Gunsafe+guns+fire=???

Discussion in 'Shooting Gear and Storage' started by D.B. Cooper, Jul 19, 2021.

  1. D.B. Cooper

    D.B. Cooper Member

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    A recent discussion with a firefighter in my community revealed their inability to access and fight a brushfire-turned-forest fire in the vicinity of my home. (Lack of access. Lack of infrastructure, etc.)

    Currently devising a "ready, set, go" plan for my home. (Yeah. I get it. Where have I been the last few years?)

    If I essentially abandon my guns in the safe, to what extent will they be damaged? Will I come back to find only the barrels and receivers? Will the wood stocks (or the polymer frames) or the plastic survive?

    What do I do with my ammo?
     
  2. ColtPythonElite

    ColtPythonElite Member

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    If your safe is a RSC and your house is a total burn down, I would expect to come back to at least some fire damage and possible water damage to the safes contents.
     
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  3. shoobe01

    shoobe01 Member

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    My vote is to assume total loss. "Gun Safes" are generally Residential Security Containers. They are not very hard to break into, not very fireproof. The fire rating time is based on house fires (not with other accelerants, so in a garage with the fuel source of the car: nope!, and I bet wildfires are worse also), and on being filled with piles of paper which are much more resistant to fire than bits of metal and wood with lots of air between them. The trope of fire-singed edges is real (the wife's childhood photos look like movie props from this!) but the bulk of the paper will often survive when stored in stacks just in metal cabinets, etc.

    Data aside, two friends friend with house fires align well with other tales I have heard:
    • House basically totally burned down, guns a total loss. Waited the couple days for the safe to cool, tool them out and immediately soaked in oil, wrapped up, took to the gunsmith who had been notified and did their analysis etc. Forget optics and furniture, the metal was ruined. Some visible warping, heat treating lost on others. IIRC he had 1-2 heirlooms rebuilt as wall hangars but that's it.
    • House not a total loss, still every gun was hot and wet enough that even on rugged finishes (vs blueing) flash rusted, stocks all cracked or warped, aluminum iffy to ruined, optics ruined, springs lost tember. Got a few of the top makers (Trijicon) to rebuild or replace optics, refinished, replaced small parts, and replaced stocks, and still only recovered like half the collection after YEARS of work.
    I have less data on ammo as far as surviving fires. I just know stuff like it'll never, ever explode, just burn like hell once it gets going. But I wouldn't expect things to go well.

    At this heat level I would certainly not store ammo in the gun safe, and not have loaded guns in there as you'll get cookoff.

    Not sure if anything else is worth it. I have anecdotally heard of buried caches being found a couple times by post-fire folks bulldozing brush away and they appear ruined also, though they just turned in the charred tube of gun-looking-things to the cops so it's shallow data.
     
  4. DeepSouth
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    DeepSouth Contributing Member

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    I’ve alway been told to get the guns out of the safe as soon it was cool enough to touch. If not they sweat on the cool down.

    that may not be right, but it’s what I’ve been told.
     
  5. shoobe01

    shoobe01 Member

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    May be another difference with the gunsafe vs paperwork ones. Opening one full of paper when hot it'll flashover and everything burns up, like immediately, in front of you while you cry.

    But now you mention it I... can believe that metal and wood maybe would be okay to open pretty quick to avoid some of the rusting and cracking bits, as long as you have water available to douse the liner carpet, wood, or whatever might want to catch on fire, and to cool the guns down to handle anything hot.

    I think I'd have a gallon of Ballistol (or your favorite) with a pump sprayer and some proper-sized cardboard boxes and kraft paper on hand. Hose it all down as fast as you can, pack them away and evaluate later once they have had a chance to soak up some more oil, displace any remaining water, cool down fully.
     
  6. D.B. Cooper

    D.B. Cooper Member

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    Quite depressing.
     
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  7. Buzznrose

    Buzznrose Member

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    Did you expect otherwise?

