The pix you asked for: 36" crowbar versus safe


January 25, 2013, 10:59 PM
Last week I warned against buying an electronic safe that does not have a mechanical backup. This is doubly true if its an old safe that no one has any specs on. A $65 bargain was no bargain.

Using a regular hacksaw, I cut a corner off the safe to get a look at how it was built.

I thought it would be a simple thing to make a horizontal cut near the bottom of the doorframe, then saw a vertical cut along the side.
Nothing is ever simple. The hacksaw blade broke, and the replacement wanted to go off at an angle. I drilled a hole to try to get it back on track. I didn't want to risk accidentally sawing into the safe's contents.

With the cut complete, the side of the door frame should have just fallen off. No such luck. There seemed to be more metal along the top and bottom of the frame that I hadn't completely cut. A little more time and thought with the hacksaw might have been the elegant way to go, but I had this crowbar and I hadn't ever used it before, so...

Ultimately, I pryed it open. As you can see, it was worth it.

- - - Yoda

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January 25, 2013, 11:02 PM
Not sure what's going on but I can't see any pictures that you are describing.

January 25, 2013, 11:04 PM
Same pics.

January 25, 2013, 11:05 PM
The pics are very large as in oversized. It took my pc a bit to load before they displayed.

January 25, 2013, 11:07 PM
If anyone knows how to shrink them down, go ahead. It took me longer to post these than it did to get into the safe.

- - - Yoda

January 25, 2013, 11:08 PM
You are a lot better photographer than safe cracker. Those are some huge pics.

January 25, 2013, 11:11 PM
Maybe I'm just a horse, but I don't see any pictures?

January 25, 2013, 11:12 PM
MacGuvyer, is it you?

January 25, 2013, 11:14 PM
If anyone knows how to shrink them down, go ahead. It took me longer to post these than it did to get into the safe.

- - - Yoda

install that and you can resize pics with a right click from Windows 7.

January 25, 2013, 11:15 PM
Awesome. I can't make out what brand they are, but always nice to see AR lowers..

4v50 Gary
January 25, 2013, 11:20 PM
Good thread. How much time elapsed from start to entry?

January 25, 2013, 11:40 PM
That is no crowbar that I've ever seen. Yellow?

January 25, 2013, 11:47 PM
It took two complete evenings.

So, if anyone wonders if even a cheap safe can slow down a bad guy, i think the answer is YES... so long as they can't just carry it off. This sucker was bolted to the floor.

- - - Yoda

January 25, 2013, 11:49 PM
Stanley-Bostich brand

- - - yoda

January 26, 2013, 01:45 AM
Usually to reduce the size of a picture you just resave it and choose a smaller size for it.

Try copying a picture and then saving it and see if the program you are using lets you choose size.

January 26, 2013, 07:16 AM
Too bad you weren't more carful with that saw. Look's like you cut those guns up into pieces!

January 26, 2013, 10:46 AM
I can see the photos, but they are about the size of postage stamps. Hard to see any detail.

January 26, 2013, 10:58 AM
Usually they "peel" safes. matbe a sledge and a chisel would have worked better.

January 26, 2013, 12:32 PM
It took two evenings to get into that safe? A sawsall would have been through that sheet metal box in minutes. A brute force sledge/prybar would have been at least as fast. Why so long?

January 26, 2013, 12:43 PM
Why so long?

Because he had time and cared about the contents.

There are very few consumer type safes I couldn't open in 5-10 minutes with my equipment, but without knowing the construction of the safe and it's contents, there'd be a serious risk of damaging what's inside.

On the OP's, though, I'd have just used an air hammer chisel to make an opening (faster than hacksaw, no heat like torch or cut off wheel), then stuck the spreader jaws of my hydraulic ram in.

January 26, 2013, 12:52 PM
I hate being a nag but could you possibly resize the pictures a bit larger as I am having a hard time viewing accurately the work.
What gauge steel was that safe??

