Gun Storage, Arms, Defense, and General Babbling

How Does a Stack On Gun Safe Stack Up

24 Gun High Gloss Upscale Safe

Stack-On SS-16-MG-C 16 Gun Fully Convertible Security Safe with Combination Lock, Matte Hunter Green

Stack-On 14 Gun Security Cabinet, no foam on side walls, Hunter Green

Since their beginnings in 1972, the Illinois based company, Stack On has been manufacturing some of the best selling personal security products in the world. Their success isn’t necessarily a direct reflection of the quality of a Stack On gun safe, not that they specialize in making crap – they don’t – it’s just that a Stack On Elite doesn’t quite live up to its moniker when “stacked up” next to a Liberty Magnum (America’s best selling gun safe manufacturer…that’s my pitch) or a Browning Platinum Plus. Of course, when you compare a Stack On safe to the two aforementioned monsters, you probably can’t help but notice the $4000 difference in price either.

The price point is where Stack On gun safes really shine. People look at one of these seemingly feature filled puppies and see a great deal. I mean, you can’t say no to a fire resistant, 500 lbs, 28 capacity $1000 gun safe, can you?..We’ll get to that in a minute.

I’ve hit on some of Stack On’s products on this site before. They manufacture a slew of security products and price them at a relatively affordable rate. They offer a little bit of everything – full size gun safes, a plethora of different steel gun cabinets (remember gun cabinets are NOT the same as gun safes), personal fire safes, drawer safes, there’s a Stack On handgun safe, they even have an entirely separate division devoted to tool storage. I’m no business analyst, but I think you can attribute a lot of Stack On’s nearly four decades of success to the combination of their massive product line, and attractive pricing. And like I said before, their quality isn’t all that ulbad either.

Fire Protection

First off, some of their more premium safes (the Elite and Total Defense models) offer a little bit of fire protection, and they’re rated by Intertek ETL. If you remember (assuming you actually read) my write up on Cannon safes, earning an ETL rating is pretty respectable. I go into a bit more detail in the Cannon article, but Intertek is a third party company, with no direct affiliation or public loyalty to either Stack On or Cannon, and they don’t slouch on testing. What separates Cannon’s fire protection from Stack On’s, however, is that Cannon’s top fire safe, the Safari has a 90 minute 1200 degree F rating, while Stack On’s poster child, the Elite boasts a cool 30 minutes of fire protection at 1400 degrees. That’s a significant difference, especially when you consider that the National Fire Protection Association has a six minute response time guideline that they try to stick to.  Their clock starts ticking from the time you call 911 to the time they arrive on the scene, hoses a’blazin’.

Six minutes is pretty impressive, and roughly 90% of the time, they shoot par. However, you still need to factor in the chance that your emergency may fall into the other 10%, or the time it takes for them to get the fire under control once they arrive. You may also want to think about the fact that you may not be there to make the phone call when the fire starts. Maybe that lazy neighbor of yours wants to let your stuff cook for a while before he picks up the phone. In addition, there’s the ever present truth that fire tests aren’t totally accurate. Again, ETL is great, but there are a number of factors that can sway the results of a real life test. Is 30 minutes enough time to keep your valuables safe? Maybe, but you might be playing with fire (I’m all about the puns tonight, folks).

Water Protection

One feature that makes Stack On pop a little in the industry, even among some of the upper echelon manufacturers, is the addition of water resistance.  Their high end models, like the Stack-On Elite, has been tested by Intertek ETL to withstand two feet of water for 72 hours.  This can be a real deal breaker if you’re living in a wet region of the world, and you’re more concerned with flooding than fire.  Many safes, even some of those  manufactured by industry monsters like Liberty and Fort Knox leave out water protection.  Though I’m sure that their motives are justified, and their planning well researched (perhaps they’ve recognized that water damage to the gun safe directly is more avoidable and predictable than break ins and fire damage), the fact still stands that Stack On is one of the few mainstream safe manufacturers that employs effective temporary waterproofing into the design of all of their top model safes (Elite and Total Defense received the ETL 72 hours at 2 feet of water rating).

