Easy to install. High-quality safe and biometrics. Can store several pistols as well as other valuables. Key backup for when batteries die. Can be mounted to the floor. Reliable fingerprinting process. Includes an adjustable interior shelf. Warning beeper alerts if the door is left open.
This safe is not very heavy and could be carried off if not mounted properly.
Designed to hold up to 4 rifles. Can be wall mounted or set on the floor. Designed for quiet access. Can store up to 120 different fingerprints. Has a backup key system. Heavy duty metal. Ships quickly.
This is not a fireproof or waterproof safe. It is not big, but it works well for a couple of guns.
3 different ways to enter the safe. Very good biometrics. Small enough to fit in a night stand drawer. Refuses non-programmed fingerprints. Mountable from the inside to a wall or drawer. Easy to program. Foam interior protects gun.
Sharp noise when the latch releases, making it hard to open quietly.
Holds up to 40 fingerprints. Easy to add and delete users. Solid steel. Alerts you to unauthorized attempts to enter. Has a longer battery life than others on the market. Alerts you when batteries are getting low. Does an excellent job opening reliably. Good customer service from the company.
This safe may take a little longer to get into than other models.
Lightweight. Includes backup key. Foam liner. Automatic lockout function. Runs off of a 9-volt battery. Very fast to open. Convenient in a lot of applications.
Gun safe can run through the batteries. When the battery dies, it cannot be opened without the key.
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Want to be sure that no one else can access your gun safe except for you and those you trust? Biometric gun safes are those that can only be opened via a fingerprint scanner, ensuring that anyone who isn’t authorized is turned away.
What was once the stuff of spy films and science fiction is now readily available to the homeowner. But before you buy, there are a few things to consider, such as its strength, size, and weight and whether you plan to mount it to a desk or cabinet or take it on the go. Above all else, you’ll want one that is both fast and accurate (the larger the sensor, the better).
In the buyer’s guide below, we discuss the science of biometrics and its real-world applications in more detail. We also answer a number of common questions related to biometric gun safe ownership.
The dictionary describes biometry as “the statistical analysis of biological data.” Or, in other words, biometrics are measurements of your body. This has applications in security devices because many of your biometrics — typically eyes, palms and fingerprints — are unique to you.
In a biometric gun safe, you first input your unique biometric data via a fingerprint scanner, which records the detail at high resolution — hundreds of dots per inch. Your information is then stored on a computer chip. The next time you put your finger on the scanner, the device recognizes you and grants access. Alternatively, if the person is not recognized, they will be denied. [If you’re interested in other ways to keep your gun secure, look at our reviews on gun locks, gun cabinets, and other styles of gun safes.]
This is particularly valuable in preventing home firearms accidents. It has been estimated that more than 1.5 million handguns in U.S. households are loaded and unsecured. Anybody can get to them — a child, a person with mental health problems, a burglar. These weapons present opportunities for horrifying accidents at home or for deadly consequences if that firearm gets on the streets.
The most basic is what might be described as a lockbox, a strong, secure steel container, which, depending on size, can hold your gun or guns, perhaps extra ammunition or clips, and other items, like a cleaning kit, maybe a holster, or even important papers.
There are single-gun upright designs that hold your firearm in what is effectively a steel holster. They open very quickly, presenting the gun in the ready position.
Biometric cases for long guns also exist, but there are far fewer of them. We think this is mostly because rapid access is less of a requirement for this kind of weapon. However, there are several brands to choose from if you prefer that particular security method.
The scanning unit is clearly a vital component in a biometric gun safe, and they vary considerably. Some will store up to 120 fingerprints, though, frankly, any more than a half dozen seems excessive in most homeowner situations. Most units only require a single digit to be recognized but some use four. Speed of scanning and accuracy are the things to look for. Larger sensors tend to be better (there’s even one certified by the F.B.I.). A common complaint with cheap biometric scanners is inconsistency. Along with the information provided by manufacturers, we also think it’s a good idea to check owner feedback.
Another major consideration is the gun safe’s physical security. Hinges should be concealed, and any seams should be tight in order to prevent any attempt to pry the case open. Thickness of steel has an impact on overall strength and is usually given as a gauge number (lower numbers are thicker). “Carbon steel” is sometimes quoted, which sounds impressive, but actually all steel is an alloy of iron and carbon, so it’s only of additional value if a specific type of high-carbon steel is quoted.
For maximum strength, we like to see two- or four-bolt doors or lids. Some have a smooth and near-silent opening thanks to a gas-filled strut inside. Though it’s nice, it’s not really necessary.
