Vaultek’s LifePod might be one of the most popular portable pistol safes. This writer needed a new lockbox for his Glock 43X so, as part of our Ultimate Gun Safe Guide, I picked one up for a hands-on review, complete with waterproof testing. Vaultek says the LifePod is nearly lockpick-proof, that it can be submerged and floats, and that it offers quick and reliable firearm access. This review is not sponsored by LifePod. Paid for out-of-pocket for a daily carry handgun. So, let’s get an honest look at whether this lockbox is worth its $110 to $150 stickers (prices vary by color).
The LifePod is a pretty compact and thin lockbox. It’s a lot sleeker than other handgun cases and it’s TSA-approved for air travel, so it seems to fit the bill as a good travel safe. The Pod doesn’t have any flex, which was my first concern going with something that isn’t steel. It feels solid, but it’s not too heavy when loaded. There are tight tolerances built into the latches, lid, and around the keypad. Nothing wobbles or jiggles when the unit’s shut and sealed. So, there aren’t any areas to pick or pry at. The shell feels hard but has a slightly rubbery, grippy feel to it. The latches appear to be made from anodized aluminum, and all the hinges are made with stainless steel pins. Inside is some storage for paperwork and sensitive items, and pluck foam for sizing up the interior for your handgun and its magazines.
- Keypad: Touch-activated capacitive keypad
- Keypad Code Length: 4 to 8 digits
- Battery Type: 9V battery (not included)
- Battery Length: One year
- Weather Resistant: Advertised IP-65 waterproof rating.
- Accessories: Fabric tether lanyard, (2) keys, 19″ steel security cable, crate foam.
- Meets TSA Guidelines: Yes
- Construction: Impact-resistant proprietary material blend
- Exterior Dimensions: 10.25″ x 7″ x 2.25″
- Interior Dimension: 7.75″ x 6″ x 1.75″
- Handgun Fitment: Handgun up to 7.75″ in overall length, 6.5″ in overall width, and 1.75″ tall.
- Weight (Empty): 2lbs, 3 Oz.
Unboxing and accessories
(I went with the Olive Drab model)
Unboxing gives us a few goodies. A steel cable is provided for anchoring the box. You also receive some decent instructions that explain the battery and setup, programming, and how the keypad, lock, and latches work. An extra egg-crate foam insert is provided if you’re not a fan of the pluck-foam cubes that it comes with. But I found my Glock 43X made for a perfect fit once I plucked the insert to shape.
Powering On & Initial Setup
Getting the LifePod up and running was pretty straightforward, minus the trip to the gas station for some 9-volts. There’s no assembly or any extra bits to fasten. All you need to do is buy a battery and connect it inside the case’s battery compartment.
Once you plug in, the pod will power on and beep. It can be used right away with the default security code: 1-2-3-4. Obviously, you’ll want to reprogram this ASAP, because anybody can (and probably will) guess it quickly enough.
Reprogramming is pretty easy. There’s a PROGRAM button on the locking mechanism you need to access for this part.
Programming The Lock
You can use our little video to follow along with the instructions below:
- Open the lid.
- Insert a 9v battery.
- Locate the PROGRAM button.
- Ensure the locking mechanism is UNLOCKED.
- If not, press the lock icon, then enter the default entry code (1-2-3-4).
- Press and hold the PROGRAM button until the keypad numbers light up red in sequence.
- Type in your new 4- to 8-digit code once. Some or all of the numbers in your code can repeat
- Press and hold the PROGRAM button again, until the numbers light up.
- Type in your new 4- to 8-digit code one more time.
- Press and hold the PROGRAM button a third time.
- The device will beep, and your new entry code is saved.
Now you can use the lockbox. To secure it, close the lid and fasten the side latches. Then press the lock icon in the center of the keypad. You’ll hear the mechanism engage, and the keypad will light up. To unlock it again, tap the icon and then enter your combination. The lock will automatically disengage. Once you reprogram the LifePod, the default entry code will be deleted. Only one code can be programmed at a time. If you want, you can disable the back-up key lock to prevent picking. Do so by turning the KEY LOCK knob (next to the PROGRAM button) to the OFF position. This will disengage the tumbler and prevent the manual key lock from opening the lid.
Let’s start with one of the most overlooked things that most portable pistol cases come with. The security cable sports thick gauging with a clear plastic coating to prevent it from rusting or fraying over time. The anchor itself has a wide, thick steel plate that doesn’t require a bolt or fastener to secure the cable to the box. Instead, a matching steel slot is built into the pod’s lids. When the cable’s inserted and the unit is locked, the lids trap the cable so the anchor cannot be removed.
