posted on Apr, 6 2017 @ 10:20 AM
I share this story because I thought this might be something some of you here are interested in. I hope you enjoy.
A few days ago a colleague of mine asked me for some recommendations for buying a safe to store firearms and valuables in (I have a couple of them,
hence his questions). I gave him my thoughts and advised him of the real-world considerations. I also gave him some of the practical considerations.
He was very appreciative and indicated he’d learned several things he’d never thought about. He asked why I knew so much about safes. I just
told him I’d done a fair amount of research before buying, but he pressed on. Okay, well maybe I had a little bit more experience than this, but it
was more commercial in nature. … Many years ago I built some bank vaults for some national and international banks and securities companies.
Well, this started off a long conversation on his part about how they work, what they’re made of and so forth. Just out of curiosity I suppose. He
asked about one safe he’d seen which was modular in nature, meaning when you bought it the safe was in pieces all stacked on a pallet which was
assembled in place. I indicated this was probably a pretty good safe (as safes go) because it made the individual pieces manageable, but the finished
product very solid and secure. This is how the big bank vaults are constructed, I’d added. He was fascinated with the process, and I jokingly
cautioned him that if he was thinking about breaking into one…think again! These vaults are not what most people expect, and certainly not anything
like what people see in the movies. This concept fascinated him even more. I wound up recanting one such experience. The experience is as
The bank vaults we built were similar to the modular components described above. Weight is a deterrent in most consumer grade safes, for obvious
reasons. However, safes don't necessarily have to be "heavy" to be secure. In fact, one of the most secure bank vaults we ever built was made of
material just over 1 inch thick (yep, you read that right...~1" inch). It was the craziest thing I've ever seen, and it was absolutely impenetrable
when complete. I would have never believed it if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes! You couldn't cut it, you couldn't blast it, you couldn't
"lance" it, no abrasive would even touch the stuff...it was amazing. Believe it or not, it wasn't even a solid, more like a semi-rigid liquid. It
was, hands-down, some of the nastiest stuff I've ever worked with. If you even touched the material it would cut you to ribbons. It would
immediately destroy or foul any tool you tried to use on it. It was fireproof, acid and chemical proof and strong beyond comprehension. To this day
I still don't even know exactly what the stuff was (the makeup of the material was highly classified). It was sticky / tacky to the touch and it
stunk to high heaven. When complete it was about 20x30 inside.
I remember the night they were going to deliver the safe to the jobsite (the whole thing was cloaked in super secrecy). We were all eagerly awaiting
this caravan of GIANT heavy hauler trucks to come and deliver this thing. The whole thing (except for the door) showed up on two simple spread-axle
tractor trailers. We were all looking at each other like "That's it???????" All the pieces had to be lifted into place while covered in shrouds
so no one could see, and even the whole area around where the vault was built had to have temporary walls built around it so no one could observe what
was going on. It took special security clearances to get inside the space and it was guarded 24x7 until complete. The vault door delivery, on the
other hand, was a MUCH different story!!!
When they delivered the vault door they spent a week ahead of time getting permits, moving signs and poles out of the medians. They wound up closing
down two major freeways. The door was delivered in daylight amid much fanfare. All the local news stations were there. News helicopters were
overhead and crowds of people lined the streets to see this thing. To say it was "MAMMOTH" is the understatement of the century! It was absolutely
GIGANTIC! It had been delivered via ship from Germany, and then straight from the dock to the site. The truck hauling this thing wasn't just one
truck, it was like six giant tractors all connected together (3 in front and 3 in back) with some additional "pusher" tractors to assist with grades
and corners. The vault door sat on this highly specialized trailer with about 100 wheels on it which all articulated independently. They'd had
crews of surveyors out the week before to paint marks on the pavement where every turn would take place, and where every wheel was supposed to go.
This was a MAJOR operation!
A special heavy lift ring crane had to be brought and assembled to lift this thing. The counter-weights alone on this crane were as big as my entire
house!! The entire structure of the building had been reinforced to bear the weight of not the vault itself, but rather the door! It was truly
massive. I don’t recall the exact dimensions and weight now, but as I recall the door was about 8’ (feet) thick (possibly more). It was so heavy
it had to be moved via hydraulics. (On a side note; the bearings in the hinges on the door were so precision engineered you actually could move the
door by hand, but it took a couple people to do it).
I remember the whole time it was under construction I couldn’t help but remember a 1980’s movie starring James Caan called “Thief”. (if
you’ve never seen the movie, it’s pretty good.) By the time we were done I realized that James Caan’s character would have been no match for
this thing. No match at all! They say in the vault industry that “any” vault / safe can be breached…eventually. To this day I try to imagine
what would be involved in breaching that one. And about the only thing I can think of would be nuclear weapons! Seriously.
When finished the vault was truly a sight to behold, but the secrets it held behind those walls would be something I would never forget.