Frequently asked questions

Which handgun safes do you recommend?


The best handgun safes I've examined to date are listed on my Recommended Safes page. Having looked at every major brand of electronic handgun safe, I am reluctant to recommend safes with electronics that do not rely on an entrypad and swing-bolt arrangement, like the Sargent & Greenleaf and Securam locks. An example of this type of lock is intalled on the Rhino Metals Longhorn Strongbox, LSB1818. Safes with this type of lock still have mechanically operated bolts that are drawn back manually, but the bolt assembly is held locked by a separate electronic bolt operated from the outside by an entrypad. As you look through this website, try to keep in mind that this site and the accompanying YouTube and Vimeo channels 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.




Can you send replacement keys? Or, can you send replacement parts?


No, I don’t supply replacement keys. Nor do I supply parts, or perform repair services on safes, or diagnose problems with safes by email. If you’re having problems with a safe, the best thing to do is contact the manufacturer, if the company is still in business, and ask if service is available for the product. If the safe is out of production or you can no longer get parts or service for it, it's time to consider buying a new safe.




Can you recommend a biometric safe?


I don’t recommend handgun safes with biometric technology. In examining these devices, I’ve found that safes with fingerprint readers are unlikely to be any more secure than safes equipped with simple keypads. More importantly, people often refuse to accept a basic fact of aging, that as we age the skin of our hands starts to dry and our fingerprints become harder for a biometric scanner to "see." Once you've reached the age of 50, this will be an ongoing issue when using a fingerprint scanner. 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.




Can you recommend a full-sized, floor-standing safe?


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.




Have you contacted the manufacturers to ask what are they doing to fix the problems?


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 Firearm 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 approves these products is grossly inadequate. If the system worked, I wouldn’t have been able to compromise the safes I’ve broken into.




Is it true that children can open many handgun safes on the market, and is there a product that is child safe?


Parents have been terrified by a 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 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. Only one device I've examined has been vulnerable enough that a small child could open it. That device was the Amarey handgun safe, model HFGS-089. Not long after I exposed this device, Amarey's website came down. When the site was up and running again, Amarey had abandoned its entire product line of outdoor sporting goods. Amarey is now in the business of selling automated vacuum cleaners.




Why don’t you have a rating system for handgun safes?


Rating systems are misleading. They give the impression that the positive characteristics of a device may somehow offset other more serious design issues. However, starting in 2018, I began selectively approving handgun safes, which you can find on my Recommended Safes page. I recommend safes that rely on mechanical pushbutton locks or high-quality electronic locks made by companies like Sargent & Greenleaf. My "stamp of approval" is not recognized by any governmental office or consumer product testing agency.




I have invented a new kind of gun-safety device. Do you know if anyone has invented a device similar to mine? Can you help promote my product?


I get regular emails from people trying to break into the gun-safety industry. Unfortunately, these aspiring inventors routinely fail to research the industry. My advice is this: If you plan to invent security devices, you must study the field of security before diving into becoming an inventor. If you’re interested in firearm safety technology, you also need to research the industry of firearm safety products. Begin by reading the contents of this website carefully.

In addition, if you’ve determined that you do have an innovative idea for a device, writing an email to HandgunSafeResearch.com will not protect your intellectual-property rights or provide you any form of patent. You will have to go through the patent process.

As for promoting products, the gun safety devices I currently endorse are listed at the top of this FAQ section.




Should I forget about handgun safes and use a gun lock?


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 the Gun locks section). 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 Firearm Safety Devices section California's program for testing gun locks is unable to identify the worst products before they go into circulation.




Can you tell me the access code to open a safe I inherited? Or, can you tell me the access code to open a safe I bought at a garage sale?


No, there are no top-secret access codes that will open any random safe. These emails always come from individuals who fail to identify the brand of safe in question. This tells me they are trying to break into safes they don't own. Either that, or they are cops or federal agents clumsily attempting to entrap someone they suspect is a criminal hacker.




How many combinations are possible with a Simplex lock?


The 5-button Simplex lock allows for a total of 2,162 possible combinations. To watch a math video on basic combinatorics, and to learn an approach to calculating the total combinations, watch "How Many Combinations Are Possible With a Simplex Lock?" For a detailed tutorial on how to set combinations with this lock, see the Simplex Lock page.





Common Arguments

These safes are only intended to keep kids away from guns.


