A popular feature for buyers of gun safes is the biometric lock. The term refers to using a particular aspect of the body to identify an individual. This could be fingerprints, palm prints, retinal scans, etc. Currently, in the case of gun safes, biometrics usually means a fingerprint scanner.
There are two main reasons for this popularity:
This technology exists because the body part used for identification (in this case, fingerprints) is different for every person and is difficult to duplicate. Despite what you see on television or in the movies, duplicating fingerprints in a form a fingerprint reader can scan and recognize is beyond all but the most sophisticated and scientifically adept criminals.
- Speed of Access
In an emergency, getting to your gun quickly is vital. Even fractions of seconds decide whether the outcome is good or bad.
There is no fumbling with keys or trying to remember and enter combinations. Just place your finger on the reader and the safe opens.
However, even if your scanner is functioning properly—if the electricity (batteries or mains depending on your safe) is working, and the reader can scan—these units are notoriously temperamental in recognizing previously programmed fingerprints.
Obviously, this something you do not want to happen in an emergency!
The reasons a programmed print isn’t recognized usually falls under falls under one of two reasons:
Your fingerprint has changed
A mere scratch or a piece of peeling skin can make your print appear different to the reader.
(I should probably add here that any speck of dirt on the scanning plate, the piece of glass onto which you place your finger for reading, will also make your fingerprint look different. So please make sure you keep the scanner clean as per the manufacturer’s instructions)
The position of your finger on the scanner has changed
If your finger is placed differently on the scanner, even by a tiny fraction, you are presenting a slightly different part of the fingerprint to the reader. Perhaps your finger is slightly rolled to one side compared to when you programmed the unit. The pattern is slightly different to the one programmed and, therefore, will not be recognized by the unit.
How do I make sure my print is accepted?
Fortunately, most biometric safes allow you to program many fingerprints. And them more prints you have in memory, the more likely the unit is to accept the print you present to it. Use the following tips to avoid your reader not knowing your print:
- Program one finger in more than one position: estimate the different positions you might be in when reaching for the safe, and program your fingerprint from each of those positions. Several different aspects of the same fingerprint increase the number of ways the print is recognized.
- Program more than one finger: This means that if you have damaged your fingerprint in some way, even temporarily, you can use another finger to get into the safe while your primary print heals.
- Program more than one finger AND more than one position for each finger: This reduces the possibility of a failure to recognize even further.
- If there is another person in the house who you trust to have access to your gun, repeat the above procedures for them as well as yourself! Again, the more prints stored, the more likely the fingerprint used when trying to reach your gun will be recognized.
Finally, make sure you read your owner’s manual and know what backup procedures are available to you (combination lock, mechanical lock, etc.) in an emergency. And remember, if you have a mechanical lock as a backup don’t keep the key in the safe. Keep it on you!
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