We’re going to be answering a whole host of questions on gun safes and fire safety ratings, as well as informing you on everything you need to know that are frequently asked, but not necessarily frequently known, questions.
Gun Safes, like regular safes, are fire rated based on how they perform during a series of tests. This set of standards is called the UL-72 standard, and was created by Underwriting Laboratories.
Safes are exposed to fire, an explosion while exposed to fire, and then a 30ft fall while exposed to fire. How the safe performs, and for how long will determine the fire rating the safe achieves.
When safes are tested, they’re put through their paces in a rigorous fashion, including temperatures of between 1550-2000Deg Fahrenheit.
They’re also exposed to extremely high temperatures and then an explosion, and also a simulated collapse of a building to see what it can survive. It definitely seems like a fun job testing these safes.
What is UL-72?
Underwriting Laboratories devised different testing standards for safes, and they named the standard UL-72. There are three different classes that the UL-72 covers:
- 350 Standard – This standard of testing requires the safe’s interior to remain under 350Deg Fahrenheit, the temperature at which paper starts to smolder and burn. This type of safe is designed to protect paper and nothing else. This is the lower end of the scale and given that a lot of smaller calibre ammunition, even factory made, will ignite at temperatures as low as 275Deg Fahrenheit you won’t want a gun safe tested to UL-72 350 Standard.
- 150 Standard – A more rigorous standard of testing, the 150 Standard is only achieved by a safe that can, after being exposed to temperatures of between 1550-2000Deg Fahrenheit, keep its interior below 150Deg Fahrenheit and below 85% humidity. Although initially used to protect both documents and non-paper data records, it’s a much safer bet than the 350 Standard for gun safes.
- 125 Standard – During the heating period where once again the test subject (safe) is exposed to 1550-2000Deg Fahrenheit, safes need to keep their contents below 130Deg Fahrenheit. They also need to stay below 80% humidity during fire testing, as these safes are designed to keep even floppy disks safe during a fire. This is the premium standard and any gun safe you want to buy should ideally have this fire rating.
Alongside their standard, depending on how well they perform, they’re also given a time rating. This is how long the manufacturer of a safe can guarantee the fire protection. Unfortunately no gun safe can keep its contents safe indefinitely during a fire.
This time rating is usually between 30 minutes and a few hours. Before buying a gun safe check both the standard and time rating, and if the information you’re looking for isn’t readily available, contact the seller.
A lot of the time when fire ratings are missing it’s usually an oversight or they didn’t think the information pertinent. That’s because it’s not their house that can be damaged further by ammunition igniting.
How Are Gun Safes Tested?
When it comes to being tested to the UL-72 standard, whether the safe is for documents or for guns, it’s getting the same tests. We’re going to cover the 3 different types of test that all types of safe get put through before they’re awarded a UL-72 standard rating:
- Fire exposure – The first test that any fireproof safe is put through is essentially to be put in the furnace and exposed to the same temperatures you’d expect of the average property fire, between 1550-200Deg Fahrenheit. Then, as discussed above, the safe will receive a UL-72 Standard. That is, if it performs well enough to be awarded one.
- Explosion Test – The second part of the test involves an explosion. This is because originally, before the invention of fireproof gun safes, there was the use of safes to protect records. That’s where the original standards came from in the first place.
- Fall Test – While being exposed to the heat of the fire, safes are dropped 30ft to simulate the internal collapse of a building, leaving the safe with a big fall. This will test to see how the safe protects the contents inside.
If you want to read the full UL-72 standards, they can be found here. In some cases if you have the money for it, then getting a regular safe that has the dimensions needed to be reconfigured by an engineering firm, you could have not only a conversation piece, but also an absolute best way of storing your guns.
If you’re curious, it could be worth talking to a couple of engineering firms before you buy a safe to reconfigure. Engineering firms will be able to give you a quote on the dimensions you need.
Are Fireproof Gun Safes Worth It?
In a word, yes. If you have sentimental guns in your safe, you’re going to want to do whatever you can to protect them. Unfortunately disasters can strike at any time, which can leave you waiting for the fire department to clear the building before you can go back in and assess the damage.
Although insurance can replace the guns for the most part, they can’t replace the sentimental value.
As a matter of fact, think of getting a fireproof gun safe as a form of insurance. When a fire happens, you’ll have less to worry about with a fireproof gun safe for a couple of reasons:
- Sentimental Protection – We all have our favourites, or hunting weapons that we’ve gotten meals with, which are worth more to us than simply the monetary value of the weapon. That can’t be replaced.
- Modification Replacements – If your firearms are severely damaged in a fire, you’re going to wish you didn’t have any attachments or modifications, especially custom ones. The reason for this is that insurance are unlikely to pay-out for the attachments/modifications, meaning you’ll have to start from scratch.
- Ammunition Ignition – If you’ve got a regular gun safe and a fire breaks out, you’ll be in trouble if you’ve got a few hundred rounds in that safe. Some smaller calibre factory made ammunition will ignite at 275Deg Fahrenheit or higher. With a fireproof gun safe, especially a good one, that’s less likely to happen. It’s worth avoiding if you can, as ammunition may not be able to launch a lethal bullet when ignited outside of a firearm, but a lot of ammo in one place can cause a big explosion causing more damage to your house.
What Can I Do To Protect My Fireproof Gun Safe?
We’ve talked about how a gun safe can protect your guns that can carry a great deal of both sentimental and monetary value, but now we’re going to look at how best to keep your fireproof gun safe as protected as possible:
- Location – Where you place your fireproof gun safe matters. Avoid placing it in a kitchen, or anywhere in the centre of the house. If you place it closer to an exit, then those guns are less likely to be caught in a fire in the first place. Just because it’s fireproof doesn’t mean we want to subject it to fire.
- Floors and Walls – It’s worth noting that if you want your gun safe on the ground floor, mounting it like a floor safe will protect your gun safe, even when there’s a fire. This is because the floor will be hot during the fire, but not as hot as the actual fire. Therefore minimising the gun safes exposure to flames will help protect your guns. The same principal applies for brick walls, but not so much when it comes to drywall.
- Avoid Fires in the First Place – The main thing is to ensure you practice as much fire safety protocols as possible. Some prime advice is to stash extinguishers throughout the house to gain an even coverage. The best way to protect your guns from fire is to avoid starting one in the first place.
When it comes time to buy a fireproof gun safe, keep in mind the testing standards shared above, and if in doubt ask the vendor selling the gun safes about fire ratings.
Lastly, make sure to best protect your guns you try to avoid fires at all costs and have extinguishers around.