Tactical Walls: A Better Way To Conceal In Your Home

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RFID Tactical Walls

So, you know how one of my special talents is causing things to fail (or to find a fail point in a system)? Now is a prime opportunity to allow my experience to save you some grief…

My editor reached out to a few of us writers and wanted to know if anyone would be willing to punch holes in their wall for a review. I, of course, digitally raised my hand (after wisely checking with the Boss). The review was to be for one of Tactical Wall’s new RFID Shelves. I would be given a unit in my choice of finish as soon as they were ready. The Boss agreed and told me which finish to order to match our hardwood floors. I sent off my request, and a couple of days later had the shelf in hand.

Construction

The shelf is constructed of wood that you can get in a variety of finished to match pretty much any decor.. You can also get a plain one that will allow you to stain on your own.

The drawer is attached to the shelf with a full length seam hinge, and is also connected via a hydraulic lifter arm (much like the hatch on a car).

The lock mechanism (for the model I was sent) is RFID based, and is powered by a CR123 batter, and actuated with a programmed proximity card (two are included along with a programming card).

RFID locking mechanism

RFID locking mechanism, and my pilot holes for the internal anchors.

Installation and Observations

The shelf was packaged using a level of OCD that I last saw with Auto Targets–it was really, really well protected. Which is definitely something you would expect from a product like this (but in reality, rarely see).

It comes with mounting hardware for normal walls... :)

It comes with mounting hardware for normal walls… 🙂

So here is where I had some “fun”. I was sent a unit early off the production line, and with pre-production documentation. The importance of that will become clear in a moment, and should also implore those of you with XY chromosomes plagued by the inability to read instructions to at least consider reading these. I immediately wanted to play with the RFID lock, since that was the new star of this version of Tactical Wall’s product line. I popped in the battery played with the cards a bit and was duly satisfied with the operation. I began the prep for installation (with the unit open) and a horrible beeping sound started. Oh yeah, the “I’m open!” alarm. Okay, no problem, I just popped the battery out and went about my business. I got the holes drilled, and closed up the unit so I could move it and find the exact place for it on the wall. Then I realized what I had done. Yep. Closed AND locked it. With no battery. There were a number of ways I could think to get into it, but none with out causing some sort of disruption to the unit itself, so I decided to talk to the rep at Tactical Walls. Basically this was a problem that had been identified and addressed with big bold letters and type in the updated instructions. Rather than have me go through the process of disassembling the unit, they opted to send me a new unit with some other updates (including the updated instructions). I got that unit in, and carried on…

The foam comes uncut ready for your custom placement.

Please read the instructions completely before working on it…  If you close it with the battery removed, you could have a problem… 😉

Installation was shockingly simple (and likely even easier if you are blessed with a house built using modern construction methods). My walls are block, with lath and plaster, built back in the early 1940s. I don’t have studs on a 16 inch center. So I have to make due. I specifically chose to mount the shelf unit on a block firewall, which allowed me to use concrete anchors.

Mounted to the wall with some concrete anchors.

Mounted to the wall with some concrete anchors.

I pre drilled holes in the shelf (I went with two rows of three columns), and then, with help from my awesome wife, and the use of a level, marked and drilled holes in the wall.

Weird, I know... I actually used a level...

Weird, I know… I actually used a level…

After securing the base shelf, I still had to install the upper braces, and I did so, anchoring them to the outermost point that I could. I spot checked the installation and it was definitely strong enough to hold all of my intended toys and some bric-Ă -brac on top (or an annoyingly nosy cat). That being said I would not trust it to do pull-ups from…

Upper braces.

Upper braces.

Now that I had installed it correctly (and not sealed it shut with no way to open it), I installed the battery, and proceeded to open and close it a number of times. It worked flawlessly, though one of my issues is the speed of opening. The lock disengaged cleanly, and the shelf smoothly and slowly lowered on a hydraulic arm. To contrast, I have one of the older “gun safes” that has a biometric lock, and on that the door springs open quickly and with authority. I understand why the Tactical Wall shelf doesn’t explosively open, because, you know, physics and whatnot (and that energy transfer would eventually weaken the attachment to the wall). This is just something to be aware of–you are going to have a few second delay between engaging the RFID and getting access to your stuff.

The other thing to note is that it is not silent. At SHOT, when I stopped by Tactical Wall’s booth to play with their offerings, I observed that the magnet based locks were very quiet. Necessarily, an electronic lock has to engage a solenoid (and the other bits), and that just makes some mechanical noise.
Another important fact is that this is strictly for concealment. The shelf is wood–it is not designed to be a lockbox. I can see where having a few of these shelves on a wall together would make for a more convincing charade. A lone, out-of-place, shelf could draw attention.

I set up the shelf with the disturbing bits here (just for my wife). She was not impressed. Fake candles, femurs from my anatomy teaching kit, and the skull mug and shot glasses from Rogue Dynamics.

I set up the shelf with the decor here (just for my wife). She was not impressed. Fake candles, femurs from my anatomy teaching kit, and the skull mug and shot glasses from Rogue Dynamics.  It now has a picture and removal of the ossuary theme.

After successfully installing the shelf, the last step is to configure the internal storage. They include a piece of adhesive backed foam that you can cut and pluck to match whatever you want to store. In ours, we opted to configure it to hold a Glock 19 (with Surefire XC1), two spare magazines, and an ITS Tactical EDC medical kit (which contains a tourniquet, pressure bandage, and some gloves; easily my favorite small carry solution).

