Best Home Safes for Valuables and Guns
Home, Portable and Firearms Safes – Tips and Reviews of the Best
While no one likes to think that events like break-ins, fires and floods might happen to them, the truth is that these things can happen to anybody. Most people arm their homes with door locks, window locks, and fire, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors as a way to forestall these disasters; so it makes sense to add a fireproof safe that can protect hard-to-replace documents, currency and large and small valuables in case of fire or flood. The general rule when buying a safe is to get the largest safe you expect to be able to fill — that way, you won’t have to invest in a second safe in the future. Image above – SentrySafe SFW123DEB
If you have guns, a safe designed specifically for handguns or long guns like rifles and shotguns will not only protect your weapons from fire, water damage and theft, it will keep them safely out of the hands of small children or unauthorized adults.
It may be tempting to head straight for the cheapest safes — but if there was ever a time to invest in quality, this is it. However, price is not always an indicator of quality either, and there are plenty of reports of pricey or even custom-made safes that owners felt seemed cheap or tended to collect condensation in spite of their cost. Regardless of price point, look for home safes that are rated by Underwriters Laboratory (using the UL mark) or Intertek (using the ETL mark). Testing from these third-party companies gives you an honest gauge of just how much fire or flooding the safe can withstand, and how well it will hold up against break-in attempts.
Fireproof Home Safes
Although they sometimes come with theft-deterrent features like relockers and pry-resistant hinges, a fireproof home safe’s primary focus is exactly what the name suggests: Defending the contents against a house fire. Most fireproof safes use either moisture-rich insulation or concrete amalgamate to do this, paired with doors that seal shut in a fire for extra protection. Many larger safes also come with a range of interior organizers, and some are waterproof against flooding or the firefighter’s hose.
What to Put in Your Home Safe
A home safe gives you 24/7 access to documents you might need from time to time without requiring a trip to your bank’s safe-deposit vault.
|Document||How long to keep|
|Birth and death certificates||Forever.|
|Estate-planning documents||Forever. (Unless your executor knows how to get into your safe, also make sure he or she and your lawyer have copies.)|
|Life-insurance policies||Until the term of coverage ends.|
|Savings bonds||Until you cash them in at maturity (30 years in the case of Series EE bonds).|
|Stock certificates||Until you sell the stock or have it converted to direct or street-name registration.|
|Tax returns||At least seven years.|
For those who just want a layer of extra protection for difficult-to-replace documents such as social security cards, birth certificates or other small items, these highly affordable safes will probably do the trick. Most are fireproof and can be moved fairly easily; some are waterproof, too. Although these small boxes aren’t the best deterrent against theft because a burglar can just carry them off, many people choose portable safes primarily for their fire and water protection, then hide them so a thief cannot easily find them.
Gun safes employ the similar security features to home safes, although gun safes are often designed for quick access in case you need the gun for self-defense. Second, although the federal government doesn’t require you to lock your firearms up, some states do; and some states levy penalties or criminal charges for allowing children access to firearms. Always check your local laws regarding firearm storage.
Best Home Safe Recommendations
Best Fireproof Home Safe: The SentrySafe SFW123DSB
Of all the safes evaluated, the SentrySafe SFW123DSB offers the best combination of fire and flood protection at a reasonable price. It’s UL-rated for up to an hour in 1700-degree fire and against exploding or rupturing in a flash fire. This safe is also ETL-verified for impact resistance during a fire and flood resistance for 24 hours in 8 inches of water. This SentrySafe is a top choice for protecting USB drives, CDs, DVDs and portable hard drives.
The SFW123DSB offers fire and water protection at a good value, plus a few effective anti-theft measures. It’s UL-classified to survive up to one hour in a 1,700 degree fire, and also UL-tested not to explode or rupture when exposed to a flash fire in a 2,000 degree furnace for 30 minutes.
