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Don’t Give Bad Advice

One of the drawbacks of gun owners being a generally helpful bunch is that some try to offer up advice even when they shouldn’t. Yes, shockingly, some gun owners hold themselves out as experts when they don’t know squat. I know this is news to you, especially those of you who regularly chat others up at the range or those of you have spent more than 5 minutes at a gun club.

Snark aside, there are times when it can do serious financial damage. And it makes it worse when such bad advice is found in an official newsletter of an organization that, unjustly, may be seen as an authoritative source.

Yesterday’s mail included the Pennsylvania Rifle & Pistol Association newsletter, the source of the offending advice. One of their directors wrote an article on guns and insurance based on his experience with a devastating home fire. Filing a claim does not make one an expert in insurance. In fact, in Pennsylvania, I couldn’t even get past “Hello” and “please hold” when I got the receptionist at one insurance agency. She said their rules about even discussing insurance when it comes to quotes and advice are crazy strict, so she was not allowed to do anything more than transfer calls, take messages, and assist with non-insurance business needs since she was not licensed.

What follows is when someone who doesn’t seemingly have a background in insurance starts giving advice. (Reproduced as is, including grammatical errors.)

Last January we had a house fire resulting in 15 guns damaged by fire and smoke. I had very good Homeowners Insurance (Allstate “Deluxe” Policy) , and also the supplemental NRA sponsored (Arms Care) Firearms Insurance against fire and theft loss. I hope what follows may be useful information should any fellow members have the same misfortune.

I contacted NRA and told them I was submitting a claim. Their response was that my Homeowners Policy was the first resort and that my NRA policy was residual or secondary coverage in the event that Allstate failed to cover the loss.

Let’s stop here. I don’t have the insurance offered to NRA members for their guns, but my understanding is that the policy is secondary – that it covers above and beyond what your homeowners insurance covers depending on the policy you have with them. I never bothered getting it because my small collection was always under the amount that my renter’s policy covered. So why he would call the insurance company that NRA works with first is beyond me. (At least I’m hoping he called the actual insurance company and not NRA proper. Lord help him if he got caught in that phone menu.)

Allstate, like most other insurance companies, has limited firearms coverage for theft, but will cover all losses due to fire, flood, etc.

Hold up here! What?

All of my life, I have heard that if you live in a flood zone or want flood damage protection, you had to buy separate flood insurance. Google tells me this. More importantly, Allstate even verifies it with this statement:

A flood can be one of the worst disasters that can devastate your neighborhood. It’s such a big deal that the Federal Government runs a National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). That’s why Home and Property Insurance typically doesn’t cover flooding. (emphasis added)

Now, this guy’s so-called “‘Deluxe’ Policy” may include flood insurance that was recommended because of his community or because he had a salesman who talked him into it. That does not mean that most policies cover damage to your guns from floods. In fact, it means the exact opposite. Fire, yes, but not floods.

Over the course of the next few months I found that Allstate was much more reasonable to deal with, relative to proof of firearms ownership, valuation, etc. than NRA and it’s Insurance carrier.

I’m guessing this guy has a bone to pick with NRA to have thrown that statement in there. At this point, he has already established that

  • the supplemental insurance is just that – supplemental to what the home & property insurance does not cover;
  • the primary insurance provider is going to cover the guns fully so he will not need to tap into the supplemental plan; and
  • hopefully by now he has figured out to call the insurance company and not general NRA staffers.

So beyond just a shot across the bow at NRA, I can’t really figure out why he would be complaining about an insurance policy that he didn’t need to cash in on. Sebastian said that he thought he had heard that the insurance offered to NRA members was a bit of a pain, but that’s not really relevant for this article since the policy didn’t apply in this case.

After advice about safes and suggesting that members go through ADT for all of their home security monitoring needs, he then jumps into the area that just made me want to cringe – handing out insurance purchase advice.

Last but not least, and information well worth repeating, get out your Home Owners Insurance policy, call your agent, and get the maximum coverage, especially on personal contents, temporary housing, structure coverage, that is allowed. If you add up your total cash outlay for Home Owner Insurance coverage over however many years, you will find that it is a fraction of the cost of just one “catastrophic loss” due to fire, flood, or other natural disasters.

If he hadn’t had the absolutely horribly wrong comment about most home policies covering flood damage, then I would believe that he was an insurance agent deliberately trying to oversell folks for things they don’t need.

Now, I am not an insurance expert, but I have purchased enough to know that most people simply do not need a platinum-coated policy for most things covered. I’m also humble enough to admit that I don’t know enough about insurance to say much more.

I will add that if this has made you think about what your gun coverage really is for different types of losses, call your agent. Or, even better, call around until you find an agent who owns guns. I bought my car insurance from an agent who is not only a gun owner who shoots at our club, but his family is full of competitive shooters who hold state records. I know if I had questions, I could call him up and pick his brain to get an honest assessment.

9 Responses to “Don’t Give Bad Advice”

  1. Kevin says:

    “After advice about safes”. Cringe.

    I’ll bet that just as useful and accurate as his advice about insurance…

  2. Andy says:

    It is a common misconception that insurance companies are in the business of giving away money. If in doubt of coverage, always ask and get it in writing.

