Safecracker: A Chronicle of the Coolest Job in the World

Safecracker: A Chronicle of the Coolest Job in the World

A book was written by a national treasure Dave McOmie, quite possibly the best safe and vault technicians in not only the united states but the world. Always enthusiastic about his career and humble as well one of my favorite quotes I can remember from a class of Daves I took in Texas “There isn’t a safe or vault on this planet I can’t open, however, one of my greatest fears is locking the keys in my car because I wouldn’t have the first clue as to how to get them out”.

Dave truly pioneered the industry with multiple books, classes, penetration parties, and the forum-based website NSO ( National Safecrackers Organization) Daves’s contributions to the industry will be put in the history books for decades to come.This is a fantastic read for both the industry professional and the interested hobbyist who finds safe and vaults interesting, you won’t be disappointed in this purchase,  simply click the link below to place your order today!

Excerpt from Safecracker: A Chronicle of the Coolest Job in the World —Chapter 2: Your Host:

“As a kid, I was enamored with Alexander Mundy, the debonair safecracker from the 1960s television series, It Takes a Thief. So enamored, in fact, that I enrolled in a locksmithing home-study course and later landed an apprenticeship at a local shop. I found my passion, then my job. It turned into a career.

“My interest in the key-cutting side of the business faded as I became familiar with safes and vaults. The supreme challenge was opening them, and this was reflected in the value difference: we charged five bucks to rekey a door lock, and five hundred to drill a tough safe. It was like learning the coolest magic tricks ever, and getting paid for it.”


Product Description


Like a character in a Hitchcock movie, Dave McOmie travels the country breaking into bank vaults, cracking jewelry store safes, and decoding unbreakable codes secured deep in government facilities.


Safecracker reveals a shadowy world where tumblers are twirled, skeletons are exposed, and longstanding mysteries are solved. You’ll ride shotgun with Dave for one crazy week, beginning with an impenetrable vault in Vegas with a midnight deadline, and ending with Prince’s ultra-secure music vault in the basement of Paisley Park. In between are factual stories that read like fiction: drilling the same model ATM from the notorious episode of Breaking Bad; meeting a mystery man from the Department of Defense at a remote location to crack two high security safes; chronicling the corruption and ineptitude that dogged efforts to develop the first electronic safe lock to guard our national secrets; tackling a hundred-year-old antique bank vault in downtown Salt Lake City, and more….


What’s in all these safes and vaults? Gold and silver, drugs and cash, guns and ammo, family heirlooms and X-rated paraphernalia. And a few secrets that should have remained secret.





When we needed to consult a safecracker for one of our movies, Dave McOmie was the obvious choice. His expertise and wit were matched only by his fantastic stories: drilling the Vegas vault (like Ocean’s Eleven but real!), cracking special safes for the government, opening the late Prince’s bank vault at Paisley Park, and more. These adventures form the core of Safecracker, a fun and fascinating memoir that breaks new ground in the genre — there isn’t anything remotely like it.


— Adam Yorke, Head of Development, Wildling Pictures


If Jobs and Wozniak had combined their DNA into one person with a passion for safes rather than computers, the result would have been (something very much like) Dave McOmie. Dave is as comfortable with abstract concepts as he is with concrete details, and his innovative safecracking classes have long been the industry gold standard. He is a living legend, and Safecracker is hands-down his best book.


— Rick Rolland, Chief Executive Officer, Rolland Safe Co., Inc.



Ask professional safecrackers who they want in their corner on a tough safe or vault, and they’ll answer in unison: “Dave McOmie.” Dave’s knowledge of his arcane craft is unrivaled, and Safecracker is your backstage pass into the shrouded, whispery world he inhabits.


— Martin Holloway, covert entry specialist and President, Hollotec



The weight of all the drill bits Dave McOmie has used in his long and storied career would sink the Titanic. He’s a monster. He’s also the most prolific author in the field. But in Safecracker, Dave has outdone himself. You’ll root for him when the pressure is on, cheer at each victory, and cross your fingers for a sequel!


