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Locksmithing/Replacement of electronic lock - Winchester safe

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QUESTION: Terry,

I have a Winchester long gun gun safe (~400#) from Costco (~$700) that is a few years old.  It has a keypad with electronic board inside which contains two connectors.  The first is a 4 conductor in-line connector to the keypad and the second is the two wire connector for the solenoid wire.  The keypad connector wires are black, red, green, yellow.  I presume that the red and black provide power for the microprocessor driven control board and the other two wires send some sort of serial coded and possibly encrypted signal to the board.  

I am digressing a bit, but what I want to do is to replace the logic board with a more intelligent one with more features, the primary one being the use of a master code and separate user codes.  The simplest solution would exist if the keypad for this lock used a 'standard' wiring and keypad protocol and I could simply change the logic board.

So my questions are

1) Is there a standard protocol for a safe keypad such that I don't have to change the keypad.  And if there is, what good brand and specific model do you recommend that would allow me to simply exchange the inside logic board for the new, improved one.

2) If there is little hope of salvaging the existing keypad (and thus saving the work and expense to replace it) then what good brand and model of keypad would likely fit as a complete replacement solution for this safe?  I would like to experiment with as many features as possible, including possibly an audit log if possible, but simply having a master code is a definite upgrade as it prevents a user from locking me out of my own safe by changing the only code.

Cheers and thank you for reading . . .

ANSWER: David,

Unfortunately, it isn't going to be quite as simple as you want it to be.  While there are much better locking components, which CAN be retrofited on to your safe, one of the down sides to buying "inexpensive" safes, is that they were simply built cheaply to keep the cost down.  The locking components are NOT compatible with any of the quality locks on the market.   None of the components of your lock or key pad are compatible with anything else.

What this means is that in order for you to upgrade the safe to a quality lock, you will have to replace the ENTIRE lock.   A new mounting pad will have to be installed (welded) inside the door, and the bolt work will/may have to be modified to work with the new locking system.

I'm not sure where you came up with "standard protocol" or what that even means.  I'm assuming that would be similar to asking if there was a standard protocol to installing a Mustang engine in a go-kart!   While it can be done, I'm not sure that there would be a "standard protocol" for the upgrade.

Basically you have two choices - buy a better quality safe that has a "standard" lock and/or can be upgraded to the lock of your choice, or have your safe modified to have a new mounting pad welded and the bolt work modified to accept a new lock.

As far as locks are concerned, if you are looking for a lock with multiple users, a manager code (for adding & deleting the users, and a time and date stamped audit trail, then I would recommend the LaGard AuditGard lock.   These are about $285 not including the modifications to your safe which could add an additional $250 to $300.   If you also need time lock capability so that your "user's" from having access to the safe when the store or business is closed, you can bump the cost of the lock up to around $800.

Bottom line with the cost of the upgrades to a safe which barely meets minimum standards for "tamper" resistance, doesn't make sense to me.   You could be spending an easy $600 to a $1000 for a safe that currently is worth less than $500.

If you have the equipment and mechanical skills to do the upgrades yourself, you can save the cost of having the safe upgraded, however you would still be installing the lock on a safe with little burglary resistance.

Sorry to be the bearer of such bad news, but I would rather be honest than simply someone willing to take your money and say have a nice day!


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Terry,

Thanks so much for your expertise and time to answer my question.  Yes, I spent some time learning about the safe I have and I concur with your assessment.  My safe, while maybe 'better than nothing', is not worth spending the effort to upgrade.  I did some research and talked to some other experts re. safe construction.  I can now really appreciate that you basically get what you pay for.  The weight of the safe seems to tell it all.  

It is a shame, however, that they don't incorporate some of these advanced features into the logic board of the electronic lock.  This would have zero cost as it would simply be a software upgrade to include master and user codes and an audit trail.

And thanks for the name of the LaGard AuditGard lock.  Sounds like an excellent choice.  

