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Need help safe guys. Combo changed?

Discussion in 'General Gun Discussions' started by Lumpy76, Feb 20, 2009.

  1. Lumpy76

    Lumpy76 Well-Known Member

    Hopefully the pros can help me out with this one. I moved my safe (Browning medallion with SG combo lock) to my new house awhile ago. I have opened and closed it about 20 times with no problem. Today I went in and couldn't get the combo to work. Tried 10-15 times befor I tapped the dial with a rubber mallet. Not hard, maybe three or four light taps. It then opened.
    I then took the door apart and got to the lock mechanism. With it open I could see that it wasn't lining up right. With experimentation now that I could see it, the first number in the combo changed from 53 to 54. It works fine with new combo but I am afraid to close it now. should I be worried? Or just use it as is. Do you need more info? Thanks.
  2. CoRoMo

    CoRoMo Well-Known Member

    I've never heard of this type thing, but I'd contact the manufacturer about it.

    I'd also contact a local safe dealer and/or locksmith and as them their opinion.
  3. I recall this actually being pretty common over time. I'm sure one of the safe guys will pop in and explain it, but it seems like that shifting one number happens and is one of the reason mechanical locks are serviced on a regular basis.

    If I were in your position, I'd have someone look at it before I closed it.
  4. Lumpy76

    Lumpy76 Well-Known Member

    It is on the older side. I bought it used about 8yrs ago and it was left in the house of the seller, so no exact date on purchase.
  5. Duke of Doubt

    Duke of Doubt member

    I wouldn't close it until it's been serviced. Toss your cellular telephone receiver in there if you want an excuse not to answer it.
  6. CoRoMo

    CoRoMo Well-Known Member

    Once the pros chime in, maybe they can tell us what commonly causes this type malfunction.

    Repeated use?
  7. Lumpy76

    Lumpy76 Well-Known Member

    Yeah, I'm interested. It didn't bounce around a lot during transport. It was in a van and my arm was on it the whole way. It sat for the last four years in my friends climate controlled basement and wasnt opened but 3 or 4 times.

    I would hate to leave for the night and leave it open. That would be all I thought about.
  8. tractorshaft

    tractorshaft member

    If it were to be closed WITHOUT first testing the combo at least three times you may be hosed.

    Here is the "How to" just for the experience of reliving it!

    I worked as a military radioman for 20 years, consequently at least twice a day two of us (Danged John Walker) - Two Person Integrity - would open "our" side of the safe. I have spent literally hundreds of hours working on safes that have "Jumped" the combo.

    Modern safes, contrary to their size and looks are precision devices and any little "timing" issue can render them "Locked" , shall we say ...permanently...

    They normally have two ratings, a "brute force" rating and a "Surreptitious" rating. One is "No rules any tools" entry, the other is doing it rather "Quietly" , that is , using the dial "Cracking it" or some other method of less than "Brutal" entry.

    I remember when Plasma cutters hit the market! Woo hoo! I thought...We had a big Mosler that "Jumped" the combo, 2- 12 hour watch sections of 8 people each tried the "Combo" , 1-2-3 numbers ahead and behind of each of the original "Combo" digits..Sometimes you get lucky and this will work, sometimes not...We got some riggers and we "Escorted" the safe to a aircraft maintenance shop where they had the latest and greatest , super sized, government purchased plasma cutter. After a quick lesson I suited up and tore into the safe with it. Well, it cut through the "Skin" of the safe like a tin can, just beautiful cuts with no slag and little extra heat to burn up the contents like a torch cut can sometimes do. Well, when I to to the "Hardened" locking lugs all the plasma cutter did was discolor them and create a hella lot of sparks. Barely even dinged them, this obviously was not the technological breakthrough that the tired radiomen had hoped for. I asked if the had a 10" grinder and some cut-off wheels, yes...

    This is the BEST option for getting in the "hard" way. It creates major sparks but if you are careful the contents will be undamaged and there is not nearly the heat that a torch creates. Believe me, I have cut into three of these things in my career, NOTHING, I mean NOTHING, beats the tried and tested abrasive cut off wheel on a big arsed grinder. I havent tried a carbon torch but I have tried the smaller version that can be run on a big AC/DC welder. they work good on regular carbon steel, but the Hardened locking lugs on a safe....Nah, give me back that grinder would ya...I dont have all day....If you cant get it out easily just throw down some blue tarps, have your wife give you 2 old blankets and wet them down with a hose to contain the sparks the grinder will give off. Wear a dust mask, eye protection and gloves...Come on in,...the waters fine...

    Brute force advice;

    Find out where the locking lugs are from the mfgr. and rent a plasma cutter to remove the "Skin" of the safe door to expose the hardened locking lugs. this is what you will be trying to defeat with the 10 or 12" grinder and abrasive cut-off wheels....Tent it off with tarps and wet blankets, have a couple of beers and put two more in the fridge. You will need them after an hour or so on that grinder and 4-6, 1"-2" hardened locking through lugs and 10 grinding discs later...The good news is that it only takes an hour or so to get in. the bad news is that it will ruin the safe and make a helluva mess....This method however WILL not hurt the contents of the safe if your is like most , that is having a thick external skin and a thinner internal skin that will "protect" the contents from your efforts...
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2009
  9. nofishbob

    nofishbob Well-Known Member

    Just a minor comment on Tractorshaft's post:

    The hardness of the locking lugs did not effect the plasma cutter. I cut thick plate that is over 600 bhn with no problem.

    The melting point of steel is pretty much the same no matter what the hardness. My only guess is that the parts you were trying to cut were not grounded as well as the surrounding parts.

