Types of gun safe locks
No matter how heavy-duty a safe’s steel is, the door will still swing open if the locking mechanism doesn’t do its job. You want to avoid any lock that can be easily compromised, but keep in mind that an overly complicated lock can create its own problems of accessibility.
Biometric lock gun safes
Your fingerprints might be the one truly unique thing about you. Biometric gun safes try to capitalize on this by using fingerprint recognition technology to allow you quick and easy access to your firearm. With biometric locks, you don’t need to remember a combination or fumble with keys, so you get the quickest access to your firearm in an emergency situation. At least in theory. It sounds awesome on the surface, but digging a little deeper into biometrics raises a few red flags.
The whole point of biometrics is to allow quick access to your gun, but what a lot of people forget to consider is that in emergency situations, your blood starts pumping, adrenaline takes over, and your hands get sweaty. We ran a simulated test with a GunVault Speedvault Biometric Pistol Safe SVB500 where we worked up a sweat and tried to open the safe using its biometric lock, and it took several tries to register sweaty fingerprints.
Manual lock and electronic keypad gun safes
Manual locks and electronic keypad safes are not as quickly accessible as a biometric safe, but they are more popular because they tend to be less expensive, and, in our opinion, more secure. There are three main types of safe locks: pattern combinations, number combinations, and manual locks.
Pattern keypad combination gun safes
Our number-one quick-access lock choice is the pattern keypad combination. Pattern combinations are similar to numeric keypads in that they are designed with digital buttons that let you unlock your safe by pressing the buttons sequentially in a pattern of your choosing. Combinations can include pushing individual buttons or pressing multiple buttons simultaneously.
We prefer a pattern combination lock over a numeric combination because there’s no need to fumble with keys, try to remember a complicated set of numbers, or worry that sweaty fingers will inhibit you from getting your gun. By practicing the pattern often enough, you can commit it to muscle memory, which reduces the chance of forgetting the combination during an emergency.
Number keypad combination gun safes
Most of us are familiar with a numeric keypad safe. The safe is unlocked by entering a numeric code into the digital keypad. Though this method is not as fast as biometric entry, it still gives you fast access to your firearm. Some safes have the ability to program up to 12 million user-selected codes, which makes them more difficult to crack. A numbered keypad combination is our second choice for quick-access safes, behind only the pattern keypad combination.
Manual lock gun safes
There are two different types of manual locks:
- Key locks. These are the most straightforward, old-school type of locks that use a key to open your safe. Fumbling with keys slows you down and isn’t a great option for quick-access safes, and there’s always the threat of losing your keys—or worse, someone who’s not supposed to have access finding them.
- Dial locks. Dial locks are a more traditional style of locking mechanism. They don’t provide quick access to your safe, but they’re secure and slow to open. Most long gun safes will have a dial lock on the door with a three- or five-digit combination.
It’s harder to steal from a safe with thick steel
Just because your safe is big, heavy, and steel-plated doesn’t mean it’s a good safe. In fact, countless safes have light gauge steel and can be penetrated with a simple fire axe.
The steel gauge rating feels a little backwards: the lower the steel gauge, the stronger the steel. The stronger the steel, the more expensive your safe will be. That’s why some of the bargain-priced safes out there, though they may seem like a great deal, are really not good options to protect your firearms. We recommend finding a safe with at least 10-gauge steel.
There’s no such thing as a fireproof safe
We all want to protect our valuables, and protection means more than just keeping burglars out of our safe. Fire can be a real threat to sensitive documents, cash, and more. If disaster strikes and your house burns down, replacing these things can be difficult, if not impossible. Prevention is key. But you should know that any manufacturer who claims that their safe is fireproof is straight-up lying to you. There is no such thing as a fireproof safe.
Although no safes are completely fireproof, several quality safes are fire-resistant. A fire-resistant safe can protect its contents for a certain amount of time, up to a certain degree. A fire burning longer or hotter than a safe’s specifications will penetrate the safe and burn whatever’s inside. Larger long gun safes tend to have higher fire-resistance ratings than smaller, quick-access safes.
Although fire rating is important, we recommend focusing on steel gauge and locking mechanisms as your primary security priorities, finding options that meet those qualifications, and then looking at fire-resistance ratings within your potential options.