NOTE: This information is provided as general advice only.
A good safe lock is key to keeping your safe secure. Most safes utilize a standard safe lock footprint which allows locks to be swapped out from one type to another. Many times you will find lower end safes have a “manufacturer” or “imported” locks which would be attached permanently to the safe and/or would not use the standard lock footprint. Most locks with standard lock footprints are UL rated and will provide better security than the “manufacturer” type of locks.
Many fire safes don’t need the security of the higher end locks so they have cheap imported key, combination and electronic locks installed. For a basic home fire safe only used to protect items from a fire, this type of imported lock will work great for a long period of time. Some low end gun safes and even a few security safes come with imported locks without a standard lock footprint and although they are very economical, I do not suggest them if you are purchasing the safe for security reasons. These low end locks usually can’t be opened by the kid next door or a common burglar, but if given enough time, the container will be compromised. Many times you will find that safe with these lower end locks offer minimal security and they usually are not rated for burglar protection.
The Electronic lock has several advantages over combination locks and key locks. Today, electronic locks offer the same security that key locks and combination locks offer. Electronic locks usually use batteries that must be changed every 6 months to 1 year. If you purchase a safe with an electronic lock, make sure you use high end batteries such as Energizer or Duracell. I can’t even count the number of times I have been called out to a “broken” safe, just to find out that the customer was using out of date or low end batteries that can’t put out the power required to operate their electronic lock. There are several different manufacturers of electronic safe locks. The most popular and in my opinion most reliable is LaGard. I use LaGard electronic locks on my safe and primarily sell Lagard locks. Other manufacturers include Sargent & Greenleaf (S&G), AMSEC, Kaba Mas, SecuRam, Globalock and a few others. Here are a few advantages of Electronic Safe Locks.
1. Electronic locks allow you to change your own combination.
2. Electronic locks are very easy to use.
3. Electronic locks can be opened very quickly.
There are a few different types of key locks including single key high security locks, dual key “safe deposit box” locks and even simple cabinet locks. The most secure of these is the single key high security safe lock. These usually have a funny looking over sized key, but offer superb protection. Safe deposit box locks are fairly secure as they require 2 keys to open. One key is called the renters key and the other called the guard key. The simple cabinet locks when used on safes offer very minimal security so take care in what you place into a safe with a simple key lock. S&G and LaGard make key locks along with a bunch of european safe companies. Europe and much of the rest of the world uses key locks more than any other type. Here in the U.S. we commonly use combination locks or electronic locks.
Key locks have a few advantages.
1. With Key Locks you never need to remember any numbers. As long as you can find the key, you can open your safe.
2. With a electronic or combination lock, the numbers can be seen by potential burglars and cause the combination to be compromised, with a key lock, if the key is stolen, you know it is missing and can act accordingly to secure the contents of the safe.
Combination locks are very traditional and most people like them because they can be trusted. Combination locks have been very common on safes in the U.S. for the past 100+ years and provide great security. Some find combination locks too complicated to use and would prefer any other method to open their safe. Most combination locks require a locksmith to change the combination which could cost you $100 + every time you need the combo changed. Combination locks should be serviced every 1-3 years depending on how often they are used (most models). Many safes go for decades without any problems, but some only make it a few years without being serviced before they fail. Most safe openings involving combination locks have one of the following problems.
1. The lock was not serviced regularly and a part broke or the combo slipped.
2. The combo was lost.
3. The operator of the safe “spins” the dial and does not turn the dial. Spinning of the dial causes peening of metal within the lock and causes the locks combination to slip to new numbers. If you purchase a safe with a combination lock, be sure to turn the dial at a slow speed at all times to maximize the lifespan of your lock.
4. Burglars made an attempt to open the safe without the combination or key. This usually means the handle and dial both have been busted off the front of the safe and the safe is in poor condition.
The most popular and most reliable combination lock is made by S&G. If I were to place a combinatoin lock on my safe, S&G would be my first choice. Lagard, S&G, Diebold and Mosler are common safe locks you may run into on a safe.