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TL Rated Safes - Amvault vs. ISM vs. Hamilton vs. Bernardini

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Old 04-16-2012, 12:13 AM
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TL Rated Safes - Amvault vs. ISM vs. Hamilton vs. Bernardini

This is going to be a long one, so I apologize in advance. It's my hope that this thread will not only help guide me, but others who need TL rated safes in the future.

I currently own an 8 year old Amsec BF6030. For those of you not familiar, that's back when the outer skin of the BF series was 1-2 gauges thicker than it is today. It's an awesome gun safe - perhaps one of the top RSCs on the market. But, it's still just an RSC and is insufficient for my growing collection.

A few weeks ago I was set on buying the Amsec RF6528 (a dressed up version of the Amvault CF6528 TL30 rated composite chest). It's got 21 cu ft capacity and weighs 3,455 pounds. Unfortunately, I don't believe it comes with a glass relocker. And at $5300 shipped and installed, it's pretty expensive. The nice thing is that the RF is built to TL30 specs like their commercial line, but is considered a residential unit and therefore comes with the residential lifetime "no cost" warranty that Amsec gun safes are famous for. For comparison, this is $252 per cu ft.

Last week I was convinced the Amvault CE6528 was the perfect compromise for me. For those of you not familiar, this is a TL15 Composite (fire rated) chest. The TL15 is not available with a glass relocker, but the TL-30 version offers it as an option. Still has 21 cu ft capacity, and weighs around 3,153 pounds. Price is around $4,200 shipped and installed. For comparison, this is $200 per cu ft. The TL30 equivalent is a few hundred dollars more (around $219 per cu ft.)

Last week I also called 5 of the most well known safe dealers in the country (some of which have been discussed on this board). I also had the privilege of visiting a large safe dealer in southern California. It was there that my eyes really opened to the possibility of some amazing reconditioned safes at amazing prices.

First up - an early 1990's ISM Cashvault 6333. This is a TL-30 rated composite weighing in at 3,625 pounds and an overall internal volume of 21.8 cu ft. ISM safes are made in Israel, and as far as I can tell, they are very well regarded by the jewelry industry. I don't know too much about them, as their web presence is poor. None of the 5 dealers I asked had anything negative to say about them, but none of them were overly enthusiastic about them either. Price is $4,300 shipped and installed. The actual selling price is far less than this, but it's coming from 2,500 miles away so freight and install are the killers. For comparison, this is $197 per cu ft.

Next is an early 1980's Bernardini Gemvault 6836. This is a non-UL rated composite safe built in Brazil by a company that is now out of business. However, despite its non-rating, it was built to exceed today's TLTR30X6 standards. This is far in excess of my needs, as the contents of these safes are typically insurable up to $3MM. Newer models eventually got the UL rating, and it's my understanding that the same size unit with the UL rating would be nearly double the price on the used market. This particular unit weighs in at approximately 6,820 pounds and offers a cavernous 35.4 cu ft of storage space. It is my understanding that the hinge design on the larger Bernardini safes was problematic. This unit had its hinges replaced during the refurbishment process, and features a 1 year warranty. Price is around $5,200 shipped and installed. Of all of the safes I am discussing today, this is the only one that my gut says "buy this thing now!!" It's more expensive than the RF6528, but it offers nearly 50% more space and many times more security. For comparison, this is $147 per cu ft.

My next and final contender is a Hamilton 6634 TL-30 rated composite chest. Hamilton has one of the least functional websites I have ever seen, so I have not been able to find any publicly available information on the unit. I believe this to have 32.9 cu ft capacity, with a weight of approximately 4,400 pounds, and is made in the USA. I have no idea on the age, but can call Hamilton and find out with the serial number. It looks to be in nearly new condition, leading me to believe this came out of a bank. The door design on this unit is very strange and looks nothing like a safe. If not for the tell-tale lock on the front, the lay person might think this is a tool or storage locker. The hinges are side mounted instead of being on the front like most safes. The boltwork is also the most underwhelming of any safe I've ever seen. It's only got 3-4 relatively small, rectangular bolts on the whole safe. In lieu of dead bolts on the hinged side, there is a 1/2" tongue and groove steel plate that fits together when the door is closed. Hamilton claims this is more secure than deadbolts, but I have no clue. Quite frankly it's a quirky looking safe, and doesn't give off the "aura" of mass and impenetrability that the Bernardini did. The dealer said not to let the look dissuade me, as it is a UL listed TL30 safe, and "if it's good enough for banks, it's good enough for me". I suppose he may be correct. It claims to be fire rated (like all composites), but it doesn't appear to have a step-door like most safes in this category. Price is around $5,200 shipped and installed, but I got the feeling it could be negotiated. For comparison, this is $158 per cu ft.

It's important to note that there are numerous TL and TLTR rated Chinese safes available at or below these costs. However, due to personal feelings (irrational or otherwise) I will never trust a Chinese safe to store my most prized possessions and heirlooms.

After all of this research, i think the Hamilton could escalate to my first choice if I get more education on the fireproofing and the security/design/boltwork. I love that it's made in USA, and the value it offers is hard to beat. The quirky look even adds to its appeal in a way.

So, jewelers, gun guys, and luxury lifestyle afficionados - please share your knowledge on any or all of the above units. Any to stay away from? Any you would strongly recommend? Pluses, minuses, etc...Thanks in advance!
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Old 04-16-2012, 06:07 PM
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I dont know hamilton..but the statement that if it is good enough for a bank does make sense...except look at all the other security they have in a bank..plus people with guns come when you rob a bank, when they rob you they come and fill out a report so you can file a claim..not the same rush to catch the bad guy.
All that aside..I would say go with your gut..plus, some heirlooms will get just as destroyed in the fire inside the safe as outside...heat is still the killer. The down side of all the really heavy safes are the sighting requirements..not all houses can support that kind of a long term point load.. so it either has to be reiforced at the mounting location or ground floor with concrete.
I am trying to figure out what to do with some of my fireaarms as my safe has run out of room also. I am thinking a smaller safe for the paperwork and small family stuff my wife has been putting away and reorganize for more long-guns....
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Old 04-18-2012, 10:49 AM
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or you can build your self a nice gun vault in the basement .cinder block rebar cement filled that special fiber that they use in those safes ,and a good safe door.
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Old 04-18-2012, 11:01 PM
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I have a nice Cannon that I got for $600, lol. Its good enough to keep my 4 (almost 5) year old away from my guns.

I have about $43K in watches/jewelery (about half of that is the two rings I had made for my wife). I only keep firearms and a few documents in my safe. Modest, but works for me.
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Old 04-21-2012, 09:26 AM
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Thanks for the feedback.

I live in California, so no basements here...otherwise that is surely the route I would have taken.

Wound up buying a 2011 AmvaultX6 (TL30X6 rated). It was a special order for another customer that was cancelled at the last minute. Been sitting in the dealer's showroom for the last year. Left hand opening, so not many people interested in it. I wound up getting it for $4,500 - about 62% off list price!

I'm stoked and will post pics when I take delivery next week.
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Old 04-21-2012, 09:26 AM
 
 
 
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