The SentrySafe SFW123DSB home safe is ETL verified for 15 feet of impact resistance in a fire (important because this simulates the performance of a super-heated safe that may fall through a floor or have a beam fall on it). With a guarantee that the interior won’t exceed 350 degrees, the SFW123DSB is also certified for protection of USB drives, CDs, DVDs and portable hard drives for up to an hour. However, it can’t protect photo negatives or floppy disks in a fire because they’re susceptible to heat damage at lower temperatures than some other media. Some prospective buyers misconstrue this to mean that you can’t store any electronics or media at all, but, in fact, it will effectively protect the above listed items. You also shouldn’t store pearls in this safe, because they sustain damage at relatively low temperatures.
The SentrySafe SFW123DSB is also flood-proof to a certain degree, with ETL-verified water-resistance for up to 24 hours in up to 8 inches of water. That waterproofing goes away, however, if you drill into the safe to mount it to the floor as a theft deterrent (the bolt-down kit is included).
That’s an impressive selection of disaster-proofing at a great price, and the SFW123DSB has a few anti-theft measures built in as well, including the pre-marked bolt holes and bolt-down kit, steel construction and pry-resistant hinges. However, the manufacturer doesn’t disclose how thick the steel is, and it’s likely that much of this safe’s 90-pound weight is due to the heavy, moist fire-resistant insulation, not steel; so it’s best to think of this as a disaster-proof safe rather than a theft-proof safe. Many home users take the extra step of hiding the safe in a closet to make it a less obvious target for would-be thieves.
Although the SentrySafe SFW123DSB represents a good value in disaster-proofing, there are a few quirks you should be aware of. Users are sometimes surprised to see that both the safe handle and the outer dial on the combination lock are made of plastic and feel a little flimsy. These cosmetic parts don’t have anything to do with actually locking the safe — but you do need them to open it.
Also, SentrySafe’s proprietary fireproof insulation, combined with the airtight/waterproof seal on the safe, produces quite a lot of condensation inside. Leave the desiccant package that comes with the safe inside, and consider adding more; and if you store electronics, watches, jewelry, photos or firearms in the this safe, they should be put into airtight containers first, to protect them from the condensation. SentrySafe offers a fire protection program that will replace up to $50,000 worth of belongings if they’re lost to a fire while in the safe — but you do have to enroll first. They’ll also send you a replacement safe if the one you bought is damaged in a fire.
Many users like the backup key lock on this safe, which can be used to provide extra security to the sometimes-fiddly combination lock. Note that it’s not an override key that can open the safe if you forget the combination; it’s just an extra layer of security. Also, you can’t set your own combination — you’re stuck with whatever the factory issued.
This line of safes has an interior capacity of 1.23 cubic feet, and users are sometimes surprised by how small the interior is, thanks to the thick fireproof walls. The interior measures 13.8 inches by 12.6 inches by 11.9 inches, or just large enough to hold tabbed file folders. There’s a door pocket and key rack for quick access to small items, and one adjustable interior shelf tray that users say seems a little flimsy, so only use it for light items.
Most of the varied model numbers on this line of safes simply designate different lock types or interior configurations. For example, the SentrySafe SFW123DEB is essentially the same safe with a shelf instead of a tray and the addition of a locking inner tray/top-access drawer, which can also act as an additional shelf. You can also purchase extra trays, shelves and drawers for any of these safes separately.
One quick note: If you do purchase any version of the SentrySafe SFW123, inspect it for dents and other damage before accepting delivery. The construction is sturdy enough that you might not notice dents at first, and many users say that once they’re stuck with a dented safe, it’s not worth the effort to return it.
Best Portable Firesproof Safe –
In the portable fire safe category, the SentrySafe 1200 fire-safe chest draws excellent reviews for its UL-rated 30 minutes of protection in fires of up to 1550 degrees. It’s also ETL verified for keeping internal temperatures low enough to protect USB drives, CDs, DVDs and portable hard drives.
The SentrySafe 1200 is small enough to hide discreetly away or pick up and run with during an emergency, but, at 3.5 by 12 by 7.5 inches, it’s not exactly spacious.
