Wisconsin Man Locks Brother in Gander Mountain Gun Safe

Major Van Harl USAF Ret. writes [via ammoland.com]:

The local Gander Mountain store is going belly up in Franklin, Wisconsin. I was in there trying to find some deals. Knocking 15 percent off of something that is way over priced is not really a deal. As I was getting ready to leave an older man ran up to the gun counter . . .

He told the associate to stop what he was doing. The older man’s grandson was locked inside one of the gun safes on display. You could kind of see the exasperation on the face of the associate.

At first I was not even going to pay attention, I was still looking for that phantom sale and good deal. Then the crowd started to form around the safe and then the police and fire fighters showed up.

The Gander Mountain associates were trying to get the electronic key pad lock system to open the safe but it had been “messed” with too many times. You see there were two dumb ass brothers. The older fourteen-ish looking one crawled inside the safe and the younger, chunkier one closed the door and messed with the key pad.

When the chunky dumb ass brother could not get the safe lock to unlock, older dumb ass brother started to panic. This is when grandpa got involved.

I spoke to one of the associates after it was all over and I asked if someone could climb into the safe and lock themselves in. The answer was no, so my next questions was, did chunky dumb ass brother lock the older boy in the safe and the answer was, yes.

The brand of the safe is not important. The safe did nothing wrong and the company does not need any negative press.

The safe company was on the phone line trying to talk the Gander associates through getting the safe open. The problem was after chunky dumb ass brother messed with the key pad, the pad automatically went into a 20 minute time out were you could not use the system.

Of course grandpa was unhappy and wanted dumb ass older brother out of the safe now, not in twenty minutes. The safe was not air tight no one was going to suffocate. The dumb ass older brother started whining from inside the safe that he was uncomfortable and grandpa insisted that they break into the safe.

Remember when you were a little kid and the nice fire fighters came to your school and gave you a demonstration on how they use the Jaws of Life to rip open a wrecked car and extract a person and bring them to safety? Well they have battery powered Jaws of Life now and they tore up that safe getting dumb ass older brother out.

After the extraction I asked the lead fire fighter if they had ever broken into a safe before to rescue anyone, they had not.

The representative from the safe company told the Franklin Wisconsin fire fighters there had been one other incident where someone had to be extracted from one of their safes. My impression was it too was also a dumb ass case.

I asked the grandfather if he thought he would get a discount on the damaged safe when he bought it. He was not happy with my question. He truly believed it was the Gander Mountain store’s problem not his.

John Wayne is alleged to have said “life is hard and it is harder if your are stupid.”

I know you are suppose to take it easy on kids, but in this case a kid could have died. Dumb ass chunky brother was not going to tell his grandfather what he had done. You had to be right next to the safe to hear the boy inside.

I heard where older brother used his cell phone to call for help from inside the safe. I guess grandpa would have figured out something was wrong when it was time to leave the store and only one grandson was present.

Of course, call 911 and we all know all the emergency needs of the dumb ass family were going to be met. There were three cops, six fire fighter (may be more) and a half a dozen Grander Mountain associates attending the safe and the problems that the dumb ass family created.

I sadly remember as a child the stories of children putting other children inside old refrigerators and locking them in, only to have the child inside suffocate. I guess grandpa also remembered these tragic stories because he insisted that oxygen be pumped into the safe so dumb ass older brother could breath.

He was told by the associates who were on the phone to the safe company that the safe was not air tight and there would be no breathing problem. Not good enough for grandpa, so the oxygen got pumped in. I wonder who paid for the oxygen?

So I guess safes are not really safe if dumb ass people are in close proximity. Who gets left holding the bag with the un-repairable safe?

I did go back to the Gander Mountain and asked about the safe. It had been removed to the back storage room and according to one associate grandpa was most likely going to get charged for the damaged safe.

Do you think he will come by to pick up the safe and let his dumb ass grandsons play with it at home?

About Major Van Harl USAF Ret.:Major Van E. Harl USAF Ret., a career Police Officer in the U.S. Air Force was born in Burlington, Iowa, USA, in 1955. He was the Deputy Chief of police at two Air Force Bases and the Commander of Law Enforcement Operations at another. He is a graduate of the U.S. Army Infantry School.  A retired Colorado Ranger and currently is an Auxiliary Police Officer with the Cudahy PD in Milwaukee County, WI. His efforts now are directed at church campus safely and security training.  He believes “evil hates organization.” 


  1. avatar Ed says:

    Darwin would have loved to watch this situation unfold. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again..stupid kids need to be able to weed themselves out early so we don’t have to deal with them later in life as grown children (lets face it, they never really become “adults”).
    I hope grampa has to pay full price for the safe. After all, it was his gene pool that contributed to the situation. I also hope they make him take it with him, as a sign of the defeciency of said gene pool…it can be his “darwin award”.

