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All of these gun safes can be easily opened with a variety of simple tools.

See my corresponding article
in Forbes that was published on Friday, July 27, 2012.

See the applicable disclaimers with regard to the information contained in this report at the end of the Alert.

This security alert provides detailed information about small gun safes that can be easily compromised. We conducted an analysis in our Security Lab of these containers. Some of these containers are utilized by law enforcement agencies. A PowerPoint presentation and video is available through the AFTE website for any agency, and was the subject of my presentation at the Annual Association of Firearms and Tool Marks Examiners conference in Buffalo, New York on June 28, 2012.

We provide information about some of the most popular gun safes that are produced by the leading manufacturers in the United States: Stack-On, GunVault, and Bulldog. We also looked at one of the small safes produced by AMSEC.

We tested safes from these companies to determine their vulnerability to simple, covert attacks. We did not test for forced entry techniques.
Every consumer that owns or is contemplating owning a small gun safe needs to understand that many of these containers are improperly designed, have little real security, and can often be opened in seconds with common implements such as paper clips, drinking straws, wires, and small pieces of brass. Some can also be dropped from a few inches onto a hard surface and opened because of the simple, cheap, and insecure mechanism that is used to block movement of the bolt work until the proper combination is entered.

All of these safes utilize electronic credentials to open them. While these manufacturers would like you to believe that the use of a keypad, push-button sequences, or fingerprint reader will somehow make their containers more secure, it is not accurate and everyone should understand it. It is merely for convenience.

What constitutes security in any container is the way the locking mechanism is designed to keep the container closed or to be opened. The problem is that none of these manufacturers seem to understand even the basics of security engineering and how to defeat their own products. In this report, we will provide detailed videos that demonstrate the problem for many safes that are sold by Walmart, Cabelas, Dicks Sporting Goods, Scheels,

In conjunction with our investigation we contacted and made available these videos to management at all of these companies. Only Walmart would even issue a statement, which essentially says “it is not our problem” and we rely upon the manufacturer and the California DOJ standards.

The other companies, Cabelas, Scheels, and Dicks Sporting Goods had absolutely no response.

All of these companies continue to sell what we are claiming are dangerously security-defective products, but it evidently is all about money, not the safety and security of their customers that is of their primary concern. They have all been placed on notice of the defective security designs and all have chosen to ignore the evidence and instead rely upon what the manufacturer, Stack-On or others have represented to them.
Stack-On is headquartered in Illinois and by their own account, generate about $100,000,000 annually. They also indicated that they do not talk to the media, but they did issue a press release after I demonstrated opening four of their safes on KELO-TV in May, 2012.
Their Public Relations firm issued the following statement on behalf of their client:

“While Stack-On respects Mr. Tobias’s proven ability to pick the most complex of security locks, we strongly stand behind the safety of our products. Stack-On Personal Safes are certified by California Department of Justice (DOJ). This certification involves testing, by an independent laboratory approved by California DOJ, for compliance with adopted standards. We are proud of this designation and the protection we provide. In addition, our Portable Cases comply with TSA airline firearm guidelines.”

Stack-On believes that their safes are secure. While their containers have been approved by California DOJ under their gun safety regulations, they are fully aware that the methods we demonstrated are not addressed in these standards, and thus the standards are not applicable. It is our opinion that Stack-On has chosen to continue to place every buyer of one of these safes at potential risk. Their safes are manufactured in China. While they may appear to be secure, they are not, as we demonstrate in multiple videos.

I spoke with their VP of Marketing, Steve Martin, in April, 2012. I asked to do an interview at their facility and was refused. When I advised him that we had tested several of their safes, he did not ask one question. I offered to send the links of the videos. He offered no response. The company has never followed-up with any inquiry.

Our opinion is that Stack-On should recall every safe that has security vulnerabilities and issue an alert to the public to warn every purchaser. They should also warn every vendor. To our knowledge, they have done neither. What they have done is to continue to sell what we allege are defective products to the public, knowing that many of these containers can be opened by kids.

I spoke with a spokesperson for Walmart and provided links to all videos. After two months, they finally issued the following statement:

“Walmart is committed to providing safe, quality products customers can rely on. After being made aware of your concerns, we reached out to the manufacturer of Stack-On products to discuss their compliance and quality programs. According to Stack-On, the product you mentioned is tested by a third party independent lab and those results are submitted to the California Department of Justice for certification as meeting their safety standards for this category of products.”