    A house fire burns very hot. Your safe is just a slight hindrance to a full on blaze and the heat produced.
     
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  8. earlthegoat2

    earlthegoat2 Member

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    IME, nothing survives a total burn down. By nothing, I mean, effectively nothing. Something may be salvageable after a lot of work but an insurance company would call them all destroyed.

    If the fire is burning around the container itself, nothing usually survives to be immediately useable.

    I would imagine a wildfire would be burning hotter.

    I have seen the contents of over 20 modern RSCs that have been in fires and in nearly all those instances nothing was even recognizable without close scrutiny. These were not cheapies either. They were all higher end Liberty that had top fire ratings. I used to work at a dealer. This is not a slam on Liberty either. Their safe holds up just fine to the standard in which they are built. You pay for that standard. Safes built to a higher standard will stand up better and cost more.

    Even real safes from the old days with asbestos fire protectant aren’t invincible. The smoke and intense heat from a fire will work it’s way inside those too and high heat can be very damaging. These safes are more secure though.
     
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  9. George P

    George P member

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    Clear the brush and trees away from the house; install a sprinkler system to prevent it from catching fire; if it still cathces fire, unless it is in some impervious concrete underground bunker, don't expect much to survive.
     
  10. CapnMac

    CapnMac Member

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    If there is gypsum in the lining (no mater the metal thickness) when that gets to around 300ºF, the water entrained in the gypsum slurry will boil out as steam.
    That steam--because water is an excellent heat sink--will hold temperatures down to around 180ºF.
    For a while.
    How long a while varies.
    House fires are in a varied range. In town, with the FD only 5-10 minutes away, the structure might stay under 600ºF.
    Out in the countryside, an "undefended" structure can go well past 1800ºF.

    But, the answer to the question is, really, it depends.
    From a google image sears "gun safe house fires":
    G3wrrTptbFtmB4VY7NQAJvqzFz-9GLsdb32WSYmC1N2vX3EFuG550&tn=bl2pfGc1Ua82K3_n&_nc_ht=scontent-dfw5-1.jpg
    new1_0208a597-1c05-4b78-bb98-b127d66efae4.jpg
    surviving-a-fire_1024x1024.jpg
    Now, what the contents look like varies.
    Paper products are often black or brown; plastics are often melted.
    And everyone but everyone jumps on "whudabout the heat treat?" bandwagon afterwards.

    Against all that you have to measure your alternatives--can you secure all the valuable stuff in the back of your ride if you are bugging out?

    These things defy Simple Answers--that's the nature of the beast.
     
  11. 1KPerDay

    1KPerDay Member

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    Every fire is different but you might get lucky if your safe is rated farily high. Note these are published by the safe manufacturer so I'm sure they've picked the best case scenarios, but sometimes the safes can protect their contents pretty well.





     
  12. D.B. Cooper

    D.B. Cooper Member

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    My local locksmith is a Liberty dealer. They're very expensive safes. As with all things, the best isn't cheap.

    I'm just working on strategies right now. In theory, I only need about 10-15 mins to transfer every gun to a truck and leave. That would be best, but it means I'm leaving something else in favor of the guns. Additionally, my better half has already said that, in the event we can't go to her siblings' homes, we're going to a Red Cross shelter. They don't allow guns so I've already told her I'll wait for her in the parking lot.
     
  13. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Member

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    Every case is different.
    My house didn't burn down in 2010 but the fire department and insurance company agreed that it was totaled. Geometry kept the worst of the fire away from the spare room with most of my guns.
    Pistols in the uninsulated Treadlock case were unharmed.
    Rifles and shotguns in the closet and pistols out for home defense were all finish damaged.
    No melted plastic, charred wood or annealed steel, but about half the scope sights were ruined.
    My friends from the local stores and clubs cleaned, oiled, and stored the guns until I could get them to a gunsmith, several months later.
    Homeowners insurance surprised me by paying to have rifles and shotguns refinished, total of $7000. Three exposed pistols I just left with somewhat blotchy steel, plastic and anodized aluminum unmarred.

