4+ Different Types of Gun Safe Lock Mechanisms [Updated 2020]

While overlooked by many when shopping for a safe, the lock on a safe is almost just as important as the steel. If a lock is defective, or of low quality, it can result in not being able to access the safe quickly, or even at all.

This can result in frustration, health issues (Some people keep medication in their safe), and can cause your self protection weapons to be locked away from you when you are in need.

I will quickly go through the different options available for a gun safe. Some safes are only offered with one type of lock like Steelwater, and Dakota, while others are offered with many different ones like Fort Knox, Edison, Browning, Liberty or Vault Pro.

**If you are looking to replace the lock on your safe with one of the following options, please make sure your safe is compatible, and that you are selecting the right internal locking mechanism (i.e pivot bolt, swing bolt, etc.).**

Mechanical lock

Electronic Lock

The electronic lock has gotten a bad reputation over the years for being unreliable and many people steer clear of it because of that. However in recent years, these locks have become very much reliable as long as you are aware of what you are buying.

It is highly recommended to only purchase a lock that has a visible name on so that you are aware of what you are getting. Popular manufacturers that make great locks include Kaba, SecuRAM, La Gard, and S&G (Sergeant and Greenleaf).

Electronic lock on stealth safe
Example of an electronic lock on a Stealth Safe [Image courtesy of Stealth]

An Electronic (Digital) lock is essentially a plastic/metal pad where a predetermined code is entered. Once entered it releases the internal lock and allows for the handle to be turned, retracting the bolts to allow access to the safe.

This code can be easily changed to whatever code is wanted. Because of the quick access of an electronic lock, it is recommended for people that use their safe to contain their self protection weapons, or for people that regularly need to access their safe.

These locks can range from a simple 9 key keypad without a memory, to a keypad that can handle thousands of combos, can export a file to a USB that will tell when and how people have accessed, and that have and LED screen. The price can range from under $50 to over $1000.

Mechanical Locks

Due to the lack of any electronic components, the mechanical (dial) lock is known for its reliability and longevity. These locks are generally the lock you would see in one of those old time movies from back in the day. It is also similar to the lock that you use back in high school.

Much like the electronic lock, it is recommended to purchase one that has a name brand on it, however knock off mechanical locks are far and few in between and aren’t much of an issue.

This lock requires for you to spin the lock to the right 4-5 times to clear the last code, then spin four times to the left to the first code, three times to the right for the second code, two times to the right for the third code, and then spin to the left until it catches (generally around 87).

This process takes a bit of practice, but after a few tries becomes second nature. However, because of this process, it takes much longer (45 seconds or so) to access the contents of your safe.

It can be lengthened out even more if in dire situation, as there can be mistakes. This type of lock is recommended for people that don’t need in quickly, or mainly use their safe for storage.

There really aren’t many different versions of a mechanical lock, other than the manipulation proof versions that don’t have nearly as much forgiveness on slightly missing a number.

Redundant Locks

Redundant locks are not quite as well known in the community, but are definitely worth the mention. These locks may also be known as EMP locks as they have both a mechanical lock, as well as an electronic lock.

This allows for the speed of one, but also the reliability of the other. While being a little more expensive, this is an option I highly recommend (Also, it looks cool).

There are a couple different styles of this lock. SecuRAM and a couple others have a single locking mechanism that has both locks built in. The SecuRAM Xtreme is a great example of this!

The other option can be seen on Fort Knox, Edison Safes, Sun Welding, and some others have this lock as two completely separate mechanisms that both connect to one internal locking mechanism.

Both of these options essentially do the same thing, and I haven’t seen that one is necessarily better than the other. Personally, I think it is up to the aesthetics.

The Xtreme has a more modern style, and the separate mechanisms give a little more refined, older style look. You can learn more about this lock here.

Biometric Lock

You are starting to see more and more biometric gun safe locks out there, and as technology starts to get more effective, so will these locks.

Their reliability rating may not be at what most people would want in a safe they need to access quickly, but if you are smart and shop around, it may be good for your needs.

Other locking mechanism options

There are of course many other lock options, but these tend to be much less used. Key locks are used widely as a backup option, however are not very reliable unless an Abloy lock is used, such as on a Console Vault.

Pistol Safe Locking Mechanisms

Pistol Safes have a bit of a different style of locks, these can include biometric, keypad, simplex mechanical, RFID, smartphone access and more. Check out the Vaultek VT10i, as it has quite a few of these all in one unit.

**Make sure to check out my full size gun safe buying guide, or my pistol safe buying guide for what I look for outside of locks**