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Lock Blog

A resource for consumers, locksmiths, and security professionals

Can A Locksmith Open A Gun Safe?

by Ralph September 26, 2022

So you want to know, “can a locksmith open a gun safe?” The answer is yes. But if you would like to know a little bit more than a simple one-word answer, you have come to the right place. There is more that is worth knowing about this topic.

We will cover several tangential topics to better understand the questions and concerns likely at the root of the overly simple question, “can a locksmith open a gun safe?” These topics include the following:


Are gun safes harder to open?

If you have the key or combination, gun safes can be just as easy to open as any other safe. But as soon as you don’t have those things, you are in the same scenario as a burglar (technically speaking). At this point, a gun safe will be incredibly difficult to open compared to other types of safes and security devices.

What makes a gun safe more secure?

The greater security of a gun safe comes from the stronger metal, weight, and the quality of the manufacturing. Stronger metal makes drilling, cutting, and prying more difficult. Weight prevents the safe from being moved and prevents safe bouncing. Manufacturing reduces the number of overrides and bypasses that exist due to oversights during construction.

How do you know if your gun safe is broken?

If you know that your combination or key is correct and the safe will still not open, there is likely something wrong with the bolt work. A safe door stuck due to damage means the safe cannot be manipulated open. It will need to be opened destructively.

Where can you find your gun safe combination?

If you forgot your safe combination, you might be able to track it down with your purchasing information. Any of the safe’s original documentation should list its original combination. With your serial number, you may also be able to contact the manufacturer. If you have changed the combination, this will not be possible (unless you wrote it down somewhere).

Can a locksmith open a gun safe?

A locksmith is your best option for opening a gun safe. They have the tools and training to open these devices without causing undue harm to the safe or its contents. You can also harm yourself if you are trying to drill or cut a safe, as these dangerous power tools are often deflected by the stronger metal of the gun safe.

How much does it cost to open a gun safe?

The average locksmith prices are often only starting prices, which only account for the simplest version of that service. Opening a gun safe is going to be one of the more complicated safe lockout procedures because of the base higher level of security and sophistication of these devices. So the final price to open a gun safe will be more than $65. But will rarely exceed $200.

Defining A Gun Safe

A gun safe is not just a safe that will fit a gun inside of it. Legally speaking, states like Californian have specific product dimensions and attributes that must be present for something to be considered in the eyes of the law as a “gun safe.”

If you have a gun, you may not wish to store it in a gun safe. Alternatively, you do not need to own any firearms to make the most out of owning a gun safe. But what really matters is determining whether or not you are using a gun safe at all.

Sure, a locksmith can open a gun safe. But if you are using a lockbox, not a safe, you will likely be subject to a lower overall cost for service. Less secure safes might also have a way of bypassing the locking mechanism to avoid destructive entry. So, what type of safe do you have?

1. Gun Safe 

We will use the strictest definition available, which comes from the State of California Department of Justice (CADOJ). The definition has a lot of requirements and minutia, but it boils down to the following minimum standards:

  • Doors must use 7-gauge steel plate reinforced construction 
    • “or at least two layers of a minimum 12-gauge steel compound construction”
  • Doors must be secured with steel locking bolts that are at least ½-inch thick
  • The walls must be made of 12-gauge steel 
    • “or the sum of the steel walls shall add up to at least 0.100 inches”
  • Door hinges must be protected
  • Combination locks must have at least three digits
    • “at least 10,000 possible combinations”
  • Any locks must use drill resistant steel

Gun safes can be more secure than this, but they cannot be less secure. Making them, at the very least, protected from the most likely unauthorized entry methods.

2. Lockbox 

A lock box is any security safe-type product that does not meet the more substantial requirements of a gun safe. Where gun safes have a basic level of protection and may provide significantly more security, lock boxes are the opposite. A lock box might provide little more than privacy.

  • Made of any hard material
    • Even plastic
  • Any type of locking mechanism
    • Regardless of quality
  • No security standards or requirements

If you are looking for meaningful security, you do not want to use a lockbox. But if you are already using a lock box, you will have an easier time finding a locksmith that can get it open. The less security, the easier it is for a professional to open.

3. Personal Protection Box

Every personal protection box is a lock box, but not every lock box is built with personal protection in mind. These devices are not designed with gun security in mind. Instead, safety takes center stage.