— Jeff Volosing, President, StrongArm Inc.



Dave McOmie’s books and articles line the shelves of almost every lock and safe shop in the country. Whether he’s drilling a bank vault, opening a secret safe on a covert op, or teaching Burt Reynolds how to crack safes for a movie, Dave’s adventures have informed and entertained working professionals for decades. Talented wordsmiths are rare, master safecrackers even rarer. Dave is both.


— Lance Mayhew, Ada County Lock and Safe, Idaho



There are givers and takers in this world. Dave McOmie is a giver. He has trained several generations of field technicians, and quite literally wrote the books that the rest of us rely on every day. The truth is, most of us wouldn’t be where we are without him.


— C.D. Lipscomb, Navco Safe & Lock, Texas



Dave’s books and articles jump-started my interest in safes and vaults. Attending one of his famed Penetration Parties was like playing in a football game with Vince Lombardi coaching. Unforgettable.


— Michael Jennings, Solid Lock and Safe, Louisiana



Other than my father, Dave McOmie was the single greatest influence on my career as a safe and vault technician. His willingness to share information and his ability to teach are unparalleled.


— Michael McElheney, McElheney Locksmiths, Ohio



When your vault is locked, don’t go off half-cocked: Call Dave!


— Rusty Bramblett, Bramblett Locksmith, Florida


Generous with his knowledge and intensely loyal to his industry colleagues, Dave McOmie is the go-to guy when a tough safe or vault is reluctant to reveal its secrets.


— T. A. Martin, Antique Safes, Wisconsin


Dave McOmie’s dedication to his craft and his fellow safecrackers is matchless. There isn’t anyone quite like the master.


— Scott Clark, S.G. Clark Safe Services, New York


Every industry has its hero and mentor. In the safe and vault world, we have Dave McOmie.


— W. Scott Maness, Blair and Sons Locksmith, Alabama


Dave has been the single biggest influence on my career as a professional safe technician. He’s always willing to help, and I‘m eternally grateful for it.


— Walt Peterson, Floyd Security, Minnesota


If you are in the business of opening safes and vault, Dave is the guy you want to know.


— Ernie Lay, BranchServ, North Carolina


If it weren’t for Dave, I wouldn’t be the safecracker I am today. Virtually everyone in the trade today can say the same thing.


— James Green, Peifer Lock, Tennessee



Dave’s depth of knowledge on safes and vaults is peerless. He’s truly one of a kind.


— J. Drew Van Deventer, Alpine Safe and Lock, Florida




Many years ago, I met Dave McOmie at a convention, but he was so low key I didn’t know who he was. I told him safecracking was pretty simple now that some guy is writing technical books on the subject. My father later pointed out that the guy I was talking to was the author of those very books.


— Jacob Feinberg, Carl’s Locksmith Service, Massachusetts




When you need a hand, Dave’s the man!


— Jerry Kruss, Certified Lock & Safe, California




Dave McOmie is the authority on safes and vaults. Period. He’s also a great guy, and I’m proud to call him a friend.”


— Jim Wiedman, President, Associated Locksmiths of America




Dave McOmie’s books and classes have advanced the skills of thousands of safe and vault technicians around the globe. No other person has had a greater impact on the industry.


— Mike Potter, President, Safe and Vault Technicians Association


Links provided on this page for the book are affiliate links.


About the Author


Dave McOmie is editor-at-large at The International Safecracker and a member of the Safe & Vault Technicians Hall of Fame. He holds a master’s degree in philosophy from the University of Washington and resides in the Evergreen State with his wife and children

By |2021-08-09T01:12:03+00:00August 5th, 2021|Book Review, Safe and Vault, Safes, Uncategorized|0 Comments

New Safe Manipulation Graph Paper Added to Tools

We have added new graph paper specifically suited for Kromer 14a safe locks to our Safe Manipulation Graph Paper page in the Tools section. The Kromer 14a is a unique safe combination lock. Rather than numbers, the dial used letters (upper and lower case).

