How To Choose The Right Padlock

There are only two reasons you’re going to need a padlock; to prevent theft, or to prevent unauthorized access to an area or item. So when choosing your padlock, make sure it’ll do the job, or you may as well not bother.

What’s the right size padlock body?

What size you need, will often be determined by the use your padlock will be put to. You obviously wouldn’t want to use a big chunky padlock to lock your suitcase, conversely a flimsy luggage lock would look ridiculous for securing your factory gates.

So the first consideration is; the size you choose should “look right” for the application it’s used for. There are however other factors to consider, such as; what size shackle do you need to provide the right level of strength, is the body suitable (big enough / small enough) to use with your security hasp and staple, chain, etc, or has it got to fit into a restricted space where it will be used.

When choosing your padlock however, it’s important to realize that size alone is no guarantee of strength. Buying a big chunky padlock at your local market for a few pounds will invariably turn out to be a mistake and a poor investment – the old adage “You get what you pay for”, definitely applies to

security and safety products in general, and to padlocks especially!


What shape padlock body should you choose?

Discus style padlocks – have no angular corners, so are often used with cycle security chains and cables, as well as being a popular choice for securing doors on sheds and beach huts, etc. When used as a door lock, they will typically be used in conjunction with the special shrouded discus hasp and staple set, which offers extra protection to the padlock shackle.

Shutter Locks / Anvil Locks – are typically used to secure the external (or internal) security roller shutters fitted to shop fronts. They are also popular for use with parking posts, motorcycle security chains, etc.

Conventional Style padlocks have a wide range of applications from low security applications like locking your toolbox, to high security uses such as securing factory gates or protecting motorcycles. They are typically available as; Open, Close, or Semi Enclosed Shackle types


Remember; Any security system is only as good as it’s weakest link!


 What type of body construction should you choose?

The purpose of the padlock Body is to protect the internal lock mechanism against attack, to which end, it must feature cavities to house the actually lock cylinder and mechanism, along with channels to accommodate the Shackle when in the locked position.

Pressed steel – ignoring the type of toy locks supplied free with luggage, when we talk about pressed steel body, we mean the type of body construction typical of the discus style lock. These are generally formed from two heavy duty stainless steel shells (front and back), welded together around the whole circumference of the lock. Such locks can offer a good level of security for general applications, especially as the shackle in this type of padlock is normally secured in the locked position at 2 internal security points.

Solid Brass – brass is a relatively soft metal, so from a manufacturing point of view is quick and therefore cheap to machine, hence low end user prices. These locks are however susceptible to a drill attack, although realistically, for low budget / low security padlocks this is not the normal form of attack. The cheapest brass bodied padlocks tend to have sharp corners which can easily scratch surfaces they touch and can be uncomfortable to handle, whereas more expensive units will normally feature “softer” mitred or rounded edges.

 Laminated Steel Padlocks – the body of this type of lock is constructed from several pre-punched thin steel plates which are riveted together to form the body block. Again the low manufacturing cost is reflected in low prices to the end user. With this type of lock however the exposed rivet heads are a weak point, although they do usually feature a plastic bumper around the base to make handling a little more comfortable.

 Armour Encased – this is typically used as a way of increasing the security rating of a brass bodied padlock. In simple terms, the brass body is encased in a hardened steel jacket which is primarily intended to make drilling type attack more difficult, thus increasing the security level of the basic lock.

 Solid Steel Alloy – as with the solid brass padlock, the internal cavities in the lock body (which will house the lock mechanism, shackle entry and locking points, etc), must be machined out. Steel alloy however is a harder material than brass and so the machining operation takes much longer, which means much higher manufacturing costs. The solid steel body is however very robust and will typically be hardened to make a drill attack on the internal locking mechanism much more difficult and time consuming. The body will also have a special surface treatment to protect against rusting, etc.

What do “Keyed to Differ”, “Keyed Alike” & “Master Keyed”, mean?

When a manufacturer makes a batch of several thousand locks, the lock assemblers may make say; 10 of key pattern 1, 10 of key pattern 2, etc. When all the locks are finished, they are jumbled up, then randomly bulk packed in 50’s, 100’s or whatever and sent to the sales outlet.

When you buy a couple of padlocks from the seller, you will therefore be buying “Keyed to Differ” (randomly keyed) locks – i.e. there’s only a random chance that you will get two locks which operate from a shared key pattern. Consider for a moment however, that you are an office manager with 50 desktop computers padlocked to you staffs desks – you may feel that managing 50 different sets of keys (with backup arrangements) could get tricky, so you may prefer to reduce the number of keys you need to manage by purchasing a set of “Keyed Alike” or “Master Keyed” locks.

A “Keyed Alike” lock-suite is where all the padlocks in that suite (set) operate from a single key pattern, i.e. the key from any padlock in that suite will operate all other padlocks in that suite. Basically, that means you only have one key to manage – which is great from a management perspective but is obviously a bit of a compromise in security terms, as 1 key fits all.

With a “Master Keyed” lock-suite, each lock operates from its own unique key pattern, so the key from each lock will only fit that lock and will not open any other lock in the suite. A “Master Key” however is provided which will operate any lock in the suite – think of it as an over-ride key. So, you’ll never get stuck with not being able to open any of the locks because someone has lost the key, but you’ve also not compromised your security.