Frequently Asked Questions
What makes a good safe?
There are two types of safes worth having: those that resist burglary, and those that resist fire. A few safes have both of these qualities. Some have neither, though the marketing may claim otherwise. For a good burglar-resistant safe, look for drill-resistant barriers, relock devices, and a good lock.
Common burglary-resistance ratings are as follows:
- B-rate: resistance by design, conforming to the B-rate standard; door is 1/2” mild steel or equivalent, and walls are 1” mild steel or equivalent. Resistance not verified by testing.
- C-rate: a higher level of resistance by design, conforming to the C-rate standard; doors and walls are beefier than on a B-rate safe. Resistance not verified by testing.
- E-rate: a very high level of resistance by design, conforming to the E-rate standard; doors and walls are even beefier than on a C-rate safe. Resistance not verified by testing.
- U.L. TL-15: extremely resistant, conforming to a U.L. standard, as demonstrated by limited testing.
- U.L. TL-30: extremely resistant, conforming to a U.L. standard, as demonstrated by more stringent testing.
For overnight storage of thousands of dollars, I recommend a safe with a U.L. listing or equivalent rating of at least TL-15.
What makes a good lock?
On any safe intended for burglar-resistance, I recommend locks that meet or exceed the standards of U.L. Group 2 or an equivalent. Sargent & Greenleaf and Chubb make some excellent mechanical combination locks, while Millennium and LaGard make good electronic models. The qualities of the locks vary greatly by model.
How do you crack a safe?
It’s a lot like in the movies. The general idea is there anyway, but some of the details are different. My methods include the use of various tools, not the least of which are the fingers of my right hand. I also use amplifiers, borescopes, and drills as needed. I have not yet attempted to open a safe underwater. I do not use nitroglycerin or any other explosive. Sometimes that does sound like fun, but I prefer to leave the safe undamaged. When I use a drill, it is to make a rather small hole that helps me get the safe open without damage to the lock. At the end of any job that requires such a penetration, I repair the hole, replacing any drill-resistant barrier materials with equally drill-resistant materials, such as hardened steel bearings and tungsten-carbide chunks.
Is there any safe you can’t open?
No. Some safes, however, make certain techniques infeasible. This is where the safecracker needs a mastery of various techniques. Don’t worry, a skilled professional can get it open.
How much do you charge?
I retired in February of 2020. Before that I charged $220 per hour with a half-hour minimum, plus $80 per trip up to 20 miles away, plus $4 per additional mile. Plus the cost of any necessary parts, but those were usually minimal except in cases of major malfunction. I generally gave a quote at the beginning of a job.
The rates charged by other safecrackers vary considerably, as do their expertise. The prices of safes and locks vary likewise with the level of security and other features.
What do you do when you’re not cracking safes?
Sometimes I play a sweet electric guitar with cool custom pick-up wiring. I’m better at the wiring than I am at the playing, but here’s some of my instrumental music for your enjoyment: The Star-Spangled Banner (MP3)