Gun safe locks-spin or electronic?


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jasper275
September 23, 2008, 06:22 PM
I'm in the market for a gun safe and am close to pulling the trigger on a Sturdy Safe. They recommend bank-style spin dials, but I like the convenience of an electronic pad. My question, maybe to a locksmith mostly, is this: In a fire where the pad is melted into a glob, can I get into the safe in some way other than having a locksmith drill my safe into worthlessness? A spin dial would still probably work after a fire, but an electronic probably not. Any thoughts?

Thanks!

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VARifleman
September 23, 2008, 06:24 PM
Dial locks run and run, electronic ones have had a lot of problems. Also, with an electronic lock you HAVE TO change the combination periodically so that that numbers to the safe don't get worn down more than the rest. A dial does not have that problem.

dmazur
September 23, 2008, 06:42 PM
You need to ask the manufacturer for an honest answer to this one. A lot of true safes have seals that melt and flow to protect the contents. If there is a real fire, and you're talking about a real safe (not a RSC), whether the knob functions or not is the last thing you are going to worry about.

http://savta.org/

I believe you can use this site to search for a safe technician near you. Ask him your question. These guys are the ones the insurance companies call after a house fire. They can usually get a safe open, as they aren't in a hurry like the bad guys are. :)

CountGlockula
September 23, 2008, 06:43 PM
Electronic: MiniVault.

wideym
September 23, 2008, 06:43 PM
New electronic safes have an emergency back-up key. The keys are large and odd shaped, not easily picked, with the lock underneath the keypad.

Both of my large electronic safes have the same combanation since you can program each with your own code. I'm also able to open either one in compleate darkness by touch. Try that with a spin dial.

Artiz
September 23, 2008, 06:51 PM
+1 for the GunVault.
http://www.gunvault.com/home.nxg

Justin
September 23, 2008, 07:17 PM
Electronic locks all the way. They're much easier and faster to use than the mechanical dial ones.

thebaldguy
September 23, 2008, 07:19 PM
Electronic pads are quick and convenient; you can open your safe in just a second or two. If you replace the batteries annually, and you should be good.

jakemccoy
September 23, 2008, 07:22 PM
The original poster is thinking about getting a Sturdy Safe (http://www.sturdysafe.com/). I highly doubt anything like a Gun Vault is remotely close to being on the radar.

I prefer mechanical spin locks. The speed at which I can get into my safe is not a factor. My home defense plan does NOT include getting into my my safe to my unloaded guns while a home invasion is in progress. The guns I need are out and loaded. Anyway, I'm pretty darn fast with my spin lock. Also, I'm just old school: I don't want my gun collection to rely, in any way, on electronics or batteries.

Hunter0924
September 23, 2008, 07:25 PM
I would prefer the spin dial with a day lock. I believe that set up would be more reliable and no depending on batteries. I believe S&G makes the best locks.
Speed should not be so much an issue, if you need something out of you safe now, either way is too slow.

HIcarry
September 23, 2008, 07:33 PM
Having recently purchased a safe (actually an RSC) after considering all of the pertineint info, including dial versus electronic combo, I picked the dial. In my case the safe wasn't going to be the primary location for a home-defense weapon, so how quick I had to open it wasn't a big consideration. On the other hand, info from multiples sources seemed to indicate that even the best electronic locks continue to have some problems with long-term reliability, whereas a well maintained dial combo will last a long, long time. Hopefully one of the two safe gurus will weigh in on the subject for you.

jakemccoy
September 23, 2008, 08:02 PM
That brings up a good point about electronic locks. Ten years from now, the technology on today’s electronic locks will be obsolete, and there may be no replacement parts. Twenty five years from now (2033), the technician to come out and fix your electronic lock may not even know what the heck's in front of him. In contrast, I'm confident that my mechanical spin lock will be serviceable forty years from now.

For me, a safe is not useful for the best of times; it's useful only for the worst case scenarios. A safe that's operable after being left alone for years is one worst case scenario.

kcshooter
September 23, 2008, 08:28 PM
Depends on whether or not this is a storage safe or one meant for quick access.
My main basement safe is a dial. My bedside safe is a 3-digit coded electronic safe that I can, and have, opened while barely awake in complete darkness in the middle of the night.

dmazur
September 23, 2008, 08:43 PM
I think the OP is concerned about which type, electronic or mechanical dial, is going to be functional after a fire. At least, that's what I got from reading his question.

