Even before we had our first child, I knew I had to change the way I stored my firearms. Rapid access to a home defense gun had to play second fiddle to safety. After all, protecting your loved ones is the whole point of keeping a firearm in the master bedroom. Gun accidents can’t happen. At the same time, our child’s arrival strengthened my determination to be prepared for a worst case scenario. How could I ensure quick access to my gun while keeping my child safe from a horrific accident? Enter biometrics. A quick swipe of your finger and I’m good to go.

I did not want or need a large model safe for my master bedroom, just a simple safe for mi pistola in case evil banditos barged in.

[I know RF says an accessible shotgun is the best weapon for home defense, but my kid is just too young and mischievous to have it immediately accessible, even in the dead of night. Moreover, my better half would freak the fuck out if a shotgun joined her Pottery Barn picture frames or Crate and Barrel armoire.]      

After researching biometric pistol safes, I came across a glowing review in American Handgunner for the LockSAF PBS-001.

It’s a simple heavy-gauge steel box with a spring-loaded lid and some biometric circuitry that can hold approximately two pistols and a couple of boxes of ammo. The interior’s is lined with foam at the bottom to protect your handguns’ finish.

In home defense, simple is best. But I found the review in the new products section; coinciding with the first advertisements of the PBS-001 in FMG Publications. Even so, I figured it was worth a shot. I ordered one from my local firearms dealer, sight unseen.

My other choice was a GunVault biometric model. Two things bugged me about this unit. First, there is a large impression of a hand that remains from the non-biometric model. You know, the kind you tap like a cheap Casio keyboard to get to pop. Second, the video on YouTube that shows the unit being accessed by simply knocking the front of the unit. Moreover, for my mounting location, a top-mount  unit would be more accessible.

I brought the unit home for $350 out the door with sales tax, and inserted the included 9V battery. The unit comes with two high quality bypass keys—that look like Phillips-head screwdrivers that popped a couple of Cialis. Once you open the unit for the first time, hopefully you will not need these ever again and they should be stored in your rifle safe or bank vault.

Then you go about the business of programming two ‘administrator’ fingerprints from your index fingers on your right and left hand. The process is simple enough. Press the button for the first time and leave your finger on it for three seconds. It sucks your fingerprint profile into the box as you ponder old episodes of CSI.

After you program your two index fingers, you are done. You can enroll up to ten additional fingerprints  in case your wife, uncle, or housekeeper gets deemed important enough for access. The gun store clerk joked that people have programmed all ten of their own fingers in case a thief broke in and started cutting digits off, they might still be able to get to the safe and save the day. Nice.

Now the fun part . . .

Getting yelled at by the other half ‘How many times are you going to play with that dumb box?’ Just as your go-to firearm has to be 100% reliable in your mind, so does this safe. You just press the main button, get two beeps and a flashing blue light, put your finger on the fingerprint window that is thoughtfully illuminated in red, wait two seconds, and pop! The safe opens.

Now lets try it using only half my finger. Pop! How about after eating greasy KFC? Pop! Believe it or not, after the hundreds of presses, the only two failures I had were right after the shower. Perhaps finger oils make the print more defined? Dunno, but there is a slight failure rate that I am willing to write off for the sake of safety around the house.

After the two failures, I placed my index finger vigorously on the reader window and then it popped on the second try. It does take two seconds for the PBS-001 to get a read, which might be an eternity if social animals are sprinting up your staircase. Let’s go with six seconds if you had a failure at the most inopportune time and had to try again. However, there is always a tradeoff in the Access vs. Safety debate.

Satisfied with the unit, I decided to install it in a heavy piece of furniture, using carriage bolts as suggested in the manual.

This is a brilliant idea because the bolt heads have no surface exposed for grip by any tool, making it very difficult for a thief. Once secured, I moved on with my life—except for one problem that came up weeks later.

It seems the button you press to fire up the electronics to accept a fingerprint lost its spring. Everything works fine, except the nice haptic feel you would get from a power window switch on an Audi was replaced with a GM switch damped in peanut butter. For a unit that only has one button, it really is a letdown.

My dealer got a demo unit in and it responded with a satisfying click. Again, mine still works fine, and it can probably be blamed on substandard plastics from the LockSAF electronics supplier. But, if it were a trigger on a gun it would be deemed unacceptable. Mine is installed so nicely I am too lazy to swap it for a fresh one.

So I am giving the LockSAF a thumbs (finger?) up. I recommend test-driving the unit’s button at the store (you don’t even need to insert the battery to test it) to see if it has a nice click. After that, set it, forget it, and hope you will never have to access it under duress to defend your loved ones.

Style * *

It’s a black box.  But at least the black finish is nicely executed and the chrome surrounding the access button isn’t cheezy looking.