Kromer 14a Dial

Kromer 14a Dial

Kromer was a leading safe lock manufacturer in Germany from the early 20th century up until the 1980s. They had a very good reputation because of their Protector lock, which was the only lock certified by the German national bank for use on their safes for many decades. Kromer also sold Novum locks across Europe, many to the U.K. who equipped them on Tann safes.
Special thanks to Martin Hewitt for putting this together for us.

By |2020-03-19T09:00:59+00:00March 19th, 2020|All, Combination Safe Locks, Safes|0 Comments

Safe Manipulation Graph Paper Added to Tools

We’ve a new section to our Tools page: Safe Manipulation Graph Paper. This section launches with multiple graph paper sheets that can assist with safe manipulation. At launch, there are 4-unit and 5-unit graphs available in both portrait and landscape layouts. These graphs are available in PDF and Excel formats, the latter allows you to make any alterations that you see fit.

By |2019-12-16T09:00:36+00:00December 16th, 2019|All, Safes|0 Comments

Ratings for Safes

Banner courtesy of Wayne Winton with

Types of Safes

Safes come in a variety of shapes and sizes for different applications. Understanding the differences and the applications of each type is key to helping your customers meet their security and compliance needs. Some insurance policies (particularly in Europe) will set requirements for safes based on the value of the safe’s contents while government agencies and contractors handling sensitive documents and materials will often be required to use containers and locks that meet specifications issued by the government (in the U.S., Federal Specification FF-L-2740B is the most commonly encountered). When recommending a product to a customer it is important to get these details at the outset as they will narrow the options significantly.
Probably the cheapest and most common types of safe encountered in the United States are “Fire Safes”. These containers may look like their sturdier cousins but they offer very limited protection against burglars and are only intended to protect valuables from damage in a fire. They are often equipped with low quality wafer locks or proprietary, built-in combination locks that offer limited customization. A customer who needs a way to protect their important personal documents from damage in a house fire would be well served with a fire safe. While many fire safes may be labeled as “Theft Resistant” or even gain the RSC (Residential Security Container) certification, these ratings merely certify that the container has a lock on it and can withstand a few minutes of attack from a screwdriver and/or small hammer. Fire resistance ratings are usually defined under UL 72.
Burglar safes tend to be much more expensive than their fire resistant relatives and come in a huge variety of styles and rating schemes. The oldest safe rating scheme still in use uses the labels B Rate, B/C Rate, and C Rate. These standards have their origin in the 19th century and generally are only concerned with the thickness of the steel used to construct the sides and door(s) of a safe. Newer standards, such as UL 687 and UL 1037, require each container to be tested by experts to determine its resistance to both environmental hazards and skilled attackers and apply various ratings based on the results; these graduated ratings allow a customer to select a safe that meets their needs without forcing them to purchase a significantly more expensive model. Additional features important to consider are added anti-tamper features, such as relockers (which carry a UL 140 rating).

Fire Resistance Ratings

In the United States the most commonly used rating system for fire resistant containers is Underwriters Laboratories’ UL 72 standard. UL 72 lays out three possible classes for fire resistance based on their ability to maintain an internal temperature for a certain amount of time. The classes are Class 350, Class 150, and Class 125. Each class has an additional rating for the number of hours of heating the safe can withstand, usually ranging from 1/2 an hour to 4 hours. For example, a Class 350 fire safe rated for up to half an hour of exposure would be listed as “Class 350-½” while the same class of container rated for 3 hours protection would be “Class 350-3”. Class 350 containers may be referred to as ‘document safes’ while Class 150 and Class 125 containers may be referred to as ‘media safes’ or ‘data safes’.

