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This book is sold for information purposes only. Neither the 
author nor the publisher will be held, accountable for tin 
use or misuse of the information contained, in this book- 


© 1990 by Wayno B. Yeager 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or 
stored in any form whatsoever without the prior written consent 
of the publisher. Reviews may quote brief passages without the 
written consent of the publisher as long as proper credit is given. 

Published by: 

Loompanics Unlimited 

P.O. Box 1197 

Port Townsend, WA 98368 

Loompanics Unlimited is a division of Loompanics Enterprises, 

ISBN 1-55950-052-2 

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 90-003304 


Introduction 1 

1. Safe Mechanics and Operation 5 

2. Combination Deduction 15 

3. Manipulation Techniques 21 

4. Safe Drilling Methods 35 

5. Punching and Peeling 51 

0. Torches, Etc 53 

8. Miscellaneous Methods of Safe Entry G3 

9. Safe Deposit Boxes 67 

Introduction 1 

Appendix A — Manufacturer’s 

Try-Out Combinations 81 

Appendix B — Suppliers 85 

Selected Bibliography 87 


A constant technological war exists between safe- 

makers and safecrackers. To construct a safe or vault 

strong enough to keep burglars out, but functional 
enough to let authorized personnel in, has been the 
ultimate goal for the manufacturers of safes and vaults 
since their invention. The race towards this ideal safe has 
caused frustration for those on both sides of the law in 
their attempts to defeat the technology of the other. And 
while neither side may ever ultimately triumph, they both 
win their share of battles. 

The most powerful weapon in the safe manufacturer’s 
arsenal is his ability to attack the burglar on one or more 
fronts: denying initial access to the safe, strengthening 
the safe itself, alarming the safe, etc. But the burglar is 
not completely defenseless either, for he knows a safe can 
never really be made absolutely foolproof. Why? Because 


a locksmith or other authority must always he able to 
enter a safe in case the combination mechanism malfunc- 
tions. In other words, while a safe can offer a reasonable 
amount of protection, it can never be made, out of prac- 
tical necessity, indestructible. Another problem that 
facilitates the safecracker’s operation is that of obso- 
lescence in safe technology. By the time an anti-burglary 
device is designed, patented, manufactured, marketed, 
and made commercially available, professional safe- 
crackers have been experimenting and working to defeat 
it. The question is not if a safety device can be bypassed, 
but rather when the device will be bypassed. 

When one buys a safe, what one is really buying is time. 
If the safe is on the lower end of the price scale, il. can 
only be expected to resist attack for a short length of 
time, and if the burglar is using only basic tools and basic 
knowledge, the safe will more than likely do its job. But 
as the potential reward inside the safe increases, so does 



and obvious maxim is often overlooked by homeowners 

and businessmen. I could not count the number of times 

Ive seen a $200 fire safe holding thousands of dollars in 

cash, or an 1890 safe expected to withstand 1990 

This book lists and explains just about all of the 
methods that arc used by both locksmith and safecracker 
to open safes, vaults, and safe deposit boxes. These tech- 
niques range from “soft” openings snob as combi nat io n 

deduction and manipulation, to "hard" openings, such as 
the application of nitroglycerine or C-4. While some of 
these techniques may be obsolete on some of the newer, 

high-tech safes, many will be overkill on the older or less 

1 « . * • ... 

what is 

Introduction 3 

obsolete and what is unnecessary, but I do note through- 
out the text on what models each technique is most often 

Safecracking is a crime that has been with us and will 
be with us for many, many years. I subscribe to the theory 
that you can’t solve a problem unless the problem is fully 
understood. This book, like my others, is a textbook on 
crime, a guide so that the security and law-enforcement 
community may more accurately understand what 
they’re up against. If you are a security consultant, use 
this guide to more accurately recommend equipment for 
your client’s needs. Police and private investigators will 
discover invaluable information here for conducting a 
safecracking investigation. And although this book is 
written for individuals with no previous locksmithing 
experience, I believe even the most seasoned safemcn will 
find several new safe-entry tricks here. 

Safe Mechanics and Operation 5 


Safe Mechanics 



Despite the multitude of safes on the market today, 
they all cling to a basic theory of operation: the protec- 
tion of contents from outside forces (such as fire and 
burglary), while allowing authorized entry via a com- 
binational dial, key, or keypad. Safes differ from model to 
model in the way they accomplish this task, but this is, 
nevertheless, the basic premise of each. There are two 
basic types of safes: fire safes, which are insulated to 
protect important documents from extreme temper- 
atures, and money chests, which are specially designed 
for extra security, to withstand attacks from determined 
burglars. Actually, these are overlapping categories, for 
most fire safes offer some burglary protection, and 
money chests are protected from small fires as well. 

In order to discuss safes intelligibly, we must make our- 
selves familiar with the basic terms regarding the 


operation of the typical safe. Figure 1-1 shows an 
example ol the Diehold brand safe. It is essentially a five- 
walled seamless steel box with an attached door. The 
door is very thick, with hardened steel plates, and is 
attached to the box with very strong hinges and a steel 

Figure 1-1 

This Dieboltl brand safe is a five-walled seamless steel box with 
a door attached with very strong hinges and a deadbolt,. Vie 
door is very thick, containing hardened, steel plate-s. 

Safe Mechanics and Operation 7 

The safe is opened legitimately by dialing the proper 
combination on the dial, and turning the handle to re- 
lease the bolt from the safebox; the door is then free to 
open. This is a deceptively simple operation, for much 
more occurs within the walls of the safe, hidden from 

Figure 1-2 

Vie wheel-pack is the mechanical device that "knows" 
the proper combination has been dialed, [a rated behind 
the armbinaiion dial., the wheel-pack consists of wheels three or four but sometimes more) that are 


iai are 

moved about, by turning the dial, 


Behind the combination dial is the “wheel-pack,” the 
mechanical device that “knows” when the proper com- 
bination has been dialed. The wheel-pack usually consists 
of three or four wheels (depending on the amount of 
numbers in the combination sequence, so a 10-20-30 
combination will require three wheels) and they are 
moved about by turning the dial (see Figure 1-2). The 
combination dial is attached by the spindle to the drive 
cam. If the dial is turned, the drive pin on the drive cam 

comes into contact with the fly on the wheel adjacent to 
it, and that wheel begins turning also. If the combination 
dial continues to turn, the fly on the first wheel comes 
into contact with the fly on the next wheel, and so on, 
until the turning of the combination dial turns all of the 
wheels in the wheel-pack simultaneously. 

Into each of the wheels of the wheel-pack, a deep notch 
is cut. When the proper combination is dialed, all of these 
notches in the wheels are aligned perfectly. Just above 
the wheel-pack is a device known as a gate and fence. As 
long as the correct combination has not been dialed, the 
notches will not all be in perfect alignment, and the gate 
and fence will merely rest upon the wheels (see Figure 1- 
3). But when the right combination is executed, the 
wheels align accordingly, and both the gate and fence are 
allowed to fall into the groove formed by the aligned 
notches (see Figure 1-4). The lever and fence which were 
guarding the bolt are now out of the way, and if the 
handle is turned, the bolt is retracted, and the door 

the diagrams until you understand this completely. 

The lever/bolt mechanism varies slightly from safe to 
safe. Some are gravity activated, as in our example, but 

Safe Mechanics and Operation 9 

and the slight differences do not alter the safecracker’s 
methods in the least. The onlyTtTing worth noting here is 
the fact that spring-loaded fence/bolt mechanisms do 
away with the need lor outside handles, since the com- 
bination dial retracts the bolt (after the combination has 
been dialed, of course). This is the type used almost ex- 
clusively on round-door safes. 

Figure 1-3 

If the correct combination has not been dialed, the notches 
i n th e iv h eehpack will nnt he aligned, and the gate and 

fence will merely rest upon the wheels. 

