Vara Safety Reach: The Gun Safe You Never Knew You Needed
Courtesy Vara Safety
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Vara Safety Reach: The Gun Safe You Never Knew You Needed
Courtesy Vara Safety

Back in January of 2018, I received a Facebook message from a friend back in New York about a startup that was developing a new product in the gun space. He immediately thought of me and concealed carriers, because it’s right up our alley.

The circumstances surrounding the future encounter were rare to say the least, as he had been introduced to the new product by a neighbor, who also happened to be part owner of the company.

Small world.

“Fingerprint gun safe? It’s been done before.” That was my immediate response. Moving on.

Then, I was introduced to Christine Tate, the COO of Vara Safety. We exchanged some emails as I was introduced to the product, called Reach, and it wasn’t long before I understood what a great idea they had.

The Introduction

In March, I flew up to New York so that I could meet with Timothy Oh, the founder of the company and the brains behind the product and its technology.

Timothy is a firearms enthusiast and grew up around firearms his whole life.

Timothy demo’d the Vara Safety Reach in my hotel room, and was quick to inform me that it’s still in development and that this was not the final product. It didn’t even matter. I was immediately thrilled with the concept.

I sent off a text and picture of the prototype to Dan Zimmerman over at The Truth About Guns and told Timmy that he’d love it. I wasn’t aware that Timmy and Dan had already talked about the product, and he was just as intrigued as I was.

Timothy’s company had secured $1 Million in funding at the time and had won numerous tech competitions. As a result, things kept moving forward with development (and excitement).

EXCLUSIVE: WIN A Vara Safety Reach & $500 Towards A Firearm

Join the launch list and get $100 off on Reach, AND be entered to WIN your very own Reach, along with $500 towards the gun of your choice.

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Read the contest Terms & Conditions here

Fast-forward to SHOT Show 2019, where Christine Tate was present at their booth so that they could showcase their product to the world (more about her below).

It was an absolute hit.

But what exactly is it? What is the Vara Safety Reach?

The Product

In a nutshell, it’s a safe and it’s a holster. It allows your firearm to be secured, while giving the user access in less than half a second.

Vara Safety Reach: The Gun Safe You Never Knew You Needed
Courtesy Vara Safety 

The Vara Safety Reach uses replaceable inserts based on the firearm you are looking to secure. Think of the inserts as the Kydex portion of your holster; the part that’s molded for your particular firearm.

With everything securely mounted on your bedside dresser, vehicle console or office desk, it simply takes a thumb print scan to grab and go. The pad, seen above, is in the position of where your thumb will naturally gravitate to when going for your firearm. With the technology used, the quick scan approves or denies the attempt to gain access based on the thumbprints that are already stored inside the unit.

Vara Safety Reach: The Gun Safe You Never Knew You Needed
Courtesy Vara Safety

Here’s a quick video that shows what the Vara Safety Reach is all about:

Vara Safety Reach: The Gun Safe You Never Knew You Needed
Courtesy Vara Safety

The People Behind The Product

Timothy Oh is the founder of Vara Safety, and being in the firearms industry came as no surprise to me after hearing about his history.

“I grew up with guns, learning firearm safety at a young age and was trained by my uncle who is a police officer the Los Angeles Police Department,” Timothy told me.

“When I was 17, I won an idea competition at my engineering college for a firearm safety device. That idea was then posted on where it went viral… in a really bad way, getting completely decimated by the forum.”

Instead of taking a hit and being down for the count, Timothy chose a different route. He continues, “So I ditched that idea and conducted research at the Los Angeles Police Department that summer, where I learned to shut up, listen, and come up with a better solution.”

The part that intrigued me was how open Timothy was to others’ feedback during his efforts to make the best product that he could.

“The driving forces after that became continual feedback from gun owners, with me going out and directly meeting over 1500 people from military, law enforcement and civilian backgrounds. Over the last few years, I took every single prototype and put it in front of gun owners (even when I got pulled over for speeding, I demo’d my prototype to the officer on the side of the highway). The support of the gun community in giving feedback is what helped make Vara Safety into a successful startup,” said Timothy.