Class 350

The minimum possible rating. These fire safes can maintain an internal temperature of 350 degrees Fahrenheit for the rated amount of time which makes them suitable for protecting paper (paper combusts at approximately 450°F). Class 350 fire safes can be rated for as little as 30 minutes or as high as 4 hours. Some manufacturers offer inserts which can reach better temperature ratings when placed inside a Class 350 rated container.

Class 150

These fire safes can maintain an internal temperature of 150 degrees Fahrenheit for the rated amount of time which makes them suitable for protecting many types of magnetic tape, photographic film, and optical computer disks (CDs, DVDs, etc). Class 150 fire safes can be rated for as little as 30 minutes or as high as 4 hours. Some manufacturers offer inserts which can reach better temperature ratings when placed inside a Class 150 rated container.

Class 125

These fire safes can maintain an internal temperature of 125 degrees Fahrenheit for the rated amount of time. Class 125 containers were originally introduced to protect floppy disks, however it still provides the best protection against fire damage available. Class 125 fire safes can be rated for as little as 30 minutes or as high as 4 hours.

Burglary Resistance Ratings

In the United States UL 1037 and UL 687 are the primary standards for rating a container against burglary but some general industry standards are still used. UL 1037 defines the RSC (Residential Security Container) classifications while UL 687 certifies a variety of burglary resistance ratings. Burglary safes should be considered on a number of criteria in addition to attack resistance rating including weight (heavier is usually better), capacity, size, and boltwork; anti-drill hardplate, relockers, and alarms are popular options.

Residential Security Containers (RSC)

The original standard for RSC rating only offered a single level of rating (essentially a pass/fail) certifying the container could withstand a five minute attack using common hand tools (a screwdriver and a small hammer). In 2016 the standard was updated to provide additional nuance in the form of “levels”. RSC is the most common rating for gun safes sold in the United States, state and local laws concerning the storage of firearms will often specify minimum ratings for use in firearm storage. RSC rated containers typically weigh less than 750 pounds.

RSC Level 1

The minimum rating to achieve certification. This certifies that the container can withstand five minutes of a single person attempting to force the container open using common hand tools such as screwdrivers, small hammers, and drills.

RSC Level 2

This certifies that the container can withstand a 10 minute attack by two people attempting to make a six square inch opening in the door/front of the container using more advanced tools including high speed drills with carbide bits and pry bars.

RSC Level 3

This certifies that the container can withstand a 10 minute attack by two people attempting to make a two square inch opening in the door/front of the container using more advanced and aggressive tools.

Safe Industry and Insurance Ratings

These classifications have their roots in the 19th century when payrolls moved across the country by trains as bundles of cash or precious metals. These ratings specify the thickness of steel used in the containers construction but do not provide certification of their performance against skilled attack. Because of the nature of the rating prices for these containers will fluctuate based on the price of steel. While many safes and containers are still sold using these ratings they are of limited use in evaluating modern safes as UL  687 ratings provide a much better idea of a container’s performance under real world conditions.

Class B / B Rate

B Rate safes have a half inch (0.5″) thick solid steel door and quarter inch (0.25″) thick solid steel walls. B Rate safes are sufficient to withstand a significant amount of brute force attempts to open them.

Class C / C Rate

C Rate safes have a one inch (1.0″) thick solid steel door and half inch (0.5″) thick solid steel walls. C Rate safes are sufficient to withstand a significant amount of brute force attempts to open them but usually only have the same anti-tamper countermeasures as B Rate safes.

UL 687 Burglary Resistance Ratings

UL 687 provides certification of a safe’s performance under a variety of skilled and semi-skilled attacks. UL 687 ratings can seem complex but are quite simple once broken down. A UL 687 rating consists of one or more two letter codes indicating the type of attack(s) tested (TL, TR, and TX), two numbers indicating the number of minutes it is certified to withstand such attacks (15, 30, 60), and optionally an additional letter and number (usually “x6”) indicating the number of sides that were tested. A safe must weight at least 750 pounds and have a body constructed of metal equivalent to one inch thick steel in order to be considered for classification under UL 687.


