Gun Safe Made Safer With Lithium Battery Upgrade

A flat LiIon battery shown attached inside the gun safe, wired to the original control board

A proper gun safe should be difficult to open, but critically, allow instant access by the authorized party.[Dr. Gerg] got a SnapSafe and discovered that, while it was quite easy to use, it would also lock the owner out easily whenever the batteries would run out. Meant to be used with four AAA batteries and no way to recharge them externally, this could leave you royally screwed in the exact kind of situation where you need the gun safe to open. This, of course, meant that the AAA batteries had to go.

Having torn a few laptop batteries apart previously, [Dr. Gerg] had a small collection of Li-ion cells on hand – cylindrical and pouch cells alike. Swapping the AAA battery holder for one of these was no problem voltage-wise, and testing showed it working without a hitch! However, replacing one non-chargeable battery with another one wasn’t a viable way forward, so he also added charging using an Adafruit LiPo charger board. One 3D printed OpenSCAD-designed bracket later, he fit the board inside the safe’s frame – and then pulled out a USB cable for charging, turning the battery into a backup option and essentially creating an UPS for this safe. Nowadays, the safe sits constantly plugged into a wall socket, and [Dr. Gerg] estimates it should last for a few weeks even in case of USB power loss.

When you read about hacking gun safes, it’s usually because of their poor security, with even biometric models occasionally falling victim to prying fingers. There’s talk about moving the locking features into the guns themselves, but we remain skeptical. “Powering an electronically locked box with internal batteries” is a fun problem, and just recently, we’ve seen it solved in a different way in this intricate voice-activated lockbox.

37 thoughts on “Gun Safe Made Safer With Lithium Battery Upgrade

    1. Lithium batteries exploding is waaaaay overblown by media. In real life to get a lipo or li-ion to vent and ignite you either really have to blatantly abuse it or intentionally try to cause physical damage/outright short a fully charged battery with no/disabled protection.

        1. Huge difference between sticking one small one in a consumer device and a handful that are orders of magnitude larger/higher capacity in an airplane. Really questionable to conflate the two as if they were remotely similar.

      1. Beware the cat.

        I’ve had very small RC plane battery swell, heat up and almost catch fire after the god damn cat played with it and chewed on the leads, shorting them. Found it on the tile floor.

        Cats serve their dark lord well.

  1. if its pugged in all the time there is no reason for the battery. Now I know someone is going to say what about when the power goes out. You could just keep the the AA batteries in there as the backup for when that happens.

    1. That exactly what I did. These safes don’t really use any significant power, so batteries last for months. With a wallwart providing the power, the batteries are there just in case of power outage, and I only replace every few years to make sure the batteries don’t leak. The only hardware needed, besides a wallwart and jack, is a diode to keep the wallwart from charging the battery.

    1. The physical backup lock looks like a tubular lock.
      So, y’know… not great.
      The code reset button, while relatively deep inside the body, doesn’t appear to be super well-shielded, so I bet if you tried real hard you could get to it.
      Still probably easier to attack the tubular lock.

      1. Almost all electronic locks contain an old fashioned relay. Which you can open with a good strong magnet in the right place.

        IIRC all hotel door locks and cheap safes have this vulnerability when they were last checked.

      1. Ignorance is thinking guns are a good thing and they make keep people safer from being shot. The sensible part of the world deals with this by using one big country as our “gun safe”. Those people seem happy to stay in there. It doesn’t even need a lock.

        1. I kind of agree. But when tour dad, who has collected guns all his life, dies and leaves you the guns, you need a place to put all of them. And they are fun to shoot at different targets.

      1. Any tool can be a toy. Some are dangerous. Those are the most fun.

        I bet you’ve never shot a spinning hard drive with a copy of Linux/Solaris/Netmare/OS2/Windows on it. Grinning like you just got the girl you’ve wanted for 10 years.

  2. One reason electronic safes generally don’t have charging ports, or any other kind of external access to the batteries, is that exposing the electronics in any way provides another attack opportunity. Glitching the power, for example, could potentially put its microprocessor in a state that will just open the safe immediately. It’s a pretty common hacking approach.

    1. Most electronic safes *do* have external access.

      They either have the battery outside the safe itself in the external keypad or, on older models, they have terminals on the keypad that one can put a 9V battery across to activate the keypad if the internal battery dies.

  3. this “safe” has a single latch holding a loop of wire, neither of which don’t even look hardened, just the run of the mill A-grade Chinesium…despite having ALS and slowly loosing the ability to use my hands, I’m fairly confident I could pry this open with a crowbar well under 5 minutes. This is a very piss poor attempt at securing anything, hacking the power system is a waste of time.