It is also our opinion that Walmart is far more concerned about revenue than in protecting the safety and security of their customers, notwithstanding their claims to the contrary. According to their employees, the company has a security and safety testing team that analyzes products. That would indicated that they have the competence and skill to evaluate the claims that we made.

Walmart did not deny our allegations but rather are avoiding responsibility by hiding behind the representations of Stack-On. In our opinion, nobody should believe anything that Stack-On states with regard to the security of any of their products. It is very clear that Stack-On has no competence to design or test a container for security vulnerabilities.

While they may believe that they can avoid liability by claiming they meet the requirements of the California gun statutes, they may find that those standards offer no protection whatsoever. We believe they are producing dangerously defective containers that they are representing as secure for use by the consumer to store weapons. They are not secure, and nobody should rely upon them for any measure of security.

It is my opinion that any retailer, once on notice of the defects we have demonstrated, can and will be held liable if a customer purchases one of these containers and the result is that someone is hurt or killed.

We conducted undercover interviews at Cabelas and Scheels to document what their sales “experts” were telling the public about these safes. It is precisely what you would expect: they are secure, kids cannot get into them, and you can safely store weapons in them without fear that they can be covertly compromised.

Unfortunately, each of these statements is false. The problem is that these sales personnel do not have a clue as to what is secure or is not. What they understand is profits and what sells, and it would appear that is all they care about, based upon the total lack of response from any of these companies to us.

While we only looked at about ten safes, we are quite sure there are dozens, if not hundreds of different models that are similarly insecure. Most of this junk is made in China and peddled by U.S companies. These safes are cheaply made, and the security engineering is essentially non-existent, as you will see in the videos and our detailed analysis.


This is a common solenoid design that blocvks the movement of the bolt in many safes. The magnetic pin must retract in order for the bolts to pass. This can be vibrated to an unlocked state.

As a result of another gun death involving a member of the Clark County Sheriff’s Department in 2003, the Sheriff mandated that all deputies keep their weapons in designated Department safes at their homes. The Department, without any testing, initially purchased approximately 200 Stack-On Strong Boxes, shown in the video. It is clear that the CCSO relied upon the representations of Stack-On, and had no independent expertise to evaluate the security of these containers. It is incredible to us that the Department would entrust the lives of their officers and families to a container that reportedly cost $36.00 without any tests being conducted by the Department as to suitability, safety, or security.

Detective Ed Owens was a member of the Clark County Sheriff’s Department since 2004. He was issued a Stack-On safe to store his weapons at home. On September 14, 2010 one of his four children was able to open the Stack-On Strong Box container that was located in the Master Bedroom. At about 9:50 P.M. three year old Ryan was shot and died four hours later.

We were asked by the Owens family and attorney to provide expert analysis of the suspect safe. We conducted an extensive analysis of a container from the same batch that was provided to the Clark County Sheriff’s Office.

It is our opinion that these were defective containers, based upon the testing we performed and the videos we shot from inside the safe. The problem, quite simply, revolves around the solenoid mechanism that controls a locking pin. This pin when in its normal state blocks lateral movement of the bolts thereby preventing their retraction. When the correct code is entered, via the keypad, the blocking pin is retracted and the bolt can be turned to the unlocked position. The problem is the design of the solenoid and spring-biased locking pin. It can be bounced to allow the bolts to pass and leave the safe in an unlocked state. As demonstrated by the three year old in our video, this safe can then be opened by simply turning the knob.

As a result of testing this particular safe, we expanded our inquiry and tested virtually every Stack-On model of small safe. What we found was disturbing. Each could be opened in a variety of ways, as we demonstrate. We also tested similar containers from Bulldog and GunVault. We reached out to these companies as well, but they refused to return phone calls.

Any consumer that owns one of these containers should return it and ask for a model that has been fixed to made it secure, or demand a refund. In our view, no weapons or valuables should be stored in one of these containers.

We provide all of the video segments of our analysis as well as televised news reports and some of the undercover video that we obtained.

