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Security cabinets – concealment is the thing

Security cabinets will deter opportunistic thieves but not those who are determined; however, if they can’t find your guns, they can’t steal them says Alasdair Mitchell

Gun security

It is important to ensure that the keys to a gun cabinet are stored securely, ideally in a safe

I am becoming a security addict. How else can I explain a predilection for reading BS 7558? That’s the British standard for gun cabinets. And then there is the 51-page Firearms Security Handbook, produced by the Firearms and Explosives Licensing Working Group. A riveting bedtime read. (Read our list of the best gun safes here.)

Gun safes classed as security cabinets

My affliction began when my old gun cabinet began to display signs of terminal decay. That is to say, the electric terminals on its digital keypad decayed and the nine-volt battery dropped out. I managed to bodge a repair, with several joints and the battery being taped to the outside of the locking device like a colostomy bag. It turns out that my particular gun cabinet doesn’t have an override key. I am entirely at the mercy of the dodgy electronic lock. This made me feel uneasy, so I looked for a new cabinet. Did you know that most gun cabinets are not classed as safes, but as mere ‘security cabinets’?

share a gun gun cabinet

Clever and practical – this gun cabinet doubles up as a coat rack


Real safes are much more robust. The UK standard for gun cabinets specifies a minimum thickness of 2mm. In most cases this is perfectly adequate. Properly constructed, with an anti-jemmy design and good locks, it will deter an opportunistic burglar. But don’t kid yourself that it will foil a wrong ’un who is determined to get in. Modern cordless angle grinders, equipped with the right type of cutting blade, will slice through thin steel like butter. The same applies even to higher-specification gun cabinets, such as those made to meet German legislation. A determined thief equipped with power tools can get into almost any normal gun cabinet with relative ease. Yes, you should bolt the thing to a solid wall and floor, but as long as the body of the cabinet is made of relatively thin steel, it can be opened like a sardine tin.

Of course, the cutting makes a lot of noise and takes a certain amount of time. But then, if the scene of the crime is remote, how does that matter? In deep countryside, audible alarms are no deterrent. A dog might be more useful. There are very expensive systems that connect to a monitoring station, but even if the police are alerted, how likely are they to arrive before the bad guys have left with their loot? And what happens if you confront the baddies yourself? It’s not as though you can quickly grab a gun…

We live in a country where you can be let off for tipping a scheduled monument into a harbour, but if you shoot a burglar, the law may be less forgiving. I ended up buying two high-quality cabinets, requiring double-bitted keys operating eight-lever mechanical locks. My guns are broken down, with the components split between the two cabinets, which are bolted to each other, as well as to the walls and floor. The spare keys are kept in a proper high-security safe, which is itself hidden. And I have other security measures in place. Concealment seems to be the thing. A burglar cannot break into a gun cabinet if he can’t find it in the first place. The downside is that it now takes me a heck of a long time to get a gun when I want to go shooting.