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Mechanical Locks vs. Electronic Locks

Mechanical Locks vs. E-Locks

What Lock Type is Better for Your Gun Safe?

A home and gun safe typically comes with either a mechanical combination lock, or an electronic lock. But you’re probably wondering what are the pros and cons of each, or more importantly, “Which one should I get?” So, to answer your inquiries, we’re going to discuss these four topics:

  • What are mechanical and electronic locks?
  • Which type is easier to use?
  • Which type is more reliable?
  • Which type is more expensive?

A mechanical safe lock is similar to the lock on your old school locker: you open it by spinning a dial to enter a combination. That combination puts the lock tumblers in the right position, allowing the door to be unlocked. It’s a simple yet effective manual lock system.

Electronic locks, or e-locks, are a little more advanced. Rather than spinning a dial, you input a four- to six-digit combination on a battery powered keypad that stores your combination even if the battery dies. When the right combination is entered, the lock engages the mechanism and allows the handle to turn so you can unlock the door.

According to Liberty Safe customers, e-locks are the most user friendly. You have to land on just the right number with a mechanical lock. If you’re spinning the dial too fast, or your hands are a little shaky, this can be kind of difficult. It can also be harder to open a mechanical lock in the dark, or if your eyesight is poor. Spinning a dial also takes longer, even if you get it right on the first try.

Lastly, you can change the combination any time you want on an e-lock. With a mechanical lock, you have to call a locksmith to change it. In short, if you want a lock that’s faster to open and more user friendly under pressure, a e-lock is probably your best bet.

That said, manual locks aren’t a bad option. If you’ve got a lock from a quality manufacturer like Sargent and Greenleaf or Lagard, you’re going to be getting something extremely reliable. And, with no judgment some people just prefer the more manual, old-fashioned feel.

Here’s the thing: mechanical locks have more or less remained the same for decades. E-locks, however, have changed a lot since they first hit the market. Sure, when they first came out they were a little finicky and temperamental. But with today’s new technology, high quality e-locks can be just as reliable as mechanical locks. As an example, SecuRam runs each of its e-locks through 2000 cycles to ensure reliability. If at any time it fails, the lock is scrapped.

Now this all brings up a question: how can you tell if the lock on a safe is any good? Simple: check to see if it’s UL-listed. That means that the lock has been tested for functionality and reliability by a trusted third party. UL-listed locks are the standard of excellence in our industry.

Finally, let’s talk about price because, frankly, it just might be the deciding factor for you. For most of the industry, mechanical locks are the standard. While a given brand may have a few models that come standard with e-locks, most are gonna start with a mechanical lock. You’ll have the option to upgrade to an e-lock, but you’ll typically pay extra for it.

Overall, prices are gonna vary by brand and by model. But if you’re looking to upgrade, expect to pay between $100 and $200 more for most e-locks.

Before you make the final decision on the lock for your safe, ask yourself these five questions:

  • Do I prefer an old-fashioned look and feel?
  • Am I worried about the lock performance in the dark or under stress?
  • Do I want to be able to change my combination at any time?
  • Do I mind having to change the battery occasionally?
  • Can I afford to spend a little extra on an e-lock?

Once you answer those questions, you can feel confident that you’re making the right decision for your safe’s lock.

Download our guide on Mechanical Locks vs. E-Locks here.

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