A lot of the gun safes discussed on this site are those massive, heavy, unmistakable steel leviathans crafted to keep your most precious valuables safe from crooks, fires, floods, lava, martians, and Rosie O’Donnell and her demons from Hell. Massive impenetrable fortresses from Liberty, Fort Knox, Cannon, Browning…these are the safes that I dream about. However, unless your wife is cooler than mine, which isn’t possible (she reads this), you’re never going to be able to sleep with a 2000 lbs armory next to your bed. So what good is a Liberty Presidential going to be during a home invasion if it’s downstairs in your basement? Not a lick of good, son. You need be able to reach for a reliable firearm in a hurry to defend yourself and your family.
Yeh, you could sleep with that shiny hot-rodded Kimber Tactical under your pillow, but you might accidentally shoot your brains out during a nightmare, or worse, your kids may find it. The solution is simple, and depending on how simple your needs, you can find it for less than $100; a handgun safe. As implied, the market’s loaded with pistol boxes, all of which have a special place in my heart. You, however, need to decide which one is right for you.
There are a number of features that differential pistol safes from each other, many of which I cover in this post, but the most recognizable distinguishing trait is the lock. In yet another post, we go into a bit of detail on a few of the different types of safe locks. I’m personally quite partial to the ruggedness of the traditional combination lock, but it’s not the greatest option for a bedside handgun safe, as rapid access is key. In fact, I’m not sure you can even find a pistol safe with a combination dial. The two locks you’re most likely to encounter are that of the electronic and biometric persuasion.
Electronic Safe Lock
One of the first things you’ll notice about an electronic entry lock is that they’re significantly cheaper than they’re fingerprint reading cousins. Though you can get into a biometric gun safe a bit faster, the technology that drives the combination buttons isn’t as conducive to high cost. I’ve seen Homak pistol boxes for as cheap $30, and stepping it up a notch, my Winchester EVault only ran me $100. In the case of most electronic pistol safe locks, your going to be dealing with a four button combination. Very rarely do you see a 9 digit keypad. As in the case of the EVault, they’re generally arranged in a straight pattern with raised, easy to feel buttons to allay the frustration and panic of having to punch in the combination in the dark.
With just a four or five button control panel, it’s easy for you to get in quickly, while still maintaining the complexity to make guessing nearly impossible. Even if they decided to sit there and try to guess their way in, they’d have to take a break every 15 minutes – when purchasing a handgun safe, regardless of the locking mechanism, be certain it has some sort of lockout threshold or tamper detect system. This will quickly discourage almost any unwanted casual encounter, particularly with your children.
Biometric Safe Lock
With a biometric handgun safe, you’re cranking up the speed a bit. A fingerprint safe can easily allow access to a firearm in less than a second. The 1.5 seconds that it takes to punch in four buttons on an electronic lock isn’t exactly moving at a snail’s pace, but the convenience that biometric technology enables adds up quickly. Unfortunately, so does the price. Personal fingerprint gun safes can run you anywhere from $120 for the miniature GunVault MicroVault to a cool $1400 for a state-of the art SleepSafe biometric nightstand. Fingerprint recognition is a rapidly growing and ever-improving technology that has encouraged dozens of other safe manufacturers to turn out a slew of different products, giving you, the consumer, a lot of options.
I’m not generally a huge fan of biometric locks on a full size gun safe, at least not as the sole point of access. I do, however, think that they offer a huge benefit in the realm of bedside pistol safes. As already mentioned, there’s simply no faster way to get to your firearm when you need it, whether you can see in the dark or not. But another benefit, often overlooked, is the the option of multiple fingerprint storage.
There are a lot of gun owners out there who have raised their children to respect firearms and handle them safely. If you and your spouse should decide to school your older kids in the ways of firearms self defense, biometric technology makes responsible gun handling easy for both you and your whole family. Some of the best biometric handgun safes can be programmed to accept up to 50 different fingerprints. Even if you’re living alone, you can take advantage of this feature by scanning in your other fingers as well. You can never be certain that the index finger on your strong hand will be free when you need it. Again fingerprint safes tend to cost a bit more, but speed, convenience, and security go a long way.