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Antique Safes/Schwab Safes


Three Safes Schwab Safes
Three Safes Schwab Saf  
Just For Fun
Just For Fun  
QUESTION: Hello and thanks for your service.  I have three safes that I really enjoy having but am interested in the actual protection I can expect.  Small brass plate on the upper right door reads Fire B and T-20 Tamper.  The serial numbers are:
The operate very well and I am wanted to put some shelving and gun racks in them.

Would be interested in the age and quality.

Thanks again

ANSWER: Hi Mike,

You might want to paint a picture of a local fire department, as these safes are NOT burglary resistive safes!

Based on the info that you have provided I would have to guess that these three safes are from the 1950's or possibly early 1960's at the latest.   Obviously the one with the serial number 291376 is much older than the other two which were possibly built within the same week.

The "T-20" rating is "Tamper Resistant" and NOT burglary resistant.   The "Class B" fire resistant rating, is the "old" Two Hour standard.   So while the safes do NOT meet current standards for fire resistance, they should provide adequate fire resistance for non valuable items.

While the grouping of these safes is impressive we rate safes in their ability to protect valuables.    Non-rated safes like these should NOT be used to store, in excess of about $5000 in valuables.   As you have indicated that you are going to put some shelving and gun racks in them, I would assume that you have more than one gun and perhaps a collection.    The only nice thing about having three of these safes is that you can spread the valuables out between them.

For instance, I have one rifle that is currently worth between $6-7,000 and I'm looking at buying one in the next couple months that with its extra barrels and scope will have an aggregate value of close to $10,000.    Either one of these guns WILL exceed the storage, value capacity of these safes.   

To put this in perspective, the majority of the gun safes on the market don't provide any better protection.   Unless you go with a top of the line gun safe like a Graffunder safe or an AMSEC BF or HF series safe, you are going to be limited by the $5000 recommended maximum storage value.     The lower Graffunder and AMSEC B series or BF series has a $5000 to $10,000 storage value, and the higher rated E and F or TL-15/30 ratings can exceed $50,000 easily.

Having a safe is a lot like gambling in Las Vegas - Obviously you don't have a ton of money just to throw away, so when you "Gamble" you want the best odds in the house, like betting odd or even and red or black.    While these don't quite give you a 50/50% chance of winning, it is the best odds - where you make or loose your money is called "RISK" - how MUCH money are you willing to bet for that chance of winning????

Putting your valuables in a safe is very similar.   Your odds are based on the type safe you are using, and the "RISK" is/are the valuables that you are storing inside.    If you are rich, and $50,000 is simply change - then making a $50,000 bet on red or black isn't really risky - similarly storing $50,000 inside of a safe wouldn't be risky - if you lose it - oh well, buy some new stuff.

On the other hand, if you are like me, and work hard for every penny that you earn, then the amount of "RISK" you are willing to take is going to be much smaller.   When you come home after a long weekend in Vegas, to find your home burned to the ground or burglarized - if ALL of your stuff is safe and still inside your safes, then they were worth the money.   On the other hand if it is all gone, then how good was the protection that YOU provided.

Bottom line - YOU have to determine if these safes are going to be adequate protection for your valuables.    I've given you the info that you need to figure out where to go from here.   If you have any specific questions, I would be happy to answer them for you.

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QUESTION: What is the method of breaking into these?  Is there anything that can be done to these to increase the security? Cables, chains, steel stock/bars?

Hi Mike,

Fire safes are designed to keep heat out, Burglary safes are designed to keep people out.   Composite safes have both in mind.

Fire safes rely on thin sheet metal inner and out skins, with a thick layer of some sort of insulation material - various manufacturers use their own proprietary receipts, but generally it is a gypsum-mortar-plaster of Paris type mix - NOT concrete.

Burglary safes use thick layers of steel, composite body safes include concrete or some type of insulation, along with rebar, and other forms of barrier materials.

What you have are fire safes, designed to keep heat out, and due to their construction are therefore only "Tamper Resistant"!    Please note the term "resistant" and not "proof"!

Having the safes built side by side into an enclosure does enhance the security slightly, but the more protection you can give them like concrete blocks around the sides, or thick steel plates, will enhance the security slightly.   However the doors are still exposed and would be your vulnerable side.

Hope this helps to explain the difference.

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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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