Warranty

So, let’s say your fire department is incompetent, and they couldn’t kill the flames around your safe within the 30 minute time frame. Most likely everything in the safe will be damaged, if not ruined, and the safe itself…forget about it. Here’s where we examine the Stack On warranty. First off, in any safe that claims to offer fire resistance, a lifetime warranty for fire damage is included. Only the safe is covered, not the contents inside, but that’s the norm. Stack On will send out a local repair service to assess, and possibly fix the damages, and if they can’t do it, your warranty will cover the freight to ship the safe off for repairs or replacement (if necessary). The same applies to damage from break ins as well (I’ll elaborate on security standards in a few), however, damage resulting from manufacturer flaws are only covered for the first five years. In their lesser quality safes, lacking fire protection, like the Security Plus Steel, both the theft damage and manufacturer warranty only last three years. As also seen in many other companies, only the original owner of the safe benefits from the lifetime warranty (when applicable). Over all, I’d say Stack On safes are about on target for their warranty coverage, considering the quality and sticker price.

Stack On Security Features

I mentioned we’d get to Stack On security. Well, here we are, and I can’t say I’m terribly impressed. On their more expensive safes, I think they put a lot more effort into their fire protection than their security features. Let’s go back to the Stack On Elite 45 gun model as an example. For an anchored 750 lb, 45 cap gun safe, it has a pretty nice looking price tag, currently going for $1479 over at GunSafes.com. You have the option between my personal preference, a rotary combination lock, or an electronic keypad, and behind each lock is a steel hard plate to help resist drill attacks. Honestly though, aside from its weight and price tag, I’m not totally sold.

First off, I don’t think the previously referenced drill attacks, or any other attempt to foil the security on this safe is going to be terribly formidable against a professional troublemaker. I realize that certifications and marks of approval aren’t the end all be all for a safe’s security reputation. However, if a gun safe meets UL’s standards, I can have a little bit of confidence in its ability to take a beating.  Stack On’s top model, appropriately named the Premier meets UL’s RSC rating, which is pretty respectable.  As for the rest of their models, however, the only mark of approval that I could find  is the California DOJ (Department of Justice), and this is strictly a safety medal – technically, a trigger lock can pick up the same certification. There’s nothing wrong with safety, just keep an eye out for shifty salesmen trying to use this as a major selling point.

Okay, so it doesn’t have a fancy security certificate – not the end of the world – we’re talking about a Cavalier here, not a Cadillac. I wonder how a Stack On tests out outside of a laboratory. In all fairness, I’ve never seen anyone break into one, but I’ve seen two man crews pry open a lot of their competition in just a matter of minutes. Pry attacks are one of the most common attacks on gun safes, and the locking bolts on the safe door are one of the biggest lines of defense. The Elite only has 10 locking points, and the bolts are just 1″ thick in diameter. When you compare this to a Winchester Legacy 45, only a couple hundred dollars more, which has 18 1-1/2″ bolts around the perimeter, you’re looking at a significant difference in pry protection. The bolts, of course, aren’t everything. It’s exceptionally difficult to get a door open with a crow bar if you can’t tip the safe over for leverage. If you bolt a 750 lb Stack On Elite to the ground, the burglar is going to have a very tough time getting it to the floor.

Of course, he may have a plan B.  Namely the punch tactic, which starts by creating a hole in the steel door or wall, and “punching” the lock out of contact with the cam. Stack On safe walls are equipped with 11 gauge steel at best. The 12 gauge inside the safe may be a powerful weapon, but it’s not going to take a whole lot to get to it if you’re dealing with a burglar who knows what he’s doing.  Thin walls and the lack of a redundant spring loaded relocking system, make this a bit vulnerable to said attack methods.  Again, I’m just not that impressed, and I wouldn’t even consider spending any money on their non fire resistant safes – I’d honestly rather just save a few hundred bucks and go with a gun cabinet instead. As far as their gun cabinets go, theirs are very slick. Sure, a determined burglar is going to rip into a gun cabinet a little faster than a generic Stack On “Security Gun Safe”, but the difference isn’t worth the extra money…at least not to me. With anything short of their Total Defense or Elite model safes, I think I’d just be fooling myself.

