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Old March 20, 2007, 03:51 PM   #1
Syntax360
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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.

[Conclusions]
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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Old March 20, 2007, 06:07 PM   #2
azredhawk44
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Good write-up and thank you.

I am safe-shopping right now and had a dark "tingle" in the back of my head regarding electronic safes. I will certainly be buying a mechanical safe especially after obtaining this information.
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Old March 20, 2007, 06:22 PM   #3
kenneth owens
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good info

so far so good with mine.
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Old March 20, 2007, 07:00 PM   #4
Sharp Phil
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Syntax, are you an engineer?

I ask because, as a technical writer, I work with engineers all day, and this is precisely the sort of thing I would expect from any of them. A lot of people when confronted by a complex piece of machinery that does not work will throw up their hands and figure they're screwed. Engineers will conclude that if it's not working, they should take it apart and either fix it or break it more. Your story could have been written by any of the people with whom I associate each day.

Good show, great write-up, and great initiative.
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Old March 28, 2007, 08:33 AM   #5
Syntax360
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Sharp Phil - no I am not an engineer, but I appreciate your kind words.

Just an update in case anyone was following this...

A member of another forum I frequent called GunVault on the issue and was able to get some more info out of them. Prior to February 2005 the company was owned by Security Products, and the "new" company owners acknowledge that the "cable crimping" door was a problem with older units. So, the new owners say that units purchased after February 2005 should not have the same problem, and if they do, GunVault will repair or replace the door mechanism if it breaks regardless of the warranty because that part would be deemed faulty.

GunVault says there is no way to determine whether or not the unit you own is the old or new - they refer you to date of purchase to decide. This just is not acceptable, IMHO. Lord knows how many old/faulty GunVault safes have sat on distributor shelves until well after February 2005, but the end user would have no way to know whether or not their unit was the "OK" one...

Also, I'm eager to see someone with an official post-Feb. 2005 model disassemble the unit and show me what has changed - I'm willing to bet we would see no design change. Also, they claim they will repair or replace the door, but their own technician has told me and several other people I've spoken with that no replacement/spare parts are kept at their facility - I'm guess that "repair or replace the door" once again means "exchange the whole unit".

I am fairly frustrated at this point with the company's disregard for the end user - I just might have to order my credit card statements from summer/fall 2005 to get my purchase date to see if I can't put GunVault's feet to the fire on this - I want to see for myself how they supposedly rectified the problem in the newer units.
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Old May 21, 2007, 03:15 PM   #6
revance
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Could you please describe a little how this device works for those of us who don't have one?

So the motor turns and winds that metal cable which in turn pulls the long black spring towards it.

What happens from there? How does it actually open the locking mechanism?

I really like these safes and would like to get one if I knew the problem was actually fixed. On the other hand, I wish they used a solenoid instead of a motor. I would trust a solenoid a lot more. My wife is really insisting on an electronic safe that has a tamper indicator. This is the only one I have found.

Thanks!
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Old May 21, 2007, 04:07 PM   #7
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I bought one 2 mopnths ago, and so far I like it.

The pres of the company recently signed up at the Beretta Forum - seems like a nice enough guy. Sorry you had that problem. I hope mine works fine for years to come.
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Old May 21, 2007, 04:19 PM   #8
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Shipwreck,

Perhaps you can point him over here to read these comments. Business owners can't always keep tabs on what their employees are doing. It sounds like one of their employees was anything but helpful to Syntax.

Most business owners are eager to find this type of feedback so it can be handled properly.

Just a thought.
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Old May 21, 2007, 05:11 PM   #9
badbob
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Think cam on the motor. Find/make disc that fits motor shaft. Cut one side of the disc away, drill a hole in the side that's cut away. Use a cable with two loops to connect the motor to the lock release. When the motor turns, the cable will roll up on the disc (now a cam) and pull the lock release.

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Old May 21, 2007, 06:02 PM   #10
badbob
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Better idea than above post but same principle, much easier to make.
(1) Find/make disc that fits motor shaft.
(2) Drill a hole in the disc
(3) Make wire actuator from motor to release by bending heavy duty paper clip with a loop on the release end and an "L" shape on the disc end to fit the hole in the disc.
(4) When the disc rotates, the paper clip will pull on the release, opening the safe.

badbob

Last edited by badbob; May 21, 2007 at 06:04 PM. Reason: Edited for clarity
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Old May 21, 2007, 10:26 PM   #11
4V50 Gary
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Great write-up! Thanks.
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Old May 22, 2007, 12:30 AM   #12
SteelCore
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Yeah, thanks for posting about your unfortunate experience. And good job fixing the problem!

It amazes me that people would treat their customers this way in the age of the Internet. That service tech needs to keep in mind when speaking to customers that they're the reason he gets a paycheck.
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Old June 17, 2010, 01:39 PM   #13
Syntax360
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Just a follow-up to this thread, a few years downrange...

