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More Than Just Gauge: Why Steel Types Matter

It is a common misconception that the strength of gun safe steel is determined by its thickness. But the truth of the matter is, it is more than the gauge that makes steel strong. How strong a piece of steel is will depend mainly on its both its type and gauge.

What is Steel, Exactly?

Do you remember studying the periodic table of elements in school and learning about different metals that occur naturally in nature? Well, steel is not one of them. Steel is an alloy; a type of metal made by combining two natural metal elements. Alloys are usually created to improve the strength or other inherent characteristics of a metal.

Steelis an alloy made by combining iron with carbon. On its own, iron is pretty strong…but it has poor tensile strength, meaning it is brittle and will snap if attempts are made to bend it. The tensile stress measurement is the maximum amount of that the metal can withstand before it breaks. Combining iron with carbon hardens the steel…but the amount added can vary. For example, mild steel contains a smaller amount of carbon than the tensile steel used to make very strong springs (like those used for heavy-duty truck suspensions).

Even though on its own steel is an alloy, it can be made into other steel alloys by adding different elements that alter its characteristics. Adding other elements like:

Chromium – Forms a chromium steel alloy that resists rust and corrosion

Nickel – Makes the steel alloy stronger and more elastic to prevent it from breaking or shattering

Tungsten – Increases melting point

So, What Type of Steel is Used in a Safe?

Most manufacturers use a gun safe steel that is an iron and carbon steel alloy. This type of metal is very strong, especially when it is American-made steel. The only time there should be a concern about steel made entirely from iron and carbon is if it is foreign-made steel that does not contain enough carbon to make it harder and stronger.

A higher-quality safe may be made from steel that also contains chromium for extra hardness and improved resistance to corrosion. Sometimes nickel may also be added to increase strength. And when you use high-quality, thick steel, you get a superior safe with a higher level of security and fire protection.

Liberty Safe uses only the best American-made gun safe steel.