Gun Safe vs Gun Cabinet [Which Do You Need]

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Securing your firearms is something that helps you maintain your rights, it keeps you safe, and keeps any children or visitors in your home safe as well. It’s better to have gotten a gun safe, and store your firearms, rather than constantly be worrying someone may stumble up on your firearms and cause harm.

However, once you have decided to get yourself a gun safe, the question then is, what kind do you need, there are pistol safes, gun safes, gun cabinets, and so many other different types. In this article though, I want to talk about the difference between a gun safes and a gun cabinet, and also what you probably should be looking for.

So what is the main difference between a gun safe and gun cabinet? The primary differences between a gun safe and gun cabinet comes down to the locking mechanism, and thickness of steel. While gun safes (generally) have thicker steel, and a true lock, gun cabinets tend to be unlocked by a key, and have thinner steel which is more akin to a garage cabinet.

What is a gun safe?

[Image courtesy of Fort Knox]

A gun safe is what most people think about when they want something to store fire arms in. They tend to be higher quality, and are extremely impressive. However there are a couple things that I keep in mind when looking at gun safes.

Steel thickness

The thickness of steel is the first determining factor when it comes to deciding if something is a safe, or a cabinet! Most gun safes are going to offer about 14 gauge of steel or better.

While 12 gauge is when it starts to become more difficult to cut into a safe, 14 gauge is really the industry standard for something to be a gun safe.

The reason a safe needs to have this thicker steel is to buy more time!

Locking mechanism

Most gun safes are going to have a true lock on the outside, this may range from low end non-namebrand locks, all the way to high end biometric locks that can send tamper notifications to your phone.

You can learn more about different types of locks here in this article, but the idea is, that gun safes tend to be centered around the lock, and they tend to be of better security, and quality.

Locking bolts

[Image courtesy of Liberty]

Gun safes also have boltwork on the interior of the door. This bolt work retracts into the door when you unlock the safe, and then go back out when you lock it.

These bolts can be either actual bolts that you are used to, or plates of steel like what Liberty uses in their newer safes.

While not all gun safes offer heavy duty bolts, they tend to have at least the thought of being heavy duty.

Fire rating

Most (but not all) gun safes tend to have fire rating, and is a quick way of knowing if a safe is actually a safe, and not a gun cabinet.

I say not all, because there are hybrid safes that don’t have a fire rating, as well as some extremely high end safes like Pendleton Safes that don’t have a fire rating at all.

On the low end, gun safes have 30 minutes of fire rating, while some have over 200 minutes of fire rating.

What is a gun cabinet?

Gun cabinets are basically the less secure little brother to the gun safe. While they still offer basic security for smash and grab break ins, they aren’t intended to stop a determined criminal.

Key lock

Most cabinets can easily be determined by their lack of a substantial locking mechanism. Generally speaking they will utilize either a standard key lock, or a barrel key locking mechanism.

Due to their low cost, most gun cabinets will never see a true secure lock like a gun safe will.

Slider locking mechanisms

While you will see locking bolts on a gun safe, gun cabinets tend to only have a single sliding bar that retracts from the top and bottom of the door and into the frame of the cabinet.

Because of this, they are more likely to be pried open easily with small tools, not even limited to a screw driver.

No fire rating

I don’t believe I have ever seen a gun cabinet that offers a fire rating. Much like the the lock, fire rating costs a considerable amount of money to add, and would result in a gun cabinet that prices itself out of the competition.

Lower steel thickness

Finally, gun cabinets generally do not have thicker steel. Most will have 18 gauge, which is what you would see in your garage cabinets.

Not only will people be able to cut into a cabinet, they likely could smash through the side of the cabinet.

Are there safes or cabinets that are a hybrid of the two?

Image courtesy of SecureIt

Now, this is probably my favorite category! There is this strange in-between of gun safes, and gun cabinets. While I generally will consider this hybrid a safe, and not a cabinet, there are some that have qualities of both.

SecureIt Tactical is probably my favorite example with the Agile Model 52. This safe doesn’t have a fire rating, and looks like a cabinet, however has a high quality locking mechanism, and thicker steel than what you would normally see in a cabinet.

What this creates, is a high quality, portable, lightweight safe that also offers a reasonable amount of security.

Upsides of gun safes and gun cabinets

Now that we know what a gun cabinet, and a gun safe is, lets talk about what the true upsides of each category is.

Gun Safes

Gun safes are going to offer the most security of the two different categories! They have thicker steel, better locks, better fire rating, and are generally going to be the best option if you are looking for something to secure more valuable items.

Safes not only will keep children out of your firearms, but also offer great protection against smash and grabs, and even determined criminals on more expensive safes.

Gun Cabinets

[Image courtesy of Snapsafe]

This category of firearm storage offers a low price, portability, and an easy entry point to keeping firearms safe.

Many people will end up with one of these, just for the ease of purchase and availability in big box stores.

Gun cabinets are something that are widely used in homes, and are the reason many homes are safe, because children won’t be able to access them.

Downsides of gun safes and gun cabinets

Now, no category is free of issues! Here are some reasons that you may not want to buy a gun safe, or a gun cabinet.

Gun Safes

Safes do have their down sides. This includes an extreme amount of weight, and a complicated design.

If you have ever wanted to move a safe (especially upstairs), you likely have found yourself racking your brain trying to figure out how you can move it on your own. In the end you either have to get a moving company, or find some friends. Of course there are some options out there to resolve that, but for the most part is can be annoying.

Finally, cost is a big one! Gun safes tend to be rather expensive, even in the low end of the range.

Gun Cabinets

The major downside to a gun cabinet is its security. It only offers basic security, that can easily be moved past with minimal knowledge and tools. While it is still considerably better than just leaving firearms out and about, it is by no means as good as a quality safe.

Final Thoughts

Generally speaking, I would highly recommend you find a high quality gun safe! If you can’t afford a high quality safe, something like a budget of $500 can still get you quality.

If you can’t budget that, then a gun cabinet may be your best option!

However I still would recommend you find a safe if you can at all make it work.

About The Author

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