The phrase “keep kids away from guns” is a catchphrase. For a variety of social and political reasons, gun ownership in the U.S. has been reduced to a child safety issue in the minds of many people who do not own guns. In fact, people on all sides of the debates over gun control, gun laws, gun rights, and gun safety now invoke child safety to argue their points—whatever the points they’re arguing. But gun ownership is an “everyone safety issue,” as well as a sport, a hobby, and in some instances a defensive measure. If people can be convinced that handgun safes are made to “keep kids away from guns,” then they have no reason to ask themselves, “How would an adult or young adult access my handgun safe?” The owner of one of these products therefore has no reason to question whether the safe has any security vulnerabilities an adult or young adult could exploit. The owner never becomes aware of the safe’s design deficiencies, because he has no inclination to look for them. One of the greatest dangers in reducing gun ownership to a matter of child safety is that companies importing cheap handgun safes only need to convince people, through product packaging and advertising, that a handgun safe is inaccessible to a three or four-year old. If the product appears inaccessible to a small child, the product appears to fill its purpose. It doesn’t actually have to work.




These safes are not intended to permanently store firearms.


I’ll briefly explore this line of reasoning to show why this is the wrong way to look at handgun safes. We cannot expect that gun owners remove their handguns from handgun safes at night and return them to full-sized, floor-standing safes before going to bed, because gun owners tell themselves they want ready access to a firearm for that “bump in the night.” We also cannot expect that gun owners remove handguns from their handgun safes in the morning and return them to full-sized safes during the day. Gun owners tell themselves they want ready access to a firearm for defensive purposes during the day, which is also their reasoning behind getting concealed-carry permits. The bottom line: A handgun safe in any given home has a firearm inside of it. Small handgun safes (or “pistol boxes” or “lock boxes”) are used to permanently store firearms, and there is no arguing about this fact. For those who own a single handgun and who live in an apartment or condominium or townhome, a full-sized safe is not an option. There's no place to put a full-sized safe. The handgun safe is therefore the only realistic gun-security option for these people, and because of that these devices must be secure.




These safes are only intended to keep honest people honest.


This folksy-sounding platitude has the air of common-sense wisdom. In fact, the remark is meaningless. A truly honest person doesn’t contemplate breaking into your handgun safe, and therefore doesn’t need to be kept honest. In all likelihood, people making this remark are revealing their assessment of their fellow human beings: People are fundamentally dishonest. If this is your assessment, then your handgun safe better damn-well work. Which leads us back to the problem with most handgun safes on the market, and my reasons for testing them. They don’t offer real security.




These safes are only intended to prevent “smash and grab” theft.


“Smash and grab” is a catchphrase that causes people to overlook the many reasons for using a handgun safe. Handgun safes are used to prevent unauthorized access to firearms, which may involve keeping firearms out of the hands of small children, tweens, teens, adults with inadequate firearms training, or adults with mental-health issues or substance abuse problems. Individuals not allowed access to a firearm will nevertheless live in close proximity to the safe. They know where the safe is and what is inside it. Therefore, we must consider that a curious individual who is unsupervised for a period of time will have multiple opportunities to explore how to access the safe. If that individual discovers a means of covert entry into the safe, smashing the safe to grab its contents will be unnecessary.




We’re better off teaching young people safe gun handling.


This remark does not in any way address the design deficiencies of handgun safes I’ve examined, so in one sense I can ignore it. But I want to point out something that should be obvious if one gives the matter even a moment’s thought. We put young people through driver’s education to give them the best chance possible of being safe drivers. We cannot ensure that putting them through driver’s education will give them good judgment. Judgment and maturity must come with age. Not surprisingly, young people make up a disproportionate number of the fatalities on the road. They may pass their driving tests and get their licenses, but they are not always ready for the responsibility. Similarly, teaching a young person safe gun handling will not ensure that a young person has the judgment to handle a firearm. Some young people are ready for the responsibility. Others are not. In either case, we’re not “better off” teaching a young person anything without taking into consideration a certain, hard-to-define readiness factor, the knowledge we have of that young person’s ability to make good decisions.




Anybody can break into one of these safes with a pry bar if he really wants to.


The reason we should be concerned about the lack of security in the handgun safes being foisted on gun owners is that one doesn’t need a pry bar to access them. As can be seen in the demonstrations posted on this site, I have accessed these devices using paperclips, plastic zip ties, 7-Eleven Slurpee straws, and other common materials. Many of the safes can be accessed without leaving signs of entry, which means the safes can be opened, the contents can be removed and returned, and the owners of the safes would never know it.





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What you should know before buying a handgun safe.

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what you should know before buying a handgun safe