A Guide to Electric Locking for Narrow Stile Aluminum Storefront Doors

Updated on February 27, 2020
Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom has more than 35 years in the door hardware industry: over 16 years in hardware distribution, and 17 years as a commercial locksmith.

Whenever you plan to change the door hardware on an exit door, consult your local fire marshal or building inspector first.

Single Narrow Stile Aluminum Door

During the design phase, how a narrow stile aluminum storefront door will function is often unclear. In these cases, the doors are often shipped with the Adams Rite MS1850 deadbolt pictured below, shown here with a turn knob cylinder on the inside and a regular key cylinder on the exterior side.

If electronic access control or remote unlocking is desired, the MS1850 deadbolt will most likely need to replaced by a locking mechanism that will lock automatically and can be electrically released.


Adams Rite MS1850 Deadbolt

If the Adams Rite MS1850 deadbolt is installed within the usual range of 34 to 44 inches above the floor, it can be easily replaced with a latch that will lock automatically and work with an electric strike.

You can re-use the cylinder left over from the MS1850 in your new latch.

Below is an illustration of the door prep that is universal to the Adams Rite MS1850 deadbolt and 4510 and 4900 series latches.

Adams Rite MS1850 Deadbolt Prep
Adams Rite MS1850 Deadbolt Prep | Source

Replacing the Deadbolt With a Latch

On the door side, replacing the MS1850 deadbolt with 4510 or 4900 series latch is easy because the door preps are identical, but you need to match the backset of the latch to the backset of the existing deadbolt.

The common backsets for both the latch and deadbolt are:

  • 7/8 inch (rare)
  • 31/32 inch
  • 1-1/8 inch
  • 1-1/2 inch

Note: Choosing the wrong backset makes an otherwise easy installation difficult.

Below is a picture of the Adams Rite 4510 dead latch.

Choose Your Backset Wisely

Choosing the wrong backset makes an otherwise easy installation difficult.


The Adams Rite 4590 Paddle

In smaller spaces, the Adams Rite 4590 and 4591 paddles, used with 4510 or 4900 series latches, are permissible means of egress. For larger spaces, an exit device may be required. Consult your local building inspector or fire marshal to be sure.

The illustration below shows how the 4590 is installed.

Installation of latch and paddle.
Installation of latch and paddle. | Source

Installing an Electric Strike

The illustration below shows the slot that is cut into the door frame to receive the bolt of the MS1850. This slot must be covered up in the course of installing an electric strike.

In the illustration, the path of the latch of the 4510 or 4900 in relation to the strike slot for the MS1850 is shown in gray, and below is marked the place where a standard 4-7/8-inch electric strike face plate falls short of fully covering the slot. The solution is to install an electric strike with a face plate that is 6-7/8 inches long. Many manufacturers offer 6-7/8 face plates for this reason.


  • Von Duprin 5200 series
  • HES 5000 with 503 face plate
  • Adams Rite 7130 or 7430


Electric Strike Frame Prep

The blue rectangle on the diagram below shows how an electric strike with a 6-7/8-inch face plate fully covers the strike slot.

You can also see how much work must be done in order to install the electric strike. It can be done with an electric drill and a file over a matter of hours, or with a high speed hand grinder in less time, but professionals use a plunge router. The result usually requires a small amount of touch up with a file and takes less than an hour.

Major Manufacturing offers a complete installation template kit for Adams Rite locks and electric strikes called the HIT-30, but if you only plan to install an electric strike you can buy a couple of individual templates to get it done. You will also need a 1/2-inch, 1-1/2 HP router, a 5/16-inch carbide end mill cutting router blade, and a 3/8-inch outside diameter router guide.

When cutting or drilling aluminum, be sure to wear long sleeves and face protection. Those aluminum shavings are hot.

HES 5000 with 503 option face plate frame prep with former location of strike slot for MS1850 deadbolt shown in blue.
HES 5000 with 503 option face plate frame prep with former location of strike slot for MS1850 deadbolt shown in blue. | Source

In addition to cutting in the strike prep, mounting tabs will need be installed to accept the mounting screws of the strike as in the illustration above.

Avoiding the Electric Strike

To avoid installing an electric strike, you have at least three choices:

  1. Electrified latch
  2. Electrified exit device
  3. Exit device with surface mount electric strike

The Adams Rite 4300 electric latch lock also retrofits into an existing MS1850 prep and can be used with the 4590 or 4591 paddles. Since the electric function is fully contained in the latch, no electric strike is needed. Wire must be brought into the door via a door loop, electric hinge or power transfer, through the top tube of the door, and down the inside of the lock stile to the latch.

Adams Rite offers an optional surface mounted strike for use with the 4300 to ease installation.

Adams Rite 4300 Steelhawk electric latch lock.
Adams Rite 4300 Steelhawk electric latch lock. | Source

Electrified Exit Device

Electrified exit devices can be an ideal solution when circumstances demand an exit device to comply with life safety code, and they are a reliable, secure, and relatively easy way to electrically lock a door.

When starting with the MS1850 deadbolt, your choice of exit device may be affected by the location of the existing deadbolt.

If the centerline of the deadbolt lock body is between 34 and 42 inches from the floor, you can probably use an Adams Rite 8400 mortise exit device with motorized latch retraction to replace the deadbolt. The 8400 series uses the 4900 series latch that will go right into the existing deadbolt prep. The strike will need to be cut in, but the prep for this strike is much simpler than an electric strike prep. The power wire for the device extends from the hinge side, so no need to run wire across the door.

Adams Rite 8400 series exit device.
Adams Rite 8400 series exit device. | Source

Other Exit Devices

When the MS1850 deadbolt is higher than 42 inches or lower than 34 inches, the 8400 series exit device may not be code compliant if installed in that location. Installing it in a different location would mean cutting in a new door prep - a lot of work.

You can use the Adams Rite deadbolt blank-up kit (part number BFK-MS1850) to cover the edge prep and a couple of dummy mortise cylinders to fill the cylinder holes and install an exit device elsewhere on the door.

You cannot simply leave the deadbolt and install an exit device in addition. This is a life safety code violation.

Since you are not using the MS1850 prep, for single doors you can use a simple rim exit device. Rim exit devices are surface mounted, so are the easiest to install. You can use an electrified exit device, or you can use a plain exit device with a surface mount electric strike like the HES 9400. The choice depends on where it is easiest to run the wire. If it is easier to get wire to the hinge side, use an electrified rim exit device; if easier to get wire to the lock side, use an electric strike.

All major exit device manufacturers make rim devices for narrow stile aluminum doors, both mechanical and electrified.

With this solution you will generally be unable to re-use the mortise cylinder from the MS1850. You will need a rim cylinder or an exterior lever trim to accept a mortise cylinder, but this mortise cylinder will need a different cam than the MS1850.

Von Duprin 33A series rim exit device.
Von Duprin 33A series rim exit device. | Source

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Tom rubenoff


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