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Evolution of Gun Safes: From Iron Chests to Biometric Safes

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Gun safes have come a long way, from primitive heavy iron chests to innovative quick-access pistol safes that you can place at the bedside or even take on your camping trip. In this article, we’ll take you on a journey through the fascinating history of gun safes and discover how exactly they’ve transformed from simple metal boxes to the high-tech gun storage solutions we know today.

Table of Contents

Early History of Gun Safes
First Burglar- & Fire-Proof Gun Safes
Modern Gun Safes

Early History of Gun Safes

Long before the invention of gun safes, our ancestors were already coming up with clever ways to protect their treasures, such as Egyptian treasure temples, for instance. When you think of Egyptian pyramids, you might picture mummies, but did you know that these iconic structures also served as storage units for the treasures of pharaohs? That’s right – it turns out that ancient Egyptians were quite serious about keeping their riches under lock and key (or rather under tons of stone). The intricate passageways and hidden chambers were designed to deter tomb raiders and ensure that the pharaoh’s wealth remained undisturbed for eternity. Not to be outdone by their Egyptian counterparts, the ancient Greeks and Romans also developed their own methods of securing valuables – bronze or iron boxes.

Fast forward a few centuries, and we find ourselves in the 1700s – an age of powdered wigs, fancy balls, and, you guessed it, the birth of true gun safes because firearms became more common, and the need for secure storage options grew more pressing. Thanks to more precise metalworking that allowed for various locks and door hinges, these first true gun safes featured swing doors that were closed using an easily operable lock.

First Burglar- & Fire-Proof Gun Safes

Charles Chubb’s Invention

chubb lock

As we venture into the 19th century, we meet a man whose ingenuity would forever change the world of safes – Charles Chubb. In 1818, Chubb patented his Detector Lock – a device designed to “detect” any tampering with the lock mechanism. If someone tried to pick the lock, the Detector Lock would jam and become even harder to crack, much to the frustration of would-be burglars.

In 1835, he unveiled his first “burglar-proof” safe. This impressive creation combined Chubb’s patented Detector Lock with solid iron doors and walls.

First Fire-Proof Gun Safes

While Charles Chubb was busy revolutionizing the world of locks, another inventor named Jesse Delano was tackling a different challenge – creating a safe that could withstand the destructive force of fire. In 1826, Delano introduced the first fire-proof safe that featured a wooden enclosure “coated with a composition of clay and lime, plumbago and mica, or saturating the wood in a solution of potash lye and alum, to render it incombustible.” It was a first step towards the true fire-proof safe.

In 1830, Daniel Fitzgerald patented a fireproof safe that used plaster of Paris as insulation, and in 1843, Fitzgerald was granted a patent for his improved “Salamander Safe,” which boasted heavy iron plates and a three-inch layer of liquid plaster of Paris.


Fitzgerald assigned the patent to Enos Wilder, who later reassigned it to his heir, Benjamin G. Wilder – that’s why the Salamander patent is also known as the Wilder patent. Soon it was purchased by Wilder’s friend, Silas C. Herring, recognized as one of the most well-known safe manufacturers of his time.

Around 1870, Herring & Co. introduced a safe featuring a sturdy boilerplate wrought iron exterior and an inner safe made of hardened steel. The space between was filled with a casting of Franklinite, the hardest metallic ore known to humankind. The company also incorporated soft steel rods into the casting, with some running vertically and others horizontally.

Modern Gun Safes

Burglary Safes: Strength in Steel

Closet Gun Safes

Have you noticed those old gun safes were made from iron? Well, later, safe manufacturers began to shift from iron to steel, as it offered several advantages over iron, including increased strength, lighter weight, and better corrosion resistance.

So, modern burglary safes feature solid steel construction and innovative locking mechanisms. Thicker steel walls and doors provide increased resistance against break-ins, while state-of-the-art locking systems – including biometric locks and digital locks with electronic keypads – offer enhanced entry security. But how can we evaluate how secure a gun safe is? Well, with the help of burglary ratings, including Test Performance Ratings by Underwriters Laboratories (U.L.) These ratings assess the ability of a safe to withstand various types of attacks:

  • B Class: Basic security with doors and walls made from solid steel.
  • C Class: Increased security featuring thicker steel construction.
  • UL RSC Level I & II: Residential Security Container (RSC) ratings indicating that the safe has passed standardized tests for burglary protection.
  • UL TL-15, TL-30, and TL-30×6: High-security ratings awarded to safes that can withstand intense tool attacks for 15 or 30 minutes on the door (TL-15 and TL-30) or feature six-sided body and door protection (TL-30×6).

Fire-Proof Gun Safes

Modern gun safes offer a range of solutions for fire resistance. However, it’s crucial to note that there are no standardized ratings to evaluate a gun safes ability to resist rife. To find the best fire-proof safe, you should consider how many layers of fireboard it has. Also, avoid safes that use drywall for insulation, as they may not offer the desired level of fire protection. Generally, you want a gun safe designed to endure 1 hour in fire – this rating provides adequate protection during a typical home or business fire.



As we look back on the history of gun safes, one thing is clear: the future holds even more exciting innovations and advancements in firearm storage technology. We can anticipate digital and biometric gun safes to become even faster, more hack-proof, and affordable, while large home gun cabinets to become integrable with smart home systems. However, there’s no need to wait for future developments. At GRITR Sports, we proudly offer an extensive collection of the best gun safes from reputable manufacturers. If you’re in search of the perfect safe, feel confident in exploring our site to find the best solution for your needs.

Read other posts about gun safes:

Quick-Access Gun Safes: Are They Reliable?
The Role of Gun Safes in Responsible Firearm Ownership
What to Consider When Buying a Gun Safe Online
How to Securely Store Your Ammunition


What are old gun safes made of?

Old gun safes were primarily made from iron and often had simple locking mechanisms, like key locks or combination locks.

Who built the first fire-proof safe?

The first fire-proof safe was developed by English inventor Jesse Delano in 1826. The safe featured a wooden enclosure coated with a composition of clay and lime.

How are modern fire-proof safes built?

Modern fire-proof gun safes typically feature multiple layers of materials outer steel, ceramic fiber blanket, fiberboard, and steel liner.

Timothy Chandler

Timothy Chandler is a long-time outdoor enthusiast and shooting range regular who decided to put his passion into words. Having tried an immeasurable number of firearms during his hunting trips across Texas and several other states, Timothy has accumulated a knowledge base worthy of sharing. The possible blanks in the expertise he compensates with the help of his numerous shooting buddies. Timothy is set on a seemingly impossible mission to try it all in the realm of firearms. Follow him on his never-ending journey through the gun world.

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