A Brief History of the Gun Safe

The concept of a “safe” has been around for centuries. Over time safe designs have continued to be adjusted due to the increased level of protection necessary to preserve firearms and valuables. The history of safes begins with the ancient Egyptians, who kept vaults and temples for their precious items, and the Greeks who had an early form of safes crafted from bronze. However, it was in the days of Julius Caesar that the first true safes were developed, with iron and wooden chests that they used to store valuables.

With the passage of time, these safes became increasingly more complex, though they also became larger, more cumbersome, and difficult to move. Some advancements did offer more convenience to safe owners. In the 1700s, craftspeople began building safes with swinging doors, a gun safe design still in use today. As technology continued to improve and with the development of guns, there came a need for proper gun storage that would offer better protection from the elements.

When Were Gun Safes Invented?

The 19th century was a revolutionary era when it came to gun safes. A number of inventors claimed patents for more advanced safe options. These include William Marr, who filed a patent for the iron safe in 1834. Thomas Milner, who filed a patent for a safe in 1840, would go on to become one of the biggest safe makers in England with his design, which helped prevent the safe from being pried open. After 1830, safes were made with inner walls of materials such as plaster and cement, which offered greater protection for valuable items, including guns.

The modern safe can be traced back to these early patents and gun safe designs. However, there were still many things that would continue to develop and change over the next several decades. Among the many issues with these old-fashioned types of safes was their bolted design. In comparison to the modern safe, this older style required a large key for entry. This made them vulnerable to burglars, who could use methods such as lockpicking or gunpowder to gain entry into the safes.

However, one of the biggest issues with these old-fashioned gun safe designs was their lack of fireproofing. While large iron safes were a sturdy option, the heat of a fire was easily conducted through the metal, leaving anything inside especially vulnerable to damage. The addition of inner walls helped some but still did not do enough to protect items such as guns.

The first truly fire resistant gun safe design can be traced to the modern strongbox, created by an African American inventor named Henry Brown. While it was designed to protect paper documents, the technology of his safe would go on to be integral to the history of gun safes and safes in general as it offered a good amount of protection from fires.

It wasn’t until 1917 that standardized testing began for safes. At this point, many of these foundational designs began to come together. This would lead to the creation of the gun safe design that is easily recognizable today. These early designs would continue to be used for years. However, the advent of modern technology would again change the history of safes, especially as large businesses began to take over safe manufacturing from smaller companies.

Issues in Modern Day Safe Manufacturing

Early in the 20th century, many standards were put into place regarding safe manufacturing, and many high-quality gun storage options are now available because of these standards. However, much has changed since then. In the 1970s, manufacturers began to cut corners when it came to the production of safes. Among the biggest areas where manufacturers began to cut costs was by dropping true fire resistant designs in favor of cheaper alternatives.

This has made finding a fire-rated safe much more difficult. One of the biggest problems buyers may face is identifying whether a safe is truly fire resistant, as many companies will now perform their own testing based on their own standards and label their products according to these tests rather than industry standards.

Over time, gun cases/cabinets have increasingly begun to be produced on the mass market, with manufacturers continuing to cut costs. This has led to cheaper quality safes and more issues with the amount of security these gun safes truly offer. However, it is still possible to find high-quality gun safes that are made according to the highest possible standards. This will help ensure you have a gun storage option that prolongs the life of firearms and keeps them protected. Seeking out custom gun safes is one of the best ways to ensure you get everything you need for safe gun storage.

If you’re looking for a gun safe made according to the highest possible standards, ensuring your guns are protected from thieves, fire and much more, rest assured that Fort Knox makes a difference by holding itself to these original standards for safes. Visit our site to build and price your own custom gun safe today!

    Contact Us

    We'd love to hear from you. Please fill out the form or give us a call.
    Fax: 801.226.5493
    993 North Industrial Park Rd.
    Orem, UT 84057

    * Required

    This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

      Register Your Vault

      Fort Knox desires to manufacture the top vault in the industry, and would love to have your help. Your help with these few quick questions would be greatly appreciated. Your information will not be sold or published. Additionally, Fort Knox online registration is the easiest way to activate the warranty of your safe. Thank you!

      * Required

      This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

        Fort Knox Catalog

        Download a digital version of our catalog.


          Subscribe to our monthly email newsletter for deals and updates.

          * Required

          This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.