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Gun Safe "Failures"

Copyright 2014 By Ken Dunckel Safecracker Expert Safe and Vault Service in the San Francisco Bay Area 415-203-7298 Did The Safe Fail? Gun safes are perhaps the best example of unrealistic expectations. I recently declined a job that involved a steel gun safe that was breached by burglars, who used a cutting wheel to make a large rectangular hole in one side and extract the contents. In the safe owner's eyes this constituted a gross failure on the part of the safe. His lawyer wanted me to support the claim that the safe failed. If I had taken the lawyer up on that job and gone to court to support that claim, somebody on the other side would have had a field day cutting my testimony to pieces. Based on what I knew, the safe did not fail. It wasn't designed to hold off an attack like that. The safe owner's complaint was like the man who buys a VW bug and later complains that it failed miserably when he entered it in the INDY 500.
Seemingly everyone has different expectation…

Safe Boobytraps: Tear Gas and Unknown Contents

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Safe Protectors

When people acquire locked safes, the most natural reaction is wanting to know what's inside.

Let me be the first to tell you:
Old or new, most locked-up safes acquired without combinations will prove to be empty.

Obviously there are exceptions, but for the most part you shouldn't expect to find someone's valuable forgotten/abandoned stash of money, jewelry, or whatever.

True enough, the only way to know for sure is to open it and do a thorough inspection. It's also a fact that a small percentage of such safes do have contents.

Until you know, the answer to the "what's inside?" question is "anything that fits." Contents really can be anything, ranging from worthless to worthwhile.

No matter what opening process you choose, though, be careful the first time the door swings. Just as a locked safe can hold valuables, it can also hold dangerous things. What follows here might have you thinking twice about tearing it open yourself,…

Safecrackers and Safecracking: Books and Movies

Murder mysteries abound, but there are precious few books, fiction or otherwise, for the general  public about safecracking. Murder mysteries have more appeal to writers, readers, and moviegoers.  It's hard to maintain reader or moviegoer interest for very long when the topic is safes and safecracking.

It can be done, though, and if you keep your eyes open, however, every once in a while a book or a movie about safecracking and safecrackers comes along. Aside from relatively recent and well-known safecracking-themed movies like The Italian Job and The Score, here are a few books and movies I've uncovered:


The Great Train Robbery Fiction, by Michael Crichton, the man who brought us Jurassic Park --- This book is easy to find, and was made into a very good movie with Sean Connery (opinion of course).

This is the fictionalized account of a real and daringly well-planned heist that took place in England aboard a train carrying safes loaded with the British Army payroll for troop…

Safe Opening: Should You Pay For Failure?

It's not uncommon for me to get a call from someone who wants me to come and open his or her safe after another company has visited, tried, failed, and left.

The safe owners often tell me that the first outfit sent someone who spent anywhere from fifteen minutes to half a day or more in a futile attempt to get their safe open before giving up.

It's really none of my business, but sometimes I can't help asking if the first person charged for the failed effort.

Surprisingly, plenty of people tell me that they did pay something for the failed effort. When I ask why, a typical answer is,
"Well, I had to give him something. He did spend time on it, and he worked sooo hard . . ."
Unbelievable . . . did they ever consider that maybe he worked so hard because he didn't know how to do the job and shouldn't have been there in the first place?

To make matters worse, often enough the person who tried so valiantly and worked so hard has done something that left th…

Yamashitas's Gold: Hidden Treasure From WW2

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I first published the anecdote that appears here in the newsletter I write for my industry (Boxman). Hardly technical, it's something of a departure from my basic "Day In The Life" type yarn. It was unusual to say the least.


This might be the greatest adventure I never had. Though it makes good telling, there are only a couple of facts that I know for certain to be true.
Fact: I did get this phone call and I did have this conversation, the gist of which I’ll recount here.
Fact: The treasure was/is real.
The rest? If nothing else, a good safe-related yarn.See what you think.
One slow morning several years ago an earnest-sounding man called and introduced himself. He’d obtained my phone number from a locksmith outfit that routinely refers safe work to me.
He said he was calling me based on their stellar character reference and the fact that they said I was good at opening safes.
When total strangers call and open dialogues with flowery praise for my Snow White reputation and…

Discount Safes: Costco Mentality

Costco Mentality

No matter where you bought your safe, no matter who you bought it from, if you need to have it opened, you're going to need the services of a safe technician unless you do it yourself. People are often aghast at the prices they hear for such work . . . "$$$! That's more than I paid for it!"

Maybe it is, but why should I apologize?

The opening price rocked you, and probably because it's more money than you imagined it would be. But I'm not in charge of your imagination, am I? Where did you get your pricing ideas in the first place?
Also, what do think will have to be done in order to get your safe opened?
Blast or burn? C'mon, willya . . ? Do you seriously think that's how it gets done by legitimate technicians? I'll bet the only ideas you have about safe opening are what you've seen on TV and movies. Am I right? And do you think those types of media are dealing in reality or entertainment? Do you believe that everything you …

Safe Makers

People who call often want pricing info, but when I ask about the maker's name on their safes they don't know. Many safes do have more than just the maker's name on the the front. It can get confusing.

Here I've listed the names of some of the better known US-made safes:

Some of the safe makers named here have long since gone out of business, and some have had to resort to off-shoring some or all of their manufacturing to reduce or contain costs. But as far as I know, those named here at least started as US-based enterprises.

As always, it's best to have a full frontal photo that you can text or email to any safe technician you might call about a safe. The more photos and detail, the better.

The Names:


Diebold
Mosler
York
Hall's
Herring-Hall-Marvin
Victor
Hamilton
Aanon
Adesco
Armor
Allied
Allied-Gary
Alpine
Amsec
Major
Barnes
Baum
Blue Dot
Bridgeman
Brown
Browning
Cannon
Cary
Centurion
City Safe
Collier
Corliss
Cincy
Detroit
Eastern
Eclipse
Excelsior
EXL
Fort Knox
Gardall
Gary
GlobeWernicke