Shelf loaded with goodies. Glock 19 with XC1, 2 magazines, and ITS Tactical's EDC Medical Kit

Shelf loaded with goodies. Glock 19 with XC1, 2 magazines, and ITS Tactical’s EDC Medical Kit

Conclusion

As a concealment option, I think Tactical Wall’s shelf is well executed. It comes in a variety of finishes and can easily match the decor of your home. The functionality works well and it is solidly constructed.

The biggest concern I have with the overall implementation is specifically related to the RFID locking mechanism. The simplicity of use is nice, but it definitely needs to have some sort of failure protocol–perhaps a secondary bypass with their traditional magnets or something. My concern is that even with the ability to fail open–which I am assuming is a factor of the system detecting a significant decrease in voltage–it still needs some power to disengage the lock. With no battery it can’t do that and thus it has the potential to remain latched.

You can find more information on their website at: https://tacticalwalls.com/



Tom is a former Navy Corpsman that spent some time bumbling around the deserts of Iraq with a Marine Recon unit, kicking in tent flaps and harassing sheep. Prior to that he was a paramedic somewhere in DFW, also doing some Executive Protection work between shifts. Now that those exciting days are behind him, he has embraced his inner “Warrior Hippie” and assaults 14er in his sandals and beard, or engages in rucking adventure challenges while consuming craft beer. To fund these adventures, he writes medical software and builds websites and mobile apps. His latest venture is as one of the founders of IronSights.com; a search engine for all things gun related. He hopes that his posts will help you find solid gear that will survive whatever you can throw at it–he is known (in certain circles) for his curse…ahem, ability…to find the breaking point of anything.


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  • PK

    To be fair, the idea was wonderful and useful. At least until it became common knowledge. There are a finite amount of designs, and thieves aren’t all dumb.

    Besides, if there’s time, a thief will even steal your shelves and toss them in the moving truck with everything else. They’ll empty a house out and take everything, it just doesn’t matter.

    On the positive side, this does help secure items against quick smash and grab burglars.

    “The simplicity of use is nice, but it definitely needs to have some sort of failure protocol–perhaps a secondary bypass with their traditional magnets or something. My concern is that even with the ability to fail open–which I am assuming is a factor of the system detecting a significant decrease in voltage–it still needs some power to disengage the lock. With no battery it can’t do that and thus it has the potential to remain latched.”

    Agreed. You highlighted that by the early oopsie relating to closing the unit sans battery. Having to break your shelf open in the event the battery dies, or water damage occurs, isn’t ideal.

    • Doc Rader

      Yep. And if you are a smart monkey, you shouldn’t leave a firearm in there when you are gone. I lock my stuff up in a legit safe.

      The shelf is nice to use when the grandkids (<10y/o) are over, and for other times when I don't want to leave it laying around, but not currently needing to secure it.

    • steveday72

      I can imagine the batery failing, door pops open … wife notices door open so closes it … aaand you’re screwed!

      They need a magnetic override that relies on a very high gauss magnet to unlock the internal mechanism. Either that or a servo to lock, servo to open – so it will not lock if the battery is low/dead/missing.

      • PK

        Could also set up a 1920s backup system, where you have to have a very long, stiff wire of small diameter and insert it in a very out of the way hole to release the latch. Who was the famous criminal to do that, Capone? I don’t recall, but it took someone spilling the beans for them to figure out a wall wasn’t a wall in his basement.

  • QuadGMoto

    Bonus points for the appropriate use of “ossuary”!

    • Anomanom

      More like Bone-us points, amiright?

      • QuadGMoto

        Ooooooooooohhh… Boo! Boo! Groan! LOL

        My family would call that a perfect “Dad joke”.

        • Navy Davy

          Geezer Joke!

  • Gary Kirk

    So.. What exactly does happen if the battery dies when closed?

    • PK

      The lock remains locked, as it did without the battery in place.

      • Gary Kirk

        So pretty much sawzall time.. No thanks

    • Doc Rader

      It is supposed to fail open. What happened in my case is that I removed the battery after the lock reset.

  • SayItsNotSo

    I like the idea, but being an apprentice home-handyman, the first thing I thought when I saw it was “this shelf is upside down”, which draws attention to the shelf in the first place.

    Like I said, like the idea, even considering it, but the less obvious that something is out of the ordinary the better when hiding things, no?

  • ruinator

    Another great write up Tom!

  • Steven Alexander

    Wow! Their proud of those shelves. $400.00!! Yikes!! No thanks. Thanks for the write-up.

    • Budogunner

      For just a little more you can but a Murphy Door kit. Conceal a whole room, not just a shelf.

      • iksnilol

        I’d need at least three of those: one to hide the kitchen, one to hide the bedroom and one to hide a bathroom.

  • Retiredextremelydangerous

    Like trying to hide a tree inside a “stump.” Why bother? I have a weapon in every room of my house. Some rooms have more than one. If I leave home, for more than a few hours, I secure the weapons. Otherwise they are readily available to me and members of my family. But to anyone else, they wouldn’t know they were there. No selves or books are necessary to conceal a handgun. A little common sense is all you need. $400 is a lot. I will spend that money on more guns and ammo!

  • Mike Lashewitz

    Yes it appears out of place. I will build my own. Oh wait I already have… Mine uses a magnetic lock and a hand held magnet hidden in the base of one of my wife’s Knick Knacks which sits right on the shelf. In the time it takes to pinch the shelf and place the knick knack over the magnetic release it is open and the weapon is accessible. No batteries required.

  • Pretty cool idea. And the article actually explained all the steps in a way that was easy to understand and pictures at angles that made it easy to see what to do. Better than any YouTube video. Humor was a nice touch too. Will look into purchasing one or two of these units.