Next up to bat is Christine Tate, who had a chance encounter with Timothy during a competition that he was involved with, of which she was a judge. Out of 2,200 teams competing for a $100,000 prize, Timothy easily took home the gold.

Christine said, “I was one of the entrepreneurs in residence at RPI that judged his very first idea of a barrel lock. We decided he was one of the winners alongside nine other teams.”

During that competition, Timothy took some advice and put together the best pitch he could for the final competition. He completely changed the product based on all the advice and comments received. It was this drive and determination, along with a loved product, that kick-started things.

“Then he killed it on stage – blew everyone away. I am a longtime judge of this event – his was the very first time there has really been no discussion among the judges on who won the day –  all pretty much agreed it was Timmy and his gun safe. He won the $100,000 out of 2200 teams (Spring 2016)!  I went up to him after and said ‘lets really do this’ and have been working with him ever since.”

Christine is also a life-long firearms enthusiast and has her concealed carry permit in New York State.

The Technology

Let’s get back to the product, and this is where the Vara Safety Reach really stands out from the crowd.

From their website;

Your thumb naturally aligns onto the fingerprint sensor when you grab your gun. Industry-leading biometric technology ensures reliable access.

– Unlocks under half a second
– Only unlocks for authorized users
– Up to 5 users can be added

Reach will automatically lock in your handgun. The locking mechanism prevents brute force removal and accidental discharge.

– Auto-locking mechanism
– Unique safe locking system
– High strength metal alloy

And it’s not just the scan that’s done in half a second. That half second includes the scanning of your print and the unlocking of your firearm. You’d be hard-pressed to find a biometric outside of your phone that can do things this quickly, let alone a safe.

Vara Safety Reach: The Gun Safe You Never Knew You Needed
Courtesy Vara Safety

And as it’s essentially a holster for your gun, the trigger is covered at all times.

To power the device, it utilizes power via an outlet. If the power goes out, a back-up battery keeps the thumb print working. If all else fails, a key that’s provided with the Reach will give you access to your firearm.

The Availability

Look for the Vara Safety Reach to hit the market by Summer 2019. If you sign up for their newsletter prior to launch above, you’ll receive a coupon for $100 off your Vara Safety Reach purchase.


This post originally appeared at Concealed Nation and is reprinted here with permission. 

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  1. Looks interesting, seems interesting, might even be neat-O. But…

    Doesn’t it suffer from all the things we hate about smart guns?

    • I see two main problems with this concept.
      1. Speed. We all know computer scanners of every type suffer from slowdown, mistakes in scan, etc. If I need my bedside gun, I will be needing it NOW, not after minutes of fiddling with a tech device.
      2. Mislabeling. Calling a device mounted to a desk or dresser in a plastic housing is hardly a “safe”. It might well secure your firearm from your kids(or even from you when you desperately need it), but can anyone look at that mount and tell me that a thief couldn’t just bust it into pieces with a big screwdriver, and have your gun and your “gun safe” both? He might have to take it home(or have a hammer handy) to get the gun out, but it’s hardly an anti theft device, which is the meaning of “gun safe”.
      They could fix #2 by just renaming it something like a “storage locker”, but #1 won’t be such an easy fix.

    • Neophyte OFWGs maybe. I am 100% for smart guns. As long as it’s MY choice to have smart features, and not legislated/required for everyone.

      • “I am 100% for smart guns. As long as it’s MY choice…”

        The technology failings of “smart guns”, or “smart safes”, or “smart” gadgets are not political. The technology failings of “smart guns”, or “smart safes”, or “smart” gadgets are not a result of law, or lack of law.

        The technology failings of “smart guns”, or “smart safes”, or “smart” gadgets stands alone as impediments to reliable self-defense.

    • Already don’t like that they are misleading in their claim to give ppl who sign up a $100 discount when the unit appears for sale.

      Turns out you have to sign up yourself AND a friend’s email to get the $100.

      No friend = no discount.

    • “The liberal states will mandate these things at some point if you keep a gun loaded at home.”

