Little info on fire ratings on safes.
We believe an informed customer is the best, and often happiest customer in the long run. When armed with all the facts, we can make truly educated decisions about which products will be the best fit, and provide the most value over time.
Most mid to upper level safe companies boast impressive-sounding fire ratings that ensure protection for (X) amount of time with (Y) outside temperature, not to exceed 350 degrees inside the safe. However, these ratings are often deceiving due to the methods by which the safes are tested. As it stands, there is no standard set of tests specifically for evaluating the fire resistance of a gun safe. In fact, most companies use different private testing organizations to evaluate and assign fire ratings to their safes. These testing procedures often vary, and are exclusively based on how well paper documents resist damage as ambient temperatures rise. The problem with this approach is that most people incorrectly assume that paper in a safe will burn before a gun. This is not true. Since steel and other metals "gather heat" much more easily than paper, guns and other valuables will heat up more quickly and reach higher temperatures than documents in the same amount of time. You might notice this principle the next time you go outside to pickup the newspaper from your driveway on a hot summer day. While the hood of your car is too hot to touch, you can easily pick up the paper and carry it inside without any discomfort. It seems to go against logic, but it can all be explained by the scientific principle of Specific Heat Capacity.
When a safe is in a house fire, it acts like a huge convection oven – the fire outside the safe heats up the air inside the safe which, by convection, transfers heat to the firearms and valuables stored in the safe. How quickly your valuables become damaged by the fire depends on three things – the temperature inside the safe, the burning or melting point of the various materials that make up your valuables, and the specific heat capacity of those materials. Specific heat capacity is the amount of heat required to change the temperature of one kilogram of a substance by one degree. In other words, the higher a material's specific heat capacity, the more heat energy is required to raise the temperature of that material. Specific heat capacity is extremely important when taking into consideration the fire-rating of a safe. The paper document used in a typical fire-testing procedure has a specific heat capacity of 1.4 (Kcal/Kg °C) and an ignition point of 451°F. By comparison, aluminum, steel, gold and silver have much lower specific heat capacities of 0.91, 0.49, 0.13 and 0.23 respectively. This means that the steel barrel of your rifle or aluminum casing of your scope will heat up a lot more quickly and easily than any paper document in the safe. With an ABS plastic gun stock melting at 221°F and wood solids starting to break down at around 575°F, you can image how quickly a gun can become ruined under heat conditions that would cause little, if any damage to a paper document in the same safe. If companies began fire-testing their safes using guns and other valuables as the standard, rather than documents, they would find that conventional fireproofing does little to prevent the safe's contents from being quickly destroyed by a typical house fire.