Review: Can the SentrySafe Home Safe Withstand a Bonfire?

I tested this popular SentrySafe—find out what I liked and didn't like.
Glenda Taylor Avatar
The SentrySafe home safe undergoing a water-resistance test with a sprinkler on it

Photo: Glenda Taylor for Bob Vila

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Home safes provide a secure shelter for valuable possessions such as jewelry, important documents, and electronic devices, guarding them against theft, fire, and unexpected disasters. While investing in a home safe can offer users peace of mind, it’s vital to determine the extent of the safe’s ability to protect one’s valuables before making a purchase.

I tested one of the best-selling home safes on the market today, the SFW123GDC model from SentrySafe, a reputable company that produces a range of secure storage solutions, including safes and lockboxes. I conducted a comprehensive assessment of the safe’s features and subjected it to a wet environment for an hour to determine its waterproof capabilities. While some aspects and functions of this safe were reassuring, others were slightly disappointing.

The SentrySafe SFW123GDC exhibited commendable resistance against burglary, particularly if securely anchored. It’s worth noting that the SFW123GDC offers fire and water protection capabilities, but it is neither fireproof nor waterproof. Ahead, learn the pros and cons of this home safe to help you determine whether it’s a good option for storing your valuables.

The SentrySafe SFW123GDC Home Safe: At a Glance

The internal locking box of the SentrySafe with its key inserted
Photo: Glenda Taylor for Bob Vila

Rating: 7.25/10


  • Type: Digital, dual key
  • Exterior dimensions: 17.8 inches high by 16.3 inches wide by 19.3 inches deep
  • Interior dimensions: 13.8 inches high by 12.6 inches wide by 11.9 inches deep
  • Capacity: 1.23 cubic feet
  • Protections offered: Security, fire, water
  • Weight: 86.69 pounds


  • The safe’s weight (86.69 pounds) offers burglary protection against potential thieves looking for a quick steal
  • Backlit keypad is user-friendly and allows easy access in low-light situations
  • Built-in light inside the door improves visibility, making locating items in dimly lit environments convenient
  • Room for several documents and valuables in the safe’s 1.23-cubic-foot interior
  • While not entirely fireproof or waterproof, the safe does provide some level of protection against fire and water


  • The purpose of the dual key is not made clear by the manufacturer; it does not unlock the actual safe and only locks and unlocks the keypad function
  • Safe is only fire- and water-resistant, not fireproof or waterproof as some retailers claim
  • Lightweight plastic locking box inside the safe is easily removable and potentially susceptible to tampering
  • Water resistance factor is compromised if the safe is mounted, which could pose a problem for some users
  • Safe’s interior is not suitable for items that could melt due to fire exposure, potentially limiting the product’s versatility

Get the SentrySafe at:

What is the SentrySafe SFW123GDC home safe?

The SentrySafe SFW123GDC is a midsize security solution for safeguarding documents and small valuable possessions. With exterior dimensions measuring 17.8 inches high, 16.3 inches wide, and 19.3 inches deep, this safe offers an interior space of 1.23 cubic feet, which is enough room for documents, a handgun, and small cherished items. In a recent lineup of the best home safes today, the SFW123GCD took the top spot.

A couple of my favorite features are the backlit keypad and an interior light, which made it easy to open the safe in low-light environments and see inside without turning on a light or using a flashlight. This could be useful if you need to retrieve something from the safe at night without alerting others.

The safe’s construction includes steel-encased fire insulation, and it comes with flexible seals that mold tightly between the door and the body to resist water penetration for up to 24 hours.

I was impressed by its four steel locking bolts that slid smoothly into place when I turned the handle. Despite my strong and determined force attempting to open the safe, these bolts would not budge, not even when I jerked the handle aggressively. The steel case on this safe is formidable, indeed. That said, I suggest this SentrySafe be used primarily for document protection. Inside the front cover of the owner’s manual is a list of what should not be stored in the safe, including items that might be affected by humidity, such as watches, stamps, delicate jewelry, and photos. Users are also warned not to store computer disks, cassettes, audio tapes, or pearls inside the safe.

These limitations are partially why I docked a couple of points from the overall score of the SentrySafe.

The SentrySafe home safe sitting on a pallet held over a bonfire by a skid steer
Photo: Glenda Taylor for Bob Vila

Is the SentrySafe completely fireproof and waterproof?

No. The SentrySafe SFW123GDC is not a wholly waterproof or fireproof safe, despite some advertising to the contrary. While it offers some fire-resistant and water-resistant features, it’s important to note the distinct difference between something being “proof” versus “resistant.”

I was impressed with its water-resistant feature. I placed the safe on a sidewalk, put a water sprinkler on top, and let the water run for over an hour. Before the test, I set a toilet paper roll in the safe to tell whether the water came through the seals. Plumbers often use toilet paper to help determine where tiny leaks are coming from because they might not be able to see or feel a drop of water, but toilet paper will pick up the smallest amount. When I opened the safe after the water test, the toilet paper roll was bone dry. I was impressed.

