About this site

This website contains the complete research I conducted while writing a piece of investigative journalism titled “Safe Cracking Is Too Easy,” published in the September 2015, issue of American Shooting Journal. The piece exposed the design defects and security vulnerabilities of popular handgun safes. The article was first posted online at ASJ on July 21, 2015, under the title “It’s Too Easy To Crack Your Gun Safe.”  Months later, I wrote a follow-up piece titled “Lawfully Defective Gun Safes” for Ammoland Shooting Sports News.

Most of the devices I’ve broken into are marketed as being approved by California’s DOJ, meaning the devices meet the criteria of what California statutes call a firearms safety device (FSD). The concept of an FSD is described in California’s Penal Code, Title 11, Division 5, Chapter 6, which describes two kinds of FSDs, gunlocks and lock boxes—or, as manufacturers market them, handgun safes. California DOJ approval of a lock box implies the device is secure and appropriate for storing firearms. However, the evidence I’ve uncovered demonstrates quite the opposite. Approval by California’s DOJ does not mean a device is in any way appropriate for storing a firearm.

—Dave Goetzinger

About handgun safes

Chinese manufacturers build safes by throwing together copied and recycled designs. Almost no engineering goes into Chinese-made safes being sold in the U.S. To learn about the engineering problems with these products, see the Discussion page.

U.S. importers do not evaluate Chinese-made safes for their security, and occasionally market light-duty office safes as gun safes. For a detailed look at how to evaluate these devices and the locking mechanisms inside them, see the Methodology page.

California’s DOJ is approving these products for use as firearms safety devices. Although California Penal Code, Title 11, Division 5, Chapter 6 does not require any proper testing of handgun safes, the statute has become a nation-wide standard for these devices. Shortcomings of the statute are described on the page titled, Firearms Safety Devices.

Many of these Chinese-made products are marketed as being TSA compliant, suggesting the devices are appropriate for transporting firearms aboard an aircraft. The guidelines for Transporting Firearms and Ammunition, established by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), involve no testing of products and provide no detailed description of a TSA-compliant firearms container. For more on the TSA’s guidelines, see TSA.

Finally, despite California DOJ approval and alleged TSA compliance, these products are easily compromised using a wide variety of common materials including paperclips, coat-hanger wire, metal shims, coffee stirrers, 7-Eleven Slurpee straws, and plastic zip-ties. See the Demonstration Videos page for details.