Updated: Dec 10, 2019
There are many small pistol safes on the market to choose from, but how do you know which is the right one for you? The right safe depends on your needs, your preferences, your home, and the pistol you intend to use. Today I'm reviewing the Bulldog Vaults Magnum Biometic Pistol Vault. This particular safe will comfortably hold most pistols under 8 inches in length. For 8-inch revolvers or a Desert Eagle, you'll definitely want something larger. This safe is comparable to the GunVault brand - the shape and size of the two are very similar if not identical. Bulldog's safe is a wedge design, with dimensions of 11.5″ x 8″ x 5.5″.
The construction, advertised as 16 gauge heavy-duty steel, seems solid enough to deter non-professional theft. Although as the saying goes, "if they really want it, they will get it." The safe has mounting holes and comes with the hardware needed to mount it, which would help prevent someone from just walking off with the whole safe. The biometric pad is located on the top of the safe and can read a programmed fingerprint in any position, with 360 degree access. It is designed to be mounted with the biometric pad facing up. Attempting to mount it any other way might prevent the door from opening properly. The safe also has a low-battery warning and a backup key in case of weak or dead batteries.
This safe can store up to 100 fingerprints, though it is unclear why anyone would need quite that many programmed...perhaps the particularly flexible consumer would want the option of using all of their toes, too. Programming fingerprints is quick and easy: the program button is located inside the safe. Simply push the button, wait for the light to to flash green, place your finger on the biometric pad, and the light will flash green again to confirm the print has been programmed. I do recommend that you double-check that each of your programmed prints actually work during this stage of the process, as I noticed a few instances where the programming did not take even though the light flashed green. Once I'd verified that my prints worked, I did not have any further problems.
The safe is described as having a 'Quick Opening Door w/ Quiet, "Soft Stop" Technology.' To get an idea of how fast the safe door opens, I compared it with a key type and multi-button code type safe. Using a key is the slowest, and there are several problems created by relying on a key: keys are easily misplaced or outright lost, and searching for a key in the event of an emergency where speed is imperative would take up too much precious time. In my opinion, the multi-button code safe opened just as quickly as the biometric safe, so the main benefit here is the sheer simplicity of using a biometric lock. Even though the safe has a silent mode the servo actuation and lock opening are not what I'd consider quiet. All safes of a similar make to this one open with about the same level of noise, which would likely be heard one or two rooms away in a quiet house. I don't consider the noise level a deal breaker, personally, and it's not necessarily a disadvantage.
Trying to grab a pistol quickly from a safe of this size presents some problems. The issue here seems to be the narrow opening: a full grip on the pistol while it is still inside of the safe would cause your hand to get caught inside. So it would requires a different grip initially to get both pistol and hand out of the safe. For proper techniques please see my video review: https://youtu.be/UCsj2ZtOnkY
Overall this is a good option for a safe of this size, and a better value. Most bio-metric safes currently available start at about $200, whereas this safe can be had for about $165. The quality of the warranty and customer service of Bulldog Vaults remains to be seen. If you have any experience with your safe warranty or with Bulldog's customer service please share in the comments!