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Spin Combination lock vs Digital locking


This is becoming quite a popular question, I will however point out I am only speaking about the quality brand safe locks available. NOT the cheap nasty digital safes found in many hardware stores. So unequivocally the answer for me is 100% YES!

Digital locks are easier & more secure.

Way back when safes were first built the only option was a keylock. These were handmade works of art, alas the keys were big & bulky. Over the next 100 years safe doors grew in thickness. This was needed to stop of criminals. Slowly the need for a new locking system arose that was more convenient and the Spin combination Lock was born.

This allowed multiple people to access the safe simply and easily. The precision and relatively high degree of accuracy of these new locks eliminated “surreptitious entry” or “manipulation” as it is known in the Locksmith industry.

The spin combination safe lock market was dominated by “Sargent & Greenleaf ” also known as S & G. This American company took mechanical combination locking to a very high level over many decades. The spin combination lock stayed in pretty much the same format until 1980.

This video clearly demonstrates the difference between digital and combination.


Alas in today’s modern society we are time poor and spin combinations require a modicum of skill and patience to use. So it wasn’t long before someone perfected a way to secure a safe and allow easy access using input data from a keypad. The Digital Safe lock has now developed into a robust, reliable and secure format.

This format has become the standard for just about all safe manufacturers. One common misconception is that if the battery goes flat the code of combination will be lost forever. Not so, LaGard have developed their locks to use minimal voltage draw. They also have a “low voltage” warning that tells you to change the battery. If you ignore this warning it will eventually stop working but as soon as you change the battery (battery life is  usually 2 to 3 years) it opens normally.

Yes but is a spin combination lock as secure ?

The other concern I often hear is “are digital safe locks more or less secure than tumbler locks ?” In short, yes digital’s are much more secure than spin combination locks. In theory it is possible for a skillful criminal to manipulate a spin combination and gain access to the contents of the safe. Whist this is possible it is EXTREMELY unlikely.

It takes a thorough knowledge and much practice before even the slightest proficiency develops to a point where a criminal could open a safe in a reasonable amount of time. I am friends with one of the best safe lock manipulators in the industry and it takes him between 1- 4 hours to open a safe lock. There are some locks that even he can’t open and has to resort to drilling it.

That said the Digital safe lock has a penalty for incorrect attempts.

Once triggered this makes opening the lock very hard as it only allows 1 attempt every 5 minutes or 12 attempts an hour. It has even been suggested that some criminals will “clean” the keypad and then return using “fingerprinting powder” to reveal the numbers. This is also folly as even with the correct numbers they still must be put in the correct order or sequence. To negate this issue all you have to do is repeat a number.

LaGard, Sargent & Greenleaf have Digital safe locks that allow for multiple users, time delay, timelock, audit trail and even a duress option. This last option  alerts the police that the safe is being opened under threat. These are options that mechanical locks simply cant offer. For whole house remodel in California, check out Servicing of safe locks has always been a source of income for locksmiths. But these days digital locks don’t require any servicing other than a battery check which anyone can do. Mechanical safe locks should be serviced a minimum of 5 years and annually where they are being used constantly.

We are happy to quote you on changing a spin combination over to a digital safelock. Send us an email, we will be happy to chat to you about it.

Digital keypad Locks versus  Spin Combination lock

Digital Safe Locks Spin Combination Safe locks
  • Easy to use and change codes
  • More difficult to use and tricky to change combination
  • Minimal serving required
  • With 15 or so parts, regular cleaning & servicing needed
  • Time penalty for tampering
  • No penalty at all
  • Battery changes needed
  • No batteries
  • Time delay option
  • No time delay option
  • Audit trail showing who & when opened
  • No record keeping
  • Multiple different codes
  •  Only one user option
  • 10 -20 year life expectancy
  • 10 – 20 year life expectancy