Figure 1-4 

When the right combination is dialed, the wheels align, 
the gale and fence fall into the right notches. 


can about the particular model that is encountered. 
Underwriters’ Laboratories has facilitated this procedure 
by labeling most safes with a universal code. On the safe 
body, a small metal tag (see Figure 1-5) will be displayed 

or burglary. In other words, a burglar in the know can 

Safe Mechanics and Operation 1 1 

judge by the UL fag just how the safe is protected, and 
what techniques will or will not work. Handy, huh? 
Although the people at UL have coded this information 
slightly, every safecracker worth his salt knows exactly 
what each identifying code means. Figure 1-6 is a chart 
of the various codes currently in use. 


Any other specifics of safe operation will be discussed 
more thoroughly whenever that information is needed to 
clarify a certain procedure. You have now, however, all 
the information you need to understand the next 

Safe Mechanics and Operation 1 3 


Common loots: 

Jack hammers 

impact drills 

Power sews 


culling wheels 



(thermic lances 
not tested) 

TL-15 — limited pro- 
tection from burglary by 
common tools. 

Teat lime: 15 min 
Test area: door only 






TL-30 — moderate pro- 
tection from expert bur- 
glary by common tools. 
Test time; 30 min 






TRTL-30 — moderate 
protection from expert 
burglary by common 
tools and cutting torches. 
Test time: 30 min 
Tost area: door only 

TflTL-30 (xfl) - modor- 
nto protection against ex- 
pert hurglary by common 
tools and cutting lorchoa. 
Tost time: 30 min 
Test ares: door and body 

TRTL-60 - high degree 
of protection against ex- 
pert burglary with com- 
mon tools, cutting 

Test area: door and body 

TXTL-60 — high degree 
of protection agnlnst ex- 
port burglary with com- 
mon tools. cutting 
torches and high explo- 

Test time: 60 min 
Test area: door and body 





















Figure 1-6 

This chart explains the meaning of various Underwriters ’ 

Laboratories safe codes currently in use. 

Combination Deduction 1 5 




Since the most convenient way to open a safe is to dial 

. . • t • > t % 

one may go about procuring it. Besides the obvious brute 


or threatening to do so, there are several tricks burglars 
use to come by this elusive combination. One of the most 
successful ways, manipulation, requires in-depth explan- 
ation, so the next chapter is devoted exclusively to it. 

Another method is by using try-out combinations. These 

and are 


uon t 

I iv l nf 4 now owners 

try «ii tu i tv# w v vr 1 1 v# * *1] 

n \ (n p 

./I (II V# (m7T7 

bother. Some examples of try-out combinations arc in 
Appendix A, and these will open a surprising number of 
safes in use today. 


whose owner had just died. The locksmith walked around 


the room for a few minutes before sitting down in front 
of the safe. To the family’s amazement, the locksmith 
dialed out the combination and opened the safe in ten 
seconds Hat. Magic? No, my locksmith friend simply 
realized that most people have terrible memories for 
numbers, and almost invariably write the combination 
down somewhere near the safe. He had found it written 
on the wall by a window, two feet away. I’ve found com- 

t %.a p. 


walls, picture frames, telephones, and even on the safe 
itself! This tendency is so universal, burglars almost 
always allot a few minutes to combination-hunting before 
moving on to more extreme measures. 

Similarly, due to fallible memory, people have a pro- 
pensity for making combinations out of notable numbers 
in their life. For example, I’ve seen a man whose birthday 
is October 12, 1931 use 10-12-31 for the combination to 


▼a Tj 

✓ i/ 

parts of Social Security numbers, Armed Forces serial 
numbers, and birthdates of children and spouses. Next to 
writing the combination down, this is the favorite method 
of combination retrieval, and you can bet professional 
burglars are well aware of it. Many safecrackers will 
undoubtedly do research to uncover such numbers prior 
to a house-breaking. 

If the above techniques are impossible, the burglar may 






the safe on what is known as “day-lock.” Day-lock means 
that the safe door was closed, and the combination dial 
was turned slightly. This scrambles only the last wheel of 
the combination, and the combination dial has only to be 
turned back to the original number for the safe to open 
again. Business owners like this, since unauthorized 

Combination Deduction 1 7 

employees cannot open the safe, yet the entire combin- 
ation does not have to be redialed every time the safe is 
opened. Many businessmen forget about this completely, 
and occasionally leave their safes on day-lock even at 
night, and this affords yet another opportunity for an 
enterprising thief. Day-lock is exploited by turning the 
dial to the left as far as it goes before any resistance is 
felt. This resistance is due to the drive pin on the wheel 

»* ». 


no more to the left. Now, the dial is turned to the right, 
one number at a time, with the handle tried at each 
number. If the safe is indeed on day-lock, the handle will 
give at the proper combination number, and the safe will 
open. If, however, the dial is turned to the right until 
resistance is felt again, the safe combination must have 
been completely scrambled after closing. 

* mm m 

deduction, also. Basically, there are three types of sur- 
veillance possible: long range, video, or close range. At 
long range, one attempts, through binoculars or a tele- 


course, that one can spy the safe in question from a con- 
cealed place. Even if one cannot discern the exact com- 
bination, one may be able to see what neighborhood each 
number is in, thus lowering the possible combinations if 
one chooses to trial-and-error it. Video surveillance 



■ p a a 

attempts to capture the combination dialing on film for 
later viewing. The camera is, of course, disguised, and one 
must devise pretexts for planting and retrieving it. The 
third example of surveillance is close range, where one 
hopes not to see the entire combination dialed, but 
rather just the last number. This happens in small banks 


or businesses where the safe or vault is kept open during 
business hours, and the number on the dial is plainly 
visible. If the number on the dial remains the same for a 
long period, it is more than likely the last number of the 
combination sequence. One may ask what good one 
number of a three number combination is, but with just 
one number, a burglar can trial-and-error the other two 
in just one weekend. This trial-and-error trick was 
accomplished on a six combination vault in the film 
Honor Among Thieves, which was supposedly based on a 
true story. In addition, if one knows the make of the safe, 
one can plug that number into the try-out combination 
formula used by the manufacturer (see Appendix A). 

Another trick to learn a safe’s combination is to first 
knock the combination dial off of the safe or otherwise 
mess it up, then plant a bug in the room the safe is in, 
to listen in on the conversation while the locksmith fixes 

it. Chances are, the combination will be discussed during 
his visit. 

Before moving ahead to manipulation, there are a 
couple more ways of combination deduction to discuss. 



credence to their success, but they are included here for 
the sake of completeness. One doubtful technique is the 
tape-recorder trick. Supposedly, one can place a dis- 
guised tape recorder in someone’s not-too-quiet safe, and 
upon retrieval, the tape speed is slowed and the volume 

then counted to deduce the combination. Assuming a 
tape recorder can capture the precise number of clicks, 

how does one know from where the safe-opener began 

tion? There are simply too many variables for tbakto be 

Combination Deduction 1 9 

a reliable technique. And the same negative appraisal 
goes for hypnotism. Assuming one can hypnotize the 
manager of a bank under a pretext, that he knows the 
combination, and that he will not remember your asking 
him for it, it is generally agreed by professional psychol- 
ogists that no one will do under hypnosis something they 
would never do while conscious. These last two tricks are 
interesting and fine for mystery novels and the movies, 
but I sincerely doubt their effectiveness in real life. 

Manipulation Techniques 21 




The art of manipulation has been around at least 100 
years, for manipulation-proof locks were manufactured 
as early as 1910. This method of safe entry, however, was 
and has always been known only to a few highly-skilled 
locksmiths. Manipulation today is based largely on the 
techniques of Harry C. Miller, who developed a scientific 
approach to manipulation in the 1940’s. 

Manipulation is the safe opening trick you’ve seen 
countless times on television. Our hero sticks an ear to 
the safe, turns the dial a few times, and voila... the safe 

• \X7q H n T jt ’q n nf H inf pq cy i n re al li fe 

IS Open, wen, Ol courbt, its nut Ulal caojr ill 
(thank goodness), but it is indeed possible. Locksmiths 
must practice manipulation a great deal to master it, and 
so too must a safecracker if he wishes to apply it success- 
fully. If you wish to follow along with this chapter, and 
fully understand it,, I suggest you get an old safe, or per- 
haps a mounted combination lock mechanism. 


