A quality combination lock can secure your valuables away from home or add extra protection to a backyard gate or outbuilding. The best models on the market are portable enough to go anywhere, built to withstand the elements, and imposing enough to ward off thieves.
Given time and the proper tools, a skilled lockpick can outwit most locks—but if thieves see a tough nut to crack, they may just move on to easier prey. Even if the most determined crooks keep at it, the best combination locks should thwart their efforts. So read on to learn about what to look for in a combination lock, and see why the following models are considered among the best available.
- BEST OVERALL: Puroma 4 Digit Padlock
- RUNNER-UP: Master Lock 178D
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: desired tools 4 Digit Combination Lock
- BEST LIGHT DUTY: Master Lock 1500iD
- BEST MEDIUM DUTY: KeyGuard SL-590
- BEST HEAVY DUTY: Delswin Combination Disc Padlock
- BEST SMART: Megafeis Smart Padlock
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Combination Lock
A combination lock is a common security device that uses a series of letters, numbers, or other symbols as a personalized code to lock/unlock the shackle. In one of the most standard designs, a series of rotating discs (called cams) make up the internal components. As you dial in the code, several lock pins interact with notches cut into the cams; when each lock pin is successfully set into each cam notch, the lock can be opened. Single and multi-dial combination locks are the most recognizable designs, used for everything from luggage and lockers to doors and sheds.
When shopping for a combination lock, the sheer number of choices can be daunting. Also, not all locks are created equal. Cheap materials and poor design can lead to potential theft, so keep the following important factors and key features in mind when shopping.
To choose the best combination lock for your purposes, think about what you need to keep secure—and where. Some locks are small and lightweight for portability, but anything too flimsy might invite a breach. So while you may not want to lug a hefty, hockey puck-sized lock to the gym, it may be worth your while to err on the side of caution with a tougher look if you’re going to keep your wallet in your locker. In other words, balance the lock’s risk of breaking or being busted versus the comfort and convenience it will afford you.
Most lock bodies (the part that houses the locking pins and cams) will be made of either weatherproofed plastic and vinyl or some kind of metal derivative. These are rugged materials that will stand up to the elements, so they’re a wise choice for doors and gates. Metal lock bodies are slightly stronger but can leave scratches and dings on surfaces.
The shackle (the part that physically locks/unlocks) is typically made of brass, stainless steel, boron carbide, or molybdenum steel alloy. Brass and stainless steel are the weakest shackle materials, but if you’re buying for portability and value, brass and steel may be all there is to find. Hardened steel and boron steel offer slightly more strength, while boron carbide and molybdenum steel alloy are the strongest combo lock shackle materials available.
Size and Weight
Bigger and bulkier isn’t necessarily better when it comes to combination locks, so consider whether you want a grab-and-go model or something that will serve a more stationary purpose, like securing your backyard shed. Mobile combination locks will inevitably be smaller and more lightweight: no bigger than 3 inches, with shackle diameters between 5/16 and 1/4 inch. Heavy-duty combination locks may have slightly bigger bodies, and often have bigger shackle diameters—not to mention the added weight of tougher materials.
Also, be mindful of exactly what shackle diameter your application calls for. While many door latches are designed for the most common shackle sizes, a 3/8-inch shackle simply won’t fit into a 1/4-inch opening.
The best combination locks use a series of lock pins and cams to safeguard possessions and property. One common type of combination design uses a single rotating dial with a pre-determined combination. A good rule of thumb is to look for locks with a four-digit pin combination, as opposed to three-pin models. Four-pin locks offer tens of thousands of different codes to choose from. The more numerical combinations available, the better the security.
If you prefer to use your own code and intend to frequently change the combination, there are plenty of customizable locks available. Write down your chosen combination (in case you forget it) and be sure to keep it hidden. Storing the code in your phone is a good alternative to logging the combo on paper.
Also, be mindful of the process required to lock/unlock your lock and reset the code. Some locks require your code to be dialed in when both locking and unlocking. Some combo locks have an easy, tool-less reset, while others may require a screwdriver to reset.
Tougher metal shells and reinforced shackles are a good line of defense against thieves, but there are other important anti-theft features to consider. The most advanced combination locks tap into cutting-edge smart tech. Features like fingerprint scanners and mobile apps for remote lock/unlock and lock monitoring are solutions, but smart connectivity will mean a higher price.
Another worthy anti-theft consideration is anti-shim locks. A shim is any kind of tool that can be used to disturb a lock’s shackle housing. Look for a combo lock with a flattened shackle head and other specific design elements for blocking shim access to the lock body.
