WEST CHESTER, Ohio - An Ohio inventor has turned his background as a lock expert and his passion for gun safety into a new West Chester business. Rod Herdman hopes his WallHolster will not only revolutionize the way gun owners store their weapons, but also prevent those same weapons from falling into the wrong hands.
"Initially, I was simply looking for a solution to secure my own handguns without putting them in a safe or keeping them loaded and hidden," he said. "I wanted them locked up, yet ready. Most importantly, I wanted a lock that could be unlocked instantly without keys."
Ideas inspired by tragedy
Herdman's GUNPUCK Outlet Store celebrated its grand opening in the Beckett Commons shopping center Monday.
The storefront, which is a brick-and-mortar addition to the company's website and online business , sells the WallHolster for about $120. Herdman said his product was conceived in response to an increasing barrage of news accounts of gun accidents and deaths, from the young boy in Russellville, Oh., who was killed while playing with his father's .45 handgun to the LaSalle High School student who took a gun to school to commit suicide.
"The problem isn't that current gun locks aren't an effective child guard. The problem is gun owners don't use them," Herdman said. "If you're a gun owner you already understand the problem. It takes too much time to find the keys and too much time to get the lock off your gun or get your gun out of a safe."
Herdman, who has an extensive background in the lock business, holds nine U.S. patents and is the creator of SmartLOC™ self-rekeyable lock technology.
"Seconds do matter in a home-defense scenario," he said. "As a result, loaded guns across America are not being locked up and are accessible by children, unstable adults and thieves. Guns that were purchased with the intention of protecting one's family often end up doing terrible harm to the family."
Herdman's WallHolster has two parts:
"One restless night" yields idea
Depending on the type of buttons built into an individual's WallHolster, available code combinations can range from 3,000 to over 134 million.
Herdman said the idea for the WallHolster (originally called the GunPuck) came to him "one restless night" in January. He said it fits a niche between "cheap" gun locks–which few gun owners actually use, he said--and expensive, heavy gun safes. It ensures the gun can't be easily removed by a child or burglar, he added.
Stephen Viola, owner of Forrest Lytle Landscape and Arborist Supply Company in Finneytown, is a distributor of the WallHolster. He says customer feedback has been positive.
"We deal with a lot of people that are outside enthusiasts and gun owners and the response to and excitement about this product has been terrific," Viola said. "You never know who's going to be in your house. You can be careful with your own kids and family members and try to educate them about gun safety, but you can't be there all the time when other people are in your house."
Herdman said the WallHolster is primarily for "middle class gun owners with families... police officers that need a safe place to store their gun when off duty. And third, gun owners with grandchildren."
"If you compare our lock mechanism to that of a standard trigger guard or cable locks on the market, our products are considerably more secure and resistant to forced entry," Herdman said. "Their locks operate more on a spring-latch concept and my lock design is like a padlock: a multi-point, positive locking mechanism that will release only when the proper code is depressed. It can't be shimmied or tripped open."
GUNPUCK currently employs seven people and is a family affair for Herdman. He lured his father, nearing 90, out of retirement to help build the business, and he now serves as the company's head of telemarketing. The company's products are assembled in a warehouse behind the West Chester store.
Currently, GUNPUCK has about a dozen retail dealers around the Greater Cincinnati area that have agreed to begin selling the WallHolsters. Herdman said the distributors include conceal-carry instructors, auto repair stores, landscape suppliers and plumbing supply companies. Herdman said he expects to have a complete listing of distributors on the GUNPUCK website soon.
"We are especially interested in conceal-carry instructors, as they're all about safe gun handling and ownership," Herdman said. "We believe this is a perfect fit and opportunity for them to increase their revenue and for us to sell gun safety products. (As instructors), they have a captive audience."
Not everyone is a fan
Herdman said he has faced some resistance to his product from those he assumed would be natural allies: gun shops and gun dealers.
"There is a strange attitude shared by many hard core gun dealers/owners that is hard for me to wrap my head around," he said. "They believe gun training and education with children is the ultimate solution to gun safety. They believe any product that stands between them (the gun owner) and pulling the trigger will get them killed. So they leave loaded guns in their home in reach of children, distraught teens, and intruders. It's a bit naïve."
In spite of the resistance of some to jump on board, Herdman said he's ready to make GUNPUCK products available to all who want them.
"Our goal is to establish a distributor network locally and then scale the model across the state and eventually across the country"
According to Herdman, the bottom line is also the company's tagline: "Keep ‘em safe; Keep'em ready."
"As gun owners, we have a responsibility to keep our guns from children, distraught family members and intruders," said Herdman. "If we don't take the initiative and secure our weapons, the government will do
it for us. We don't need more gun laws, we need more responsible gun owners."