What to Know About Gun Safes with Combination Locks

What to Know About Gun Safes with Combination Locks


When it comes to gun safes, we get a lot of questions about locks. Should you get a gun safe with a combination lock? Are electronic locks better? Can you change the type of lock on a gun safe?

All of these are very important questions to consider when you’re shopping for a gun safe. To help you break it down, we’re going to be covering the following:

  • Gun Safes with Combination Locks verse Electronic Locks
  • Are Mechanical Locks Reliable
  • How to Change the Type of Lock on a Gun Safe
  • You Forgot Your Combination, What Now?
  • Can You Change Your Combination?
  • Why Does Your Combination Lock Come with a Key?

Gun Safes with Combination Locks vs. Electronic Locks

Why choose a combination lock over an electronic lock? It’s really a personal choice. There is no denying that an electronic lock is easier to use and quicker to open. For customers who struggle with any of the following, an electronic lock may be the best choice: eyesight, memory, and stead hands.

However, we have quite a few customers who prefer the old-school reliability and longevity of a mechanical lock. Additionally, a gun safe with a mechanical lock can offer a more classic look. This can be a preferred aesthetic choice if you’re placing it in a prominent position within your home. 

What else should you consider when choosing between an e-lock and a dial lock? Light! Opening a combination lock in the dark can be extremely difficult. But this problem can be overcome with a Lock Light, a small light mounted on your safe just above the locking mechanism.

Opening a Gun Safe with a combination Lock

Are Mechanical Locks Reliable

The short answer is yes. Mechanical locks are extremely reliable. The origin of these old-school locking mechanisms dates back to 850!

Three brothers—Muhammad, Ahmad, and al-Hasan bin Musa ibn Shakir, known as the Banu Musa (“sons of Moses”)—describe roughly 100 revolutionary devices in their book, The Book of Ingenious Devices

The book, which was translated by Dr. Donald Hill from Arabic in 1974, features detailed drawings and one-page written descriptions of each invention. Among the Banu Musa brother’s inventions was a combination lock that utilized the principles of a crankshaft. 

At the beginning of the 17th century, this crankshaft principle was utilized in the “letter lock” found in England. The letter lock was initially only used for padlocks and trick boxes. However, in the last half of the 19th century, significant developments were made in the locking mechanism as it became the popular solution for safes and vault rooms. 

Magic Module with a UL listed lock

How to Change the Type of Lock on a Gun Safe

Typically, the manual lock on a gun safe can be replaced with an electronic lock, or vice versa. Why is this possible?

Because most high-quality gun safes made in the USA are built with a “magic module” footprint for the lock unit. Nearly all UL listed locks are designed to bolt onto this footprint, making a lock exchange relatively easy for a skilled gun safe technician.

WARNING: Always Have Your Lock Installed by a Professional Gun Safe Technician

Trying to replace a gun safe lock without the proper expertise can lead to a myriad of problems, including but not limited to:

  • Voiding Your Warranty
  • Getting Locked Out of Your Safe by the Relocker
  • Not Setting Up the Combination Correctly
  • Not Routing the Cables Properly

Learn more about changing the lock on your gun safe. 

You Forgot Your Combination, What Now?

The dial lock that hung from your high school locker is constructed with the same principles as the dial lock on your gun safe. Except that when you forget the combination to your gun safe, it’s not a $5.99 lock that can be opened with a master key or quickly cut off with bolt cutters.

The good news is, you can still get into your safe if you forgot the combination. It’s easiest to retrieve the combination if you have registered your safe with the manufacturer. If you haven’t registered your warranty, have no fear. Our Master Safe Technician can still help. You just need to prove that the same belongs to you. 

Contact Our Master Safe Technician

Liberty gun safe with a mechanical dial lock

Can You Change Your Combination?

With an electronic lock, changing the combination is relatively easy. With a mechanical lock, it’s a little more difficult. The combination is based on a set of tumblers located within the lock. Changing this combination requires an experienced gun safe technician (or locksmith).

Because changing the combo on a mechanical lock is such an invasive procedure, it’s unlikely you would change it. That being said, if you believe an unauthorized individual has learned your combination, it is possible to have the combination changed. 

Why Does Your Combination Lock Come with a Key?

We get a lot of questions about combination locks with keys. Some websites tout key bypasses (also referred to as key backups) as an emergency safety net. Unfortunately, these key bypasses are an extreme vulnerability.  

Then why do high-end gun safes with mechanical locks come with a key? The key does not unlock the gun safe’s locking mechanism. Rather, it locks the dial — making it so the combination can’t be entered. 

Simply locking the dial is not the same as locking your safe. Sometimes referred to as a “day lock” feature, it should never be used to secure valuables. You should always make sure the locking mechanism on your safe is engaged when you want the contents to be protected. 

Want to Change the Lock on Your Safe?

Our skilled in-house gun safe technician can help you upgrade your safe to the lock of your choice. 

Schedule an Appointment with Our Safe Service & Repair Department

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