Ease of Use
The best combination lock shouldn’t be difficult or tedious to use, especially for on-the-go applications. A good portable combo lock should be quick to unlock and simple to reset if the need arises. A heavy-duty combination lock shouldn’t necessarily be harder to use, but a bigger, more industrial design may not be as simple to lock, unlock, and carry. Ideally, the best combination locks will balance several personalized security features with bodies and materials that won’t interfere with ease of use.
Our Top Picks
The combination locks below, all considered among the best options in their respective categories, will deliver on all the important criteria detailed above.
This Puroma lock can secure your valuables at the gym, at school, on the job, or around the house, as it will fit pretty much any 1/4-inch shackle opening. Resetting your code is quick and easy thanks to the dedicated code-setting dial. Simply set all the dials to zero, pull up the shackle, and turn it 90 degrees; then choose your new code and turn the shackle back. There are over 10,000 available combinations to choose from, so your code should be a hard one to crack. Made of zinc alloy and steel, the Puroma can take a beating from drops, dings, tools, and the elements.
Sold as a two-pack, you can keep one for at-home purposes and the other in your gym bag or backpack when on the go. For price, ease of use, and sheer volume of combinations, the Puroma is a solid combination lock.
The Master Lock 178D features a 2-inch reinforced lock body, a hardened steel shackle that’s tough for thieves to cut, and a dedicated reset key for changing your combination. Reliable and compact, the 178D is ideal for applications such as lockers and gate latches, and at 4.8 ounces, it’s a bit more heavy-duty than it would appear. It’s not the quickest for resetting combinations, though—hence its place in the runner-up spot.
You can protect your valuables and save cash with the desired tools 4 Digit Combination Lock. It’s a four-digit model, which means thousands of combinations, and setting your code is simple: Insert and turn the reset key, dial in your preferred combo, and turn the key again to lock in the code.
For additional security, the shackle will only engage when your code is dialed in. Plus, this desired tools model comes in black, blue, green, red, and gray—an asset that can help you identify your lock in a locker room full of other locks.
An efficient, user-friendly choice, the 1500iD does away with digits in favor of simple directional codes. To set a combination, simply choose between four options—up, down, left, and right—in any number of movements, in any sequence.
While not industrial-grade, the metal body and reinforced steel shackle are decent protective materials. Plus, the shackle’s anti-shim technology is an extra safeguard between burglars and your valuables. While this lock isn’t a wise choice for a gate, shed, or other heavy-duty partition, it should keep your stuff secure for a locker or cabinet.
This lock box allows you to grant entrance to your home or other structure to whomever has the code by stowing keys or access cards in its 4-inch tall vault (2 3/8-inches wide). It’s a solid device if you want to let in guests, real estate agents, maintenance workers, or other individuals—or if you don’t want to be bogged down by a large ring of keys.
The KeyGuard SL-590 lets you choose from both numbers and letters when setting the code, and the keypad with raised buttons is easy to see. The vault is made of ABS plastic over metal framing, which keeps your doors and other exterior surfaces scratch-free without compromising on the lock’s overall strength. While it’s not the most portable option (two screws fasten the KeyGuard to your property’s exterior), it’s a great way to secure small valuables while you’re away from home.
The Delswin Combination Disc Padlock has the materials and design features to keep thieves from getting their hands on your property. For one thing, the entire lock body is made of stainless steel. For another, the shackle receives minimal height exposure from the main lock body, which makes it very difficult to attain bolt-cutting leverage.
Setting your four-digit pin is a breeze, but changing the code requires a screwdriver to engage the reset function. An ideal choice for a rental truck, storage unit, gate, garage, or shed, the Delswin is a worthy way to keep big-ticket valuables safe.
No codes or keys required! The Megafeis Smart Padlock taps into today’s smart tech for easy fingerprint scanning instead. Capable of storing up to 15 different sets of prints and adding or deleting users is a cinch with the Megafeis app (for iOS and Android devices). You can also use the app to remotely unlock the padlock, set authorized users, and monitor locking and unlocking.
Running off a rechargeable battery, the Megafeis can handle up to 2,500 unlocks over two months and comes with a micro-USB cable for charging. While the aluminum alloy body is a decent plate of armor, the Megafeis isn’t as strong as some of the other choices in our roundup.
FAQs About Combination Locks
If you’re still unsure about how these locks work and whether one will be right for your purposes, consider the answers to these commonly asked questions.
Q. What is a combination lock?
A combination lock is a common security device that uses a series of letters, numbers, or other symbols as a personalized pin code to lock/unlock the shackle.
Q. Are combination locks secure?
Yes. Today’s combination locks are made with extremely durable materials, code features, and even smart technology with some models to keep your valuables safe.
Q. Can you break a combination lock?
Given enough time and skill, most locks can be broken. That being said, the combination locks featured in this roundup are some of the most resistant models on the market.