Mandatory Gun Locks – Coming Soon To A State Near You?

GunLockFirearms safety is every gun owner’s job – from knowing the four rules of gun safety to enacting the Own It/Respect It/Secure It mantra of NSSF’s Project Childsafe. With many states eyeing legislation (no fewer than 15 states have proposed legislation in the past year and another dozen or so with it already on the books) to mimic California’s state gun lock law, a number of manufacturers are offering solutions intended to prevent unauthorized access to firearms. We had a chance to visit with a few of them at SHOT Show 2018.

Traditional Firearm Security

Before we get into the new stuff, let’s cover the way we have been locking up firearms for ages. There are, obviously, the traditional safes (or, more likely, residential security containers), locking cabinets, and handgun lockboxes that prevent access to anyone without a key, combination, or approved biometric ID such as a fingerprint.  While these options are often large and allow storage of multiple weapons, they can be pricey (although a few states subsidize the purchase of a gun safe with tax credits) and it can take extra time to reach and retrieve a weapon in the event of an emergency.  

IGunLink-SHOT18_4-0041t isn’t just an issue of the time it takes to get to the lockup either; it also often takes extra time to get in to it. Although technology is constantly moving forward, many larger safes often implement a keyed or combination lock combined with a relatively cumbersome opening mechanism. While faster than a key, many concerns for the biometric options are valid.  Ask anyone with an iPhone: sometimes your fingerprint just is not recognizable.  Additionally, electronic combination locks and biometric systems run on batteries, which need to be maintained, monitored, and changed regularly.  As a backup, nearly all models contain an alternate method (usually a key) for access.

GunVaultFor those who do not have the physical space for a full-sized safe, there are plenty of options designed to hold one or two pistols or small valuables. This allows for keeping your defensive weapon closer at hand while preventing unauthorized access. If permanently mounted, they can also work to prevent theft, or can be left un-mounted for portability and access prevention only.  As with traditional safes, these types of gun boxes can be unlocked using keys, combinations, fingerprints, and even RFID tags available as bracelets, key tags, and even jewelry.  If a rifle or shotgun is your choice of home defense (and why wouldn’t it be?), you’re generally out of luck with this type of option, although several companies make gun racks or everyday furniture items with hidden compartments to “hide in plain sight.”  With these, you can get quick accessibility, but it generally lacks portability.

GunLocksOf course, there are many scenarios in which a gun-owner would be interested in preventing unauthorized use but not necessarily theft prevention. Two common devices that can prevent a weapon from being used without being locked in a safe are cable locks and trigger locks.  Although the main goal of such devices is to prevent use by unauthorized individuals (children, bad guys, etc.), they may have some theft-deterrence as a thief may bypass a locked-out firearm in favor of looking for easier low hanging fruit.

Cable locks typically installed through the chamber and/or mag well to prevent the firearm from being loaded or from going into battery.  Trigger locks typically block the entire trigger area to prevent the trigger from being manipulated, although they allow the weapon to remain loaded so that you can get into the fight as soon as the lock is removed.  Both devices are effective at their job, but still require that the weapon be unlocked with a key or combination before being loaded and ready to use. This can still be a slow process (assuming the key is not in your hand ready to be used at a moments notice) and seconds matter in an emergency. The big benefit to these two devices is that they work on almost all firearms and it allows a weapon to be kept closer at hand.

New Firearm Safety and Security Products

While traditional methods of securing firearms have been working for decades, if not centuries, a number of companies have bucked the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mindset to get creative and apply new technology to allow quick access to firearms when needed while still keeping unauthorized users from firing it.

IdentiLock

Photo: IdentiLock

Photo: IdentiLock

One company, IdentiLock adds fingerprint recognition to a (somewhat) traditional trigger lock design. The IdentiLock is designed and manufactured  in Detroit, MI by immigrant Omer Kiyani, who embraced the Second Amendment and the ability to protect his family after surviving a gunshot wound as a teen in his home country. The device allows a weapon to be loaded and ready to fire while completely blocking access to the trigger. The fingerprint recognition technology allows access to the handgun for up to three people, right or left handed.

 

The IdentiLock claims to be “the world’s fastest, most reliable, trigger gun lock activated by fingerprint.”  The device functions quickly with a quick touch of the finger or thumb to the scanner and the device immediately drops free, all in just 300 milliseconds (0.3 seconds), allowing the authorized individual to put the firearm into action in under a second. When the GunLink team visited IdentiLock on the SHOT Show 2018 show floor, we were impressed. With all of the technology built into the unit, we initially tried to over complicate things by awkwardly holding the IdentiLock-ed pistol and even more awkwardly jamming a finger onto the scanner. However, with some encouragement from the designer, we figured out that using the lock is quite intuitive; simply grasp the firearm with a trigger-finger-out grip and your finger naturally lands on the scanner and the lock drops off (watch your toes, the unit weighs over 11 ounces).

Programming the device allows the user the choice of which fingerprint(s) to use which enables customization of device to their needs. The batteries are rechargeable and last up to six months on standby or up to 200 activations. The company even offers email reminders to recharge. If you do forget to charge the battery, there is a secondary system using hard-to-pick dimpled key access to remove the device making it, at worst, as fast as a traditional trigger lock and, at best, significantly faster.

A big downside, however, is that the IdentiLock is not universal, but is built to fit specific models, which might be problematic for users who want to keep various makes of firearms safely within arms reach. Currently, options are limited to Glocks, 1911s, select Smith & Wesson and Sig Sauer models, but Omer promises more are on the way and requests are being taken. With an MSRP of $239, it is comparable to many small lock boxes. It is not currently listed on the California DOJ site as an approved safety device from Sentinel.

