Frequently Asked Questions
Select General FAQ's, Gun Safe FAQ's, or any question to jump to that section.
What kind of safe should I buy for my home?
Selecting the right home security safe depends on several factors: 1) Are you most concerned about fire protection, burglary protection, or both? 2) What exactly are you going to keep in your safe -- documents, cash, guns, coin or stamp collection, jewelry, irreplaceable family heirlooms, prescription drugs, etc.? When you have determined these answers, ask a safe expert for advice.
What are the most common mistakes people make in buying a safe?
1) Buying a safe that is too small, then running out of space. At our shop we have a list of items that we suggest keeping in your home security safe. Reading through the list will help you to figure out how much room you will need. 2) Buying one of the cheap fireproof safes (usually from a discount store) to protect valuables. They are easy to break into.
Are all safes fireproof?
No safes can truly be called “fireproof” -- they will all fail if a fire lasts long enough. The proper term is “fire resistant.” So-called “fireproof safes” can differ in their level of fire resistance. There is a wide range of fire resistance from none at all, up to several hours. The best gauges for fire resistance are the ratings given by Underwriters Labs.
What does a "U.L. Class 350 - one hour" fire rating mean?
It means that Underwriters Laboratories has fire tested and approved that model of safe for that rating. Basically, during a one hour test in a gas furnace, following the Standard Time Temperature Curve which goes up to 1700 degrees F, the temperature inside the safe did not exceed 350 degrees F. 350 degrees sounds hot, but paper doesn't start to char until the temperature is over 400 degrees. U.L. has many different ratings for fire and burglary resistance, but "Class 350 - one hour" is the most common.
My back-up tapes, disks and other electronic data are protected from fire in fireproof file cabinets or fire proof safes, aren't they? NOT AT ALL! The 350-degree rating mentioned above protects paper. Your tapes and disks will be destroyed at only 175 degrees F. You need a media safe to protect electronic data! Ask an expert for details.
Is my 90 year old antique safe “fireproof”?
Most antique safes have thick walls that are full of concrete. They were intended to be fire resistant, but there was no standardized fire rating system until about 1950 so they cannot be considered to be “fire proof safes.” Some hold up very well, but there is no way to predict how long an antique will last in a fire.
Are all dial-type combination locks about the same?
No! For a home security safe you should have a “Group 2” lock. “Group 2” is an Underwriters Laboratories rating that refers to burglary resistance. There are locks with higher ratings, but there are many cheap locks with no rating at all. Component materials can be brass, steel, aluminum, zinc and plastic.
Try turning the lock dial while putting pressure on the door handle. If you can feel the lock through the handle. you have a “direct entry lock”. These are cheap lock systems that are put on cheap safes, and they are much easier for a thief to open. You cannot feel a Group 2 lock through the handle. Group 2 locks cost much more – one of the costs of real security.
Are there differences between commercial and residential safes?
Yes. Home security safes are generally built for only fire resistance or fire and burglary resistance. Commercial safes have many more variations. They can be built for fire resistance, but most are not. Most commercial safes are of steel construction only; they are built to protect against burglary, or they have special features that assist in reducing employee theft. Commercial safes usually have higher security ratings, especially safes which handle large amounts of cash or jewelry.
How much will I need to spend on a home security safe?
Costs will vary depending on the type of safe you select. Basic fire resistant safes are the least expensive, while a fire & burglary safe is most expensive. Often, you get what you pay for: a $150 fire safe from a discount store may give you less than one minute of burglary protection (seriously!). And remember -- if you can carry a light duty safe into your house, a burglar can carry it out! Quality fireproof safes with burglary protection will weigh at least several hundred pounds and will probably cost over $1000. A cheap safe is not likely to protect your valuables from a burglar! Safes with higher fire or security ratings will cost more. A good used safe (we have many in stock) will usually save you money.
What will it cost to move my safe to my new home?
To give a cost estimate on moving a safe you need to provide us with specific information. Before you call, measure the exact height, width and depth dimensions of the safe. Look for the manufacturer's name, model and serial number. What is the approximate age, does it have one door or two, does it have wheels? Where is the safe now, and where is it going? Is it on the main floor, in the basement, or second story? Count how many stairs there are both inside and outside the house. What are the floors and stairs made of? How wide is the staircase, are there turns in the stairs, and how much room is there at the top and bottom of the stairs?
We will not attempt any moves that we feel are unsafe. Moving safes is not inexpensive, but our rates are usually about half the cost of "heavy movers".
I lost the combination to my safe. Can you get it open?
Yes. Sometimes we can get access to the original combination through our various sources. Sometimes we can open it by hand, without drilling. Sometimes we need to drill it open, but our skilled technicians can usually do it in a way that leaves no visible hole. This takes lots of training, experience and special tools; "clean openings" are rarely accomplished by amateurs.
I have been buying silver and gold for investment purposes. What kind of safe should I buy?
With the economic turmoil of the last few years many people have been buying precious metals. If you are putting all or a significant part of your life savings into a safe, you need to invest in quality protection. And plan for the future – gold and silver prices have gone up dramatically in recent years so your investment is worth much more than when you bought it. If you plan to keep $15,000 in metals (or anything else) in your home, you cannot buy a suitable safe at a big box store. (Read that last sentence at least once more.) You should be looking at a TL-15 or TL-30 rated safe. We have many in our store, and most of them are used -- to save you money. You may not need a very large safe, but a high security safe will always be heavy.
