🔒 Lock Picking Guide — Tools, Techniques & Tips

Secure your physical environment with lockpicking skill..

11 min readOct 22, 2023

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In our all blogs, we discuss about digital security & cyberworld. But this blog is slightly different, which mainly focuses on physical security around yourself. Yeah! it’s truely important to maintain your physical security along with cybersecurity. So, let’s begin towards the topic:

Locks are found everywhere, but many people don’t understand how they work. By the end of this blog, you’ll know the basics of locks. Lock picking can be a useful skill in emergencies, helping you access shelter or solve everyday lock-related problems. This blog is for anyone interested in lock picking, even if you don’t have the tools or know the legal aspects.

Remember, never pick locks you don’t own or that are in use. Lockpicking laws vary, so check your local regulations. This blog aims to make learning lock picking easy, gradually guiding you through the process. Let’s get started!

Lesson 1: Introduction to Locks

Most folks have different ideas about locks, often based on the ones they’ve seen. But what is a lock, really? Well, a lock is a gadget with things like a latch, bolt, or switch that keeps stuff, like drawers or doors, safely closed.

Locks have many names, often based on their looks, use, safety features, installation, and technology. Some names are straightforward, like “bicycle lock” and “trailer lock.” These are easy for beginners because they match what they’re for. Others, like “house” and “car” locks, cover a lot of ground. If someone asks you to fix a house lock, they need to be specific about the type, like a lever lock or deadbolt. Locksmiths use words to talk about how locks are built or put in, like “mortise” (inside a cavity) and “rim” (on the surface). There are also different ways locks work, with names like “lever tumbler,” “warded tumbler,” “pin tumbler,” and “disc tumbler.”

Lesson 2: Types of Locks

Warded Locks

1.Warded Locks : Warded locks use a special design to keep unauthorized keys out. These locks are often in metal cases with big keyholes and use a “skeleton key.” They come in two styles, mortised and surface-mounted, and are typically found on cabinets and closed doors. Some padlocks also use the warded system, and you’ll recognize them by their wide, sawtooth-like keyways and square-cut keys. But here’s the catch — warded locks aren’t super secure because you can open them with a wire or a small strip of metal.

Tumbler Lock with lever, disc, and pin

2. Tumbler Lock: Tumbler locks rely on small metal pieces that move within the lock cylinder to allow or prevent access. These locks are widely used due to their enhanced security.

There are three main types: lever, disc, and pin.

Lever locks are less secure, disc locks offer moderate protection, while pin tumbler locks are commonly found in homes and high-security padlocks. Additionally, tubular key locks are known for their unique appearance and used in high-security applications.

The basic pin tumbler lock alone is vulnerable to several lock picking methods. The most straightforward include lock bumping and snap guns

Interchangeable core (IC) locks

3. Interchangeable core (IC) lock: Interchangeable core (IC) locks are found in various forms, including key-in-knobs, deadbolts, and more. IC locks can easily be rekeyed using a different core, offering versatility. Combination locks are another option, with dial and pushbutton types, where you either turn dials to a specific position or press a unique button sequence.

Electrical lock

4. Electrical lock: Electrical locks work with electric current and don’t have manual operation. Electrified locks are modified mechanical locks that can be used both electrically and manually.

Time locks

5. Time lock: Time locks open at specific times on certain days, often in bank safes. Biometric locks rely on physical features like fingerprints or voiceprints for access.

Lesson 3: Types of Keys

basic understanding of a key

Keys have various types, but they all have a handle called the bow, which you hold while locking or unlocking. The skeleton key is made of different materials and has a shank, bow, bit, post, and shoulder. Below are 6 main types of keys:

Barrel Keys

1.Barrel Keys: Barrel keys are a bit different. They look like regular keys but have a hole in the middle and no bump. They are used in special locks that require these unique keys.

Flat Keys

2. Flat Keys: Flat keys are the easiest to understand. They are flat on both sides and work well with locks that have levers inside. Using them to open doors or locks is quite simple.

Cylinder Keys

3. Cylinder Keys: Cylinder keys are very common and can fit into many different locks. They have a unique shape with parts like shoulders, a bow (the part you hold), and a flat blade for turning the lock.

Tubular Lock Keys

4. Tubular Lock Keys: Tubular keys are short and round with circles at the end. They are specifically designed for certain types of locks. Look for a little bump that shows you how to insert the key correctly.

Corrugated Keys

5. Corrugated Keys: Corrugated keys are a bit like flat keys, but they have wavy lines on them. They are used to unlock special locks called warded padlocks. The wavy lines match the lock’s inside, making it easier to use these keys.

Lesson 4: Choosing the Right Key Blanks

To duplicate keys, you must first find the correct blank key. When replicating barrel or bit keys, focus on factors like post and shank diameter and bit thickness.

For corrugated and flat keys, consider blade length, thickness, shape, and width. Ensure the blank closely matches these features.

Tubular key blanks are straightforward since they have similar features; just look at inside and outside shank diameters and nib size. When you find a matching blank, you’re good to replicate the keys.

Cylinder keys can be tricky to find blanks for, but three key parts can help: the keyway grooves, the bow (the top part you hold), and the blade (the part that fits in the lock). Many cylinder locks have unique key bows, making matching the bow important. Blade length should match, and you can check by comparing the key and blank or using a key blank catalog. Keyway grooves must also match, and you can test this by trying the blank in the lock.

