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Our owners corporation has recently ordered new keys for our apartment building main doors.

We've just received the keys and it's obvious these keys are smaller than the previous keys. The new ones look like regular house keys. The previous ones looked more like what you might find for a commercial door lock.

I'm certainly no expert on these things. However it would seem reasonable to assume that a longer, more complex key ought to be more secure.

I expected that we would be getting keys at least as secure as what we've had in the past.

I'm wondering now if we should go back to the locksmith and tell them these aren't good enough.

Can someone tell me if my concerns are reasonable? Should an apartment building have commercial type keys and locks, or does it actually not make any difference?

update: Having looked into it further, it seems our current keys are security keys, which are apparently more difficult to pick, because they have a much more complicated profile, and (theoretically) cannot be copied by just any regular hardware store key service.

I don't know the specifics of types etc. However the existing keys are all numbered and have stamped on them "Restricted" and "Do not copy". The new keys aren't numbered or restricted at all. They're just regular generic keys.

closed as unclear what you're asking by Harper, Daniel Griscom, ThreePhaseEel, Machavity, Retired Master Electrician Mar 11 at 15:37

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  • You've given us almost no actionable information about the old vs.new locks."the keys are smaller" tells us nothing useful. We would need to know about the particular shape of keys or model of old and new locks. I have a Primus key that is smaller than the big Yale key. Is Yale better than Primus? Heck no. I also have a Medeco that's larger than Primus but only at par for security. – Harper Feb 23 at 14:21
  • @Harper I don't know much about the specifics. However the old keys are apparently restricted security keys. The new ones are not. – user1751825 Feb 23 at 22:12
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The length of the key often corresponds to the number of pins in the lock. All else being equal, more pins makes it harder to pick the lock.

However, all else is seldom equal!

There are standards put out by ANSI/BHMA (the Builders Hardware Manufacturers Association) which allow residential locksets to be graded on their security, longevity, etc. Grade 1 is the best; Grade 3 is the worst (although it still meets minimum standards). These cover ease-of-picking, but also other aspects such as brute force (such as shearing the pins with a simple screwdriver, or just kicking the lock.)

There are other assorted standards out there. You generally have to buy the standards to read them, but many websites have summarized them. Here is a webpage from doorware.com that talks about the different grades and standards. You could ask your locksmith how yours are rated.

I spent a lot of time selecting locks for my new home. I became convinced that nobody picks locks anymore! It's become too time consuming, it requires skill, you have to carry incriminating picks. Instead, a thief will generally kick in the door or break a window, get in and out quickly, and be gone before anyone can respond.

I'd recommend keeping the existing locks and putting the saved money towards an alarm system :)

  • Or they bump locks. – Harper Feb 23 at 14:20
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Well the lengthy of the key may allow more pins that would make it tougher to pick. but many off the off the shelf locks have standard keyways. the new keys may have registered Keyways similar to hospital medical locks , they may be easy for a pro to pick but you cannot file a generic key to make a bump key because to get a blank or similar key would require a license or a similar key. With this information the new keys may be much safer than standard locks for residential locks.

  • A lot of special-keyway locks actually have second rows of tumblers. Rather hard to pick them both at once, and they don't bump. – Harper Feb 24 at 0:13

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