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What's in a Padlock?

Choosing a padlock to suit your needs is a little more complex than it, at first, appears! With a wide range of types, materials, and prices, it can be a little bewildering trying to ensure you get what you need in the right price range. In this article, we take a look at some common styles of padlock and review their strengths and weaknesses

General Construction

Most padlocks have a solid body and a moving shackle that goes in and out of the body to operate the padlock. The stronger the material the body is made from, the more difficult it is to smash. The larger the body of the padlock, the larger and more substantial the locking mechanism can be. The locking mechanism is usually made up of between 3 and 7 tiny spring loaded pins. The larger the number of pins, the more secure the padlock. The most vulnerable part of a padlock is the shackle as this is, to a greater or lesser degree, exposed and therefore open to being sawn through or cut. Different styles of padlock expose greater or lesser amounts of the shackle increasing or decreasing its security, and also flexibility of application.

The degree of security afforded by a padlock is dependent upon its ability to:

  • resist cutting
  • resist twisting
  • how difficult it is to drill out
  • the door and fittings it is used with

Its build-quality, the materials its made from, the design of it, whether it has keys or relies upon a combination, and its age. No padlock will last forever. If your padlocks are getting on in age, it may be time to think about replacing them. Contact our Locksmith to order a replacement.

Common Styles of Padlock

Closed Shackle Padlocks

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Fast becoming a minimum requirement for many insurers, a 'closed shackle' padlock has some form of protection over its shackle to reduce its vulnerability to removal by bolt cutters or a saw. The only difficulty with this protection is that it can mean that the shackle is difficult to pass through a hasp or hole, around the bar or onto the cable you need to fit it to. If you have to fit a closed shackle padlock, always ensure that it's going to be possible to secure the required item with the padlock you have chosen. See below for guidance on what to do if your insurer states that you must use a 'closed shackle' but you can't find a suitable padlock to fit. Get in touch for more specific guidance from our Locksmith.

Straight Shackle Padlocks, or Shutter Padlocks

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Straight-shackle padlocks are very versatile affording a high level of security and convenience. They are commonly used on roller-shutter doors, warehouse doors, and shipping containers.

Discus or Round Padlocks

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Curving around the entire lock body, the shackle on this design is quite resistant to attack from bolt cutters and saws. However, it actually takes its name from its construction which involves two metal cases being put together to form a disc rather than a solid body. These locks are not spring-loaded and, therefore, they are less vulnerable to being drilled out or broken through excessive force. Discus padlocks were designed to be used with a staple and hasp providing additional security due to the covered shackle. It should be noted that cheap, poor quality versions of this type of padlock are now available on the market which do not give the same level of protection. Always buy from a reputable supplier and choose a high quality product. Aberdeen Alarm Company carries only high quality padlocks.

Long Shackle Padlocks

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With a solid body and a longer shackle, these padlocks are more flexible. However, the added convenience afforded can result in reduced security as the shackle is more vulnerable to attack with bolt cutters or saws.

Combination Padlocks

Whilst these padlocks do have their uses, combination padlocks are not as secure as padlocks with keys. With enough patience and uninterrupted time, the combination can always be cracked. This means that combination padlocks do not meet the requirements of most insurance companies as a security measure.

Weatherproof or 'Marine' Padlocks

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In order to be weatherproof, these padlocks are made of stainless steel and other non-corrosive materials. Whilst suitable for salty and extreme environments, non-corrosive materials are softer and vulnerable to being sawn, cut, or cropped more easily than other materials. Generally speaking, you will only need a weatherproof padlock if the padlock is going to be left unused for a long period, by the sea, or in another extreme environment, otherwise there are more suitable padlocks for general outdoor use.

A Word about Padlock Grading

There are a series of grades awarded to padlocks by which their security can be judged. However, it is also fair to say that the grading system isn't by any means perfect and if a padlock fails just one of the test criteria it can be awarded a much lower rating than it really should be. Once you have made your initial choice, it's well worth getting some professional advice to ensure that you have made the best choice. These ratings can be a useful guide, however, if your insurance company insists upon a 'closed shackle' product and this is unsuitable for the location you need it for as they will supply you with an alternative rating by which you can choose your padlock. Our Locksmith will be able to provide professional advice.

When does a Padlock Become a High Security Padlock?

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A padlock can be defined as 'high security' when one or more enhancements have been made to make it more resistant to theft or breakage. Possible enhancements are:

  • a hardened shackle
  • a shackle that is hidden in some way
  • a cylinder that is resistant to being picked
  • a reinforced locking mechanism

High security padlocks are frequently used to secure confidential data in commercial or domestic premises. Many of Abloy's padlocks are 'high security' padlocks and the image above is one of these. We are proud to be a supplier of Abloy padlocks and other security products. Padlock images in this article (except for the straight shackle padlock) are reproduced courtesy of Abloy. All of the images are subject to copyright law, please request permission from the owner of the image before using any of them.

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