Combination Locks Vs. Master Locks: Which Should I Use?

Even locksmiths have their own version of an eternal derby – combination locks vs. master locks. The rivalry between keyless and key-operated locks as two fundamentally different security systems is older than most of today’s padlock experts and it won’t go away anytime soon.

Making a good choice between these two options is crucial for security management.

With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of main differences between combination and master locks based on four key criteria – besides security as the most important one, we’ve tested them for durability, convenience, and ease of access as well. Here’s what we’ve learned.  


In case you’re not sure which is which, the main difference between a combination and master lock is that the first cannot be unlocked without the right code, while the second comes with a keyhole and a key. The code to a keyless lock is usually a sequence of numbers or symbols.

And thereby lies the first advantage of combination locks.

Not only can keys be stolen or lost but they can also be replaced and duplicated. Also, you don’t really need a key to unlock a master lock, as keyholes provide a physical entry point that can be accessed using simple burglary techniques. That’s impossible with keyless locks.


Moving past various burglary scenarios and onto basic durability, keyholes still present a major point of weakness in a lock. At one point or another, everyone’s gotten locked out of their home or car because the master lock has frozen or the key got broken inside.

Key-operated locks are simply more prone to damage than their keyless counterparts.

Quality combination locks remain resistant to bad weather conditions and physical damage alike. Moisture cannot easily hurt them, and neither can brute force. Their mechanisms are less likely to deteriorate with time, which makes them far more durable.


What seems more convenient – carrying around keys all day long or unlocking the door with a code you’ve stored comfortably in the back of your head? In case your memory is not very strong, you can always use a password manager on your smartphone.

And need we remind you how easy it is to misplace or lose a key? This kind of nuisance happens all the time. Losing a key to a master lock is not only extremely frustrating but it is also a potential security risk. It seems like a combination lock is a winner of this category as well.

Ease of Access

Say you are a facility manager. By job description, you are also a key master who must control access to different facilities and amenities. Having a master lock would mean that you’d be responsible for dozens of keys scattered across the premises.

How would you know if somebody duplicated one of the keys?

In this particular scenario, a keyless lock would also ensure ease of access in situations when facilities must be unlocked fast. The same goes for company storage units, which must stay locked for security reasons but also available to many people.

In our humble opinion, the comparison doesn’t do any justice to master locks at all. Keyless security systems are simply for more secure, durable, and convenient. Our vote goes to combination locks, but you should choose sides based on your own needs.

For assistance with any combination lock or master lock needs, reach out to 24/7 London Locksmith today!

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