There’s a lot to be said for bulk discount stores. We like our supersized bag of potato chips as much as the next American. But when you’re making an investment purchase, it’s important to do your research and not just buy the first budget safe you see.
Because while Costco gun safes have an appealing price tag, especially when compared to the best gun safes for sale, purchasing a safe isn’t just about dollars and cents. It’s about protecting your valuables. Let’s take a look at the difference between a Costco gun safe and the safes you’ll find at a local retail shop.
4 Things to Think About When Considering if You Should Buy a Gun Safe at Costco
1. How Do Costco Safe Locks Compare?
The lock of a gun safe plays a critical role in how secure the safe is. There are a variety of things to consider when you’re selecting the lock for your gun safe. One of the most pressing concerns for our customers is what kind of lock they can get.
Generally, Costco gun safes are only available with one type of digital keypad lock. While this is a good option for some customers, many individuals are looking for the quick access ease of a biometric fingerprint lock or the old-school reliability of a mechanical dial lock.
Mechanical locks, in particular, are becoming increasingly harder to find at big box stores. Most budget brands are producing digital keypad locks. As a locally-owned shop that works directly with dealers, we carry a large selection of safes with dial locks.
Our skilled safe technicians are also able to replace your lock with a different version.
Not all Costco Gun Safes Use UL Listed Locks
When security is a priority, you also want to look for a UL-certified lock. UL stands for Underwriters Laboratory, an independent and unbiased third-party testing agency.
Generally speaking, there are two primary components of a UL listed lock that make them superior:
1. Solenoid Plunger vs Lock Bolt
Less expensive locks, like those carried by big box stores, often use a solenoid plunger to block the safe’s actual locking mechanism. These plungers tend to be easily depressed, creating a weak point in your home defense.
U.L. listed locks us a lock bolt to block the safe’s locking mechanism. These bolt locks are a heavy-duty bolt that offers a high level of security, making it more difficult for a thief to break into your safe.
2. U.L. Magic Module Footprint
The U.L. Magic Module Footprint is a standard template recognized by the gun safe industry. Locks made to fit this template can quickly, affordably, and securely be interchanged from safe to safe.
This gives you the freedom to easily retrofit a lock on an existing safe. For example, you may want to update your safe from a dial lock to an electronic lock. Alternatively, you may meed to replace an electronic lock that has worn out or install an old-school dial lock.
If your safe doesn’t have a lock with a Magic Module Footprint or you are trying to install a lock that doesn’t have a Magic Module Footprint, replacing the lock can require new holes to be drilled in your safe and/or your locking mechanism to make the new lock fit.
2. How Does the Body of a Costco Gun Safe Compare?
The seams of a gun safe present weak points where a thief could more easily pry or pound their way inside. While there are no one-piece gun safes, the more seams a gun safe has, the more vulnerable it is.
In the early days of gun safe manufacturing, some safes were made with a five-piece body. Today, most gun safes manufacturers use either a three-piece or two-piece construction:
- Three-piece construction: The sides of the safe are generally all one piece, and the top and bottom are welded on.
- Two-piece construction: A single piece of steel is bent to create the safe’s top, bottom, and sides. The back is then welded on.
While two-piece construction inherently has fewer seams, an important thing to also consider is how the pieces are welded together. Generally, manufacturers will use one of two welding techniques:
- Fully Welded: The entire seam is welded shut.
- Stitch Welding (aka Tack Welding): Individual spot along the seam are welded to hold the exterior pieces together.
Safes with fully welded seams are more secure, but also require more energy and expertise to build. Most big-box stores don’t carry fully welded gun safes because they aren’t as commonly built by budget manufacturers.
For example, Costco doesn’t carry any Liberty Safes, the leader of high-quality consumer-grade gun safe manufacturing in America. Founded in 1988, Liberty specializes in precision robotic welding, creating the strongest possible seam. As an official Liberty dealer, we have a large selection of Liberty safes in-stock and ready to deliver. (Peruse our entire selection.)
Top Liberty Safes with a Two-Piece Construction that's Fully Welded
3. How Does the Fire Rating on a Costco Gun Safe Compare?
In addition to burglary, fire is the other biggest threat to your firearms and valuables. Unfortunately, fire ratings in the gun safe industry are not regulated. Any manufacturer can put any label they want — regardless of the testing they’ve performed.
When you’re considering the fire rating of a gun safe, you’ll want to look at how long it offers fireproof protection. This indicates the length of time it can withstand heat before the contents inside are completely destroyed.
As of August 5, 2021, the average fire rating of a Costco gun safe is 60 minutes, with the highest rating topping out at 75 minutes. The average fire rating of our gun safes is 90 minutes, 50% longer than Costco safes. Furthermore, our top fire rating is 2.5 hours — the highest in the industry.
These impressive fire ratings should come as no surprise when you consider Costco doesn’t sell a safe that weighs more than 900 pounds. Comparatively, our locally owned shop stocks safes that are 6,000 pounds.
Why does the weight matter? Because the weight is a direct reflection of the safe’s construction. In order for a safe to provide more fire protection, it needs more layers of fire protection and those layers make the safe weigh more.
Fire Protection Resources
As a result of the fires that have plagued Washington, Oregon, and California in recent years, fire protection has become an increasing priority for many. To help you prepare for the worst, we’ve put together a resource guide that includes insights and frequently asked questions about fireproof and fire-resistant safes.
4. Do Costco Gun Safes Meet or Exceed Washington States Gun Safety Standards?
As a result of RCW 9.41.360, which came into effect July 1, 2019, gun owners are held legally responsible for any improperly stored firearm that comes into the possession of prohibited individuals (this includes minors and felons). Improper storage could result in a conviction of:
Community Endangerment in the First Degree is a Class C felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Community Endangerment in the Second Degree is a Gross Misdemeanor punishable by up to 364 days in jail and a $5,000 fine.
Improper means your firearm was stored in a location where you know, or reasonably should know, it could be accessed by a prohibited individual. To meet these storage standards, all firearms should be secured within a locked box. All gun safes, including Costco gun safes, meet this safety standard set by Washington State.
Keeping Firearms from Kids
Keeping guns from curious little fingers is one of the primary concerns for most parents. Kids get into things. They check things out, even if you’ve told them not to. Gun safes with a non-U.L. listed lock come with a set of five-inch skeleton keys that can bypass the safe’s locking mechanism.
If you have a safe with a non-U.L. listed lock, you’ll also need to take precautions to adequately store your skeleton keys so that any minors can’t find them.
What to Look for in High-Quality Budget-Friendly Gun Safes
- How much storage space do you need? (We always recommend you go at least one size bigger than your current storage needs.)
- How likely is your safe to be exposed to fire?
- Do you need the ability to rearrange your safe? (If this is your first gun safe, you may not know if you want to re-arrange the shelving. Purchasing a safe that has a flexible shelving unit will give you the opportunity to do so, as your needs change.)