After more than 40 hours of reporting, considering scores of deadbolts, and interviewing eight different locksmiths, security experts, and lock manufacturers, we’re confident the Schlage B60N single-cylinder deadbolt is the best lock for most people’s front doors. It has the highest certification available for resistance to forced entry, is extremely difficult to lockpick, and it’s affordable, easy to find, simple to install, and widely recommended.
The Schlage B60N is essentially a residential version of a high-security deadbolt lock. It’s rated Grade 1 by ANSI/BHMA,1 meaning it has passed the same hammering, prying, sawing, picking, and kicking tests as the toughest high-security locks that Schlage produces. Experts told us it’s extremely difficult to lockpick the B60N—which, honestly, is not much of a concern anyway, because a Grade 1 lock like this is secure enough that a determined thief would be more likely to bypass it and find another way into the home. We asked four locksmiths to choose between this Schlage model and a similarly qualified deadbolt lock from Kwikset. They unanimously voted for Schlage.
The strike plate is the metal opening where the deadbolt engages with the doorframe—and strikes are not all the same. The better kind is known as a reinforced strike, and installing one is a cost-effective security upgrade that experts consider nearly as important as the deadbolt lock itself. After considering about a dozen, we settled on the Battalion Strike Plate: It’s affordable, simple, tough, and very similar to the robust strikes many high-security deadbolts come with. That’s because, like them, it features an integral metal-lined bolt-hole, which adds strength against kicking and other forms of forced entry. It also mounts to the doorframe with four screws; many standard strike plates use only two.
One complaint: The screws it comes with are just 2 inches long, when 3 inches or even 4 inches is much better—you may want to find longer screws for a stronger attachment to the doorframe. If the Battalion isn’t available, the Prime-Line U 9539, which we also looked at, is virtually identical.
If you’re looking for a guide to deadbolts that can be controlled via app or smart-home integration, read The Best Smart Lock.
Deadbolt locks are a home’s first line of defense, which means recommending one is serious business. They also come in a huge range of quality, materials, design, and toughness. In addition to reading multiple professional and personal reviews to winnow the list to genuine contenders, I spoke with four locksmiths, a standards coordinator at the Builders Hardware Manufacturers Association (BHMA, a leading tester and certifier of deadbolts), as well as a world-renowned expert on lock design and security, and representatives of most of the major lock manufacturers.
The pro experts we interviewed are:
Schlage declined to speak with me.3
Most external doors feature two types of lock: a lower one on a knob or handle, and an upper one generally identified by a thumbturn inside, and only a keyhole outside. The upper one’s called a deadbolt. The deadbolt is the lock that really counts for home security, and it’s the one we discuss in this review.
If you’ve bought a home or rented a new apartment but haven’t changed the lock(s), you should get a new deadbolt, or at least have a locksmith install a new cylinder—the part the key goes into and that locks and unlocks the door. If you rent your place, you should also change the lock, either with a new deadbolt or cylinder, if your lease allows you to. The chief concern is what’s called key control. “Who knows how many neighbors have a key [to your existing lock]?” said locksmith Wayne Winton. “How many ex-boyfriends or ex-girlfriends have a key? They may be lying in the yard in a hide-a-key rock. Who knows?”
Besides these specific concerns, your locks may also simply be old, meaning worn out, outdated, or both. Lock technology—specifically resistance to lockpicking and other forms or stealth entry—has advanced significantly in the last decade.
If you take anything away from this guide, let it be this: Replacing your deadbolt lock does little to improve your home security if you leave other vulnerabilities unaddressed. Say you get a new deadbolt. So what, if your windows aren’t secure. So what, if your door can be busted open with one kick. As security and lock expert Tobias put it to me, “Security is not a simple issue, and there’s lots of layers and variables if it’s done right.”
He elaborated, describing a piece he did with Matt Lauer for the Today show: “I broke into a couple million-dollar houses, and the comments were, ‘But my locksmith told me these were good deadbolts!’ Well, they are good deadbolts. But that doesn’t have anything to do with … the door or the doorframe or the strike. And if any of those are deficient, forget it—deadbolts don’t mean anything.”
There is, however, one very cheap, very easy, and very often ignored security upgrade that you can do yourself, even if you’re not changing the deadbolt. Install a reinforced strike—that’s the metal plate the deadbolt slides into, and it’s what anchors the door to the doorframe. Everyone I spoke to for this guide—Tobias, the locksmiths, lock manufacturers—recommended this as a first step to enhanced home security.
