Patrick Galbraith travels to Utah to see the stringent tests gun cabinets undergo in the US
A muscular man in the middle of the room swung a large hammer up over his head and brought it crashing down on a metal cabinet. It was not an ordinary Wednesday and Utah was not an ordinary destination for a Shooting Times assignment.
Browning’s ProSteel gun cabinet factory sits at the foothills outside Provo. Admittedly, gun storage is not a topic that gets people going. A man with a thing for gun cabinet conversation is unlikely to be everyone’s favourite person on the syndicate.
But did you know that a cabinet compliant with safety standard BS7558 — the sort you’ve probably got under the stairs — wouldn’t pass the security standards test in France or Italy, nor would it be recognised as secure, according to official specifications in the gun-loving US? I didn’t.
Just 47 seconds after picking up the hammer, the muscular American had broken into the cabinet. “You know what BS stands for,” yelled an uncouth Frenchman from across the room. Needless to say, a little bit of my British pride died that day. Some 10 minutes later, we attached a hydraulic lift to the front of a ProSteel cabinet, a brand Browning started marketing in 1983. The aim was to replicate someone in a truck trying to wrench the door off in order to make off across county lines with your arsenal.
I always thought of gun cabinets as mere necessities but I was up on my feet, feverishly watching the needle on the dial flicker as the pressure rose. No matter how much force we deployed, a minor bend was all we could achieve.
“D’you fancy a go?” asked Bob Weeks, ProSteel’s director of sales, gesturing to another British-made cabinet and handing me a mallet and a crowbar. I stepped tentatively into the middle of the room and removed my glasses. It felt like this was some sort of initiation.
In a bid to display a modicum of masculinity, I threw myself into the task at hand, knocking the crowbar in behind the locks and then pulling it with all my bodyweight. Two minutes later I was in. The broken, warped gun cabinet in front of me was concerning. With the exception of my Jimny, after an incident on the foreshore involving lost car keys, I have never broken into anything. Nor, of late, have I done much exercise. Quite how quickly an experienced criminal who throws weights could get into our cabinets doesn’t really bear thinking about.
After a short coffee break we headed outside into the heat to stick a cabinet in a furnace alongside some of the competition from the luxury cabinet genre. The head of research and development placed a $100 bill into the safe that was about to be plunged into the flames. He was confident in the gypsum lining that releases water vapour when it is heated, therefore cooling the interior.
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Burned to the ground
Bob told me proudly they recently had a call from a man in Kansas whose house burned to the ground, leaving just his ProSteel standing. When Bob got down there with an angle grinder — due to the locking system having perished — he found the guns inside. Despite needing a bit of a wipe down, they were entirely unharmed.
After 20 minutes in the furnace, during which we watched some curiously tame deer running around the car park, the steaming cabinet was hauled out. Needless to say, there was a collective enthusiasm among the assembled to see the ProSteel team look like fools as it was prised open, revealing a little pile of ashes. It was not to be. The bill lived.
That afternoon we walked around the factory. The workforce was painstakingly machining and painting gun cabinets.
Later, over a root beer, I chatted to an Italian about whether we’d buy a Browning gun cabinet at almost 20 times the price of the ones we currently have. “I think I would,” he said. “But I’d have to persuade the missus.” He learned the expression on a pheasant shoot in Kent.
I thought about the new gun I bought last year and tried to weigh up the probability of a house fire. “Perhaps I should think about one too,” I said, as the smiling waitress filled up my glass again.