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Combination Dial File Cabinet

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ddq

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Post Thu May 21, 2020 4:24 pm

Combination Dial File Cabinet

Hello, this is my first post and it is going to be kind of all over the place. I apologize in advance.
About ten years ago I was given a small safe from my grandparents' house that was open but the combo was unknown. I took it to a local locksmith who referred me to a retired military locksmith about 45 minutes away. The gentleman let me come to his house with the safe and as he worked on determining the combination he told me about his time working on safes and vaults for the army. He was a very nice guy and I was fascinated by his story. When he finished he only charged me 20 bucks and told me to give him a call in the future if I needed anything. That time may be now.
For the last few weeks I have been researching larger safes. I have a few long guns that I want to secure. My research quickly revealed that modern 'gun safes' offer very little protection for the cost. I began looking online for used commercial safes but it looks like any good safe tall enough to put guns in will be EXTREMELY heavy and maybe not practical to get in my house and be safely supported by my wood floor. I do not think I have seen any safe tall enough for my needs that weighs less than 1000 lbs.
Today I remembered that there was a locking file cabinet in this house when I moved in. I have never looked at very closely. It has three drawers and is very heavy. I could barely tip it a couple inches off the ground myself. I bet it weighs 400 to 600lbs. I am thinking about cutting the bottom out of the top two drawers, locking the drawers together so they slide together, and storing my guns inside. However, I do not know the combination to the lock.
So, my questions are:

Does my idea seem feasible?
Does the heavy weight indicate the cabinet is fairly resistant to forced entry?
With help from you guys, is it possible that I could determine the combination myself? If not, this may be too heavy to move outside, load on a trailer, haul it to the locksmith and reverse the process. I would probably ask him to come to me since it is already inside my house. Would the security of the cabinet be worth what he would charge, which I estimate would be about $75-$125 because I am so far away? Thank you for any help! I can supply more pictures if needed.

, David
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ddq

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Post Thu May 21, 2020 4:35 pm

Re: Combination Dial File Cabinet

Actually, with the drawers open, after I spin the dial the levers still open. Shouldn't they lock like my safe does? Maybe the lock is not working.
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mastersmith

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Post Thu May 21, 2020 5:07 pm

Re: Combination Dial File Cabinet

What you have is a fire resistant container. There is no substantial metal in this cabinet. The oval hole beside the dial is for a file cabinet lock. Without it the secondary drawers won't lock. Long story, short, trying to modify this cabinet to be "secure storage" is not feasible. You will just end up with a very large anchor! Bye the way, your safe is also a records container. It was not intended to hold valuables but rather documents.
"All ye who come this art to see / to handle anything must cautious be...." Benjamin Franklin
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ddq

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Post Thu May 21, 2020 5:23 pm

Re: Combination Dial File Cabinet

Thank you for the reply. I suppose the weight is from a fire-resistant insulation like drywall?
I will continue to watch Craigslist and marketplace for a used safe that will fit my needs.
As far as older safes with combination dials, is there anything I should look for that would indicate the combination dial can easily be knocked off with a hammer and the lock be punched into the safe and easily accessed? Was there a time period in which combination locks became significantly stronger or were they always pretty durable?
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MartinHewitt

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Post Thu May 21, 2020 5:43 pm

Re: Combination Dial File Cabinet

Usually it is not the lock, which is the problem. Most antique safes were fire safes and not burglary safes. A fire safe is normally thin metal filled with isolation material. The antique isolation material is not dry wall. Dry wall is a modern invention to make cheap safes even cheaper. The antique burglary safes can look sturdy and are probably sturdy, but they were not build to resist against modern tools like an angle grinder. In Germany we have something like a sweet spot in the 80s or 90s where modern tools were available and a safe manufacturer had the aim to manufacture a secure safe. Today his aim is to fulfill the safe certification as cheap as possible or to skip the certification and to some good advertisement.
In case you wonder ... Martin Hewitt is a fictional detective in stories by Arthur Morrison:
Martin Hewitt, Investigator Chronicles of Martin Hewitt
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mastersmith

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Post Thu May 21, 2020 6:30 pm

Re: Combination Dial File Cabinet

[quote="ddq"]Thank you for the reply. I suppose the weight is from a fire-resistant insulation like drywall?
I will continue to watch Craigslist and marketplace for a used safe that will fit my needs.
As far as older safes with combination dials, is there anything I should look for that would indicate the combination dial can easily be knocked off with a hammer and the lock be punched into the safe and easily accessed? Was there a time period in which combination locks became significantly stronger or were they always pretty durable?[/quote

