Making sense of safe ratings can be a little overwhelming to those looking to buy a home safe or a gun safe for the first time. During your safe search, you might run across home safes that are “B” rated or “C” rated, TL-15 or TL-30, TRTL15 or TRTL30, RSC safes, and 1 hour fire or 2 hour fire rated. Let’s try to make a little sense of these ratings.
Underwriters Laboratories (UL) has been testing and certifying safes for more than 80 years, so they know a thing or two about what makes a good burglar-proof, fireproof home safe. They have devised a rating system that can be divided into three major categories; burglary resistance, fire resistance and impact resistance.
To test the burglary resistance of a home safe UL either uses tools (TL) or torches (TR). The instruments that can be used are anything that can be found in a hardware store or a constructions site, i.e., drills, hammers, wenches, power saws, crowbars, jackhammers, or even oxyacetylene welter’s torch. Ratings are then given to a particular home safe depending on how long it takes for the best safecrackers in the world to, well… crack the safe.
Here are the basic burglary ratings as specified by UL:
- B1 - Theft resistant (minimum security)
- B2 - UL listed RSC (Residential Security Container)/TL-5 (UL tested Tool Rated for 5 minutes – door only)
- B3 - Non rated anti theft (incorporates features of security safes without a UL rating)
- B4 - UL listed TL-15 (UL tested Tool Rated for 15 minutes - door only)
- B5 - UL listed TL-30 (UL tested Tool Rated for 30 minutes - door only)
- B6 - UL listed TL-30X6 or TRTL-30X6 (UL Tested Tool and/or Torch rated on all six sides for 30 minutes)
Now, as you may know, a home safe is also rated by the amount of time it can be expected to keep its contents below 350 degrees Fahrenheit (paper begins to burn at 400 degrees). Time and outside temperature are both considered in UL’s rating system as follows:
- UL Class 350- 1/2 hour fire rating. (Heated for 1/2 hour at 1,550 degrees)
- UL Class 350 - 1 hour fire rating. ( Heated for 1 hour at 1,550 degrees)
- UL Class 350 - 2 hour fire rating. ( Heated for 2 hours at 1,550 degrees)
- UL Class 350 - 1 hour fire rating and impact testing label
- UL Class 350 -2 hour fire rating and impact testing label
You can find great fireproof home safes here and gun safes there.
For a UL listed safe to be labeled “Impact Rated” it is heated to 1,550 degrees Fahrenheit in a furnace, raised three stories and dropped onto a pile of bricks and then returned to the furnace and reheated. In order to meet the listing requirement, the temperature inside the safe can't have risen above 350 degrees Fahrenheit and sample papers left inside must be readable.
Finally, you might hear the term “B” rated or “C” rated. This merely refers to the thickness of the door. "B" rated safes are constructed of less than 1/2 inch thick steel walls, and doors less than 1inch thick steel. "C" rated safes are constructed of at least1/2 inch thick steel walls, and doors at least 1 inch thick steel.
That’s all there is to it! We’ve focused this review on home safes and gun safes but the same ratings would apply to wall safes, floor safes, or any kind of burglary safe. Safe ratings are there to help you pick the home safe or gun safe that best suits your needs, so make sure to use them whenever available.