Wrap Up

To you Stack On lovers out there who want to kill me, please reconsider. I think the company in general is great. I love their gun cabinets (as far as steel gun cabinets go), and you get some decent value with their higher end safe models. I just think a safe like the Winchester Legacy, which is in the same ballpark price-wise, is a little better value. That said, you’re talking to a hard core security buff. Then again, if saving a few bucks and sporting pretty interior features (lights, convertible shelving…) is your thing, a Stack On safe might just be your ticket.

29 Comments

  1. This post was very well written and informative. The first gun safe or cabinet that I purchase was a Stack on. Being newly married and a child on the way at that time, I wanted to keep my new family and my guns safe.
    Thanks
    Ted

  2. Ted, thanks for the great feedback, man! Being a middle income gun safe enthusiast, I obviously don’t have the bankroll to fund the ownership and testing of all of the safes that I discuss on this site.

    That said, it’s fantastic to get some solid feedback. Glad you like your Stack On. If you have a fire, flood, or break in (I apologize for you troubles ahead of time), let me know how that sucker holds up.

    Thanks again!

  3. I called Stack On and they said their 24 Gun Elite uses 11 gauge steel. If so, I think this is a big improvement over all other sub $600 safes, especially similar sized safes.

    One request, could you comment on the dial locks used by Stack On, this is my area of concern with getting one of their safes.

  4. Hey Willy,

    First off, thanks for reading! The Stack On Elite is definitely a great “bang for the buck” safe. Eleven gauge steel is more of a deterrent than a show stopper for a crook with enough knowledge and time on his hands. However, I agree with you 100% – it’s one of the best safes on the market under $600.

    Regarding their locks, I believe the mechanical combo lock that the Elite’s equipped with is a La Gard (Stack On manufactures their own electronic locks). La Gard is a pretty decent UL-rated product, reinforced by a hard plate, so considering the price tag, I’d give it my endorsement (whatever that’s worth :)). One downside to the Elite’s security design, as opposed to their Total Defense line, however, is that it lacks a relocker, so it’s a bit more susceptible to a professional attack.

    Not a bad safe though – if you pick one up, I’d love to hear what you think about it. Thanks again for stopping by!

  5. Good read, but I’m returning my stack on safe after doing more research. It doesn’t make sense to protect say $10000-15000 worth of guns and anything else you put in there with $1000 worth of safe. I’ve been doing a lot of research and i’m going with a sturdy safe. Check them out, they use 7 gauge steel. They have a great price point.

  6. Hey Stewart,

    Thanks for the great feedback. I have to agree with you – The folks over at 6mmbr recommend investing roughly 10% of what you plan to protect. I’d put a little more money into protecting a $15K gun collection, especially if you’re like me, and you intend to grow it.

    I’ve looked at Sturdy Safe, and other than having a decent looking chick with a shotgun on every page of their website (which is always great), it looks like they have a solid, good value product as well. 7 gauge seems to be the industry standard among most premium RSCs – the issue is, you could be looking at a $2K price variance depending on which brand you go with. If you wind up with a Sturdy Safe, I’d love to hear what you think of it.

    Thanks again for reading, Stewart!

  7. Excellent article. I am in the process of renovating and I’m researching gun safes to include a proper gun safe into the renovation plans. I have come around to Stack-On as I live in Canada and the selection is a lot more limited here. My local shooting club carries Stack-On, as does Canadian Tire.

