Every gun owner, regardless of their budget, will want to protect their weapon collection: weapons are, after all, a considerable investment and will only serve their purpose effectively if they are cared for. The best way to keep a weapon safe from theft and damage due to external factors is a dedicated storage space which can only be accessed by the gun owner themselves.
While the most popular secure storage solution for firearms is a gun safe, it may not be affordable for some. Those who have only just started using firearms may not even own a weapon valuable enough to make a weapon safe a worthwhile expense. Fortunately, an alternative exists in the form of a gun cabinet.
But the gun safe vs gun cabinet debate can confuse many a seasoned gun owner because of the sheer volume (and clever advertisement) of both kinds of products in the market, so I’ve put together a direct comparison between the two to ease this decision for my fellow gun enthusiasts.
Most are fireproof, some are water-resistant
Neither fireproof nor water-resistant
Sophisticated locking mechanism provides excellent theft protection
Rudimentary locking mechanism offers little protection against theft
Excellent protection against theft as well as environmental hazards.
Heavy build may prevent it from being placed in upper stories / on weak floors.
Light weight lets you place it almost anywhere in the house.
Minimal theft protection that can easily be breached.
No protection against environmental dangers.
Bulky structure provides an added layer of security.
Light weight means it can easily be carried off by a couple of burglars.
A gun safe is a dedicated container for securely storing firearms (both full-sized and handguns), ammunition and other related accessories. It is purpose built to offer serious protection to your weapons against unauthorized access attempts made by thieves and children.
A weapons safe also safeguards your weapons against environmental damage including fire, flooding and earthquakes.
A gun cabinet is also a container for locking away your firearms and related possession, but it isn’t nearly as ruggedly constructed as a gun safe. Beyond the basic locking mechanism, it does not offer any protection, and will succumb to an amateur burglars attempts with a pry tool e.g. a crowbar.
A security cabinet will not offer any dedicated protection against environmental damage whatsoever.
The most critical factor to consider in the gun safe vs security cabinet debate is build strength. As mentioned before, safes are intended to provide substantial protection against burglary attacks, which is why they are made from thick gauge steel (typically 12GA or lower). This enables them to withstand attacks from sledgehammers and axes for a respectable amount of time.
Furthermore, weapons safes have extra-thick reinforced steel doors, since most thieves tend to go for the front portion of the safe, because it is movable and hence seen as an easier target. Firearm safes may also sport internal hinges to keep the assailant from simply cutting off the door at the hinges.
The better manufacturers will gauge their weapons safes’ strength by impact testing: they throw the safe from a specific elevation (e.g. a multi-story building) to see if it is able to survive the fall. This indicates how well the safe will fare against brute force attacks.
On the other hand, weapons cabinets are little more than high school lockers in terms of build strength: the only thing between a burglar and your possessions is the lock, and that too won’t be able to resist an attack made using a crowbar or a sledgehammer.
And while better quality cabinets will have their doors reinforced to a certain degree, they aren’t on the same level as the reinforced steel doors found in gun safes. Obviously, any kind of strength testing on a cabinet is out of the question!
Because gun safes are made from thicker steel, they have will have a thicker overall weight as compared to a gun cabinets. As an illustration, consider the fact that even a budget firearm safe with interior dimensions 21” x 14.4” x 56.6” weighs a hefty 462lbs – conversely, a budget weapons cabinet with interior dimensions 38" x 18" x 55" weighs a mere 150lbs!
As you may have figure out, the weight disparity carries a tactical significance: a couple of burglars could easily run off with a 150lbs safe, but it would be impossible for them to drag off a 400+lbs behemoth – even if they managed to do so, the ensuing racket would be enough to alert the owner.
The weight of the storage solution might also limit your placement options: if you live in an older house (or a multi-story wooden cabin) you may not be able to place a bulky safe higher than the ground floor if it exceeds the upper story’s live loading limit by a great deal, because this would cause the ceiling to collapse due to excess weight. If you wanted to keep your guns on a higher floor, you would have no choice but to purchase a cabinet instead.
In order to provide optimum theft protection, weapon safes will have reinforced locking systems with features such as a drill resistant hard plate, auxiliary relocker, thick and long multi-point locking bolts and dead bolts, anti-pry tabs and so on. These may add to the price, but ultimately make it a nightmare for an attacker to brute-force your safe.
A gun cabinet will typically have a much simpler locking system that utilizes 1 – 3 locking bolts, lacking the bells and whistles present in a safe. This mechanism is highly vulnerable to drill attacks and pry attacks.
The majority of weapons safes are made fireproof up to a certain rating (normally 1200F or higher, for 30 minutes or greater) which may be verified by a third party testing organization. This is made possible through the use of fireboard in their structure that releases water vapour at high temperatures to keep the interior cool. They also have special intumescent door seals that expand to several times their original size at elevated temperature, keeping smoke from entering the safe and damaging your possessions.
In stark contrast, weapon cabinets are devoid of any form of protection against fires; if you live in an environment where there is a serious fire hazard, you may want to spend the extra bucks on a decent gun safe.
While this may not be a feature present in all gun safes, it is definitely present in the higher end offerings: the manufacturer designs the safe so that it can resist floodwater up to a certain depth and/or for a certain period of time. Note that this is not absolute waterproofing as some manufacturers tend to advertise.
Security cabinets lack door seals and have a weaker overall construction, which means they will succumb to the water’s pressure much quicker.
Obviously, all the extra protection features present in weapons safes make them considerably more expensive than gun cabinets. A basic weapons safe capable of storing roughly 20 full sized rifles will cost you around $800 whereas a gun cabinet with the same capacity will cost you under $500!
It is understandable for a gun owner to want to spend their money on something other than an expensive place for storing their firearms, however, I’ll still side with the safe in the gun safe vs gun cabinet debate.
You don’t have to go for the really pricey models: even an affordably priced weapons safe will offer much better protection than a weapons cabinet. Even if you live in a small fortress so theft protection isn’t a concern, external factors such as fire damage and earthquakes will always pose a hazard, and safes are the cheapest way to protect your weapons against these.
Naturally, if you feel that there is no significant threat to your firearms from external factors (or they’re simply not worth it), and you only need a storage container that prevents children from accessing your weapons, you can go for a weapons cabinet.
Do leave your feedback and queries in the comments section below, and I’ll do my best to get back to you.
Guns and Security provides reviews, guides, news and entertainment for gun and survival enthusiasts.
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