There are three grades of locks in terms of the quality of the parts used to make a lock. They are grades 1, 2 and 3. Grade 1 locks are the highest quality (strongest) and are therefore harder to break or destroy. This means they have metal parts, not plastic and a grade 1 might be steel and have other features to stop drill bits and other forms of attack, where a grade 2 might be brass, and its security might be less. Grade 1 locks are designed to be tamper proof, both from the inside and the outside. A grade 3 lock might have exposed screws on the inside of the lock making it easier to tamper with if you have access to the building. A Grade 1 lock, would require a special tool and possibly a key in order to remove the lock from either side. Some locks will advertise themselves as Grade 1 but they haven’t been certified as such. The certifying body for lock grades is Ansi/bhma.
Big box stores typically sell Grade 2 or 3 locks. Most certified Grade 1 locks are only available from locksmiths or locksmith supply companies or manufacturers. Grades are only one factor in determining the security of a lock. Grades speak to the resistance to attack and force. The other aspect of security is the locking mechanism itself. A higher quality mechanism would be more resistant to pick attempts and bypass attempts. For example, a standard lock bought at a big box retailer would have one locking point, meaning there is one mechanism that if manipulated correctly will open the lock (eg. A basic key with one set of cuts goes into a cylinder with one set of pins and if they match close enough (right height) the key will open the lock). Often, if the cut of the key is close you can giggle it and open the lock.
Medeco M3 is a high security locking mechanism that has three locking points and it has far tighter tolerances for what is accurate enough to open the lock. Normal key pins are round, Medico key pins are angled so that within the lock cylinder they have to be oriented the right way and the matching key has two dimensional cuts. So, with a Medeco key, in order to open it, you have to manipulate the height of the pins while simultaneously manipulating the rotation of the same pins at the same time, all while manipulating the side bar depth. To top it all off, you must get it exactly right on, or it won’t open. They are also made of harder materials such as titanium and are specifically designed to be drill resistant. Finally, you can’t go to your local hardware store and get a copy of a Medeco key. They have strict key control. Each Medeco system has one owner, which can be Medco itself, a locksmith company or supply distributor or the end user company. Only the owner of the Medeco system can make additional copies of that key. Each key system has a unique keyway and only the owner is authorized to acquire additional keys and the factory will not sell them to anyone else. High security locks are also tested against the standard UL-437.
So who needs high security locks?
Simply put, industrial or big businesses. Residences typically have windows, so if someone wanted in, the easiest way is to break a window rather than going through the lock. Another important point is that the Medeco M3 has some of the largest master key systems in the world, meaning you can have master keys that can work on a number of other master key systems. Many city buildings, hospitals, large apartment buildings, and the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa, in Dubai are master keyed by Medeco. These locks are quite expensive and designed for large applications.
While they may not be for every application, should you need a high security lock, you can’t go wrong with Medeco. I have done my factory training in M3 and X4 Medeco locking systems and can recommend them.