      That’s a no-go according to the ‘Heller v. DC’ decision.

      DC’s requirement a gun must be stored locked / dissembled was expressly ruled unconstitutional…

      • “DC’s requirement a gun must be stored locked / dissembled was expressly ruled unconstitutional…”

        The Supreme Court made their ruling, now let them enforce it.

        • Then what a *wonderful* way for someone to get fiscally-rewarding payday from the government that violated their civil rights… 🙂

      • Umm, sorry, that is not EXACTLY what Heller holds. It holds that an owner cannot be required to maintain his firearm disassembled, unloaded, and with the ammunition in a separate room. But you CAN be required to lock up your firearms (whether by a security device/cable or safe) when it is not in you personal possession. San Francisco has such an ordinance (as does Los Angeles in a “me too” law) that was upheld as constitutional by the Ninth Circuit. At present, a bill has been presented in the California Legislature that is roughly equivalent. that will mandate locking up guns, loaded or unloaded, when not in one’s personal possession, by which they mean ON your person, not in the bedside table. It’s for the children, and if it saves one innocent child;’s life, it is a minor infringement….so goes the argument. (I have little doubt that this will be the law come January 1).

    • My Note 9 is very good about fingerprint recognition. I actually find it faster to turn the screen on via the
      (very well placed) fingerprint option than the button. I get a short delay (1 or 2 seconds) maybe every 50 tries. I get a rejection maybe every 300.

  2. Might be useful to someone with kidz or other prying eyes and fingers.
    Serves no purpose for me though. No need to lock up my bedroom gun as its also my EDC and within reach 24/7.
    Now even if I did leave a loaded gun say in my nightstand drawer. I still wouldn’t leave a loaded gun in an open top safe while I wasn’t home.
    Doesn’t seem to be burglar resistant given all day to play with in a home.

  3. It’s not already a product, because other creators have long-since dismissed this “idea”.

    Perhaps the market is amenable at this point in time, but I really doubt it if the facts about that fingerprint scanner are shared with the customers. Especially at his theoretical price point.

    Short of an implanted RFID, this “tech” is too unreliable to be taken seriously. Again. Still.

    • If the thumbprint sensor was replaced with a small joystick that unlocked in response to a set series of movements I would find it more viable

      • “If the thumbprint sensor was replaced with a small joystick that unlocked in response to a set series of movements I would find it more viable”.

        Why not just a multi-character code to be punched-in? More delay is what you need when you really need your gun.

        • Left-right-left-up on a thumb stick is pretty fast. Between that and a thumb print that doesn’t work all of the time I would take the extra 1/4 second.

          • “Left-right-left-up on a thumb stick is pretty fast.”

            If you are accessing a firearm under duress, as in emergency need, you are stressed. Stress induces, or is a result of a charged adrenaline dump. Fine motor skills decline rapidly. Mistakes follow. Time lost.

  4. The fingerprint thing is cool if it works every time. I like the idea. I’m just not sure I’d ever use any electronics to secure my firearm. That’s the beauty of a mechanical device ya know? If the metal and chemical properties are within spec then it goes bang every time.

    • I agree. I keep all my guns in safes with mechanical simplex locks. We don’t have children ourselves, but our nephews live right up the street and are at our house often enough to warrant locking everything up, and it’s a basic theft deterrent. Bolt a heavy steel simplex safe to your nightstand, practice with your combo until it becomes muscle memory, and it’s just as fast as any electronic safe while being 100% reliable and nearly completely unhackable. Even the most well designed electronic devices are vulnerable to water and moisture damage, which can cause shorts and failures. A well designed, time-tested mechanical device on the other hand is simply going to work every time you need it to.

  5. My phone recognizes my thumb & finger print 100% of the time…like the concept and have faith that it’ll work as described.

    • That’s awesome but this looks more like the thumb print ID at my local grocery store’s checkout, and that thing works maybe 1 out of 10 times when the manager has to do some stupid over ride or age verification.

  6. This appears to be “powered” by electricity. Of course, the back up battery won’t take a charge after about a year, so keep the key next to the holster. Sounds great to me.

