Gun Safe Boltworks, Part 4: Cam or Gear Drive

The majority of gun safes and vault doors come with cam drives. Turn the handle and the spindle transfers that motion to some kind of cam inside the door. The cam then transfers the motion to some type of linkage that moves the bolt bars in or out. Safes with cam drives are easier for burglars to open than safes with gear drives. Why, then do most gun safe manufacturers use cams? Because they make more money selling cheaper (less secure) safes. Consumers almost never see what’s inside the door of their safe, and store personnel don’t know enough to tell them. Without good information, consumers will sacrifice security for a cheaper price.

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Besides offering better security, gear drives make for smoother operation when opening and closing the safe. On most gun safes, whether operated by cam or gear, the handle turns about one quarter to one third of a turn. I especially like the “cool factor” of a handle that spins completely around several times, like Fort Knox’ 5 to 1 rack & pinion drive mechanism.

The safe on the left with a cam drive is much less secure than the unit on right.  Both are made in American, but notice the difference in quality and craftsmanship .  It is hard to tell from the picture but the cam is assembled with press-on fasteners, and the external re-locker was installed incorrectly at the factory.

When looking to buy a gun safe, learn about all the major features – the locks, the type of insulation they use, how the insulation is mounted, how much steel there is, how the boltworks are made, etc. Buy from a place that knows the differences and is willing to show you.