When it comes to having a handgun for home defense, you must balance ease of access with security. To this end, what is the best solution? Namely, some sort of secured storage safe that effectively restricts access to the firearm while still offering lightning-fast entry.
When it comes to locks for these types of safes, there are (in general) three primary types. First is a simple mechanical lock, which can operate with a Simplex button combination, a numbered-dial wheel lock or a simple key. The positive characteristics of these are that they are robust, reliable and usually extremely affordable.
The next option is a powered keypad system. In my opinion, the most intuitive of these types are the ones with buttons laid out in a hand-shaped pattern, with each finger lying in its own respective channel.
Going further up the technology totem pole, we have biometric locks. In recent years, this type has become increasingly reliable and repeatable, and also more affordable, with fingerprint readers being the most common type.
Speed & Security
While recently researching this subject for my own home, I headed over to GunVault’s website. A quick perusal revealed a broad selection of units ranging from ones with straightforward mechanical locks to electronic keypad locks and biometric locks. As a result, I decided to try out each of the three types and selected the following, which are ordered from least to most expensive: a NanoVault NV 300, with a numbered combination-style lock; a MicroVault MV 500, with a “No-Eyes” electronic keypad; and a SpeedVault SVB 500, with a biometric fingerprint reader.
NanoVault NV 300: The NanoVault line is made up of the NV 100, the NV 200 and the NV 300. All three feature strong steel bodies (20-gauge steel in the NV 100, and 18-gauge steel in the NV 200 and 300) with memory-foam interiors. The NV 100’s exterior measures 1.75 by 6 by 8.25 inches, while the NV 200’s and 300’s exteriors each measure 1.75 by 6.5 by 9.5 inches. Unlike the key-locked NV 100 and 200, the NV 300 employs a programmable combination lock with three numerals. All three models come with a security cable for attaching the vault to a fixed object for added security.
The NanoVault is designed primarily as a reasonably priced, highly portable handgun storage system. Retail prices range from $34.99 to $44.99 and weights from 2 to 3 pounds. I was impressed by the NV 300’s robust construction and simple operation. Although the NV 300 is very compact, I found that a full-size Government Model 1911 could still fit inside.
MicroVault MV 500: GunVault’s MicroVault line comprises the standard MV 500 and the larger MV 1000 MicroVault XL. The MV 500’s exterior measures in at 2.25 by 8.5 by 11 inches, while the XL’s measures in at 3.5 by 10.25 by 12 inches. The MV 500 features 20-gauge steel construction and weighs 4 pounds, while the XL is made of 18-gauge steel and weighs 8 pounds. As with the NanoVault, the MV 500 features a foam-lined, protective interior and a security cable. It is available with either an electronic “No-Eyes” keypad system (as I received), or with a biometric fingerprint reader.
Unlike GunVault’s MiniVault and MultiVault lines, the MicroVault is designed to bridge the gap between an ultra-compact portable design and a more traditional “bedside” design. Both the MV 500 and MV 1000 feature what the company describes as a “notebook” design, with a top door that opens upward and has hinges at the rear. The electronic lock system is programmable by the user and powered by one 9V battery. An override key is also included. Prices range from $159.99 to $329.99.
SpeedVault SVB 500: With the SpeedVault line, GunVault has upped the ante on radical designs for fast access to a firearm in the home. Designed to be mounted vertically under a desk or on the side of a bedside table, the SpeedVault holds a single handgun via a foam-lined partition in a hinged “shoe” that swings downward when the unit is unlocked. When the SVB 500 is opened, the pistol is presented in a “draw” position with the grip/butt sticking up out of the interior.
The unit is available in two versions: the SV 500 with a numeric code pad made up of four round, numbered buttons, and the SVB 500 that features a biometric fingerprint reader (sample received). Both versions are made of tough 18-gauge steel and come with a mounting-plate attachment that creates multiple mounting options. The lock mechanism is powered by a single 9V battery, and the interior features a courtesy light. An override key is included. Prices range from $209.99 to $329.99.