Dial Combination Safe Lock vs Digital Electronic Lock with Dye the Safe Guy

  • Published: 07 October 2011
  • safeandvaultstore.com

    Hi, Dye the Safe Guy here to talk about dial combination locks vs electronic locks. Everyday we get calls from people asking us, which one should I choose? Either a dial combination lock as you see here or a digital electronic lock with a keypad.

    The purpose of this video is to explain the pros and cons of each lock and let you make up your own mind. First, the pros of a digital electronic lock are that its quick. You can get into it a little faster. You save about a minute. It also has larger numbers as opposed to the dial numbers which are here in a spy-proof dial. Difficult to see if you are elderly or have vision problems.

    Another advantage of a digital lock is that you can change the combination yourself. You don't need to call a technician in to have it changed. On a dial combination lock its going to cost you anywhere $60.00 to $80.00 if you take the door of the safe in. Or if its a large safe and you have to have a technician come out, then it will cost you anywhere from $100.00 to $130.00 to have a technician come on site and change the combination.

    One of the great advantages of dial combination lock is this technology is over 175 years old. It works every time all the time. You don't have to change any batteries. Where on a digital lock, you will have to replace the batteries every year or so depending on use. And there are failure points on a digital lock, let me explain that next.

    If a digital lock fails, and the keypad is defective, a safe technician can replace the keypad. However, on the backside inside the lock is a circuit board where your combination is stored in a non volatile memory chip. If the connector here fails behind the steel door, or the connector fails anywhere where the technician can't get to it, then they're going to have to drill the safe open and its going to cost you somewhere in the $300-$450 range to get into your safe.

    I'm not telling you about this to scare you, both locks are very reliable, however, please understand if you need the most reliable lock a dial combination lock is going to be your best choice. There is a small failure rate on digital locks but they are electronic and someday they will fail.

    With every digital electronic lock there are instructions on how you can change the combination. So this is an advantage. There is no added cost to you. It's very simple and there is only 6 numbers.

    One of the questions I get asked is about memorizing the numbers for a dial combination lock and how difficult it can be. Think back to when you were in school and you got your first lock on your locker. The first two weeks it took a long time to dial that open. However toward the end of the school year you were spinning that dial and opening that lock really quickly. It's the same thing with a dial combination lock. Once you practice it 15-20 times you will be going just fine and you will get it open almost as quickly as a digital electronic lock. The good thing to remember is that if you need the best reliably a dial combination lock is the way to go. But if you're not concerned about that tiny tiny fraction of percent of less reliability, a digital electronic lock is your best choice. Either way it's not a bad choice. You have to make that decision on your own.

    If you have any questions about which lock to choose, please give me a call, Dye the Safe Guy or any of the safe consultants that work for us. Thanks for listening.

    Call us 1-800-207-2259 with any questions.

Comments • 92

  • joe woodchuck
    joe woodchuck  2 months back

    An important topic not covered here is vulnerability.

    • Milano
      Milano  3 months back

      As to which is better, I think we should ask the real experts, i.e. thieves.

      • will towin
        will towin  4 months back

        Anybody can change the combination on a mechanical combination lock using the change key that comes with the lock !

        • Vinnytsia
          Vinnytsia  6 months back

          The man in this video forgot to tell us that almost every safe with digital lock comes with special key (KEY OVERRIDE) to open it if digital system fails. I bet he sells safes with dial combination locks. :) People, don't be afraid to buy safes with digital locks. It is easier and faster to open, you can change password as many times as you want etc.

          • SafeandVaultStore
            SafeandVaultStore   6 months back

            This isn't necessarily true. There are safes that have a digital lock that features a key override. The issue with these low quality locks is that they are typically very cheap and will fail 100%. This is why they have a key backup.

            The digital locks that Dye is talking about have been tested by UL (Underwriters Laboratory) and cannot feature a key override. The reason why is that keys are easily picked and it becomes a liability to the safe. These locks are higher quality but still can fail. This is why if someone is concerned about reliability, I would 100% recommend a dial lock over a digital lock.

        • Casa de Cambio La Monedita


          • J.T.
            J.T.  8 months back

            Question. Do the keypad safes have a key backup?