Figure 3-1 

When the proper combination is dialed, the lever 
and fence fall into the notches of Uie wheels of the 
wheel-pack, allowing the bolt to be retracted. 

As you’ll remember from Chapter I, when the proper 
combination is dialed (see Figure 3-1), the lever and 
fence fall into the notches, allowing the bolt to be 

retracted, but when an improper combination is dialed, 
the fence and lever simply rest upon the wheels. When 
the sloped notch in the drive cam comes in contact with 

1 his is called the drop-in area , and its discovery is the 

Manipulation Techniques 23 

first step in manipulation. To do so, rotate the dial at 
least four times to the left to pick up all the wheels. 

Continue turning left slowly until the nose of the lever 
drops into the drive cam gate slightly (see Figure 3-2). 

Figure 3-2 

In sa,fe manipulation, the dial is turned h> the left 
until the nose of the lemr drops slightly into the 
drive cam gale. This is the first, contact point. 

Continue rotating the dial slowly to the left. The next 
indication will be the nose of the lever striking the right 


called the contact, points, (the space between them is 


Manipulation Techniques 25 

called the contact area), and it is these { 
allow you to determine the combination. 

Contact point 







Figure 3-3 

After finding the first contact point , the dial Is turned 
tx) the left until the nose of the lever strikes the right side 
of the drive ca m pate, litis is the second contact point. 



i m i iTTirn m ■ rm 

determine the exact number of wheels in the lock. Turn 


wheels. We know the contact area — let’s say, for 
example, it is between 10 and 20 on the combination dial. 
Continue to move the wheel-pack to the left, and park the 
wheels at a number far away, say 60, from the contact 

area. Now, turn the dial to the right, and as you pass 60 
(or wherever you parked the wheels), you’ll hear the 
drive pin come in contact with the fly of the first wheel. 


at 60, you’ll hear and feel another wheel being picked up. 
That’s two. Continue this process, and when you hear no 
more fly contact lit 60, you’ve run out of wheels. Most 
safes have three or four, but some have six, seven, eight, 

though, we will use a standard three wheel mechanism. 

The third phase of manipulation is the actual charting 
of data taken from the combination dial. On a graph, 
such as the one shown in Figure 3-4, enter the left and 
right contact points in the appropriate boxes. Fill in the 
other boxes with the whole numbers nearest the contact 
points. We begin the graph by turning the dial right, four 
times around to pick up all the wheels. Continue right 
until the dial comes to “100” (or “0" on some safes), and 
park the wheel-pack there. Now, rotate the dial left to the 
contact area and take the left and right contact point 
readings. In our example graph (Figure 3-4), we see that 
our left contact point, 48%, was transferred to the graph 
by placing a dot on 48% on the left “100” line. The right 
contact reading, 56%, was transferred to the graph by 
placing a dot at 56% on the right “100” line. As you see, 

wheels at 97. Now, rotate the dial left again to the contact 
area, and record left and right contact points on the 

* _ A 


our example are 48%, and 56%. These new points are now 
placed on the 97 line. This process is repeated until the 
entire graph is filled out. If you’ve taken accurate 


Manipulation Techniques 27 

i«n Contact CiiilMl Rtiani 

measurements, your graph should look something like 
Figure 3-4, with three (or however many wheels you 
discovered in step two) sections of the lines converging 
on one another. The numbers where the lines approach 
each other are tlve numbers of the safe combination. 

As you see, the lines approach one another in the 
upper-teens, the mid-sixties, and the lower-nineties. 
More often than not, it will be difficult to determine the 
exact combination with this graph, so an amplified graph 
must be done for each number, since this first graph 

reflects such broad allowances. 

On the amplification graph of the first number (see 
Figure 3-5), the readings arc taken every half number, in- 
stead of every three numbers, and the increment lines are 
adjusted to read Vh measurements instead of fourths. The 
rest of the process is done exactly as for the original 
graph. An amplification graph is done for each number, 
and the numbers of the combination will be found. 

Since you don’t know which wheel is indicating which 
number, you must try all possible combinations to find 
the proper sequence. With a three number combination, 
there arc six possibilities. In other words, since the 

unu uits nuniuuis ui tnu uuHu/uittuiv/n 

Since you don’t know which wheel is indicating which 


combine the sight and sound elements of manipulation, 
without the potential of human error. It consists of liigh- 
quality headphones for maximum sensitivity, specially 
designed filters to eliminate undesirable and irrelevant 
noises, and an electronic “memory” oscilloscope with a 
sound wave analyzer. The human ear is not sensitive 
enough to detect the different sounds which emanate 
from the lock, but when using this equipment, each “click” 
is illustrated on the oscilloscope as a wave. Since the 

compare various waves with similar characteristics, it is 
not too difficult for the user to calculate the combination 
by locating three or four identical wave patterns. 

Figure 3-7 

Some people use a “handle meter “for safe manipulalwn . 
A Ion p piece of stiff wire attached, to the handle amplifies 
the handle's movement so that it is easier to detect the 
slight increase in handle movement when one of 
the wheels is in the drop-in position* 

Manipulation Techniques 31 

Some people also design a “handle meter” for manipu- 
lation, since there is a slight increase in handle movement 

when one of the wheels is in drop-in position. This trick 
uses a long piece of stiff wire attached to the handle to 
amplify the handle’s movement so that slight variations 
are more easily detected. The wire, at least 12 long, is 
attached to the handle very securely. At the top of the 
wire, a calibrated card is placed on the safe so that the 
wire movements can be recorded more accurately (see 
Figure 3-7). The wheels arc all turned to the left and 
brought to the contact area, or drop-in point. Note the 
position of the wire at this point before continuing. Now, 
turning the dial one number at a time, the handle is 
turned each time and a reading taken. When a wheel’s 
notch is under the fence, indicating one of the numbers 
of the combination, the wire indicator will move Vs or 
m ore on the c ard. Continue this process as in normal 
manipulation, until all of the wheels have indicated a 
combination number. This process, though sometimes 
used alone, is even more effective when used in conjunc- 
tion with the previous manipulation methods. 

I’ve also opened safes by vibration (see Figure 3-8). If 
a good-sized industrial vibrator (used in concrete settl- 
ing) is applied to an inexpensive safe, the wheels will be- 
gin to spin slowly from the intense vibration. Sometimes, 
if :i wheel sp ins its way under the fence, the fence will 
catch slightly on the notch of the wheel and trap it, so 
that it cannot spin further. By altering the directions of 
the vibrating force, it is possible to catch every one of the 
wheels in this manner. I suppose the reason that this 
hasn’t become really popular among safecrackers is 


r\AVl m \» 


Courtesy: Wayne II. Yeayw 

Figure 3-8 


because industrial vibrators are terribly loud, and they 
numb your hands after holding them a few minutes. 

An industrial vibrator can be used to 
discover the combination of a safe. 

Manipulation Techniques 33 

Obviously, the various versions of manipulation are not 
techniques that are easily learned by reading about them. 
One must practice diligently il one is to master the in- 
tricacies of this exacting procedure. Although manipu- 
lation is sometimes difficult, anyone with perseverance 
can perform an opening with these techniques, if they ad- 
here to the basic guidelines outlined here. 

Safe Drilling Methods 35 


Safe Drilling 


Drilling is perhaps the most common method used by 
locksmiths to enter a locked safe, and is becoming in- 
creasingly popular with safecrackers as well. There are 
several different ways to drill a safe, all bringing about 
different results which ultimately lead to the safes 


The first and most direct way to perform an opening 
is to drill for the locking lever or cam, and remove the ob- 
struction that is causing the safe to remain closed. As 
shown in Figure 4-1, the tip of the cam cannot pass the 
locking bolt as long as the bolt is extended. In order to 
remove it, a hole is drilled as shown in Figure 4- 2. Now 
the cam tip can cither be partially removed by drilling 
chunks out of it, or moved out of the way by using a 
punch rod. The rod is used to bend the cam tip so that 
it passes oniiie other side of the locking bolt. It usually 


doesn’t take a lot of bending to accomplish this bypass. 
The handles can then be turned to open the door. 

