Author Topic: Gun Safes with Electronic locks and EMP?  (Read 8102 times)

Offline Blu

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Gun Safes with Electronic locks and EMP?
« on: August 26, 2011, 03:51:15 PM »
I am in need of opinions on gun safes with electronic locks and EMP?

I am in the market for a gun safe. I do not own a lot of guns, just your standard assortment of mostly hunting guns.  I figure that the 24 gun size will suit me and my family for a lifetime.  I found a pretty good deal locally, my only problem I see with it is that it is only an electronic lock entry, no key or combination. 

So, would it be worth it for you to get the deal and pray we never have an EMP in the next 55 years or keep shopping an maybe spend a little bit more.


Offline The Bear

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Re: Gun Safes with Electronic locks and EMP?
« Reply #1 on: August 26, 2011, 04:20:07 PM »
I'm sure that someone more knowledgeable that I will step up shortly...

All other arguments aside, the beneifts of having a safe are great.  Your guns are safe from those who would steal them (bolt your safe down) and those who might come across them but don't appricate their potential danger (young children or stupid houseguests).

It was Patton that once said, "A good plan now is better than a perfect plan next week."

This aside...  You would need to make your decision based on your own priorities.  But it is noteworthy that not all nuclear attacks would result in the kind of EMP that would/could disrupt electronics.  From what I've read, only a nuclear device detonated at extreme altitudes (think satellites) would result in the electromagnetic disturbances likely to cause widespread EMP disruption.  (Non orbital strikes would also cause EMP, but not widespread results; for most detonations if you're close enough to experience EMP, you're toast anyway.

The kinds of threats that are most likely to be dealt with using your firearms, EMP isn't a serious issue.  Thug breaking into your house, economic crisis, pandemic outbreak, etc.; it doesn't matter if your save has an electronic lock.

Offline Ken325

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Re: Gun Safes with Electronic locks and EMP?
« Reply #2 on: August 26, 2011, 09:52:06 PM »
I had the same question.  I want a key backup or I stay with my current safe.

Quote
the beneifts of having a safe are great

Agree, you should have one if you own guns.

Offline Alan Georges

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Re: Gun Safes with Electronic locks and EMP?
« Reply #3 on: August 27, 2011, 05:14:23 AM »
The kinds of threats that are most likely to be dealt with using your firearms, EMP isn't a serious issue.  Thug breaking into your house, economic crisis, pandemic outbreak, etc.; it doesn't matter if your save has an electronic lock.

Too true, The Bear, too true.  The only way to effectively deal with potential threats is to prioritize them by probability and impact, then prepare accordingly.  That's what Jack keeps saying, and it makes a lot of sense.

My take on electronic vs. mechanical is a little different though.  If we have a major EMP event and I can't get into my safe, the situation has just dropped from "really bad" to "very likely unsurvivable."  That's a risk I'm not willing to take when there is so little difference in cost, availability, and convenience between the two types of lock.  Not saying that anybody's wrong here, because EMP frying your gun safe lock is a very low probability event.  But then, you may not live on a major line of drift out of New Orleans either.  And, since Irene is right now threatening the East Coast and it's Katrina Anniversary weekend, I'll toss in one more consideration: salt water flooding.  A mechanical lock may or may not work after that, but it seems unlikely in the extreme that an electronic lock would function.

Add up the possibilities and multiply through the probabilities, and we'll likely come to different answers.  But for me, mechanical is the way to go.  (Which is too bad, because the safe that I really wanted only came with an electronic lock, darnit, so I had to pick another one.)
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Offline backwoods_engineer

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Re: Gun Safes with Electronic locks and EMP?
« Reply #4 on: August 27, 2011, 10:46:11 AM »
In a word, NO.  I believe you would have no problems with an electronic lock in a safe after a nuclear EMP at 250 miles altitude or so.  There are 3 "waves" of a high-altitude EMP that must be considered: E1, E2, E3.

The short-lived E1 pulse would be shielded by the safe itself.  The lock's microcontroller might reset momentarily, but so what, it will still open the lock.

E2's wavelengths will be too long to fit in the aperture of the lock, and won't produce much of an electric field there.

E3, the one that knocks out the power grid, won't be conducted into your lock because it's battery powered, and its long, long wavelengths are far too large to generate a large electric field in that small space between the lock dial and the metal.

As an electronics engineer who was designed circuitry that had to operate near a nuclear explosion delivering a 1-megarad dose, I wouldn't worry about it.

Offline The Professor

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Re: Gun Safes with Electronic locks and EMP?
« Reply #5 on: August 27, 2011, 12:29:01 PM »
What Backwoods said.

However, I do make a couple of suggestions (imagine that):

Mechanical locking mechanisms are almost bulletproof.  If it's a quality-manufactured mechanism, it'll last forever.  Why mess with that?  Convenience?

What happens the time you need your weapon(s) and the battery is dead?  Most secure digital or biometric locking mechanisms DO NOT have a mechanical way around them.  You'll either have to replace the battery or, well. . .die.

Electronic locks are great, for businesses or situations where the safe is frequently accessed (as in once or more a day).  Other than that, it's just pure laziness to "need" an electronic lock because you want the "convenience."

