Everything You Need to Know About Gun Safe Fire Ratings
It is very important that you understand that although a manufacturer claims that their gun safe is fireproof, it may actually not be as fireproof as you would expect. The reason is that many manufacturers will go the extra mile and use cheap-end drywall as a fireproof material to save money.
The truth is that many gun safes on the market today can only offer average fire protection. Therefore, most of the gun safe manufacturers use their own fire rating standards, which give them more flexibility to alter their results to fulfill the customer’s demands for a high-quality fire protection.
Having said that, there are ways to find out how fireproof a gun safe is. It’s not enough to take for granted that a gun safe with a fireproof rating, can withstand fire at all. Therefore, there are other factors that you can look into to ensure the quality of the gun safe.
In this article, you will learn everything that you need to know about gun safe fire ratings. That way, you will be able to make an informed decision whether you are paying for a cheap-end fireproof solution or premium fire protection.
Fireproof Gun Safes
Needless to say, there is no gun safe on the market today that is 100% fireproof. It all depends on the material of the gun safe, but most units will fail at some point if they are constructed from poor material. Moreover, it is hard to compare one fire situation to another because no two are the same. In theory, a poorly constructed gun safe could make it through a serious fire without losing anything from inside, while a thick steel safe may have reached its fire limit. Therefore, the most important factor to look into is the way the gun safe is constructed to withstand fire.
Fire Ratings vs. Fire
The main reason why it is so hard to state how much protection a gun safe will provide lies in the fire it is exposed to. Like mentioned above, there are many different factors to consider whether you are examining biometric gun safes or fire ratings. Therefore, the key point to make here is to understand the importance of standardized fire ratings.
That way, we can clearly analyze independent examinations that were developed to replicate the worst case scenarios in order to provide you with detailed information about the durability, regardless of fire type. These fire information are based on standard ratings named UL.
UL Fire Ratings
UL-72 stands for Underwriters Laboratories, and this is the standardized examination that evaluates the fire resistance and protection of gun safes. The UL72 is divided into three classes based on what you intend to protect.
- First UL rating is called class 350 which state that the inside must withstand up to 350°F and was designed to protect material like paper.
- Second rating is called class 150 and states that the inside temperature must be below 150°F. Class 150 was designed to protect paper and other non-paper records (computer disks and photos etc.)
- The third UL rating is called class 125 and was designed to protect everything mentioned above, along with flexible computer disks. The inside of the safe must stay below 150°F
These class ratings are approved for various time periods, and these timings can range from as low as 30 minutes and up to 4 hours. However, these time ratings do not reflect the time it took to test the safe for fire because a UL rating test can last up to 100 hours or more.
Types of UL72 Tests
Below are the 4 main types of UL72 tests;
First is a Fire Endurance Test that is a basic fire protection test.
Then there is a Fire and Impact Test that was developed to analyze how impact affects the gun safe. In other words, the safe is dropped from 30 feet to replicate a 3rd-floor drop in serious fire conditions. Have in mind here that to maximize the fire protection, it is important to test impact resistance.
Explosion Hazard Test is another important element of the fire test examination. This test was designed to make sure that the gun safe will not explode when exposed to fire for a long time. To ensure safety, it is important that the pressure inside the safe will not build up because of heat and then later explode.
To maximize the durability against fire exposure, a combined explosion and impact test is required to receive the UL72 rating stamp.
Fire Safe Construction
It is quite expensive for manufacturers to perform fire tests and that is the main reason why the testing procedures have not changed for the last years. The big sharks on the market that advertise them self as a quality, fireproof solutions for gun storage, use only premium construction materials. That is to say, they use heavily welded interior and exterior steel covers that come with industry grade concrete amalgamated fire-proofing in the middle.
During sculpturing, the safe is placed on a shaking table that eliminates any air bubbles. Then the unit is left in the oven and afterward, placed to harden. Once the safe is solidified, there is no need for additional steel support as the fireproof is used as a weight support for the whole unit. If further support is welded inside the safe, and there will be a fire, the steel supports will absorb the heat from the outside and significantly heat up the interior of the safe.
To maximize the protection and durability, manufacturers add many additional ingredients into the cement to make the whole construction design denser. The process can involve adding aggregate blends, vermiculite, volcanic rocks, fiberglass, perlite and many other materials that boost the potency of the concrete.
All these materials serve their purpose as a heat absorption solution and once blended with concrete; they will minimize heat transmission. However, in this case, a weaker heat transmission means weaker concrete mixture.
A gun safe is not built in the same way as other safes. Moreover, gun safes follow different fireproof regulations when compared to other types of safes. Having said that, it is very important that you familiarize yourself with the fireproofing construction procedure to understand if the gun safe will match your demands.
Drywall Fire Protection
The gypsum drywall is a fireproof that nearly all gun safes use today. This fire protection solution is often used to minimize the spread of fire. For instance, if you want to build a garage to your house, building regulations require you to use double layers of 5/8 inch (or thicker) drywall that separates your house from the garage.
Is there any Risk of Drywall material?
Once the manufacturing process is done, there could be some chemicals left in the drywall and especially if they are made in China. Many studies conclude that the amounts of chemicals in drywalls made in China are significantly higher than with drywalls made in the USA or Europe due to lack of regulations in Asia.
It can be tricky to find out if your gun safe was made in China or not, because some manufacturers use Chinese material to construct and assemble the safe in the USA. However, these problems are more common on cheap and low-quality gun safes. Having said that, it is important that you purchase a gun safe from a reputable manufacturer that is committed to developing a fireproof gun safe.
Drywall as a Fire Protection
Using a drywall as a fireproofing solution can be very efficient, but it depends on how it is used. Moreover, it all boils down to the manufacturer if the drywall method works or not. The reality is that high-quality gun safes also mix different materials to the concrete mix to maximize its protection. However, many of the low-end gun safes are not built to withstand any fire exposure at all.
To begin with, a poorly constructed gun safe will not stand up against fire in the same way as a high-end gun safe will. Drywall is not the best solution against fire because generally speaking, drywall is just a gypsum and paper mixed and once exposed to fire, it will destroy easily.
Therefore, the best option is a steel constructed inner shell that can maximize fireproofing. The major benefit of steel shells is that it will hold the safe together even though the concrete materials crumble. However, steel is not a cheap metal and to save money on production; a drywall tends to be the main material in budget gun safes. It is essential that you check if your desired gun safe includes a drywall or steel inner shells. Some manufacturers even put additional steel layer for even more protection.
Although the drywall technology in gun safes is improving, for example by adding gypsum with fiberglass, it will never come close to the results of having steel shells. If the gypsum falls apart, the fiberglass is designed to hold the construction intact.
In conclusion, gun safe producers are free to use their own fire proof regulations, and therefore they can easily mislead the consumer by stamping their product as a fire resistant based on their own criteria that they create them self. Not every gun safe maker is in the market to mislead the consumer because there are others that send their units to an independent and reputable third party tester to make sure that the safe can withstand fire.
For the most part, gun safe manufacturers that have been in the business for a long time take pride in their products. Also, their reputation and reviews speaks for them self. However, the reality is that there is no gun safe on the market today that is 100% fire, flood or burglar proof. Moreover, with today’s technology, any safe can be pried open if the intention and tools are there.