January 26, 2013, 01:36 PM
I know my vision is not what it used to be but those postage stamp sized pics are REALLY hard to see.

4v50 Gary
January 26, 2013, 01:43 PM
About twenty years ago, a family stored gold, jewelry and cash into a cheap fire safe. The thieves took the safe. I saw it at the station where it was dumped in the parking lot after being recovered. The door was pried off. Lesson: Don't put $500,000 of stuff in a cheap safe. The safe should be rated to protect the goods you're keeping in there.

Joke & Dagger
January 26, 2013, 01:44 PM
All in all, a couple of evenings of good old-fashioned guy fun.

January 26, 2013, 03:26 PM
There are only two tasks a safe provides. A specific amount of time it will protect its contents from a specific temperature and duration of said temperature in a fire. The fire rating is specific and easy to calculate if it will protect your guns based on how hot a structure fire gets, each one has variation due to size of structure and contents, but you can do a fair job with a little research to figure out how much fire rating you need for your positioning of safe in your home.

The second task is amount of additional time it take for "average" thief to access contents. Some thieves will find a gun safe by surprise and have to use the tools they find on hand in your home to open it. In another section on this site a person posted pics of his safe in his garage along with other firearms related toys relevant to the topic. Sitting within site of the safe was a welder. It would be easy to turn the welder up to its highest setting and use it to burn a hole in the side of the safe or cut the locking mechanism out if the thief thought the door was the weak spot to attack.

That brings up knowledge. Does the thief know the weak spot of a vault" Door is usually the strongest part as it is where most attacks happen. the sides and top of some vaults are very thin. Five minutes with an 18 volt cordless angle grinder and a cut off wheel will have you in and average gun vault. The best thing for the thief is the fire lining will protect the contents while he attacks it. Thus all a safe is designed to do is add time to the thieves attempt to take its contents. I consider in most circumstances the vaults as primarily fire protection. That is 75% of their job. The other 25% is to add enough time that a burglar cannot snatch, grab and run before the police or I dispatch from the alarm notification.

Most homes with alarms have standard 1-800-I-AM-SCARED alarms. The 1-800 company comes out and puts sensors on doors, windows, a couple of motions and a siren to alert the neighbors if they happen to care your home is screaming "help". They hook it into the phone line for monitoring and go on their merry way and send you a monthly bill. So here is the deal. Most homes now have a little NEMA waterproof box on the side of the house that the phone line comes in through. For a basic thief these days that has served 30 days or more or used a Google task bar knows that you cut that phone line. Then you look for the box with the siren and fill it full of expanding foam out of a spray can and once it swells up, the siren wont make enough sound to scare a squirrel in the attic.

My alarm is same as most others except it is all top line equipment and not 1-800-FREE-INSTALLATION quality although that beats nothing. There are two sirens, both hidden and face the neighbor on each side of the house. My alarm panel is hidden and gives 20 seconds to disarm. It also has a cellular backup hidden in the attic. If someone cuts the phone line it still has a way to call out. Also it has a radio backup that "polls" the alarm company at least once every minute. If the alarm companies computer goes three minutes without getting a ping from my house a technician accesses my alarm through the phone line to make sure all is well. If he can't access the panel from the phone line he tries via the cell module. If that is dead too, he assumes someone with knowledge has bypassed the alarm, dispatches the police and calls me and the wife. Once the extra 400.00 in equipment cost for these extras was spent, it adds a whopping 20.00 bucks a month for three types of monitoring.

