Let’s get this out of the way up front. When it comes to firearms, biometric locks aren’t for everyone. Whether it’s used on a safe, a security box or a gun lock, some people just don’t want to rely on electronics when it’s time to get to their guns.
At the same time, plenty of people like the ease of use of a biometric lock. They’re usually familiar with them — most people have a phone or other device that has one — and speed and ability to avoid using a key or remembering a combination are big pluses.
If you’re on the ever-increasing pro-biometric side, the Vara Safety Reach 2 gun lock should definitely intrigue you. The US-made Reach 2 is an attractively (some would say elegantly) designed gun lock that you can mount just about anywhere to keep a handgun both secure from unauthorized access and available at a moment’s notice.
The Reach 2 comes with the main lock unit and a holster insert of your choice, a charging mount, AC cord, keys, mounting screws and a well-written instruction book. Vara makes Reach holster inserts for dozens of guns. If you have a semi-automatic pistol, Vara probably has a holster insert to fit.
The Reach 2 is an upgrade over their original model in a number of ways. First, Vara has increased the speed of their electronics opening the unit much faster than before. They’ve also added an RFID unlocking option and significantly increased the battery life as well. Where the original Reach had a batter life of about 10 hours, the Reach 2’s battery will keep the unit working for six months on a full charge.
You can attach the charging mount almost anywhere; to a nightstand, under a desk, in a car (there’s a car mount adapter available)…virtually to any flat surface. An electric cord plugs into the charging mount and keeps the lock unit charged when it’s inserted.
Vara also offers a “security attachment” that they say will withstand over 200 pounds of force to prevent someone from ripping the unit off its mount.
The Reach 2 has, of course, a key lock backup system. You also use the key to unlock a sprung cylinder that holds the holster insert, letting you swap them out for use with different guns if you want.
Changing them out is simple. Just unlock the unit, slide the cylinder down and off and swap inserts.
For the biometric skeptics out there, the technology has come a very long way over the years since they first started to appear on consumer devices. They’ve become extremely reliable…much more so than the first iPhones, which many people still compare fingerprint ID pads to. Recognition takes less than half a second.
It’s easy to register multiple fingers for a user…or fingers for a number of authorized users in the unit. The unit has literally never failed to open and open quickly through hundreds — maybe over 1000 — test cycles.
I also wanted to see how well the fingerprint recognition worked with dirt and moisture. I dipped my thumb in flour, then tried the pad.
It worked perfectly with no additional delay. I had to literally cake my thumb in flour and completely obscure my fingerprint to get the pad to fail.
As for moisture, a sweaty or damp finger works just fine. However if your finger is fully wet (dipped in water, then put on the pad), it won’t recognize your print. In that case a quick swipe of your finger on your shirt dries your digit enough for the Reach 2 to recognize you and open.
Additional holster inserts for different model guns are available for $24.99.
Vara also offers an RFID kit for the Reach 2 which includes a bracelet, a key fob and a couple of RFID-enabled stickers. You can register the RFID items with the base unit and hold them near the lower portion of the top of the unit to unlock it.
I’m less of a fan of that. You will always have your finger(s) with you. Well, you should. If you don’t, you probably already have problems that your gun won’t solve…and how would you pull the trigger anyway?
Obviously you can keep an RFID bracelet, fob or item with a sticker on it locked up somewhere, but that seems to defeat the purpose. RFID-enabled items around the house present a much more likely opportunity for an unauthorized person to get access to your handgun. But you’ll have to make that decision for yourself. The RFID kit is $19.99.
RFID doodads aside, the Reach 2 is an excellent solution for a lot of people who want to keep a handgun close and quickly available, but ensure that kids and others can’t access it. It’s beautifully designed and works extremely well. And given its price, it should. The American-made Reach 2 sells for $274.99. That’s a pretty penny, but plenty of people will be willing to pay that much for something that’s as attractive and functional as the Reach 2. Vara Safety certainly is betting on that, anyway.