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Antique Safes/Best small fire/water resistant safe?


Hello Terry,

I'm looking for a small (around 25") home safe that will first protect against fire/water damage and theft second. I need a safe that will protect electronics (computer external hard drives) from heat/moisture as best as available.

It seems that many modern commercial safes (SentrySafe, etc.) and related get mixed reviews and most are digital, which I don't like much, and too much plastic. I love old antique safes (such as Cary, etc.) but I realize these do not meet modern standards vs. fire. Is there an "old-style" dial safe available--used is fine--with the old classic design that also meets modern standards?

Thank you for your time,

Hi Chris,

there are only a couple safes that offer "water resistance", like Sentry and FireKing.   These are cheaply made safes that we don't recommend.    While they are suitable for what they were designed, the problem lies with the purchaser/owner.    They believe that they are actually buying a quality safe, which provides burglary and fire resistance.    This isn't true.

There is a lot of education that you need to be able to make an educated purchase so that you get a safe that will actually provide you with the protection that you need.

Older safes like the Cary's, etc. are nice old safes but they don't meet ANY of the current standards for fire or burglary.    If you are looking for an antique safe as a display item, then that's a different story, however you've asked for some very specific "protections".

First I'll start with fire resistance.    It is based on the ability to keep HEAT out of the safe.    For instance in a sustained fire of 1300 to 1500 degrees F. the interior of the safe should not exceed 350 degrees F.     This isn't an arbitrary number - as papers char at about 412 degrees and combust at about 451 degrees F, keeping the interior will protect your documents.     Computer media and film on the other hand will melt at about 200 degrees F.    So these items would need more protection - the interior temperature would need to be below 150 degrees F.    Safes that offer this level are termed DATA safes as opposed to standard FIRE safes.   Various ratings based on time are used to standardize fire safes and to help you in making a choice.    Fire safes offer ratings from 30 minutes up to 2 hour ratings.    1 hour ratings are the MINIMUM standard.   Safes offering lower ratings would be better than leaving your documents on the kitchen table, but they are still "sub-standard" fire ratings.    A two hour rating would be "super-standard" or best.

Burglary Safes are designed to keep people out.    Very specific testing is used by agencies like UL, again to standardize ratings.    UL testing is not burglar time, so for instance a TL-15 safe might be equivalent to 1-2 hours of burglar time.

We also base burglary ratings on "storage value" levels.    This will vary depending on who you talk to, but the $$$ values will still give you a good indication.    For instance fire resistive safes are not designed for overnight storage of any valuables.     Non-rated or RSC rated containers would be between $3000 to $15000 - MAX!!!   Rated safes begin with a UL TL-15 burglary rating.    These safes should be used if you are storing up to about $40-$50,000.    TL-30 safes are good up to about $125,000.   And so on for higher ratings.    Note:   Burglary resistive safes which have "PROPER" alarm systems attached can be used for 1.5-2 times the value.

The third type of safes are known as composite safes - these safes offer both fire and burglary ratings.    Just like anything else, the more or higher the ratings the more expensive the safe is.

So if you are looking for a good home safe, there are a number of imports and domestic safes that provide minimum burglary resistance and at least 1 hour of fire resistance.   Again the better quality safe, the better the rating and the higher the $$$ value you can store in the safe.

Bottom line, you can buy what ever you want, and you can store what ever you want in it.    My job is to help you look for the CORRECT protection that YOU require, not what I think you need.

If you are looking at your pocket book as a definition as to what you will spend, the protection will match.    There is a reason that I don't sell Sentry Safes and/or similar safes.    I'm in the business of providing fire and burglary protection, and any product that doesn't meet our standards doesn't cross our door step!    

So before I can recommend anything I need some numbers from you, to include:

1.   Are you storing documents (fire resistance),
2.   Computer media (hard drives, thumb drives, discs)  (data protection)
3.   Cash / gold
4.   Jewelry
5.   Other valuables?

6.   approximate (max) $$$ value you would store
7.   approximate size safe
    figure the size you need and then double or triple it.    You don't want to fill it up and then find out it doesn't give you any extra room for more stuff.

You don't have to have just one safe, you could easily have two or three that fit the needs for all of your storage.    For instance you are not going to find a burglary resistive safe that provides high enough storage protection for Data materials.    In this case your burglary safe would need to be large enough that a smaller data safe could be installed inside of it.

Last items,  you can pretty much have any lock on any safe (with a few limitations).    We have locks that are digital, mechanical or both.    For instance its cheap insurance to have a higher security safe like a TL-30 installed with a redundant lock.    Electronic for ease of access, audit trails and time lock capability, however if for any reason the electronic lock won't open, it also has a back up mechanical lock so that you never get locked out.    Again, locks like safes get more expensive with more options - so you can keep it simple, or go extravagant.     This is just like Burger King, you can have it your way, we just have to figure out what YOUR way is!

I understand if you don't want to post answers to some of the questions above on a general forum, so you may want to contact us direct.    You can email me at:      If I can't answer your question directly, I'll pass it on to one of our sales guys to work with you.

Hope this helps.   We do have plenty of safes to help you out, so its just a matter of narrowing down what you actually want, so that you can make an informed decisison.  

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Terry V. Andreasen (Andy)


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.


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

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

The Coffee Table Guide to Antique Safes

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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