This makes for a very easy “grab-n-go” setup once you’ve found a place to anchor the LifePod for storage. The opposite end of the cable can be anchored to any floor or wall stud, inside a cabinet, or you can just padlock it in place. You can also see the two keys provided for the back-up lock, which is recessed underneath the keypad with a rubber waterproof cover.
Backup lock and USB power
The cover for the lock and USB is a pain to remove, so a small screwdriver or blade might be necessary to pop it free. That’s a good thing, though, since protects the external USB power port and back-up key lock from water when fully submerged. The USB port is provided as emergency power, for when the LifePod’s battery dies while the unit is locked and a key isn’t available.
Casing, Latches, and Hinges
The LifePod’s entire shell is covered with a dense polymer, rubber-like material. This veteran writer pegs it most similar to the hard polymers used on service-issued rifle cases or Army radio boxes. It’s tough, and it can take hard impacts without cracking or shattering. The lid’s steel hinges are recessed within the casing to prevent attack, too. The top lid has a diamond-print texture for grip, which works well when wet.
The compression latch hinges are nice. They get pretty stainless steel hardware, and the finger latch itself feels like coated aluminum, not plastic. Both latches need to be removed to open the lid. Their sole purpose is to keep the O-ring inside the lid compressed, to ensure the Pod stays waterproof.
Is the LifePod really waterproof?
I tested it for myself as best I could. Filled up the tub with some water, threw my trusty Glock and a mag inside the case, compressed the latches and locked it, and threw it in the water. The LifePod advertises an IP-65 waterproof rating, not an IP-67 rating. An IP-65 rating officially protects against dust and water projected from a nozzle. Only IP-67 ratings are guaranteed to protect against complete immersion under water. Well, we did it anyway:
This case is at least consistently waterproof when submerged in shallow depths. The container also floats as claimed, at least when loaded with a G43X and one magazine. Combine these factors and you get a pretty good setup for protecting your handgun in a wet environment. It kept my Glock dry and no water made its way into the container or inside the USB/lock compartment after being dunked and swished a few times. I let the case float for about five minutes, and it held up.
Overall, the Vaultek seems to do well in the wet and that brings me to the keypad: I was able to use the keypad without issues when it was wet. Since the keys are not actual buttons and they function more like a touchscreen, no water or debris can get underneath them. I’m a huge fan of these buttons. They may not “click” like a conventional push button, but they work with utter reliability and I found myself able to open the LifePod quickly in an emergency:
Emergency Access Time Trial
Overall, it took about 3 to 4 seconds to access our stored Glock. The interface is incredibly simple and the lack of other buttons and options makes using the keypad easy under stress. I recommend practicing opening and closing the unit a few times to get confident with it.
The biggest area many portable pistol safe makers seem to skimp on is the security latch for the lid. So, I was happy to open up the LifePod and find a thick and sturdy stainless steel latch for the locking mechanism to grab onto. It’s bolted to the lid with four large screws and a nice, wide stainless plate. It’s safe to say other aspects of the LifePod would fail against sustained physical attack before the hinge.
Interior Lid Storage
Sitting beside the security latch is some paper and document storage inside the top lid. A mesh cloth insert is provided for keys and small items, with billfold-type containers made from ballistic nylon for cards. These can hold standard credit and debit cards, and a passport and cash tucked can be tucked underneath. I thought, James Bond would probably enjoy traveling abroad with this case storing his aliases and PPK/S.
Finally, the root of the matter: The LifePod makes ample room for my G43X and a spare magazine. You get lil’ square foam cubes that can be removed piece by piece, allowing for a custom fit of your handgun. Overall, there’s not room in here for much else besides a semiauto shooter and some bullets, but that’s what this case was made for. In this photo, you can also see the large rubber O-ring that gets compressed between the lids to make the compartment waterproof.
Sadly, this portable pistol safe will not fit a full-size 1911. A lot of folks ask about which guns will fit inside this lockbox. So, I took a moment to confirm interior measurements.
The LifePod gives you 6″ of width and 8″ of length inside the main compartment. Discounting the small protrusion made by the lock inside the case, this is slightly longer than the advertised dimensions of 6″ wide by 7.75″ tall. Exterior dimensions are true as advertised.
