External vs Internal: Battle of the Hinges
This Sunday, when you pick up the paper to look for the latest deals, open up to your local sporting goods store catalog, and browse their gun safe selection. Among the features listed, including steel thickness, gun capacity, and lock types, you’ll likely see a bullet point noting the configuration of the hinges used to open the door. Based on my personal observations, one of the two exciting selling points are typically applied:
- Offers even greater security with internal concealed hinges!
- Offers even greater accessibility with external hinges!
So which is better? Well, we’ll get to that in just a moment, but the real question you need to ask is, overall, how well put together is the gun safe? From a security perspective, the better constructed the safe, the less of a role the configuration of the hinges plays. If, for example, a burglar were to spend his time trying to remove the heavy duty hinges off of the outside of a Liberty National Security Magnum, he’d quickly discover after completing the painstaking feat that his efforts were moot. What’s really keeping the door locked on the Magnum, isn’t a hinge, it’s the 26 1.5″ solid steel bolts lining the perimeter of the door.
On a top notch unit like the National Security or a Browning Platinum Plus, external door hinges are only used for a couple reasons worth noting:
- Aesthetics – some folks just prefer the old fashioned look of hinges on the outside.
- Accessibility – the ability to open the door all the way as opposed to the limited range enforced by using internal hinges.
The latter is actually a bit of an underrated feature, if you ask me (yeh, I know you didn’t). Most folks can’t help but to liken safe doors with the regular doors they have hanging throughout their homes. Most can’t shake the inaccurate association of external hinges with compromised security. For a quality safe, this simply isn’t the case – in fact, you may have an argument if you said that placing hinges on the outside foils the efforts of stupid crooks who waste their time trying to remove them.
Now, that said, not everyone has the money to spend on a cream of the crop gun safe. If you’re slumming it a bit with your selection, hinges start to play a little larger of a role in the security of your valuables. Many cheaper safes don’t include locking bolts on the pivot side of the door, often leaving only a continuous hinge, many of which are crafted from flimsy sheet metal. Although I’d advise against purchasing a safe that doesn’t include bolts on all sides of the door, if you don’t have a choice, in my opinion you’d be better off with the internal hinge option.
Without shifting this too much to a discussion on locking bolts, I want to briefly mention the importance of observing the details of the safe you’re considering to see how the bolts are mounted to the door. Over at El Cajon Gun Exchange, they offer some very informative gun safe videos, one of which illustrates the disturbing fact that bolts on many cheaper safes, though thick in diameter, are often mounted and installed with nuts and washers, as opposed to direct integration into the locking mechanism. If shoddy craftsmanship is evident in the construction of the safe’s locking system, either save your money for something better, or go with the internal option (which still won’t save you against a professional break in, but…eh).
To sum it all up, if you’re going to invest a lot of money into a quality gun safe, it’s up to you to decide what your eye fancies more; the sleek and sexy streamlined look of concealed hinges or the classic appeal of the external persuasion. Though it wouldn’t necessarily be a deal breaker for me, I personally would likely choose external hinges due to the added accessibility they enable. On a cheaper gun safe, however, hinges play a little bit more of a role. If you’re not going to invest in quality, I’d suggest you cover them suckers up!