'composite' doors on gun safes?


December 31, 2002, 03:07 PM
I was searching old threads over on TFL, and the Cannon brand safe was highly recommended.
One thing I found out when looking at these safes in person was that the doors are made with thinner steel formed in a box shape, so there's an air space in between the two layers. I'm not sure if I'm describing this right, but the salesman called it 'composite'.
This wasn't mentioned in the discussion threads, and I was curious how durable it is.
Obviously, solid plate is better, but the composite method must have something going for it.
What are your thoughts?

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December 31, 2002, 03:42 PM
I purchased a safe for our grocery store many years ago that had a "composite" door.

A safe locksmith told me that the composite safe we bought was designed to foil drilling attempts by layering materials of different hardness.

I can not tell you if this is the same construction/intent as the Cannon safes (and American Security has some "composites" too). Maybe it's the same for the gunsafes- who knows.


2nd Amendment
December 31, 2002, 03:54 PM
How would varying hardness foil drilling? If your bit is sufficient for the hardest layer then it really wouldn't make any difference, except to cut the weaker layers that much faster. Has to be more to it.

Matthew Courtney
December 31, 2002, 04:30 PM
Might have something to do with a fire rating. Plate steel is too effective at conducting heat, so maybe the composite is added as an insulator.

Double Naught Spy
December 31, 2002, 05:27 PM
From wha tI have seen of gun safes, those super duper doors won't do you much good if the bad guy has access to the top or sides of your safe. Most of the safes are built more along the lines of being secure protection from fire, but not very burglar resistent at all. A kid with a sledgehammer can get into one fairly quickly so long as he goes through some part other than the door.

A lot of adds or companies talk about 1/4" hardned steel on the door with XX layer of this or that material, drill proof panel etc., and the you find out the sides are 2 layers of 10 ga. steel with 1/2" of cement or some fire insullation material in between the two layers. They sides and back are not drill proof at all and a nice whole or two and a sawzall and your safe can very quickly have a new access panel.

In short, the heavy duty door sounds really nice, but if the rest of the safe is not up to the same standards, the great protection claimed is more of an illusion than reality. If you spend big bucks on a proper burglar safe, you will find that all sides are rated for the same types of protection. Those safes also cost a lot more and weigh a lot more.

And no, I don't have a burglar safe, but a glorified fire safe for my guns that will do a fine job of keeping out friends and family who might like to nose around a bit in the safe.

December 31, 2002, 05:35 PM
Check with your Ins agent about ratings and 'definitions'.
not familar with 'composite" , I am familiar with the sometime used terma laminate design .

Multiple layers of different types of metals--not all were steel.

re Foil drilling: Safe guy needed to drill a 1/8" hole for alarm purpose. Safe mfg sent with safe sealed instructions...any way after all the high spy security stuff, he is given the PRECISE area to drill, ( random computer design) , after burning up FIVE high dollar spl material bits , he re measured...oops he was off only 1/2 " . 5 bits did nothing other than get through paint--6th only went in another 1/2" ( as designed) for attachment.

Tough as woodpecker lips

December 31, 2002, 10:02 PM
Some composite or laminated safes used layers of steel, ceramic, copper, and other materials. The differing materials make it more difficult to drill, peel, or burn a safe.

The ceramic was resistant to torches, and the layer of copper would dissipate the heat from a torch so fast it was difficult to heat a spot enough to burn it.

Some bank-type vaults even used hardened steels set at odd angles, to deflect drills.

A very similar system of lamination is used on modern battle tanks, like the M1 Abrams. The Abrams also uses depleted uranium in addition to top secret materials. In tanks, this is known as "Chobham" armor.

In armor and in safes, the idea is not to give a single material to be penetrated. Different materials prevent selecting one method that easily penetrates.

4v50 Gary
December 31, 2002, 10:09 PM
I don't believe (correct me guys if I'm wrong) that Cannon's "composite" door was of the caliber described by dfariswheel. It's more like sheetmetal, perhaps a hardened plate right before the lock and only there, maybe some sheetrock as fire-insulation, and bolted on sheetmetal for the backing. A lot of "gun-safes" are welded only at certain points like DoubleNaughtSpy pointed out. Liberty, Browning, Fort Knox and one Calif. firm (not Cannon) each have a sheet metal folder capable of handling 1/4 steel. Those respective firms fold most of the metal and then weld at the joints. This makes for a stronger box construction (the hammer wielder has to know where to swing at now).

Don't overlook second hand safes from a safe store. Build your own interior (all you need is a tablesaw and some hole cutters and a file).

January 1, 2003, 12:47 AM
Good to see you here sir! I think we dealt with the same needs , your postmore descriptive , thanks

January 1, 2003, 01:22 AM
A very similar system of lamination is used on modern battle tanks, like the M1 Abrams.

Now there's an idea for a safe! Lets pattern them after tanks and have reactive armour installed!:D

I pitty the fool who tries to crack that safe!:eek:

Good Shooting

January 1, 2003, 01:32 PM
re1973: Good to see you too. We've found a new home.

Redlg155: Reactive armour????? That's not a very good idea.
My God, the blast would knock the bar over and spill the drinks.

True enough, gun safes are really to slow down burglers, and hopefully stop the usual smash and grab punks.

I have a distant (STUPID) relative on my wife's side in Texas. He likes to brag about his guns, AND his expensive gun safe.

One weekend, some jolly crew came in with rollers and a Ruger lift and took the entire thing.

January 2, 2003, 04:20 PM
Unless its a high end safe the "composite" you are talking about is fireproofing material. Most safes have a homogenous hardplate in front of the lock to deter drilling, Better safe may use a carbide chip included hardplate or a ball bearing barrier. Copper is for dissapating the heat of a cutting torch. All safes can be opened with the right tools. I do this for a living:D . I use specialized drill rigs & bits to penetrate all of the above. More important is to find out the UL rating of the safe. They have a fire and or buglary rating. The rating is for time expended before the safe is penetrated by tools or fire. This is more helpful than a salesman's pitch in determining the security of the safe. The tools I use are not available to the general public & the UL rating for burglary is for tools that can be gotten at Home depots ETC. I've worked on safes that were riddled with drilled holes, but not opened. Modern safes are equipped with relocker devices that "deadlocks" the safe's boltwork if drilled or damaged in the wrong place. Ask about these also when comparing safes. Hope this helps

January 2, 2003, 05:44 PM
Vulcan, I hope you do it for an honest living! ;)

4v50 Gary
January 2, 2003, 05:57 PM
Guess he doesn't call himself Vulcan for nothing. Thanks for posting that info.

January 2, 2003, 06:00 PM
Thanks for the input and sharing of experience.

They still have the young and nubile in bikini's at Dallas Shows, to demo the new safes? <swoosh sound of male THR's heading to DAllas>:D

I believe good points made here by dfarriswheel and vulcan:

--Security keeps an honest man honest
--Thieves less likely to steal if they don't see the 'advertisment of valuables"
--research UL ratings, go by this and not salesperson (unless bikini clad)
--Secure area of safe and 'securing' of safe a good idea.
--get the best you can for the money, suppliment security in other ways.

Sidenote : vulcan there is a 'distinct' sound made when a door slams shut, glass breaks, and safe is deadlocked, very distinct.

January 2, 2003, 06:00 PM
My customers sometimes call me a crook when they get the bill:D .
I should add on my business card" Will open gun safes for guns"

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