            • GRBTutorials
              GRBTutorials  8 months back

              You forgot that dial combination locks are unsafer than they seem because of tolerances. A bit to the right or the left, and the lock will open, something that dramatically reduces combinations. And if the lock is built without that tolerance, it will be more expensive and will take more time to open. And in any case, they're easier to brute force as it's easier for a machine to rotate a wheel fast than to press buttons fast, and no rate controlling can be imposed. Finally, a fail safe can be put in place in case there's a failure in the electronic lock, so that you don't get locked out. So overall, electronic locks are superior.

              • John Sluder
                John Sluder  11 months back

                Dial. That's what we have. My parents and I want dial too.

                • Patti Bills
                  Patti Bills  1 years back

                  I have the combination to my safe but I still need to change it. I have brain cancer and I had to let someone else open my safe thinking that I could change the combination but I don't know how and I can't find any information about it. It's a digital Gardall safe.

                  • Roger Schweitzer
                    Roger Schweitzer  1 years back

                    A friend of mine has a large gun safe with electronic combination and the solenoid failed, he was getting ready to drill it. I took a hard rubber mallet and started to strike the door near the solenoid and at the same time pushed down and released the handle, I quickly developed a rhythm and within thirty seconds the door handle clicked and it opened.

                    The entire safe, no matter how robustly built, is prevented from opening by a tiny solenoid pin held in place by a very weak spring. By hitting the door with the rubber mallet I set up vibrations that when properly timed with the handle movement allowed me to open the safe.

                    • Roman Reigns
                      Roman Reigns  2 years back

                      are key locks reliable?

                      • Killer2600
                        Killer2600  2 years back

                        Key locks are very reliable so long as your definition of reliable is something that works when asked. If you're asking if they are secure, different key lock designs have differing resistance/difficulty to lockpicking. The reason why so many safes utilize combinations/codes is keys can be found and/or taken by someone that wants illegitimate access to the safe. In contrast, the combination/code for the safe only exists in your head (ideally), which is a difficult place for thieves to nab things.

                    • SAVAGE308SNIPER
                      SAVAGE308SNIPER  2 years back

                      They should invent a dildo

                      • Christopher
                        Christopher  2 years back

                        In terms of security are the equivalent to one another? (Group 2 dial and up)

                        • Killer2600
                          Killer2600  2 years back

                          For the average consumer thief, yes security is equivalent. For the high-end professional safe crackers that have big budgets to have all the toys, the digital locks are more secure. The mechanical dial is subject to brute forcing (trying every combination possible until the safe opens) whereas digital locks can be designed to slow down attempts at brute force guessing. Digital locks do this by limiting how many wrong tries you can make within a given amount of time. Mechanical dial locks have no such limiter and will allow you to try combinations as fast as you can spin the dial. Historically, a person couldn't dial in combinations that fast so attempts at brute forcing took too long. Now in the computer and automation age, we have computer controlled safe crackers made from off the shelf electronic parts that can run though all possible combinations in short order. They are even sophisticated enough to narrow down the possible combinations upon reading feedback it gets whilst trying to brute force the lock which makes it crack the lock even faster. So if that's what your burglar has for tools, get the digital lock and make it a good one. If your burglar isn't rich and high-tech, either lock will do the job.

                      • Wolfgar0 King
                        Wolfgar0 King  2 years back

                        All i needed to know .. dial lock The way to Go. unless I'm trying to get to my gun quickly .but. Only dumbassess keep guns locked up .teach your kids gun safety ASAP and make sure they know if they touch the gun without permission they will sit down for a month on a very sore ass

                        • Slaps McKenzie
                          Slaps McKenzie  2 months back

                          My friend might still be around if he wasn't able to grab his dad's gun in a moment of extreme emotions.

                        • Killer2600
                          Killer2600  2 years back

                          I can't stress enough the importance of keeping any unattended firearms locked up. Accidents happen when we don't do the best we can to prevent them from happening. About a year ago, a grandma was at work with her teenage grand sons at home. Her grandsons ended playing with her gun and accidently shot and killed a 13-year old boy that came over to the house. Without even knowing how she approached gun safety, I can almost guarantee she wished she had done more - especially after being charged for what happened while she was away at work.

                      • UltimateLocke
                        UltimateLocke  2 years back

                        Don't go for a digital lock. I got a Fort Knox safe w/ one and the lock digital lock doesn't work.

                        Go for the dial one.

                        • Eloise Kempik
                          Eloise Kempik  2 years back

                          Take his advice go dial, my 6
                          yo esl10 amsec digital lock is dead. Now I have no access, no passports no cash. I get to drop $ 450 on drilling my box. Lovely.

