As a consumer in search of the best safe, you have many options available to you when it comes to the type of lock used to secure your valuables. If you favor a traditional manual combination lock, you are in search of a combination safe. Unlike with a digital or biometric lock, no keypad or fingerprint scans are involved, and the lock does not require an external power source. You simply turn the mechanical dials to input the correct sequence of numbers or letters to open the safe. Simplicity, familiarity, and reliability are among the appeals of combination safes and locks.
This guide explores combination locks in-depth so that you can make informed decisions while shopping. Below is a comparison table of highly-rated combination safes.
|Mesa Safe MBF1512C|
|First Alert 2087F|
You can either shop for a combo safe now, or you can continue reading to discover more about features and considerations which are important when selecting the best combination safes.
Before Shopping for a Combination Safe, Ask Yourself:
1. Is a combination safe really the best fit for your needs?
Before you decide on a combination safe, you should ask yourself if a combination lock is the right choice for you.
The upsides of combination locks are:
- Familiarity: most of us grew up using combination locks (on our lockers for example). You are almost certainly already familiar with how they work and how to use one.
- A combo lock is mechanical rather than electronic. That means that there are models available which require no external power source (keep in mind however that others do).
- Some electronic lock features can be irritating, like getting timed out. If your lock is mechanical, you can avoid these unwanted features completely.
The downsides of combination locks are:
- Ease-of-use is not so great with a combination lock, especially if you are executive function-challenged or cannot see what you are doing. It may take repeated tries to get the correct combination put in, even if you know exactly what it is.
- A combination lock is a poor choice for fast emergency access. This goes back to what I mentioned above. A fingerprint scan takes almost no time or effort at all, and you can do it easily even in the dark or in a blind panic. A combination lock on the other hand requires concentration and care to open, so if you are in a rush (for example because an intruder is in your house), this can be an issue.
- How problematic these downsides are going to be really depends on the specifics of your situation. If the safe is going to be located in a bright, easy-to-reach area and you are good with reading the marks and turning the dials quickly and accurately, a combination safe may be a great purchase.
- If however it is going to be located in a location which is dim or hard-to-reach, a keypad lock or biometric lock would be easier to operate. The same holds true if you have a hard time turning the dials accurately.
2. What dimensions do you need?
Before you select a combination safe, know where you want to put it and what external dimensions you require. Also figure out if you need shelving inside, and if you want the shelves to be removable or not.
3. Is it important for you to be able to set your own code?
Some people may find it easy to memorize any code they are given, but others may have a hard time remembering any code except for the one they set. Some locks have pre-set combinations which cannot be changed, while others allow you to reset the combination with one of your own. Choose according to your needs.
Considerations for Buying the Right Combination Safe
UL-Ratings for Combination Locks
When shopping for a safe with a combination lock, it is wise to get one which is UL-rated. There are UL-ratings for both the safe and the lock itself. These are the UL ratings for the locks:
- Group II: This is the lowest UL rating. It means that a skilled intruder can get through the lock in 20 minutes or less.
- Group 2M: To earn this rating, a lock must withstand at least 2 hours of sustained effort from a professional with the skills to breach it.
- Group 1: This type of lock is very strong. Unless the intruder is equipped with X-ray tech, they will not be able to break through it in under 20 hours.
- Group IR: This lock offers all the same protection and integrity as a Group 1 lock, but can further resist attacks using X-ray technology.
A Group 1 or 1R lock would probably be most logical in a business setting, or for situations where you are storing especially sensitive valuables. For regular residential use, a Group II or Group 2M lock will usually be sufficient.
UL-Ratings for Safe Stability
The lock is the primary vulnerability for your safe, but it is not the only one. If the stability of the safe itself can be compromised, an intruder might not need to break through the lock at all to get inside.
That is why you should also look for a UL stability rating for the safe itself, for example:
- TL-15: To earn this rating, a safe must stand up to at least 15 minutes of two members of the UL test team performing tool attacks.
- TXTL-60: A safe which earns this rating has been subjected to tool attacks and dynamite by two UL team members for at least an hour without being compromised.