Figure 4-1 

The tip of the cam cannot pass the locking 
bolt as long as the bolt is extended . 

safe mechanism itself, but rather it is a way to create a 

- « « i mi-* i- ^ ^ f rn- 

the wheel-pack. This type of drilling 

pecpnoie into uie wucci — - -o - 

ciuires an intimate knowledge of safes, for one must know 
the proper angle and depth to drill. If seen from a side 
view (see Figure 4-3), the wheel-pack can be accessed 

The wheel-pack can be accessed by drilling a small tunnel to it. 

Figure 4-2 

If the hole is drilled as shown , the cam tip can be 
partially removed^ or moved out of the way . 

by drilling a small tunnel to it. Through this tunnel, a 
borescope (see Figure 4-4) is inserted. A borescope is a 


flexible, fiber-optic viewer that allows one to see into 
small holes or around corners. They are used in many 
professions, from medicine to engineering', and are avail- 

Figure 4-4 

Courtesy: M l XV, In < r. 

A horoscope is a Jlexi h fiberoptic viewer that 
allows one to see into small holes or around corners. 

able from any locksmith or scientific supplier. With a 
borescopc, one is allowed to see the wiiecl-pack (see 

Safe Drilling Methods 39 

Figure 4-5), and one can then deduce the combination. 
This is done by recording the numbers seen on the dial 
when aligning the wheels, seen through the borescope. 
This set of numbers will not be the exact combination, 
but these numbers will be the same distance from one 
another as the numbers of the real combination. So, all 
one has to do is add 1 to all of the numbe rs unt il the right 
c ombination - is round. Say, for ex ampte^ .liat in ord tn^to 
perfectly align the wheels (as seen through the bore- 
scope), you had to dial 30-40-50. One then begins dialing 
01-41 51, 32-42-52, etc., until the proper set of numbers 

is bit. 

Figure 4-5 


With, a horoscop e inserted into the tunnel drilled to the 
wheel-pack , one can see wlum the wheels are alupied , 
a^konc can determine the correct combination. 


Safe Drilling Methods 41 

Figure 4-6 

In side drilling, a drill bit about 9 or 10 inches long 
is used to drill from the side of the safe to the locking 
bolt. The hulking bolt cun then be punched out of the 

way allowing passage of the boll cam. 

The third method of entry is side drilling. This method 
requires a very long drill bit, about 9" or 10", to reach the 
distance from the side of the safe to the locking bolt (sec 
Figure 4-6). The theory of this method is that by gaining 
access to the locking bolt, one may punch it out of the 
way to allow the passage of the bolt cam. Determining the 

proper place to drill requires some knowledge of the safe 

L'ncountercd, but there are some general rules of thumb 

that can be applied. Draw an imaginary line from the 

center of the combination dial, and extend it around to 

the side of the safe about 3" (see Figure 4-7). Dri 1 here 

while tilting the drill bit down slightly. A good, lighted 

horoscope is needed here to penetrate the darkness, but 

moo the bolt is located, a long punch rod replaces the 

m» i ii./m { food minch with a 


M. i IV, - MU, 

lammer, so that the bolt is driven out of the way. I he 
:am is now free to turn, so the handle will then open the 

Figure 4-7 

There is a q, moral rule of thumb for finding the proper place 
to drill in side drilling. The safecrack, r draws an imaginary 

-- f • _ j _V _ . I .,*.,/ 

line from the center of the combination dial, 

it around to the side of I he safe about three inches. 


The fourth method of drilling is an attack on the 
handle shaft itself. The plan here is to drill directly 
through the center of the handle shaft to shear off the 
threads of the attaching screw, which permits access to 
the cam. 

If a safecracker drills through the center of the handle shaft,, 
all the way through the shaft, he will drill off the thread at 
the end of the handle and the attaching nut will fall off. 
This allows him to remove the handle shaft completely. 

Safe Drilling Methods 43 

Figure 4-9 

After removing the. handle shaft, the stfccrucker inserts a large 
screwdriver into the square hole in llut center of the cam, and 
presses firmly, lids moves the cam under the bolt and allows 

The usual method of approach is to first cut the handle 
off as close to the door as possible, so that the handle 
shaft can be seen. The exact center of the shaft is 
marked, and a long Vs" bit is used to drill a leader hole all 
the way through the shaft. A larger bit, about % , is then 
used to follow this hole to the end of the shaft (see figure 
4-8). If the hole is straight and accurate, you will have 
dril led off the threa d at the end of the handle, and the 
attaching nut will fall off. This will permit you to remove 
the handle shaft completely. With the shaft gone, a large 
screwdriver is inserted into the square hole in the center 
of the cam (see Figure 4-9) , and pressed firmly while 



Safe Drilling Methods 45 

is applied, the cam will be moved in under the bolt to 
allow the bypass of the cam. The door will then open. 

Figure 4-10 

A safe man can drill two holes into the back of the safe, 
one for a borescope, and the other for the insertion 

of a long screivdriver. 

Another area of a safe that is vulnerable to a drilling 
attack is the back. Two holes are drilled into the safe 
interior (see Figure 4-10) . One hole is for a borescope, 
and the other is for the insertion of a long screwdriver. 
The safe man removes the screws on the back of the 

wheel cluster so that a portion of the wheel cluster is now 
visible. Using the special screwdriver, the wheels can be 
turned and the bolt retracted. 

Figure 4-11 

A safecracker can drill a series of holes to create a 
4’ x 4’ sq uare. This square can then be punched out 
with a sledgehammer, allowing a hand to reach in 

and remove Die contents of the safe. 

One final trick of the safecracker is to drill a square of 
holes (see Figure 4-11), and punch this square out with 
a sledgehammer or cut it out with a cutting torch. After 


inside the safe to 

remove the contents. Crude, but effective. 

Well, now that you know the methods and purposes of 
safe drilling, we should discuss the actual mechanics of 
the drilling process. Any area vulnerable to a drilling at- 
tack, such as the door, sides, or back, will most likely con- 
tain, in the higher security models, a plate of hardened 
steel. The placement of this hardened steel varies from 
safe to safe, but you’ll know it when you hit it. Plates vary 
in thickness from Va" to but most are about l A" thick. 
This steel is usually hardened to 02-04 on the Rockwell 
scale, and requires a carbide, tungsten, or cobalt-tipped 
drill bit (see Figure 4-12) to penetrate it. Drilling hard 


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Figure 4-12 

tungsten, or cobalt-lipped drill bit. is necessary. 

Safe Drilling Methods 47 

efficiently for only about two minutes, and it ofterrtakes 
up to ten to penetrate the plate. A strong individual who 
can maintain a steady pressure should use a diilling 
speed of about 2000 RPM, but a smaller person should 
consider a higher speed of about 5000 RPM. Ihe higher 
the drill speed, the smaller the drill bit required, and the 
less pressure needed to penetrate the hardened steel. 

Figure 4-13 

A drilling template is available for just 
about even/ make and model of safe. 


Another factor one must consider is the angle at which 
the safe is to be drilled. This depends upon the physical 
construction of the safe itself, and is ac^justcd for the 
minimum amount of work. Such information is best 
obtained by a working knowledge of safes, or by using 
drilling templates. A drilling template (see Figure 4- 13) is 
available for just about every make and model of safe. Alt 
a safe man must do is place the template against the safe, 
and he has an instant x-ray view of the contents. Using 
this, he has no trouble in deciding exactly how to drill. 
There is caution taken in the distributing of sale drilling 
templates, so the safecracker most often has to use the 

Safe Drilling Methods 49 

thickness of the door determines the proper drilling 
angle It is rather hard to know how thick a safe is by 
looking at it, but 15° is a good starting angle when door 


Courtesy : Strong Ami Security , Inc. 

Figure 4-15 

A drilling rig is a jxn table dril l press 
to the safe itself and allows much more control a 
drilling pressure than free-hand drilling. 


One problem with safe drilling is that one must drill 
very accurate holes at sometimes precise angles, under 
difficult circumstances. Framon Manufacturing Co., 
Strong Arm Security Co., and others, have come to the 
rescue with their various drilling rigs. These devices, 

which allow much more control and drilling pressure 
than free-hand drilling. 

