Gun Safe vs Gun Cabinet: Which is Best?

Gun Safe vs Gun Cabinet: Which is Best?


Mathew R Reed
August 18, 2021

The most logical step to take after purchasing a gun is finding somewhere to store it, but it’s not as easy as it sounds.

A properly secured firearm reduces the risks of theft, accidents, damage, and unwanted hands getting access to your gun, and cabinets and safes are two of the most common places to keep them.

Is a gun safe better than a gun cabinet?

There are pros and cons to weigh up for both gun safes and cabinets, with the safe being the more secure option but the cabinet being more visually appealing.

Of course, there are lots of features that can influence a gun owner either way, so it depends on your circumstances and what you’re looking for in firearm storage.

The gun safe vs gun cabinets debate has raged on for decades, and if you’re feeling a little overwhelmed with all of the conflicting advice over storing your gun, we can help make sense of it.

With this detailed comparison, you’ll know exactly what’s what when it comes to the materials, construction, and protection that safes and cabinets offer.

What is a Gun Safe?

What is a Gun Safe?

A gun safe is the preferred option for many firearm owners whose main concern is safety. These safes are generally made of something durable like metal and come equipped with a powerful lock system that makes it near impossible for others to access.

Keeping your gun in a safe is great for peace of mind, and ensures no children or unwanted guests can access your weapon.

They come in different styles like electronic keypads, combination dials, and biometric fingerprint scanners, and some have added features like fireproofing or waterproofing to protect against natural disasters.

These safes are quite heavy on their own but the recommended installation is to have them bolted to the ground for further fortification. This, and the fortified steel surroundings, ensures a would-be thief can’t simply carry the safe out of the house and attempt to break into it somewhere else.

What is a Gun Cabinet?

What is a Gun Cabinet?

A gun cabinet is another popular method of storing firearms, though it comes with a completely different set of features and appeals.

As the name suggests, the cabinet is much like any other you’d find in the home but is usually equipped with a lock and glass door so that you can see the weapons that are stored inside.

The gun cabinet is a preferred choice for those who want to show their guns of or always have them visible. They’re usually kept in a common area rather than being stored away and hidden, and the glass door gives an even better view of what’s kept inside.

Gun cabinets are less secure than safes but they still offer security features like locks.

They come in a variety of materials, with solid wood and oak wood being two of the most popular, and can be custom made to suit whatever firearms you have or built as standard for varying gun types and sizes.

Their Pros and Cons

Their Pros and Cons

If you’re struggling to decide between a gun safe and a gun cabinet, the best place to start is by looking at their pros and cons and seeing what stands out.

We’ve compiled just some of the strong and weak points that these storage options have, so you’ll be able to decide on what matters most to you.

Gun Safe Pros

  • The level of security provided by even a standard gun safe far exceeds anything else. Not only are they made of durable steel but they’re often bolted to the ground, so you get double the protection and peace of mind.
  • Gun safes can also be constructed to resist moisture, be waterproof, and be fireproof. Not only do they protect against theft and unwanted access, but acts of God and nature as well.
  • These safes are designed to protect against assault and come with enough durability that they can’t even be drilled into. Even if someone manages to take your safe, they’ll find it near impossible to access.

Gun Safe Cons

  • The time it takes to access a gun safe can cost you precious seconds, and if you forgot a combination or have issues with electronics, it can be even harder to get into.
  • A good gun safe can be expensive and considering you don’t want to cheap out on something as important as this, you’re looking at spending quite a bit of money even for a smaller size.

Pros of Gun Cabinets

  • The overall aesthetics of a gun cabinet are far better than a safe, and it provides not just a practical service but a boost to your home’s décor as well.
  • If you’re shopping on a budget, you can get a good quality gun cabinet for a lot less than a good quality safe. Furthermore, if you’re handy enough, you could even build one as a DIY project and save even more.
  • A gun cabinet is a good choice for anyone who favors simplicity over all else. They’re easy to get into with a key and you can see everything that’s in there, so you don’t have to wonder if any of your firearms have gone missing.

Cons of Gun Cabinets

  • When you compare the overall security of a standard gun cabinet to a gun safe, the safe is the superior option. If you’re someone who feels better knowing your firearms are locked away as securely as possible, a gun cabinet won’t be appealing.
  • There’s no additional protection from things like water and fire if you utilize a gun cabinet. A household fire can wipe out your collection and they may even be prone to collecting moisture inside which can damage your guns.

Common Materials of Construction

Common Materials of Construction

The biggest difference between a gun cabinet and a gun safe is what they’ve been constructed out of, and these materials can impact their security, appearance, and overall weight.

