How Do Trigger Locks Work?

Trigger Locks on Ruger .22 LR

Knowing how to securely store your firearm is a key responsibility as a gun owner.

It’s important to make sure the gun is kept away from small children and other unapproved individuals who could pose a risk to those around themselves. In addition, secure storage prevents theft from a possible home invader.

One way to safely secure your firearm is with a trigger lock. But what is a trigger lock? And how does one work?

Keep reading to find out…

The Purpose of Trigger Locks

Like the name suggests, a trigger lock is a mechanism that fits over a gun’s trigger guard to prevent the firearm from being fired. It’s usually a two-piece lock where a sturdy cylinder fits in front of the trigger to prevent the gun from being fired.

And since the trigger lock comes in direct contact with the trigger, it’s not designed to be used on loaded guns. In fact, you should unload your firearm before locking it.

There are a lot of different types of trigger locks, ranging from a simple key and lock to a push-button keypad. Some of the most sought-after are made by MasterLock.

For example, a common one you might see is the MasterLock Combination Lock. With a three-digit combination, it’s easy to lock, and it also has a firm zinc and steel body. What’s even better is that the lock’s width can be adjusted. So whether you want to use the lock for a rifle or a handgun, you’re covered.

Trigger Lock Side View with Key

Advantages of Trigger Locks

Trigger locks in general are pretty popular since they’re inexpensive. In fact, organizations like Project ChildSafe sometimes offer free trigger locks in order to promote gun safety.

Plus, they’re easy to use. You don’t have to worry about attaching a new, complicated piece of technology to your firearm since they can be quickly taken off or put on a gun. Not only that but they also do not add a lot of weight to your gun. Simple, yet helpful.

Disadvantages of Trigger Locks

However, there can be a few drawbacks to using a trigger lock. As mentioned earlier, it should never be used on loaded guns. If you jostle the gun too much even with a lock on, there can be an accidental discharge.

In addition, while a trigger lock can deter a small child from using your gun, it might not do the same for everyone. People have been known to use a screwdriver to pick at the lock, and some have managed to dismantle it with a drill.

This is why it’s important to understand the safety precautions related to trigger locks.

Trigger Locks and Firearm Safety

Like anything related to firearms, safety is a number one priority. While trigger locks are inexpensive, they shouldn’t be the only way you secure your firearm.

They’re an extra security measure.

Accidental discharge can still happen if the gun is loaded and if it’s jostled and/or dropped. In addition, people have been known to pick the locks with screwdrivers. That’s why it’s so important that in addition to trigger locks, you secure your firearm in another way.

Just remember, while trigger locks are extremely helpful in securing your gun, use them as an additional precaution.

Do you use trigger locks? If so, would you recommend gun owners to use them? Let us know in the comments section below!

About the Author:

Richard Douglas

Richard Douglas is a firearms expert and educator. His work has appeared on large publications like The National Interest, Daily Caller, American Shooting Journal, and more. In his free time, he reviews optics on his Scopes Field blog.
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (8)

  1. A trigger lock should never be used where the bar will rest in FRONT of the trigger, because of the risk of accidental discharge. However, if the bar rests BEHIND the trigger, accidental discharge should not be an issue. On the former type of firearm, use a cable lock, if it is not to be placed in a gun safe.

  2. I wouldn’t trust a trigger lock with children in the house unless the key was in a safe. But if you have a safe, why bother with a trigger lock?

  3. I used to use Trigger Locks, but as space and finances improved, I went to a Gun Safe for storage. Back then, the Trigger Locks were more of a pain in the butt (required a “special” key that took several minutes to unscrew the lock), than the newer models I see today. My CC and Home Defense guns are kept in rapid access safes, when not on me.
    Safes are a costly investment though, and they require a certain amount of space, so I can certainly understand why someone can’t afford that option. For the gun owner just starting out, or an old timer with budget restrictions, Trigger locks are a more affordable option.
    Just about any lock on the market is defeatable, given the time and tools, so IMHO, layering your defense against unauthorized use is important.
    When I finished the space under our stairs as my “Gun Room, both sides of the wall have metal lathing under the drywall (you can’t just kick the wall in), and I used a steel door and frame for the small room it created (about 4.5’X 8′). My safe fits just fine as well as some old school lockers to store ammo. A thief/burglar has 3 levels to defeat to gain access, the doors to our home, the door to the gun storage, and the safe itself.

  4. Trigger locks are fine for firearms that are only used for hunting or target shooting, but counterproductive for a gun that is used for home defense. I keep both my EDC and a larger pistol used for home defense in a biometric safe on my night stand. A touch of my index finger unlocks it in a second, and it also has a 4 digit combo lock as backup.

  5. “It’s usually a two-piece lock where a sturdy cylinder fits behind the trigger ”
    I have never used one of these (i have the masterlocks shown) where the cylinder fit “behind” the trigger. I think the author meant “in front of”. They just won’t fit behind.
    Otherwise, they are great for transporting. I use them when i am taking multiple firearms to a gun show.

  6. I depend on Master trigger locks, but, for a small additional cost I ordered mine all keyed-alike. If I order more I give them the key number. Advantage-only have one key to worry about and many spares if lost.

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