Gun safe detailed report by Security Labs

Video of three year old opening four different safes

KELO-TV Sioux Falls, South Dakota

aired the accompanying story

Undercover video from Cabelas store

Security Labs Stack-On safes introduction (for each of the separate video elements)

Stack-On PC 650 gun safe

Stack-On PC-650 Portable Case with Electronic Lock
Electronic lock allows for a 3 to 8 digit combination to be programmed into the case.
Includes a backup trouble key.
Slim line design of the case allows for storage in a briefcase, under the seat
of many cars and trucks. Foam padded bottom protects contents from scratching.
Meets TSA airline firearm guidelines.
Body is designed for safe to be secured with steel cable (1500 lb. test). Cable is included.
11” wide (27.9 cm)
8-1/4” deep (21 cm)
2-3/8” high (6 cm)
(dimensions include key pad)


Stack-On PDS 500 gun safe

Stack-On PDS-500 Drawer Safe with Electronic Lock
Tested and listed as a California DOJ Firearm Safety Device.
2 live action locking bolts and concealed hinges.
Fastening hardware is included with each safe.
11-13/16” wide (30 cm)
8-5/8” deep (22 cm)
4-3/8” high (11 cm)


Stack-On biometric safes with fingerprint readers can be easily compromised.

Stack-On PS-5-B Drawer Safe with Biometric Lock,
Stack-On PS-7-B Extra Wide Safe with Biometric Lock and
Stack-On PS-10-B Personal Safe with Biometric Lock
Great security for pistols, ammo and valuables at home, on the road or in the office.
Tested and listed as California Department of Justice firearms safety devices that
conform to the requirements of California Penal Code Section 12088 and the regulations
issued thereunder.
Solid steel, pry resistant, plate steel doors, steel live action locking bolts and concealed
hinges provide greater security.
Biometric lock can be programmed to accept up to 32 different fingerprints–provides
greater security and quicker access to the safe’s contents. Also includes an electronic
lock and hidden trouble key.

13-7/8” wide (35.2 cm)
11-1/2” deep (29.2 cm)
4-1/2” high (11.4 cm)

17-3/4” wide (45 cm)
14-1/4” deep (36.2 cm)
7-1/8” high (18 cm)

13-7/8” wide (35.2 cm)
9-7/8” deep (25 cm)
9-7/8” high (25 cm)


Stack-On QAS 1200B biometric safe can be easily opened with paperclips.

QAS-1200-B Quick Access Safe with Biometric Lock
Tested and listed as a California DOJ Firearm Safety Device.
Biometric Lock can accept 28 different fingerprints with back up trouble key.
Biometric reader is easy to use and program.
Biometric locks provide greater security – no combinations to remember.
Holds standard sized pistols and other valuables.
Includes a removable shelf. Foam padded bottom and shelf.
Safe has pre-drilled holes for mounting to the floor, wall or a shelf.
Fastening hardware is included with each safe.
10” wide (31.1 cm)
12-1/4” deep (30.5 cm)
8-1/4” high (21 cm)
(dimensions include key pad)


QAS 710 Stack-On safe

Stack-On QAS-710 Drawer Safe with Motorized Electronic Lock
Tested and listed as a California DOJ Firearm Safety Device.
All steel construction and low profile design allows for storage in a drawer.
Lid pops up when the correct security code is entered for instant access.
Safe has pre-drilled holes for mounting in a drawer or on a shelf.
Fastening hardware is included with each safe.
10-1/4” wide (26 cm)
16-5/8” deep (42.2 cm)
3-1/2” high (9 cm)


Stack-On QAS 1000 can be easily opened

Stack-On QAS-1000 Quick Access Drawer Safe with Electronic Lock

Tested and listed as a California DOJ Firearm Safety Device.
Electronic lock allows for a 3 to 8 digit combination to be programmed into the safe.
Includes a backup trouble key.
Drawer pops out when locking mechanism is released.
Ball bearing drawer slide allows the drawer to slide in and out without binding.
Holds standard sized pistol and valuables.
Foam padded bottom protects contents from scratching.
Body is designed for safe to be secured with steel cable (1500 lb. test) or can be
mounted to a shelf or floor.
Cable is secured when drawer is in place.
Cable is included.
10” wide (25.4 cm)
12-1/4” deep (31 cm)
4-5/8” high (11.6 cm)
(dimensions include key pad)


Stack-On QAS 1200

Stack-On QAS-1200 Quick Access Safe with Electronic Lock
Tested and listed as a California DOJ Firearm Safety Device.
Electronic lock allows for a 3 to 8 digit combination to be programmed into the safe.
Includes a backup trouble key.
Holds standard sized pistols and other valuables.
Includes a removable shelf.
Foam padded bottom and shelf.
Safe has pre-drilled holes for mounting to the floor,wall or a shelf.
Fastening hardware is included with each safe.
10” wide (25.4 cm)
12-1/4” deep (31 cm)
8-1/4” high (21 cm)
(dimensions include key pad)