Before we spoke to a single expert, our research revealed that deadbolt locks come in a vast array of quality, cost, design, and availability. Some go for less than $10 at a hardware store; others cost $200 or more and are available only through certified locksmiths. The cheap ones may be opened with nothing more than a screwdriver; to open the expensive, high-security deadbolts, “you have to destroy the door,” said Corsini of Joseph Lock and Alarm in New York City. (And you often have to have those kinds of locks professionally installed.) We set out to find a balance between these extremes.
So we limited our search to deadbolts that were widely available at hardware stores, could be installed by a homeowner, and met our requirements on security and other features. We also restricted our search to traditional, key-operated deadbolts. (For keypad locks and other more automated solutions, see our guide to smart locks.) Further research led us to consider only deadbolts that offered a few additional important features:
If, on the other hand, you have a Medeco, Mul-T-Lock, Assa, or Abloy, you’ve got a true high-security deadbolt. Lucky you! Typically, high-security deadbolts are used in hospitals, jails, and other sensitive areas. Beyond being extremely resistant to forced entry, they are exceedingly resistant to stealth entry—like lockpicking—usually by means of a complex cylinder with two sets of pins, as opposed to the usual single set. Most are available only through locksmiths, as are their keys—an additional level of security, but also a hindrance to DIYers. They’re also expensive, upwards of $100 apiece. And most of our experts said your money is better spent on upgrades to window locks, lighting, and other broad security measures than on a high-security deadbolt.
After research and reporting eliminated most other brands, we were left looking primarily at two manufacturers: Schlage and Kwikset (branded as Weiser in Canada). They’re long-standing, dedicated, and respected lockmakers. Both offer ANSI/BHMA Grade 1-rated deadbolts—the highest level of certification against forced entry. They’re widely available at Amazon and the big-box hardware stores. And almost any DIYer can install them in a few minutes.
I specifically asked the locksmiths I spoke with and security expert Marc Weber Tobias about two hot-button issues in lock security: lockpicking and a technique called lock-bumping, in which a specialized key is inserted into a lock cylinder and tapped with a hammer or other tool to make the lock mechanism jump into the “open” position. All said that these techniques are not a significant concern for homeowners and apartment dwellers. Most tellingly, Tobias, who has done more than anyone alive to highlight these methods as security risks for government, industry, and law enforcement, said bluntly of homeowners’ concerns: “Here’s the thing: burglars are not picking locks. Burglars aren’t dealing with that.”
We didn’t test our candidates in the traditional side-by-side product comparison we typically do for other guides: Given that they were all tested by ANSI/BHMA to strict standards, we didn’t expect to uncover meaningful differences ourselves. Rather, we relied on the real-world expertise of locksmiths—of people who address homeowners’ security concerns every day—to make a differentiation.
Happily, those locksmiths had a universal preference between Schlage and Kwikset.
The Schlage B60N is our pick as the best deadbolt for most people. This single-cylinder lock is affordable, widely available, and far more difficult to lockpick or bump than many others in its price range. It’s passed enough physical tests to earn a Grade 1 rating by ANSI/BHMA (the highest rating possible), which means it’s essentially a residential version of Schlage’s true high-security deadbolts, which are meant for government and commercial buildings. Installing the B60N is straightforward, and its range of finishes (satin nickel, aged bronze, oil-rubbed bronze, bright brass, antique pewter, bright chrome, satin chrome, and matte black) can likely match your current hardware. While reporting this guide, we asked four locksmiths to make a choice between Schlage and the other widely sold brand, Kwikset, that offers Grade 1 deadbolts. They were unanimous and decisive: Schlage.
For under $40, the B60N gives you get a deadbolt that’s resistant to all common methods of forced entry. The Grade 1 designation means the B60N has passed tests for door impact, bolt strength, resistance to sawing and prying, lock cycles (250,000 lock-unlock operations), and other physical concerns. Simply put, this lock has been repeatedly sledgehammered, Sawzalled, and crowbarred—and stayed locked. (BHMA doesn’t make every detail of the tests public, but I spoke with Mike Tierney, standards coordinator for BHMA, at length, and this summary PDF may be of interest.) A steel sleeve protects the bolt against sawing, prying, and ice-pick attacks, and its sloped, sealed external housing means thieves can’t easily grab and twist it with pliers to break the lock mechanism. (Most Grade 1 deadbolts, including the B60N’s main competitor, the Kwikset 980, also feature these protections.)
