Local college student designs mounted gun safe

'Right now, immediate access and safety are mutually exclusive'
Provided photo
Provided photo

A local college student is working on a new product that will give firearm owners a safe case to hold their guns that is also easily accessible.

Timothy Oh, a 22-year-old Californian who attends RPI, founded a company called Vara to produce the gun safe, which is called Reach. 

The safe, which is made of high-strength anodized aluminum, looks like a gun holster that locks onto the gun and is meant to be mounted securely on a gun owner’s bed, or elsewhere in the home or vehicle.

Customers can purchase inserts for the safe that specifically fit their handgun, making sure it stays locked in the holder.

“Your gun will fit perfectly in the safe,” he said.

According to Oh, when a gun owners reaches down to grab a gun from the safe, his or her fingerprint will automatically align with a sensor programmed to unlock the device immediately. The fingerprint recognition mechanism also keeps other people from accessing the gun.

The safe is very rigid, but also very lightweight, Oh said. 

“I grew up with family and friends in law enforcement and in the military,” Oh said. “Firearm safety was always a big thing for me.”

Oh, who grew up near Los Angeles, won the New York Business Plan Competition in 2016, a contest in which student-led startups are judged by venture capitalists and angel investors. 

Vara, Oh said, stems from the Latin name valora, which means courage.

His main goal was to find a way to bridge the gap between keeping a gun safely secured and having easy access to it.

“It was all about breaking barriers that keep people from accessing a gun from a safe,” Oh said. “Right now, immediate access and safety are mutually exclusive.”

Oh’s plan for Reach received the $100,000 grand prize, and he subsequently traveled to California with about 15 prototypes of the product, which he showed to more than 1,500 gun owners for feedback. He also conducted research with the Los Angeles Police Department.

After the feedback and securing more investors, Oh settled on a final plan for Reach. He is now working in a three-person team out of the NYBizLab in Schenectady on preproduction, with hopes of moving to Clifton Park once the manufacturing stage begins.

Oh has also secured a $50,000 grant from FuzeHub, a New York business that guides companies through manufacturing processes. 

While the grants have been helpful, Oh said the real driving force was the firearms owners who were seeking secure but accessible ways to store their guns.

“The demand has been immensely driven by all the gun owners we’re getting feedback from,” he said. “That’s why it went from an idea to real concept.”

Reach is specifically designed for handguns, but Oh is hoping to expand into producing shotgun and rifle safes. 

He also has plans to work with veterans in the future and said the opportunity to work with and listen to gun owners who are demanding a safer place for their guns has been the most interesting part of Vara’s journey.

“It’s been immense to see the network and support of people who want to bring safety to firearms,” he said. “That has been one of the greatest experiences.”

Oh is hoping to launch sales of the Reach by the end of the year, with a tentative price of $299. Vara’s website features an option by which customers can sign up to reserve a safe.

Categories: Business, News, Schenectady County

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