You wouldn't drive the dial into the safe, but rather the spindle. On a modern lock this would break out the back of the lock and set off one or more relockers in the lock and safe door. Really not much of a concern. The crook that will do this doesn't have a clue what they are doing. In this case you want shear brute strength.
"All ye who come this art to see / to handle anything must cautious be...." Benjamin Franklin
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ddq

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Post Thu May 21, 2020 6:57 pm

Re: Combination Dial File Cabinet

As I am looking at older used safes, how can I determine if one was designed for fire or theft? It seems as though most sellers do not know much about their safes.
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MartinHewitt

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Post Thu May 21, 2020 7:37 pm

Re: Combination Dial File Cabinet

US safes are not really my expertise, but the cannon ball safes (you will recognize it, when you see it) and safes with pressure bars were designed for burglary protection. The pressure bar is a bar on the outside of the safe operated by either a handle or a wheel. It presses the safe door tight in the safe body to protect against explosives. A small safe (jewelry chest) with a pressure bar can also be inside a fire safe.
In case you wonder ... Martin Hewitt is a fictional detective in stories by Arthur Morrison:
Martin Hewitt, Investigator Chronicles of Martin Hewitt
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L4R3L2

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Post Fri May 22, 2020 5:44 am

Re: Combination Dial File Cabinet

Any burglary rated safe big enough for long guns will be pushing a ton in weight, and that seems to be a concern of yours. Even fire resistant safes will weigh upwards of 700+ pounds, yet do not offer a whole lot in the way of burglary resistance.

Amsec has their BF line of gun safes (BF- Burglary Fire) which offer a great compromise, and are about the only gun safes any more that have true fill rather than gypsum board (Fill being superior for fire, and necessitating both an outer and inner steel shell. Most drywall lined safes only have an outer steel shell). The BF line also has 1/2" steel plate on the door. Amsec's BFll line offers even more burglary protection, with an additional inner liner of 4 gauge steel (~1/4") in the walls, and having upgraded TL-15-design bolt works. But, the BFll weigh about 3/4 ton.

My advice...
If you're TRULY limited by weight, you will not be able to have a proper burglary resistant safe. But, you'd be surprised how much weight a floor can safely support.
If you are near a fire department (that is not volunteer), a drywall lined safe may very well suffice (no guarantees).
Get an alarm. Whatever type safe you buy will need to be protected by the time-limiting benefit a good alarm provides. This can't be stressed enough.
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ddq

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Post Fri May 22, 2020 10:34 am

Re: Combination Dial File Cabinet

Thank you for the advice. Maybe I am not as limited by weight as I think. I do have a weight lifting rack in a spare bedroom with weight storage that probably totals 1500 lbs but the weight is spread out over about 8 square feet.
Maybe a heavy safe will work for me if I put it on top of a thick board to spread the load. I will go back under the house today and look again.
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ddq

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Post Fri May 22, 2020 10:51 pm

Re: Combination Dial File Cabinet

There are so many safes being advertised with no details so I will ask you guys some questions.

How much weight do you think this floor can support.?

Also, can anyone guess the weight of these safes?
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ddq

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Post Fri May 22, 2020 11:11 pm

Re: Combination Dial File Cabinet

I also want to add that I have thought about it today and I have decided to lower my standards for security. After reading Oldfast's safe chronicles I am dying to own a cool, old safe. If it will resist most attempts from the standard smash and go criminals then it will suit me. I don't want my guns to end up in other hands but they are insured and can be replaced.
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MartinHewitt

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Post Sat May 23, 2020 11:57 am

Re: Combination Dial File Cabinet

I thought a bit about your problem. Telling you to buy a specific vintage safes would not help you, because you would be locking for it the next ten years. My recommendation is to look, which safes are available nearby and then visit them and get to know them in person. You can then feel how they are built. From the photos the old cast iron fire safes are the best and worst choice. They are really nice looking, but it looks like they have copied the simple bolt work from modern gun safes. I got the best impression from the Mosler "thick walled" fire safes which can be recognized by their lock, a 5H. (Second lock shown here: viewtopic.php?f=100&t=12747 )
In case you wonder ... Martin Hewitt is a fictional detective in stories by Arthur Morrison:
Martin Hewitt, Investigator Chronicles of Martin Hewitt
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ddq

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Post Sat May 23, 2020 1:31 pm

Re: Combination Dial File Cabinet

Thanks. I will look hard and keep an eye out for that lock. There seem to me more Mosler safes in my area than any others.
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ddq

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Post Sun May 24, 2020 7:38 pm

Re: Combination Dial File Cabinet

This safe looks like a burglary safe, not fire safe, right? Do you think it weighs less than 2500 lbs?
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