Best for what? That should be the first question anyone asks when buying a padlock. A well informed shopper can match their security requirements with the best lock value after learning these points.
1. Choosing A Lock By Brand Name
While no single padlock can satisfy the requirements to be the best for everything, most are advertised as such. There are an abundance of choices to the person willing to do the research. Just shopping at your local hardware store or major chain retailer isn’t going to get you the full menu of padlock brand choices you’d hope it would. In fact, you’re likely to see only one or two manufacturers despite the various brand names, since companies like Master Lock and Brinks both own private label subsidiaries. These “competitive” brands are only put on the shelf to give the consumer a false choice of products priced to up-sell the better known, parent name brands. Some chain retailers sell their own name brands along side Master, Brinks, Abus and Abloy. These choices are imported generic locks, some of which are made at the same factories as the brand names. Be aware of the brand you are buying, the real value might be right next to the lock you’re looking at.
Peacemaker Solidbody Tek Protection
2. The Strongest Lock
To the honest majority of us, any padlock is strong enough. To the skilled deviants of the universe, no lock is strong enough. Somewhere in the middle of these two extremes is where reality lives. What makes a padlock strong? I look at the strength of a lock in two ways: Mechanical strength and strength against skill. Master Lock makes some pretty tough padlocks, some of which are very difficult to break into and that require huge bolt cutters or grinders to defeat. But they equip some of these beasts with simple 4 pin tumblers that can be picked or raked in seconds. Like other good brands, Master makes the Pro Series with interchangeable cores so the consumer can change pins or the entire cylinder to make a more secure lock. A lock’s physical strength is directly attributable to its size and the size of the corresponding shackle. Many larger padlocks can withstand over 4 tons of pulling pressure between the shackle and the lock body. These locks are strong but due to their shackle size, they only fit larger hasps and as a result are limited in their usefulness. If the shackle is the weak point in your lock, then a shackle guard is the best addition. A shackle guard envelopes the shackle so as to make it impervious to bolt cutters and pry bars. It limits the exposure of the shackle so that picking the lock or defeating the hasp the lock is attached to are the only practical methods of bypassing the lock. Of course, there’s always the torch, as seen on YouTube. Like I say, the deviants see defeating a lock as an art form. Manufacturers like Commando respect this and we count on these criminal type genius’s to test our products in real world situations.
3. Country Of Origin
Where is this lock made? If made in USA is important to you, you’re going to be disappointed in the answer. Since the 1990′s, the vast majority of padlocks have been made in China or other low wage manufacturing countries. Much of this is understandable since the average consumer sees a padlock as a commodity like gasoline or bread and buys on price alone. Okay, they look at the brand name first, then buy on price. For as simple as a padlock is, they all require intricate assemblies full of small inter-working parts that are best suited for human assembly. To automate an assembly line to machine or stamp and assemble a padlock is cost prohibitive for all but the largest manufacturers. But it is these exact companies who promote the imports and their assembly labor. In fact, the largest US padlock manufacturer makes many of their components in USA then exports them to Mexico to be assembled and re-imported back for distribution to the chain hardware stores. The second largest, Brinks, imports 100% from China but maintains the ability to assemble and package a few hundred locks per year at their distribution center in USA. Wilson Bohannon, on the other hand, has manufactured nearly 100% of their locks in USA since their founding over a hundred years ago but we’ll never see their products in a chain retail store. Commando Lock has automated much of the laminated padlock manufacturing and assembly at our factory in Michigan, USA. But we can’t claim to be 100% either. Until we complete our Made in USA plan, we too must rely on good imported sourcing.
As manufacturing expands and contracts in USA, we’ve seen the simplest of components become more difficult to acquire, including US made ball bearings. Chinese manufacturers receive an incentive of between 12%-17% from their government for exporting their products to America. There are no manufacturers of padlock cylinders in USA who sell to others but in China there are hundreds advertised online and they’ll manufacture to your engineering specifications. The upside to importing is the abundance of new knowledge and instant manufacturing capacity for your requirements.
The downside is loss of control of your products, your patents, your pricing and most importantly, the material and tolerances of your components. When Commando started investing in tooling that was outside of our manufacturing capabilities, we received quotations from good suppliers in USA. As a small start-up with no sales, we begrudgingly purchased a small mold from overseas and were pleased with the quality of the finished part that came from a tool costing 1/4 the domestic price. I imagined the mold was very manual and likely not built for longevity but the part looked good and the price was right. On our second order, our Chinese supplier doubled the part price and charged us additional tooling costs. Needless to say, we never placed that second order and now Commando owns an unused mold somewhere in China. Our need for parts led us to a new small mold manufacturer in the Midwest US who like us, was trying to produce in America. We met in the middle on tooling and part price and helped each other in the industry. We now have better control on quality, price and delivery.
Taking this into consideration, any lock manufacturer can justify importing at least some component, plastic cover, packaging, tooling or assembly machine to produce their US made product. The US government just doesn’t offer incentives for the average manufacturer to invest in America. That said, much credit is given to those who travail in the US industry under the extra scrutiny of an anti-manufacturing government. Since our founding, Commando has invested millions into our tooling and equipment rather than simply import a lock to our design for distribution. Every day we work on supplier material quality, tooling and equipment maintenance, assembly, packaging and sales.
Not all GSA padlocks are made in USA
The Price Is Right!
How much is a padlock worth? How much to you need a commodity and in the case of a padlock, how much do you care about what it is you’re locking up? Availability is a major driver of price in a free market economy. With such limited choices of padlocks at the retail stores, you’re likely to pay more for something that doesn’t fit your exact needs. The best laminated lock Master Lock has to offer is the Pro Series, costing between $20-$35 for a strong interchangeable core lock. An similar product from Abloy could cost $65-$300. A real deal on a cheap import may set you back $8, and the brand name equivalent $12, the fact is you’re looking at a $3 easy to break into shiny ornament that really only invites trouble from those bad guys who know their locks. A typical Commando lock retails for about $15-$25. And while you’ll pay more, I’d recommend you visit your local locksmith to learn about the higher end choices that aren’t sold at the retail level. One padlock manufacturer, Sargent & Greenleaf (a division of Stanley) has locks that sell for over $1,000 and will definitely keep thieves occupied. But before you put that top of the line lock on your equipment, you might want to make sure your covering all the right parts. Sometimes a good looking lock can attract the wrong kind of person who will spend the time to bypass the locked area for an easier entry. At that point, you may add more lighting and digital security to the premises. I suggest you also do some research online to learn about the choices from users with experience.
So who does make the best padlock? With so many great manufacturers in the industry, maybe the best answer is actually in the question: Who makes the best padlock for me? Define your needs then research your choices. The more you know about padlocks, the more you’ll likely be willing to spend to get the best lock for you.