Gun Safes 101

A gun safe is one of the most important investments any firearms owner can make. When used properly, it will keep your family safe, keep your guns safe from theft and out of the hands of criminals, and ensure that you know where your guns are at all times.

If you are a first-time buyer or haven’t kept up on the latest technology, there is a lot that you should know. We’ve put together a list of things that are important to consider when you begin your search.


The Manufacturer

You’ll find similar-sounding products available at a wide variety of prices. This is not a purchase where price should be your determining factor because quality counts. We carry only the highest quality gun safes manufactured by AMSEC because we want to make sure our customers know they are getting the best. Whoever manufactured your safe, make sure that it:

  • Has a lifetime warranty for theft and fire. If your safe is damaged by a home fire or attempted burglary, the manufacturer should stand behind its product and repair it or replace it.
  • Is backed by independent tests. Independent laboratories with standardized testing protocols make sure that the safes they test meet the highest standards. One of the leading companies that does this kind of testing is Intertek. If you buy a safe that has the Intertek Listed Symbol, you can be confident that it is a high quality product.
  • Has the Underwriters Laboratories burglary rating for residential security containers.
  • Has a minimum of a 30 minute fire rating. Intertek is the industry leading fire rating independent lab. They subject test safes to temperatures exceeding 1,200 degrees fahrenheit. To pass their test, the inside of a safe must maintain a temperature of less than 350 degrees. That is less than what it takes to burn a piece of paper. Choose a safe that best meets your needs. You can find safes that will resist temperatures of 1,800 degrees for two hours.


A good gun safe will have a steel plate door of at least 3/16 of an inch. High-end safes may have composite doors up to 6 inches thick. The following are all indications of good construction.

  • The use of drywall as the primary fire protection material, combined with fire-resistant filler to ensure there are no gaps.
  • Proprietary fire protection materials that have been independently tested by a company like Intertek are also acceptable options. AMSEC has developed DryLight, a proprietary filler that has consistently outperformed other fire retardant materials.
  • An 11, 12 or 14-gauge steel body. A well construction 10-gauge steel safe can be a very good safe, but we prefer something a bit more sturdy.
  • On-site manufacturer's quality assurance testing.

Your Own Requirements

Everyone’s needs are different. Our best advice is to speak with a professional, ask a lot of questions and get good advice. Here at Bill’s, we can help you with that part of the process.

If you own multiple guns and expect to purchase more, be sure you are buying a gun safe that is large enough to accommodate your needs. When we have customers return to buy a second gun safe it is usually because they didn’t think ahead and they bought one that was too small. Keep in mind that once you bring a fireproof, burglary-proof safe into the house, the rest of your family is likely to want to use it to store things as well. And, that’s a good thing. Sensitive documents, irreplaceable family heirlooms and other items should be protected.

Think about where you’ll put your safe. You’ll want to strike a balance between an area that is likely to be protected from theft and fire, and an area where your guns are accessible if you need to access them. Coat rooms, bedroom closets that are not in the basement, a first-floor or upper-floor office, and any upper-floor room with no fireplace are generally very good choices. Think twice about putting a safe in a basement in an area that is prone to flooding.


Consider carefully the kind of locking mechanism you want on your safe. There is nothing wrong with standard spin-dial locks. They’ve been around for decades, are really tough for burglars to crack, and are virtually 100% reliable. They are also tedious. If you need to open your safe quickly, that’ll be tough to do with a spin-dial lock.

Electronic safe locks are our preference. They are as secure as anything else, usually have a fail-safe mechanism ensuring that if a battery dies or something else goes wrong, the door is locked shut until the problem is resolved.

Don’t forget about anchoring. It is always a good idea to anchor your safe, and most high-quality safes will be delivered ready to be bolted to the floor.



Safety is priority number one when installing your new gun safe. They are typically very heavy which makes them dangerous. A 500 pound safe can do a lot of damage to your home or your body. Just tipping over is enough to cause serious harm, not to mention falling from a dolly or down a flight of stairs.

The best bet is always to have a professional install your gun safe. Our team members are all experts. We are

trained for safety and proper installation.


If you must do it on your own, always make sure there are no children or pets anywhere nearby. Just send them all to the park or something. They pose a hazard

to you and the safe is a safety hazard for them. You’ll need to rent the proper tools for the job too. The dolly that you have at home and use to move furniture and items out in the yard is not going to be up to the job.

If you have to go up and down stairs, please don’t try to install your safe on your own. That’s just a disaster waiting to happen. We’ve got the specialized equipment and expertise needed to move a safe of just about any size safely up and down your home’s stairs.

We hope this introduction to gun safes has been informative. Please stop by Bill’s Lock and Key in Albuquerque to take a look at the gun safes we have in stock, and to talk to our experts. If we don’t have exactly what you need, we can order it, deliver it, and install it for you.