Some websites tout key bypasses (aka key backups) as an emergency safety net. What these articles fail to explain is that a key bypass makes your gun safe extremely vulnerable. Simply put, a gun safe with a key bypass is a security threat.
Dual Entry Lock vs. Key Bypass (aka Key Backup)
It’s common to confuse a key backup, key bypass, dual entry lock, and redundant lock. Let’s break it down:
- Dual Entry Lock — Any lock that can be opened in more than one way. For instance, a lock that has both a keypad and a biometric scanner is a dual entry lock, but does not have a key bypass.
- Key Bypass — Any dial, electronic keypad or biometric lock that can also be opened using a key.
What About Redundant Locks?
Redundant locks are also considered Dual Entry locks. For instance, a safe equipped with both a Sargent & Greenleaf lock and an FAS UL listed Bitter/Skeleton Key could be classified as both dual entry and redundant (of a redundant bold work safe).
Why Does My Safe Come with a Key When it Doesn’t Have a Key Bypass?
Some safes come with a key for the lock’s dial, but are not considered to have a key bypass. This is because the key can keep the dial from rotating, but does not allow access to the safe as a bypass. Locking the dial only is referred to as the ‘day use’ function.
We do not recommend using the day use function of the lock as a permanent means of using the safe.
3 Reasons to Never Get a Gun Safe with a Key Bypass
It’s one thing to tell you key bypasses make your safe vulnerable based on 36+ years of experience selling safes in the Pacific Northwest. It’s another thing to break down why. Let’s look at the specific elements that cause a gun safe with a key backup to be less secure:
1. Key Bypasses are not UL Listed
Underwriters Laboratories (UL) is a global safety science leader. They were founded in 1984 as a third-party testing agency to provide security ratings for products — both as individual components and as a whole.
It was UL who developed the Test Performance Ratings for gun safes — the most highly respected testing method for determining how burglar-proof a safe is. In order for a gun safe or gun safe bolt (aka gun safe locking mechanism) to receive a UL rating, it undergoes extensive testing.
No gun safes with a key bypass have a UL rating.
2. There’s No Standard Template for Key Backups
Locks with a key backup don’t fit a standard mounting template. They are an aftermarket addition that doesn’t fit the vast majority of safes, including UL listed safes. This presents a wide range of problems, the biggest of which is the need to drill or tap a new template.
Because these locks are not designed to fit the vast majority of safes (especially high-quality gun safes), mounting them frequently requires a gun safe technician to drill or tap a new template on the safe.
3. Locks with a Key Bypass Are More Prone to Fail
Locks with a key bypass are cheaper. There’s a reason they haven’t earned a UL rating. They have a substantially higher failure rate, making your safe more vulnerable to attack.
Top 3 Things to Look for in a High-Quality Gun Safe Lock
At NW Safe, we are committed to providing the highest level of security and performance to our customers. This is why we’ve carefully selected the locks we carry. Two of the main things to look for in a high-quality gun safe lock are:
- Solenoid Plunger — The plunger of a lock (which is sometimes referred to as the lock’s tongue) is a piece that extends from the locking mechanism into the door. On lower-end locks with key backups, the solenoid plunger can be easily depressed. You want to look for a lock with a plunger that’s not easily depressed, like the ones used in the S&G Titan of Securam ProLogic lock body.
- U.L. Magic Mount Template — The gun safe industry recognized the U.L. Magic Mount Template as the standard lock template. Locks made to fit this template can be easily, affordably, and securely interchanged. This is a great advantage for those who need to replace an electronic lock that has worn out or those who would like to make the switch from a dial lock to an electronic lock (or vice versa).
- Cost — You get what you pay for. Not all U.L. listed locks are built equal. The more ‘affordable’ (read cheap) U.L. listed locks have cheaper components. They’re more prone to fail.
Best U.L. Listed Locks
Electronic locks and dial locks each face their own unique issues. The keypad buttons on less expensive electronic locks are substantially more likely to malfunction. Less expensive dial locks can suffer from the combination wheel packs moving and changing the combination, causing the combination to change without the owner knowing.
A ‘drifting’ lock is normally caused by flicking or harshly spinning the dial. This problem became so common for customers that we now special order all our American Security (AMSEC) safes with Sargent & Greenleaf locks.
- SecurRam ProLogic Series — SecurRam’s ProLogc Series features 10 different electronic locks. We confidently recommend any of the locks from this series.
- Sargent & Greenleaf Spartan — Sargent & Greenleaf’s Spartan lock is an EMP-Resistant electronic lock. This ultra-robust lock allows a master and a use code.
- Sargent & Greenleaf Titan — Sargent & Greenleaf’s Titan lock allows for 1 mast code, 1 supervisor code, and up to 8 user codes. Furthermore, it is an EMP-Resistant electronic gun safe lock. Plus, it can utilize an optional bolt position indicator module for integrating with other security systems.
- Sargent & Greenleaf 6730 — The S&G 6730 is a Group 2 mechanical lock that offers the old school reliability of a dial lock, with advanced security features to deter attacks. Additionally, it offers a unique torque adjuster, allowing you to customize the tension of your dial based on your preference.