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.
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.