Part II: What You Need To Know About Buying Your First Gun Safe.
As alluded to in the last paragraph, prudent safe owners consider the threat it is intended to thwart in advance. By Gun Shows Today – your #1 source of gun show schedule dates and locations. For instance, a safe to prevent a burglar from stealing its contents may have different construction than one intended to maintain the contents in an intact fashion through a raging fire. In addition, the threat may be the elements themselves, such as with valuable papers or data (e-files).
It does little good to have the documents survive the fire only to be destroyed by water intrusion from secondary flooding from firefighting efforts. In most cases, general purposes safes offer protections against all of these. However, no aspect of life is one size fits all, so advance thought is in order.
A good place to begin your research is with testing standards. The Underwriters Laboratories have standards for safe testing – yes safes are tested (i.e., tortured) to test their mettle. These tests run the gambit, from fire testing (i.e., the inside temperature reached during a certain time), impact (i.e., the safe falls through the floor to floor(s) below), a burglary (i.e., how long it will take someone with certain tools and skills to breach the safe).
The moral to the story; carefully assess the threat, then make the best decision based on contents to be protected and cost you are willing to spend to secure them.
Mechanical or Digital Locking
A safe’s weakest point, at least in terms of failure, is its locking system. While the cross-bolts may vary significantly depending on threat level, this is a more advanced, technical topic. For the average consumer, a matter of more importance is how you get in and close and secure your safe.
Generally, the bolts are opened or closed by a combination mechanical or digital lock securing a lever pushing or pulling these bolts opened or closed, which may be secured by key with mechanical combinations in general (far more advanced topics cover finger print scans and access). A key lock of a combination lock prevents someone from listening to correct combination. Each one has its benefits and detriments.
With a digital lock, so long as you remember the combination, they are very easy and fast to key in your combination and open. And now with the quality of electronics, the failure rate is on-par with mechanical failure of traditional L-R-L mechanical combination lock. However, these electronics are more sensitive to the elements (i.e., humidity and temperature) and power supply, although with regular battery changes, long-life lithium batteries close this gap even more.
With a mechanical combination, it can freeze shut, be thawed and opened and otherwise is not as sensitive to the elements. But every mechanical device is subject to mechanical failure and corrosion. At GST, overall, we are particular fans of digital combination locks. The choice is yours, but know you have a choice.
Mechanical? Digital? You decide.