                          • Porsche993
                            Porsche993  2 years back

                            I've had a digital lock on my stores safe more than 15 years and it's never had issues.

                            • alex0236
                              alex0236  3 years back

                              what about Fire? a Save with a Key or Dail Combination Lock u can still open - but doesn't the Electronic melt?
                              can you replace the Keypad after a Fire without drilling assuming the electronic inside is still intact?

                              • W. M.
                                W. M.  2 years back

                                Yes, after a fire, the combo has melted and the wires are toast. What then?

                            • khem1230
                              khem1230  3 years back

                              Electronic entry is nice, but can and will fail by corrosion or other means--just google and read the reviews. Lifetime warranty by the manufacturer--until the manufacturer goes out of business or the unit is a discontinued model? What happens in 10 or 15 years down the road? Today's gun safes are made by smart engineers that don't think like unforgiving burglars. When burglars broke into my car--they weren’t forgiving and neither will they be when they break into your house or attempt to crack your safe. The electronic keypad entry (brains) is connected to the functional safe (body) by a small wire--burglars can pull this wire and you have an expensive and nice 800-1,000 lb garage/room decor--especially if the wire is disconnected inside the safe. Cost to you? A $350 locksmith bill. Burglars can't get access in and neither can you or the manufacturer. Engineers must come up with a second entry access. Until then, don't buy electronic entry locks that can and will fail. Buy a traditional dial combination gun safe with backup key entry.

                              • JPD
                                JPD  3 years back

                                Everything electronic fails sooner or later

                                • humourcar
                                  humourcar  3 years back

                                  Thanks for the information. I was recently debating about changing our amsec dial combination lock to a digital lock (mainly to make it easier for my wife), but there's something about a mechanical lock that I have always found appealing. It feels a little more personal maybe. So I think we will stick with the tried and true system. And my wife is ok with that too. :-)

                                  • HifiCentret
                                    HifiCentret  3 years back

                                    Or use a few Dollars and buy a change key for your mechanical lock and learn how to use it. It's not exactly rocket science. But you should after setting it verify that lock still opens if dialing a little to either side of the number depending on it's margin specification. Again not rocket science. I'm looking for a safe my self and I'll go with a mechanical lock - and a change key. I don't want some random guy to know my combo.

                                    • Juan Mendez
                                      Juan Mendez  3 years back

                                      Don't they make safes with both and are they better?

                                      • SafeandVaultStore
                                        SafeandVaultStore   3 years back

                                        They do make a "Redundant Lock" which is both the dial and the digital lock together. You use your digital lock as your everyday lock and if something happens to it, you can use the dial to get in your safe. Companies such as Lagard, AMSEC, Securam all make this type of lock. If you really want a digital lock but are worried about the reliability, I would recommend a Redundant Lock.

                                    • Milano
                                      Milano  3 years back

                                      Which is easier to crack, an electronic one or a dial one?

                                      • whoz thatdude
                                        whoz thatdude  2 years back

                                        MrMilanoLau unless you buy a really expensive safe someone could simply use a torch or grinder to open the safe by force both electronic and dial are equally difficult to crack without leaving any trace of entry. method 1 is to use a computer to try all the possible electronic combinations of the electronic safe yes it can be done but the average safe isn't worth the effort and many electronic safes can prevent such an attack by shutting down after a few wrong tries method 2 for combo lock you have to either listen to it with a stethoscope and find the combination or try every possible combination

                                    • onebigkahuna69
                                      onebigkahuna69  3 years back

                                      I have a Cannon Safari safe with an electronic lock and i can't open it and i've changed the batteries.I wish i had bought a safe with a dial lock.

                                      • Rick Hyne
                                        Rick Hyne  3 years back

                                        In researching safes, both fire and burglar, mechanical and electronic, I came across a video where the locksmith demonstrated opening up a consumer electronic safe with a magnet.

                                        My recommendation: Buy from a locksmith and discuss your needs and the purpose of the safe.

                                        It doesn't matter if you can bolt the safe to the floor if a burglar can use a strong magnet to open the safe.

                                        • jodopeg
                                          jodopeg  4 years back

                                          An electronic key pad is the best as long as you have a double sided key by-pass,, Steelwater safes offers this option.,,, anything less is stupid.....

                                          • jodopeg
                                            jodopeg  3 years back


                                            (1) Double bitted emergency bypass key included

                                        • Aviation2016
                                          Aviation2016  4 years back

                                          how about a key lock lol.