Now that we’ve seen the purpose and mechanics of safe 
drilling, it is obvious that drilling is quite an effective and 
efficient means of safe entry. It is also much neater than 
the methods that follow. 

Punching and Peeling 51 





Punching and peeling, more violent methods of safe 
opening, are very popular means of attack among 
safecrackers when facing older or cheaper safes. 

Peeling, or stripping as it is sometime called, entails de- 
laminating a safe by prying up a corner, and removing 
sheet after sheet of metal like a multi-layered can of 
sardines. One uses a crowbar, axe, or steel wedge to pry 
p n otigp at the upper righ t hand corner of the safe, near 

the door. One layer alter another is peeled until the in- 
tcrior of th e s;d>' is reached. W ith models made prior to 
1960, this can be quite successful at times, although it 
takes a great deal of time and effort. 

The primary tools of peeling are very crude, and 
imd ude the ax, pick, crowbar, steel wedges, bolt-cutters, 
and sometimes an electric jackhammer. In a few minutes, 


Torches , Etc. 53 

a burglar can inflict an incredible amount of damage to 
a safe with these tools. 

Many years ago, safe manufacturers began replacing 
the relatively thin steel faceplate with thicker metal, and 
started using cement-like lining under this metal. This 
slowed the burglar down, but cheaper safes and fire safes 
are still particularly susceptible to this type of attack. 
New high-quality safes, however, have seamless one-piece 
bodies which defeat any attempts at peeling. 

In punching, the theory is to force the cam out of the 
way of the lock bolt, so that the door will open. This is ac- 
complished by knocking the combination dial off the safe, 
and using a strong punch rod to forcefully knock the 
spindle into the cam. This will, on older model safes, force 
the cam out of the way of the lock bolt, allowing the 
handle to turn and the door to open. Modern safes have 
effectively removed this opportunity, however, by using 
relocking devices which engage during a punching 
attempt, plus many have spindles of lead or other 
malleable, soft metal which spreads out on impact rather 
than moving the cam. 




Since any metal can be melted at a hot enough temper- 

tture, even the toughest 
nethods of burning. One way to accomplish this is by 

orch. and the other is by incendiary. 

One type of torch is the oxy-acetylene variety, capable 
of temperatures between 4000° and 4500 F in the hands 
of a skilled operator. At this temperature, an oxy- 
acetylcnc torch is a very effective tool for cutting most 
steel materials, but has some difficulty in piercing thick, 
hardened steel plate. Another type of Luich, the thermic 
lance, or burning bar, is used extensively in the con- 
struction industry and can reach temperatures of over 
7000° F. In the hands of an expert, the lance will pene- 
trate the most advanced safe construction in the world, 

if given enough time. 


Torches, Etc. 55 

Usually, cutting is accompanied by other methods of 
safe opening, such as drilling or the use of explosives. 
However, cutting itself is often used if one needs only to 
make a hand hole large enough to retrieve the safe’s con- 
tents, or remove enough metal to reach the internal lock 
mechanisms. Cutting with an oxy-acetylene torch is 
quickly becoming out-dated as safe manufacturers are 
graduating to harder, high-tech alloys, but is still effective 
in opening older and less expensive safes. 

The thermic lance has become the weapon of choice for 
most advanced safe burners, and for good reason. Its in- 
credible heat will penetrate a six-inch, thick block of 
tempered steel in 15 seconds. The lance is actually a 
hollow iron pipe packed with a combination of high- 
carbon steel and magnesium rods, which burn and act as 
a flux to remove the molten metal. Burglars who use a 
thermic lance simply cut themselves a new door in the 
safe or vault, and grab the loot. Because of the drawbacks 
of using a thermic lance, such as the need to wear a 
special fire suit, the dense quantities of smoke produced, 
and the bulk of the equipment, a new, smaller version, 
called the Keri-Coil, was produced. 

The Keri-Coil is essentially a miniature version of the 
thermic lance, and is used extensively in underwater 
metal-cutting. It uses a 40-foot long flexible steel cable 
which replaces the rods of the burning bar. The Keri-Coil 
is portable and easy to conceal, and will, I feel, become 
a very popular burglary tool in years to come. 

Thermite, a mixture of iron and aluminum flakes, is 
also a very useful tool in the burglar’s arsenal. When ig- 
nited, (which is difficult and must be done with a small 
torch) it burns at an incredible temperature, and quite 
literally turns hardened steel plate into bubbly, molten 

metal in seconds. If placed on a safe, it will melt the metal 
almost instantaneously, allowing a metal punch or long 
screwdriver to be poked through. Recipes foi thermite 
and other incendiaries are given in Kurt Saxon’s Poor 
Man's James Bond. Gas masks are usually worn when 
using thermite, for it gives off noxious fumes when 


Although it seems safe burning is an easy way to gam 

entry, there are many drawbacks for the would-be 

safecracker. First, in order to create a temperature hot 

enough to cut the sale’s metal walls, the tcmpciatuic 

inside the sale (even with insulation) may leach a point 

hot enough to burn the contents. Paper currency ignites 

at about 500° F, and this poses a problem for those using 

this type of heat. Most burglars, once a hole has been 

pierced info the sale, pour water into it to piotect any 
i.xrw.H nut dhiorls from burning. 

Torches and thermite also create a lot of noise and 
huge quantities of smoke, which is likely to set off any 
burglar or fire alarms nearby. (See Techniques of Burglar 
Alarm Bwassinq for information on this subject.) 

Eocplosives 57 



One of the burglar’s favorite methods of safe entry is 
via high explosive. Nitroglycerine is still widely used 
today, but the power, reliability, and safety of plastic 
explosives, such as C-4, is favored by modern safe- 
crackers over the Old Timers’ “grease.” 

Back in the old days, nitroglycerine was simply drained 
from dynamite sticks, but when stricter guidelines for 
dynamite manufacture were introduced, burglars found 
it necessary to make their own. Nitro is simply a mixture 
of Nitric and Sulfuric acids with a little glycerine thrown 
in. There arc several books on the market today which 
offer the recipe, but one of the best is Uncle Fester’s Home 
Workshop Explosives. 

When blowing a safe with nitroglycerine, the safe- 
cracker also needs a moldable substance to create a 
funnel-like device. Historically, soap (such as Fcls 


Naptha) has been used for this function. When the soap 
is hand-kneaded for about 15 minutes, it becomes a very 
malleable substance with a consistency that will not 
permit the nitro to leak through it. Also in the safe- 
cracker’s tool bag should be a strip of cellophane, blasting 
caps, and a prybar. 

Of all nitroglycerine techniques, the most common is 
what is called the “jam-shot.” It is feasible on most safes, 
round and square door alike, and requires no physical 
movement of the safe. The purpose of the jam-shot is to 
blow the door open while still on its hinges. Occasionally 
a safecracker will use too much “gre.xse” and blow the 
door completely off, or not enough “grease," which re- 
quires either another shot of nitro, or some serious door- 

The piece of cellophane is folded into an 8"x Vi" strip, 
and placed lengthwise into the space between the door 
and the doo r frame, The s oa p i s fashio n ed in to a cun 
with a funnel shape made around the cellophane. This 
must be a tight fit, so that the nitroglycerine will not 
dribble down the front of the safe door. When the cup 
and funnel is finished, the cellophane is carefully pulled 
out, with pains taken not to jar the soap funnel. This 
provides a channel for the flow of the nitroglycerine once 

it is introduced into the cup. The blasting cap is placed 

carefully into the cup, and the wires are unrolled and 

extended to the battery hookup, which should be safely 
out of the way of the explosion. 

The nitro is now poured into the cup, and the safe- 
cracker observes the rate at which the safe is “drinking.” 
Nitro is a syrupy liquid, and there must be a continuous, 
unbroken chain of liquid all the way to the detonator. 
When approximately one ounce has been consumed, and 

Explosives 59 

the burglar has determined that a continuous river of 
nitro exists from the last drop down inside the door, all 
the way to the blasting cap, he sets off the detonator. This 
is the real art of sale blowing — knowing exactly when 
to detonate, ir all goes well, the safe door will be blown 
open, and the contents revealed. 