    I'd like to try to use a plasma cutter to do this, it sounds like a fun challenge. everything I cut is boring.

  10. Lumpy76

    Lumpy76 Well-Known Member

    I've played around with plasma and carbon arcing. It would be fun to get into a safe with that. Just not mine. Mine is still open. I checked where I would need to drill and how to open it while I was in there today. Took good pics in case it came down to it. I have good tools.

    I've tried the "new" combo about 60 or 70 times with no problem. Still leaving it open until I hear more advice. If I leave the house though, I feel pretty comfortable locking it.

    The way I see how it works, if it came down to it I could drill out the lock and get it open. I dont think I would wreck the safe. I have the protected plates off. Am i wrong?? I have mag drill, picks, etc. Never did anything like this before.
  11. a1abdj

    a1abdj Well-Known Member

    There are a number of things that can cause the combination to "shift".

    The original person setting the combination could have made an error. The flies could be sticking. A fly could be worn. Could be dirt or lube causing the problem.

    I would suggest having the lock serviced by a qualified tech to be on the safe side. This should be done at least once every 5 years unless the lock is seeing daily use. Otherwise, keep using it if it's working every time. Just make sure you stop using it again if it starts giving you any trouble.

    It's cheaper to pay a pro who can then put the safe back into service. Almost every "do it yourself" safe opening that I have seen has destroyed the safe and/or its contents.

    There are several locksmiths who can't even do this type of work properly. When we have to follow behind somebody and clean up their mess, we charge a lot more.
  12. Lumpy76

    Lumpy76 Well-Known Member

    Thanks, I was waiting for you to chime in. How do I go about getting it serviced? Do I just bring the door in? Is there a list of certified people to bring it to? Thanks.

    I'll admit I have wrecked a few things not knowing what I was doing.
  13. a1abdj

    a1abdj Well-Known Member

  14. Lumpy76

    Lumpy76 Well-Known Member

    Thanks, I will definatly bring it in myself. It can't be more than 200#. Good links.
  15. HammerBite

    HammerBite Well-Known Member

    I want to make sure I understand you correctly. Does this mean that daily use is better for the lock than leaving it idle for long periods of time?
  16. a1abdj

    a1abdj Well-Known Member

    If the lock is being used daily, it should be serviced once a year.

    Most residential safes see pretty light use. The 5 year service is usually required because the lube on the lock begins to dry out or is full of dirt.
  17. tractorshaft

    tractorshaft member

    NofishBob ,

    I was surprised too, this was a serious business plasma cutter I was using. I am no welder or metallurgist but let me try to tell you what it looked like.

    I remember a LOT of sparks, when we used it to cut through the "Skin" it was relatively quiet except of course for the sound out the compressed air coming out of the nozzle.

    After several determined attempts and calling in the "Expert" with it, all we could acheive were bouts of "Major Sparks" the hardened round cross bolts looked like they were merely "Grazed", there was a little slag trail where the tip of the PC drew the cut but for all the crazy sparking and little progress I would rather use the grinder, at least when that sonofgun is sparking you are definitely cutting some metal and making "Progress"!
  18. Arbor

    Arbor Well-Known Member

    The locking lugs were almost surely not getting a good ground when you tried to cut them. That is exactly what will happen. Otherwise the electrode and/or start cartridge might have been worn out.
  19. Remander

    Remander Well-Known Member

    I respect your advice, as I have read it before re safes.

    If I call a local locksmith and ask for "annual service" or such on my S&G electronic keypad lock, what should I expect them to tell me they will do for that service?

    I ask so that I can ask the locksmith what they will do, and make sure I am getting actual valuable service and not just a "looks good" visit.

    Any idea of a reasonable price for annual service?

    Appreciate any advice. I really want to keep it serviced because:

    I had a fairly new S&G electronic (Liberty Safe) lock up on me a couple years ago, and it took a smith the better part of 2 days to drill into my safe with diagrams from S&G on how to do it. S&G covered it under warranty, and replaced the lock, but it was still time off work and loss of access. Ouch.

    I need to avoid that. But a manual dial is not a desired option, as we are in and out of it about twice per day. Really want to keep the keypad if feasible.
  20. a1abdj

    a1abdj Well-Known Member

    Electronic locks can not be serviced. The above service intervals are for mechanical locks.

    You should maintain the rest of your safe as well by cleaning and greasing the proper areas of the boltwork. Cleaning and lubricating the lock is not a do it yourself project. Cleaning and lubricating the boltwork is something you can usually do on your own.

    On a mechanical lock service, the lock is disassembled and reassembled. This is one of the reasons you want a tech that specializes in safes, and is not just a locksmith.

    All of the parts will be cleaned and inspected for wear. Lubrication will be reapplied where needed. Springs checked for tension. Wheels torqued to spec. Combination balanced if needed.

    Perfect example of safe tech vs. "locksmith". I routinely open locked gun safes in less than an hour, which included the time it takes me to bring in all the equipment and put it away when I'm done.

    The first step in opening a safe is to give the lock a proper diagnosis to determine the problem. Then you try to overcome that problem without drilling. If that's not possible, then you have to drill. If you diagnosed the problem properly, and have to drill, one small hole usually does the trick.

    Liberty either did not have access to a professional safe guy in your area, or was too cheap to hire one. The last time Liberty faxed me a schematic, it was a copy of a page out of a book written by a safe tech. Who would have known that a third party would know their safes better than they would.

    The downside to the electronic locks are the failure rates, and that's the price that has to be paid for the other features they offer.

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