Locksmithing/How to open safe


Hi Terry,
I'm writing a novel. My character discovers a safe (2-Hour Fire/Burglary Safe [3.3 Cu. Ft.], which she needs to open. She calls a locksmith, but he's out of town. (this is a small town...not too many options) She needs to get into it right away. I'm thinking of having her call the police. Would they be able to help her out?

I thank you in advance.


Generally when the police need to open a safe (due to a search warrant or similar reason), they will either call a local locksmith or safe technician to open it, or I've seen them try to have the fire department open them with the jaws of life!   LOL.    Even if they do get them opened, they generally destroy them in the process.    

Remember the TV ads about the Gorilla with the American Tourister luggage???   That's pretty much what you see when the police try to open a safe!!!  LOL

"IF" your safe is both fire AND burglary rated, then it WILL NOT be easy to open.   If it were it wouldn't be very safe.

Literally I get this SAME scenario (almost) several times each week.   Generally it  is due to someone going out of country and of course their pass port is locked in the safe and they can't get it open.

I do have a couple questions and problems with your scenario.

First off, people DON'T abandon safes with stuff left in side - meaning that abandoned safes are generally empty (about 99.5% of the time).

Second, you indicate that "SHE" discovers or finds the safe, which brings up two questions.   First - If she has just discovered the safe, WHY does she need it opened in such a hurry????
Second - If she has discovered the safe, AND needs to open it right away, this would lead any locksmith, safe technician or police officer to wonder about HER legitimate ownership, and/or authorization to have the safe opened or even worked on.
With these types of questions raised, no one is going to work on the safe without her providing proper proof of ownership - ESPECIALLY the police!

So, my first recommendation would be a little more story development.   First what are the circumstances surrounding her "DISCOVERY" of the safe, AND more importantly her "RELATIONSHIP" to the safe and/or contents.     Next item would be "WHY" does she need in the safe in such a hurry???   If she just discovered the safe, then there wouldn't be anything inside that she might need in such a hurry, unless you develop the story a little more around her relationship to the safe, and/or its previous owners.

As to her being in a hurry to get in it right away, as I mentioned, if safes were easy to get into, they wouldn't be very safe.    If the local locksmith/safe technician is out of town, then she is pretty much out of luck.

We have to open 3 to 5 safes every day, and a lot of these safes are opening attempts by burglars, owners and locksmiths.   In general they do a lot of damage but don't get in - which is why we get called.

So, back to your story - and it pretty much all revolves around the circumstances of her discovery.   If she doesn't have the combination, and she doesn't have proof of ownership, then she is going to be stuck waiting for the safe technician to get back in town to open the safe.

Sorry I don't have a better answer, but unless your story development is adjusted slightly, I don't see her getting into the safe "quickly" and/or possibly going to jail, as it wouldn't seem to me (or the police) that she is the owner of the safe.

Let me know if you have a little more info about the story line, maybe I'll be able to provide more help.


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Terry V. Andreasen (Andy)


Safe and Vault related Questions; Antique Safe Repair and Restoration; With over 42 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. 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 Author of "The Coffee Table Guide to Antique Safes".

SafeCrackers International and the National Antique Safe Association Safe & Vault Technicians Association (SAVTA)

The Coffee Table Guide to Antique Safes AllExperts.com

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 Expert 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

Past/Present Clients
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 and Western Nevada)

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