Gun Safe, Vault Door and Shelter - Safe Room FAQ

You have questions, we have answers. Below is a brief history of safes and vault doors, and a list of some of the most frequently asked questions we receive each year. We specialize in custom solutions for your security requirements.

Have a Question? Call us: 800-299-6929

Some historic perspective on safes, vaults & vault doors.

Safes and vault doors have been used to protect valuables from theft for over two-hundred years, and are fundamentally the same today as they have always been with a few exceptions and upgrades. As long as there have been safes and vaults, there have been people attempting to defeat them in order to reap the rewards concealed within them. Almost as soon as new technologies are developed to secure valuables, someone has figured a way to defeat that technology. Even during World War I and II when some safes were manufactured using sealed vials of poisons and gasses behind the front panels of steel in front of the locks and mechanisms within their doors to stop drilling and cutting attacks, safe crackers learned how to either capture the gasses while cutting or brought gas masks with them so they would not be poisoned or gassed. Essentially, no matter how good a safe or vault is perceived to be, with enough time, proper tools and knowledge, every safe or vault can be defeated. However, when combined with other deterrents and current technologies a safe or vault is the most effective means of protecting valuables, and more recently people from would be thieves, defending against intruder attacks or providing protection against fire, tornado, hurricane or any other natural disaster.

Is a cheap gun safe an option?

The old adage you get what you pay for is very applicable when it comes to gun safes. Think of the valuables you are trying to protect with your safe. Do you really want a cheap gun safe? Cheap safes are usually foreign made and use inferior materials to save on manufacturing cost. A quality gun safe is a lifetime investment. Our safes are not cheap, but they are a very good value and provide added security and features not found on cheap safes. To find out more about the difference between cheap safes and our quality American made safes call us to talk with one of our safe pros.

What makes for a good modern safe or vault door and what should you look for when choosing one?

While everyone's needs are different, there are a few good guidelines that you should consider. First and foremost, size. Make sure you consider the future when choosing a safe. If you are an avid gun collector or have a sizable coin collection, precious metals, jewelry, cameras or documents and are looking for a safe; figure that those collections will grow. Get something larger than what you currently need or risk having to get another one in the near future to accommodate future collectibles and valuables that you need safe keeping for. The same goes for a vault, vault door or shelter. When looking at vault doors, consider the things you are going to be moving thru the door. Furniture, couches, chairs, desks, safes, etc. If you or someone in your family is getting older and maybe wheelchair bound now or in the future, consider ADA regulations and make sure you have at least a 36" clear thru space and that the accessories of the door are at reachable height. If you have children who will need to access the door in case of emergency, make sure your door is simple enough for a five year old to open with minimal effort.

Are American Made Safes Better and Are All Your Safes Made in the U.S.A.

Are American made gun safes better? We think so. It comes down to quality control as well as pride in products made in the USA. Not only are we proud to be an American manufacturer, employing American's in good jobs, we are also proud of the high quality safes, vault doors, and safe room shelters we produce. The images you see on these pages are our products made here in the USA. That is our plant with American workers. Can other safe manufacturers say the same?

Does it cost more to manufacture safes in America? Yes. But it's worth it when we deliver a top quality safe or vault door to one of our many satisfied customers. We use only top quality parts. No cheap locks that will break when most needed. We use American made locks including LA Gard to secure our safes. Be sure to ask any dealer where the safes they are selling are manufactured. Many sell cheap foreign made safes with cheap steel, thin walls and fireproofing that won't hold up to a major structure fire. Call us for more information about our American made safes.

Below are a few other things to consider when deciding on a new safe or vault door. For further information please call to talk with one of our safe, vault door and storm shelter / safe room experts.

Which is better, a Flat Safe or Vault Door or a Step System Safe or Vault Door?

Most of you have witnessed the multi stepped doors used inside your bank or credit union. Still, most safes are created with flat doors that close on only one level against the body and are poorly sealed and easily defeated by simple pry-attacks. Properly built Step System Doors and frames are an effective means of deterring pry-attacks and are also the most effective means of achieving higher fireproof levels when used with proper fireproof materials. Most flat doors have a tendency of warping in fire, even the best of gaskets have trouble providing an adequate seal against smoke and heat damage inside the safe or vault. Step Systems are commonly built using bent steel on the outside edge of doors and layered steel within frames providing strength and a more rigid door that is more resistant to warping in the highest of temperatures and can be sealed using multiple gaskets. Essentially, a properly built stepped door locked against a stepped frame is far superior to a flat door.

What's Better Internal Hinges or Exposed Hinges?

