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Buying Gun Safes at a Discount and a Historical Marketing Tragedy

In today’s world, sometimes marketing seems to get vicious as companies try to out do their competitors, or stores as they try to outsell other retailers. But a lot of marketing strategies have changed with the internet. Not only do stores have to compete locally, but also nationally and often globally. They compete against large internet companies, and companies that can appear large online, but may be home run businesses. It is a new competitiveness in today’s market that has drastically changed the way the public shops. This is obvious with many items today, especially smaller ones, but what about large, heavy items, such as gun safes? Yes, even these are available online with discount prices, and sometimes with free shipping. After all, isn’t that one of the main concerns about ordering a heavy items online - the shipping charge? Now, regardless of apparently devious marketing practices of today, they do not compare with many underhanded tactics used 150 years ago.

In the 1850’s there were two rival safe manufacturers, Thomas Milner and George Price, whose relationship was akin to that of the Hatfields and McCoy’s . It all got started when Price published “George Price's Treatise on Fire and Thief-Proof Depositories and Locks and Keys”, a 1,000 page book in 1856 (sounds like thrilling reading!). The book included many testimonials of the results of fire tests conducted by his rival, Thomas Milner, along with the heavy suggestion that these testimonials of the fire resisting attributes of Milner’s safes were nothing but lies. But despite this, Price was using Milner’s technology of a fire resisting compound in his own safes (allowable since the patent had expired).

At first, things started out mildly. Milner displayed in his window a mint condition Milner safe, with a totally mutilated Price safe next to it. But then things escalated to a series of challenges of public testing of the safes, both against fire and brute force entry.

One of these tests took place in April of 1860, both Price and Milner showed up with safes to include in the test. As a public test, anyone could try to test the safes. One man, Mr. Freestone, did not like Price, so he showed up that day with a large quantity of gun powder to test a safe. When he tried to place his charge in the lock of the Price safe, he discovered that the lock would not hold the amount of gunpowder that he expected,and he was unsuccessful. Milner’s safe was then prepared (by Prices men), and the door was blown right off its hinges. Milner had boasted a “double patent gunpowder-proof solid lock,” but within seven minutes a hole was drilled through the door plate, and the powder was poured through the hole to where the movement of the main bolts were located. His safe didn’t stand a chance!


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Milner then tried to do the same to Price’s safe. But met with failure when they tried to drill or find any other way to dislodge the spindle so they could placer a full charge of gunpowder. Considering the trial over and a success, Price and his men left. But Milner was not to be outdone, he was determined to blow up a Price safe that day. Milner had his men bring in an older style safe. Though only five years old, it did not incorporate the improvements of the newer safe, and the lock had been packed with an excessive amount of gunpowder. The safe was blown into bits. The crowd had only been expecting an explosion similar to what they had seen before, so no extra precautions were taken for the larger amount of powder. Pieces of the safe flew into the crowd and a young boy was killed.

Though full of remorse for what happened, Milner and Price continued in the their bitter rivalry, their attitudes unchanged.

Today similar rivalries may be around, but through lessons of history, common sense and protection of modern law, the public is more protected. Plus, we mostly benefit from industry competition, it is one of the blessings of capitalism and free trade and it is brought to our door step with the internet. So, as you shop for your new gun safe, look for retailers that offer gun safes discount.