________
SMoAF wrote:
We all ended up moving in together at one point, and I paid our rent in guns.

Vicarious_Lee wrote:
No one on ZS worth their membership would be in a frozen forest, alone, without being loaded out like they've got Les Fucking Stroud himself in their enormous and ergonomic backpack.


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