Lost Your Key? Here’s How You Open a Gun Safe Without a Key or Combination

The following key steps (pun intended) will show you how to open a safe without the key or combination.

1. Mark Benjamin’s Words

Frankly, your first step after bringing your new gun safe home is to store your key properly.  Select a secure spot that is easily reachable, and in a place you’ll remember.  Or, if your safe requires a combination or code, add it to your listing of passwords (if you have one) and return your list to the secure place you’ve selected.

In other words, Benjamin Franklin’s axiom remains relevant today:  “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  

Although many think that he was speaking of health, Franklin was referring to fire safety.   In fact, your gun safe also protects your gun and other stored valuables from fire. 

So it’s always best if you take these simple preventive steps. But again, the reality is that many of us have found ourselves in this position.  Therefore, let’s return to the subject at hand regarding how to open a gun safe without the key.

2. Contact the Manufacturer

First, contact the company that made the safe and provided the key.  If you give them the model and serial numbers, they should send you a duplicate key. You may need to pay for the cost of the key and shipping. 

3. Using a Screwdriver or Knife

If the company cannot help you, carefully pick the lock’s keyhole with a screwdriver or knife.  Use a flat head screwdriver and insert it into the keyhole. Rotate the screwdriver counter-clockwise until you can feel that the lock is beginning to open.  

If using a knife, push the pointed tip into the keyhole and gently shake it.  If successful, the lock may start to turn in just seconds.

4. Using a Hammer and Chisel

Are you trying to figure out how to open a safe without the combination?  If you own a digital safe, you can unlock it using a chisel and hammer.  Place the chisel in the corner of the safe.  Carefully bang on the end of the chisel with your hammer to dislodge the keypad.  

You’ll see that there are knobs and screws beneath the digital keypad, including a silver knob.  Use your chisel to remove the knob.

You’ll then see that there’s a hole in the safe. Insert your finger into the hole and feel for the button on the lower side.  Simply press the button, and your safe will open.

5. Using a Manual Override Key

Most gun safes come with override keys in case the owner forgets the combination.  The keyhole is usually located on the back of the safe, where you can insert the manual override key to open your safe.  Keep your override key(s) in a secure area that you will be sure to remember.

6. Using a Combination Lock Change Key

Some gun safes also come with combination lock change keys.  However, some manufacturers choose not to provide such a key, worrying that it would make your gun safe vulnerable to theft. 

You can use a combination lock change key to access the contents of your gun safe even if you’ve forgotten the correct code.  Again, keep your combination lock change key in an easily accessible but secure place that you’re sure to remember.

7. Using a Paperclip

Many gun safes that are accessed via a code also have a keyhole.  If you don’t have a manual override key, you can try to use a paperclip.  However, if you’re inexperienced with picking locks, be aware that it’s possible to damage the locking mechanism.  Therefore, you may wish to try another method.

If you decide to proceed, straighten the paperclip and gently place it in the keyhole.  Carefully search for the lock mechanism, and use tweezers to turn the paperclip counter-clockwise until you hear a click.  That satisfying click indicates that you’ve successfully picked the lock.  This method can take time, requiring patience.

8. Using a Magnet                                                                 

Most electronic gun safes have a solenoid, which controls the locking mechanism.  A solenoid is a wire coil that serves as a magnet carrying an electric current.  Strong rare earth magnets can be used to trigger the safe’s solenoid to reset the safe.

Rare earth magnets are permanent magnets made from alloys of rare earth elements, rather than ferrite, a ceramic-like material with magnetic properties, or alnico, an iron alloy.  You can purchase strong rare earth magnets through Home Depot, Lowe’s, and many online retailers. 

Put your magnet into a sock to keep from hurting yourself as you’re opening the gun safe.  These magnets are so strong that their force can break fingers, so be extremely careful.  Using a sock also enables you to slowly and safely slide the magnet along the end (where the safe door opens) until you begin to hear the solenoid trigger, resetting the safe.

9. Using Extreme Measures 

If you’ve tried all the measures above without success, you may consider drilling into the safe.  Make a small hole that enables you to see the lock inside. Insert your finger into the safe and press the button to unlock it.  Unfortunately, you’ll need to buy a new safe.

10. Call a Professional Locksmith as a Last Resort

A professional locksmith may replace your key or use specialized tools to unlock your safe.  Keep in mind that you may be asked to prove your identity to the locksmith. 

Ironically, you may be reluctant to call a locksmith, who will then know your safe’s location.  But note that some states require locksmiths to obtain a license by submitting an application and documentation, including background checks.  

Locksmiths may also obtain voluntary certification, confirming that they have met high training and experience standards.  When looking for a locksmith, filter your search results to locate a certified professional through the Associated Locksmiths of America, Inc. (ALOA).

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