While current and prospective gun owners’ motivations for owning firearms range from personal defense, hunting, recreation, competition and heirloom collection… all bear the legal and moral responsibility to learn how to both operate and store their firearms responsibly. In my article on Gun Safety – Secure Storage, I highlighted these legal considerations and covered a variety of methods to securely store firearms. In this article, I will review one particular model of Portable or Specific-Use Containers, the Micro-Vault Biometric, or MVB500 by Gun Vault.
A “Typical” Progression
As a long-time gun owner, I believe that I may have gone through the “typical” phases of firearm security. When I had owned only a few pistols, I kept them locked in their individual cases and in a relatively secure location in my residence. As the collection grew, it became more difficult to manage the growing number of keys for these different locked cases. At one point in my less-experienced days, I felt rather creative and modified a rifle case to secure a dozen pistols. While this certainly secured the pistols from unauthorized use, I realized that I just made a convenient “carrying case” for a low-life thief to run away with my prized possessions and use them in any number of crimes.
As I added rifles and shotguns to my collection, I “stepped up” to a portable gun cabinet. I chose the gun cabinet over a traditional safe since I moved every two or three years and wanted something that would be easily transported. Gun Cabinets are only moderately effective against intrusion and if they aren’t secured to the floor or a wall, they can become another type of convenient carrying case for criminals. So, I reached the point in professional and financial stability where I purchased a traditional gun safe. The size and weight of the safe precluded positioning it where I could quickly access a firearm for home defense.
In order to accommodate this arrangement, I would draw a weapon from the safe and place it on the nightstand each night and then return it in the morning before leaving for work each morning. While this was a bit tedious and introduced the opportunity to “forget” to either draw the firearm at night or return it in the morning, it was acceptable until my daughter arrived. With a child in the house, I needed to take more active and consistent measures to maintain firearm security.
Satisfied with the anti-intrusion and overall security of my collection in a quality gun safe, I evaluated a variety of portable or specific-use security containers. A number of manufacturers make small firearm security containers with a variety of access options, such as keys, magnets, dial combinations, keypad combinations, and biometric fingerprint readers.
I had determined that I wanted a small security container that could hold a full-size .45ACP firearm with laser/light attachment. I also determined that I needed the following features: (1) must be able to access in complete darkenss; (2) must be accessible only by me or my wife while absolutely prohibiting access to anyone else; and (3) must be portable but able to secure to another object by bolt or cable. With these parameters in mind, this excluded any containers activated by keys, magnets, or dial combinations… leaving only a choice between keypad or biometric fingerprint readers.
Gun Vault offered the widest variety of keypad and biometric security containers at a reasonable price. Two choices remained, top or front access, and keypad or biometric? Since I intended for this to be placed in a nightstand drawer, I needed a top access container. In regard to keypad or biometric, I read a number of reviews on the Gun Vault site as well as many other sites. While some users had expressed exasperation with the fingerprint readers, the majority clearly had favorable experiences. After personally evaluating a number of Gun Vault fingerprint readers at local gun shops and gun shows, I became confident enough to favor the biometric fingerprint reader.
After an exhaustive search, I chose the Gun Vault MVB500 (Micro-Vault Biometric)
The specifications for the GunVault MVB500 list it is ideal for home and travel with its fast entry, 15 finger print memory, and 20 gauge steel construction. It included a braided steel cable, 4xAA battery pack, and two spare keys. The retail price was just under $250.00.
I purchased this unit in 2011 and have been very impressed ever since. In my opinion, it has functioned exactly as advertised. With a very easy-to-understand instruction manual, programming fingerprints into to the system was simple.
In less than 10 minutes, I was able to program three fingers from both my wife’s and my hands into the system. We even tested the system to ensure that the biometric lock would reject unauthorized fingerprints, which it consistently did.
I was able to secure it into the nightstand drawer with simple wood screws and anchored the unit at an angle that would be easily accessible with both my wife’s and my right and left hands. The unit is large enough for me to secure a Sig P227 with an extended magazine inserted and light/laser attached to the rail. The original batteries have lasted for over three years now and I only replaced them to ensure that they would not fail when most needed.
There is a little bit of “training” required to ensure that you “drag” your designated fingers along the biometric reader in the same manner each time. As you can see in the photos, there is a “channel” that “guides” your finger across the reader. However, it is easy to alter the speed and angle which will result in a false reading. A little practice can ensure that each “swipe” is successful. Also, wet or dirty fingers can lead to false readings.
My other negative observation is that the biometric fingerprint reader is the single point of success or failure. If the fingerprint reader fails, or user fails to properly “swipe,” then there is no way to gain access without digging out the key to open the unit. “Hiding” the key near the unit for rapid nighttime access can defeat some of the utility of the unit in the first place.
In my opinion, the utility and overall positive aspects of the GunVault MVB500 far outweigh the negative aspects. No system is fool-proof. This product performs exactly as advertised and has satisfied my requirements for over three years. This product does require a little bit of training to ensure consistent access. I do not see this as a problem since I believe that the key to an effective response to a home invasion is continued situational awareness, response plan development, and response rehearsals. Please see Planning to Fail, for more information.
Aegis Academy espouses the principles of Fit, Function, and Finances in selecting firearms. I believe the same concept can assist in selecting firearm accessories, such as safety devices and security containers. In this case, the GunVault MVB500 was the right size to fit in the nightstand drawer and could secure a full-size .45ACP; the function satisfied my requirement for quick access in complete darkenss by only me or my wife while excluding all others; and while a bit pricey, the financial commitment was worth the functionality. In the end, I highly recommend the GunVault MVB500 for anyone with similar interests and requirements for firearm security.
Stay safe and shoot straight!
Disclaimer: This product was reviewed objectively by the author only and does not constitute an endorsement by Aegis Academy. I have no financial or personal connections with GunVault, I have not been compensated in any way by GunVault for this review, and I independently purchased this product at full retail price. This review is provided for your information and consideration only.
Howard Hall – Range Master
Howard has served for nearly 20 years in the Marine Corps. He has served as a Platoon Commander, Company Commander, Battalion Executive Officer, Regimental Operations Officer, and Battalion Commander. He has multiple combat tours to include serving as a military transition team member in Fallujah. He is an NRA Certified handgun instructor and holds numerous Marine Corps training credentials. An active competitor in action pistol (United States Practical Shooting Association), long range rifle (NRA F-Class), and shotgun (Amateur Trapshooting Association, National Skeet Shooting Association), howard has earned numerous accolades and medaled during DoD competitions with the 1911 platform in bulls-eye shooting.
First published at Aegis Academy