How to Break Open a Safe?

How to break open a safe is usually a question only thieves and locksmiths think about. Anyone looking at purchasing a safe should be thinking about this question too. No, you won’t be breaking into a safe, but you want to keep the burglars from breaking into yours. With just a little knowledge, you can protect yourself and your belongings from even the most sophisticated burglar. Here are some things to keep in mind when purchasing a safe:

Safe burglaries are often depicted in the movies as a simple process that takes seconds and ding the safe is open. This isn’t very accurate and not very believable. Holding a stethoscope to the door and spinning the combination lock to listen for the clicking sound might work in the movies, but modern safes are designed with this old technique in mind to prevent people from trying this. Safecracking isn’t really that easy and most methods of breaking into a safe require years of experience and training to master.

Often time’s burglars try to remove the safe to a secure location where they can take their time to force it open. This is easily prevented by bolting your safe to the floor or ground with anchor bolts. Most safe manufactures have factory installed anchor bolt holes for this purpose.

Combination locks are still the number one method of securing a safe even though they have been around a long time. There are two classifications for safe combination locks, Group I and Group II. Group II combination locks are the most common type found on home safes today. They offer up to three number combinations. Group I locks provide a greater degree of protection of up to 4 numbers. These locks are sturdier, and have more wheels in the lock mechanism. This greatly reduces the probability of even a skilled professional cracking the safe. Also, a Group IR lock defeats the use of portable x-ray devices to manipulate the combination.

The easiest method for a thief to open a safe is to know the combination. When changing your combination, avoid using numbers like your date of birth, social security number or drivers license number. They might be easy to remember but they are also easy for criminals to obtain. Another important step is to make sure you don’t store the combination near the safe or keep it in your home. It is recommended that you memorize the number and write it down on a piece of paper to give to a trusted friend or relative. If you have a safe deposit box, then store it there. This way it won’t be stored out in the open to give thieves easy access.

When the combination doesn’t work, then the burglar has to resort to destroying the safe. They might try to drill the safe or the face of the lock to gain access with a borescope. This allows the burglar to watch the wheels of the lock spin while spinning the dial to get the safe open. Hardened steel plates make it harder for anyone to drill it open but if the burglar has special titanium drill bits they could eventually get through. The hardened steel plate slows them down and time is not on the thief’s side. Of course safe manufactures put an additional method in place to protect from drilling. Glass re-lockers are set up so that when the lock is being drilled, glass is broken by the drill bit. It triggers a set of auxiliary locking devices which lock out the safe completely. Even putting in the correct combination will not open the safe once the re-locker has been activated.

The safe door can be a weak spot on a safe if it is made of thin metal. This makes the burglar’s job easier and all they need is a pry bar or crow bar to pry open the door. The thicker the door, the harder it will be to pry open. Look for a safe with a U.L. listing of (RSC) Residential Security Container or higher if you want better burglar resistance.

If you are storing anything of high value (over $30,000 in content value) in your safe, then you might want to look for one that has a TL-15 or TL-30 Underwriters Laboratories Inc. (U.L.) rating. If it has a U.L. TL-15 rating, it means that it was tested for resistance to an attack using common hand tools, drills, punches, hammers, and pressure applying devices for a net time of 15 minutes. The U.L. TL-30 rating has the same requirements except during the test a few more tools are used and it resisted the attack for a net time of 30 minutes. You can read more about what the different burglar ratings here.

Since all metals burn at certain temperatures, torching devices or explosives can be used to get inside a safe. Not only would this take a lot of time but there would be a lot of heat and smoke from burning metal to make it likely of it happening. The odds of the burglar blowing up your safe or someone dragging a plasma cutter into your home to cut a hole in your safe isn’t very likely.

When you are searching for the right safe, you want to remember that all of them are NOT burglar proof but they can be burglar resistant. Finding a safe that has a U.L. TL-15 or U.L. TL-30 rating, a steel hardened plate behind the door, glass re-lockers, and a thick steel door will keep most everyone out that shouldn’t be in there. Bolting the safe to the floor or ground is absolutely recommended to help keep it in your home. Not storing your safe combination near the safe or in your home will help keep your safe safe When selecting a burglar safe, remember that if it doesn’t have a fire rating, it will not protect anything inside from a fire and the contents will be destroyed. It is better to purchase a Burglar Fire Safe if you want the advantage of both ratings. The AMSEC CE18144 High Security Burglar Fire Safe has all these options and more along with a 2 hour fire rating and is one of the better safes manufactured today. These extra options may cost a bit more, but the added peace of mind is worth the extra money.