                                          • Lisa Johnson
                                            Lisa Johnson  4 years back

                                            Great Video and the info I wanted to hear. I just had the electronic lock replaced on my safe with the "old fashion" dial lock. Electronics are sure reliable but when they quit the quit. inside the lock i believe there is some other electrical component that has to work also and that is a failure point. I truly loved the convienence of the electronic lock, it was nice. But I have no trouble dialing numbers when I need too.

                                            • Distant vErvE
                                              Distant vErvE  4 years back

                                              I now open my dial, 3 wheel, group 2 lock in 8 seconds timed, its about the same as a digital. It's possible and not that difficult.

                                              • Granny G
                                                Granny G  4 years back

                                                It surely will not be a bad idea to have a little money stashed in a safe just in case our wonderful government shuts down like they did in Greece today. A dial safe is the ONLY way I would go.

                                                • Marcus Lawson
                                                  Marcus Lawson  4 years back

                                                  EMP + electronic lock = your screwed. Not so with a manual dial.

                                                  • Killer2600
                                                    Killer2600  9 months back

                                                    It's an acroword, sound it out with me - emp. Same with NIST and NASA. :D

                                                  • tonylwright
                                                    tonylwright  9 months back

                                                    @Killer2600 EMP isn't a word, it's an acronym for 3 words.

                                                  • Killer2600
                                                    Killer2600  2 years back

                                                    Three words: EMP safe lock

                                                • Aaron Smith
                                                  Aaron Smith  5 years back

                                                  ya and if you have curious kids in the house , they may push and break the plastic buttons, you wont be able to get in for a week before a your part is replaced

                                                  • Kowan57
                                                    Kowan57  5 years back

                                                    I'll stick with a combination lock. Thanks for the video.

                                                    • אריה יוסף
                                                      אריה יוסף  5 years back

                                                      כספות טכנו סייף מתמחים בפתיחת כספות גם ללא קידוח ולמרות זה החיים זה בית ספר ותמיד יש מה ללמוד,אריה 0505222297

                                                      • vanswapper
                                                        vanswapper  5 years back

                                                        Redundant electronics would be nice

                                                        • thekingofcorsairs
                                                          thekingofcorsairs  4 years back

                                                          @Killer2600 Exactly, and with a mechanical redundant lock, the broken electronic lock can be removed via the access panel without having to drill the safe.

                                                        • Killer2600
                                                          Killer2600  5 years back

                                                          It's better for a redundant system (whatever it is) to function differently than the primary system. The idea redundancy to an electronic system is a mechanical one. In the off chance that a bolt of lightning should strike the safe and fry the electronics both primary and redundant electronic locks would be destroyed but if the redundancy was mechanical in nature it would not be fried like the primary lock. 

                                                      • TheCynysterMind
                                                        TheCynysterMind  5 years back

                                                        I have been using the rather small "File Folder" style firesafe. Lately I have become concerned about how effective these fire safes actually are. I use mine to store paper work, Hard drives, and spare key fobs to my car. Will these safes actually protect from a fire. Lets say there was a fire. Will my belonging still be secure inside? This Honeywell latch looks to be made of some sort of hard plastic which would mean the safe would be wide open after a fire. I do not need a large capacity safe but what would you recommend?

                                                        • Cayman King
                                                          Cayman King  5 years back

                                                          You know your safe is shit if you can take the door off and take it to a locksmith.

                                                          • thekingofcorsairs
                                                            thekingofcorsairs  4 years back

                                                            @Cayman King A serviceable safe door is designed to be removable, thus the external hinges. Safes with a redundant lock / override lock / dual locking system can be removed and taken in to have the broken mechanism fixed.

                                                          • Killer2600
                                                            Killer2600  5 years back

                                                            Also I think the guy said if you take your entire safe in, not just the door (something one can do with portable and smaller size safes).

                                                          • Killer2600
                                                            Killer2600  5 years back

                                                            Security is an illusion, with enough time, money, and desire any "security" system/measure can be defeated. The only safe guard one has is the hope that the perp finds the effort/cost/risk too great for the possible reward.

