I was in a Harbor Freight location recently and decided to take a gander at their display safe. Try as I might I could not get the safe opened and the mechanism appeared to be belly up. I checked the online reviews on the Harbor Freight site and I was surprised to find they are mostly positive. The negative surround the locking mechanism and how cheaply it is constructed and what to do when it fails.
I was contemplating a safe series of blog posts so seeing this is timely. If you are in the market, first decide why you need and want the safe. Is it to stop burglars or to keep the firearms away from family members. You need a much different safe to stop a determined thief than the one you would need to keep a three-year old from getting their hands on a firearm. There are all kinds of features, but the main one is fire proofing. I must say in my life I have never been in a house which caught fire and hope I never do. In that same time frame my parents home had a chimney fire, but if you do not use a fireplace burning wood the chances of that happening are slim to none. Unless you have a potential hazard in the home or live in an area prone to lightning strikes and wildfire I think the fire proofing may be overkill. The weight may be needed to keep the safe from being picked up and carted off, but that can easily be counteracted by bolting to the floor or to the wall. If you are out in the country a thief is liable to spend more time trying to crack the safe than in the city or a subdivision. Most theft crimes occur when you are not home and often in broad daylight. I believe I saw a report from Durham, NC which indicated prime time was about 3pm. So for thieves the lock on the front and the bolting to the floor or wall are probably the most important steps to consider.
One thing I did read in an article is if your home does catch fire and the safe is on a second or higher level most safes are not designed to withstand the drop. So you could have spent a tidy sum on a safe and installation only to have it open when it falls 20′ as the floor collapses during a fire. Just some food for thought if you decide a safe is a necessity in your home.