    My research thus far confirms what you stated in your article, that Stack-On is one of the few brands that seem to put emphasis on water resistance. As a firefighter, I can tell you that damage from water is far more of a concern for me than direct fire damage in residential fires.

    In browsing Stack-On’s website, I did not see the UL RSC certification on the Elite or Total Defense models. They do have a line called the Premier Safes that DO have the UL RSC certification, as well as the ETL fire (30 min @ 1400 deg) and water (72 hr) ratings. They also state that on this line of safes “A re-locking feature has been included in these safes that will keep the door secured, even if the lock is completely removed during an attempted break-in.”

    Is this a new product line? Does this Premier model address the security concerns listed in your article? If so, would you consider them to be competitive with the “better” brands?

    In comparing the listed specs, I am also curious as to why this series seems to have larger interior dimensions and lower weight than the corresponding Total Defense safes of the same exterior dimensions (HGS-1040E versus GSXW-836). They still have the same fire and water resistance ratings.

    Looking forward to your comments…

  8. Hey Rick,

    I have to apologize profusely for my screw up on the RSC listing; you’re exactly right, the Premier is Stack On’s only UL listed safe. I don’t know how I messed that up, but I did…I just edited that sentence appropriately.

    As for the rest of your questions, specifically regarding the weight discrepancy, I’m going to do a bit of homework (triple-check this time), and I’ll let you know ASAP.

    Thanks again man!

  9. Hey Rick,

    I sent Stack On a laundry list of questions a couple days ago, and I’m waiting to hear back from them. I’ll give them a call if I don’t hear from them shortly, but in the meantime, let me take a crack at your question.

    As you mentioned, when you compare the Total Defense 32 gun model to their Premier 32 gun unit, the dimensions don’t quite add up (at least not to what you’d expect them to be). The Premier has both a smaller interior and exterior than the Total Defense, and weighs 42 lbs less (535 vs 493 lbs). This is an answer I hope to confirm from Stack On themselves, but I think that the Total Defense, to put it simply, is just a little bigger safe than the Premier (duh).

    According to their website, they’re both constructed using the same gauge steel and fire protection, both of which would have the biggest impact on the overall weight of the container.

    Based on that reasoning, I believe the only thing separating the TD and Elite lines from the Premier’s UL RSC listing (which we discussed previously) is the lock that they use. On their Premier safes, Stack On uses a UL listed lock (relocker included), which is required for the RSC rating.

    Overall, I think the Premier is a pretty decent value (I’m seeing $1250 – tax and shipping included), but I still wouldn’t consider it one of the best safes bar none.

    Among other things, its use of 12 gauge steel is just too light to classify this product in the elite group. However, if you want to really get technical, products like Browning’s Platinum which can be decked out with optional 1/4″ walls (~2.5 times thicker and ~$5K more expensive than the premier) could be considered lightweight as well (and technically not even a “safe”).

    Again, the Premier is an RSC with a good value (at least from what I can tell), but if you’re really interested in one of the “better” safes, I would check to see if Graffunder or Brown deals in your area.

    I know my comments are all over the place, but I’ll be sure to follow up with you again once I get some further facts from a phone call with Stack On.

    Thanks again for catching my previous mistake!

  10. Thank you very much for the prompt and thorough reply. Your site is an excellent, easy to navigate, easy to understand compilation of all the information I needed.

    I realize there are higher quality gun safes on the market, but my main concern is more general protection of firearms from children and amateur thieves. I have 3 large dogs and a high-tech security system, and I live in a large urban area, so police response times are quite rapid. I am confident a gun safe with a basic RSC rating will suffice for the time anyone may have to work on it.

    I am also impressed by the fact that it has an ETL 72 hour 2 foot water resistance rating. I have seen a lot more property damaged by water after a fire than by the fire itself. As such, I think it is a good value for the money. If I could afford it (and if my floor could support it) I would go for the AMSEC RF6528!

