Defining Features of a Gun Safe


The State of California Department of Justice regulatory gun safe standards are not burglary or fire rating standards; it is a construction standard. An acceptable gun safe is either one the following:

A gun safe that meets all of the following standards:
  1. Shall be able to fully contain firearms and provide for their secure storage.
  2. Shall have a locking system consisting of at minimum a mechanical or electronic combination lock. The mechanical or electronic combination lock utilized by the safe shall have at least 10,000 possible combinations consisting of a minimum three numbers, letters, or symbols. The lock shall be protected by a case hardened (Rc 60+) drill resistant steel plate, or drill resistant material of equivalent strength.
  3. Boltwork shall consist of a minimum of three steel locking bolts of at least 1/2-inch thickness that intrude from the door of the safe into the body of the safe or from the body of the safe into the door of the safe, which are operated by a separate handle and secured by the lock.
  4. A gun safe shall be capable of repeated use. The exterior walls shall be constructed of minimum 12-gauge thick steel for a single walled safe, or the sum of the steel walls shall add up to at least 0.100 inches for safes with two walls. Doors shall be constructed of a minimum one layer of 7-gauge steel plate reinforced construction or at least two layers of a minimum 12-gauge steel compound construction.
  5. Door hinges shall be protected to prevent the removal of the door. Protective features include, but are not limited to: hinges not exposed to the outside, interlocking door designs, dead bars, jeweler's lugs and active or inactive locking bolts.

A gun safe that is able to fully contain firearms and provide for their secure storage, and is certified to/listed as meeting Underwriters Laboratories Residential Security Container rating standards by a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL).


1. Steel Thickness

  • Steel thickness is measured in gauges:
    • high gauge = thin
    • low gauge = thick
  • The thicker the steel, the longer it will take the get through:
    • More Steel = more security

2. Number and Size of Locking Bolts

  • The main function of the steel bolts is to make the door harder to pry open.
  • The longer, thicker, and greater number of bolts, the harder it will be to bend or break the safe door

3. Locking Mechanism

  • There are two types of locks:
    • Electronic: Battery powered with 999,999 different combinations available.
    • Mechanical Dial: Secure but significantly slower to operate that their Electronic counterparts. Assistance of a locksmith is necessary to change combination.

4. Hardplate

  • The hardplate stands between the outside of the safe and the interior lock protecting the locking mechanism on the inside of the safe from being drilled.

5. Relockers

  • A device designed to relock the safe causing all bolts to lock in place when the original lock is damaged or forcibly removed. Relockers act as your back-up security during an attack, prolonging a burglar's ability to get your safe open.



Fire Rating: A Fire Rating denotes the safe's ability to last through a fire and keep an internal temperature (inside of the safe) at less than 350°.

Gun Capacity: Gun capacities are calculated by the manufacturers using a small standard size rifle with no optics or modifications. In current times, nearly everyone uses optics and modifications to their firearms making the gun capacity quantity far less than it can actually hold.

UL Rated: Burglary Classification Residential Security Container (RSC) signifies a combination or key locked unit designed to offer protection against entry by common mechanical tools. Performance tests are conducted against the entire unit. The basic standard used to investigate in this category is UL 1037, Antitheft Alarms and Devices:

  1. An Anti-theft device, as defined by Paragraph 1.3, shall resist at least 5 minutes of attack that would defeat its purpose.
  2. Any disassembly of the protected property required to make it removable, is to be included in the 5 minutes of attack test.
  3. The tools used in the test are to include hammers, chisels, adjustable wrenches, pry bars, punches and screwdrivers. The hammers are not to exceed 3 pounds in head weight, and no tool is to exceed 18 inches in length.
  4. The product under test is to be mounted securely in its intended position, and the attack is to be carried out by one operator.


How many guns do I need to store?

The gun capacity of a gun safe is determined based on the safe's ability to store a certain number of long guns without any extra attachments. Thus, many times a gun safe's true gun capacity is much less than advertised. We recommend buying a safe with a much larger gun capacity than you have, as you do not want the firearms banging into each other, potentially causing scratches and damage to the optics.

Where do I want to put my safe?

Think of where you'd like to place your safe in your home. Factors should include:

  1. Accessibility: Strategic placement of your safe for access to your safe during an emergency
  2. Visiblity: How visible you'd like your safe to be to yourself or visitors in your home
Also keep in mind that larger, heavier safes, will be less secure if installed upstairs

Do I want to put more than just guns in my safe?

Gun safes are useful for protecting more than just guns. You may want to store things such as: important documents, precious family heirlooms, jewelry, money, etc. in your safe as well. Think of your safe as a lifetime investment and given the number of precious items you can collect over a lifetime, we'd recommend purchasing a safe larger than you think you'll need.