By Dave Goetzinger
When I began my examination of cheaply made handgun safes, one of the first models I opened via covert means was GunVault’s Minivault Standard, model GV1000S. As a result of recent correspondence from people wanting to know if I might recommend a “biometric safe”—that is, a safe with a fingerprint reader—I decided to look at another GunVault product, the Minivault Biometric, model GVB1000. It’s basically a dressed-up version of the Minivault Standard . . .
The GVB1000 is a California DOJ approved firearms safety device. Page four of GunVault’s online catalog tells us that, “GunVault’s products exceed these standards to give you peace of mind when securing your handgun or other possessions.” Anyone interested in learning just how little California DOJ approval actually means should read my discussion of California’s so-called “firearms safety devices” on HandgunSafeResearch.com.
Most U.S. manufacturers of handgun safes—or importers, as is more often the case—have their own version of a biometric handgun safe, often several. I don’t want to sound dismissive of biometric technology, because it’s hugely popular. But I’ll admit that I’m uninterested in biometrics. I’ve found that the security of a handgun safe is far more dependent on how well protected the locking mechanism is than on how one interacts with the mechanism.
Unfortunately for GunVault’s Minivault Biometric, the locking mechanism is not at all protected. The safe has extraneous holes in its sides, and the holes are located next to the housing inside that contains the locking mechanism. Worse, in order for that housing to accommodate the keyed bypass lock, it has a gaping hole of its own in the side of it. To break into the safe, I simply inserted an unfolded paperclip through one of the holes in the side and into the locking mechanism, where I pushed on the release-wire.
GunVault’s Minivault Biometric is one of those safes I call “a paperclip job.” One that requires nothing but an unfolded paperclip to open. Bighorn’s P-20 Security Safe is also a paperclip job, as is Hornady’s RAPiD Safe. A paperclip job is good for a laugh, easy to return undamaged, and fun to demonstrate to retailers. There’s nothing quite like watching somebody’s mouth drop open. But I don’t think I’d trust it to protect a firearm.