    Thanks again for the info. I’ll keep checking back!

  11. Hey Rick,

    I still haven’t been able to get a very detailed answer from Stack On, which has been the primary reason for the long delay in my follow up to your original question (I apologize). Nevertheless, the somewhat vague information I did receive is that the Total Defense is, plainly put, a slightly bigger safe; in the case of the 32 gun models, it’s 6″ wider and ~45 lbs heavier (because of the additional half foot of steel)…further goes to show you that you need to take the storage capacity claims with a grain of salt.

    The reason the TD isn’t UL listed is because its lock isn’t UL listed, which automatically forfeits it from eligibility (for good reason IMO). Stack On allegedly has no control over retail pricing, however, the gentleman I communicated with felt the UL listing, coupled with the Type 1 (or Group II in the case of the combo dial) lock and relocking mechanism is almost certainly the reason for the higher price tag.

    Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get the the specifics on the lock and relocker (yet), but if it’s good enough for UL’s five minute drill and punch efforts, it’s probably good enough for the asking price.

    Sorry again for my lack of specifics. I started this blog because I noticed that there really isn’t a lot of solid info out there on gun safes…clearly I still have some more work to do ;)

    Let me know what you decide/decided on when you get a chance.

    Thanks Rick!

  12. Checking back.

    Stack-on came out with a lower price 24gun offering in the Elite lineup. They chopped 4 inches off of the height (55″ tall) and took out the bolts from the top and bottom side of the door. I saw it for $400 and took one home. The reduced height is not a problem for long gun only storage – the standard height model did not have a top shelf anyway. And, I dont think the 3 active bolts vs 5 active bolts is going to be the reason this safe would be compromised.

    This was best value I found of that offers some fire protection and the internal size (about a 26″ x 23″ footprint). For the most part, $400 will typically get you the smallest Centurion on a not fire rated model.

  13. For the most part, $400 will typically get you the smallest Centurion or a non-fire rated model.

  14. No matter what way you cut it, that’s a heck of a buy for $400. Where’d you find it that cheap, if you don’t mind me asking?

  15. Dick’s Sportinggoods, had it 450 on black friday, but for the week prior you could pre order and not have to hassle with the early AM crowd. Then, on top of that, they have a $50 mail in rebate till the end of the year on all stack on safes. They called me few days later when they got the shipments in – big piles of safes in the store room, I think this deal was a hit.

    My 870 shotgun with 30+ inch barrel fits easily – this is my longest gun.

  16. Having worked retail for 5 years, I’ve always hated Black Friday. You, however, have just given me a twinkling of respect for the “holiday”. Good find, man.

  17. Where on Stack-on’s website do they list the gauge thickness of the fire resistant safes? I just bought the 45 gun (Elite) model for $950.00 but am not totally satisfied with it. After getting it home and moving it around the sides of the safe seem a little thin to me. Not to mention the dry wall has a 1/2″ wide gap between the bottom and the front.

  18. Hey Brian,

    I don’t believe Stack On actually lists the thickness on their site (not sure why), however, I’ve seen it listed elsewhere, and confirmed it with a phone call (I think it’s 11 or 12 gauge on the Elite).

    Don’t beat yourself up over the recent purchase, man – you have no reason to. If I’m not mistaken, they list in the $1200 range, so $950 is a great buy. The safe is huge, and your guns are a heckuva lot safer than they were a couple days ago. No worries.

    Thanks for the comment.

  19. Boy! Safe shopping is harder than car shopping. I am looking at the Stack-on Premier 32 gun (at the top of my budget $1300), Winchester Silver 22 ($949) and the Bighorn 6030 ($999). ALl about the same size.

    I like the Stack-on Premier for the water protection but it is the lightest at 500lbs and fireproof weakest at 30minutes.
    The Winchester is almost 700lbs (12g steel) and has the best fire rating at 1.5hrs.

