Where once safes could only be secured by a key, various new lock options have become more and more prevalent in recent years. That is not to say that key locks are now obsolete. In fact, key locking remains the most popular option when choosing a safe lock.
At present, the most common forms of lock are key locks, electronic locks and biometric/fingerprint locks. Each has their own advantages and disadvantages.
Key Lock: Key locks are the most tried and trusted type of lock available. Inexpensive, simple and straightforward, they are also very reliable and unlikely to require much in the way of maintenance. Over time, various innovations in technology have resulted in locks that are close to impossible for a burglar to pick or force open.
However, the main disadvantage of a key lock is that a burglar might discover the key and so gain full access to your safe. Then there is the matter of what happens should you lose the key. No key means no access to your safe and the possibility of an expensive call out by a locksmith.
Electronic and Digital Locks: Electronic and digital safe locks have become more and more common in recent years, largely because they have become more affordable. Easy to use, there is also no chance of locking yourself out of your safe due to a lost key. Should you forget your PIN, the lock will typically have some form of master override or backup password which will allow you to open the safe and set a new PIN.
Electronic locks also make an excellent burglar deterrent as it is almost impossible to bypass them. Where a key lock might potentially be picked open, doing the same with a number pad would require entering millions of different combinations, or somehow guessing the right code by fluke.
Fingerprint/Biometric Locks: “Biometric” refers to any means of identifying a person through human characteristics unique to them, including fingerprints, retina (a part of the eye) or even their voice. Fingerprint scanners have become a particularly popular choice for consumer grade security safes, largely because the technology has grown ever more reliable and affordable over recent years. Retina scanning and voice activation is sometimes used in particularly high end security installations such as bank vaults.
A fingerprint lock is easy to use and doesn’t require anyone to memorize a PIN code. The safe literally unlocks at the touch of a finger. Most fingerprint scanners can record fingerprints from multiple individuals, meaning access can be restricted to particular members of staff or family. In general, fingerprint scanners will be attached to traditional electronic locks, meaning that a PIN code can still be used if necessary. This is useful if a person’s fingerprint becomes unreadable due to injury, or in the unlikely event of the scanner malfunctioning.
The other type of lock you are likely to see is a mechanical combination lock. When most people think of a safe, it is probably the traditional dial wheel combination lock that springs to mind. These locks are becoming somewhat less popular now that electronic versions are so affordable. However, most manufacturers still offer them as an option. Like the key lock, they are tried and trusted, although some users might find them fiddly at first.
Like safes themselves, safe locks are classified according to the level of security they provide. The most common standard is the European EN 1300. EN 1300 features four grades from A to D, with D being the most secure. Most cash safes designed for the home or office will feature a EN 1300 Class A lock, which provides ample security for most needs.