Gun Safe Buyers Guide, Part 1 : LOCKS

Time for a little Q & A with the Gun-Safe-Guru.  We’ll break up this gun safe buyers guide into several parts.  Feel free to post questions at the bottom of this article or email me:  josh(at)

Q: Should I choose an electronic lock or combination dial lock?

A:  This is a personal preference, but I will list the pros and cons for both the electronic lock and the manual dial lock.  Most safe companies offer a choice of a dial or e-lock, but a few manufacturers like Winchester and Mesa only offer the safe with an electronic lock.  As far as security is concerned, often times both the electronic lock and combination lock carry the same Group II or Group I security rating.

Pros for the electronic lock:  Quick and easy access.  Change the combination at any time.  Easier to see under dim light. Door automatically locks when it is closed

Cons:  Possibility of electronic failure (although very rare).  Having to change the batteries (at least once a year).  Shorter life span (typically 10-15 years)

Pros for the combination lock:  No electronic parts, no batteries to replace.  More durable & longer lasting

Cons:  Turning the dial back and forth can be time consuming, especially if don’t land exactly on the right numbers.  Harder to see the numbers under dim light.  Door doesn’t automatically lock when closed, you need to spin the dial.  Be sure to spin the dial every time you close your safe door!

One thing to keep in mind about the e-lock:  Be sure to change your combination every once in a while otherwise the keypad will wear down, showing the numbers that you use most.

Q: If I buy a safe with an electronic lock and the battery dies, how do I get into the safe?

A:  You don’t need to get into the safe to change the battery.  Simply replace the battery located inside the keypad and your safe will be ready to open.  Most electronic locks feature a low battery alert that will notify you that the battery needs to be changed so you can avoid this problem all together. 

Q:  Can I determine the combination on a manual dial lock?

A:  The combination dial locks come with a predetermined code from the factory.  In some instances the combination can be changed, but that will need to be done by a certified locksmith.  This can be one advantage to choosing an electronic lock.

Q:  Can you explain the “lockout” feature on electronic locks?

A:   Most quality electronic locks have an automatic lock-out feature.  This feature disables the lock for a period of time (usually 15 to 20 minutes) if someone enters three or four incorrect combinations consecutively.  This safeguard keeps thiefs from trying several different combinations in a short period of time.

Q:  Do any of these full size gun safes have a key backup?

A:  Surprisingly enough, most full size gun safes do NOT have a key backup.  There are a few exceptions.  Rather than list them all here, just give me a call at 800-540-1695 ext 208 or email me:   josh (at)

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