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Old March 20, 2007, 03:51 PM   #1
Senior Member
Join Date: April 17, 2006
Location: Grand Prairie, TX
Posts: 694
GunVault Poor Quality/Customer Service - Pics/Review

Just thought I would share my experience with GunVault so that others know what they are getting into when they purchase their products. It's kinda long, so I'll break it into sections - read what you like.

[What Happened]
Just under a year ago I purchased a GunVault Multi Deluxe online from the "lowest bidder" on Froogle. Up until this week I thought it was a pretty solid pistol safe. It has plenty of features and the instructions say it's covered under a 1 year warranty and that the manufacturer is the only authorized place to have repairs performed. After the year, "minimum fee for examination and handling is $19.95. Parts and labor may be extra, depending upon condition." Not the greatest warranty in the world, but hey - at least it seemed as though they stand behind the product. It is electronic, after all, and we all know how dependable electronics tend to be.

I typically use it maybe once a week - my shotgun and Steyr M9A1 are my go-to guns and all my other pistols stay locked away in the GunVault. I went to put a pistol back in the safe and after I punched in my digital combination I heard the motor turn but the door didn't open. Odd, I thought. A second try yielded the same results. I used my key and sure enough, the door sprung open. I checked the A/C adapter and it was plugged in, but I changed the backup batteries just in case. I tried the digital combo for a third time, unsuccessfully. At this point, I decided my only option was to find my all my paperwork and call GunVault.

[GunVault's Customer Service]
Getting a hold of GunVault's service tech isn't exactly an easy thing to do. After several straight-to-voicemail calls, I managed to get a human being who forwarded my call to their "technician". I informed him of my problem and right away (as expected), he wanted to know how long I've had the safe, where my receipt is, did I mail off my registration card when I bought it (I had not), etc. I knew I was screwed on the warranty thing as I could not locate the e-mail that was my receipt, I didn't remember what website I bought it from, and I still have my registration card with all my other paperwork. I explained all of this to the "gentleman" on the phone - he informed me that the drive cable was broken (and implied it's a common occurrence) but they have absolutely no parts, everything is made in China, they only replace them if they are within the 1-year warranty period, and that I was "out of luck, Pal!". I definitely did not take kindly to his tone on the last part - I'm not his "pal" - I'm the sucker who just wasted $135 on a gun safe will all the features of a $30 Wal-Mart lockbox - and he was obviously trying to irritate me so I'd hang up. I obliged him.

[The Fix]
At this point, I knew there was no warranty to void and no possibility of getting factory support. I didn't want to just walk away and consider the safe a waste of money, so a friend and I peeled back the foam on the roof of the safe and removed the metal-encased electronic control box. This entails removing a few screws and unplugging the power wires and speaker wires - not that difficult. Inside, we discovered this:

And a much better picture...

As you can see, the drive cable was indeed broken. At least the "tech" had that part right. When the proper access code is entered, the motor turns the spindle the drive cable is connected to and this tugs the spring and causes the latching mechanism the release, and thus opens the safe. With the cable broken, the motor does not pull the spring and entering the digital code is just an exercise in futility.
The solution, obviously, is to rig something else up to the motor and spring. I assume the factory cable broke because it flexed the same way every time the safe opened - keep folding a flexible piece of metal/wire long enough and breakage is bound to occur. The only thing I had around that would perhaps work in lue of stainless braided cable was o-rings of varying durometers. I went with the hardest (though still quite flexible) o-ring on hand - we cut it to the proper length and cut off the "crimps" that were holding on the original cable. We used those existing crimps and an electrical wire connector to hold the piece of o-ring on the spring and motor spindle. The (awful) picture below sorta illustrates the results better than I could describe:

The end result? the safe functions perfectly when the code is entered. Now I know this setup is less than perfect, but I honestly expect it to hold up better than the factory setup. And if not, I now have the materials and know-how to rig up another fix.

As I said previously, I do not count of the GunVault - I have other firearms readily available. However, I realize a lot of people are not able to just leave firearms handy due to children, etc. and that quite a few people do, quite literally, trust their GunVaults "with their lives" to function. I hope my experience can serve as a grave warning to those who do so. The factory lock release is a flimsy design, at best. I believe trusting the vault to open every time could be a tragic (final) mistake for someone when they need it most. And would it kill GunVault to stock replacement cables? How much could the stupid little part possibly cost? I understand that their "technician's" sole responsibility is probably to evaluate safes that are still under warranty and determine if they should be replaced, but they would do well to have the guy take 10 minutes to save some poor schmuck's $135+ investment. Their instruction manual is downright deceptive when it describes the "repair process" - that needs to be addressed by the company. I urge anyone looking to buy a pistol safe to go the mechanical route - I've seen numerous similar pistol safes at gunshows that use mechanical means for the push-button unlocking mechanism and were comparably priced.

I fully regret my purchase and urge all others to stay away from GunVault products.
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