Size will depend on the number of guns you own and whether the gun safe is intended as a fixed item at home or to be used to keep your guns secure when you travel with them. They vary from the compact and easily portable to large heavy-duty cabinets. Be sure to check interior as well as exterior dimensions.
Weight will be a factor if you’re looking for a portable biometric gun safe, but bear in mind nothing that offers a reasonable level of protection is likely to be particularly light. Expect 11 or 12 pounds as a minimum.
Those who want to fix their gun safe in a permanent position will find various mounting options are offered. Some quite small models can be bolted to the floor, and quite a few are designed to be fixed to a desk or nightstand. Long gun cases might also be bolted down or built into wardrobes. Others could be used as a wall safe. Portable models can be temporarily secured using a steel cable (though they don’t all provide this option, and some may need to be modified).
Power usually comes from a single battery, often a non-rechargeable alkaline version. More advanced gun safes use lithium-ion (Li-ion) rechargeables, which have a much longer life, are more reliable, and we think more convenient. Low-cost gun safes may not give you any warning that the battery is on low charge, and you’ll need to open the unit manually (with a key provided) in order to change it. Better models offer various types of alerts, including via smartphone app.
Smartphone apps are provided with some biometric gun safes, and they deliver a range of valuable info, including tamper attempts, user history (who accessed the weapon and when), battery-level indicator, and remote unlocking. Each has variations, so you’ll want to check carefully.
An alternative means of opening the unit is invariably provided. Sometimes it’s a numeric pad, but often it’s just a key.
Some provide internal LED lights, which are activated automatically when you open the safe.
Foam padding or carpeting is often offered to help protect your guns from scratches — though it has limited value if you’re transporting two handguns, as they’re likely to knock against each other. You might want to wrap one to prevent this from happening.
Warranties range from one year (which, to us, seems a little short for a device like this) up to five years.
Inexpensive: The cheapest biometric guns safes cost around $110 to $150. They’ll accept one or two handguns and are generally well made. The common complaint with low-cost models is usually that the fingerprint scanner is inefficient. Other access options are available but that kind of goes against the idea of having biometrics in the first place.
Mid-range: The sweet spot for gun safes — both hand and long guns — is $170 to $250, where you’ll find a huge range of physically secure models with reliable technology. Many also provide valuable information via a smartphone app.
Expensive: There are a few multigun biometric safes that range from $250 to $400. However, speed of access and convenience aren’t such an issue here, so biometrics doesn’t necessarily offer as many benefits. As a result, many high-end gun safes use push-button or tumbler mechanisms.
The AmazonBasics Deluxe Quick-Access Dual Firearm Safety Device is perhaps more of a general secure storage box than a gun-specific model, but it has plenty of space for two handguns and numerous other items. It offers excellent value, though the fingerprint reader does come in for some criticism. The Billconch Biometric Gun Safe doesn’t just offer fingerprint access to a pair of handguns, it also provides a smartphone app with a host of useful features, including fingerprint management, history log (so you can see who opened the safe), and battery check. The Vaultek Slider Series Smart Safe takes a single handgun up to eight inches long and uses precision ball-bearing guide rails to present it perfectly for fast access. The mounting plate offers a quick-detach feature, and, again, there’s a useful app. A quality product with a high satisfaction rating.
Q. What happens if the biometric security fails for some reason?
A. Most biometric gun safes have an alternative mechanical opening method — often a key. It should be obvious that this needs to be kept in a very safe location so as to prevent unauthorized access.
Q. Do you recommend buying a bolt-down gun safe?
A. To an extent it depends on what you bolt it to. It would be very secure if the bolts were set into concrete or fixed to a rigid steel frame, but many bolt-down handgun safes are designed to fit under a desk or on the side of a cabinet. That’s very convenient and will stop casual attempts at removal, but it wouldn’t be too difficult for a determined burglar to pry the safe from the desk if that’s what they really wanted. Nor is it a solution for those who want a gun safe for traveling. You could buy two, of course, one for home and one for when you’re on the move.
Q. Are gun safes fireproof?
A. It’s unusual in small handgun safes, but more common in collector’s and long gun models. However, “fireproof” and “fire-resistant” ratings can be confusing. Some manufacturers use their own system, but without a set standard as reference, it’s not always clear how accurate those numbers are and under what circumstances.
In the U.S., Underwriters Laboratories (UL) conduct independent testing and certification of gun safes. They test for fire endurance, explosion hazard, and fire impact. Safes that pass get a one- or two-hour label. If protection is really important, those are what you should look for.
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