That said, the B60N’s main competitor, the Kwikset 980, is inherently bump-proof and virtually unpickable, due to its different design: it has what’s called a wafer tumbler, as opposed to the Schlage’s pin-tumbler design. So I asked four locksmiths, point-blank: If they were limited to Kwikset or Schlage—the non-high-security models available to everyday customers—which would they choose? Their answers were swift and unanimous:
Richard Reichert, Major Lock & Glass: “Schlage.”
Gerard Corsini, Joseph Lock and Alarm: “Security purposes, I would go with Schlage.”
Vincent Divittorio, DV Locksmith & Hardware: “I would definitely go with Schlage before I’d go with Kwikset.”
Wayne Winton, Tri-County Locksmith Service: “I prefer Schlage highly over Kwikset.”
In short: Schlage has the confidence of every professional we spoke with. And faced with the B60N, most thieves would look for other points of entry—like your windows—or, more likely, simply move on to a more vulnerable home.
We’d gladly point out any flaws in the Schlage B60N, but this product is generally excellent. One complaint is that it comes with a very basic strike—a pierced metal plate that leaves the bolt-hole lined with unreinforced wood. To Schlage’s credit, the strike is made of thick metal and is anchored by a pair of seriously robust 3-inch screws, but we prefer reinforced strikes that line the bolt-hole with metal, like the one that comes with the Schlage 600, 700, and 800 series (see The competition, below); and we prefer three or more screws, too. To that end, we also have a pick for a reinforced strike you can pair with this lock.
The B60N also has no inherent defense against breaches of “key control”: effectively, knowing who has, or more importantly who could have, your keys. Basically, anyone who gets hold of a B60N’s keys can have a copy made at any hardware store or locksmith. But we’re not convinced that’s a major concern to most people. First, simply by replacing your deadbolt—and thus, replacing your house keys—you gain a significant measure of basic key control, because nobody with a set of the old keys (a babysitter, for example) can unlock your door anymore. Second, to gain complete key control, you have to buy into high-security locks, whose keys can be copied only by certified locksmiths after a positive ID of the owner. That’ll add $100 or more to the cost of a deadbolt, and again: Most of our experts said other security upgrades—like sturdier window locks—are a better investment.
A reinforced strike is a cost-effective security upgrade that experts consider nearly as important as the deadbolt itself. That’s because the strike makes the critical connection between the deadbolt, which is mounted to the door, and the doorframe—securing the door to the wall of your home. Locksmith Reichert put it bluntly: “If a door gets opened, it’s gonna be by force. Spend money on this first: Make the connection to the frame stronger.” So we strongly recommend installing one, whether or not you install a new deadbolt, too.
The Battalion Strike Plate is similar to the robust ones that come with Schlage’s high-security deadbolts, the Schlage 600, 700, and 800 series. Crucially, like them it features an integral metal-lined bolt-hole, which adds strength against kicking and other forms of forced entry. A typical strike plate on a cheap lock lacks that metal lining; it simply has a hole with a thin metal strip around it, and the wood of the doorframe holds the bolt in place. Another upgrade over a standard strike: The Battalion mounts to the doorframe with four screws—two through the face (like any strike would have) and then two more through the bottom of the bolt-hole pocket.
One complaint: The screws the Battalion comes with are just 2 inches long, but longer screws mean a stronger attachment to the doorframe. Again, you’re better off with 3 inches or even 4 inches (in #8-size wood screws). You can pick these up for about 50¢ apiece at any hardware store, and we recommend doing so.
If the Battalion isn’t available, the Prime-Line U 9539, which we also looked at, is identical. Installing either of them involves little more than a drill, a screwdriver, and perhaps a hammer and chisel, to make room for the strike plate by clearing out a bit of wood on the door jamb. That last task may sound difficult, but it’s manageable. If you need a lesson, here’s how it’s done.