GunVault GV2000S gun safe

GunVault MultiVault Standard GV 2000S
*Protective foam-lined interior
* Extra storage capacity and removable interior shelf
* Tamper-resistant spring-loaded door
* 16-gauge steel housing
* Audio and LED low battery warning

Customizable Convenience
*Battery power provides portability
* Optional high-strength security cable secures GunVavult in a home, car, RV, office or hotel
* Mounts almost anywhere in any direction

Foolproof Security
*Precise fittings are virtually impossible to pry open with hand tools
* Built-in computer blocks access after repeated invalid keypad entries (Digital models only)
* Tamper indicator alerts invalid entry attempts (Digital models only)

14″ X 10.1″ X 7.9″


BullDog BD1500 gun safe

Bulldog BD1500 Deluxe Digital Pistol Vault

Bulldog’s “Easy Guide” top pad features raised ribs that lead your fingers to the numbered buttons for quick and easy code entry. After 4 invalid keypad entries the electronics temporarily disable the control panel. In three minutes, the electronics automatically reset and will accept the valid code.

*”Easy Guide” ribbed top pad for quick entry
*”Smart Safe” technology remembers safe combination during power loss or while changing the
*More than 1000 combinations available
*Secure cylinder key override
*Pre-drilled mounting holes
*Pre-drilled holes for optional security cable
*Deluxe foam interior with egg-crate bottom pad
*Heavy-duty steel construction
*Durable powder coated black matte finish
*Mounting hardware included
*Interior light when door is open
*Spring loaded door for quick access
*External power supply
11.5″ x 8″ x 5.5″ /4″



We tested safes produced by Stack-On, Bulldog, Amsec, and GunVault between February, 2012 and July, 2012. We tested a limited sample of each and produced videos of unaltered containers. A manufacturer may have updated or made changes to a design that would make more difficult or prevent us from opening that container in the method shown. The reader or consumer should replicate the methods shown for any particular container and run their own tests. We have no financial interest in any of the manufacturers that are detailed in this report. See the other disclaimers contained on this website.

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When I travel overseas I rely on Skype as my VoIP carrier for almost all of my long distance traffic. So when I saw the new Netgear WIFI handset (SPH101) I thought this would be a convenient and useful piece of gear to add to my communications arsenal, thus eliminating the need to use my laptop to make phone calls when sitting in airports, hotel rooms and offices. My optimism would be short lived.

I contacted Netgear and asked that they provide a unit for evaluation. Unfortunately, they said they did not have any product samples that were available to them. I suspect they were all trying to call each other to locate one, but they couldn’t get any of their new WIFI phones to connect! So, being the eternal optimist I picked one up on a recent trip to New York.

First impressions: if you are looking for a WIFI sniffer then this is the gizmo for you, although a bit expensive at just under three hundred dollars a copy! However if you are actually seeking what they are advertising: an 802.11 handset preconfigured for Skype, save your money unless you only want to use this device on a totally open network which in my case would prove just about worthless.

The handset itself is a great size, but in this case, size really doesn’t matter! It even sports a mini-USB plug for power and recharge which I prefer over most other connectors. My CDMA and GSM Blackberry handsets, Motorola Bluetooth headset and Garmin GPS are also mini-USB so one charger does all. This is important when I travel to far away places because I prefer not to carry a million different power supplies.

The fact they chose mini-USB was smart and encouraging but my praise did not last long. If you try to use the Netgear-provided adapter overseas I would definitely stand back when plugging it in to mains power. Plan on using the charger just once because it only allows for 110 volt operation. Sorry, no 220 allowed, which is odd given that Skype can be used from just about anywhere. Maybe they did not want to go through the European certification process.

Netgear did not provide for any computer interface on their USB connection either, which would have made a lot of sense. That means, for example, that you cannot program WIFI access point authentication information into the phone. That ability would be rather important if you subscribe to commercial sites like T-Mobile or Boingo or Waypoint. It doesn’t make any sense to offer a phone that cannot be used in the vast majority of locations, especially for the steep price of this one.