I have three vaults bolted together side by side, bolted to the floor and bolted into a corner of my basement. That leaves the side of one vault and the tops of all three exposed. I built a steel locker that is the width and depth of all three safes out of 3/16" AR400 steel. All the doors of said cabinet have these:

The only difference is I replaced the lock cylinders with Mul-t-lock pick resistant cores that use a high security key. I also backed up the hardened bolts by tack welding the hasps at each corner. The entire unit was put on top of the vaults and bolted to each vault and the concrete wall behind. At this point all I had was one vault with one side exposed. That vault houses, cameras and such that I want protected but are not going to be life changing if they get gone. The guns stay in the center vault and one that is in the corner with two sides protected by concrete. The doors are 1/4" AR500 steel on my safes with active re-lockers and extra hardened anti drill plate over all of the locking mechanisms. The mechanical dials have keyed locks to keep anyone from spinning the dials without bypassing the wafer lock on the dial.

When installing a safe, remember that is bolted directly to concrete, condensation or any water that leaches between the safe and the concrete will rust the safe and compromise it. I chose a 3/8 thick laminate product to put under the safes and behind them so there was no direct contact with the concrete. I also used stainless fasteners for this purpose and used O-rings and silicone to help keep water intrusion from the fasteners.

The key thing for me is all of my heavy duty metal working equipment is at my business. Other than basic hand tools, a cordless drill, etc, there is noting on premises that gives a thief the tools to compromise the vaults without bringing them. If your vault is in your basement or garage where your welder and torches are, at least you have the fire protection if your home burns but please don't keep the tools to easily bypass your vault within site of the bad guys. I have seen it personally many times. Bottom line is this. A safe just adds time. According to the safe and the thief that time varies. If someone that knows what I do was coming for your stuff and you had an industry standard alarm and a 900.00 dollar or less safe, about 20 minutes and all your guns would be in their generic van that says Bills Plumbing so your neighbors just assume your toilet stopped up.

Keep the safe, keep the alarm. If you don't have both add them. Spend the extra 10 bucks a month for the cellular module and put a sensor on the safe itself. Install the safe in a corner so the back and one side have extra protection. Then, go as far as you want. If all you have are 3 long guns and 3 pistols, you don't need any more. If you have a prolific collection of investment grade collectibles, NFA class 2 & 3, or a dozen AR-15's then base your security measures in direct proportion to the value of your collection. If you own just one rifle and a couple of pistols you can skip the vault. Hide your rifle and tote your pistol when you leave the house then let the wife carry the other. If you NEED a safe, make sure to adequately protect your contents in proportion to value.

January 26, 2013, 03:38 PM
Gordon Freeman 1, Safe 0.

Anyway, the lessons learned in this thread: one, don't buy a cheap safe with no warranty. Two, don't store expensive stuff in a safe that can just be carried away. Bolt it down, or otherwise make it impossible to remove without heavy equipment that would definitely raise attention.

January 26, 2013, 03:50 PM
A torch can be used if you soak the safe with a garden hose or are able to put it in a tub of water with a hose running. A friend did this in order not to burn the contents when we were kids, He took it to a body shop. You couls also tie it to the bumper of a truck, and just drag it for a few miles, usually that will pop it open, but from reliable sources, almost any wafe can be peeled, once you make the first hole.

January 26, 2013, 04:19 PM
I just got back from the salvage yard. The safe weighed 74 pounds, which translated into $5.94 for the steel.

Those two chucks of aluminum that I found in it? I think I'll keep those. Sentimental value, you understand.

(I'll make another attempt at re-sizing the pix later tonight.)

- - - Yoda

January 26, 2013, 04:29 PM
FYI the mechanical backup lock on an electronic lock is a joke unless they're both UL-listed locks. A cylinder "security key" typically used on these import locks isn't very secure, and barely a key.

A hacksaw is not a tool designed to cut sheet metal effectively due to it's shallow throat. It looks more like you took a few evenings to do some exploratory surgery to see how they fold the sheet metal to form the safe body. If you were a thief, I'd say it'd take a lot less than two evenings.

