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Antique Safes/Meilink safe

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Question
Hey Andy,
A neighbor has a Meilink safe that he's trying to sell. It's a SPEC F1-D, SMNA Class "C", Class T-20 Burglary. It's approximately 48T x 24W x 21D. It looks about +/- 50 yrs old. Is this good enough to put firearms, important documents, jewelry in?
Thanks in advance for any information.

Answer
Chuck,

As with anything - beauty is in the eye of the beholder!

First I'll start off with the SMNA (Safe Manufacturers National Association) testing label.   SMNA has NOT tested any safes since the early 1960's, which would indicate that this safe is OVER 50 years old.   In general, safes over 50 years old DO NOT meet any current standards for burglary or fire resistance.
The SMNA "Class C" fire rating was a 1 hour rating.    Chances are over the years the insulation is severely cracked and broken.   While you can look inside the door to see what condition the insulation is in, you can't see inside the walls, so rule of thumbs, for every crack in the insulation inside the door, you can assume that there is a crack in every one of the walls.   Even just a few minor cracks WILL let in more than enough heat, in a normal house fire, to destroy the contents.
The SMNA or UL "class T-20" burglary rating, actually means "TAMPER RESISTANT", not burglary resistant.   This is NOT a burglary resistive safe.   Again, as it is over 50 years old, it DOES NOT meet any current standards.    Think about the tools that were available to burglars in the late 1950's or early 60's - now go down to any local hardware store and take a look at what is available.   Literally with a small bag of common hand or battery operated tools, this safe could be shredded open in a few minutes.

Now lets look at your question - "Is this container good enough to put firearms, important documents and jewelry in"???

As we noted, this container was ONLY designed as a "BASIC" fire resistive container, for general purpose documents.   So even if it was new, it would NOT provide burglary resistance for cash, jewelry, weapons or valuable documents!

Basically what "YOU" have to look at when deciding on a safe, is the protection that the safe provides.    Bottom line - when you go away for a weekend or a vacation, and return home to find you have been burglarized, if the "stuff" inside of your safe is still there, then the safe provided ADEQUATE protection.    There are no "do-overs" which means that YOU only get one opportunity to buy the correct safe.

Lets take a look at Gun Safes (for instance), in general these safes are ONLY designed to the minimum burglary resistance ratings - the purpose being to keep the guns from EASILY falling into the hands of a child or criminal - PERIOD!!!!    Gun safes DO NOT take into consideration actual protection from theft or cost to replace the stolen items.

What we look at, when deciding on levels of PROTECTION, is the acceptable "RISK" or value that a safe should provide.   Depending on who you talk to (including insurance companies) this "RISK" value is kind of a floating number.    Here are the $$$ values that I look at:

Non-Rated (non labeled) safes (Burglary only)
B ratings  (less than 1" of steel in the door & less than 1/2" of steel in the walls.
this would include most fire resistive safes and the newer UL RSC ratings.     Below $10,000 in valuables.
C ratings  (over 1" of steel in the door & over 1/2" of steel in the walls.    Very few manufacturers actually build C rated safes any longer, they generally skip from a "B" or "RSC" right to a UL TL-15 labeled safe.         Below $20,000 in valuables
Rated - Labeled safes (Burglary only)
TL-15 labeled safes (steel or composite body),  up to $50,000 in valuables
TL-30 labeled safes (steel or composite body),  up to $75,000 in valuables
TL-15x6 labeled safes, up to $100,000 in valuables
TL-30x6 labeled safes, up to $150,000 in valuables
TRTL30x6 rated safes, up to $250,000 in valuables

This listing, at a minimum gives you an idea of the MINIMUM burglary rating that YOU need to adequately protect YOUR valuables.   While I don't care WHAT you keep in the safe, you can easily assign a replacement value to each item that you intend on storing in the safe to come up with the $$$ value that you will store, and then begin looking for a safe which will provide that level of security or for the "RISK" that YOU are willing to accept.

