March 11, 2021
By Handguns Staff
As I write this we are deep into 2020, an undeniably crazy year by any standard, and all that craziness has sent a huge number of people into their local gun stores to buy the most effective means of self-defense currently available to human beings. Gun sales in 2020 smashed all previous records, and according to the NRA, 40 percent of those sales were to first-time gun owners, roughly 5 million new gun owners in just a six-month time period. That is unprecedented.
Most of those guns sold were handguns. Upon returning home, those first-time gun owners will then, hopefully, be asking themselves the same question that almost every first-time gun owner does: Where do I keep it? This question is not easily answered. Most of those first-time gun buyers are buying a firearm for the purpose of self-defense and may have untrained people or children in the house. In such a situation, you want to be able to store your firearm safely and securely, but in such a way that you can access it quickly.
Luckily, there are all sorts of products on the market to help you do just that, and one of them is the Hornady Night Guard, the newest offering in its Rapid safe line.
The Night Guard is a quick-access safe specifically meant to store a handgun. It is an unassuming rectangular steel box, larger than a hardcover book but smaller than a briefcase, with a black powder coat. While it would fit in a vehicle or a closet, the Night Guard is specifically meant for use atop a night stand/bedside table or even a kitchen counter. As my contact at Hornady told me, “The goal was to offer a low-profile safe that fits on a nightstand and doesn’t immediately look like a safe.”
This is a safe intended to hide in plain sight, as it is designed to look like an unobtrusive radio/alarm clock, with a red LED clock display behind the tempered glass front panel and a fake speaker beside that. I had a Bose radio alarm clock for years, and the appearance of the Night Guard is similar.
There is nothing about it that automatically shouts: “Safe!” When at rest, the only thing illuminated on the front of the unit is the time. The clock is functional on the Night Guard, and you can adjust the brightness of the display or shut it off entirely. It is just a clock, though; there is no alarm function or radio.
The drawer takes up the entire interior of the safe, and the clock display and fake speaker are mounted to the front of it. You can find “Hornady” embossed on the front of the fake speaker, and even though you have to be in a well-lit room to see it, I still wish they’d kept the name off of it for total anonymity. Not all bad guys are uninformed.
The interior of the safe drawer is 9.5 inches wide, six inches front to back, and two inches deep, making it spacious enough to accept a full-size pistol. A five-inch Government model 1911 with a mag well fits into the drawer with no problem. Two inches is enough depth for the cylinder of a revolver. No, a Desert Eagle will not fit into the drawer.
The drawer is lined with a rubber tray you can actually remove if you ever need to clean it. It has a non-skid interior. The safe itself sits on four non-marring rubber feet.
The Night Guard can be opened in several ways. There is a programmable digital keypad on the front, just to the left of the clock readout, into which you punch the four- to six-digit code of your choice. The keypad is dark and invisible until you touch it with your finger. Punching in the code is not fast, but as long as you can remember the code, you’ll always be able to open the safe that way. You can control whether the keypad beeps when you enter the code or is silent so the only sound is the mechanical ratchet as the drawer pops out. It is not loud.
There is a barrel lock at the rear of the unit that uses a cylindrical key. Two keys are provided with the safe, and I recommend putting them somewhere separate from the safe. Also, remember where you put them. I speak from experience.
The Night Guard, like many of Hornady’s small security safes, uses RFID technology. Hornady provides two stickers, one key fob and one wristband, all with RFID chips. Once the safe is programmed, all you have to do is place the RFID chip at the front of the unit and the spring-assisted drawer slides open on its robust hardware.
Hornady recommends placing an RFID sticker on the back of your phone case, as everyone seems to carry their phone with them everywhere. That makes even more sense with the Night Guard.
To make the unit multi-functional, there is one USB A and one USB C charging port at the rear of the safe, so you can charge your phone or any other small electronics right from the safe itself. Having that RFID sticker on the back of your phone as you charge it atop the unit means you have a quick and simple way to open the safe at hand.
One interesting note: If you have any other Hornady RFID-operated security products, you can program all of them to open with the same RFID chip.
The safe, at 16 pounds empty, is surprisingly heavy for its size. It is made of steel, but that body of the safe is heavy in part so it can act as a counterweight. When the drawer slides out with a handgun in it, you don’t want the safe bouncing or tilting forward. It is meant to sit on a hard surface. If you placed the Night Guard on carpet the drawer would probably brush against the carpet and not open all the way.
The “speaker” is actually the front of the battery compartment, and it is held in place by magnets. The safe takes four AAA batteries, and battery life is listed as approximately one year. You can check battery life at any time by pressing the “H” button on the front of the unit. That battery power is mostly meant as backup, and most people will keep their Night Guard plugged in.
If “hiding in plain sight” isn’t enough security for you, Hornady provides several ways for you to secure the Night Guard. It comes with a 1,500-pound-rated cable that connects to the rear of the safe so you can strap it to something large, heavy or immovable. There are also four holes in the bottom of the unit so you can hard-mount it to a surface if desired.
My children are now giants who tower over me, but I’ve got a two-year-old grandson who comes to visit regularly, so now we’ve had to start kid-proofing the house all over again. Leaving a loaded gun where a kid can access it is about as smart as letting them play with an open bottle of bleach. An unobtrusive quick-access safe like the Night Guard seems to be the best solution to this problem, and it works no matter the age of your visitors.
The Night Guard, like all of Hornady’s security products, comes with a one-year limited warranty and has a suggested retail price of $293.