Transport and use
A portable handgun case ain’t no good if it can’t fit nowhere. So, does the LifePod work for travel? In short, yes. It didn’t fit in the glove box of my coupe, but I wasn’t expecting it to. A large truck or SUV should have few issues stowing this pistol case up front near the driver if it’s really needed. I was able to tuck it way under my seat for some nice concealment. Mind the crumbs from the young child’s seat above.
For home storage, the Pod’s great. I was able to tuck it into any drawer I wanted around the kitchen and bedroom.
It’s a low-profile case that doesn’t make its purpose or presence obvious.
If you’re looking for a pistol lockbox that can be stored near an entryway or in a small hutch or footlocker (or some weird space like behind a sink or headboard, we don’t judge) this box makes a pretty good candidate.
So, is the Vaultek Lifepod a good choice for a portable pistol safe? I think so. I was on the fence about investing in electronics and polymer casings. I’m an old-school gun owner who prefers his big, bulky steel long gun safes. That said, as a single father and new homeowner, I realized the need for a pistol lockbox. I wanted something I can move around and trust to keep my kid and any opportunistic thieves out. I hike and fish, and I wanted something that can get wet and take some abuse. For the price, I think the LifePod will do a good job on all counts.
Are there more expensive, flashier pistol safes? Biometric fingerprint scanners and Bluetooth? Sure. But they cost more. This writer consider this pistol case to be good at satisfying all the important factors, without adding bells and whistles that increase cost and complexity.
You can grab a LifePod here. The basic black box will run you $110. Some colors are available (white, orange, blue, and so on) and some patterns go up to $140. A shoulder bag/carrying case is available that puts the combo at $150.
What guns fit in the LifePod?
A: Vaultek has a list of popular pistols that fit. Yes, the Glock 19 fits.
- Glock 43/X and Two Spare Mags
- Glock 27 and Spare Mag
- Glock 23
- Glock 19
- Unity Tactical Glock 19 with an RMR and a Surefire 300
- Glock 20 and Spare Mags
- Glock 17 and Spare Mag
- Glock 22 and Spare Mag
- Ruger SP-101
- Sig Sauer RXP XCompact with a Sig Sauer FOXTROT1 Light, and Spare Mag
- Sig P365 and Spare Mags
- Sig P225 Extreme Elite
- Sig P226 and Spare Mags
- Sig P365 and Spare Mags
- Sig P938 Legion
- Sig Sauer P320 Carry .45
- Springfield Hellcat
- Springfield XDS 45
- Springfield XDm 3.8 Compact .45 with 13 Round Mag
- Taurus PT 40
Uh, this thing opens with a fork?!
A: I heard about this, too. Some said the LifePod could be opened with a fork. I dug into it and this incident apparently happened a few years ago, with Vaultek replacing the models that had the faulty locks. I wasn’t able to see any way of picking my lock or latch open with a fork or tool.
Can I fly with the LifePod?
A: Yes, this case is TSA-approved for air travel. You can fly with a handgun stored in the LifePod as checked baggage. No, you do not need to provide a key to TSA, and the case cannot be opened by TSA agents without you. This holds true for any firearm being flown. When you fly with a gun, TSA agents will inspect your firearm in your presence before scanning and checking it as baggage. You can read their regulations here.
Does the case need to be locked to remain waterproof?
A: No. The compression latches and lid alone provide a watertight seal. The locking mechanism can remain locked or unlocked when wet.
Is this case fireproof?
A: Nope. There aren’t any fireproof ratings advertised, and since it is constructed with polymer materials, I wouldn’t trust it for very long near any big heat source.
What if the battery dies and the pod’s locked?
A: The USB power port’s there for emergency power. It’s micro-USB connector. Once you plug it in, the unit will power on and you can use the keypad for entry. The back-up key lock will work, too.
Is there a security lock-out?
A: Yes. After six failed attempts, the pod will refuse to accept any code entries for four minutes. You’ll know it’s in lock-out mode by pressing the keypad. It will light up red and beep until the 4-minute timer reaches zero. The back-up keys can still be used to bypass the lock-out and open the case in an emergency.
Can I leave the latches undone, but lock the case?
A: You can, but Vaultek says the lid could potentially bind on the locking mechanism. It’s probably best to keep the latches in place while the lock is engaged. This will prevent the case from binding up on you if you need to open it in a hurry.
What do all the lights and colors mean?
A: The battery indicator’s always shows green unless the unit is dead. If it’s red, it’s time to change the battery. The lock icon in the center of the keypad will light up red only when the case is locked.
That’s all for now, folks. Check out our Ultimate Gun Safe to learn more.