This fire-safe chest draws the best reviews for being able to stand up to a fire. It’s UL classified to survive up to half an hour in fire temperatures of up to 1,550 degrees Fahrenheit, and ETL verified for keeping internal temperatures low enough to protect USB drives, CDs, DVDs and portable hard drives. It’s also an excellent value.
This is one of the few products where there is an owner review from someone who had it in a fire. That user writes that although the box itself was “neatly seared” after what the fire marshal estimated as 10 to 15 minutes of exposure, everything inside the box survived just fine. However, If this box is in a fire, it seals itself shut and will have to be pried open; SentrySafe will send you another fire chest to replace the old one.
Not For Burglary Protection
One place the SentrySafe 1200 does not excel is burglary protection, but that’s not what it’s designed for; after all, it’s deliberately built small enough that you can pick it up and run in case of a house fire. We also found a few scattered complaints about durability for the key-lock mechanism, but users say SentrySafe’s customer service did a good job of replacing defective products.
Owners are sometimes surprised by just how small this fire-safe box is. The interior capacity is just .18 cubic feet, or 3.5 inches by 12 inches by 7.5 inches, so it’s long enough but not quite wide enough to lay a letter-size piece of paper flat. Most people use this 13.3-pound box for storing small but important documents — like birth certificates, social security cards and passports — and sometimes even for securing prescription medication, although there’s no rating to say whether it can protect meds through a fire. A similar lock chest is also available, the .17 cubic foot the SentrySafe H0100, that is ETL-verified for water submersion in case of a flood.
If you want a larger fireproof box, consider the SentrySafe FHW40100 large file safe, which is UL-classified for fire endurance for up to half an hour at 1,550 degrees. It’s also ETL-verified for a half-hour of fire protection for digital media, UL-classified against explosion hazards, and ETL-verified for water submersion in case of a flood or water from fire-fighting efforts.
The biggest thing to be aware of with the SentrySafe FHW40100 file box is that its fireproof insulation has a high moisture content, which is part of what makes the safe so heavy. Although this offers excellent fireproofing, users are sometimes dismayed to see that the manufacturer recommends against storing anything that might be damaged by that moisture — including firearms, stamps, photos, watches and other jewelry with moving parts — inside the safe. Some readers store these items anyway, placing them in airtight plastic bags — often with a desiccant inside — to protect against that moisture.
With an interior capacity of .66 cubic feet, users say the fireproof and waterproof SentrySafe FHW40100 file box is large enough to hold several dozen full letter-size file folders (hanging or non-hanging) or four reams of paper, and it has a pair of straps in the lid to help secure smaller items. It comes with built-in carry handles on the side and isn’t meant to be bolted down — so technically it’s still portable — but at more than 40 pounds while empty, you probably won’t be moving it around much. Owners are sometimes surprised by how thick the safe’s walls are: Its interior dimensions are just 11.6 inches by 12 inches by 8.1 inches.
The SentrySafe FHW40100 comes with a flat key. If you prefer, you can buy the same fireproof, waterproof portable safe with a tubular locking mechanism — the SentrySafe FHW40220. The FHW40220 also has an in-lid organizer for small items, but draws a few complaints about its plastic handle breaking — something that should definitely be treated with care, given this fireproof box’s weight.
Best Handgun Safe: The GunVault SV500
Both owner and expert reviewers love the GunVault SpeedVault SV500’s balance of security and quick, one-handed access with either hand. When you key in your pre-programmed access code, the bottom of the vault drops open to give immediate access. The GunVault’s 18-gauge steel isn’t going to keep a determined burglar out, but it’s still a solid deterrent, and it works great for securing your handgun from nosey adults or inquisitive children. The GunVault comes in a biometric version as well.
Quick access is why so many reviewers recommend the GunVault SpeedVault SV500. Its 18-gauge steel and keypad lock won’t keep a determined burglar out, but it offers reliable everyday security while keeping your firearm close and accessible.
When you tap in your personal combination on the four-button keypad, the bottom of the GunVault SpeedVault SV500 drops open, giving you instant access to your firearm. There’s also a small light to illuminate the vault’s interior. The SpeedVault can be mounted for right- or left-hand access, and it’s approved by the California Department of Justice. If the keypad stops working or the 9-volt battery gives out, a back-up key will still open the vault. There’s an audio and light-up warning to let you know when the battery is nearing the end of its life.
