Gun Safe vs Gun Cabinet (Which one is REALLY Better?)

Gun Safe vs Gun Cabinet (Which one is REALLY Better?)

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Securing your firearms helps you maintain your rights, keeps you safe, and keeps any children or visitors in your home safe as well. It’s better to have a gun safe and store your firearms rather than constantly worrying that someone may stumble on them 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 safe and a gun cabinet and also what you should probably be looking for.

So, what is the main difference between a gun safe and a gun cabinet? The primary differences between them come down to the locking mechanism and the thickness of the 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?

Most people think about a gun safe when they want to store firearms. Gun safes are of higher quality and are extremely impressive. However, I keep a couple of things in mind when looking at gun safes.

1. Steel thickness

The thickness of steel is the first determining factor when deciding whether something is safe or a cabinet! Most gun safes will have 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 a gun safe. A safe needs to have this thicker steel to buy more time!

2. Locking mechanism

Most gun safes will have a proper lock on the outside. These may range from low-end, non-name brand locks to high-end biometric locks that can send tamper notifications to your phone.

This article explains the different types of locks. Still, gun safes are centered around the lock and are of better security and quality.

3. Locking bolts

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 the actual bolts 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 appearance of being heavy-duty.

4. Fire rating

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

I say not all because hybrid safes don’t have a fire rating, and some highly high-end safes like Pendleton Safes don’t have a fire rating.

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

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.

1. Key lock

Most cabinets are easily 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 have a true secure lock like a gun safe.

2. 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 screwdriver.

3. No fire rating

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

4. Lower steel thickness

Finally, gun cabinets generally need thicker steel. Most will have 18 gauge, which you would see in your garage cabinets.

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

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

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

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

This creates 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 are, let’s discuss the upsides of each category.

Gun Safes

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

Safes not only 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

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 because they are easy to purchase and available in big box stores.

Gun cabinets are something that is 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 to avoid buying a gun safe or cabinet.

Gun Safes

Safes do have their downsides. 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 do 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, it can be annoying.

Finally, the cost is a big one! Gun safes are affordable, even at 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 overcome with minimal knowledge and tools. While it is still considerably better than leaving firearms out and about, it is not as good as a quality safe.

Final Thoughts

Generally speaking, I recommend you find a high-quality gun that is safe! If you can’t afford a high-quality safe, something like a budget of $600 can still provide you with quality.

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