Every serious gun owner should already have a primary gun safe in the home. A heavy, armored vault that will defeat determined, if not expert, thieves with a crowbar or cordless drill and the time to use them. In addition to safeguarding the rest of your collection, such a safe is where you keep the Big Gun, a shotgun or carbine of decisive firepower which is too big to keep handy next to your bed. These big safes are great, but . . .
Unless your bedroom is also your gun room (or your wife has very accommodating tastes in home decor) you’ll also need one or more secondary safes where you can securely stash a handgun for quick and convenient access when something goes ‘bump’ in the night.
An Inadequate Solution
More than three years ago I experienced that bump in the night (most likely from opportunistic thieves vigorously checking to see if my front door was locked) and I didn’t have that secondary safe. My pistol and shotgun were locked in the big safe in my closet, and I learned that it took a noisy eternity to find my keys and arm myself.
To fix that problem and cut fifteen awful seconds from my zero-dark-thirty response time, I went to Harbor Freight and spent about thirty bucks for the small and not-terribly-secure lockbox shown above. It would barely slow down a thief with a crowbar, but it would keep the kids (and more importantly their friends) from getting their hands on my home-defense hardware while I was downstairs.
It did its job, just barely: It kept my pistol handy at the bedside, but it was only large enough to hold a micro-9mm with no weapon light. Even worse, the electronic keypad beeped loudly. So much for surprise. That little lock-box was almost adequate for my needs, but when I upgraded my carry pistol to a compact double-stack 9mm I had to twist and maneuver it into and out of the little safe. So much for speed.
At least I still had ‘violence of action’ in my favor.
A Much Better Solution
The new Heavy Duty Handgun Safe from American Security is a vastly superior bedside gun safe, and also an excellent choice for bolting into the cab of your truck or the trunk of your car.
The hinged steel carrying handle makes it look like a Midcentury Modernist metal briefcase, right out of The Matrix. It may or may not be big enough to hold Agent Smith’s .50 Desert Eagle (sadly I do not own one to test this) but if you want to lug it around with you you’ll need to download all the muscles Dozer has from the Nebuchednezzar‘s computer.
This handgun vault/apocalypse briefcase weighs twenty-three pounds. Empty.
How’d They Manage That?
The bottom and sides of the vault are welded from 10-gauge steel which is just over 1/8″ thick. The door is an even beefier 3/16″ thick. The 5-button Simplex lock is housed completely inside the 10-gauge steel walls, and it can’t easily be punched by exterior drilling because it’s also housed within an internal steel security box.
The lid is attached to the box by a heavy-duty full length welded piano hinge, whose ends are protected by generous lips of steel shown here.
The lock and lid weigh nearly ten pounds, which would be monstrously difficult to lift without this gas piston assist. Just like the tailgate of your wife’s minivan, the gas piston makes the lid easy to open and keeps it there. That’s a good thing, because this thing could break all your fingers if it slammed shut on you.
This isn’t the only clever feature of this safe, but it’s one of the most important.
This safe uses a five-button Simplex mechanical lock. No keys or batteries are required, and there’s no tell-tale BEEP when you press the buttons. Once you’ve set the combination you want, it takes less than two seconds to press the buttons in sequence and turn the bolt knob counterclockwise.
And you will want to set the combination to something other than the factory setting. Every lock enthusiast out there already knows the factory preset combination by heart (look it up) and leaving it there is like setting your computer password to ‘password.’
The Simplex lock allows you to set any combination of key presses to open it. This procedure is pretty easy, but I was carefully advised to only attempt to set the combination with the door opened. Just in case I screwed up.
If you ignore this advice and lock yourself out, you can eventually discover the proper combination if you press each possible combination after the other. But this is going to take you a while, because there are 1082 possible combinations and you have to reset the tumblers between attempts.
Any number of keys can be pressed at the same time on a Simplex lock, and not all keys must be pressed at all. Each key can be pressed only once. This gives 1,082 possible combinations, which will take even a diligent and systematic thief quite a while to defeat numerically.
Because it’s a purely mechanical lock, the Simplex doesn’t keep track of failed combination attempts and can’t lock itself down if too many incorrect combinations are entered.