The “gut-shot” or “spindle-shot” is another very popular 
nitroglycerine method. The use of the gut-shot is limited, 
though, since the safe must be moveable, and the modern 
safe’s relocking device (see Chapter 10) may render this 

technique useless. 

The gut-shot requires that the burglar first, knock off 
the combination dial with a hammer, then tilt the sale 
over on its back. A blasting cap is attached to the spindle, 
and an cyedropper-and-a-half of “grease” is allowed to 
trickle down the shaft of the spindle. The nitro will find 
its way into the locking mechanism, and when detonated, 

***444 r\ ocfrmy Ihn p n ii ro o f 11 1 P lo ck * Tll C door Cclll 

Will (lllilll Uy LitU \J1 Hill V/ lvv.n* m . a i v* w v* * 

then be opened by simply turning the handle. 

In addition to nitroglycerine, professional burglars use 
castable high explosives such as C-4, PETN, RDX, or TNT 
to either blow a hole in the sale, or blow the safe apart. 
These high explosives can sometimes be purchased from 
legitimate users, or can be manufactured using a lormula 
i 1 1 Home Workshop Explosives. 

The ribbon charge is simply a rectangular box of high 
ex plosive p laced on or near the target safe (see Figure 7- 


ll I' 

filled with water are placed on the charge. This also 
serves to significantly reduce the noise level of the 
explosion. This type of explosive technique will usually 
penetrat e 3-4 inches of steel, so obviously a great amount 


Explosives 61 

of damage is done to the safe. Under certain circumstan- 
ces, shaped charges may be used to blow a safe. These are 
much more efficient since they have a predetermined 
direction of force, but a situation where they may be used 
effectively is often difficult to contrive. 

Another popular trick among safe blowers, is to drill a 
small hole into the top of the safe, and fill it with butane, 
propane, or other highly combustible gas. A stopper 
made of modelling clay is placed over the hole, and a fuse 
is inserted. When the gas is ignited, the force of the re- 
sulting explosion may be enough to demolish the safe, I've 
even heard of one obviously amateur burglar who 
actually filled a safe with gasoline, and lit it. Not only did 
it blow the door off, but it destroyed the entire safe, the 
contents, and very nearly the safecracker as well. These 
techniques would obviously be worthwhile only if the 
safe’s contents could not be burned. 

Finally, a new and ingenious method of safe blowing is 
being seen more and more frequently these days. Again, 
a burglar drills a small hole into the Lop of the safe, and 
fills it completely with water. Then, a pencil-shaped 
section of C-4 or other moldable high explosive is in- 
serted in to the hole. As you know, water does not com- 
press so when you detonate the explosive in this setup, 
the safe is usually obliterated (with the contents more or 

less intact). 

Several recent technological advances in safe design 
and manufacture have curtailed the use of explosives by 
some, burglars, but professional safecrackers don t see 
mechanical improvements as a real threat. Any safe can 
be beaten with explosives; it is the time and noise factors 

that actually catch criminals. 

Figure 7-1 

A ribbon charge is a rectangular box of high 
explosive placed on or near the safe. 

Miscellaneous Methods 63 



Methods of 
Safe Entry 

I’ve decided to lump all the other common methods of 
safe entry into this one chapter, since most of these can 

be fully described in a paragraph. 

One of the most common tricks to defeat small safes is 
to simply remove it and work on it elsewhere, with a little 
more safety and privacy. Fire safes, small money chests, 
and even wall safes can be pushed, pulled, or rolled to the 
burglar’s vehicle. If burglars can lmd a way to attach it, 
a winch is sometimes used to remove large floor safes and 
wall safes. Also, if a safe is located on an upper floor of 
a tall building, it may be dropped to the pavement, in 
hopes that the impact will jar the door open. (If this 
sounds kind of silly, you should know that Underwriters 
Laboratories tests new sales for protection against this.) 

A . ■ A V 1 1 • - 9 4* 

doesn’t bust open, the 


off with^t somehow 


A relatively new method of safe opening is by using 
radiological equipment. The operator positions the de- 
vice in such a way that he is able to see a real-time x-ray 
of the working parts. I In has only to dial the combination 
by watching the wheels line up under the fence. This 
method has not yet been exploited by burglars, as far as 
I know, but if it ever begins to gain popularity, safe manu- 
facturers will simply install a sheet of lead in front of the 
locking mechanism to prevent this from being ac- 
complished on all new safes. 










•*, ■ x*x*i •-> x v 



Figure 8-1 

To open suck a safe, one has only to press 

Miscellaneous Methods 65 

Safes with digital keypads (see Figure 8-1), instead of 
combination dials, are gaining popularity these days. In 
order to open a sale with a digital keypad, one Inis only 
to press several numbers consecutively instead of dialing 
a combination. The handle is then turned to allow the 
safe to open. Therefore, if the burglar knows the proper 
buttons to press, he can enter the safe just as easily as 

the owner. 

To discover these numbers, a burglar will often apply 
invisible Ultra-Violet ink to something that the legitimate 
safe opener must touch (door knobs, handrails, etc.) 
prior to his opening the safe. When he then presses the 
buttons, some residual UV ink will invariably stick to 
them. The burglar then has only to place an Ultra-Violet 
lamp near the keypad to discover which buttons were 
pressed. A variation on this trick is to use a detective’s 
fingerprint kit. Once the keypad is dusted, it should be 
easy to tell which buttons are pressed, by observing the 

latent fingerprints. 

Some safecrackers also attempt to “grind” an opening 
by using a gasoline powered concrete saw (see Figure 8- 
2). 1 suppose this may work with cheaper fire safes, or 
when one needs to remove an outer layer, but the use of 
this high-speed abrasive wheel would probably be totally 
ineffective against hardened steel plates. 

Although you don’t hear or it much in America, the use 
of acids still remains a major threat in other parts of the 
world. The crook with various acids, and an expert 
knowledge of their use, can do incredible damage to safes 
which contain normal alloys. Some sale manufacturers 
have experimented with various combinations of metals 


to curb this attack, but acid is still highly effective if given 
enough time. I suspect, though, that the use of acids as 
a safe attack will remain relatively rare, for they usually 
do more damage to the inexperienced safecracker than 

they do to the safe. 

Figure 8-2 

concrete saw to “grind” an opening. 

Safe Deposit Boxes 67 


Safe Deposit 


Once inside the safe or vault, the safecracker may en- 
counter either a “keister,” a miniaturized inner safe, or 

ZiWi ftl IIIK1 

with the same techniques given throughout this book, but 
the safe deposit box requires a different approach. 

The typical modern safe deposit box (see Figure 9-2) 
consists of two keyways, one for the guard key, and the 
other for the customer’s key. So two different keys are re- 
quired to open each box. The insertion and turning of the 
two keys cause a bolt to retract, allowing the box to open 

on its hinges. 

The most common method used by amateur thieves to 
perform an opening is sheer physical force. By using a 
crowbar, sledgehammer, steel wedges, and other tools, a 
safe deposit box will eventually yield. This, however, is 
loud, slow, and not guaranteed, so most advanced 


Safe Deposit Boxes 69 

burglars prefer to use a nose puller (see Figure 9-3). A 
nose puller uses a threaded machine screw to actually 
pull out the cores of both lock mechanisms. A screw- 
driver can then be inserted in the holes to turn the cam 
and release the bolt. This is fast, quiet, and effective. 

Courtesy: Master Safe Co. 

Figure 9-1 

The American Pac2 Mini- Vault from the 
Mosler Safe Co. contains safe dejwsit boxes. 

Figure 9-2 

The typical safe (Uqtosil 
the tpiard key, and the 

box has lux> key ways, one for 
other for the customer's key. 

Figure 9-3 

To open a safe deposit box , most advanced 

burglars use a nose puller . 


