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.
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).
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).
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…
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.
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.
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-à-brac on top (or an annoyingly nosy cat). That being said I would not trust it to do pull-ups from…
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.
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).
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/