    1. Calling these types of devices a “safe” really is quite the misnomer and I’m not a fan of it. While there is a good use for these things, they should not be relied on for any actual level of security beyond prying eyes of a small child/teen and only for short periods of time. Especially if the box contains a device that could expel a piece of metal at high velocity by means of a self-oxidizing chemical reaction.

  4. I would opt for a mechanical lock and have my family memorize the combination. And I would never waste my money on a “smart gun”. The last thing I need is for a family member to be in a situation where they need the firearm and 1) couldn’t get to it because the safe’s batteries were dead and/or 2) couldn’t defend themselves because the “smart gun” is keyed to my bio-metrics. But, this is me. You do you.

    1. Smart guns and stupid people! This topic is as bad as discussing religion and politics. Never will be resolved until we live in a world where weapons, religion and politics no longer exist.

      1. There can and will never be a world without weapons. You’re describing a world in which the people who matter most to you are defenseless. Or do you mean a world where only certain people have weapons? Do the police still exist? Is there somebody to stop me from using my garage machine tools in creative ways?
        A world without politics is a similarly outlandish idea. Sorry John Lennon, that isn’t how human beings work. It’s a lovely sentiment, though.

  5. As an experiment, I took one of those same batteries out into the backyard, and drove a nail through it in my fire pit. Nothing happened. I had to jiggle it around a LOT to get it to fire up, and then it was awesome for about 30 seconds. Lots of smoke and spewing sparks. But it was not nearly as sensitive as some would lead us to believe. Good thing, too, seeing as how we’re all carrying them around in our pockets.

  6. “this could leave you royally screwed in the exact kind of situation where you need the gun safe to open”

    I was nearly screwed when I really needed a gun and someone else had the key to the safe. Thankfully I was able to find them and get access to the gun in time to compete in the 4-nations. But if I’d been a no-show, I’d have had a very angry coach on my hands, and I’d have been buying a lot of rounds that evening.

    Not everyone needs access to a gun to ensure their safety.

  7. My small “bedside” safe has a physical key for if/when the battery dies. It also has keypad button combination and a thumbprint biometric. Best I can tell, the charge lasts about a year. The charging jack is external so you can just leave it plugged in if desired. Since mine is on top shelf, in the back, behind some crap, I just charge it whenever I get to it. (used to be true bedside, now I have kids).
    The case is hardened and all that, and would stand up to some prying for at least a few minutes. If someone was trying that it means they already made it between me and the safe.
    It was not cheap. But considering its purpose, I just bought the “best” one.
    If someone wants to defeat the safe, easily the easiest way is to pick it up, take it home and work on it at their leisure. Again, if someone can do that, they made it between me and the safe to begin with.
    It is, at best, a deterrent for curious children or anyone else.

  8. Safest place for a gun is on your belt. Upstairs gun, downstairs gun, everywhere a gun gun. If you have kids, well, that was your first mistake but then a safe is the best option as long as you yourself remain armed. When you need it, the last thing on your list of things to do should be “open safe under stress”.

    1. So true. Many residents in our area have been forced to open safes at gun point during home invasions. Just more guns in criminal hands. The two most recent were prepared. First had a shootout and got away unscathed. The second was attacked with a hammer, but had his gun next to him and defended himself killing one of the attackers in the process.

    1. “Over 19,000 of those 31,000 annual US gun deaths are suicides. The website worldlifeexpectancy ranks the U.S as 62nd world wide in suicides. 61 countries with a higher suicide rate have strict gun controls; people simply find other ways to kill themselves. Of the remaining 12,000 gun deaths, 80% are gang bangers in gun restricted states. The FBI reports Aggravated Assaults divided into 4 regions – involving a firearm is 25%, other weapons involved is 75%.”

      So, to avoid gun play in the US:

      1. Don’t kill yourself with one.
      2. Stay out of the “bad part of town”

      On the “assault weapons” hysteria:

      “The most recent FBI crime stats show that more people were killed in 2017 with hammers and clubs than were killed with rifles of any kind. The most recent numbers–those for 2017–on September 26, 2018 showed that 467 people were killed with “blunt objects (hammers, clubs, etc.),” while 403 were killed with rifles.”

      1. Upon further review, this comment is adjudged as “illegal use of readily available public information.” That infraction carries a one-gun penalty and loss of trigger rights for 30 days.

        After additional discussion with the conference coordinator, we also assess the infraction of “improper use of logic and reason.” That infraction includes the automatic loss of comment rights, lest you further enrage the liberals.

        Both infractions were by Winston.

        Aim! Fire! 🤪

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