A gun safe is usually made from steel, and a gun cabinet some form of wood, but there’s more to them than that.

When choosing a gun safe, you should also consider the thickness of the steel, as anything smaller than 14 gauges could be classed as a cabinet.

There are less durable 12 gauge options, but when looking at industry standards, this might not even categorize it as a safe.

For a gun cabinet, the most common materials are oak wood and solid wood, but it is possible to find some made from steel.

They almost always feature a glass door at the front for better viewing of its contents and depending on the quality of the cabinet, this could be standard or something more advanced, like bulletproof or unbreakable glass.

Lock Systems of Safes and Cabinets

A cabinet or safe without any sort of lock would be pointless, but how do these mechanisms on each of these compare?

Generally, a gun safe has more advanced mechanisms including locking bolts on the interior of the door, and another lock on the outside of it, so it’s akin to a fortress.

A gun cabinet will feature either a standard lock and key or a barrel key lock, and a sliding bar at the top and bottom of the door.

Unfortunately, neither of these come close to the security that a safe offers, so if this is your primary focus, a gun safe that offers superior locking mechanisms and protection is the best option.

Although they come with various forms of locks, no safe or cabinet is impenetrable.

There are still ways for thieves to gain access to your weapons if they use enough force and perseverance, and especially with the cheaper models, so it’s not the only line of defense you should employ when trying to keep your guns safe. 

Fireproofing and Other Protection

In addition to protecting your guns from unwanted visitors like thieves and children, you also have to think about other gatecrashers.

Without correct storage, a gun can become damaged and faulty due to exposure to things like moisture and air, which cabinets and safes are designed to protect against.

The most resilient storage option when it comes to threats from Mother Nature is the gun safe, as these are usually rated for fireproofing and waterproofing.

They’re sealed with a rubber gasket which prevents anything from entering, you can have peace of mind that their contents are safe.

A gun cabinet is a little less resilient against moisture and fire, so depending on your circumstances, it might not be sufficient.

Whatever is stored in your cabinet won’t’ be protected if there’s a house fire or flood, and even small amounts of moisture in the air can get trapped inside and penetrate your firearms if the conditions are right.

Which One is Right For You?

Every gun deserves a home, and if you’re tossing up between storing it in a cabinet or a safe, you probably have a good idea of what you want.

The gun cabinet is a better choice for those who prefer aesthetics and feel comfortable having a permanent view of their collection with easy access when they need it.

However, if you’re paranoid about securing your weapon, have children in the house, and want to know that your guns will still be standing even after a house fire, the safe is the way to go.

Although they’re not as visually appealing, they will protect your arsenal until the bitter end.

For the gun owner that wants the best of both worlds, choosing a hybrid safe and cabinet might be better.

These are designed with the exterior beauty of a cabinet but the fortress-like protection of a safe, although technically, they would be classed as the latter.

Whatever option you choose, it’s your responsibility as a gun owner to make sure your gun is always stored away safely and securely.

Safety and Storage Matters

A responsible gun owner understands how critical it is to have the right home for their arsenal, whether it’s a simple pistol or an array of firearms.

Gun safes and cabinets each bring something unique to the table, but there’s no single choice that’s right for everyone, so you’ll need to weigh up their differences to see which one offers the most for you.

Related Questions

Correct storage is an essential part of gun ownership and no matter where you decide to keep your firearm, it must meet certain standards.

To find out a little more about what’s required for storing a weapon securely, we’ve answered some FAQs that can help you out.

Do You Need to Store a Gun in a Safe?

Only 11 states in the US have legislation surrounding firearm storage, with Massachusetts being the only one that requires firearms to be locked away in all situations.

To determine what’s required in your home for firearm storage, you should consult the state laws governing the area where you live.

Is It OK To Put a Gun Safe in the Garage?

It’s not recommended to keep a gun safe in the garage as it’s too easily accessible for intruders and away from your supervision.

The more secure place for a safe is bolted to the floor inside of your home or basement, and in some cases, with a closet built around it for additional protection.

What Happens if the Battery Dies in a Gun Safe?

If you’re using an electronic safe for your gun and the battery dies, these are usually easy to replace.

The battery can be accessed by opening the front of the keyboard in most designs so it can be easily replaced, and won’t lock you out of the safe.


Mathew R Reed

Mathew R Reed is a professional gun seller who runs a dedicated gun store in the suburbs of Oakland, CA. A hardcore hunting enthusiast since childhood, Reed has ample experience with guns and accessories. He is the founder of and creates some of the most helpful gun-buying guides and explainers. If not in the gun shop, you can find him on the nearest hiking trail or nearby hunting spot.