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    Biometric Handgun Safes: Are they reliable?

    Biometric technology and fingerprint recognition locks have grown in popularity in recent years due to September 11th. Because of the increased security concerns, the United States government has become a strong advocate of this technology for the future. Biometrics is the study of methods for uniquely recognizing humans based upon physical or behavioral traits. There are many ways it is used for including face, fingerprint, hand and iris recognition. Since this technology is still relativity new, it has problems that all new technologies share.

    The safe industry has moved into the biometric technology future by making safes that use fingerprint reader technology to open them instead of the traditional locking methods. Biometric handgun and pistol safes are the most popular. By just using your fingerprint, you can open the safe to get to your pistols or valuables quickly. This is supposed to be more convenient than say using a key but the question is, how reliable are they? Here are the definitions for biometric false read rates.

    Performance Measurement (FAR) False accept rate / (FMR) False match rate The probability that the system incorrectly declares a successful match between the input pattern and a non-matching pattern in the database. It measures the percent of invalid matches. These systems are critical since they are commonly used to forbid certain actions by disallowed people. (FRR) False reject rate / (FNMR) false non-match rate The probability that the system incorrectly declares a failure of match between the input pattern and the matching template in the database. It measures the percent of valid inputs being rejected. These performance measurements were established to determine the readability and reliability of biometric technologies.

    According to the article "Performance evaluation of fingerprint verification systems", a test was done in 2004 on 100 subjects to find the FAR and FRR on state of the art fingerprint scanners. The false accept rate and false reject rate was at 2%. Many things can account for false read rates including having sticky or dirty fingers, to even just the reliability of the scanner itself.

    Mythbusters did an episode on how easy it is to beat fingerprint security systems. You most likely won't have burglars using these methods on your safe, but it is a little disconcerting to see how easy it can be to gain access. Just doing a search on google for fingerprint hacks and several hundred results come up.

    So in summary, ask yourself these questions:

    1) Will I be happy with a 2% false or failure to open the lock rate?

    2) Do I want to risk someone copying my thumb or fingerprint to gain access to my weapon?

    3) Should I wait until this technology becomes more reliable and secure?

    4) Is there a proven, reliable lock that I can use today? We recommend purchasing the Simplex five-button mechanical lock on the Perma-Vault PV-1-IPB handgun safe.


    1) Simplex mechanical locks have been in use for many generations and have a proven track record of reliability and dependability.

    2) The amount of time it takes to open a Simplex mechanical lock is about the same as a biometric fingerprint lock.

    3) There is no risk of copying your combination if you keep it confidential.

    4) There are no batteries to die during periods of non-use.

    5) Low maintenance or no maintenance.

    Biometric fingerprint readers on handgun safes may have a future when they become more reliable and dependable but for now, the "old technology is still the way to go since they are more reliable, dependable and easier to maintain.

    If you have any questions regarding biometric and fingerprint locks and if they may be right for you, please give us a call at 800-207-2259