As far as "FIRE" resistance, this is much easier.   Safes are rated in their ability to keep the interior temperature BELOW 350 degrees F, for a period of time.   This doesn't mean that they can't EXCEED this rating, it means that THIS is the period that it has been tested at, AND succeeded.   So for instance a safe with a 1 hour rating, may be tested at 1500 degrees F for a 1 hour period, if the interior does NOT exceed the 350 mark, then it passes.   There are other tests which it goes through also, to ensure that it does not fail in a fire, but you get the basic idea.
The reason for the 350 degree F testing point, it that papers char at about 412 degrees and combust at 451 degrees F.   By keeping the temperature BELOW either of these two points, your documents will survive a fire.   NOTE:   items like film, computer discs and other similar storage medias, will melt around 200 degrees F, so additional protection would be necessary to keep the interior temperature below 150 degrees F.

Hope this gives you a better idea of how safes are designed and what protection levels you should expect.    It should also give you a starting point to determine WHAT level of risk (minimum security) that you are willing to accept to protect YOUR valuables.

Again, remember my bottom line about coming home after a weekend or vacation!!!   regardless of if you suffer a burglary or fire, if your VALUABLE items are still there, then you had the proper protection.  

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Terry V. Andreasen (Andy)

Expertise

Safe and Vault related Questions; Antique Safe Repair and Restoration; With over 44 years in the Safe & Vault industry, if I can't answer your question I know where to get the answer. Current Project: Restoration of an Ely Norris Cannonball Safe from the early 1900's. Will answer Safe & Vault related questions concerning age, value, restoration, moving, opening & repairing, parts, operation and history. Note: It is not my intention to teach you to open safes or to provide information which may aid in the unlawful opening of a safe. I will not give out drill points or information which I deem inappropriate.

Experience

44 years in the Safe & Vault Industry. Owner and Service Manager for one of the largest Safe & Vault companies on the West Coast. Graduate of Lockmasters Safe Lock Servicing, Safe lock Manipulation and Safe Deposit Lock Courses. Graduate of Locksmith Institute. Author of "The Coffee Table Guide to Antique Safes". Certified Instructor for the California Locksmith Association teaching Basic and Advanced Lock Servicing, Basic Safe opening and Repairing. Factory Trained by AMSEC, LORD Safes, LeFebure, Mosler, KabaMas, LaGard and Sargent & Greenleaf

Organizations
Safecrackers International and the National Antique Safe Association Safe & Vault Technicians Association

Publications
The Coffee Table Guide to Antique Safes AllExperts.com

Education/Credentials
Graduate of Locksmith Institute 1972 Graduate Lockmasters Safe Lock Servicing 1974 Graduate Lockmasters Safe Lock Manipulation 1975 Graduate Lockmasters Safe Deposit Lock Servicing 1985 Instructor Certified - California Locksmith Association - 1985 Factory trained by AMSEC, MAJOR, STAR, Johnson-Pacific, Kaba-MAS, Allied-Gary, ISM, Lord, Brown Safe, EXL, Mosler, Diebold.

Awards and Honors
2009 - 2015 Listed in AllExperts top 50 Experts. All Experts Categories - Safes & Security Containers, Locksmithing, Antique Safes. Retired US Army Chief Warrant Officer (CW4), with 39 years of total service. With numerous awards from Vietnam, Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom. US Navy - 1971-1981 US Army Reserve 1984-2013 US Army Retired

Past/Present Clients
US Secret Service, FBI, BATF, Local Law enforcment agencies, Diebold, Hamilton Pacific, Red Hawk Int., Chubb International, Bank of America, Wells Fargo Bank, Mechanics Bank, El Dorado Savings Bank, many Credit unions and smaller banks. McDonalds, Togos, BurgerKing, TacoBell, Carls Jr. FoodMaxx, SaveMart, Lucky's, Albertson's, Raley's, Safeway, NobHill, Bell Markets, PW Markets. Great America, Century Theatres, Cinemark Theatres, UA Cinemas, and many homeowners and small businesses. Provide warranty service for lock and safe manufactures. Service area is Northern California - Fresno to Oregon, including western Nevada

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