Best Gun Locks

Updated December 2021
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Buying guide for Best gun locks

Every year, thousands of children are injured in accidental shootings. Sadly, hundreds of them die from their wounds. Figures for firearm suicides among teens are equally grim. Yet for many people, a gun is an integral part of home security, vital for protecting the family. An effective way to prevent unauthorized access to your weapon is with a gun lock.

Using a gun lock means you can still keep your pistol or rifle handy, but only those people allowed by you can use it. Gun locks are also useful for people who travel frequently. Should your gun fall into the wrong hands, it can prevent it from being used against you. There are lots of different models available, providing something for every type of gun and budget. How do you choose the right one for you?

Here at BestReviews, we’ve been looking at established solutions and more recent innovations, so we can help you choose which works best for your situation. In the following buying guide, we look at the different types and how they’re used in more detail.

Cable gun locks can be effective and versatile but beware of cheap models with poor-quality steel that isn’t difficult to cut. Look for Department of Justice (DOJ) or police department approval.

Key considerations

Types of gun locks

We’ve identified four distinct types of gun lock: cable lock, trigger lock, chamber lock, and magazine lock. Let’s take a look at how each one operates, how secure it is, and how quickly you can have the firearm operational if you need it in a hurry.

Cable gun lock: This is one of the simplest, most versatile, and cheapest ways of securing a firearm. A flexible steel cable passes through any part of the chamber or magazine slot, preventing ammunition from being loaded or the gun being fired. The cable usually has a plastic coating to keep it from scratching your gun. The locking mechanism itself can be a simple key or three-digit combination. When not needed for your firearm, the cable can be used to secure anything that has a slot where it can be passed through, such as a bicycle.

There aren’t too many downsides to a cable lock, although the cable can be attacked with bolt cutters or an angle grinder. There’s also the potential to lose the key (though a spare is provided). This also isn’t the quickest gun lock to fit or release.

Trigger gun lock: This is another security device that’s more or less universal, fitting most pistols, rifles, and shotguns. The principle is straightforward: two steel plates clamp on either side of the trigger guard so the trigger can’t be accessed and the gun can’t be fired. Usefully though, the gun can remain loaded. Closure is via a ratchet working on a central pin, so various widths can be accommodated. These locks usually have a simple push-button release. Rubber pads on the inner surfaces prevent scratching the weapon.

Like the cable lock, a simple key-operated or three-digit combination lock is common. However, there are also advanced biometric versions that read your fingerprint. This is perhaps the ultimate in personalized security. There is no key to lose, no combination to forget. Some can be programmed with up to ten different sets of prints, giving access to multiple individuals. An “admin” operator retains control over who is added, and people can be removed from the list just as easily. While these locks run off batteries, many can be recharged via USB, either with a mains adapter or plugged into your laptop.

Biometric gun locks aren’t cheap, but they do restrict use to actual individuals. While reaction times vary, they usually release in a second or less, so they are generally faster than mechanical devices (although both sides of the lock still have to be removed manually).

What’s particularly interesting here is that with battery power comes the potential for increased functions. One manufacturer developed a smart gun lock that could alert you via phone if it had been tampered with, but it didn’t last long. We suspect it won’t be long before similar models are available.

Chamber gun lock: This is a caliber-specific device that is inserted into the chamber and locked in place to prevent ammunition from being loaded. Once unlocked, it’s either withdrawn along the barrel or ejected as a spent round would be.  As with trigger locks, the magazines can stay in place, and there’s nothing extra on the outside of the gun, which means a pistol fitted with a chamber lock can be holstered as normal.

The main concern people have with the chamber lock is that it could damage the inside of the gun, but the materials used are comparatively soft, so it’s very unlikely.

Magazine gun lock: Also called a mag blocker, this is designed to be used with semiautomatic handguns and the AR15 assault rifle (it’s very popular with owners of this firearm). This lock slides in place of the standard magazine and is secured by a key-operated bolt. The body of the device blocks the magazine slot, so ammunition can’t be loaded, and on rifle versions it also blocks the barrel. It’s effective, though the locking is basic.

On the downside, removal isn’t the fastest, and there isn’t a great deal of choice.

Did You Know?
If your gun lock needs a battery, it may not be the common AA or AAA that we all have in a drawer somewhere. It’s a good idea to check and then order the appropriate spares with your lock.

Gun lock prices

Inexpensive: Fortunately, this kind of security doesn’t need to be expensive. You can buy a cheap cable lock for $7 or $8, and combination models cost around $10. In fact, it’s unlikely you’ll spend more than $20 on these devices unless you’re buying a pack of three or five.

Mid-range: Chamber locks for revolvers and semiautomatics cost a bit more, ranging from $30 to $50, mostly depending on caliber. The few magazine gun locks available fall into this bracket.

Expensive: If you want biometrics, there’s a considerable jump in price, starting at about $80 and rising to over $300.

Manually operated trigger and cable locks are usually the cheapest option. If you have several guns, you can buy multipacks and save even more money.


Q. If I’ve got a gun lock, do I still need a gun safe?

A. A gun lock is great for preventing unauthorized use of a firearm at home or when traveling while still giving relatively rapid access for self-defense. It doesn’t stop a gun from being stolen, and the thief could then work on the lock at their leisure. A gun safe remains the best way to keep firearms out of the hands of criminals, children, and anyone else who shouldn’t have access.

Q. Can I change the number on a combination gun lock?

A. Yes, but for security reasons only when it’s off the gun and unlocked. It’s usually done with a small screwdriver or paperclip. The procedure is the same as when you first receive the lock and need to choose your personal code (they come set to 000). If you forget the combination with the trigger or cable lock in place, you’ll need to contact a locksmith.

Q. How do I use a biometric gun lock if the battery goes flat?

A. Many have an external USB port that you simply connect to a power source to recharge the battery. If you don’t need immediate access, this will soon charge it enough for it to recognize your fingerprint again. In an emergency, there’s a small key that lets you unlock the gun manually.

Fingerprint gun locks are very clever but check the specifications carefully. Some fit a wide range of pistols and rifles, but others only work with a particular brand.

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