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Keeping Little Hands At Bay

The birth of my daughter presented me with some huge challenges.

The GunVault Bio allows owners to secure a loaded handgun, keeping it away from kids and intruders, but still access the firearm in mere seconds.

The birth of my daughter presented me with some huge challenges. The first was how to bury all those boys in the backyard without the authorities finding out, but I had 17 or 18 years to figure that one out. The most serious and immediate concern was securing the firearms in my home. My office, the whole house really, looks something like a small arms factory gone mad with rifles, shotguns, pistols, and revolvers laying around in various states of disassembly. Ammo from .50 BMG on down to .17 HMR could be found in various quantities from the kitchen to my bathroom. The first baby-proofing step was to gather up the long guns, short guns, handguns, and ammo and drop them into the gun safe--simple enough. But that left a huge question to be answered, namely, what was I to do with my personal-defense guns?

I have long lived by the maxim that if you cannot bring your weapon to bear on a threat in five or six seconds, it is pretty much useless. Those of you who keep your "self-defense" guns unloaded and locked away in the gun safe--a good 20 or 30 seconds away from boom--take note: Life comes at you fast, and life-or-death self-defense scenarios are no exception. A motivated attacker can kick your door off its hinges and reach any room in your house in less time than it takes to read this sentence.


Yet those same guns should be safely secured so as not to be used against you by an intruder or, worse, end up in the hands of your untrained children. It will be over a decade until my kid can handle a self-defense gun, so the problem is having near-instant access while keeping an intruder's hands--or more likely my daughter's--off the firearm.


A plethora of companies make handgun storage vaults, some better than others. Most require a key, which I do not recommend. Quite a few people I know keep up with the key by leaving it in the safe's locking mechanism, which defeats the purpose. Trying to hide a key from your kids is pure folly, as is trying to get a tiny key into a tiny locking mechanism in the dark under stress. GunVault has two excellent solutions--a small vault equipped with a keypad and a more advanced model with a fingerprint reader.

For the last nine months, I have secured my carry gun in a GunVault Bio. This one-gun safe is large enough for most any handgun/weapons-light combination and uses a fingerprint to unlock the safe door. To operate the safe, simply place your hand on the safe's keypad, press the button under the middle finger, and place the pad of the index finger on the scanner. An LED light and quiet beep let you know the scanner is active. If the fingerprint reader gets a match, the spring-loaded safe door drops open in three to five seconds.


The system is powered by an AC adapter. A 9-volt battery backs up the adapter in case of power failures and provides enough juice to open the safe several thousand times or last an entire year, according to GunVault. The LED light and beeper will let you know if the battery is running low. If all else fails, there is a key override that drops the door.


The GunVault Bio uses a fingerprint to unlock the spring-loaded door. The reader recognizes 30 different fingerprints and opens in three to five seconds after activation.

Since my life--or more importantly my wife's life--might be riding on this little miracle of biometric technology, I was initially very skeptical of the fingerprint reader. The only reason I chose the Bio safe over the traditional keypad models was ease of use by various family members in an extremely high-stress environment. You can keep your eyes up and scan for a threat while opening the safe instead of trying to line up tiny combo numbers in the dark. The keypad model works much the same way, you just have to remember the sequence under stress.

Programming the reader is simple--it can store up to 30 different fingerprints--and only takes a minute. After programming, I tried every way possible to make the reader fail or trick it into opening for an unauthorized user. The system uses a self-learning algorithm to read fingerprints and captures additional print details each time the safe is opened, all in an effort to reduce the chances of future mistakes. With that said, the safe was never fooled into opening by an unauthorized user, i.e. all my buddies that visited in the last nine months. Occasionally, the system failed to correctly read my print, about one in 15 tries. A second try always opened the safe. It takes 10 to 12 seconds for the door to open counting a first-read failure. Placing the index finger on the scanner the same way each time will significantly reduce failures. The way the keypad is addressed and the pressure with which the finger is placed on the scanner are essential. Just like a draw stroke from the holster, it is something that should be practiced.

While mounting hardware and a template are included, my wife and I just swap nightstands, depending on if I'm home or not. At just 9 pounds, the Bio is also pretty handy for securing my handguns in hotel rooms or friends' houses when I travel, which is another reason not to screw it down to the floor. Sure, someone could steal the entire safe, but its 16-gauge steel construction and sturdy lock virtually eliminate the chance it will be pried open by an intruder while still within my house. There is a high-strength steel security cable available to reduce the chances of the entire safe being stolen. For me, the point is not theft prevention, it's about keeping the gun out of the wrong hands.

The interior is lined with foam, and a small LED light illuminates the interior when the door is opened. If you are one of the unfortunate souls who only owns one gun but has other valuables to store, there is a two-shelf model that is 8 inches tall. The GVB 1000 (one-gun model) sells for around $300, and the GVB 2000 (two-gun model) goes for $330. If that is a little pricey, the standard keypad models sell for $100 (one-gun model) and $140 (two-gun model). There are cheaper pistol vaults, but I refuse to trust my life or that of my wife and daughter to a lesser product.

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Specifications

Model: GVB 1000
Manufacturer: GunVault | 800.222.1055
Dimensions: 8x5x12 in.
Weight: 9 lbs.
Powder Source: AC adapter, 9-volt battery back up
Price: $300

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