There is absolutely no provision for any log-in whatsoever other than WEP keys. This, in my view, is a primary defect in this device and is the main reason why I definitely would not recommend it for any professional that uses Skype. But as I said earlier it does work great if you just want to search for networks and see what you can’t use! The software will display the type of network, its status, security, signal level and IP address. But allow log-on, forget it. Of course if the phone tries to log onto a network and fails it won’t give you the reason either. I guess the geniuses that wrote the code somehow knew that you would also know what was wrong. Yeah, it’s called engineering!

And speaking of auto log-on, the software is glitchy at best. That means that sometimes it does and sometimes it does not automatically locate and log into a totally open network. Real convenient and reliable, wouldn’t you say?

The Hardware
The phone is slick looking but in my opinion the buttons are, well, cheesy! The audio is actually pretty good once you get a call through. Setting the volume or activating the speakerphone, well, that is a different matter because those buttons on the side of the unit are almost unusable due of their size and placement. And speaking of the speakerphone, it is a misnomer because you really cannot hear the audio very well which I always thought was precisely the point of such an option. Oh yes, and the processor is sluggish, which is quite noticeable when using their tiny track ball mouse. There is a delay when scrolling and selecting menu items and the size of the thing is not conducive to smooth operation.

The Operating Software
The software in my view is elementary at best. For starters, there is no place to store any user data so if the phone is lost, good luck unless the finder figures out who you are from the Skype contacts list, which depending on whether the user logged out before losing the phone, will still be there. Also, when you try to store your user name and password, the software may not remember it and keeps asking you to reenter it every time you try to log on. As I said it is glitchy. And the clock, it forgets the time and date, but then I suppose after trying to use the phone for a few calls, it might not matter anyway! And when setting (or resetting) the time, there is a menu label error. It is a small thing but indicative of the apparent hurried manner that the software was developed.

Skype software
As to how the Skype software works, it replicates their regular operating system but with limited functionality related to calls only. No chat, of course, nor any messages. The best part: the cost of making calls! I subscribed earlier this year to the special offer for unlimited flat rate service for Skypeout. Yep, that works great on my notebook and desktop but when I started making calls on my Netgear phone I noticed that charges were accruing. Why? I have no idea, but somehow Skype knows that this phone is not what you normally use so per minute call charges apply to connect to the PSTN. Kind of defeats the whole purpose don’t you think?

What you can do with the Netgear WIFI phone
Well, (other than the obvious) if you want to have a very expensive cordless phone for use around home or on a completely open wireless network then this little gem will work just fine, although they claim only about two hours of talk time. One of the conveniences of Skype is that multiple computers can be logged in at the same time with the same Skype name; all will ring simultaneously which is very convenient. So this technical marvel will allow you to wander around your house and make and receive Skype calls which I guess is ok unless you wanted to roam somewhere else, like the hundreds of thousands of hotspots around the world that don’t have open networks. And don’t forget the added bonus; that it will actually find WIFI networks even if you can’t use them. This is truly a piece of net-gear!

What you cannot do with this phone
You cannot connect to any access point that requires user authentication. That means any subscription hotspot, virtually every hotel, airport, train station, and any location that offers free WIFI, (like Starbucks, and Borders and hundreds of thousands of other places) are off-limits. Only completely open networks are accessible which in most cases would also exclude the workplace.

And if you might be thinking that I have been a bit too critical of this latest WIFI handset here is the best part. Evidently the Geniuses at Netgear (or whoever designed this phone for them) have never heard of end-to-end signaling; you know that system where you send DTMF tones for command options or to select different menu functions. Like maybe for accessing your voice mail, for example. Well, it turns out that the feedback tones for the soft keys generate the * tone set and pass the audio down the line. So if you try to bring up an option item on the handset it will send the * DTMF tones to the far end which in my case screws up certain voice response systems that I use. Brilliant. Maybe these people should next try their hand at producing locks!

My suggestion: save your money. If you want Skype rates from a wireless portable (like your cellular) then load a piece of free software called voxlib from Skype and run it on your desktop. It works quite well and provides a digital bridge through your computer (when it is logged onto Skype). Call your Skype number from any phone and connect. Quality is excellent and allows you to dial any international number at low Skype rates or for free, depending on whether you are calling a PSTN number or another computer. For receiving calls through Skype if you have a SkypeIn account, just set up call forwarding to your cell. Save yourself the aggravation, frustration and cost of dealing with the Netgear phone, because in this case, talk is cheap; they don’t charge for calls you can’t make!

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