Gun Safe Lock Types and How They Work

One of the most important choices you need to make when picking out a safe is its locking mechanism. There are many different types of locks out there, with varying levels of security and ease of access. Depending on what you keep in your vault and how often you need to access it, there’s no one-size-fits-all type of lock.

Mechanical Locks

If you remember spinning a dial to open your locker in high school, then you have used at least one type of mechanical lock. These locks work by spinning the dial clockwise and counterclockwise, landing on a certain number with each spin in the sequence. These locks are simple, effective, and immune to the kind of electromagnetic pulses (EMPs) that can disable electronic locks. Other types of mechanical locks include the multiple dial locks that are common in bike chains and locks that require keys.

One of the downsides of dial locks is the time that it takes to open the lock. Going back to high school, if you’ve ever tried to quickly get your gym clothes out of your locker when you’re running late, you understand how difficult it can be to try to open a combination lock under stress. If you store home defense solutions in your safe, those items need to be readily accessible in a crisis. 

If you use your safe for storage and/or don’t need to quickly access your safe, then a mechanical lock is a solid option. If you would still like to use a mechanical lock and need easy access, then you could use a key-based lock system.

Keypad Locks

Electronic keypad locks are battery-powered locks that are easily programmable. Once the correct numeric sequence is punched into the keypad, the internal lock on the safe is released and the handle can be turned. Since these locks can be quickly opened, they’re great for people who need to quickly access their safe and use it regularly. Fort Knox’s keypad locks also protect against intruders randomly trying combinations by shutting down after a certain amount of wrong attempts.

One downside involving electronic locks is that it’s battery-powered. As we discussed in our article about changing the batteries in electronic locks, your safe could be rendered inaccessible if the batteries die in its electronic lock. The best way to avoid this problem is to regularly change the batteries in your vault locks.

Redundant Locks

Redundant locks are the best of both worlds. The option that’s available for Fort Knox safes has a mechanical lock in addition to a keypad. The upside for redundant locks is that you have a backup in case one lock breaks or is disabled. For example, if you forget to change the batteries in the keypad, then you can still access your valuables with the mechanical lock. 

The one downside to redundant locks is the price point. Since you’re purchasing in essence two separate locks, it can cost considerably more to install a redundant lock system.


Advancements in security have given way to newer lock types like biometric locks and Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) locks. RFID is the same technology that is found in contactless credit cards and has been used to prevent theft in retail stores.

Picking the right lock is important because you don’t want to potentially leave your valuables unprotected or be unable to access what you need in a dire situation. When building and customizing your Fort Knox safe, the vault builder lets you pick the type of lock that is right for you.


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