With the GunVault SpeedVault SV500 you can program your own three- to six-entry access code, even pressing more than one button at once as an “entry” in the code — which makes for more than 12 million potential combinations in all. Users generally love how well this unit works, although they do say the keypad is a little touchy if you try to key in your code too quickly, and some wish it didn’t make an audible “clunk” when opening, although they also say that’s not a deal-breaker. Speaking of sound, the GunVault also defaults to beeping when you key in your code, but there is an option to silence the keypad. If you think someone has tried to access the SpeedVault without your permission you can activate the tamper detect feature, which will illuminate a red light if someone has keyed in an invalid access code, or a green light if no invalid codes were entered.
Owners say the GunVault SpeedVault SV500 is easy to mount, although several are frustrated by the tiny installation screws that come with it; you may want to consider using longer screws and securing the vault to something that can’t be easily carried off or ripped apart.
It’s also available in a biometric version, the GunVault SpeedVault Biometric SVB500, although user feedback on that model’s fingerprint scanner is mixed. Both the biometric and keypad versions come with an override key to immediately open the vault in case the other mechanism fails.
Best Biometric Handgun Safe: The SentrySafe QAP1BE
The SentrySafe QAP1BE is one of the best biometric gun safes on the market. It’s small enough to stick in a drawer but offers quick access to your handgun, draws plenty of praise for being sturdily built, and can be bolted in place as an additional theft deterrent. The biometric fingerprint reader is the SentrySafe QAP1BE’s best feature, reading multiple fingerprints and working almost flawlessly for quick access. There’s a keypad and key lock backup as well.
This 12-pound steel box can hold one J & K size resolver or a full-size semi-automatic handgun. You can also mount it in place to make it a better theft-deterrent but, again, its strength is keeping children and inquisitive adults away from your firearm while still allowing quick access when you need it.
The SentrySafe QAP1BE has a pry-resistant steel door, a foam interior to protect your handgun, and easy one-handed access: Just tap the fingerprint scanner to “wake it up,” then press your finger to the biometric scanner for one second and it’ll pop right open. You can program multiple fingerprints for access to this safe, allowing more than one person access with either hand or, say, with a different finger in case one is bandaged. A compression gas strut lifts the lid for quick, quiet access to your firearm, although users say it’s not completely silent: You’ll hear a sound variously described as a thud, thunk or click.
Most users say the biometric reader works very well once it’s programmed, even if you have unusually rough or worn fingertips; however, if you put your finger on the scanner at an angle, it might take several tries to get a good reading, and access can take a couple of seconds. You can also use the keypad entry or backup key lock to get in. The QAP1BE can only be mounted horizontally. It’s not meant to be mounted on vertical services, because there’s no lip to hold the handgun in place once the safe is open.
While SentrySafe doesn’t disclose the thickness of its steel casing, the QAP1BE draws a lot of praise from users for being thick and heavy. The SentrySafe QAP1BE runs off four AA batteries, and has an indicator to let you know when battery life is running low. If you would rather skip the biometric scanner and go for a key-operated version, it’s available with a keyed lock or electronic lock, or in a two-pistol version.
Best Long Gun Safe: The AMSEC BF6032
Protecting your valuable guns from damage or theft should be a top priority, and for that you need the AMSEC BF6032. It stores up to 20 guns, is ETL-verified for two hours of fire protection at 1200 degrees, and it’s UL-rated for resisting up to five minutes of sustained attack protection with typical tools. At 913 pounds, no one’s running off with the AMSEC BF6032, either. It’s pricier than some, but most say it’s well worth it.
The BF6032 is the smallest in a series of residential gun safes that is built using the same techniques and material that you’ll find in many commercial safes.
Not all of AMSEC’s safes are built in the USA, but the AMSEC BF6032 and the larger safes in its line (the BF6030, BF6636, BF7240 and BF7250) are. The AMSEC BF6032 has a 1/2-inch plate steel door and 2-inch walls, the latter a combination of AMSEC’s proprietary poured DryLight fireproofing insulation and two layers of steel.