Safes and vault doors that use internal hinges are far better looking than a safe or vault door that uses exposed hinges, but looks don't provide security. First of all, internal hinges usually only allow the doors to open to a 90º angle or straight out from the safe or vault door frame. This makes the space behind the door hard to reach and in some cases completely unusable. In the case of vault doors, internal hinges narrow the usable space thru the door. Many safes and vault doors that use internal hinges don't use locking bolts on the back side of the door making them vulnerable to easier pry attacks and simple one sided frame attacks.

External and exposed hinges are often attacked and in some cases ground completely off the door, with the thinking that without hinges, the back side of the door will pull open. Unfortunately for the would be thief, safes with exposed hinges normally have locking bolts (active or deadbolt) on the hinge side of the door. Attacking external hinges is simply a waste of time. An external hinge allows for the door to swing open to it's full 180º...making the interior of the safe fully usable and accessible.

What makes for good fireproofing?

Steel itself is pretty well fireproof but holds heat and readily allows for heat to penetrate into a safe or vault. While a bare metal safe or vault door can be secure against attack it is only half of what it could be.

Dry-wall is not only inexpensive but provides an adequate level of fire protection inside safes and vaults so long as it is used properly and should include several layers and supported in a way so it does not pull away from walls and collapse into the safe or vault during a fire. At best, dry wall is limited to the temperature it will withstand for a given amount of time before it breaks down.

Concrete makes safes very heavy and is a fantastic fireproofing material but it is my opinion that it should not be used inside a safe or against any bare steel barrier because it is a water based material that will cause corrosion in time, shortening the lifespan of the product.

The best fireproofing I have found to date is Kaowool Ceramic. It is not only a lightweight dry material that provides exceptional fireproof ability well beyond drywall, it doesn't have the corrosive effect and properties of concrete. If properly installed, Ceramic is by far the best available fireproofing.

What Types of Gaskets & Seals are available for Safes & Vault Doors?

  • Foam, basic closure
  • Silicone, water tight (can be high temp)
  • Palusol®, Fire gasket (expands to seal door in heat)
  • EPDM, Chemical resistant
  • NBC, Chemical resistant
  • Knife Edge & Double Knife Edge, EMP (Electro Magnetic Pulse)

What type of Locks should a Safe or Vault Door have?

Rotating Dial Locks (Spy-Proof & Locking Dials), arguably old fashion dial combination locks are still the most reliable all around locks. However, advancements have been made to electronic and digital locks that make them the new standard even to our government and military.

Digital locks are not only fast and simple, but they can have multiple users and combinations that can be changed or added to in order to satisfy the owner or manager of the lock. Most digital locks come with features that make picking almost impossible and will shut down temporarily if attempts are made to pick their combinations. Most rely on an electric source (battery or direct power). Some might argue that Digital Locks are somewhat vulnerable to Electro Magnetic Pulse (EMP) , however their are also Digital-Dial Locks-- that's right, I said Digital Dial Locks that are powered by the user rotating the dial and are protected against EMP.

Biometric or Fingerprint locks are fantastic for families and for children who might need to get into a storm shelter/vault room in seconds. Biometric locks usually hold multiple users and can be used as a Digital Lock as well. For a higher level security, most Biometric Digital Locks can be set up to require both a fingerprint identification and a combination.

Storm Shelters vs. Walk in Vaults...what's the difference?

Most shelters are without fireproofing and will always have an in-swinging door, usually without locking capability. This means that the common shelter is not much good for anything other than personal protection during a storm.

Vaults are usually fireproof and almost always have out-swinging doors. This means that the common vault is great at protecting valuables from fire and theft but not much good as a storm shelter due to the fact that debris piled against the door could lock people inside.

Combination shelter/vault. Fairly new in the marketplace, combination shelter/vaults are usually fireproof and equipped with in-swinging doors that lock but can be internally opened.

What are the Current Trends in Safes, Vaults & Vault Doors?

Most modern safes are created using steel. Exotic metals such as stainless steel, copper, aluminum, etc. are also being used successfully to prevent certain types of attacks such as cutting torches and plasma cutters and can provide a modern look acceptable in just about any setting. Still, the best kept secret and most secure safe or vault is one that no one knows you have. Safes and vault doors are being hidden so creatively that even when in plain sight they are indistinguishable from common everyday items like staircases and bookshelves refrigerators, etc... I have even seen movable concrete walls with running water falls on them that conceal entire rooms, staircases and safes. Stacked stone walls make external doors virtually invisible. Even outdoor and underground vaults can be concealed using the natural camouflage of the environment (trees, bushes, rocks, etc...). With a little creativity, the possibilities of concealment are endless.

We Manufacture American Made:
Safes and Gun Safes, Vault Doors, Tornado and Storm Shelters
Need a custom size and configuration? We can build one to fit your requirements.

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