Electronic or Mechanical Lock Which is the Right One for You?

Electronic or mechanical lock – this is a choice every gun owner will be faced with when they’re out in the market looking for a gun safe. Which one is more reliable? Which one requires lesser maintenance? Which one provides easier access? These are the questions you need to ponder before you can reach the right decision.

The market is filled with advertisements that try to sell one type of safe as better than the other – but being a gun nut myself, I’m not sold on ads so easily, so I’ve done some digging of my own. I’ve compiled my findings into this comparative article which discusses the aforementioned questions in detail, so you don’t have to conduct painstaking research like I did.

For starters, here is a quick rundown of the advantages and disadvantages of both electronic and mechanical type locks for gun safes:​

Electronic or Mechanical Lock Comparisons



Less reliable due to intricate electrical components

More reliable due to simple mechanical components

Provides rapid access

Provides slow access

Easy operation

Complex operation

Requires frequent maintenance

Maintenance is required only occasionally

Easily configurable

Requires an expert for configuration

Electronic Lock


  • Provides quick access.
  • Backlit LCD / LED display makes it easy to use for those with visual impairment.
  • Easy to configure and reset.
  • Automatically rearming.


Mechanical Lock


  • Highly reliable due to simple mechanism.
  • Has a higher lifetime because only mechanical components are involved.
  • Impervious to electromagnetic circumventing measures.


  • Provides slow access.
  • Difficult to configure and reset.
  • Especially difficult to use for those who are visually handicapped.
  • Requires manual re-arming.


Mechanical locks are made up of simple components that are not prone to failure, and will work for years on end without any issues.

In contrast, electronic locks will have discrete electronic components, microprocessors and solenoids in their mechanism which have a limited life. Furthermore, because these components are run by electricity, there is an inherent risk of damage / malfunction which could be costly at a critical moment.​


One of the major disadvantages of electronic locks is that they run on electricity. For the majority, this is sourced through a 9V DC battery, which requires frequent (varies from several times a month to a few times a year) replacement in order to keep the lock up and running at all times. This is bothersome for the majority of consumers, since no one wants to spend cash on batteries and time on replacing them in their safes!

On the other hand, quality mechanical locks can be counted on to run without a hitch for over a decade. The maintenance required after this period will be the realignment of the lock’s tumblers or lubrication of its components (for which you’ll have to pay a locksmith between $75 and $100).

However, one way in which the electronic lock edges ahead of its mechanical counterpart is that it is very easy to change a digital key code. On the other hand, you’ll probably have to call in an expert to get a mechanical combination code changed since it is a rather complex process.​

Ease of Access

Mechanical locks of the combinational variety are pretty tricky to dial up correctly. You have to be careful to align each number of the code correctly, or you may have to start over again – in the event of an emergency, where you require swift access to your weapon, this could be deadly if you made a hasty error while dialing in the code.

Also, the small size of the numbers on the dial can make them downright impossible to discreetly discern in the dark (a flashlight is out of the question in a home invasion type scenario!). For the same reason, mechanical locks can be difficult to use for those with eyesight issues.

Instead of combinational locks, you could go for more recent alternatives such as mechanical barrel locks or key code locks, but these would still be sluggish and less intuitive as compared to modern electronic locks.​

Electronic locks, with their backlit keypads, large sized LED/LCD screens and (preferably optional) audio feedback, are much easier to operate in contingency situations, in the dark and even by those with visual impairment.

Besides the digital key code variety, more recently, the market has seen locks that utilize biometric scanning and RFID tagging for verification – these are even simpler to use, and provided you’re able to find a decent safe that utilizes one of these technologies, you’ll be able to access your weapon in an instant.


A minor quibble I have with mechanical locks is that they have to be manually re-activated after you have opened the safe door once, taken out your weapon and closed it again. Failing to do so would leave the safe effectively unlocked and accessible to anyone.

Electronic locks (for the most part) re-arm themselves automatically after the door has been closed.​


Now that you’ve reached the end, you’ll realize that there isn’t really a winner in this debate: it is a matter of what you require and prioritize. In a nutshell, if you’re in need of a quickly accessible and easy to handle storage solution for your weapons, you’ll want to go with an electronic lock. On the other hand, if you’re keener on reliability and low-maintenance, mechanical is your best bet.

Of course, regardless of the choice you make, quality plays a huge role in the performance of the lock, which is why I’ll advise you to invest in a quality product incorporating a lock from a reputed manufacturer such as Sargent & Greenleaf or LaGuard if possible.

Product is from Gunsafes website

If you’ve got any questions / feedback pertaining to the article, feel free to leave it in the space provided below.​

About the Author Richard Mendez

Guns and Security provides reviews, guides, news and entertainment for gun and survival enthusiasts.

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