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Bolt Locks vs. Solenoid Locks (And Why This Matters)

If you're looking for a gun safe with an electronic lock, the safe brand is going to determine what type of e-lock you're getting: a bolt lock or a solenoid lock. So, what's the difference? They both lock the safe, they both have buttons that need to be pushed, they both use batteries. Why does it matter which type you get?


The truth is one is a lot different than the other in terms of reliability and security. Below we'll go over the contrasts between the two, and why it makes difference which one you have.


Bolt Locks

Different styles, but same concept.


There are two main types of bolt locks (there are more, but these are seen most often). A swing bolt lock has a bolt cut in a 1/4 circle. When the code is entered the motorized locking mechanism moves, allowing you to move the bolt to the side. A dead bolt is a rectangular bolt that retracts into the lock body when you enter the code. Here are some things that make bolt locks a good choice.


• Quality Motorized Lock Mechanism: Both of these locks have a very secure mechanism that can't be manipulated by an outside force like a magnet.

• Quality Parts And Design: The manufacturers of this type of lock almost across the board use quality material with a quality design.

• UL Listing: They've been tested by Underwriters Laboratory, and that listing tells you exactly what this lock can stand up to.

• "Magic Mount Template": This is a big deal. All bolt locks (and most mechanical locks) have the same mounting bolt pattern on the lock body, making it no problem to change one lock out for another. Have a certain type of lock and want to switch to another? Simple. Did your lock stop working and you want to replace it with a new one? Easy. Even if you can't get the exact same lock you had before, as long as the new lock has the Magic Mount Template, you can easily change them out.


Solenoid Locks

Solenoid locks come in a lot of different shapes and sizes, most having their own unique bolt pattern.


A solenoid lock is usually designed to allow an electric current to release a single pin out of the way rather than the bolt itself. This method requires less power to operate. Here are some problems that solenoids have.


• Mechanism Issues: The general design of a solenoid means there is a metal pin keeping the bolt (or plunger) from moving. Sadly, on a lot of solenoid locks, just using a strong magnet can move that pin, allowing the bolt to move and the lock to open.

• Cheap: A solenoid lock's purpose is to offer a less expensive lock, but at the cost of quality. Cheaper materials and cheaper design allows for a cheaper price.


• No UL Listing: It's a very rare thing to see a solenoid with a UL listing. A solenoid lock is all about getting you a lock for the least amount of money, not about quality.

• No "Magic Mount Template": Solenoid locks don't us the Magic Mount Template, and a lot of them have their own specific bolt template. This means if the lock ever goes out on you, you're going to have to find that same lock or drill new bolt holes to get another lock to fit, and even that doesn't always work.


When it comes to solenoids, sometimes what little you save getting the cheaper safe with the cheaper lock ends up costing you more because you have to replace the whole safe.


It Sounds Like You Really Don't Like Solenoid Locks

The truth is, we don't. In the long run they cause more problems for everyone involved, whether it's the customer, the dealer or the technician. It's tempting to read this article and think "we don't sell solenoid locks, so we don't like them", but really, it's "we don't like solenoid locks, so we don't sell them."