The DryLight insulation is a concrete amalgamate that, unlike the moist fireproofing material used in SentrySafe’s fireproof safes, doesn’t generate condensation inside the safe.
Thanks to that DryLight insulation, the AMSEC BF6032 is ETL verified to provide two hours of fire protection at 1,200 degrees, with the interior temperature staying lower than 350 degrees; it’s also UL-rated as a residential security container (RSC), which meets California DOJ standards and means that it can resist up to five minutes of consistent attack with typical household tools including pry bars, hammers, chisels, a handheld drill and screwdrivers. This safe has a UL-listed Group II lock with hard plate and two relockers, and is covered with a lifetime warranty against theft and fire.
Stores up to 20 Guns
The AMSEC BF6032 can store up to 20 guns — although depending on how you configure the interior storage, that capacity may be reduced — and weighs a hefty 913 pounds. That weight in itself is a theft deterrent; nobody is going to just pick this safe up and run off with it, and users are generally very happy with its build quality. “This safe is like a piece of fine furniture. I wish I could put [it] out in my living room,” writes one.
The end result is a sturdy safe that is well-made enough to draw high praise from Capra, who also points out that the AMSEC safe’s Palusol intumescent door seal is the industry standard for fire protection.
The AMSEC BF6032 represents a hefty investment, but it’s one of the best ways to protect another investment you’ve already made — those valuable weapons — and of course it’ll keep your guns safely away from inquisitive children or adults as well.
Best Inexpensive Gun Safe:
If the AMSEC or other high-end gun safes are a bit above your price range, reviewers suggest taking a look at the Stack-On 14-gun safe FS-14-MB-E. Fire-resistant up to 1400 degrees for 30 minutes, it also will do a good job of discouraging thieves and keeping young children (or unauthorized adults) from accessing your guns. The FS-14-MB-E is also versatile, with adjustable shelving if you prefer to use it just for general storage.
The Stack-On is more widely available at retail than the AMSEC, is fire resistant up to 1,400 degrees for 30 minutes, and conforms to California DOJ standards.
Stores up to 14 Guns
This safe can store up to 14 guns depending upon the type and configuration, although things get a little tight if you’re storing them with scopes or light attachments.
The FS-14-MB-E isn’t quite as theft-resistant as pricier models, but owners say it seems as if it would be plenty hard to break into; and at 290 pounds and 55 inches tall, no one’s going to pick it up and haul it off by hand.
The interior features four adjustable shelves that make it versatile enough to use for any of your valuables. However, the manufacturer does not recommend storing CDs, DVDs, photographic negatives or other delicate storage media in this safe.
There are a couple other quirks to the Stack-On FS-14-MB-E safe that you should be aware of: lots of owner comments that the carpet install isn’t so great, and there are sporadic complaints that the electronic lock goes through 9V batteries very quickly. The carpet isn’t a deal-breaker for most, and if you’re concerned about the lock, this safe is also available in a combination lock version.
Where to Put Your Safe
The best place for your safe will depend on the design of your house, but there are some trade-offs worth considering. The master bedroom tends to be the first stop for burglars, so it might not be the ideal site for the safe. Your basement could be better from a fire-protection standpoint; there’s usually less down there to burn. But if your home is located in a flood-prone area, the safe might be at greater risk in the basement. You could also consider the home office or a crawl space under the stairs.
No one wants to think about the possibility of coming home to find all of their most precious processions missing. Unfortunately, whether the cause is burglary, fire, or a flood, it can happen to anyone. These occurrences are particularly scary because there isn’t any warning beforehand.
And when it comes to your firearms, controlling who has access to them is fundamental to gun safety. Burglars are first and foremost, but think too about anyone else who may be in your home: children, visitors, babysitters, house-sitters, friends with spare keys, etc.
Luckily, buying a safe for your home is a simple way to make sure that your valuables and firearms are protected, no matter what.
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