    1. avatar anonymoose says:

      Lock both of them in there and forget about them.

      1. avatar jomo says:

        Might as well throw grandpa in to round out the fun. Clearly, he indulges dumb and dumber, so he’s partially responsible for what they’ve become/will become.

    2. avatar doesky2 says:

      Yeah it’s too bad that there are too few lions now days to be cleansing the gene pool.

      1. avatar Cliff H says:

        “Well, in the first place an armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life….But gunfighting has a strong biological use. We do not have enough things that kill off the weak and stupid these days. But to stay alive as an armed citizen a man has to be either quick with his wits or with his hands, preferably both. It’s a good thing.”

        The full “An armed society is a polite society.” quote, Robert A. Heinlein, “Beyond This Horizon”

    3. avatar Robert Hanlin says:

      Totally agree with you…!

  2. avatar former water walker says:

    Kids doing stupid shite…what a nasty tone TTAG. 14year old boys are SHOOTING folks in Chiraq…

  3. avatar jwm says:

    You just can’t make some of this shit up. You break it, you buy it.

  4. avatar CLarson says:

    Wow. Just Wow.

  5. avatar Norincojay says:

    I love the quote. “Life is hard and it’s harder if you’re stupid.”

    1. avatar Tom says:

      some folks go thru life making stupid mistakes. others just make a habit out of being stupid.

  6. avatar GS650G says:

    Display models should be unable to lock. Idiots. Grandpa might have a case.

    1. avatar 16V says:

      SOP in every store that I know that sells safes since the ’70s, is they are always closed and locked. The combo is written on the back of the safe, or on a sticker on the front, in a simple cipher.

      I don’t know about suing a soon-to-be-defunct entity, but it sure was sloppy mgmt for sure.

    2. avatar KBonLI says:

      The safes that I see are generally open but with the deadbolt out so that they can’t be closed.

  7. avatar Carrucan says:

    These two had a .50AE and a large encyclopedia in their future for sure.

    1. avatar bLoving says:

      Everyone makes a stupid mistake sometime in their life. A few folks only do it once.

  8. avatar strych9 says:

    When I see really fat kids I’m suspicious of the entire family. Especially since a good 50% of the really overweight ones wear Affliction and Tap Out shirts but get out of breath opening a bag of their preferred Hostess snack cakes.

    Childhood type 2 diabetes is now a thing and to compliment that turn of events public caning of the parents should be a thing as well.

    As for the kid in this story… Well, Gramps should make him work off the cost off the safe… After breaking a boot off in the chubby little fuckers ass.

    1. avatar Ollie says:

      The parents of fat children should be warned and then jailed if a slimming down doesn’t occur.
      Two thirds of Americans are fat or obese — we are a nation of slobs.
      Remember, it is impossible to get fat unless you east too much food.

      1. avatar Cloudbuster says:

        Nothing says statist like wanting to jail people who don’t live their lives the way you think they should. Take care of your own kids and mind your own business.

        1. avatar Charles5 says:


      2. avatar Brian says:

        Don’t believe everything you hear about obesity either. Even muscular people can be considered obese by the standards they have today. Take a 5’10” guy, their “ideal” weight should be 132-173lbs. Said guy could be solid muscle and weigh 220lbs, but he would be considered obese according to BMI calculators.

        It’s just the government trying to paint a 1 size fits all type of thing where they can use it to manipulate people into giving up things in their life. Kinda like NYC banning salt in restaurants or sodas over 16 ounces.

  9. avatar Sam I Am says:

    I am concerned that someone using a battery-powered tool could open that safe. It is a disservice that the author did not want the manufacturer of the safe to get bad press.


    A safe company SHOULD get bad press if a gang of untrained safe crackers could open the safe with an obtainable tool.

    1. avatar strych9 says:

      A $14,000 tool that’s 40+ pounds and meant to rip cars apart…

      Ain’t no gun safe you’re gonna buy that will stand up to that.

      1. avatar Sam I Am says:

        There are safes on the market that allow not purchase for “jaws” of any type. I would want a safe that, when removed from my home, cannot be opened without explosives.

        1. avatar Dane says:

          What safe are you talking about exactly? Because there isn’t a piece of steel, hardened or not, that can stand up to, say for example, a set of hurst spreaders and cutters. Hell a simple sawzall with good blades that pretty much every fire company carries these days will cut through the strongest ultra high strength titanium whatever in a car.

