Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Low-cost, low-tech gun "safes" ... aren't


A very worrying report comes out of Iowa.

An Iowa family wants a safe taken off the market after their 6-year-old opened it and took a gun to school, KETV reported.

. . .

As gun owners with a little boy in the house, the Shenandoah, Iowa family bought a safe to make sure their gun was secure. Only a registered fingerprint can unlock it. At least that's what the family thought.

"We put those safeguards in place. We did our best. We thought we were doing what we needed to do to protect our family and community. And unfortunately, it just didn't happen in this scenario," said the 6-year-old's father.

In early March, the man's 6-year-old son was on the school playground at recess when teachers found a gun in his backpack.

"They confiscated a gun from a student and they needed officers out to the school," said Shenandoah Police Chief Josh Gray.

Gray said he contacted the boy's parents, who insisted the gun had been in a locked safe.

"He just saw the safe and then he put his thumbprint on it and it opened right up for the kid," Gray said, confirming that the safe, sold by a Chinese company named "BBRKIN," unlocked for the 6-year-old.

Police went to the home to check the safe.

"The father was more than willing to work with us, show us anything we wanted to examine," Gray said, adding that an officer examined the safe. "He went to go put his thumbprint on the safe, and right away, as soon as my officer did that, the safe opened right up for him, which it's supposed to be just for that owner and his thumbprint."

In fact, the family quickly discovered any fingerprint, or even toe print, unlocked the BBRKIN gun safe.

There's more at the link.

To make matters even worse, it appears that the manufacturers had been aware of the problem, and had updated their safes to fix it - but without telling purchasers of the earlier version about it, and without upgrading or repairing their defective safes.  The potential for tragedy is obvious.

Sadly, it's no longer possible to believe manufacturers' claims about their products without checking them first.  Nowadays, if I buy anything made in China, I test it to make sure it does what it says it will, without any problems or inherent risks, before I trust it.  As an example, I'm currently working on a comparison article dealing with camping and "bush" knives, hatchets, tomahawks, etc., comparing my African experiences with those encountered in this country.  Most of the products I'm looking at are Chinese-manufactured.  It's pleasantly surprising how many of the low-cost tools are not bad quality at all, and very usable.  However, it's less pleasantly surprising to find that others are basically made of cheap pot-metal, brittle and unsound, and break in use.  That could pose a real danger to life and limb when one's out in the boonies, far from medical assistance.

If you have a lower-cost gun safe, one using biometric factors to open its door, you might want to check and double-check whether it's reliable in keeping out anyone except authorized users.  Lives might literally hang on the result.



Anonymous said...

The other issue with fingerprint safes is that fingerprints aren't as unique as most people assume them to be.
I have heard of cases where higher end fingerprint safes will open to close relatives of the person they are set for, especially their children (those cases, fortunately, were responsible adult children).
I fee the technology is new enough that I wouldn't trust it as primary security, only for secondary levels of security after a better lock.

Rick T said...

The LockpickingLawyer channel on Youtube is a great resource to check the security level of these devices. As a quick check if a video is under 3 minutes the device being tested is probably a joke, and a dirt cheap gun locker is just that: dirt.

First, what happened to Eddie Eagle gun safety training so the child didn't pull the gun and haul the gun to school when he could open the locker?

Second, why was the gun locker someplace a 6 year old had easy access? I'd have kept it higher off the ground or in our bedroom to make it less easy to see and play with.

Finally, if the gun locker was in his parent's bedroom WHY was the child wandering around in there? When I was that age I already knew my parent's BR was entirely OFF LIMITS, the three of us avoided it on pain of pain and suffering (ours, of course)...

Lots of levels of fail here, at least no one was shot.

Old NFO said...

And if you don't have, or have obscured fingerprints, you may have trouble with them. I like plain old combo locks by Sargent and Greenleaf.

Fredrick said...

The finger print story, true or not, does not eliminate the parent's obligations, which they certainly failed at.

Tree Mike said...

A new level of Chinesium.

XTphreak said...

@Old NFO

Not as fast to access as digital locks, manual dial tumbler locks rarely fail.

ANY electronic device is prone to failure.

But almost all gun security cabinets ('cuz they ain't classified as a "safe"), have digital locks.


They're less expensive to make and install.

Anonymous said...

I never liked the fingerprint access idea. The specificity of the print detection has to be relatively low to allow easy access, especially in a panic situation. This is an example of what I call inappropriate application of technology. Something that can be done, but should not. An electrically operated lock which responds to a series of button pushes is far more robust. It is also better than an RFID connection to an encoded fob or wrist band. I keep my pistol safe's combination in my head when I go to bed, but will I remember to put on my special wristband? People are easily convinced that the high tech solution is always the best which it is not.

Jonathan H said...

We need a new term to describe poor design and electronics, not just metallurgy.
A few ideas, something like "Chinatronics" or "Chinese Security" by coined by a better wordsmith than me.

Bob C. said...

"...plain old combo locks by Sargent and Greenleaf"

Concur on that. I will *not* buy a safe with any sort of electronic lock. Keylock by preference, but combo is OK too.

Beans said...

Gee, my dad had guns in the house. Shotguns and pistols. None of them locked up. We boys just knew, by 3-4yo, not to touch dad's guns or any guns.

All safes and locks do is slow down one's response to a crime.

Parents, teach your kids gun safety. Well, teach your kids tool safety, which guns are, along with power tools and non-power tools.

Anonymous said...

But you are not allowed to talk to your children about guns including safety. Buying and using the safe is all that is required.

BGnad said...

I can't seem to find any old-school mechanical lock safes without any electronics in the lock....

Steve Sky said...

@Rick T mentioned the lockpicking lawyer. Here are a couple of safe failure examples:
link 1

link 2

The thing is, they are still sold at Big Box stores, although they shouldn't be.


Sherm said...

One unmentioned benefit of a manual combination lock on a gun safe is that if you reach the stage where you're too mentally impaired to safely use a gun, you'll have also forgotten the combination.

Anonymous said...

If you have to get into a gun safe quickly, who wants to relay on something that needs batteries?

Aesop said...


You're saying a CCP company sold a product without any due regard for accuracy in advertising, safety of all concerned, or any shred of corporate honesty or accountability?

Stop the presses!

Rick in MT said...

I grew up in a house full if guns. None were locked up. My kids grew up in a house full of guns. None were locked up. Why? How? Because it's far more effective to gun proof your children than it will ever be to child proof your guns. Change my mind.

Dan said...

Buy a safe from a known reputable manufacturer that uses a Sargent & Greenleaf dial combination lock. Anything less is a risk.

HMS Defiant said...

Not really a problem ever here since alternative measures were effective but there is one question that boils up for the homeowner couple with a gun safe, did none of them ever test the safe's effectiveness by, for instance, saying, "honey, see if you print opens the safe even before we enter it into the safe fingerprint file." I would have done that but then I was a COMSEC custodian 3 different commands and changed the combos on our safes every time the users changed, which was monthly. Still tested every time to make sure it worked.