Understanding Gun Safe Fire Ratings

A typical gun safe

If you are looking to purchase a gun safe, invest enough time and effort to do your research. There is not only the threat of theft, but you also need to look for an option that is fire resistant. This will help protect your guns and other ammunitions from being damaged in case of fire. Often buyers overlook this perspective when making their purchase decision.

Many manufacturers claim their gun safes to be fireproof, but mostly they use cheap-end drywalls as fireproof material to save their cost. Many of them use their own fire-ratings and make false claims to mislead customers. If you lack knowledge about the product you are willing to buy, sellers can easily fool you. You can use this article as a guide to understanding what fire ratings mean and identify factors you must look into to avoid being deceived by the manufacturers.

Fire Ratings – UL-72

Before we look into the technicalities of fire ratings, we need to understand that no gun-safe is 100% fireproof, and no two fire situations are identical.  A low-quality fire safe may survive serious fire, but a safe made of thick steel may reach its limit. Therefore one must also see the way a safe is constructed for withstanding fire.

Nonetheless, let’s begin with understanding the UL-72 fire ratings.

UL stands for Underwriters Laboratories, a standardized examination for evaluating fire-resistance of gun safes. There are three classes of UL-72 rating:

1. Class 350

Inside of the safe must withstand up to 350 degrees to protect materials like paper.

2. Class 150

The inside temperature must be below 150 degrees. This type of safe is used for protecting paper and other non-paper material, such as photos and computer disks.

3. Class 125

The inside temperature must not be more than 125 degrees. This type of safe is used to protecteverything mentioned above and flexible computer disks.

Each of these classes hasdifferent time duration, ranging from 30 minutes to 4 hours, but this does not reflect the actual length of the test, as it can be up to 100 hours.

UL-72 Tests

The first test is the Fire Endurance Test, carried out to see the fire impact by placing the safe in the oven and carefully monitoring the inside temperature. Once the oven reaches the final temperature, it is then shut off. Contents in the safe are then examined to see their condition. A year later, this test should be repeated using a sample safe from production for retesting it. To keep the UL label, the manufacturer must pass this retest.

Next is the Fire and Impact Test, conducted to examine the impact on the safe when it is dropped from 30 feet, in a serious fire condition. It is done to replicate a drop from the 3rd floor in case of a fire eruption. To ensure maximum fire protection, it is essential to test fire-impact resistance.

The third test is the Explosion Hazard Test. It ensures that the safe will not explode when exposed to fire. For a gun safe to be fire safe, it is crucial to make sure that it does not explode with pressure built inside it during/or after the fire.

A final test of a combination of explosion and impact is done to get a UL-72 rating.

Now that you got an idea of the rating let’s forward and talk about its construction process and materials used to keep the safe fireproof.

Construction of a Fire Safe

A fireproof gun safe is constructed using premium materials. The big sharks in the market use interior and exterior heavily-welded steel cover and come with industry grade concrete that includes fireproofing in the middle. Manufacturers use other additional materials and add them into the cement, such as volcanic rocks, perlite, vermiculite, and fiberglass, to make a heat absorption solution. Blending these ingredients with concrete can help minimize heat transmission.

Use of Gypsum

When buying a fireproof gun safe, you must look for the amount of gypsum used in it. It is a material used in gun safes, which is when heated to 262°F, releases a water vapor through which the safe’s interior is cooled down.

The gun safe will remain cool for a longer period depending on the amount of gypsum used. Safes with a greater amount of gypsum will have a higher rating. But beware of the gypsum drywall used by Chinese manufacturers, which is found to have high levels of pyrite that give off hydrogen sulfide, carbonyl sulfide, and carbon disulfide in a humid environment. These gases react with corrode metals such as copper and silver, and it is difficult to ascertain the risk of damage from these chemicals to the guns.

Many gun safes are manufactured in the USA, but they use drywalls produced in China. Therefore, you must not fall prey to such companies.

The Thickness of Steel Doors

The thickness of steel doors is also an important factor in determining the durability of a fire-resistant gun safe. Metal can become distorted because of heat; particularly, thin, lightweight doors will ruin quickly if the temperature rises above 1000°, causing premature fire seal failure. Companies using the thickest steel will have higher fire-rating.

Safe Door Seal

A gun safe door with an intumescent fire seal is considered excellent, as it allows the seal to expand in extreme heat. When the temperature rises to 300°, the door seal can expand up to 10 times and seals out heat, protecting the valuables in the safe. Some manufacturers use a double and triple seal to ensure that the contents in the safe remain in usable condition even after an hour of fire. It is also useful to seal out moisture in humid conditions, especially saving the guns from rusting.

A good door seal is essential in fire because if smoke reaches inside the safe, it can combine with moisture to create acid rain, damaging the gun’s finishing. Even if manufacturers have a good fire rating, poor door seals can destroy the contents of the safe during a fire.

Top Brands

Many manufacturers claiming to be certified have their own testing procedures or may hire an independent testing company for it. However, the only reliable testing laboratory is the “Intertek ETL” with an accredited testing facility. Do not get attracted to exaggerated claims made by manufacturers to be fireproof. Some may even use heat resistance measurement for their larger models that are applicable for small, very small models.

In addition to that, they may also apply heat sensors only on the bottom area and not on the upper area, hence distorting the final figure of fire resistance. Some pioneers in the gun safe manufacturing industry with fire resistance facilities are Canon Safe, Kodiak, and Old Glory.

You may check their products to get an idea for doing a further survey of other brands.

Final Verdict

According to your unique needs, you can choose the type of safe you want. But, do not forget to keep in mind the ratings and other features discussed above to have better knowledge. This can also help you from being deceived by the manufacturers.

They find it easier to take advantage of ill-informed customers. Gun safes are being sold at chain stores, where salespersons have almost zero knowledge about the safes. To find high-quality gun safes, you should visit a true safe dealer having expertise in safes. They can help you differentiate between durable gun-safes and those that are look-a-likes.