Steel Horse Rider
January 26, 2013, 04:32 PM
The subject of safes on a gun forum is the equivelent to the "discussion" of various oils and tires on motorcycle forums. Everybody is an expert and believes the opposite of whatever was just posted and something other than what was originally posted becomes the fodder for arguing. In my opinion the context is left out of most of these discussions, that being the purpose of the safe. We do not have a high crime rate in my neighborhood or town but I do keep a sheetrock lined combination lock Liberty safe in my basement for valuables and as many guns as I can get into it. I also have an unlined "locker" (my term) in a spare bedroom closet with other guns, and there are weapons cached in other places around the house simply because I need to buy another safe. I will buy another someday but it will not be a "super duper hardened steel krypton lined safe with double time locks because that is complete overkill for the application. Anyone who did break into my house would probably help themselves to whatever is loose and easy to carry because thieves around here do not carry tools or heavy moving dollies. Most are out to get whatever they can pawn or fence quickly in order to get enough cash to buy their next high, which also means they are not deep thinkers or motivated workers. If somebody is smart enough to break into your house with professional construction equipment they are smart enough to know that the risk is not going to justify the reward unless the homeowner has been foolish enough to advertise he is a worthy mark. The average gunowner in the average town does not need Ft Knox to protect a few valuables or weapons. A simple locked door will suffice 99% of the time.

Others may have equally accurate opinions but that is mine and I'm sticking to it!

January 26, 2013, 04:37 PM
Making claims that one oil is better than another based on anecdotal evidence is much different than making claims that a sheet metal RSC is as good as a commercial safe made out of 1" plate steel, or that nameless Chinese electronic locks are as good as products like Globaloks or Kaba Mas in terms of reliability and actual provided security vs perceived security. A lot of people here invest in their gun safe and push around brand loyalty to justify their purchase. However, the security levels of safes is a very old and well-known business that is rooted in reality, not personal bias....such as:

You're under the impression Fort Knox safes are superior to all other consumer gun safes and "not needed", as if they offer more protection than a Liberty or Heritage.

January 26, 2013, 04:38 PM
On the positive side most neighborhood burglars are not well schooled on alarms or safes. The ones that are, generally choose specific targets based on foreknowledge of possessions. The average will attack the door, fail but screw up your safe trying. The scary ones are the type that knock on your door then force entry and hold gun to your wifes head while you open the vault for them. Thus reason my front door is a security door with a camera for me to see who is on front porch before I get close to door and keep a 12 gauge next to recliner. Home invasion is the one where being mean as a badger and armed gives you the home field advantage.

January 26, 2013, 04:40 PM
Even a Stack-On $100 special or a locked metal tool cabinet will stop most smash-and-grab types. Criminals are typically not very bright. Most, if they choose to attack any safe, will smash off the handle and lock, thinking that gains entry. All it does it make the locksmith's job more complicated when it has to be opened up. Like hueyville says, a million-dollar vault can be defeated with a $10 knife or a stolen gun.

January 26, 2013, 05:45 PM
Don't believe I said avmillion dollar vault could be defeated with a $10 knife. I said any vault can be defeated with proper tools and knowledge. In most cases, what happens is an average thief costs you several hundred dollars repairing the lock on the door without getting in. I also said to base your level of protection on value of contents. Don't put $1,000 worth of guns in a $2,000 safe nor put $20,000 worth of guns in a $400 safe from Wallyworld. End goal is limit time thief has to work. If alarm is screaming, he won't be going to look for a set of torches.

January 26, 2013, 07:25 PM
I was referencing to the "The scary ones are the type that knock on your door then force entry and hold gun to your wifes head while you open the vault for them." line and adding my own commentary. That type of situation, a steak knife makes an effective tool in defeating even the most expensive vault system :) Which goes back to your statement of having a security door and camera to verify who's at your doorstep.

Steel Horse Rider
January 26, 2013, 10:10 PM
My reference to Ft Knox was in relation to the government installation that purportedly holds our nation's gold supply, not any paqrticular brand of safe. I guess my attempt at humor didn't fly....

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