Internal Hinges vs External Hinges | Full Guide w/ Pros & Cons

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Every gun safe out there has a hinge, whether it be an internal, an external hinge, or even a 2S Crane Hinge from Fort Knox.

However there is a lot of misinformation out there as to which is better. Many manufacturers sell their safes as if their hinges are better than the opposing part, but in realty the competitors does exactly the same thing, and is just as safe as the other companies.

The main difference between an internal hinge, and an external hinges is that the external hinge can generally open a full 180 degrees, and the internal hinge requires fire board to be cut out on cheaper safes, leaving you with less fire resistance.

Obviously, I am a big fan of the external hinge, but let’s dig in and see why that is!

Upsides of an internal hinge


This is the major valid reason someone will end up buying a gun safe with an internal hinge. Having that flat design on the front makes for extremely clean lines.

When you are painting a safe with similar paint to a high end sports car, you want it to look nice, and many people prefer the design of not having a hinge protruding from the safe.

Easier to move into a home

Did you know that hinges actually protrude from the face of the safe? If you are moving a massive safe through your home (or even upstairs), hinges are going to be something that will stick out, and can hit door jambs all through the home.

Because of this, even if you were to remove the door of the safe, you still wouldn’t be able to cut down on the profile of the safe because of the hinges.

That leaves the internal hinges as the better option if you have tight spaces in your home.

Downsides of an internal hinge

Cut out into the fireboard

While I do know that some higher end manufacturers have a way around this, in general you will have to cut out fireboard to fit an internal hinge into the safe.

External hinge safes can have a completely rectangle firebaord in the door, and in the door jambs. However the internal hinge safes have to have two corners on the hinge side cut out.

This means more metal is not covered, which means more heat gets in.

I do have to say though, when safes are tested (yes you should get a safe that is actually fire tested) they are tested with this cutout, so you don’t have to worry a ton, but that would always irk me that it could be just that much better.

Doesn’t give thieves a distraction

As we’ll learn about in a minute when we get to external hinges, thieves are generally under the impression that they can cut off the external hinges on the safe, like it will get them any closer.

In the event of a break-in at your home, you want to buy time, and that buys time.

When you have an internal hinge on a safe, they won’t attack that first, meaning they might start attacking a portion of the safe that actually will achieve something.

Unable to remove the safe door

If you have ever moved a gun safe, you have probably realized how crazy difficult it is. The safe door is an easy way to lose about the 1/3rd of the weight when removed, however internal hinge doors don’t have that ability.

This means you will have to carry 100% of the safe through your home, instead of being able to shed that needed weight.

While I may talk a lot about the downsides of internal hinges, and highly prefer external, there are some really great safes out there that offer internal hinges.

The top manufacturer that I would recommend with internal hinges is Liberty Safes. All of their gun safes above the Centurion Series offer some great features, combined with the internal hinges.

Final thoughts on internal hinges

While I personally prefer external hinges, internal hinges really are a great option for many people out there.

Obviously Liberty Safes is doing well, and most of their safes offer this option.

Just make sure that they are right for you before purchase. Much like a home, your gun safe is also a large investment.

[Images courtesy of Rhino Metals and Liberty Safes]

Upsides of an external hinge


Most people probably don’t know this, however the hinge is actually not a security function of a good safe.

On most good safes, all four sides a safe have boltwork on them, and this bolt work is actually what keeps the door attached to the safe.

All the hinge does, is allows the door to open and close smoothly.

Side Note: If a safe doesn’t have bolts on the hinge side, it does act as a security function. Just not a very good one.

Thieves attack it first

Now that we know the hinges don’t actually play a good role in the security of a safe, that is one reason I like external hinge safes.

Because of the misconception that external hinges are the weak point of a safe, that applies to thieves as well.

Would you prefer to have someone waste time trying to cut off hinges, or spend time actually working on a part of the safe that will get them into the safe.

All you are getting with buying a safe is time, and more time means more chances for them to get caught, or give up.

Can remove the door

Did you know that many external hinge safes can have the door removed? This makes it so much easier to move a safe throughout the home.

Did you also know that the door is about a 1/3rd of the weight of the safe? Yes, because you already read about it earlier in the article…

Full fireboard coverage

Like we talked about earlier, external hinge safes do not have to have the fireboard cut out around the hinge because they are on the outside of the safe.

This means more reliable fire coverage, and less bare steel.

Door opens all the way

No matter what size safe you buy, you will find that it is difficult to get into the back of the safe.

What can make that even more difficult is having a door right there next to you while you are working in the safe.

With an external hinge, you will find that you can open it a full 180 degrees, leaving you with a lot more room to maneuver.


Just like internal hinges, some people much prefer the idea of an external hinge on a safe! Some manufacturers will even allow you to add hinge caps to make it a little more fancy.

Downsides of an external hinge

Difficult to move around homes

Most safes are built to be small enough depth wise to just barely be able to make it through a standard home door.

External hinges though will stick out just a little bit further from the face of the safe, making it an easy thing to catch on door jambs while being moved around.

Of course manufacturers make sure it is still thin enough to make it, but it’s never fun having something protrude from the safe.


Yes, this is also a downside of an external hinge. Many people also don’t like the look of the hinges coming out from the safe.

External hinges are an extremely popular hinge, and it is much easier to find safes with these.

Some gun safe manufacturers that come to mind is Browning, and Rhino Metals, both great manufactures that have a great range of import and USA made gun safes to choose from.

Final thoughts on external hinges

As you can tell, I highly prefer an external hinge safe. You are going to get a much larger variety of safes out there, and you don’t have to sacrifice security or fire rating of your gun safe.


I think I about covered everything comparing internal to external hinges! I hope this helped you figure out which one is right for you, and what to be keeping an eye out for when buying a safe.

Want to keep reading?

Now that you know the difference between hinges, you might want to also learn about my personal favorite safes on the market today. Click the button below to read an article about the top gun safes today.

Editors Note: This article was originally published on March 3rd 2018, but has since been updated for accuracy and to fully discuss subject.

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