Your Gun Safe and the Hazards of Electronic Locks and EMP

I was recently asked a question about the electronic locks that we see on so many new safes.  The question was will EMP destroy the electronic locks on your safes.  Electronic locking mechanisms are a real convenient, but at the same time they make me nervous because they need a power source.

electronis locks

If the power source fails, you’re stuck, unless your safe has a physical key that will override the electronic lock. Not all safes with electronic locks have them.

The first question of course is, will EMP fry my lock. Because of the locks small size and the fact that it is partly surrounded by metal, it is possible that the lock may survive intact. 

If we have a major EMP attack and the lock fails this may turn a bad situation into one in which you do not survive. The question then becomes, are you willing to take that risk.

In the research that I have conducted I cannot see any way to protect an existing safe with an electronic lock, other than enclose the entire safe in a Faraday cage.

Mechanical locking mechanisms are almost bulletproof.  If it’s a quality-manufactured mechanism, it’ll last forever.  I have an old safe that was manufactured in the 1920, almost a hundred years old and the lock works perfectly. Do you think a electronic lock will still be working in a hundred years, even if you can still get batteries for them.

As mentioned before some of them come with a mechanical backup, normally in the form of a key. This presents additional problems.  One the key has to be keep in a safe place and two you now have a key lock that can be manipulated.

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Another issue against electronic locks is what happens if you have a fire..  You will probably need a professional locksmith to open your safe or at least access to power tools.  In my other life as an arson investigator, I have seen electronic locks fail from fire damage, but often a mechanical one will still function allowing you access to your safe.

If you are absolutely set on purchasing a safe with a electronic lock make sure you have a mechanical way to open the safe or purchase one with an EMP resistant lock.  Liberty Safes installed with S&G’s Titan electromechanical locks are EMP resistant and have confirmed their ability to properly open in the event of an electromagnetic-pulse (EMP) attack or solar incident.

This means all Liberty Safes installed with S&G’s Titan electronic locks (Low Profile, D-Drive) since October of 2014 are EMP resistant.

electronic locks
Cannon makes a safe with an EMP resistant lock.

Cannon also makes a safe with an EMP resistant lock.  But me I prefer not to have to rely on anything where my life may depends on a 9 volt battery.

13 thoughts on “Your Gun Safe and the Hazards of Electronic Locks and EMP”

  1. SecuRam also offers an option for these situations as well. The SafeLogic Xtreme is an electromechanical lock that offers entry by both electronic combination or mechanical dial. This lock is heavy duty and has been received well since we debuted it at Shot Show 2014.

  2. I am looking into getting a safe for my guns. I am trying to decide what type of safe I want. I’m thinking about one with an electronic lock, but after reading this article I realized that it would be best to have a manual one like they do back in the day. If it malfunctions or stops working you won’t be able to get it open until you fix it so a manual one will always work. Thanks for posting this article and sharing this info with me.

  3. I know very little about gun safes, so I’ve been learning more about the topic. There are many factors I didn’t think to consider such as what will happen to an electronic lock after a fire. I may consider a mechanical lock over an electronic one for that reason.

  4. Skylar Mitchell

    It is really good to learn more about gun safes and what locks are best for them. I had no idea that an EMP attack could make it so that the lock fails. Since I am looking for a good safe right now, I think it would be smart to try to find one that is EMP resistant. Then even if disaster were to strike, I would know that I could still get into the safe without too much trouble.

  5. My husband and I have been thinking of getting a small safe in our home. My husband needs to lock up his guns, I have jewelry and we would keep our important documents in there as well. We had thought of getting one with an electronic lock. After reading this I think we may stick with a traditional lock.
    Emily Smith

  6. EMP is not a problem if you don’t keep a battery in the lock. All the safes I’ve seen have the battery external, so just don’t put the battery in till you intend to unlock the safe.

    1. EMPs can still destroy your lock if the battery is out. The EMP fries the circuit board and not the battery. The EMP is its own source of energy. There are many locks that will not open after a fire electro or mechanical. All depends on your relocker. Focus less on the lock and more on the fire rating. Larger fire rating protects against not only fires but from falls and blasts.unless an EMP strike is directly outside your door the wave works much like a shock wave and will weaken as it travels through matter (i.e. house). Protecting your vaulables are important and each safe and lock have a weakness. If one knows what they are doing it can take less than 5 minutes to get into a gunsafe. Take it from a locksmith whom works on safes

  7. I really like them idea of a manual and electronic lock combination but seriously why is the lock as much as I paid for the safe!?
    I can replace with a manual one for a fraction of the price very easily. It would be nice if the manufacturers offered a reasonably priced option

  8. I guess I’m a little old fashioned, but I like old school safes with locks, keys, or combinations. I love technology, but sometimes the simplest solution can often be the best in terms of security. I’ll be sure to do more research about electronic locks and safes before a buy a gun safe in the future.

  9. I have read your post. It’s obviously informative. If you do keep a gun in the home, it’s vital to keep it from sight and out associated with reach of kids. The gun ought to be kept locked and unloaded, and also the ammunition should be saved separately.

  10. This is the problem with EMP. Nobody knows shit. Not really. None of you can point to any scientific papers showing what will happen to a safe in the event of an EMP. Without cold hard scientific research, we are all speculating. Making shit up that sounds good to us. But it’s all worthless without real data. If this is the Civilization Killer, why isn’t the government publishing reams and reams of volumes of actual scientific research on how to protect EVERYTHING against EMP? Most politicians are so woefully ignorant of it, they think it’s a conspiracy theory. Meanwhile the US Air Force was protecting its circuits and aircraft components as far back as 1976 for the probability of EMP, and we don’t get to benefit from any of their knowledge. Demand your Congressmen publish some real information on EMP and how to protect against it. Demand it!

  11. There’s been an awful lot of research conducted on HEMP, but most of it is classified. The real problem is that there’s no way to “check the calculations”; no one is exploding nuclear weapons in the atmosphere to see if the theoretical Compton effect matches the math. However, we are getting a lot of info from a sister phenomenon: Solar geomagnetic storms. Hopefully we’ll get enough good data (and apply the lessons) before someone lights one off, or Old Sol spits a big CME directly at us.

    In the meantime, bury spare ECMs for your vehicles, wrapped in copper foil and mu metal.:-)

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