                                                            That said there's not a person on this planet that can steal MY Rolex or Ferrari. It's been proven you can't steal from someone something they don't have :D

                                                        • Wayne Winton
                                                          Wayne Winton  5 years back

                                                          How to choose a Gun safe lock Dial vs keypad. Good info here Dye the safe guy!
                                                          Gun Safe Lock Electronic VS Combination Dial

                                                          • Wayne Winton
                                                            Wayne Winton  5 years back

                                                            Holey smokes a safe salesman that has a correct video. Thank you for not covering up the faults of the E-lock and just trying to upsale. Congrats to you DYE the safe guy I (the Locksmith) agree with what you have said.
                                                             Safe Lock - Mechanical Dial VS. Electronic Keypad

                                                            • curt31tom
                                                              curt31tom  5 years back

                                                              What is the failure rate??

                                                              • Matt South
                                                                Matt South  5 years back

                                                                Failure rate for any electronics will vary greatly not only based on their design and construction, but also by region and use case.  For example, I would expect a much higher failure rate for electronics in south Florida garages near the water where it's frequently over 100 degrees, 95% humidity and with a salt air breeze, than in an air conditioned bedroom in Arizona where it's dry and cool 24/7.  I picked 2 drastically different environments to make the point, but you get the idea. 

                                                            • John S
                                                              John S  5 years back

                                                              What an excellent video; well explained, short and to the point. Well done. I have a question: Is a two-key safe as secure as dial lock?

                                                              • hoodoo2001
                                                                hoodoo2001  5 years back

                                                                Thank you for confirming my concerns about digital locks.  It's that little bit of anxiety that worries me...the fact that eventually that safe is not going to open..and when it doesn't open is probably when you need it it the most.    However, I can probably live with it as the digital lock will probably last for decades. 

                                                                • Damage, Inc.
                                                                  Damage, Inc.  5 years back

                                                                  Ft. Knox now sells safes with both E-lock and a dial on the door. So you have the ease of the keypad, but if it fails, you can get in with the dial and it's non issue. 

                                                                  • WraithSKA2
                                                                    WraithSKA2  6 years back

                                                                    I have a E-lock on my safe and it has failed and then something inside went wrong and now the thing does not work right.  I will now go out and buy a larger safe with a Combo lock so I don't have to go through this again.  I will not take a chance on a E-lock for at least 10 more years when the Tech has gotten way better! 

                                                                    • glennsmooth
                                                                      glennsmooth  6 years back

                                                                      Which one is easier to crack? Just read a blog how a guy forgot his code. For the fun of it he was able hook up a few wires to his laptop and have it automatically try combinations. After 5 days his laptop emailed him with s successful combo!

                                                                      • Matt South
                                                                        Matt South  5 years back

                                                                         I think it comes down to who are you trying to protect yourself from.  Here's my personal logic;  Most people (myself included) are not interesting enough to attract any attention from people with serious safe skills, My biggest concerns are the high school kids, local drug addicts or the daytime crew from Miami.  These guys want to get in and out and I believe most will just focus their attention on easier targets when they encounter a big heavy safe, especially if the house alarm is sounding.  If you're home when they come in and they threaten you get you to open the safe, then it really doesn't matter what kind of lock you have.  If you're interesting enough to draw attention from any state sponsored agency, you might slow them down a little but they're going to remove you from the picture somehow and then get in to it eventually.  That leaves everyone else in the middle; people with big enough collections of valuables to attract attention from professional thieves.  The top 1%.  That's so far outside my personal income bracket that it's not even a consideration. ;)  

                                                                      • T D
                                                                        T D  5 years back

                                                                        And how many "professional dial manipulators" are there in the world, a hand-full? Five, ten?  Which would have to be physically present to crack it.  Compare that to how many technicians have access to that factory reset database... how many of these guys are around, thousands upon thousands?  When once one of these technicians leak the codes to anyone with an IQ > 80, this person too could then crack the lock with zero training.  Then what about your average hacker or technically geared person able to interface his computer with the lock?... how many of these guys are around?

                                                                        Numbers wise, as in reference to people able to crack one type lock or the other, its clear the E-Lock is much less safe imho. 

                                                                        I also wouldn't be surprised if big brother backdoored all these E-Locks like other stuff... I wouldn't be surprised that every PD in the country has access to these reset codes.

                                                                    • Mitchell Stitt
                                                                      Mitchell Stitt  6 years back

                                                                      If I have a safe with a digital keypad, can it be replaced with a dial?

                                                                      • 3goldy
                                                                        3goldy  6 years back

                                                                        How can I change the dial combination myself?

                                                                        How can I be sure that i'm the only one who knows it?