I'm not a locksmith or a safe expert, so all I could do is refer him to experts.

Any safe experts out there?

jasper275
September 23, 2008, 08:56 PM
Thanks for the input guys. I'd opt for an electronic, figuring it'd be reliable enough for the remainder of my life. My main worry is if in a fire, if melted and destroyed from the 1200 degree inferno, would the safe be ruined and would I need a locksmith to destroy the safe (RSC, yep) to save the contents? No where can I find this piece of what I consider extremely relevant info for the purchaser. I emailed S & G and asked them this question, although I'm dubious of the potential honesty of their answer, assuming they even respond. For that matter, what if an intruder slammed a sledge hammer into the s and g electronic pad--would this necessitate a drill job on my 2K safe?

lonegunman
September 23, 2008, 08:58 PM
Mechanical locks are far better in my humble opinion. I've had one unserviced for fifteen years and it works flawlessly.


Spend a little extra and get a Group 1 lock of you want more security. Bolt the thing to the floor also.

jakemccoy
September 23, 2008, 09:03 PM
Wouldn't the whole safe be inoperable after a big fire? In other words, wouldn't the fire proofing be compromised to the point that the safe couldn't last another fire? All the pics of the big fires I've seen show safes that need total replacement.

All due respect, if you're worried about replacing a 3 grand safe after a big fire, your budget and priorities may be a little off. If the safe is worth at least the same amount as the guns inside, I don't understand the point of having that type of safe. If the guns are substantially more valuable than the safe, then I don't understand how you could have a mindset of trying to salvage the safe after a huge fire.

a1abdj
September 23, 2008, 09:17 PM
In a fire, both types of locks will melt, and usually require drillling of the safe to get into it.

If the safe was in a fire so hot that either melted, the safe would never be used again anyways. Gun safes are not built the same way as a real fire rated safe is, and they usually warp and distort badly once heated.

To address some of the other things brought up:

Also, with an electronic lock you HAVE TO change the combination periodically so that that numbers to the safe don't get worn down more than the rest

Although we do suggest this often, it is also possible to replace the keypad membrane once it starts to wear.

You need to ask the manufacturer for an honest answer to this one

Many gun safe manufacturers have no idea what they're talking about. I had to drill open a high end gun safe built by a name brand company. Their tech said he would fax me a schematic.

He sent me a photocopied page out of a book on gun safes written by a well known locksmith. It's bad when an independent party knows more about your product than you do.

http://savta.org/

I believe you can use this site to search for a safe technician near you. Ask him your question. These guys are the ones the insurance companies call after a house fire. They can usually get a safe open, as they aren't in a hurry like the bad guys are.

Excellent place to start a search for somebody who knows what they're talking about (I'm a SAVTA member too). Another good place is clearstar.com (also a member).

New electronic safes have an emergency back-up key. The keys are large and odd shaped, not easily picked, with the lock underneath the keypad.


Key locks are usually much less secure than a typical manual or electronic safe lock. If the safe has a UL rated lock, it should not have a key back up.

I believe S&G makes the best locks.


Many entry level locks are now produced in China, and that includes some of the S&G line. S&G has has some quality control issues which have caused some safe manufacturers to use other locks.

So long as the safe has a name brand, UL listed lock, you should be OK. This includes locks by S&G, LaGard, Kaba (Mas), Ilco, Lockone, Globalok, and others.

Ten years from now, the technology on today’s electronic locks will be obsolete, and there may be no replacement parts. Twenty five years from now (2033), the technician to come out and fix your electronic lock may not even know what the heck's in front of him. In contrast, I'm confident that my mechanical spin lock will be serviceable forty years from now.


One of the best things that happened was the "Universal Footprint" commonly found with todays modern safe locks.

Most locks, from most manufacturers, are the same dimensions with the same mounting holes. This allows for easy replacement of the lock.

Most gun safes use the lower end locks, which are usually wholly replaced once broken. It's cheaper to replace it than to piece it back together in most cases.

