Everything You Need to Know About Gun Safe Fire Ratings

Home fires in the US are sadly not that uncommon, and the best way to keep your firearms secure in the event of a fire, is to store them (and any other valuables you may own) in a fire rated gun safe. Certified by either the Underwriters Laboratory or ETL ltd, fire rated gun safes are a necessity if you keep weapons in your home, but do you really understand how safes are rated when it comes to fire protection?

Read on to help you understand fire rated gun safes better:

What is a fire rating?

A fire rating is how long a safe can protect its contents from a fire and up to what temperatures, and is typically written as X minutes (or hours)/Y Fahrenheit or Celsius, meaning that the safe can keep its contents safe for X minutes up to the temperatures of Y.

What materials are used to give gun safes their fire rating?

There are 3 main materials that fire rated gun safes are made from, and they are as follows: 
  • Fireboard
Fireboard can be ¼ to 5/8 of an inch thick and has a measure of moisture in it; when heated in a fire, the moisture is released. Helping to keep the interior cooler for a longer period, this process involving layers of fireboard, means that the more layers there are, the longer the inside of the safe and its contents will stay cooler.

  • Composite material
Similar to a type of concrete but usually lighter in weight, the composite material often used in fire rated gun safes is sandwiched between two layers of steel, and acts as an insulator, keeping heat from penetrating into the interior of the safe in the event of a fire.

  • K-Wool
While not exactly common, some manufacturers are using this product in the form of a blanket as another type of insulating material for safes; it’s typically used to insulate pipes because it can easily be molded to fit curved surfaces.

How are gun safes tested for their fire ratings?

One of the most well known and respected certifiers of fire rated gun safes are the Underwriters Laboratories (UL), and they provide U.L. Label/Class 350 degrees Fahrenheit-one hour and Class 350 degrees Fahrenheit-two-hour fire ratings. Maintaining an interior temperature of less than 350 degrees Fahrenheit when exposed to fire for a period of one hour at 1700 degrees Fahrenheit, or for a period of two hours at 1850 degrees Fahrenheit. Each safe must undergo a series of stringent tests before being fire rated accurately.

What is a fire endurance test?

This is one of the most important tests performed by professionals to certify a safe and its fire rating, and it involves heat sensors and paper being placed inside the safe before it’s locked and then exposed to a uniformly distributed fire. Regulated to reach a maximum temperature of 1700 degrees Fahrenheit for a period of one hour, the furnace is then allowed to cool without being opened. Throughout the test and during the cooling period, the interior temperature is recorded until a clear drop is shown; it must never exceed 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

For more detailed advice and guidance about fire rated gun safes, call in to your local locksmiths store or browse their website for more information.