My fix for this safe worked great up until mid-May, when I assume the re-worked o-ring "cable" came loose or broke. I didn't have time to disassemble or repair, so I was forced to start using my key again on the rare occasions I needed into the safe.

Fast forward to Monday when my car was broken into at a local park. I regularly jog through a park near my home, and I had removed the "extra" keys from my keychain to reduce the jingling mass that otherwise bounces around in my pocket. Of course, my GunVault key was one of the keys left behind in my vehicle, and sure enough that set of keys was stolen.

It dawned on me last night that I am now unable to access my GunVault via the keypad, and my primary safe key has been stolen. I spent some time last night searching for the backup key that GunVault gives you, but it seems I placed it in such a secure location that even I may likely never find it. I had never planned on needing both keys, as I always counted on the keypad in the event I lost my keys.

Now I'm left with two choices - contact GunVault to try to obtain a new key at unknown cost, or break into the safe, probably by irreversibly damaging it. I'm going to think on it for a few days, but I may very well be posting new pictures of a destroyed GunVault Multi Deluxe here in a few days... That, or tips on how to successfully compromise the locking mechanism on this style safe in a very James Bond manner...

Anyway, I only post this as an anecdote about how these kinds of things snowball over time and lead to more trouble downrange. The moral of this story is the same as before - invest in a quality mechanical product that is far less susceptible to failure, especially if your life depends on it. Fortunately, mine does not, so I can afford the hassle.
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Old June 17, 2010, 05:07 PM   #14
highvel
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If it has a key the lock can be "picked", it make take a little time but you wont have to damage it.
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Old June 17, 2010, 06:15 PM   #15
Syntax360
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Perhaps, but it is a barrel lock (5 pin I think?) - I've never tried picking one of those, and from what I read it is quite difficult without a $90 tool. That's 75% the cost of the safe, and to be honest my frustration level with this device has just about been met - I have few qualms about permanently damaging it at this point.

But if anyone can help with info or resources on defeating the lock, I'm all ears...
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Old June 17, 2010, 08:50 PM   #16
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Syntax360,

Use Al Gore's Information Highway!

Google some keywords, such as "bic pen pick barrel tubular locks kryptonite" and such keyword combinations...read the info. Plus, check out YouTube's numerous videos on how to pick these types of locks.

Maybe that will be of some help.

Good luck,

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Old June 17, 2010, 09:03 PM   #17
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You may not BE an engineer but you have the MIND of one.. That's awesome.
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Old June 19, 2010, 06:33 PM   #18
Syntax360
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Good news guys - I found the master key:





We've peeled a few other barrel locks off stuff at work before - I've yet to see a barrel lock that can last more than one minute in a match with a 9x rivet hammer... I'm pretty tempted to send the whole mess back to GunVault with a nice love letter. What do ya think?

I'll pull apart the electronic lock assembly to confirm that it was indeed the same problem that resulted in my electronic lock being disabled again...
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Old June 19, 2010, 09:05 PM   #19
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Being experienced in aircraft structural repairs, I can attest to the muscle a 9X rivet gun has.

I would actually send it back to Gun Vault. But, instead of a "love" letter, I would provide a full detailed report from day one of your troubles. Copy this thread and send it as well. Be sure to keep your emotions in check in the writing and stick with the facts in your problems. I have done this with products in the past (not necessarily firearms related items) and I've received everything from "Too bad, so sad" to product replacements with discount coupons for future purchases.
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Old June 27, 2010, 09:14 PM   #20
isanchez2008
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While I have not had my Biometric Gunvault safe as long as you had yours I am happy with their customer service. I had issues with the first one but made a phone call to them and they promptly sent a new safe along with a box to ship back the defective one to them in at their expense.
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Old November 3, 2012, 02:11 PM   #21
zxd9
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I know this is an old thread but wanted to let everyone know what happened to mine. I have a GunVault Deluxe Mfg in Apr 2009. Today the little cable on the motor broke. I called the customer service rep was very nice and is sending a replacement unit free of charge. Can't beat that!
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Old November 3, 2012, 09:01 PM   #22
youngunz4life
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thanx for pix&posts. yes always fill out registration+warranty forms
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Old November 6, 2012, 01:11 PM   #23
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Wow old thread! Glad they have gotten better with replacing them however I still am not impressed with the build quality. Go with a small commercial safe with a digital s&g lock.
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Old November 6, 2012, 04:53 PM   #24
Shane Tuttle
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The S&G locks aren't much to write home about either.

We picked up a Gun Vault when Gander Mtn was running a big sale. So far it's been working fine.
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Old November 6, 2012, 10:58 PM   #25
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As another poster suggested-send it back w/ copies of all postings here. Give them the website and ask em to explain here..

Dont let the C/S dummie post but some company brass.


zxd-was the whole unit replaced or just the repair part. Cant tell from your post.
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