        2. avatar Sam I Am says:

          I am always so far behind on this gun stuff, when I find something I figure everyone else already knows. The link below is to a series of tests to break into a gun safe. Standard pry test, remove electronic keypad, remove mechanical handle, drop, explosive. Unfortunately, no test of “jaws of life”. The point the videos try to make is that the doors on the safe do not allow enough leverage to break into the safe. See what you think.


        3. avatar Hank says:

          It doesn’t exist. What you’re thinking of is a vault. Very different and far more expensive. But if you’ve got the cash, go for it.

        4. avatar Sam I Am says:

          I wrote a longer repsonse a few minutes ago, but have a look at these torture tests


        5. avatar Geoff PR says:

          “I would want a safe that, when removed from my home, cannot be opened without explosives.”

          If it’s a quality safe, explosives or a torch may make getting into it a lot more difficult:


        6. avatar strych9 says:

          I can make the space for the spreader in minutes. It’s not hard.

          Unless the safe is made of a Methril /Unobtainium alloy that’s impossible to work after it’s set breaking into the safe is a matter of having the right tools to get it done.

        7. avatar Bob Jones says:

          A truly safe safe will cost ten times the value of any guns stored in it. You would need six inch thick steel walls to defeat commonly available abrasive blades, which will saw through anything given a little time. Just a matter of sawing the whole safe in half.

      2. avatar 16V says:

        Agree and disagree. Sure, the average sheet metal s-box safe that they sell? Sure, there are 50 ways to get in with tools that most mechanics own, or frankly, a grab 6 foot pike and some leverage.

        A decent safe will laugh off what the best equipped rescue rigs can bring to bear- if the trapped person is to be rescued alive, that is. There will be no space to stick the jaws of a porta-power in, the rotary saw won’t do much but create some sparks, and that’s pretty much the toolkit available that has any chance of working.

        Most likely, the best tool to extricate the subject (in seconds!) without any damage to the safe would have been a big honkin’ magnet.

        As it has an electronic keypad, dollars to donuts that’d open it, especially as it was a cheap-ish one.

        1. avatar strych9 says:

          Nonsense. Anyone who’s done basic fabrication knows this is marketing hype.

          There isn’t space? So what? I can make that space in a few minutes with tools from my garage, introduce a spreader after that and it’s game over.

          Pure hype. Any security invented by man can be defeated by man. And if that security is portable (like a gun safe), defeating it is quick if you know how.

        2. avatar 16V says:

          I’m talking about decent safes. Unless your garage contains nasty acids, or thermite (which it may, and should mind you) there’s no ramming an impact gun in a sub-mm gap of 1/2″ hardened steel and making a purchase that you can wedge on. Not it would matter with 6+ active bolts that are on a decent safe.

          I don’t disagree that anything man can make, a motivated man can beat. I’m just saying that it takes time and/or specialty tools to beat a decent safe. Let alone a good one.

        3. avatar strych9 says:

          I have a very high end safe and with a Jaw of Life can open it in minutes. You’re just not thinking like a fabricator.

          If I want to get in that door using a spreader I go after the frame and the edge of the door to create notches for the spreader to get into. There are a number of ways to make those notches (or just one depending on the safe). A drill, oxy torch, various grinders and other tools will get the job done if you care enough to do it. I have at least half a dozen tools in my garage that will get it done.

          Once those notches are cut the safe will fall to the spreader.

      3. avatar Model 31 says:

        Its only $14000 because government agencies buy them.

        1. avatar Sam I Am says:

          Its only $14000 because government agencies buy them.

          Actually, saw one for $9600.

        2. avatar Model 31 says:

          You probably should go ahead and get two then.

      4. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

        The electric powered jaws are actually pretty wimpy compared to the hydraulic tools. We have an electric set on our rescue/extraction truck, and we’re under-whelmed with the performance of the tool.

        Given my druthers, I take the cordless saw with Starrett blades most every time.

  10. avatar TX Gun Gal says:

    Not surprised at all, grew up with 3 brothers. Two older, one younger.
    My parents had their hands full but we all turned out responsible, tax paying, law abiding, citizens.
    Had to kind of smile cause that just the type of thing the oldest would do to the brother who took his place on my mom’s lap.
    Only thing is he knew my dad would open up a can of whoop a** on him

    1. avatar SouthAl says:

      Similar situation for me. No way I would have gotten in that safe. I know my little brother would TRY HIS BEST to lock me in. I did worse to, and had worse done to me, by friends growing up. We all turned out ok. It built character. I think the author’s perspective is a bit off. The only ‘dumb ass’ was grandpa. One of my grandfathers would have talked to me to keep me calm until the safe could be opened without destroying it. The other would have left his phone number with the associate and told him ‘call when you get him out, no rush’. My friends would have purchased the safe without telling the anyone I was in it, take it somewhere and beat on it for two hours with sledgehammers, knowing that they could not open it, but trying to disguise their torture as an attempt to open it. Then they would have found an adult to handle it. Said adult would be carefully selected as one who would not tell our parents. We would be telling the story 50 years later, laughing our asses off. Folks who did not do stuff like this when they were kids were too sheltered.