  3. Bitter says:

    Fortunately, that was just vague. He pretty much just said that they really aren’t unreasonably priced and to check the fire rating.

  4. Caleb says:

    Wow, bad advice is bad. Shockingly enough, the best way to provide coverage for your guns is to see if your carrier offers a personal articles floater, or personal articles policy. Then you can write your guns at zero deductible and replacement cost. But you have to have appraisals/receipts to write a PAF, so that might not be an option for some gun owners.

  5. Jason says:

    My insurance company (Nationwide) covers firearms up to a certain amount. I can (and have) increased that amount of coverage for an increase in my premiums. This is similar to adding a specific, valuable piece of jewelry to your policy. Although when we added my wife’s engagement ring, I had to bring in an appraisal and photo, but to add to firearms coverage, you don’t have to specify WHICH guns you own, just the total dollar value of guns you want in coverage.

    This is all very clearly spelled out on my yearly statement from Nationwide.

  6. Dann says:

    We have our homeowner’s insurance through Grange. My better half would say I’m overly prepared for everything. I have carefully gone through my insurance coverage and with Grange, firearms are covered on our policy up to $2,000 for theft.

    Firearms are completely covered on our Grange policy with proof they existed (you don’t itemize – register – them for Grange, but better have documentation – photographs, remains – to claim the them) for fire, tornado, flood, etc. as part of our home contents coverage which is up to 70% of the home’s replacement cost. Now, that means the guns are covered, but that also figures in with your clothes, furniture, etc. up to a maximum of 70% of the home’s replacement value/cost. Also, ATVs, boats, and dirtbikes are not covered as contents as they are considered separate vehicles like our cars – they need their own insurance (big mistake many people make according to my agent).

    We purchased a large $3,000 safe as our main insurance policy. It’s fire rated, weighs 1,560 pounds empty, and is bolted to the floor and wall. Some guns I have can’t be purchased any longer no matter how much insurance coverage you have.

  7. Bitter says:

    That’s a good insurance policy, Dann. The cost of a safe is often far less than even a modest collection of rifles. I understand that it seems like a big chunk of change at once, but when you sit down to add up the value of a collection, it’s not long before you come out to a number that’s double or triple the cost of the safe.

  8. Kevin says:

    The problem with most “gun safes” is that they don’t do what the ads imply they do. Don’t get me wrong, they will keep your 8 year old out of them or a crackhead who kicks down the door and ransacks the house. However they are not going to stop two adults with hand tools for more then a minute or two, and if your house burns down it’s really likely that you’ll have a box full of corroded junk.

    The sad thing is that a lot of the fancy sheet metal boxes sold as gun safes are not as good as a real burglary rated gun safe that costs less. For example, an amsec RF6528 is a UL rated TL-30 burglary rated safe gun safe. If you can position it so people can only attack the door it will take a team of experts over a half hour to get in with any hand and power tools they can easily transport. Most gun safes from “gun safe” manufactures, the kind sold in gun and sporting goods stores, are nowhere near this tough, even if they cost as much or more. They have, at most, a UL RSC rating, which means a guy with a screwdriver could not open it in 10 minutes. If you buy a $7000-11,000 safe what threat do you have in mind? A crackhead with a screwdriver and a few minutes or two guys with pry bars, power tools and a fire axe while you are out of town?

    However Amsec and every other gun safe manufacturer essentially makes up their own fire tests, which strongly suggests they can’t pass a UL fire test. This apparently because the fire protection material that would allow them to pass a UL fire test increases the safe internal humidity, and that results in rust. A dedicated fire sprinkler over the safe would probably help a lot. But the other issue is that unless the safe seals virtually air tight you’ll get combustion products infiltrating the safe in a major fire, and these are very reactive. They are what will eat up your guns even if the they don’t get hot enough be directly fire damaged.

  9. Dann says:

    Kevin makes a valid point, but we researched our safe and feel confident in it’s fire and burglary protection under 95% of likely scenarios that would occur.

    As with every thing we do, we have layered protection in our lives from insurance coverage, reinforced (although still breech-able) doors to home, a gun safe, alarm system, two large dogs, reliable neighbors and family, low-key nature (we don’t brag to everyone who knows us about our gun collection, etc. – but some people know we have guns), etc.

    Our particular safe is made by Liberty and we have confidence in it. Most residential burglars are not going to arrive with a grinder, cutting torch and pair of 5′, 20 pound pry bars while planning to spend 15-60 minutes working on your safe, especially not knowing what’s inside for sure or when someone will be coming around. We mounted our safe in the basement corner so two sides are covered and prying/pry bar leverage/swing area is limited.

    As far as fire, we purchased our safe after my uncle’s experience with his farm house fire – burned completely to the ground, safe was in basement, expanding heat seals worked, after two locksmiths recommended by company spent 45 minutes cutting into the safe, the guns were partly wet, but fine (water from fire dept flooded basement). Safe company replaced safe for free.

    This video validates Kevin’s point:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d2EyFNCAX3s

    Notice that in almost every youtube safe pry-in video, the thieves lay the safe on it’s back – bolt your safe in place! Nothing is full-proof, but you do what you can with what you have.

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