When you see a large gun safe, the first thing you notice is it’s size. It seems so large and sturdy! The second thing you notice is the gigantic door. It appears to be so large and powerful…..it seems like it could stand up to any sort of attack. This is exactly what manufacturers would like you to think.
Some of these huge doors will give the illusion of being so strong and impenetrable, but it really comes down to how these doors are constructed and what they are really made of. So let us take a closer look at what they are “really made of.”
A “composite door” is a layer of steel that is bent around to form a front and a back with a space in between. In some cases there are 2 layers of steel ( 1 layer=front, 2nd layer=back ), with a space inside. This space is generally filled with some sort of material inside like drywall, concrete, or sheetrock.
This is really a “cheap” way of attempting to “fortify” the strength, thickness, and toughness of the door. Doors made in this manner tend to be quite flimsy and less rigid, and don’t provide much resistance to break-ins. The only thing that can really save or redeem the average composite door is if the steel is thick and low gauge.
A great steel gauge to look for is “7 Gauge Steel” or lower…the lower the better. This is tough to find in common gun safes as the average manufacturer’s steel gauge hovers around 10 or 12. With some composite doors, fireboard or another type of fire retardant material is placed in the space to make the gun safe somewhat fire resistant.
If your main concern is protecting your guns, ammunition, and other valuable materials during a fire, then composite doors are not a bad choice. If your main concern is to prevent a thief or a burglar from breaking into your safe via it’s door, then composite doors may not be what you are looking for.
Continue to bear in mind that a composite door with a low steel gauge and good steel thickness (example : 7 gauge steel with 1 inch thickness), is quite formidable. The problem is, most “run of the mill” manufacturers don’t make them this way.
If you come across a large gun safe with a composite door that is made this way, consider yourself lucky and grab it before someone else gets to it. Be prepared to pay a pretty penny though, because this kind of gun safe will definitely increase in price.
“Plate doors” are literally the strongest of gun safe doors. They really are what they sound like. “One solid plate of pure steel.” There are no additional pieces of thin metal just to bolster it’s appearance. It really is one huge, thick plate of steel.
These doors are extremely rigid, and unlike some composite doors, where you can literally take your hands and bend the doors back and forth, good plate doors will not allow such an action to take place. Some plate doors are so thick and heavy that they can actually weigh up to 1000 lbs. (This is more than most gun safes weigh.)
Fireproof material and fire-resistant concrete can be added to the equation. In such a case, a steel inner shell is welded inside and the fire-resistant material is placed between the inner and outer shell.
Plate doors are the “Best of the Best” when it comes to anti-burglary/anti-pry resistance. Unlike other doors that simply give you the illusion of being heavy and sturdy, plate doors are really and truly sturdy and heavy. Not only are they extremely pry resistant, but they are drill resistant as well.
It would be very difficult to take a common drill and drill through 1 inch piece of solid steel. When it comes to choosing a large gun safe, never judge a book by it’s cover. Always find out the steel gauge and the steel thickness. It is better to have an 8 gauge steel plate door that is 3/4 inches in thickness, than a 12 gauge composite door that is 1 inch in thickness.
Never buy any large gun safe if you don’t have access to this type of information. most reputable manufacturers will make this information available to you. Regardless of which type of door construction you choose, it really is about the steel.
Whether you choose a gun safe with a composite door or a plate door, in the end, it all comes down to how much steel is in the door, because this is what gives you true pry resistance.