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Antique Safes/cary safe lost combo


QUESTION: Hello , I have am old cary safe with no combo and wanted to know if someone can help me figure out a little more info on it. I dont have the combo but the handle says 68097. Im assuming thats a serial number or something. Wasnt sure if someone knows if theres a factory master code but any info would be great on helping me open it.   Not sure here to start lrlr, rlrl or how many numbers are in the combo. I have time to try different combos.

ANSWER: Brian,

no such thing as a "factory master code" - you've either been watching too much TV or trying to internet surf to find an answer.

The lock on your Cary safe is most likely (based on your serial number and the dial photo), a Cary C5 lock.  This is a "screw change" lock with three wheels and a drive wheel.    Depending on how this combination is originally set, it will dial either LRLR or RLRL.   While this lock does NOT have a true 1,000,000 possible combinations, you aren't going to know which numbers to try which basically means trying most or all of them.   You can probably get the safe open by trying every other number which would still result in about 125,000 combinations.

Unfortunately, the first thing that you will have to determine is where the drive wheel gate is.   By placing turning pressure on the handle of the safe, you will notice that the dial seems to bind up.  Releasing the handle will free up the dial.   With slight pressure as you turn the dial, you will notice what appears to be 10 "clicks" or spots that the dial locks up as you rotate it.   Nine of these are false and only one is correct.   You have to determine which one is correct in order to start trying your 125,000 possible combinations.    At 500 combinations every day, it shouldn't take you more than about 9 months to test them.

As you don't know the combination, it really doesn't matter if you use LRLR or RLRL as long as YOU are consistent with your dialing tests.    Make up a spread sheet of all of the combinations that you are going to test before starting so that you don't lose track.

Dialing sequence is:

4 times left to the first number,
3 times right to the second number,
2 times left to the third number,
1 time right to the drive wheel gate (#_____).

Note:   left is counter clockwise, right is clockwise.  Do not count the revolutions of the dial, count the individual number as it arrives at the 12 o'clock index mark.   For instance if your first number is 50, you would turn counter clockwise (left), stopping the fourth time the number 50 arrives.

Again, using the above sequence, it doesn't matter if you go RLRL or LRLR as long as you are consistent.

If you still can't get it, or you get really tired, you can contact a local safe company to have their safe technician open the safe for you.   Cost should be in the $350 to $500 range and shouldn't do any damage to the safe.

Hope this helps, if you need further assistance, let me know.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you for following up so quickly.  You mention a drive gate. Can you explain what that is and how I would know if I found the drive gate. Thank you.
P.s. a safe guy told me he can drill and repair it for 425. Id rather not take that chance so it stays  orginal .


$425 is not a bad price, assuming that this is a complete price with no hidden charges.   Just make sure that you understand what you are paying for.   If there are additional charges, then this may not be a good price.

Drilling is not a problem if done correctly, by a trained safe technician, the small (usually 1/4") hole, can easily be repaired and it does not affect the value of the safe.   HOWEVER, if done incorrectly it could ruin the lock, dial and dial ring.   This parts are not easily available unless they come of another safe.   Cost for replacement parts could easily run $500 to $1000, so you need a guarantee that he isn't going to damage any parts.

The drive wheel, is directly attached to the spindle of the dial.   It transmits your actions OUTSIDE the safe directly to the lock through the turning motion.   Similar to how the transmission of your car transmits the rotation of your engine to the wheels.   This wheel has, around its circumference, 10 notches, one is the real gate, and the other nine are false gates.

As far as giving you any specific directions on opening the lock, it is not my intention or of this forum to pass along any opening information other than proper dialing sequences or basic information, for obvious security and liability reasons.   If you elect to make this a DIY project, I've given you all the necessary information - YOU have to figure out how to use it - OR you can have the safe tech to it for you.    I hope that you understand why we take this position - while you may not be a criminal, there may be others reading these posts who are, and are looking for information that might enable them to open someone else's safe.

Worst case if you elect to try all of the 125,000 combinations, testing each of the drive wheels gates, this would be 1.25 million possibilities, unless you figure out the short cuts to dialing.

See, now I've gone and given you even more information!  

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Terry V. Andreasen (Andy)


Safe and Vault related Questions; Antique Safe Repair and Restoration; With over 44 years in the Safe & Vault industry, if I can't answer your question I know where to get the answer. Current Project: Restoration of an Ely Norris Cannonball Safe from the early 1900's. Will answer Safe & Vault related questions concerning age, value, restoration, moving, opening & repairing, parts, operation and history. Note: It is not my intention to teach you to open safes or to provide information which may aid in the unlawful opening of a safe. I will not give out drill points or information which I deem inappropriate.


44 years in the Safe & Vault Industry. Owner and Service Manager for one of the largest Safe & Vault companies on the West Coast. Graduate of Lockmasters Safe Lock Servicing, Safe lock Manipulation and Safe Deposit Lock Courses. Graduate of Locksmith Institute. Author of "The Coffee Table Guide to Antique Safes". Certified Instructor for the California Locksmith Association teaching Basic and Advanced Lock Servicing, Basic Safe opening and Repairing. Factory Trained by AMSEC, LORD Safes, LeFebure, Mosler, KabaMas, LaGard and Sargent & Greenleaf

Safecrackers International and the National Antique Safe Association Safe & Vault Technicians Association

The Coffee Table Guide to Antique Safes

Graduate of Locksmith Institute 1972 Graduate Lockmasters Safe Lock Servicing 1974 Graduate Lockmasters Safe Lock Manipulation 1975 Graduate Lockmasters Safe Deposit Lock Servicing 1985 Instructor Certified - California Locksmith Association - 1985 Factory trained by AMSEC, MAJOR, STAR, Johnson-Pacific, Kaba-MAS, Allied-Gary, ISM, Lord, Brown Safe, EXL, Mosler, Diebold.

Awards and Honors
2009 - 2015 Listed in AllExperts top 50 Experts. All Experts Categories - Safes & Security Containers, Locksmithing, Antique Safes. Retired US Army Chief Warrant Officer (CW4), with 39 years of total service. With numerous awards from Vietnam, Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom. US Navy - 1971-1981 US Army Reserve 1984-2013 US Army Retired

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US Secret Service, FBI, BATF, Local Law enforcment agencies, Diebold, Hamilton Pacific, Red Hawk Int., Chubb International, Bank of America, Wells Fargo Bank, Mechanics Bank, El Dorado Savings Bank, many Credit unions and smaller banks. McDonalds, Togos, BurgerKing, TacoBell, Carls Jr. FoodMaxx, SaveMart, Lucky's, Albertson's, Raley's, Safeway, NobHill, Bell Markets, PW Markets. Great America, Century Theatres, Cinemark Theatres, UA Cinemas, and many homeowners and small businesses. Provide warranty service for lock and safe manufactures. Service area is Northern California - Fresno to Oregon, including western Nevada

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