Gun Safe Construction – Composite Vs Steel Plate

A gun vault is a specialized type of safe, configured for the storage of long guns. It’s use is not limited to firearms and related items. Other valuables may be stored in the safe along with your firearms.

In a previous article I identified some very basic questions you should ask yourself to help identify your needs before shopping for a gun vault. In this article I want to give you some pointers on what to look for in the construction of a gun safe that will help you pick a model that is both secure and affordable.

Keep in mind this adage, “You get what you pay for.” That statement is very true when it comes to picking a gun safe. Once you have established your needs and your budget, a little knowledge about safe construction will help you identify a safe that is both secure and affordable.

There are two primary types of materials used in the construction of gun vaults. First is solid rolled steel plate. Available in thicknesses ranging from ¼ inch to over 1 inch thick, steel plate can provide a high level of security from attempted intrusion. Efforts to gain entry via prying and drilling are extremely difficult on a safe made from hardened steel plate. The thicker the steel, the more time and effort is required to drill or cut through.

A safe made of heavy steel plate is just that – heavy. Weighing in at 700 – 1000 pounds such a safe isn’t likely to be carried off by a burglar, but is difficult for the owner to place and install and may require reinforced flooring. One down side to steel plate is that it is vulnerable to heat and may be easily breached with a cutting torch.

A solid steel safe will be heavy. It will feel heavy. Swing the door back and forth and you can feel the weight. A one inch thick composite door may only contain 25% of the steel that you find in a 3/8 inch solid steel door. That extra weight means extra security.

Composite is made up of sheets of thinner steel, layered much like plywood, and possibly other materials as well. Lower end composites may consist of plaster, foam, plastic, or organic material sandwiched between two layers of thin sheet metal. Very vulnerable to power tools, a low end safe may be cut open with a basic carpenters circular saw carrying a carbide tipped blade.

Higher end composites will layer more sheets of hardened steel and possibly fire retardant. A layer of stainless steel may be included as a barrier against a cutting torch. With a higher heat resistance than standard steel, stainless is nearly impervious to entry via torch.

When shopping for your gun safe don’t focus all of your attention on the interior. The security of the contents depends on the construction of the box itself. When it comes to securing your firearms and other valuables, you want the most steel that you can afford.

Look for my next article “Gun Vaults – Locks, Bolts and Accessories”