Zore Gun Locks

GunLink-SHOT18_3-00120Another newcomer that we found in the NEXT section of SHOT Show is Zore Gun Locks. The Zore-X is a caliber-specific chamber device (currently only available in 9mm, with .40 and .45 coming soon) that was designed by Israeli IDF Special Forces veterans to allow safe storage of a firearm with the quickest access they could manage.

The device allows a magazine to be loaded, but prevents a round from being chambered or the slide from going into battery.  Part of the Zore-X sits in the chamber, locked in place by a user supplied code.  Using a dial similar to a combination lock, the dial counts clicks in each direction from any starting point, meaning that the user does not need to “zero” it before entering the code.  The user can program anywhere from 2-20 digits (digits being 1-9).

When needed, the user enters the combination and then racks the slide. For example, if you had the three-digit code of 6-5-4, unlock the device by turning the dial six clicks in either direction, five clicks in the other direction, and then four clicks in the other direction.  Once the code has been entered to unlock the chamber device, racking the slide extracts and ejects the Zore-X and loads the first round from the magazine.  Unlike keyed or biometric locks, which have a finite number of keys or access profiles, combination locks such as this allow for letting more people, such a large family or staff, access the firearm for use.

GunLink-SHOT18_3-00119When one of our team members very first started carrying a personal firearm every day, for the first week or two, he carried in condition three (loaded magazine, empty chamber), also popularly known as “Israeli Carry.” After figuring out that, hey, this pistol isn’t going off by itself and I’m competent enough (knock on wood) to not touch one off while administratively handling it, he did what any concealed carrier serious about the ability to quickly get a gun into the fight would and abandoned the empty chamber method. For concealed or open carry, some, including the Israeli military, train thoroughly to develop the skills and muscle memory to draw, chamber a round, and fire. Personally, we think that’s too much to have to remember and execute under stress for a carry gun. However, for a home-defense firearm security measure, the Zore-X does not seem to be too awfully cumbersome – certainly less so than running to a safe in another room, opening a lock box, or removing a keyed cable lock and chambering a round.

While locked, if someone tries to manipulate the slide to load a round, the chamber portion expands (ostensibly without damaging the barrel) to prevent any motion.  The device uses a single CR2 3.0V battery, which the company estimates will yield 2-3 years of standard use, and there is an LED indicator that will notify the user when the battery has approximately three months of life left. If the battery does run down, the device will not allow the user to lock the device if it has one month or less left in battery life. However, if the battery completely runs out, the device stops functioning. Although the company’s “solution” to this is that the battery can be accessed while locked to install a new one, this may be a deal breaker for some. We shoot a lot around here, and it would be unusual for any handgun that might be used for home defense to go three months without being carried or shot (to have missed the warning light). However, wise or not, not everyone who keeps a handgun for home defense is as enthusiastic about practice and training and may go longer between handling the firearm. We can’t stand the idea of someone letting the battery drain and having a useless paperweight as some bad guy terrorizes his family until a replacement battery is located.

The Zore-X, which is currently available only through the Zore website, has been approved to comply with California’s lock requirements. With an MSRP of $200, it is a unique, low profile, relatively fast solution to use one lock for multiple firearms of the same caliber to prevent unauthorized access.

Gun Guardian  TriggerShield for Long Guns

While handguns tend to be the weapon of choice for home defense and the majority of small safety devices (i.e., not safes) are designed for handguns, one company decided to look at rifle safety. Designed by two Florida State Law Enforcement Officers, the TriggerShield by GunGuardian is a device that is permanently attached to an AR-style firearm via the pistol grip.

GunGuardianTS1Unlike the other devices listed here, the TriggerShield by itself does not lock out access to firing the weapon. Rather, it helps to prevent negligent discharges by covering the trigger. The simplest design allows the pistol grip to be folded back and slid forward such that the trigger cannot be reached to manipulate.  While in this locked position, the trigger is inaccessible and the selector cannot be moved to fire position, which allows the weapon to be stored loaded and ready to fire.  The TS-1 does not have an integrated lock but requires a button to be pushed to move the trigger shield back into a pistol grip.  In addition to guarding against negligent discharges, the creators also tout its additional benefit of minimizing the footprint of the rifle to allow easier transport and/or storage, letting an AR-pattern firearm fit into a slimmer traditional rifle case.

While we can see the utility of such a device, one of our team members is not entirely sold on it. We have written before about a distaste for “trick” AR pistol grips, instead favoring a solid, reliable one that works for the intended application and sticking with it. In his opinion, adding more moving parts introduces more failure points – something that isn’t particularly desirable in something that your life may depend on. Other similar products from the company that are in the works include multiple types of locks (including combination, RFID and biometric) and products for shotguns and pistols. In it’s current state, the device is not California-approved, but the company rep at SHOT Show stated that modifications are being considered to make the device California compliant.  The device should start shipping mid-year and MSRP is likely to start around $65.

If simply keeping errant objects out of the trigger guard or keeping the switch on SAFE is what you desire, an alternative solution might be one that we discovered when our friends at Sticky Holsters gave us a promotional giveaway at SHOT 18: The Triggersafe device. While it doesn’t allow the rifle to fit in a smaller case, it does achieve some of the other goals for around 10 bucks. If you’re not hung up on those things, this is a pretty neat little gadget.

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