October 24, 2018
By James Tarr
One of the newest security products from Hornady is the RAPiD Vehicle Safe. This is far from the first small portable safe Hornady has made, and while the others would work for vehicle use, this one is specifically designed for it—and it retails for just $227.
Actually, calling this a safe seems almost an insult to the designers. It is a complex secure vehicle storage system that includes a safe and a mounting system with an inflatable air bladder much like a blood-pressure cuff.
The bladder is meant to hold the safe in place using the gap between the seat and the center console or between two seats. A steel cable hooks to the safe and is looped around the chair frame to prevent anyone from ripping out the safe.
I was amazed at just how much stuff comes with this unit. You get the safe, the mounting plate with inflatable air bladder, the cable to secure it to the car seat frame, the interface between the safe and the mounting plate, and then, of course, the RFID chips. These come in the form of two key fobs, two stickers and one wristband. Oh, and there are also two keys for manually unlocking the safe and a 12-volt charger cord.
While there is a traditional key lock on the side of the safe, all Hornady RAPiD safes are accessed through RFID chip technology. Just get the wristband, sticker or key fob near the sensor, and the spring-loaded lid pops open. Up to five RFID tags can be programmed for access. There is also a keypad in the top of the unit you can program to accept a four- to six-digit code. In total you have three ways to access the safe: key, code or RFID tag.
I like the convenience of the key fob RFID chip, but be aware if that’s the activator type you choose to use, you’ll have to pull your keys out of the ignition to open the safe. Your first course of action in a threatening situation is to drive away if your vehicle is operational—even if you’re driving on rims—but I prefer to leave myself as many options as possible. This includes grabbing the gun while my vehicle is running.
Perhaps a better choice is the RFID decal, which can be placed for example on the back of your smartphone case, and these days who doesn’t have a smartphone in the car within arm’s reach?
The safe is powered by either four AAA batteries or a 12-volt car adapter, otherwise known as a cigarette lighter adapter. There is a channel along the top of the safe to help hide the cord of the charger as much as possible. When the safe is unplugged and operating on battery power, you just have to press any button on the keypad on the top panel to activate the RFID reader.
The sleek gunmetal gray exterior and the sensor/display unit on the top of the safe give it a “modern vehicle/electronics” look, which means it will look right at home in a new vehicle, perhaps even like it is part of the automobile. If you’re driving a rusty 1982 F-150, not so much.
The safe by itself is not a light or insubstantial piece. It is made of heavy-duty steel and weighs six pounds, 12 ounces, not including the air bladder frame or steel cable. The door is spring-loaded, and the inside bottom of it features a foam-lined polymer “pancake” designed to accept the muzzle end of a handgun. When the door opens it presents your handgun so you can grab it quickly with a full firing grip.
The Hornady engineers wanted a way to securely mount this vehicle safe to a vehicle without requiring modification to the vehicle interior such as screws or mounting bolts. The inflatable air bladder was their solution. The bladder is designed to provide enough tension that the safe doesn’t shift or rattle. It is not designed to prevent the safe from being removed. That’s what the cable is for.
Without any inflation, the plate to which the air bladder is connected is barely more than half an inch thick, so if there’s a big enough gap for you to slide your hand down there, it’s a sufficient gap for the mounting plate. Every vehicle is different, of course, but Hornady’s air bladder is as close to a “one size fits all” unit you’re going to find.
The system has to be assembled in a certain order. First, loop the steel cable around an appropriate section of seat frame. Then connect the cable to the rear of the safe using a screw and bolt that go through the mount and connects the air bladder frame. Connect the air bladder frame to the safe, slide it where it needs to go, and pump up the bladder to keep it from shifting while driving.
Quick tip: Make sure that when you think you have the safe where you want it that you practice opening it a few times. Initially I had the safe too far back, and the edge of the seat prevented the safe door from opening fully .
As I said, it’s as close to one size fits all as you’re going to find, but there are going to be exceptions. I tried it in a Mini Cooper, and it didn’t work—not because the vehicle was too small but because the gap between the seats and the center console was close to three inches and oddly contoured because it’s a stick-shift.
The safe fit perfectly in my Chevy Colorado midsize pickup. On a full-size truck, I would imagine there is enough knee room on the driver side of the console to comfortably mount the safe on the driver side. I decided to mount it on the passenger side of the center column because most of the time when I’m in my vehicle I am alone and that kept it completely out of my way.
When the safe was properly positioned, I inflated the bladder until I could see it start to move the seat cushion, then kept it there for 10 days while I drove around town and then took a 900-mile road trip to The Site Firearms Training Center to film some episodes of “Handguns & Defensive Weapons.” (Ed. note: You’ll see the safe in action on episode six of the show, which will air the week of August 6. Check your listings or visit the Sportsman Channel website, TheSportsmanChannel.com).
I wanted to see whether the air bladder would lose pressure and just how useful the safe was. I noticed that while driving the safe does wiggle a little bit on the polymer mounting plate, but not distractingly so. When I had a passenger in that seat, his leg was pressed up against the safe, but he was not short on leg room and could easily access the safe as well from his position.
After 10 days and 900 miles, the air bladder had not lost any pressure, and the safe had not shifted. I think when it comes to vehicle safes, this Hornady offering is about as secure you’re going to get for a unit that isn’t bolted to your floor.