Gun Safe Locks – Mechanical vs. Electronic

mechanical versus electronic lock

The question has been asked thousands of times. Which is better for gun safes… mechanical or electronic locks? If you were to ask 100 experts, you would most likely get a mixed response. Here we look at both types individually, including their pros and cons. After reading, we hope you have the knowledge to make a decision on what type would be best for you.

Mechanical Locks

Most mechanical locks have a dial which you rotate both clockwise and counter-clockwise to arrive at three numbers (the combination). This combination is typically set by the manufacturer and should be changed by the user. The lock works using three internal discs which are all connected either directly or indirectly to the combination dial on the outside of the safe. Generally, the third disc is connected directly to the dial. This disc has a notch which allows it to turn the second disc. This middle disc also has a notch which turns the first disc. When the dial is turned in the correct sequence to the three number combination, the safe door can be opened.


  • Excellent durability
  • Long lifespan
  • Don’t have to worry about batteries


  • Needs to be manual locked after each use
  • Tumblers require some maintenance over time
  • Typically slower to open

Electronic Locks

On an electronic lock, a keypad is used to enter a numeric sequence. If the numbers entered match what is stored in the memory of the internal circuit, the safe’s locking mechanism is unlocked. This is all powered by an internal battery. Most electronic safes have a safeguard where if the wrong combination is entered too many times, it will remain locked down for a certain period of time or even permanently which would require the help of a technician. Fortunately, many electronic safes also include a backup key which can be used in an emergency.


  • Typically faster to open
  • Easy to change the combination
  • Backlit keypad makes it possible to open in the dark


  • Battery powered so you need to check it periodically
  • Shorter lifespan
  • Can lock yourself out with too many failed attempts

So Which Is Better?

The answer to that is a matter of personal preference. What features are most important to you? Personally, we prefer the old-school mechanical type for their peace of mind and longevity. While not as easy to use as a keypad, you never need to worry whether or not the internal battery is dead when you need to get to your firearm quickly. That said, if you periodically test the battery in your electronic safe, nothing can beat its speed when attempting to open your safe in an emergency, especially in the dark.