    • Won’t take a charge after a year? If it’s designed right it’s a pass through charging circuit for a lithium ion battery. So somewhere between 400-1500 full discharge cycles and only ever discharged during power outages.

      Even junky lead acid UPSs will do 3-5 years under those conditions. My guess is that it’ll do closer to 10.

      • Thanks for the info. I still won’t trust me or mine to a powered anything. Have had a power surge kill electronics.

        • That’s what circuit breakers are for. Simple electronic circuits and even simple microprocessors like this holster has are quite reliable. It doesn’t have to withstand recoil and it’s not internet connected, so the common and correct objections to smart guns don’t apply here.

          My only concern is how well the sensor works when the owner’s hands are wet or bloody. Otherwise, I’d say this is probably the best fast access child gun lock on the market. I have no need for it, but I’m glad it exists for those who do have use for it.

  7. Curious to see someone evaluate it and try to break it. I am of the camp that safes and most other forms of gun storage are the illusion of safety in many ways but still.

      • Exactly, a professional burglar will break open any safe given enough time and motivation. It’s more about keeping curious children away from things they don’t understand. In my case, the wife and I don’t have children ourselves, but our nephews live right up the street and our at our house often enough to warrant locking everything up. And because they’re not our children, it’s not our responsibility or even our place to teach them about firearm safety.

  8. Nice concept. Hope they continue the R&D to one day include pistols with attached lights and/or lasers. It’s in the dark of night when my pistol and attached Streamlight TLR-1 is placed in a lockbox on my nightstand. Most pistol lockboxes will accommodate the standard attached pistol accessories, however they look very obvious and ugly. Leaving the pistol out and unsecured invites unauthorized handling. This new device is thinner, sleeker, and seems to be able to blend in discretely. Will have to keep my eyes open for additional models.

    • I was curios about that too. Found it here on their website:
      “How does Reach lock my handgun?

      Reach uses a unique locking system that was specially engineered for handguns. When you push your handgun firmly into the holster, it automatically locks it into the safe. A strong metal lock holds the front trigger guard and prevents the gun from being pulled out by force.

      The lock entirely avoids the trigger, making sure that accidental discharge by trigger pull is not possible.”

  9. NOT TIL HELL FREEZES OVER! I’m a retired ER nurse. For years our drugs have been locked up, with similar bio-metric access. At every advancement in the technology, I was given password access because fingerprint access just didn’t work for my HUGE hands. Why do I wear size XXXL gloves? Because I can’t find any larger!
    Kudos on the design and concept, but be aware there are limits to the technology. If the system works as advertised for you, wonderful. I am jealous. But, as with ER drug access, if lives are time dependent, be certain the technology ALWAYS works for you.

  10. The last time we had a significant power outage it lasted for 5 days, in a neighboring County it was 11. A number of expensive things had permanent failures because they depended on electricity. I’ll pass.

      • Thats why I have two generators. And, please remember, that’s why the unit comes with a key. No, not as fast, but certainly accessible . I’m not big on hi tech, but I can see possibilities. This stuff has been around for many years. Maybe this is the big deal.

        • In one commercial property effected the failure of the building hvac control system cost the owner 30 grand (the back-up battery died). I did buy a generator for the home but I use it to power heat, refrigeration, septic, and several lights. The rest are candles. If you’re rich enough for a whole house generator and can run it off propane, more power to you.

    • No can-do, Kemosabe :

      ” 3. The handgun ban and the trigger-lock requirement (as applied to self-defense) violate the Second Amendment . The District’s total ban on handgun possession in the home amounts to a prohibition on an entire class of “arms” that Americans overwhelmingly choose for the lawful purpose of self-defense. Under any of the standards of scrutiny the Court has applied to enumerated constitutional rights, this prohibition—in the place where the importance of the lawful defense of self, family, and property is most acute—would fail constitutional muster. Similarly, the requirement that any lawful firearm in the home be disassembled or bound by a trigger lock makes it impossible for citizens to use arms for the core lawful purpose of self-defense and is hence unconstitutional.