A solid rating for both the lock and the safe will ensure the best possible protection for your valuables.
Safes which earn high UL ratings feature strong construction features. Whether a safe has a UL rating or not, it should be built out of solid, thick steel. You can also look for features like large bolts and pry-resistant hinge bars.
If you want your valuables to be safe from fire damage, shop for a safe which has a UL rating for fire resistance as well. Here are several important UL ratings to know for fire resistance:
- UL 125: A safe with this rating will be able to provide protection to papers, photographic film, magnetic tapes, and computer disks. If you are storing data in the safe, you need UL 125 or better.
- UL 150: This level of fire protection is suitable for papers, magnetic tapes and photographic film, but not computer data.
- UL 350: This level of fire resistance only protects paper documents.
As to the timeframes, go with whatever you feel you require. Just keep in mind that the average fire is doused within 20 minutes, so 1 hour is more than adequate for most needs.
To protect your possessions from water damage, you need to shop for a combination safe which is water-resistant or waterproof.
- ETL-verified water resistant: This rating indicates that the safe can stand in up to 6 inches of water or be blasted for 15 minutes with spray without the contents inside being damaged.
- ETL-verified waterproofing: This is a stronger rating. It means that the safe can be submerged in full for up to an hour and no more than 8 drops of water will get inside.
As mentioned earlier, some combination locks require batteries and others do not. If you want the safe to be able to operate free of an external power source, go with a model that does not require batteries.
Emergency Override Keys
A combination safe which includes emergency override keys offers you an additional fast way to access the safe if the lock becomes faulty or you forget the combination.
Most commercial and residential safes are on the smaller side, measuring less than 1 cubic foot. If you are in search of a safe which provides you with a bit more space, consider the 1.23 cubic foot SentrySafe SFW123CU. Measuring 17.8 in. H x 16.3 in. W x 19.3 in. D on the outside with interior dimensions of 13.8 in. H x 12.6 in. W x 11.9 in. D, it should give you all the room you need.
- This is a roomy safe you can configure to your needs. A shelf comes with the SFW123CU which you can place according to your needs to partition off the space inside.
- A sturdy design keeps your valuables safe. Construction features include robust steel, four live locking bolts, and a hinge bar which resists prying.
- The safe is water-resistant. The SFW123CU is ETL-verified as water-resistant. That means that it will keep your valuables dry in up to 8 inches of water over a time period extending as long as 24 hours.
- The SFW123CU is UL-classified for fire protection. Your valuables should be safe from fire damage for up to one hour in temperatures ranging as high as 1700 degrees Fahrenheit. Furthermore, if your safe is subjected to a fire, SentrySafe will provide you with a brand new one afterwards through the company’s After Fire Replacement Guarantee program.
- The lock can be quite fussy. You may need to try multiple times to get it to open.
First Alert 2087F
If you are in the market for a sturdy, bolt-down combination safe which is also waterproof and fire-resistant, you may want to check out the First Alert 2087F. This safe provides you with 0.94 cubic feet of space for your valuables, and has the robust features you need to keep your possessions safe from any threat.
- This safe is sturdy and provides superior protection against burglars. It is made out of a strong composite material, and is held shut by four live-locking door bolts. The hinges are pry-resistant, and the safe can be easily and conveniently bolted down with Ready-Seal Technology.
- Set your own code. You do not need to memorize a code from the manufacturer; you can choose a code which you can easily remember.
- Override keys are included. What if you forget the code, or accidentally reset it? You can still access the 2087F using either of the two emergency override keys which come with it.
- The safe is waterproof. It can be completely submerged and it will still keep your valuables dry. This is true even when it is bolted down. If it is not bolted down, it will float to the surface so that you can find it.
- The 2087F is also fire resistant. It is UL-rated to protect interior contents for up to an hour in temperatures ranging as high as 1700 degrees Fahrenheit. The internal temperature will rise no higher than 350 degrees within that timeframe.
- Valuables may still be exposed to moisture. Despite the fact that the safe is advertised as waterproof, some customers find that humidity builds up inside, making their valuables damp. For this reason, watertight bags are advised.