The fire test was more challenging. I built a bonfire, placed the SentrySafe on a pallet, and then lowered the safe (via a skid steer), pallet and all, into the inferno. Wait. Full stop. No, I didn’t. That was the original plan, but after calling the SentrySafe helpline to find out how to open the safe after the keypad had melted off, I decided to skip that test. For understandable reasons, the technician was unable (or unwilling) to tell me how to break into the safe, and he didn’t seem to believe my story about burning it as a test.

However, Underwriters Laboratories (UL) has tested and certified the SFW123GDC to protect valuables for 1 hour in a fire as hot as up to 1,700 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep in mind that actual fire and intense heat are two different things, which is why the manufacturer warns against storing items inside the safe that can melt, such as CDs and DVDs. The SentrySafe is also approved to protect the contents from water damage if it sits in up to 8 inches of water for up to 24 hours.

A person using a key on the keypad of the SentrySafe SFW123GDC
Photo: Glenda Taylor for Bob Vila

What is the function of the dual key on the SentrySafe?

Initially, I thought “dual key” meant that if I forgot the key code, I could open the SentrySafe with the optional key—no such luck. The dual key does not lock or unlock the safe; it only locks and unlocks access to the keypad. This is a significant fault because if the user loses the code, there’s virtually no way to get into the locked safe.

The workaround for a lost code is to contact the SentrySafe helpline. Still, users must be able to give the technician on the other end both the model number and serial number on the safe before the technician will help them gain access to the safe’s contents. Both of these numbers are printed on a sticker that comes prominently stuck on the front of the safe, but in my case, the numbers had been scratched, so I couldn’t accurately read either one of them.

If I could make one suggestion, I’d ask SentrySafe for a manual key that opens the safe rather than one that just locks or unlocks the ability to use the keypad.

The inside of the SentrySafe with its locking box and several stored documents
Photo: Glenda Taylor for Bob Vila

How secure is the locking box inside the SentrySafe?

The locking box inside the SentrySafe SFW123GDC is a lightweight plastic compartment that provides a layer of organization within the safe. However, its security is relatively limited. While it can help categorize and separate smaller items, I found it to be rather flimsy.

The box slid out easily, and when I inadvertently dropped it on the tile floor, the back of it cracked. It wouldn’t take much more than a stomp with a shoe to break it wide open. The lock on the box seems like an afterthought because once someone gains access to the inside of the safe, the locking box is easy to get into. While it adds a level of compartmentalization, it doesn’t offer the same robust security features as the primary safe. On the plus side, if you’re looking for organization, several SentrySafe accessories are available to help keep your valuables orderly.

Is mounting the SentrySafe recommended?

The safe comes with a bolt-down kit containing two large bolts, two washers, and two masonry anchors for attaching the safe to joists, studs, or concrete. Including these bolts suggests the safe should be mounted, and I’ve always felt it’s essential to mount a safe to a permanent object to make it more difficult to carry away. The problem is that if you mount the safe, you void its water-resistant features. That makes sense; drilling holes in the safe will give water a pathway to enter. Unfortunately, users may not realize this until the safe is in a flood and the contents are ruined.

If users decide to bolt the safe in place, it bolts on the bottom, meaning you can attach it to anything it sits on. However, it does not provide the ability to bolt the back or sides to a wall.

Inside the SentrySafe's door with two sets of keys hanging and a document in a pocket
Photo: Glenda Taylor for Bob Vila

Is the SentrySafe SFW123GDC right for your security needs?

The SFW123GDC is well suited for buyers seeking secure storage for essential documents, humidity-resistant heirlooms, and valuable possessions. Those who will locate the safe in a low-light area, such as in a dark closet or a cabinet, will likely appreciate its backlit keyboard and interior light. It currently sells for just under $290, which puts it in the mid-price range for a general home safe.

However, this safe might not be the best fit for those who require absolute fireproof and waterproof protection for extended periods. Plus, the limitations of the lightweight plastic locking box and the compromise in water resistance, when the safe is mounted, might not meet the needs of users seeking advanced security measures. Additionally, individuals who plan to store items susceptible to melting, such as CDs or delicate materials, will want to consider alternative storage solutions. A safe is just one aspect of protecting your valuables. Consider pairing it with door and window alarms or a complete home security system for ultimate protection.

Where to Buy the SentrySafe SFW123GDC

Get the SentrySafe at:

Meet the Tester

Glenda Taylor is a product tester and writer specializing in the construction, remodeling, and real estate industries. She and her husband own a general contracting company, and Taylor is experienced in both residential and commercial building applications. She tests a wide range of power tools as well as other home improvement, household, and lawn-and-garden products.

Glenda Taylor Avatar

Glenda Taylor

Staff Writer

Glenda Taylor is a staff writer with a background in the residential remodeling, home building, and home improvement industries. She started writing for in 2016 and covers a range of topics, including construction methods, code compliance, tool use, and the latest news in the housing and real estate industries.