There is also the hinge method of attack. The first step 

in opening safe deposit boxes witli the hinge method is 
to break a portion of the hinge (see Figure 0-4) with a 
sharp V&" steel chisel. Notice in the illustration that the 
box is designed to retain the door, even if this happens. 

Figure 9-4 

77 ie first step in opming a safe deposit box with 
the hinge method is to break a port ion of the 
hinge with a sharp V 2 inch sled, chisel. 

Safe Deposit Boxes 7 1 

Therefore, a wedge shaped chisel is used to spread the 
door hinge out oIThe retaining slot. A few hard raps with 
a hammer will cause (.he door to snap in (see figure 9- 
5). This trick is very quick and easy, but can be used only 

on boxes with exposed hinges. 

Figure 9-5 

A Jew hard raps on the halt end of the chisel 
with a hammer will cause the d<x>r to snap in. 

The m ost common me thod of opening used by lock- 
smiths is drilling with templates. Templates are available 


for just about every model of safe deposit box currently 
used. Below is an example of a fairly common template. 
It is placed against the box itself, and one knows immedi- 
ately where one must drill to open it. The locksmith 
usually attacks the hinge screws so that the door may be 
removed completely. Note also that the template has a 
drilling location for a sight hole, which would allow the 
locksmith to actually see the tumblers. He could then 
raise the individual tumblers to their necessary heights, 
so that the gate will pass, allowing the bolt to retract. This 
isn’t difficult to do with practice, and docs not harm the 
safe deposit box at all. In fact, once the hole is plugged, 
it’s as good as new. 

Figure 9-6 

Ix>cksmUhs most commonly open safe de}x>sit boxes by 
drill ivy with templates. A template is placed ayaivsl 
the, box itse(f an< l die locksmith, immediately knows 

where he mus t drill to open it. 

Deterrence and Prevention 73 





The first line or defense for safe owners is to deny the 
safecracker access to the safe itseli. This is accomplished 
by hiding wall safes behind paintings (as seen hundreds 
of times in the movies), disguising a safe as an end-table, 
hiding floor-mounted safes under rugs or flooring, or 
submerging them in steel-reinforced concrete. Also to 
prevent anyone from obtaining the combination by long- 
distance surveillance, many lock and safe manufacturers 
have started using spy-proof dials (see Figure 10-1). 

The second line of defense is to equip safes and vaults 
with alarm mechanisms, so that even if the safe is dis- 
covered, it cannot be tampered with. One of the most 
popular safe alarms is the proximity sensor. It is at- 
tached to the safe itseli, making the safe one giant sensor. 
It detects the presence of the electrostatic chaige 
inherent in every human body, and is sometimes sensitive 


Deterrence and Prevention 7 5 

Figure 10-la 

enough to deled an intruder al, four to five feet. Safes 
and vaults may also contain a magnetic switch on the 
door, to alert someone when the door is opened, or they 
may contain a Passive Infra-Red sensor that detects 
motion once the safe door is open. To learn how burglars 
overcome these devices, read Techniques of Burglar 
Alarm By-Passirnj, available Irom the publisher of this 


Some safes and most vaults rely on a lime-Lock 
mechanism to protect the contents during non-business 
hours. When the time-lock is set, the safe can be attacked 
with the methods previously described, but will not open 
fin theory) until the prescribed time has elapsed. Safe- 

V s . • * ii 

a i# 

to Jiu 


Deterrence and Prevention 77 

tilting or dropping the safe, or by attacking the doors and 
sides with a 20 pound sledgehammer. These repeated 
blows arc often enough to off-balance the tiny, precision 
components of the timing mechanism. UL also tests for 
this on many of the new vaults, and many of the time- 
locks fail during this test. 

Figure 10-2 

Many safe manufacturers cut false notches into the wheels. 
This slows down sqfecr ackers ojyening safes by manipulation. 

As you remember from Chapter 3, manipulation is 
made possible because one can detect the changes that 
occur when the notch of a wheel comes under the fence. 
To slow t his p rocess, m a ny safe manufacturers cut false 

notches into the wheels, so that one does not know if one 
has detected a real notch or a fake one (see Figure 10- 
2). These manipulation-resistant wheels do slow the 
process down considerably, but a safecracker with time 
and perseverance can still perform an opening. In 
addition to the false notches, new safes have a very quiet 
wheel-pack, and it is next to impossible to manipulate 
these without electronic amplification. 

If a burglar attempts to knock the combination dial off, 
and punch the spindle, he may be in for quite a surprise. 
Several safes now contain (and many people are request- 
ing locksmiths to install) a glass vial of tear-gas just 
behind the spindle. If the spindle is punched into this 
glass vial, the tube will break and release a large quantity 
of strong, irritating vapor. I don’t think this method of 
prevention is extremely cifcctive, for the safecracker who 
plans to punch a safe can simply wear a gas mask to 
avoid any potential fumes. If the spindle is punched, and 
no tear-gas appears, he could safely remove the mask. 
This would certainly deter only the amateur safecracker. 

Speaking of fumes, some high-security safes, which risk 
an expert attack by a thermic lance, have chemicals 
embedded in the barrier material which emit a nasty 
smoke when burned. This smoke, however, must conform 
to federal guidelines, and cannot be in any way toxic. 
Therefore, this smoke is simply a minor nuisance, for the 
safecracker who uses a thermic lance is, more than likely, 
already in an asbestos helmet. Also, safes which risk 
thermic lance attack almost always contain a sheet of 
copper or other good heat conductor at vulnerable 
cutting points. This copper sheet spreads the thermic 
lance’s heat so quickly that the barrier material beneath 
it receives only a fraction of the actual heat output. As 


in most other attempts at deterrence, this is more of a 
delay than a protection device, for the copper can only 
withstand 7000° F for so long. 




Wheel pack 
punched out 
of position 

Relocking trigger 
activated by punching 

relock pin 
engaged in bolt 

Figure 10-3 

Most safe combination locks have some sort, q freUndciny 
device which keeps the bolt, from being retracted, should any 
one try to yet inside the safe. The relocker has a. triyyer 
which must be tripped before the relocker any ayes. 

Most manufacturers of safe combination locks have 
implemented some sort of relocking device in the locking 

Deterrence and Prevention 79 

detonate explosives, or physically attack the safe in any 
way. The relocker has a trigger which must be tripped 
before the relocker engages (see Figure 10-3). About the 
only way to defeat a relocking device is to drill to it, and 
move it from its holding position. This spring-loaded lever 
can be pushed away Irom the locking bolt with ease, the 
only real problem is getting to it. The location of the re- 
lockcr varie s from safe to safe, so templates aie indis- 

■ t bhh m ■ m « h m m ^ m a w m hhb w v a • a ^ m m m w 9 m. m m. —W ^ ■ 'v Af- r* ' • « 

Drilling attempts are now occasionally frustrated by 
ball bearings, which some manufacturers embed in the 
safe-wall material. When a drill bit hits a ball bearing, it 
has a tendency to roll off, rather than penetrate it. A 
steady drilling rig alleviates this problem somewhat, but 
burglars often find it necessary to incorporate other 
devices, such as torches or chisels, into their plan of 

attack as well. 

If you have a safe that is of inferior quality, or was 
manufactured before 1340, you should consider having a 
professional locksmith upgrade it a little, for aiound $o0, 
he can make some alterations to the locking mechanism, 
lengthen the bolt, and generally modernize the safe a bit. 
As this will greatly increase the chances of outlasting an 
amateur attack, this is money well spent. Also, theft 
insurance is a very worthwhile investment for businesses 
that handle a lot or cash. If you live in a small town, don’t 
make the mistake of thinking that a weak safe is strong 
enough to protect against any attack from the amateur 
locals. It may very well be, but there are gangs of expert 
safecrackers that roam the country, and they actually 
prefer small town Mom and Pop stores. 

ability for any safe or vault to be labeled “absolutely 


secure.” And, as history shows us, what is difficult to 
defeat today will eventually become child’s play for the 
professional safecracker. As the saying goes, anything 
man can create, he can destroy. With safes, it just takes 
a little longer. 