    I knew a guy with similar finish damage who was going it DIY and was very interested to hear that there was such a thing as home Parkerizing.

    In earlier times, there was an area gunsmith shop that did a lot of work on house fire guns. They could make a scorched stock and rusty action look good; but they also had a pile of unsalvageable guns in the corner of the shop.

    I had no powder cans burn or blow up, or ammo pop. I did have a lot of water damaged ammo and pulled a lot of bullets. If a batch had no to one misfire per magazine, I would use it for practice, otherwise I would pull it to salvage bullets and brass.
    I had two bad experiences out of that.
    1. Do NOT shoot salvaged aluminum case ammo. It can look normal but the case is weakened, I had a number of split cases and a burn through severe enough to score the chamber.
    2. Do NOT shoot normal looking ammo if the baggies you put reloads in are heat distorted. I broke two extractors before I realized those .45s had cooked powder that was over pressuring the guns.
     
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  14. George P

    George P member

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    Liberty make a wide range of safes; their best line is one they bought called National Security - solid steel doors, not a laminate that looks good.
     
  15. GBExpat

    GBExpat Member

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    [​IMG]

    :confused:

    OK ... the one in the rear is the GhostBusters ride and the one in the front is .... ?
     
  16. George P

    George P member

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    Scooby Doo I think
     
  17. Dunross

    Dunross Member

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    Yes, it's the Mystery Machine of Scooby Doo fame.

    The phrase of the day in this case is "wildfire hazard mitigation." If the forest/brush fire cannot set your house aflame you never have to find out how good the heat resistance of your safe is (other ways of your house catching fire are not part of this).

    There is a LOT of info on hazard mitigation to be found. The best offense is a good defense.
     
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  18. CapnMac

    CapnMac Member

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    oops, linked the wrong photo :oops:
     
  19. WestKentucky

    WestKentucky Member

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    The house I am buying has what I thought to be a very well thought out space that will serve as a storm shelter and probably will house my safe. Cinder block walls on all 4 sides. That side of the house is the “underground” side of a walkout basement. Above that room is the front porch which is also concrete, and all of the supports upon which the slab was poured are metal, and the floor is a concrete slab. That room will not burn. That room will not be taken out by a storm. That room is solid. Only fault I can find with it is that it’s a hollow core wooden door, so I will rip out that idiotic mistake and put in a steel door and steel door casing.

    Unless the home has a room like that, consider your stuff to be very vulnerable. If your home does have a room like that then make the most of it and resist the urge to fill it up with all the Christmas decorations. When the smoke rolls or the tornado blows you don’t have time to drag all the crap out. Have what you want protected in there. People, critters, valuables, documents, food and water in case your stuck there for a while.
     
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  20. Elkins45

    Elkins45 Member

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    I have occasionally considered stacking a wall of 2 liter bottles filled with water around and on top of my safe in the hope they would provide both a heat sink and a coolant once they began to melt. The only problem is that it’s in an unheated garage and I don’t know how well they would withstand repeated freeze/thaw cycles, plus I’m sure they would sweat like crazy as they thaw.
     
  21. George P

    George P member

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    When I lived out West, they always were encouraging homeowners who lived in danger areas to clear shrubs, brush and even trees a certain distance from the house to prevent your house from burning down. Amazed me to see folks in the hills of CA with cedar shake roofs, shrubs, brush and tinder dry grass all around their home and then wonder why it burned down from a wildfire
     
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  22. D.B. Cooper

    D.B. Cooper Member

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    Absolutely. Forrest Service (Or USDA or BLM or someone) has a program called "Fire Wise" that offers guidance to this effect. We implement as much of it as we can. Ounce of prevention = pound of cure.
     
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