TL indicates the safe has been tested to withstand skilled attacks using common hand tools and power tools. These tools include chisels, screwdrivers, hammers, sledge hammers (up to 8 pounds), carbide drills, and pry bars (under five feet long).


TR indicates the safe has been tested to resist cutting torches and oxyacetylene welding equipment.


TX indicates that the safe has been tested to withstand attacks using cutting torches and high explosives such as nitroglycerin.

Examples of Common UL 687 Ratings

TL-15 certifies that the door/front face of the safe can withstand 15 minutes of skilled attack with hand tools and power tools when fitted with a UL listed lock. TL-15×6 certifies that all six sides of a safe can withstand the same type and duration of attack. TL-30 certifies that the front/door of the safe can withstand such attacks for 30 minutes.
TRTL-15×6 certifies that all sides of the safe can withstand 15 minutes of skilled attack by hand tools, power tools, and cutting torches when fitted with a UL Listed Group 1, Group 1R, or Type 1 safe lock. TRTL-30 certifies that the front/door of the safe can withstand the same types of attack for 30 minutes.
TXTL-60 and TXTL-60×6 certify that the safe can withstand a full hour of attack with hand tools, power tools, cutting torches, and high explosives. As of 2011 UL was phasing out support for the TXTL classification but safes carrying that certification are still on the market.

Important Considerations

Many of your customers will likely only need a small fire resistant safe to protect important documents and the like in case of a house fire. Higher end fire resistant safes can even offer some theft protection when fitted with a Group 2 combination lock and placed somewhere out of the way but they should not be relied upon for preventing burglary or theft of high value items. In case a customer requires both high levels of fire resistance and burglary resistance there are combination fire and burglary safes on the market but at a significant cost.
Safes of all ratings come in various form factors. The most common are wall safes designed to be installed in a concrete or cinder-block wall, floor safes designed to sit on the floor (some smaller fire rated safes may be able to fit on a shelf or table), and in-floor safes (designed to be set into a concrete floor). There are also special purpose safes such as deposit safes which have a slot or chute in the top to allow people to drop envelopes or forms into a secure container.
When dealing with burglary rated safes the primary factor driving the requirements is likely to be cost and insurance or regulatory compliance. In the United States the GSA (General Services Administration) certifies safes and secure containers for different uses by government agencies. Many government contractors have to comply with the same regulations when handling sensitive or classified materials. Banks often need deposit safes for tellers and to accept out of hours deposits as well as safes for their ATMs. Private residences looking to have burglary safes installed must often meet certain requirements set by their insurance policies. If you wish to begin selling and servicing safes, it is wise to familiarize yourself with your potential customer base and any regulations or requirements they may be subject to.

By |2018-10-25T09:00:46+00:00October 25th, 2018|All, Safe and Vault, Safes|0 Comments

Library Update: Safes

We’ve added the Safes page to our newly launched Safe and Vault section of the Library. The Safes page is dedicated to gun safes, fire safes, and GSA containers. Given the subject matter, this page doesn’t feature as much technical information as other pages in the Library but there is still quite a bit of useful information, such as safe models, ratings, and measurements. This information can be found in the product catalogs found in the Manfacturer’s Literature and Manuals.
At launch, we have product catalogs for the following manufacturers:

  • Browning Arms
  • Burg Wachter USA
  • FireKing
  • Fort Knox
  • Gardall
  • GunVault
  • Liberty Safe
  • MESA Safe Company
  • Vault Pro

We’ve also included a few quick reference manuals for Tidel’s TACC line as well as links to AMSEC web pages dedicated to explaining burglar and fire ratings for safes. We’ve also included a link to a video created by Dakota Safe Company that shows a fire rating test on a gun safe.

By |2018-07-31T09:00:39+00:00July 31st, 2018|All, Library Update, Safe and Vault, Safes|0 Comments
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