The Simplex lock throws this fairly massive bolt, which latches inside the the bent lip of the 10-gauge box steel. It’s further protected by the bent lip of the 3/16″ lid. If the bad guys defeat this safe it won’t be with a crowbar: it will be by a more cerebral method of numerical combination hacking.
The Simplex is a rugged and simple lock, but it doesn’t have enough possible combinations to resist a systematic combination attack for more than an hour or so. It won’t keep a determined thief out forever, but it will slow them down significantly while still locking securely and allowing immediate (silent) access for you. Remember that this is a secondary firearm safe, for keeping a pistol handy while you sleep. When you go to work, your bedside pistol should be on your hip or locked in the Big Safe.
Even a torch-proof vault with a biometric lock isn’t secure if a thief can just carry it home with him. Even if he can’t break into it, the vault has failed its purpose because you won’t be seeing the contents again.
To keep this from happening to a small safe, you need to bolt it to something bulky, strong and heavy. This safe has four predrilled mounting holes in the bottom, which come plugged with plastic sliders.
If you’re temporarily using this safe in your car, you can also attach it to the car with a short, stout cable looped through a hardened eye-bolt or even the heavy-duty steel handle. These are less secure than bolting the safe to the floorboard of your car or trunk, but remember that it only needs to delay a smash-and-grab car prowler long enough that he’ll give up and move on to the next car.
The safe has external dimensions of 10″x 12.5″ x 4.5″, with a little extra space for the bolt knob and the hinged handle. The interior measures about 9.5″ x 12″ x 2.25″ because the Simplex lock mechanism takes up almost 2″ of depth in the safe.
The lid of the safe is lined with sticky-backed open cell foam, which protects your gun from rubbing against the steel box that surrounds the lock. The floor of the safe has a 1″ thick open cell foam pad and another 1″ thick pad of pre-cut ‘pluck’ foam shown here. You can pluck the cubes out to make a fitted cradle for your handgun, and you’d definitely want to do this if you’re going to mount this safe in your car. For bedside use, you can just remove the pluck foam sheet and sandwich your gun between the lid and the bottom foam sheets.
The interior has plenty of space for nearly any practical handgun regardless of size or accessories. (S&W X-Frames and .50 Deagles need not apply.) It also has ample room for a tactical flashlight and a spare magazine, because you’ve paid attention to Clint Smith. You were paying attention to Clint Smith, right?
I didn’t try to test this safe to destruction, nor did I time myself through the tedium of trying every possible lock combination. If a burglar has the time and patience, they can eventually defeat a Simplex lock. But you probably won’t be leaving your carry gun in this safe when you’re out of the house anyway.
While you’re away, it’s an excellent idea to leave your bedside safe empty but locked. A burglar won’t know if it’s empty or full (not when it weighs 23 pounds, anyway) and they may think that a less-secure bedside safe is low-hanging fruit. This will hopefully lead them to simply cut it loose in hopes of opening it at home later, instead of scooping up your other valuables or attacking your main gun safe.
The American Security Heavy-Duty Handgun Safe is a very very sturdy secondary gun safe with a lot of good features. The vault is extremely solid, and the lock opens quickly and silently without the need for batteries or illumination.
Street price for the American Security Heavy Duty Handgun Safe is $200.
RATINGS (Out of five stars; highly subjective)
Strength * * * *
Nearly as thick as the steel on your main gun safe, with a well-protected hinge and few pry points.
Lock * * *
Strong and hard to punch, but a limited number of combinations means that a patient burglar could hack it while you’re at work.
Capacity * * * *
Big enough for any sensible handgun and those ‘dead of night’ extras you hope you’ll never need. On the large side for a bedside safe, yet still small enough to slide under the bed frame.
Fit And Finish * * * *
Very slick, smooth and finely put together. And perfect for Matrix cosplay, if that’s the way you roll.
Overall Rating * * * *
A great choice for a truck or bedside handgun vault, and comparable with other handgun safes in the $200 price range.
UPDATE: Click here for the review of American Security’s lighter EZ Carry Handgun Safe