The Kwikset 980 was our primary measure of comparison for the Schlage locks. It’s Kwikset’s only Grade 1-rated deadbolt priced for residential use, and thus is the only direct competitor to the Schlage B60N. Because the 980 uses what’s called a wafer tumbler, versus the Schlage’s pin tumbler, it’s inherently bump-proof and exceedingly pick-resistant. But we don’t think that matters much. Every expert we spoke to said stealth entry, like lock-picking and lock-bumping, is not a major concern for homeowners. Rather, robustness against forced entry is the main concern. As Winton put it: “If you just asked me which lock is more pickable, solely based on lock picking or lock bumping, and we’re only talking about the cylinder, then Kwikset would be the more bump-proof or pick-resistant lock. When you take into account the total package, it is easier by far to defeat the Kwikset deadbolt.” He elaborated: “I can open up a Kwikset deadbolt in under a minute simply by drilling through the screws.” Moreover, “You can pull the faceplate off a Kwikset deadbolt and the screws are exposed—you can do this all from the outside—and you can back those screws up, pull the lock off the door, gain entry, and put it all back together and nobody would ever know. I can do do that in about 5 minutes.”
Another of the 980’s main selling points is Kwikset’s unique SmartKey system, which allows homeowners to rekey the cylinder themselves in a few minutes. That theoretically adds a layer of security: If your keys are lost or stolen, you can generate a new, different key yourself, rather than buying a whole new deadbolt with a different key. (Watch a video of the process.) But after its introduction in 2007, SmartKey came under widespread criticism for being vulnerable to physical attack due to its design; in the most infamous demonstration, Vancouver locksmith Terry Whin-Yates opens one in seconds. I asked Kwikset’s vice president of marketing, Trevor Hoffman, about this, and though he declined to go into specifics, he said the problem has been fixed. (The change is a reshaping of the sidebar that keeps it from being twisted out of its groove by force, as Kwikset demonstrated to security journalists last year.) Hoffman also acknowledged that the rekeying capability isn’t terribly important to Kwikset owners: “We’ve been doing a lot of consumer research on this. Quite honestly, some people don’t think about it or they’re not aware of it. A lock purchase happens about once every seven years, so it’s not top-of-mind for everyone.”
All this said, the revamped SmartKey deadbolts are considered excellent by many independent reviewers. The Kwikset 980 topped Consumer Reports’s list (subscription required), for example—although the Schlage B60N was inexplicably not tested. Finally, to reiterate: The 980 is rated Grade 1 by ANSI/BHMA, meaning it’s got the top certification against forced entry.
Perhaps the last word should go to Tobias, the security expert. He infamously (in the locksmithing world) savaged Kwikset in a 2013 DefCon demonstration. He has since, as he stated openly in our interview, consulted with Kwikset to help them improve. He particularly noted Kwikset’s improvement of the SmartKey cylinder. “I mean, you could literally torque them open with a screwdriver and a box wrench,” he said. “Not anymore.”
He then added, unprompted: “Are they Schlages? No.”
A note about Kwikset’s lineup: In our guide to smart locks, we do recommend the Kwikset Kevo above all others. That’s because it offers a great balance of robust security, low cost, and usability—not least, an easy wireless interface with iOS and Android that makes it simple to give guests or renters temporary access to a property, while many competitors require special software.
Both Schlage’s and Kwikset’s deadbolts offer excellent protection against physical and stealth attacks. In the case of smart locks, Kwikset’s ease of operation sets it apart. In the case of traditional deadbolts, where pure performance is the metric, Schlage gets the edge, based on our locksmiths’ universal recommendations.
Beyond that strong Kwikset candidate, you’re left with the dozens of non-smart-lock items you’ll find on the first few pages of a “deadbolt” search on Amazon, Home Depot, or Lowe’s:
Locks by Baldwin and Falcon also got “Recommended” ratings from Consumer Reports, but are more difficult to find; we think you’re best served sticking with a major brand, if only to make purchasing and servicing them easier.
We dismissed the ultra-cheap deadbolts sold at big-box stores under names including Defiant, Gatehouse, Faultless, Weslock, and Delaney. These mass-produced locks are often advertised as “exceeding ANSI Grade 3 requirements,” which is a mealy-mouthed way of saying they haven’t actually been certified even to the lowest, Grade 3 standard. (They just—supposedly—exceed some of the test measures.)
The Mintcraft HSH-004-BN Security Strike is one of the top sellers on Amazon, and employs six 3-inch screws, giving it tremendous purchase on the doorframe. Unfortunately, the bolt-hole is not metal-lined, meaning just a thin strip of metal, about ¼-inch wide and 1/10-inch thick, is all that protects against a smash-and-grab forced entry—and we were able to twist that strip like a ribbon using just our bare hands. So those six screws don’t mean much.
Locksmith Winton favorably mentioned the security strike made by Door Jamb Armor. It’s certainly as reinforced as you could wish, as it’s several feet long and attaches to the doorframe with nine screws. But installing it is more work than most people would consider reasonable.
