Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Why don’t you provide a list of handgun safes worth buying instead of showing only the worst ones out there?
A: I have not been deliberately targeting only the worst safes I can find. I also have no secret list of genuinely secure handgun safes. If you’ve seen my videos looking at Fort Knox’s Original Pistol Box and Liberty Safe’s HDX-250 Smart Vault, you’ve seen the best of what I’ve found. But I don’t recommend safes, because somebody will probably find another way to compromise them tomorrow.
Keep in mind, this website and the accompanying Vimeo channel are not consumer reporting services, and I don’t represent myself as having qualifications to test products for consumers. This research began as investigative journalism. I established these online resources to share the results of that investigation, and I continue to do follow up research and add to the database.
Q: Can you recommend a biometric
A: I don’t recommend handgun safes with biometric technology. So far in my examinations of these devices, I’ve found that safes with fingerprint readers are unlikely to be any more secure than other devices. I discuss biometric safes on the Handgun safe design page of this site, and I go into the design problems that undermine safes with biometrics on the Findings & discussion page.
Q: Have you contacted the manufacturers, and what are they doing to fix the problems?
A: Nearly all the safes I’ve examined are made in China. So, no, I haven’t bothered contacting the Chinese manufacturers. Nor do I bother contacting the U.S. importers. These companies do not evaluate products they import for how secure the products are. As I discuss in the Firearms Safety Devices section, U.S. importers rely on California Department of Justice (DOJ) approval to tell them whether their products are appropriate for storing firearms. But as I also explain, the process by which California’s DOJ tests and approves these products is grossly inadequate. If the system worked, I wouldn’t have been able to compromise the safes I’ve broken into.
Q: Why don’t you spend more time in your videos talking about the cheap bypass locks installed in handgun safes?
A: The majority of electronic handgun safes are fitted with locks that allow one to get around the electronics should batteries need replacing. Roughly 70% of handgun safes out there have tubular locks. Approximately 25% are fitted with wafer locks, and the remaining 5% are fitted with cross locks. Only one handgun safe I’ve examined is fitted with something other than one of these locks. Cross locks, tubular locks, and wafer locks are all easily picked using tools available online. The reason I don’t discuss this is that every importer and manufacturer of handgun safes is approached regularly by lock-company reps, who try selling them on upgrading the bypass locks. But companies marketing handgun safes have no incentive to make changes, because the cheapest locks continue to pass muster with California’s DOJ.
Q: Can you recommend a full-sized, floor-standing safe?
A: If you’re in the market for a full-sized safe, I recommend reading through the Gun Safe Reviews Guy website before making any purchases. Jaime Capra has condensed a tremendous amount of information on the manufacture of large safes, and he’s taken the time to demystify the arcane language of UL standards. He’s also done a fair amount of myth busting with regard to the claims that manufacturers make about their products.
Q: Is it true that children can open many handgun safes on the market, and is there a product that is child safe?
A: Parents have been needlessly terrified by a shock video online showing a three-year old apparently opening handgun safes. The video, “THREE YEAR OLD TOBY OPENS DIFFERENT GUN SAFES,” was put together in 2012 by Marc Tobias and his colleague Tobias Bluzmanis. Parents often don’t realize that the child was coached in order for Tobias and Bluzmanis to capture their “shocking” video.
In one segment, for example, the 3-year old son of Bluzmanis is seated behind a Stack-On QAS-1000 drawer safe. He has a lock pick in hand (his father happens to be a locksmith). He pokes the keyed bypass lock, asking, “¿Aquí, Papí?” He’s speaking Spanish. He’s saying, “Here, Daddy?” (“Papí” is an affectionate form of “Papá.”) Tobias says something unintelligible and removes the rubber fitting from the top of the safe, upon which the boy shoves the pick down the hole he’s been shown to use. The safe pops open. Viewers who know nothing about the safe don’t realize the latch mechanism inside has been compromised already, allowing the safe to be opened easily.
In my opinion, none of the safes I’ve examined can be opened by a three or four-year old. As I’ve shown on video, the Fort Knox Original Pistol Box, Liberty Safe’s HDX-250 Smart Vault, and Vaultek Safe’s VT20 and VT20i are not as vulnerable as other handgun safes I’ve examined. If small children are your primary concern, these should suit your needs, so long as the safes are properly bolted down.
Q: Should I forget about handgun safes and use a gun lock?
A: No, a gun owner should never trust the security of a firearm to a gun lock exclusively. As I've shown a three-part series on gun locks, many gun locks on the market are easily compromised with common items like brass paper fasteners, coffee stirrers, and screwdrivers. (See Gun locks, Part 1, Gun locks, Part 2, and Gun locks, Part 3.) Most of the gun locks included with firearms sales are imported products from China or Taiwan. The locks are of poor quality, and as I explain in the Firearms Safety Devices section the program California has in place for testing gun locks is unable to identify the worst products before they go into circulation.
Q: Why don’t you post video showing people how they can make their handgun safes more secure?
A: The reason I haven’t pursued this is that I don’t want to be responsible for causing people to alter their handgun safes and void their warranties. Also, the safes I’ve examined offer multiple ways of gaining access. I try to show only one or two easy ways into these devices, attacks that can be accomplished using ordinary tools and materials. In order to make these devices secure, a person would be taking on something like a home-improvement project that might involve buying tools and materials and finding the time to do the project. Then there would be the business of actually doing the work myself, recording video to show how to do it, etc., etc., none of which has anything to do with investigative journalism.