BTW, by 'standard protocol', I was presuming that there might be a standardized wired and digital communication protocol for safe keypads.  For example, the four wires would always have the same function - power and signal and the key press would send standardized serial data with a known serial data protocol (ex. 9600,8,1,N - 9600 baud, 8 data bits, 1 parity bit, no stop bit)  In this way, the keypad could remain and a complex logic board could be substituted requiring no mechanical retrofit and minimal expense.  Hmmm, may be a potential after market product for these safes.

Thanks again . . .

Answer
David,

While I understand your "wish" for locks to have some type of "standardization", you have to understand basic marketing.   Different manufacturers NEVER make their product compatible with another manufacturers product so that you have to come back to them.   They ALSO don't make various versions simply "upgradeable" again as it would be easy for you, the consumer to make upgrades rather than having to buy complete new components.

I've been beating the "standardization" drum for years to no avail.   As far as "aftermarket" upgrades to the safes, the market is much smaller than you believe.   In many industries they think in hundreds of thousand or millions of units.   In this industry the numbers tend to be in the 10's or hundreds.

Recently one of the lock manufacturers discontinued a really great lock, NOT because of compatiblity or manufacturing issues, but simply because they couldn't sell enough of the product.

While there is a potential market, it is so small that it simply doesn't justify the expense.

Bottom line, we can do your upgrade, but as noted, it probably isn't worth it for that safe.

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Terry V. Andreasen (Andy)

Expertise

Safe and Vault related Questions; Antique Safe Repair and Restoration; With over 42 years in the Safe & Vault industry, if I can't answer your question I know where to get the answer. Current Project: Restoration of an Ely Norris Cannonball Safe from the early 1900's. Will answer Safe & Vault related questions concerning age, value, restoration, moving, opening & repairing, parts, operation and history. Note: It is not my intention to teach you to open safes or to provide information which may aid in the unlawful opening of a safe. I will not give out drill points or information which I deem inappropriate.

Experience

44 years in the Safe & Vault Industry. Owner and Service Manager for one of the largest Safe & Vault companies on the West Coast. Graduate of Lockmasters Safe Lock Servicing, Safe lock Manipulation and Safe Deposit Lock Courses. Graduate of Locksmith Institute. Certified Instructor for the California Locksmith Association teaching Basic and Advanced Lock Servicing, Basic Safe opening and Repairing. Factory Trained by AMSEC, LORD Safes, LeFebure, Mosler, KabaMas, LaGard and Sargent & Greenleaf Author of "The Coffee Table Guide to Antique Safes".

Organizations
SafeCrackers International and the National Antique Safe Association Safe & Vault Technicians Association (SAVTA)

Publications
The Coffee Table Guide to Antique Safes AllExperts.com

Education/Credentials
Graduate of Locksmith Institute 1972 Graduate Lockmasters Safe Lock Servicing 1974 Graduate Lockmasters Safe Lock Manipulation 1975 Graduate Lockmasters Safe Deposit Lock Servicing 1985 Instructor Certified - California Locksmith Association - 1985 Factory trained by AMSEC, MAJOR, STAR, Johnson-Pacific, Kaba-MAS, Allied-Gary, ISM, Lord, Brown Safe, EXL, Mosler, Diebold.

Awards and Honors
2009 - 2015 - Listed in AllExperts Top 50 Experts. All Expert Categories - Safes & Security Containers, Locksmithing, Antique Safes. Retired US Army Chief Warrant Officer (CW4), with 39 years of total service. With numerous awards from Vietnam, Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom. US Navy - 1971-1981 US Army Reserve 1984-2013 US Army Retired

Past/Present Clients
US Secret Service, FBI, BATF, Local Law enforcment agencies, Diebold, Hamilton Pacific, Red Hawk Int., Chubb International, Bank of America, Wells Fargo Bank, Mechanics Bank, El Dorado Savings Bank, many Credit unions and smaller banks. McDonalds, Togos, BurgerKing, TacoBell, Carls Jr. FoodMaxx, SaveMart, Lucky's, Albertson's, Raley's, Safeway, NobHill, Bell Markets, PW Markets. Great America, Century Theatres, Cinemark Theatres, UA Cinemas, and many homeowners and small businesses. Provide warranty service for lock and safe manufactures. Service Area is Northern California (Fresno to Oregon and Western Nevada)

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