Ergonomics  * * *

The button and fingerprint window are in the right places.  If you get one with a nicer actuating button, add a star.

Reliability * * * *

It reads my fingerprints except when I am uber-clean.  I will not be clean in an emergency.  It rejects everyone else’s prints!

Customize This ****

There are some flexible mounting options you can get creative with.  Desk drawer?  Motor vehicle?  Countersunk in the floor?

OVERALL RATING * * * *

I feel confident that it protects but will be ready in an emergency.

Summary

A solid, simple-to-use safe to protect youngsters and common thieves from getting in, and ready to give you access when the heat needs to come out.


11 Responses to Product Review: LockSAF Biometric Handgun Safe

  1. I’m not suggesting that this would be a problem in a million years in actual use, but…

    Biometric sensors do have a known glitch, and it’s been exploited in spy novels, movies, and on TV. If you don’t “swipe” your finger across the sensor, but simply place your finger on the window, it’s possible to “lift” the print with a piece of adhesive tape or a hunk of Silly Putty, and then reuse it. I’ve never tried it, but from what I hear, it’s a fairly idiot-proof technique. Check out these links: http://www.puttyworld.com/thinputdeffi.html and http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2175640/posts. Apparently, Mythbusters even found that a photostat of a fingerprint would work – which brings up the questions, how easy is it for someone to scam your fingerprints…and how hard is it to keep your fingerprints out of the hands of others. (Does this sound paranoid, or what?)

    I don’t think fingerprint security or biometric cheating is anything to worry about under most conditions, but it’s probably a good idea to at least smear or wipe the sensor when you access the box for cleaning your pistol or taking it to the range – especially if you plan to keep other valuables in the safe. The last thing you’d want is to go for your gun and find that the safe is empty. Just sayin…

  2. Update for Brad- I just tried it and the LockSAF will not easily accept a swipe- it likes a stationary digit. I just ain’t that paranoid but if I do go out of town or I am expecting the KGB for cocktails, then I’ll wipe the surface clean.

  3. It’s nice to be a bachelor. No worry of kids finding my guns so I don’t have to mess around with safes of different styles and liabilities.

  4. I enjoyed those days too Robert…but I'm willing to give up a little freedom around the house for my daughter. I was just talking with someone who leaves his loaded ARs scattered around the house because it is just him. I would not feel comfortable doing that even if it were just me.

  5. Brad, would it be possible to secure it with a cable lock? I am renting and the chances of me getting to pay for repairs if I secure it with bolts are high. I was thinking about using a cable (maybe from the gunvault store?) and then looping it around either the pipes under the sink or the bed frame. Neither will prevent it from being stolen if they wanted it, but at least it won't be packed around the house by my kids! What do you think?

  6. Defcon 19 hacker talk shows how the fingerprint reader can be defeated. lockSAF segment starts at 19:33

  7. Just out of curiosity, how dry were your hands when you got out of the shower? A biometric scanner needs heat in order to read the print so maybe that was the problem?

  8. I haven’t had a chance to review this safe yet, but I’ve been hearing good things about it! It has an average user rating of 4.6 on amazon! so it must be good. Although It still slightly too early for biometrics in gun safes, There are a few out there that are capable of securing your firearms. I believe this is one of them.

  9. These is one of the best biometric lock..but if someone is determined to open it..der nothing one can do with any safe as is presented in the defcon hack video..Otherwise there very slim chance of pry opening/picking this safe compared to other..which should be the only reasonable concern in small safes because they are of course not very strong to sustain blow with hammer or drilling..

  10. I’ve had this pistol safe for about 2 yrs now. It can sometimes be finicky if your finger is too dry so If you lick your finger wet, wipe the access on your shirt then place it on the reader it will always open. Just think of it as if you were clearing a malfunction on your pistol. It is a heavy duty construction and the solenoid mechanism assembly is also enclosed in a steel box of it’s own so unlike the video where a guy uses various wires to move the latching mechanism to open the Stack-on safes this one would be more difficult to achieve without trying to drill an access hole. I do have mine bolted down with 4 thick carriage bolts in a very tight space where all 4 sides have no access to work with. The only other thing since this requires a battery I always keep a spare 9v next to the unit. The Locksaf will tell you if your battery is low and it’s time to replace by after opening the safe with an authorized finger print it will flash red and beep several times. In the Defcon 19 video they opened the safe making molds of the authorized finger print and after using several different combinations of rubber was finally able to open it, but it was suspect since it will read through latex or translucent rubber gloves although he said it opened when an unauthorized finger used the rubber impression of the authorized one. When I do get another pistol safe I’m thinking of the Fort Knox model since it doesn’t need batteries since it uses a mechanical Simplex type of combination lock and is of similar heavy 8 or 9 gauge steel.

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