I'd opt for an electronic, figuring it'd be reliable enough for the remainder of my life.

If you get more than 5 years of regular use, than you're doing good. If you get 10 years out of it all together, you're way ahead of the curve.

My main worry is if in a fire, if melted and destroyed from the 1200 degree inferno, would the safe be ruined and would I need a locksmith to destroy the safe

Yes.

to save the contents?

Although some safes work better than others, most gun safes do not perform to the manufacturer's claims.

Most gun safes that we've opened after "infernos" had severely damaged or flat out destroyed contents.

No where can I find this piece of what I consider extremely relevant info for the purchaser.

You can find out everything you need to know, and some things that you don't, right here at the Highroad.

what if an intruder slammed a sledge hammer into the s and g electronic pad--would this necessitate a drill job on my 2K safe?

Maybe. If the keypad is only smashed, but the wiring harness is intact, a new keypad can be spliced in to open the safe. If the wiring is damaged, or the beating was hard enough to fire a relocker, then the safe needs to be drilled.

I've had one unserviced for fifteen years and it works flawlessly

Unserviced locks have a tendancy to just stop working one day. I usually suggest having mechanical locks serviced at least once every 5 years. I just drilled open a floor safe the other day that made it to just under 20 years before quitting. The cost to open the safe exceeded the price she paid for the safe 20 years ago.

Wouldn't the whole safe be inoperable after a big fire?

Yes, and this is true for any safe designed to protect against fire. Heavy steel plate safes can usually get a new lock and paint job and go back into service.

wouldn't the fire proofing be compromised to the point that the safe couldn't last another fire?

Most gun safes don't survive the first fire.

4v50 Gary
September 23, 2008, 09:20 PM
mechanical. electronic can fail you.

dmazur
September 23, 2008, 09:29 PM
Here's a previous thread which includes a discussion about Sturdy Safes -

http://www.thehighroad.org/archive/index.php/t-284466.html

The best I can get out of all of this is that

1. The guns aren't going to survive unless the fire is an "early detect, quick response" event, due to the corrosive atmosphere of a fire.
2. The UL listing on the RSC is related to the anti-theft rating, not its fire rating.

So, I'd get an alarm system and make sure it has fire sensors. Also, read about the expanding seals and realize that, if you have any kind of a fire other than a wastebasket in the corner, the safe (RSC) is going to have to be replaced. It really won't be functional after the seals expand.

So, since a fire is going to render it useless, I'd get whatever kind of lock you like and don't worry about the lock surviving the fire. :)

a1abdj is in the link I found...he's the expert.

GlowinPontiac
September 23, 2008, 09:44 PM
Mechanical.

What happens when a poorly soldered electrical connection deep inside the door (say the lock slolenoid) decideds to come apart?
You more than likely wont have access to the inner workings of the door from the outside unless you have a key backup and that would mean having a safe expert tear up your safe because a 10 cent part that was poorly assembled failed.

Also as stated above PROPERLY MAINTAIN MECHANICAL LOCKS!! I had a friend give me an old fire rated document safe that would not open. the dial would not even turn. He had found the safe in the basement and it was known to be empty so just for fun we tried to open it and were able to use a prybar and sawzall to open it. A quick lube job and light tapping on the lock mechanisim got it working perfectly again even though the safe was now just scrap metal since we had to brute force it open.

Oh on a side note this was one of the more common document type safes and it took us less than 30 minutes to get it open. all a thief would have to do is carry it home and with a few cheap tools would easily be able to get it open without destroying the contents inside. The Kiddie brand ones (i think its kiddie) have a simple key lock and hinged lid. We took an old display model we were throwing away at work, locked it and then pried it open in less than 5 minutes with a small prybar and almost no noise. Those things are absoloutely worthless.

Guns and more
September 23, 2008, 10:35 PM
I like electronic. If I had a mechanical, I wouldn't use it as often as I do. If you don't lock up your guns, that defeats the purpose of the safe. I open mine when I get home and lock it when I leave. Takes 5 sec. to open.

RNB65
September 23, 2008, 11:07 PM
Mechanical.

