All 9 Reasons Your Gun Safe Won’t Unlock (E-Lock, Dial & More) - SafesRight

All 9 Reasons Your Gun Safe Won’t Unlock (E-Lock, Dial & More)

The main issue most people have with a gun safe is needing help accessing the safe, as it will only open a bit. This can be due to various reasons that we will be getting into in this article! While it can be frustrating, there are ways to solve them, and I hope to help you with that.

Why should you trust me? I have years of hands-on experience, retail experience, and discussions directly with the manufacturers of gun safes. I have used this experience to hopefully give you the best information on the internet when it comes to gun safe information!

General Lock Issues

1. You are incorrectly inputting a combination.

[Image courtesy of Liberty Safes]

While this is the obvious first thing to check (like turning a computer on and off again resolves 99% of issues), it is worth mentioning. Whether you have a mechanical or an electronic locking mechanism, using the wrong code will mean you won’t be able to access the gun safe. 

If you still need to remember your combination, contact the manufacturer to see if you can get the combination from them; this generally requires multiple ways of proving you are the owner, so work with them on anything they may need.

Mechanical Lock Issues

2. The key won’t turn so that you can turn the dial.

Some safes offer a key-locking dial. These mechanical lock safes require a key for the dial to rotate. This fantastic feature gives you a bonus security function at a minimal cost. 

That said, if you find that your key is not unlocking the dial, you need to ensure that the dial is set to zero; otherwise, you might not be able to get into your safe.

Electronic Lock Issues

3. Electronic lock batteries are dead.

While an excellent electronic locking mechanism can get you into a safe quickly and easily, its main pitfall comes down to the battery. Simplex locks aim to help with that by creating a push-button style mechanical lock (without batteries); however, they also have downsides.

Regardless, dead batteries in an electronic lock will be one of the main reasons your safe won’t unlock (if you have an e-lock). Thankfully, the batteries in an electronic lock are located on the safe’s exterior. 

You can quickly push upwards on your keypad (some safes require you to twist it clockwise), and the keypad will release off the safe. A 9-volt battery will be located on the inside of the keypad and will need to be replaced, and you will be right back in your safe!

4. Lockout mode or time delay

Another common reason you can’t get into your gun safe is due to a security feature built into many electronic or biometric locks. 

Once an incorrect code is put in enough times, it will trigger a lockout mode for a specified time (generally 15 minutes). If someone unauthorized tries to enter your safe, they must wait until the lockout mode is over before continuing their efforts.

Time delays are a similar feature but are more common in commercial safes. This feature locks the safe down for a specific time since the last opening.

Both of these features will cause a safe not to be able to open or unlock. The best way to fix this is to wait.

5. Disconnected or damaged wiring

While this may be an uncommon issue, it can happen! The interior components of the door do move, and with movement, you might end up with wires receiving some wear and tear. If the damaged wiring is at the keypad, you can resolve this issue quickly. Otherwise, a locksmith will likely be needed.

6. Deactivated code

Some electronic locks can store many different codes inside and even log who gets into the safe, when, and how often. 

The lock manager can delete or modify the codes utilized for access. If so, contact the safe manager to see if your code has been revoked or edited.

Other Issues Preventing the Lock from Opening

[Image courtesy of Fort Knox]

7. Items on the interior are getting in the way.

No matter how big of a gun safe you buy, it is inevitable that you will quickly run out of space. You’ll find the gear you never thought you would put into the safe and fill to the brim. While this is annoying on its right, it also causes a bigger problem.

If items get too close to the door while it is opened, and then the door is closed on them, you can cause the door to jam closed and make it incredibly difficult to get the door open. It would help if you kept items from creeping past the edges of the interior shelves (unless they are on the door panel, of course). 

8. Jammed bolt work

While a gun safe may seem simple, the door insides are pretty complicated (especially if you have the 5-to-1 gear ratio from Fort Knox). These safes are generally reliable, but jammed boltwork can happen. The most common culprit is when the locking bolts slide too far past the door’s interior and hang up on the door itself. Other common issues can be at the locking mechanism or in the door. 

If a simple jostling of the safe handle doesn’t free it up, I recommend contacting a locksmith for further work. Please don’t try to tip it like a vending machine; you’ll hurt someone (plus, it should be bolted down anyways).

9. Re-locker may be triggered.

Higher-end gun safes have a mechanism inside of the door called a re-locker. Re-lockers work so that if the safe is tampered with, they trigger, making it impossible to open the gun safe door. While this feature is fantastic when an intruder tries to access your safe, it does make it extremely difficult to access the safe afterward. 

If you think this might have happened to you, I recommend contacting a locksmith specializing in safes. They can work directly with the safe manufacturer to access the safe with minimal damage.


Not being able to unlock your safe can result in many different things! This can range from a simple forgotten passcode to damaged boltwork on the interior of the gun safe. You may be able to resolve it yourself, or you may need the assistance of a locksmith and the manufacturer of your gun safe to work.

So what is the best way to avoid running into issues? I recommend purchasing a highly-rated gun safe with a high-quality locking mechanism.

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