Death Of A Gun Safe?

Jim KushnerFriends of ELO

By:  Jim Kushner.

A couple of weeks ago I was educated about the old saying “you get what
you pay for”. In this case that applied to my Cannon gun safe. I don’t mind
mentioning the brand name because this is all absolutely true.
I bought my safe from a chain store and as safes go it was neither cheap or
expensive. The electronic keypad was easily programmed and it runs on a
single 12 volt battery. After a few years I noticed that the battery would wear
out quicker than the one before it. I’d put in a new battery & within a month
or two it would be dead so I’d replace it with a fresh one. New Duracell
One day this summer I found myself locked out of the safe. The keypad was
simply dead. I contacted Cannon. After a few phone calls and some wrong
information they sent me a replacement keypad. It was a different brand than
the one originally on the safe. The real problem here is that you cannot
replace the keypad with the door closed & you can’t open it without a
working keypad. Cannons answer to this is that I would have to contact a
locksmith to drill out the old lock and open the safe. My questions as to why
the cost of this isn’t included in Cannons Lifetime Guarantee went
unanswered. It is likely because the cost is easily 3-500.00 dollars. That all
depends on the kind of safe and the locksmith doing the work.
I finally paid a locksmith to drill the safe & open it. A couple of interesting
lessons here. Don’t try this yourself. #1 Cannon won’t tell just anyone where
exactly to drill through the door to open the lock. #2 You will need the serial
number to get that information from Cannon and that was on a sticker on the
side of my safe. Luckily I had access to that side of the safe & didn’t bolt it to
the floor in something like a small closet. No way to move it if the bolts are
in the floor & the door won’t open. #3 You get what you pay for. Apparently
the keypad locks on many models are cheaply made and it’s not unusual for
this to happen although I did ask at the store where I purchased it and was
told they had never had that problem before.
Something interesting I discovered & this was not anywhere in the online
info about gun safes. When looking at the new lock set I noticed a sticker on
the back of it with some random numbers. I assumed it was just a part
number or something but I was wrong. That number is a permanently preset
combination for the lock. Even though you can program your own number
into the lock this number will still open it! Not that it would have helped me
but I find this interesting, what purpose dose this preset combination serve?
The new keypad combination when new was just 123456 or something like
that. Anyway, if you want a backup combination to your safe pop out the
door backer and look for a sticker on the back of the lock mechanism.
You may not want to look to close at the mechanism though, you may be
surprised at how fragile it looks compared to the many massive locking bolts
around the door. Yes, you get what you pay for.
Before you buy a safe you may also want to do some on-line research. There
are some interesting videos there showing how easy it really is to break into
many of the brand name safes. I had even considered cutting my losses by
just using an angle grinder to cut my safe open myself. The reality is that
most gun safes are made of sheet metal and as the other saying goes about
“the weakest link” you can have the best lock and bolts available but the
sheet metal is still subject to bending and cutting. In the end I am glad I
didn’t destroy my safe.
Most safes are “rated” to withstand a certain amount of heat from a fire. Like
1200 deg for 30 minutes. Being a firefighter I had thought about what
happens to most houses during a bad fire. Even if the contents survive the
heat the floor its sitting on may not. That may send your gun collection into
the basement and after the firefighters are done there is likely to be a foot or
more of water in the basement. The key here is to get the safe open and your
guns out asap to prevent any further damage. Some people I have heard from
are very skeptical of how well the safe contents will survive a major fire. I
would suggest that you talk to a reliable locksmith if you want a real quality
You might also consider weather your guns would be better protected by
insuring them instead of just using a safe. If they are irreplaceable heirlooms
or collector antiques you may want to do both. Whatever you do, if the
batteries start to drain quickly open the door & replace the lock. You may
want to replace the keypad with a mechanical combination lock instead.
I got what I paid for.
A quick note on keeping moisture out of your safe. There are several products that can help you with this problem. I use a simple & fairly cheap product that goes inside the safe and it collects moisture. Every so often depending on where the safe is located etc. the indicator changes color to tell you its time to plug it into a wall outlet for about 12 hours to dry. Once the color changes back to blue in my case it’s ready to go back to work. Mine is several years old and still working fine.
Jim Kushner