23 Responses to How to Break Open a Safe?

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  3. Vicky says:

    I have a small safe 5-7yrs old- for quick access to a revolver/cash/doc’s (its empty or so he says). It is a electronic-4 digit (on top)-closet shelf safe w/ break away bolts (adhere to bottom)-14″L x 8 1/2″H x10″W slightly angled in front-door opening from top to bottom (draw bridge style)-safety 9v battery back up. My husband placed the instructions inside the safe and of course the battery is dead. There are no identification’s absolutely NOTHING on the out side other than the black and gray marble tone. How do I get in to it…how do I find the maker…all I have are the bolts and instructions for installing…I have looked everywhere can some one advise me?

  4. Andrew says:

    I have an abandoned with no obvious identifying marks on it… It is a key safe, but I can’t see anything that would tell me the manufacturer or model… How do I even begin to go about getting a replacement key?

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  6. Brian says:

    i live in small town 1200 people. i just bought a building built in 1860 that has a m briggs and son safe, lock mech is sargent and greenleaf. i am the 3 owner, 2nd owner bought building 32 years ago and has never opened safe either.
    just wondering how to open the safe without drilling it out, thanks.

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  8. Doug says:

    I have a Gardall Safe which was aquired with the building 8yrs. ago. I have been looking at this safe setting in a corner for 8yrs. wondering what I should do with it. It is empty. Can anyone give me instructions how to open it? It has a combination lock.

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    great post mate, keep rocking it!

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  13. james says:

    Hello nice to see a semi current blog with accurate information being a professional safe engineer it’s nice to see a good bit of information to the public ….. regarding anyone with a locked safemy advise is to firstly take a photo and show it to a safe engineer a picture speakers a thousand words to us not only does it help us to I’d the unit and lock it also give us an idea of where it’s installed for example against a wall in a alcove under a counter all is relevant whilst opening a locked unit for example if it were to be drilled and opened with a endoscope having access to the top or side may be critical to avoid glass installed in the door (it may still have top or side glass but that’s where a picture helps ) most good engineers will be able to open your safe in a non destructive manor but remember that costs are generally relevant to the grade or quality of safe.if you contact any engineer worth his salt they should be able to furnish you with factory settings and instructions to try first hope this helps

  14. Gemma says:

    I have a small room safe. Today I changed the batteries but must have put them in wrong and I stupidly did not check first because now the safe wont open. I went to get the over ride key. but it seems I have put the wrong key aside (we have 5 safes in total was we have a B&B) and the other keys are locked in my safe. I do not know what brand it is – there is no brand on it. Or I would phone and see about getting a duplicate key. I live in Indonesia and bought the safes on the next island, so I can not just go to the shop and ask. My husband wants to try and force it open but I am worried that we will fail and that the lock will be damaged and even if we get a key for it we wont then be able to open it. There isn’t much money in there but our deeds, my passport and documents etc are all in there. Not to mention someone elses spare keys who left them with me for safe keeping.

    How strong are room safes? Do you think we would be able to force it open?

  15. Pingback: Open safes | Kaokaokao

  16. yearight says:

    this blog is called “how to break into a safe”…. this is not the name it needs. nowhere in here does it tell you how to effectively break into a safe! cmon, there is good info on buying a safe and what to look for and there is also info on anti theft measures, but it does not tell you how to break into the freaking safe!!!

  17. Bonhomie says:

    I have a standing firearm safe, generic — no manufacture name, and the dial no longer engages. It just spins freely and thus does not allow the safe to open. How do I get into this safe?? Handle that rotates and moves the large horizontal pins, three per side, is apprx 5 inches below and 2 inched to the right of the dial. Idea’s please.

  18. Heather says:

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  23. Great article, how can you determine the UL rating of a safe in order to minimize a criminal gaining access to it?

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