One security feature of a good gun safe is its incredible weight. Moving a safe around is supposed to be a laborious, team operation requiring planning and the right tools. While this helps give you peace of mind once your safe is installed, getting it there is a major chore.
Mistakes in this process can cause severe injury or property damage. Lock up Snowball & Rex, call your crew, get some pizza and beer for the post-move fiesta, and read on to prepare the smoothest safe moving operation possible.
Step 1 - Preparation is Key
We want to get through this with all our toes, pets, flat screens, and rugrats in one piece. The key here is planning. Gather a crew of friends with IQs greater than their shoe sizes and who are used to lifting more than each other's spirits. Get non-essential personnel out of the way.
Plan your route from delivery point to final location. Measure any tight spots, take note of all the hard turns, steps, and obstacles along the way, and plan how to tackle them. Different scenarios require different manpower, equipment, precautions, and plan of attack.
To help everything go as smoothly and safely as possible, go through it all in your mind considering every potential problem.
Step 2 - Empty the Gun Safe and Secure It
Strip your safe down as much as possible. Besides removing all your guns and valuables from the safe, most safes allow you to remove shelving or other internal components. This reduces some weight and prevents these parts from falling out of place during the process, causing potential damage. It also prevents sudden shifts in the center of gravity which can be hazardous during the moving process.
Consider securing your guns and ammunition separately during the safe moving process. This may involve trigger locks, separate locked rooms, or other lockable containers you may have.
If you will be using a dolly, pallet jack, pallet lift, or heavy-duty hand truck, use ratchet straps to secure the safe to the device. This is a vital safety precaution. This is no Bugs Bunny cartoon, an 800-pound safe tipping onto someone is no laughing matter; someone could get killed. You can strap moving blankets or alternatives, like fleece blankets, to the safe to prevent property damage.
Step 3 - Procure the Equipment Needed
If you don't have something like a dolly or heavy-duty hand truck, consider buying, renting, or borrowing one. A good heavy-duty furniture dolly can be worth having around. Whether you buy, rent, or borrow, look for an all-steel model, particularly if your safe is on the heavier side. Refrigerator or piano dollies are ideal.
Cheap fleece blankets can stand in for moving blankets. When rolled up they can also serve as effective bullet stops for later use on the range.
If you don't already have ratchet straps, chances are, anyone with a pickup truck does. Consider buying them. Like a dolly, these can be a good investment as they come in handy in many different scenarios.
All of the equipment should be available for purchase at your local hardware store. Hardware stores also often have them available for rent. Another rental option is a moving truck rental company.
It is possible to roll a safe on heavy-gauge PVC, steel pipes, or even golf balls. This can save money but offers less control. Quality work gloves are also a necessity for all involved.
Step 4 - Clear the Path
Clear the path of any valuables, rugs, or other obstacles. Consider covering surfaces with protective materials like mover's blankets or cardboard. Send the kids to a friend's house and ensure that no four-legged friends can get anywhere near the procedure.
A stair-climbing dolly or hand truck can make all the difference if your path includes more than a couple steps. Remember that wobbling and awkward twists and turns are to be expected. Keep Murphy's law in mind and prepare for the worst.
It's easier to put in the time to move major pieces of furniture or other possessions than it is to pay for them to be repaired or replaced.
Step 5 - Loading a Safe Into a Truck
By far the easiest way to get a safe onto or off of a truck is with a lift gate. If you are renting a truck, you'll save considerable effort by choosing one with a lift gate.
If you only have a ramp to work with, double-check its load capacity. Try to position the back of the truck as close to the building as possible and avoid dealing with slopes on which the safe could get away from you. For example, place the bottom of the ramp on a raised surface like a step, as long is it is secure.
Strapping the safe to a heavy-duty dolly or hand truck is ideal for getting up the ramp. Often the dolly can be laid down in the truck with the safe attached.
If you're dealing with a pickup truck, check the load capacity of the tailgate before loading. It may be easier to remove the tailgate anyway. Back the truck up about a foot and a half from the safe. The actual distance depends on the relative height of your flatbed and your safe.
You want to be able to tip the safe back at about a 45-degree angle to rest on the edge of the flatbed. Lay a moving blanket or furniture pad half on and half off the end of the bed. Use leverage and sufficient manpower to tip the safe onto the flatbed. Two people, one on either side of the safe should do the trick. If you have a grippy bed liner, a blanket or a piece of cardboard will help slide the safe into the flatbed. Keep it laying on its back.
Whatever type of truck you use, try to move the safe as far forward in the cargo area as possible. To get the safe off the truck, just reverse the process.
Step 6 - Professional Movers
Bringing in the pros is a great way to save yourself one crummy, frustrating day. Professional safe movers are experts in getting the unit in without the slightest damage to person or property. Nevertheless, it's nice to have someone other than yourself liable in the unlikely event something bad does happen.
Note that even if the company focuses on gun safes, they may refuse to move firearms and will refuse to move ammunition. They will expect you to empty the safe before the move. They will probably charge somewhere from a hundred to (quite) a few hundred dollars for the operation.
Search your local listings for dedicated gun safe movers, general safe movers, or moving companies with particular expertise in safe moving.
Pallet Removing and Leveling
Most manufacturers bolt their safes right to the pallet, requiring you to use the right tools to unbolt them. Vice grips can hold on to the nut under the pallet and exert leverage while you remove the bolt from inside the safe.
The right tool for this will vary according to the type of bolt used by the safe manufacturer. Once you have removed the bolts, tilt the safe up and place a length of heavy duty pipe under it. You can then roll the safe halfway off the pallet so that one edge is resting on the ground. Tip the side still resting on the pallet up enough to kick the pallet out of the way. Let the safe down and push it into the desired position.
It will be easier if you apply force to the highest point possible. Steel naturally bends and warps a bit. Chances are, once in place, your safe will rock a bit. Shim the high corner and break the shim off flush with the bottom of the safe.
Depending on how you are anchoring your safe, avoiding blocking an anchor bolt hole with a shim to save some work later. Cedar or plastic shims like those in the video are available at any hardware store.
This video shows easy ways to get your safe into place, remove the pallet, and prevent the safe from rocking.
The main concern here is safety. However you plan to move your safe, take it slow and plan ahead. Make sure you have identified an ideal, secure, and convenient location for your safe. It should be anchored to a floor, preferably concrete, and not shuffled around the house on a whim. Bringing in the pros is a wise option, but if you do it yourself, don't skimp on manpower or equipment.
Moving a safe is something you do so rarely that it's worth spending a little extra to ensure the process goes smoothly, nothing is damaged, and no one gets hurt. Don't rush, if you plan to borrow or rent the equipment, take your time to find the best options to keep the job as easy and safe as possible.
Post-move, pizza and beer don't taste as good with some unplanned drywall work to do or with your buddy in the hospital with pancake foot. As always, stay safe and remember, lift with your knees, not with your back.