  11. avatar Tim says:

    “….grandpa insisted that they break into the safe.”

    Yeah. Thing is, they’re designed with the expressed purpose of delaying entry. *Any* safe can be cracked, but it won’t be pretty & it damn sure won’t be fast.

    And if there’s a squishy, pink, life form inside, it’s gonna take even longer.

  12. avatar Ragnarredbeard says:

    The title needs to be fixed. It says a man locked the brother in, but the brother was 14-ish and the one who locked him in was younger.

    1. avatar FedUp says:

      Wisconsin twerp locks brother in safe?

  13. avatar Curtis in IL says:

    “I asked the grandfather if he thought he would get a discount on the damaged safe when he bought it. He was not happy with my question.”

    That’s some comedy gold right there.
    It’s been a long day. Thanks for the laugh!

    1. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

      Yup. I laughed out loud every time I read “dumbass”

  14. avatar Hannibal says:

    He should have had to buy the safe before they broke it.

    If there was no other way in, fine. But a twenty minute wait? Deal with it.

    Then again, I’m a little surprised that the FD was able to get there and use the device within that time span…

    1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      When FD’s hear that there is a report like this involving a kid, you’ll hear the turbos spool up on the trucks. It’s just natural human reaction.

  15. avatar Southern Cross says:

    Some kids just NEED to be taken into the woodshed.

  16. avatar Pwrserge says:

    I would have left both the little twerps in there. (Grab a second safe for the fatass.) 12 hours later, you get back grandkids with a whole lot less stupid.

  17. avatar Larry says:

    There are not any safes sold at Gander. Only RSC , residential security containers , I believe that rating means it stands up,to,a five minute attack with hand tools before failure .

    Want a safe you’ll need to go up to a TL 15 or 30 rating .

    1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      Exactly. If you want a real safe, you need to step up your price level. These “RSC” safes with bent sheet metal doors are only marginal fire protection, and scant theft protection.

  18. avatar Ralph says:

    The “chunky dumb ass brother” has the all makings of a fine Democrat.

    1. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

      i don’t want to be an eddie.

  19. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    When I or my brothers did anything stupid (and the threshold for “stupid” according to my old man was far, far lower than this incident), we got whipped with a belt.

    It tended to provide a rapid education we never forgot.

    Doing something like this would have never crossed our minds, because we would have looked at the price tag on the safe, then we would have done some math and reckoned how many lashes we’d take from the belt, then we would have said: “Let’s not do that.”

  20. avatar Paddyo says:

    What frightens me is the fire dept is pumping oxygen in the safe and then trying to pry the thing open.
    Having worked in the hazmat game for a long time and seen what can happen in oxygen rich atmospheres, the fire dept trying to pry that door open could have caused a spark and with all that flammable material inside the safe ( carpeting, wood,etc ) turned that kid into a crispy critter.

    1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      Yea, I was thinking about that too. All that cheap-assed, flammable, synthetic padding/carpeting inside the safe… shades of Apollo 1.

      Someone needed to tell Gramps that this was going to be handled by the pro’s on their time schedule, in their manner, and that if he wanted it handled differently, then he should have kept an eye on them.

      Or they could have handed a prybar and some wedges to him, stood back and said “Show us how it’s supposed to be done…”

  21. avatar Matt says:

    Man I would have loved to see some pictures of the aftermath.

    I’m sure it’s been said, but that kid is lucky it wasn’t a real safe or he’d probably be dead by the time the could cut him out or disable the locking mechanism.

    Also what a shitty brother.

  22. avatar Joe R. says:

    How long did the battery-powered jaws-of-life take to open the safe?

    I have an idea to enhance the movable locking bars/pins to prevent this from being possible, but, if kids are trying to off each other at Gander Mtn, I might re-think it.

  23. avatar MeRp says:

    I’m willing to bet that the Grandpa, if he resists, can get this in court and not have to pay for the safe. It could easily be contested as an attractive nuisance. You know, like a swimming pool that has a fence all around it with locked gates that kids jump to play in (and get hurt/drown)? Or planting brambles on the edge of your property where no one would ever go unless they are up to no good whatsoever? Pretty sure Gander is out of luck on this one, even though, by all rights, it should have been a very minor incident that merely took 20 minutes of the store’s time.

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