Why shouldn’t or can’t a regular locksmith open my locked up safe?
Opening and servicing safes requires special training that ordinary locksmiths do not have. Safe work also requires many specialized (and expensive) tools, a library of information that is not available to most people, and an extensive inventory of safe parts many of which are decades old. A good safe technician also has years of experience to tie it all together.
Does anyone make gun safes to handle “non-traditional” guns like AR’s or Barrett 50 cals?
Yes, there are several options:
- American Security (Amsec) has special AR racks for their BF series safes.
- Amsec also makes the Barrett brand gun safes (which we carry) specifically designed for the big Barrett rifles and AR’s.
- Fort Knox safes can be customized to exactly what you want.
- Pro Steel/Browning makes several models for this type of gun.
- We either carry or can order any of the above safes, and can help guide you to the best safe for your current and future needs.
I heard that electronic locks on gun safes are not reliable. Is this true?
No. Poor quality electronic locks are unreliable! The failure rate of a good e-lock is only slightly higher than that of a mechanical lock. Fort Knox guarantees its electronic locks for the owner’s lifetime, and one of the reasons is because they use a high quality, dependable lock and keypad. In contrast, a Menaards® store here in town sold a very cheap, imported Cannon brand safe on a “Black Friday” special last year. Our shop had to repair or replace five of those locks within the next month. We sell high quality, dependable electronic locks.
Why are some gun safes so much heavier than others?
Quality safes absolutely weigh more. For example, the “standard size” unit is 59” or 60” tall and 28” to 31” wide:
- The cheap (worthless) imports usually weigh 425# to 500#
- Liberty Centurion in that size weighs 440#
- Liberty Franklin is 660#
- Fort Knox Maverick (their lightest unit in that size) is 695#
- American Security’s BF is 980#
- Fort Knox Titan is 1218#
- Graffunder Fortress (the best of the best) is a whopping 3200#.
The difference in weight is the amount of steel and insulation. A 60” by 30” unit that weighs 400# to 500# just doesn’t have enough steel in it to offer much security! Stop in and we will show you safes with real security.
What should I know about gun safe warranties?
You should know that they are not as good as they sound, and many are just plain deceptive! For instance,
- Almost all manufacturers say that if your safe is damaged by fire or is broken into, they will repair it or replace it without cost for the lifetime of the original buyer. When you read the fine print, however, Liberty, Champion, Superior and Heritage make you prove that your homeowner’s insurance won’t cover the damage. These companies will not honor their warranty if they can get your insurance to repair or replace the damaged safe. How much of a deductible did you say you had on your home owners insurance?
- Some companies require the damaged safe to be returned to the factory for repair or replacement, but the owner is responsible for the freight cost both ways.
- Locks are usually excluded from the lifetime warranty. Fort Knox is the only manufacturer we know of that will guarantee electronic and mechanical locks for life. Most companies guarantee electronic locks for one to five years, while mechanical locks are covered from one year to lifetime.
- Coverage for defects in materials and workmanship may be as little as one year, or for life.
- Paint and rust may be guaranteed for as little as two years.
- To our knowledge no company will pay the cost of getting a safe out of your home, getting it palletized and ready for return shipment, or disposing of a damaged safe.
- IMPORTANT: Typically your warranty card must be on file at the factory to file a claim, and some may require your original proof of purchase.
Hoogerhyde assists its customers with warranty issues immediately, since we are a safe service company with experienced, on-sight technicians. Gun shops and big box stores don't have that capability. Recently, a customer who bought a safe elsewhere hired us to open his new safe the day before he left on a Western hunt. The charge should have been covered under warranty, but the owner could not get service arranged in time through the manufacturer.
A gun safe that claims to be U. L. listed must be really good, right?
That depends. Very few gun safes can be considered to be truly fireproof safes. Underwriters Labs have different ratings for different features. Some manufacturers refer to U. L. ratings in misleading ways, so pay close attention to the wording. For instance, a safe could claim to be U.L. listed just for the relocking device. The UL rating may have nothing to do with fire resistance. There is wide variation in the levels of fire resistance, and most gun safes do not have U.L. fire certifications anymore. Hoogerhyde Safe and Lock can help you sort through this confusion so you know the fire protection you’re getting.
While a “Residential Security Container” burglary rating is a good thing, its value is exaggerated by manufacturers as well. For instance, tools allowed during the test are limited to small hand tools, not long pry bars like the type used in the video “Racing to the Bottom.” Want to be certain of getting a really high security gun safe? American Security is probably the only company offering gun safes with U. L. security ratings of TL-15 or TL-30.
A gun safe in a big box store looks like one in your show room. Why does yours cost more?
For manufacturers that sell gun safes to big box stores the primary concern is “how can we make them cheaper?” They can be made cheaper by making the steel thinner, putting in less insulation, putting in cheaper locks, using skip welds instead of full welds and by using inferior boltworks. None of this changes the appearance of a safe. Most customers don’t know what to look for, and store personnel rarely know much about what they are selling. Many people don’t know they purchased an inferior product until they experience a fire or break-in.
Who makes the very best gun safe if cost really is not an issue?
American Security’s RF6528 is the only gun safe on the market with a TL-30 security rating. AMSEC’s HS series with TL-15 rating are almost as good. These are all large and very heavy.