    The Bighorn is 700lbs, 70mins of fireprotection, 10g steel but 1.25″ bolts. The other two now have 1.5″bolts.
    They all have 10-12 bolts, relocker, UL rating. The Stack-on and Winchester have door pockets, which is a nice plus.

    How does one decide?

  20. Hey Michael,

    Between the three of those suckers, I’m thinking the BigHorn ($999 sounds pretty reasonable – especially if the shipping is covered) may be your best bet. Considering they’re Chinese imports, they’re made pretty well for the price. You can always pick up a door panel for around $100 if you need the extra room down the road. I wouldn’t worry too much about the 1/4″ difference in the bolts – I think the 10 vs 12 gauge difference is more significant – Sturdy Safe has a nice little chart on their site if you’re looking for an illustration:

    http://www.sturdysafe.com/gunsafeguagechart.jpg ($1300 wouldn’t quite cut it, but if your budget happens to spike a little, Sturdy makes a very nice product).

    Hope that helps a little bit. I’d definitely be interested in hearing what you settle on. Let me know if you have any more questions.

    Thanks Michael!

  21. Hello there! Do you think MESA gun safe is a good choice if my budget is not too much?

  22. Hey Robert,

    It’s all relative. It depends on what your budget is, what model Mesa you’re referring to (they make both RSCs and “safe-safes”), the monetary value of the valuables you intend to lock up (a loose rule of thumb is 10% of the net value of your valuables…if you have $10K worth of guns, get at least $1K safe).

    I believe most Mesas are made in China…not to say every safe that’s made in China is garbage, but 9 times out of 10, you’re better going with American. Their security, fire protection, and warranty are nothing to write home about. That said, if you’re looking for a starter safe, and you happen to find a great closeout special on them at your local Walmart, Sam’s or Costco, it might be worth jumping on.

    Hope that helps. If there’s one you had in mind specifically, let me know and I’ll take a look.

    Thanks!

  23. Hi Jack,

    Thank you for the reply!

    I intend to by a MBF5922E which can hold 14″ Long Rifle, see(http://www.samsclub.com/sams/shop/product.jsp?productId=201640)

    They claim it is 1 hour fire rating, not sure if the test is performed by themselves of other authority like UL.

    Not sure if they are using sheet rock for fire protection, which emits water vapor during a fire. Do you konw other method of fire protection for a gun safe?

    Thank you!

    Robert

  24. Also, which MESA gun safes are RSCs and which are “safe-safes”?

  25. Not a bad lookin’ product, however, this probably isn’t a UL-rated fire safe (you’re rarely going to find a “gun safe” with a UL fire rating). They probably have an in-house testing system, like a lot of manufacturers do. That said, Mesa DOES have a nice set of UL listed fires safe product lines, so I’d have to imagine they know what they’re doing in that department.

    Their warranty is alright; 1 year parts and lifetime repairs/replacement caused by burglary and fire, but you have to cover removal and shipping costs, but it could be better…I’m a sucker for a great warranty.

    You can find that model for $100 cheaper over at gunsafes.com – right here – no tax or shipping (yes, I’m an affiliate :)

    What I referred to as “safe-safes” were their UL TL-30 rated units, but that’s a whole other need and price range.

    I’m assuming you’re interested in staying below $1000 (based on the link you mentioned). You may want to consider a Liberty Centurion (22 gun) for around the same price. It’s a little bigger, American made with solid construction, UL-RSC rated, and Liberty’s warranty is one of the best in the industry.

    Here’s one

    Regardless of what you wind up with, I’d love to hear about it. Have fun!

  26. Just purchased my Stack-on 28 gun safe for $649.00.. 532lbs, water proof, fire rated. $10,000/$15,000 worth of guns ? Who cares ! If the criminals want your “stuff” they are gonna get it reguardless ! I have two giant dogs, I am retired, home alot and live close to neighbors. That said, even if i didn’t have these circumstances I would still buy another Stack-on gun safe ! Great value and price !

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