      • Uh huh. Tell it to the Ninth Circuit. Jackson v. City and County of San Francisco,746 F.3d 953 (9th Cir. 2014). Since then, most of the counties or cities around SF have adopted similar or identical ordinances. It oesn’t matter that it is a crime to allow an unsupervised minor to gain control of a firearm, with penalties increasing by whether and to what extent someone (including the child) was injured or killed.

        • there’s quite a bit i’d like to tell the 9th.
          but i’d rather scotus delivers the message. they would be far more polite than i.

          • “It’s my understanding that Trump is filling vacancies on the 9th.”

            Trump cannot fill any federal court vacancies.

            He must rely on the Republicrats and Never Trumpers to vote confirmation. We are almost finished with the second month of this Congress, and how many were confirmed? How many are awaiting action?

  11. I’m wondering who is the target audience?

    Is this device supposed to serve as a safe while away or just when you are in house? Maybe children are the concern?

    With a batt. powered sawzall a skilled robber will get that firearm pretty quick.

    It looks cool and futuristic though…….

  12. I met this kid at a gun shop in Troy NY 3 or 4 years ago when he was looking for a barrel safety system. The gunship was called oakwood gun store, he was a nice enough guy but he was way off on his design. He wanted a prescription bottle locking mechanism that you could put on your barrel. It didn’t make any sense and obviously was dangerous in nature. You had to press a device on your barrel to secure your gun…… I am very happy that this guy ultimately came up with what looks like a good idea. I thought the original idea was awful and dangerous, this current idea might actually have some promise. It’s pretty funny, he referenced his LAPD uncle when he was explaining his barrel blocking safety………. small world. Rpi is a first rate engineering school for what its worth, and the guy seemed pretty smart in person just a little bit off with his design. I’m glad it came together ultimately.

    • If the background story was true, I’m impressed he wised up to his need to shut up and listen at that young an age.

      It takes most folks a few years to figure that out, and for far too many, they never pick that skill up…

  13. Hope the company has deep pockets. The first time this item fails to unlock when it should and someone suffers harm or death due to that failure they are going to need lots of cash and lawyers. Because this type of tech is fun and interesting and is OK for NONCRITICAL access needs… unlocking a computer etc.
    you DO NOT WANT TO DEPEND on it in a life threatening situation. It’s the same reason intelligent gun
    owners oppose “smart guns”. Tech like this can AND DOES fail…..and usually at the worst possible moment.

  14. Seems like puffery, not a hit at SHOT. I’m only hearing about it weeks later. Besides all the problems with recognizing a fingerprint every time you need it, how is this really different from the fingerprint trigger lock, except that it’s attached to something? Seems like more same old same old. Biometric individual gun safes have been around forever, and this doesn’t seem that much better. What stops an inquisitive child from activating the trigger by sticking a stiff wire between the frame and the holster? The pictures show it fitting a Glock pretty tightly, but what about other guns? Does it fit other than a standard Glock frame, and does it need a specific mod to do so?

  15. … but I’m left-handed :-[

    TTAG Article idea: What advantages (if any) do left-handed & left eye dominant shooters have over right-handed & right eye dominant shooters?

  16. Do they have a better fingerprint mechanism and spend at least as much as Apple on fingerprint R&D? Because my iphone fingerprint reader works about 90% of the time IF my fingers and dry and the reader is clean (which is about 50% of the time). If my fingers r damp my iphone rarely reads my print. If I hear someone bust8ng in my home and I’m reaching for my gun to use, chances are my hands are sweating. With that said, if others feel comfortable with a fingerprint reader, go for it. And if it sells well enough, the politcians can use it as an excuse to mandate fingerprint readers on all guns.

  17. Cool idea, but I don’t yet trust consumer level biometrics. Too many failures to recognize AND the occasional failure to reject an unauthorized user. Basically… if I feel need to secure my gun, I don’t think this would be enough. If I don’t (I’m the only one there, gun is next to me, etc) then a regular holster would work as well and not have the issue of wondering if the fingerprint scanner will work right the first time, every time.