Appendix A 81 

Appendix A 



The combinations listed here were set by the manu- 

V Vt 

v » V 


by the new owners. Many people do not know this, or do 
not bother to change them, so these combinations will 
open a surprising number ol sales in operation today. 
The combinations listed here are preceded by a coded 
dialing guide, such as R4L3R2L. This means that if a com- 
bination is given as 10-20-30, one must turn ^the dial 
RIGHT FOUR turns, stopping at 10, then LEFT THREE 
turns, stopping at 20, then R1GII1 FWO turns, stopping 
at 130, then L10FT until the wheel-pack stops. 


American Safe Co. 


30-20-10 10-20-30 

40-10-50 30-20-10 


40-60-35 56-13-36 

50-86-32 10-60-35 

Chicago Safe Co. 


7-8-2-1 35-71-39-7 


40-70-60-30 40-50-60-70 40-50-67-70 

30-60-40-70 40-30-60-70 50-30-70-60 

Dicbold Sale Co. 


45-70-35 60-20-40 35-70-45 70-30-55 

40-20-60 17-37-62 67-27-47 22-44-88 

11-22-44 18-36-72 45-35-70 90-70-35 

Appendix A 83 

Mosler Safe Co. 


64-95-60-5 91-39-76-59 



1 5-30-45-65 20-40-60-80 


36-39-43-87 40-20-60-88 20-40-60-80 


9-4-3-2 25-60-45-5 5-25-45-60 

40-20-60-30 20-40-60-30 40-30-60-20 

Mcilink Safe Co. 


2-34-10 0-34-10 0-36-12 0-38-14 0-40- 16 0-42-18 

4-36-12 2-36-12 2-38-14 2-40-16 2-42-18 2-44-20 

6-38-14 4-38-14 4-40-16 4-42-18 4-44-20 4-46-22 

8-40-16 6-40-16 6-42-18 6-44-20 6-46-22 6-48-24 

10-42-18 8-42-18 8-44-20 8-46-22 8-48-24 8-0-26 

(each digit increases by two until 48, where it begins at 0) 


Schwab Safe Co. 


15-75-0 75-50-0 40-70-35 35-75-45 65-35-45 

Victor Safe Co. 


0-12-82-92 1-13-89-93 2-14-84-94 3-15-85-95 4-1G-86-96 
6-17-87-97 6-18-88-98 7-19-89-99 8-20-90-0 9-21-91-1 
10-22-92-2 11-23-93-3 12-24-94-4 13-25-95-5 14-26-96-6 
15-27-97-7 16-28-98-8 17-29-99-9 18-30-0-10 19-31-1-11 


(each number increases by 5, until 99, where it begins at 0) 

Appendix D 85 

Appendix B 

Suppliers of 
Lock and Safe 

Opening Equipment 

C.O.L. Manufacturing 

Chicago, IL 60634 
Thermic Lance manufacturer 

6301- Equitable Road 
Kansas City, MO 64141 

Sells various safe-opening tools and books, also nose 

HPC, Inc. 

Schiller Park, IL 60176 

General locksmith sum>!^ some safe tools 


Lockmasters, Inc. 

5085 Danville Road 
Nicholasville, KY 4035G 

Sells safe-opening videocassettes and training packages 

St. Petersburg, FL 33712 

Manufacturer of special safe-opening borescope system 

Safeman Supply 
1104 NE 126th Avenue 
Vancouver, WA 98684 

Sells drilling templates for most safes 

San Diego Safe Co. 

PO Box 9795 
San Diego, CA 92109 

More drilling templates 

Strong Arm Security, Inc. 

2228 Kenry Way 

So. San Francisco, CA 94080 

drilling bits and drilling rigs 

The Locksmith Store 

1229 E. Algonquin Road Unit E 

General locksmith supplier 

Selected Bibliography 87 



Lctkemann, Peter. Crime as Work.. Englewood Cliffs, N.J: 
Prentice-IIall, 1973. 

Wright, W.J. Safe and Vault Manual. Detroit: M.H. Jaf Co., 

Professional. High-Tech, Burglary. Iron Press, 1988. 

French, Scott. B and E: A to Z , How to Get in Anywhere, 
Anytime. Videocassette. Boulder, CO: CEP, Inc. 


isl a 

r 4i T 4Jj m M W* ru fjl 



Safeman’s Guide. Volumes 1-10. Park Ridge, 1L: Lock- 
smith Publishing Co., 1970-1989. 

Technique of Safe and Vault Manipulation. Cornvillc, AZ: 
Desert Publications, 1975. 

McOmie, Dave. National locksmith Guide to Safe Open- 
ing. Streamwood, I L: The National Publishing Co., 

Fester, Uncle. Home Workshop Explosives. Port Town- 
send, WA: Loompanics Unlimited, 1990. 

Saxon, Kurt. The Poor Man ’s James Bond. El Dorado, AR: 
Desert Publications, 1972. 

Yeager, Wayne B. Techniques of Burglar Alarm Bypass- 
ing. Port Townsend, WA: Loompanics Unlimited, 1990. 


□ 52032 THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO LOCK PICKING, by eddle the Wire. 
This is the single finest treatise on lock picking ever printed — over five years 
of research went into its preparation. Detailed, illustrated, step-by-step 
instructions are given for picking all the commonly found lock types. Also 
covered are various other ways of bypassing locks, how to mount practice 
locks, and much more. 1961, 5H x 8H, 80 pp, profusely Illustrated, soft 

cover. $14.95. 


Yeager. Any alarm system can be beaten. This book shows hew. Dozens of 
socurity systems are described In illustrated detail: Magnetic Switches; 
Window foil; Sound and heat detectors; Photoelectric alarms; Central Station 
Systems; Closed circuit TV; And much more. You’ll learn how they work and 
how they can be defeated. A must book for anyone concerned with security. 
1990, 5Hx8H, 104 pp, Illustrated, soft cover. $14.95. 

□ 52047 THE B & E BOOK: Burglary Techniques and Investigation, by 

Burt Rapp. A practical manual designed for the police officer in charge of a 
burglary investigation and civilians Interested in reducing their vulnerability to 
theft. Includes: Illustrated Breaking and Entering Techniques; Getaway; 
Safecracking; Fencing Operations; Gathering Evidence; A Guide to the Best 
Tools and Equipment. This book tolls you everything you need to know to 
investigate and prevent burglaries. 1989, 5h x 8H, 149 pp, Illustrated, soft 
cover. $16.95. 

□ 10052 CODE MAKING AND CODE BREAKING, by Jack Luger. We live in 
an information age: information is bought, sold and stolen like any other good. 
Businesses and individuals are learning to keep their secrets safe with this 
practical, illustrated guide to building and busting codes. Leam how to 
construct simple and complex codes. Learn how computers are used to make 
and break codes. Leam why the most unbreakable code isn’t always the best. 
Ideal for those interested in professional and personal privacy. 1990, 5H x 8h, 
125 pp, Illustrated, soft cover. $12.95. 

Loompanics Unlimited 
PO Box 1197 

Port Townsend, WA 98368 


Please send me the books I have checked above. I have enclosed 

$ which includes $4.95 for shipping and handling of the 

first $25 ordered, r lease tnciuae $ i more tor eacn auaiuonas 
ordered.. Washington residents include 7.9% sales tax. 



I could not count the number of times I've 
seen a $200 fire-safe holding thousands of 
dollars in cash , or an 1890's safe eocpected 

to withstand 1990's attacks. 

So begins this amazing manual exploring 
nesses in the ways we protect our valuables. 

No safe is completely secure, because locksmiths 
must be able to rescue your goods if the lock breaks. 
That means every safe is vulnerable — it’s only a 
matter of time and determination. 

Techniques of Safecracking reveals every known 
method for breaking into safes, vaults and safety 
deposit boxes. It begins with simple ways to guess 
combinations — or steal them. In illustrated detail, it 
shows how to drill, punch and peel a safe. And it shows 
how high-tech hoods use torches and explosives to get 

at your goods. 

For the policeman or private investigator, for the 
store owner or security professional, for all of us 
fortunate enough to have something worth keeping 
safe, Techniques of Safecracking is eye-opening