  • Utilize a childproof locking mechanism
  • Must be able to open in less than 1 second
    • under ideal conditions
  • Stores a gun in a position where it can be removed, ready to fire.

The idea of a personal protection box is just to keep children from accessing a firearm. But the security cannot be too great, because opening it must still be convenient. An authorized user must be able to retrieve the gun fast enough to respond to a life and death situation.

Key Takeaways:

  • Gun safes have higher standards than normal safes
  • Lock boxes provide less security and protection than gun safes
  • Personal protection boxes are designed to be opened quickly

Professional Gun Safe Opening

Though you may be asking, “can a locksmith open a gun safe,” you might be thinking, “can a locksmith open a gun safe without breaking the safe?” This is entirely understandable, as replacing a safe is both an inconvenience and a significant investment.

If you are experiencing a business safe lockout, you might not want any down time where the business would have to go without a place to store cash or other valuables. However, in most cases, a professional locksmith will need to damage your safe to open it.

Damage does not always mean that the safe will be unusable. And in many instances, the hole for the drill can be recovered. It is not ideal to keep using a safe once it is damaged, but it may be more ideal than purchasing a new one. But can’t a locksmith open a safe like they do in the movies?

Touch Manipulation

The safe opening you usually see in the movies (with the stethoscope) is a process called “touch manipulation.” Most of the time, this is not done with listening but rather by feel. Safe crackers often call this opening a safe by “touch” because you are using the tips of your fingers to feel for the true gates on the combination wheel.

The safe will need a manual dial (combination wheel) for this to be possible. There is nothing to listen for or feel with a digital lock. But even with all that said, this skill is extremely uncommon. Almost no locksmith in the United States is trained in touch manipulation, as it is more of a talent than something that is reliably teachable.

Destructive Entry

When it comes to having a locksmith open a gun safe, you are almost certainly going to need some form of destructive entry. This means that there will be damage to the safe. However, it will not always require the safe to be replaced entirely.

When a locksmith drills a lock, the whole assembly is eviscerated. But drilling a safe does not have to cause such systemic damage. It may only need to be drilled so a tool can be inserted to reach the locking bar. In other cases, a borescope is placed at the back of the dial so it can be monitored for manipulation.

Other forms of destructive entry include prying the door open and cutting the safe body (the body of the safe is often less thick than the door). In the case of prying and cutting, the safe will not be usable as a result of the opening. A drill hole can often be recovered so the safe can be used again.

Key Takeaways:

  • Almost no locksmith is trained in touch manipulation
  • A locksmith will nearly always use a form of destructive to open safes
  • Do not call a locksmith if you cannot accept that the safe will be damaged

Safe Locksmith Prices

All locksmith services begin with a standard service call fee. (United Locksmith charges fifteen dollars ($15) for our service call fee.) These fees are for the benefit of both customers and the locksmith technicians. It ensures that a technician is compensated for their time and resources spent on travel and in-person assessment.

This protection for workers allows a mobile locksmith service to operate with customer convenience as its core value. Customers receive no-obligation appointments where a professional can give them a specific run-down of the services needed to open your safe.

The average safe lockout service starts at sixty-five dollars ($65). This is the catch-all price, but you can expect to pay a bit more for a locksmith to open a gun safe. As a more secure storage device, it takes more time, tools, and training to get a gun safe open.

A locksmith is likely to need brand new drill bits to open a gun safe. Depending on the quality of the gun safe, a locksmith may go through several bits. Expended materials and additional time are always the most important factors in service costs, so this is the reason for the higher price point.

Key Takeaways:

  • Locksmiths charge a service fee ($15)
  • There is a basic starting price for safe lockouts ($65)
  • Opening a gun safe takes more time, materials, and training
  • Locksmiths charge more to open gun safes

Last But Not Least

You may be a little hesitant to call a locksmith to open a gun safe after reading this. But rest assured, it is the best option for opening your safe. You do not want to harm yourself or the contents of your safe by attempting to open this type of highly-secure device yourself.

If United Locksmith services your area, give us a call. It is always a good idea to contact a professional. But if we are not available near you, leave a comment below, and we can probably help you out with some general advice or information.

Category: Residential, Safes, Safety & Security

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