  18. How about all these people who want to keep me safe just mind their own damn business, and leave me alone.

  19. Appears I’m alone in this idea: How is the magazine protected from errant removal?
    Kids might not get the gun, but appear to be able to readily remove the magazine.

    I’m agree on sketchy reading rates at times of high need, and left handed draws.

  20. One thing stopping me from using a fingerprint ID safe of any style is fingerprint reliability itself.
    This tech is based on the old idea that each fingerprint was unique, this is now known to be false and why fingerprinting is rarely used anymore, even the FBI have dropped its use for the most part.

    Also, the main use for this would be if you have other people around, and other people can open a fingerprinted ID, ones related to you have an even better chance.

    My kids would try scanning their fingers for hours a day to get it to work, so even if the company said, “oh, its a one in a hundred chance” well, in 5 minutes they would have access to my firearm.

    Hard no from me thanks. Plenty of other small safes that use fingerprints and pop open to allow access to your handgun out there, might take another half second but I’m gonna guess the price for this will be about $1000 or more judging by the $100 off.
    For those arguing whats your life worth, is that half a second worth $1000.
    If you thought it was that big of a factor, why are you locking it up then, wouldn’t you want it in your hand?

    • Citation on that “fingerprints aren’t unique” statement?

      FBI still uses fingerprints. They maintain the national law enforcement fingerprint database. ATF requires fingerprints on NFA applications. US Immigration takes the fingerprints of every person who obtains a visa or who is apprehended illegally entering. Every law enforcement agency still uses prints. Because they are unique.

  21. Cops first! Make law enforcement use this technology on their holsters. If they universally adopt it on the streets, then mandate home owners use it. See how that goes.

  22. installed near the entrance at locations where you still wish to enter despite being wanded. no such place may exist for many, but to be able to park your gat for a quarter may appeal to some.
    or better yet for handgun rentals, call it “pistol on the go.”

  23. Hmm, I have a 5 year old at home and have been looking for something so I don’t have to keep my EDC high up in the closet at night. This might just be the perfect thing to do the trick.

    • Do you know what “vaporware” is? That’s what this is. He’ll never make a dime profit on it even it he gets all the bugs worked out and custom fitted for a hundred different handguns, and it will disappear into the void of stupid ideas. Just like every other “smart” gun tech.

  24. I had a drill sargeant once tell me”Locks only keep the honest people honest” this seems to apply here.
    Seems like a useful device along the kid safe theme. But 10-15 minutes any teenager who really wanted it would have the gun out.

  25. Strike 1: Needs batteries
    Batteries die – and even if it used solar panels or some other magic, electronics die way faster than mechanicals

    Strike 2: Uses fingerprints
    Way too easy to fake fingerprints. Worse, even if that weren’t a problem the thing has a record of your fingerprint in electronic form, and it likely could be used for your other fingerprint-authenticated doodads (or vice versa)

    No need for strike 3.

  26. I have a gun safe that can accept either fingerprints or a key.
    I’ve found it’s faster to use a key, because it takes me about three tries to get it open using the fingerprint reader. The key is not only faster, it’s quieter, because the fingerprint reader on my safe also gives a series of loud beeps each time you try to open it, so in a life-or-death situation, these loud beeps would announce to the bad guy, “Homeowner is trying to open his gun safe now, come and kill him before he manages to get it open!”

    Of course, with keys, you could always have a delay if you use the wrong key (I have two keys that look alike, and you can guess why!), but it’s still quicker to try two different keys than it is to use the fingerprint reader.

  27. I have been using two Barska biometric safes for many years. I use their “Two-rifle” size a minimum of twice every day. On the very rare occasion that it fails, it works on the second try. I trust it more than I trust my ability to accurately punch in a code on the first try after getting adrenaline-jumped out of a sound sleep. I can’t speak to any other brand, but the key with Barska is to scan your fingerprint many times from multiple angles. I also have fingers from both hands scanned.

    My safes beeped, but the beep can be deactivated, which I promptly did. They also have a low-battery warning and a keyed backup.

    Given this experience, I am looking forward to trying the Vara.

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