We did not make a high-security deadbolt pick, because they a) are all universally excellent; b) generally have to be purchased at a dedicated locksmith shop, and often have to be professionally installed; and c) are more than most homeowners need. The major brands are Abloy, Assa, Medeco, Mul-T-Lock (all fall under one corporate roof, Assa Abloy, but their designs are unique), and Schlage’s high-security lines—the 600, 700, and 800 series.
Based on our research, we’re confident that all will provide exceptional security, but our experts’ input leads us to slightly favor Schlage. The 600 series uses a standard key, but features an additional spool pin in the cylinder—six, versus the B60N’s five—making it that much harder to pick. And the 600-, 700-, and 800-series deadbolts are more heavily built than the B60N, and come with a metal-lined strike. The 700 and 800 series models employ Schlage’s Primus key system, which adds a second set of pins to make picking and bumping virtually impossible for all but true experts. Finally, the 800 series adds key control: Only the lock owner can authorize a locksmith to cut additional keys.
But again, this bears repeating: Most of our experts said that for homeowners, it’s wiser to buy a good, affordable Grade 1 deadbolt like the B60N—already secure enough that anyone breaking in would probably go around it rather than trying to defeat it—and spend the savings on other security upgrades, like an alarm system, better window locks, and/or motion-activated entryway lights.
In reality, most lockpicking is done by locksmiths helping people who lost their keys. But the idea of a thief using lockpicks to sneak into a home long ago caught the public imagination. And picking is a possibility among burglars—though not a likely one—so lockmakers have taken steps to make their locks very hard to pick.
In the case of pin-tumbler locks—like our pick—lockmakers often replace the traditional cylindrical pins with spool-shaped pins or other variants. The end goal is the same: to make it hard for a lockpicker to accurately feel what is happening inside the tumbler as they work. That makes it less likely they’ll succeed in opening the lock. As you move up into the high-security lock realm, lockmakers today also often add a second set of pins, operated by a second set of teeth or a sidebar on the key, that also have to be correctly set before the lock will open. This pushes their pickability into the realm of near impossibility for all but the most skilled expert.
In the past decade or so, a second form of stealth entry has caught the public imagination: lock bumping. It involves using a bump key, aka a “9999 key” (because all its teeth are 9s, the highest tooth-set) to make the pins of a pin-tumbler lock jump upward, via the tap of a hammer or other basic tool. At the same time, the would-be thief twists the bump key in the lock. Done right, all the pins can be caught the moment they align in the “open” position, and the lock springs open. You can find all manner of YouTube videos showing people bumping locks. Newspapers and shows have covered the technique often and breathlessly. But is it a serious threat? Here’s Winton:
“Lock bumping, the media, of course they want to report about it. It’s like a magic trick—it doesn’t seem possible. Does it work? Yes. Is it easy? No. Not even close. This may put it in perspective for you: I have never, ever used a bump key to help someone who was locked out of their home. I’ve tested the theory, and I’ve tried many different approaches to it, but the new cylinders, like the Kwikset Smartkey and like the new Schlage cylinders that have spool pins [like both our picks], drastically reduce the successfulness of that method.
“Does it work really well on the old Kwikset cylinders that used pins and had really sloppy tolerances? Yes. Are those the videos you’re seeing? Yes. Even to the point that most of the videos I’ve seen going around…. as easily as they make those bump, it would not strike me if the locksmiths had tuned those cylinders to make it look easier. I could set it up to make a bump key work [on the] first smack every time. Is that walking up to somebody’s house in the real world, completely at random? No. That’s a completely different scenario.”
To replace a deadbolt, you’ll need at least a medium Phillips screwdriver. You may need a chisel (½-inch or so) and a hammer, to enlarge the slot for the strike. You may also need a drill and a 1-inch spade bit, to enlarge the bolt-hole. A drill with a screwdriver bit will also make the installation of a reinforced strike easier—driving multiple 3-inch screws by hand is a chore.
There’s no better way to learn how to do a job like this than to simply watch someone else work. Tom Silva and Kevin O’Connor from This Old House show the whole process in this video, though they’re working on a new door. If your door already has a deadbolt installed that you’re replacing, you’ll start at 1:25 in the video, when the spade bit comes out. (You won’t need to create the original through-door hole, which TOH demonstrates in the first 90 seconds).
3 a.m. milkshakes.