A burglar doesn't care which lock you have, in all honesty.  If he's good enough to get into the safe, the lock doesn't even matter.  The mechanical lock only adds an advantage if the burglar is an experienced safecracker (i.e., he can open the lock by listening to the tumblers) and has a bit of time.  Most will chose to learn what type of safe you have and "hard" crack it (drilling, cutting, etc.).

My other issue against electronic locks is that if you have a fire, you're screwed.  You WILL have to call in a locksmith to open your safe if it survives.  The electronics WILL NOT survive the same heat level as the rest of the safe, or it's contents.

In most cases, some penetrating oil and a bit of elbow grease will open a mechanical lock, if the heat didn't fuse the mechanism (but then. . .chances are you will only need to access the melted and charred remains of what's inside for proof to the insurance company, anyway).

So, my recommendation is that unless you constantly access the safe 3 or 4 times a day, go with a mechanical lock.

Just sayin'

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Offline FreeLancer

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Re: Gun Safes with Electronic locks and EMP?
« Reply #6 on: August 27, 2011, 03:53:35 PM »
Even though EMP is not a threat to electronic safes, the other downsides listed in the above posts need to be taken seriously.  The convenience of the electronic lock doesn't outweigh the simplicity and reliability of the mechanical mechanism, in my opinion, especially when you really need the contents of your safe.
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Offline RIPrep

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Re: Gun Safes with Electronic locks and EMP?
« Reply #7 on: October 12, 2011, 09:56:26 AM »
Backwoods_Engineer:  Thanks for your post!  I have scowered the internet for some insightful indication (one way or another) as to the effect of an EMP on an electronic lock.  I have a S&G Biometric / Electric lock on an Executive Fort Knox and have been recently looking into EMP based on Iran's latest doings...  I went with an electronic for fast access if needed in the middle of the night in a Home defense scenario vs a dial.  That being said, I had always assumed the "intelligence" for an electronic lock resides in the module inside the door, and the key pad was just the entry mechanism that sends the "data" to the internal component for validation.

You seem to say that through your specific training and experience that an EMP won't effect the lock.  Worse case, should I just buy another keypad and store in a Faraday case (ie., metal trash can) as a double backup?

Any details / info would be tremendously helpful.

Offline Alpha Mike

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Re: Gun Safes with Electronic locks and EMP?
« Reply #8 on: October 12, 2011, 10:53:33 AM »
I have a couple of safes with an electronic lock.    They both have a key backup.  Whether its EMP of the batteries go dead, you can still get into the safe.
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Offline Smurf Hunter

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Re: Gun Safes with Electronic locks and EMP?
« Reply #9 on: October 12, 2011, 01:14:54 PM »
I can't comment intelligently on the EMP aspect, but here's my use case (I'm also safe shopping).

Our master bedroom is upstairs.  I would most likely install a gun safe in my garage, where I could bolt it to the cement floor.  The rear part of my garage is also where I reload, clean my guns, so having a safe in proximity makes sense.  Even if I had the most ideal locking mechanism on the long gun safe, it's in my garage.  I'm not running downstairs and into the garage during a home invasion.

In my case it's a moot point for the long gun safe to have rapid access, so there's no added value in being able to rapidly unlock for me.

That said, if we entertain the near impossible scenario of the "perfect" EMP/SHTF and your electronic lock is fried, it's not going to take you months to get into your safe.  I'd suggest having at least defensive weapon readily available.  That could be a CCW, nightstand pistol safe, or a shotgun in the closet. 

If you had an afternoon,  a dozen quality drill bits and the knowledge, all but the best safes can be defeated.  A busted lock hardly makes your guns lost for all eternity.

Offline Heavy G

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Re: Gun Safes with Electronic locks and EMP?
« Reply #10 on: October 14, 2011, 09:28:56 PM »

What Backwoods said.

However, I do make a couple of suggestions (imagine that):

Mechanical locking mechanisms are almost bulletproof.  If it's a quality-manufactured mechanism, it'll last forever.  Why mess with that?  Convenience?

What happens the time you need your weapon(s) and the battery is dead?  Most secure digital or biometric locking mechanisms DO NOT have a mechanical way around them.  You'll either have to replace the battery or, well. . .die.

Electronic locks are great, for businesses or situations where the safe is frequently accessed (as in once or more a day).  Other than that, it's just pure laziness to "need" an electronic lock because you want the "convenience."

A burglar doesn't care which lock you have, in all honesty.  If he's good enough to get into the safe, the lock doesn't even matter.  The mechanical lock only adds an advantage if the burglar is an experienced safecracker (i.e., he can open the lock by listening to the tumblers) and has a bit of time.  Most will chose to learn what type of safe you have and "hard" crack it (drilling, cutting, etc.).

My other issue against electronic locks is that if you have a fire, you're screwed.  You WILL have to call in a locksmith to open your safe if it survives.  The electronics WILL NOT survive the same heat level as the rest of the safe, or it's contents.

In most cases, some penetrating oil and a bit of elbow grease will open a mechanical lock, if the heat didn't fuse the mechanism (but then. . .chances are you will only need to access the melted and charred remains of what's inside for proof to the insurance company, anyway).

So, my recommendation is that unless you constantly access the safe 3 or 4 times a day, go with a mechanical lock.

Just sayin'

The Professor


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