Stevie-Ray
September 23, 2008, 11:53 PM
I have an e-lock and I like it. But to tell you the truth, if I could have had a dial on it I would have gone for that.

Travis McGee
September 24, 2008, 12:05 AM
A1ABDJ: Thanks! Great info!

FlyinBryan
September 24, 2008, 12:22 AM
we have an american security gunsafe. it has the mechanical dial. once i got used to it (had it about 20 years) i can get into it in about 10 seconds.

its 795lbs empty but there is a few hundred lbs of stuff in it.

overall ive been very happy with the dial system. it has an almost industrial feel to it when you spin it. lot of weight in the dial.

i feel very comfortable with the dial while were not home (and the fourteen 1-1/4" thick hardened bolts)

helz_mcfugly
September 24, 2008, 11:45 AM
you should sell that safe to me and go buy a new one with a keypad.

OOOXOOO
September 24, 2008, 12:03 PM
One more for mechanical, safes should not be necessary to open quickly.

MinnMooney
September 24, 2008, 12:21 PM
I've had nothing but problems with my cheap Stack-On safe with an electronic lock. It works less than 50% of the time so I have to do the combination 2,3 or more times occasionally. It's frustrating. The "warranty" covers it IF I disassemble and remove the locking mechanism myself and mail it in for repair (@ my expence). It'll be gone for 4-6 weeks while my "safe" sits with a huge hole in the door completely unsecured. Great warranty!

A better brand of safe and a spin dial is in my future.

kcshooter
September 24, 2008, 12:26 PM
safes should not be necessary to open quickly.Not always true.
The single gun safe next to my bed better be able to open quickly!

Khornet
September 24, 2008, 03:56 PM
came with electronic, though I ordered mechanical. I decided to live with it. Easy to use, easy to change the combo. But I hated that it beeps with each keystroke. And after 3 years it began to require 3 attempts to open, despite fresh batteries.

Since I could never know when it was going to fail completely, I couldn't live with it. I got a mechanical lock and installed it two weeks ago. Much better. Silent and reliable. I just can't trust an electronic device with my guns. Yeah, I can't open in the dark. That's why I have flashlights.

jakemccoy
September 24, 2008, 03:58 PM
Some people mentioned that maintaining a mechanical lock is important. How exactly do I do that? Do I squirt it with oil every now and then? What do I do?

woad_yurt
September 24, 2008, 05:18 PM
I prefer the ol' mechanical dial I have to any digital anything. I have a brand new van and I have had quite a few problems with all of the electronics. Presently, Max AC is dead. Before, my gas gauge would jump around like it had epilepsy. It's all been related to the electronics. I love a PC on my desk but hate it on almost anything else. Digital stuff is too fragile. The house I'm working in now has a garage opener with a digital code access. It is a pure pain. It never works on the first try no matter how hard or easy or careful I am.

PS: My other vehicle is a 1962 Plymouth Valiant. It always works.

sailortoo
September 24, 2008, 06:40 PM
I second jakemccoy's question - maintenance is important - nowhere have I seen any instruction/direction on proper maintenance! I have wondered about internal wear over time, on a mechanical rotary dial lock mechanism. I would guess some graphite type "slickum" would be best, but no direct access to the innerds. :confused:
sailortoo

Car Knocker
September 24, 2008, 07:00 PM
My safe has an access door on the inside of the safe door. 4 screws.

a1abdj
September 24, 2008, 07:09 PM
Some people mentioned that maintaining a mechanical lock is important. How exactly do I do that? Do I squirt it with oil every now and then? What do I do?

You don't. It's not rocket science, but it is very easy to mess something up which will result in a lockout. It will also void any warranty.

Call a local locksmith who specializes in safe work. It shouldn't cost much more than $100.

They will inspect the lock for wear, clean, properly lubricate, and torque to spec. If they notice something is wrong, they may suggest you replace or rebuild the lock. Personally, I would replace the entire lock as opposed to rebuilding one.

I was just called out the other day to change a combination on a safe at a grocery store. The safe had never been serviced. When I removed the back cover of the safe, I noticed the lock was crooked. All four screws holding the lock in place had come loose, with two of them coming completely out. They were probably within a few days of a fired relocker, and a $500 safe opening.

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