Manufacturers provide catalogs with key sizes and cross-reference sections for similar keys, making it easier to identify the right blank.

Lesson 5: Tools

To become a skilled locksmith, using the right tools is crucial. Locksmiths rely on special tools, and the tool you need depends on the job at hand. Quality is more important than quantity when buying tools, as a poor-quality tool can cause problems and damage property. In this lesson, we’ll explore the basic and advanced tools needed for lock picking and offer guidance on what to look for when buying them. Advanced tools include electric drills and pick guns, with the correct drill choice being particularly important for locksmiths.

Electric Drill

1.Electric Drill: To master lock picking, selecting the right drill is crucial, as it’s a frequently used tool. Drills come in three common sizes: ¼, 3/8, and ½ inches, with their power determined by torque and chuck speed. Consider the type of reduction gears the drill has, as they influence torque and speed. The ½ inch drill is widely used among Lockpickers, featuring two to three-stage reduction gears and a variable speed feature. Look for essential components such as double or triple stage reduction gears, double insulation, variable speed reversing, antifriction bearings, and a minimum of four amps when choosing a drill. Cordless drills are lighter but less powerful than electric drills. Additionally, when creating a workbench, ensure it’s comfortable, practical, long enough, strong enough, and well-placed for easy access to tools and supplies. The location of your workbench should be well-ventilated and convenient for your daily tasks.

Pick gun

2.Pick gun: The pick gun is a tool that delivers a burst of energy to key pins, which transfers to driver pins, making the pins jump and the cylinder to rotate freely until the pin springs reset. You can purchase an electric or manual pick gun from online stores or hardware shops.

Tubular Lock Pick

3.Tubular Lock Pick: The tubular lock pick is designed for opening tubular locks, including those with 6, 8, 10, and 7 pins. It fits these locks’ design and sizes, and to use it, you insert it into the lock and gently twist it clockwise with a slight torque. The tool forces the pins down gradually until they stop, bending the driver pin behind the lock, allowing you to open the lock quickly. Many of these lock picks come with a decoder to assess pin damage.

Lesson 6: Techniques & Tips

There are two widely used methods of picking locks using raking and using pick guns. Lock picking tips will be also covered in this lesson.

1.Raking: Raking is a common lock-picking technique involving a half-diamond pick placed in the keyway beyond the pin tumblers. By moving the pick in a figure-eight motion and applying different tension with a torque wrench, you can push the pins above the shear line, and the torque wrench helps hold them there. While raking may rely on some luck, it can be effective, especially with experience, allowing you to manipulate and hold pins as you work on the lock.

Step 1: Insert a half-diamond pick into the keyway.
Step 2: Move the pick past the last set of pin tumblers.
Step 3: Glide the lock pick in and out of the keyway in a figure-eight motion while applying varying tension with a torque wrench.
Step 4: The scraping motion of the pick pushes the pins above the shear line, and the torque wrench helps secure the top pins in place.
Step 5: While raking relies somewhat on luck, it can be highly effective, especially with experience, allowing you to control multiple pins simultaneously as you work on the lock.

2.Using a Pick Gun: Using a pick gun is a valuable technique for lock picking. To use it, insert the blade beneath the last pin inside the keyway, grip the pick gun firmly, and place a torque wrench in the keyway. Then, squeeze the trigger of the pick gun, causing the blade to hit the bottom pins and knocking the upper pins into the upper chambers. Repeatedly trigger the pick gun, adjusting the torque wrench pressure each time, which may hold some upper pins in place. Finally, pick the remaining pins one by one to open the lock.

Step 1: Insert the blade below the last pin inside the keyway.
Step 2: Grasp the pick gun securely.
Step 3: Place a torque wrench in the keyway.
Step 4: Squeeze the pick gun’s trigger to make the blade hit the bottom pins, causing the upper pins to jump into the upper chambers.
Step 5: Repeatedly squeeze the trigger while adjusting the torque wrench’s pressure. This may catch and hold some upper pins in the upper chambers, allowing you to set them on the plug’s ledge.
Step 6: Finally, pick any remaining pins one by one.

Lock Picking Tips

  1. Check the lock’s condition before attempting to pick it; lubricate or clean if necessary.
  2. Create a spacious workspace, use the smallest available pick, and hold it like a pencil.
  3. Insert the torque wrench without touching the pins.
  4. Apply slight pressure on the torque wrench using your finger.
  5. Lift the last set of pins to the shear line with the pick while maintaining torque pressure.
  6. Release pressure on the torque wrench to allow pins to fall back into position.
  7. Repeat the process with other pin stacks, focusing on the most resistant ones.
  8. Build a ledge for the top pins to rest on as you progress.
  9. Once all top pins are on the plug, it can rotate to the unlocked position.
  10. Start with the most resistant pin stacks and work your way to the less resistant to prevent pins from falling out.

Lesson 7: Picking Locks with Security Pin

Picking locks with security pins is hard. If you become really skilled, it gets easier. First, we need to know how security pins work.

A security lock pin has a torque wrench and needs tension to bind the driver pins at the shear line. The false set is when a driver pin gets caught at the shear line but is not actually set, fooling the lock picker. It has two deceptive factors: slight plug movement that feels like the pin is set, and the locked-away pin beside the false set driver pin. Counter-rotation is another concept you need to understand before diving into the types of security pins and how to pick them.

Step 1: Prepare your tools, including a tension wrench and specialized picks for security pins.
Step 2: Insert the tension wrench and apply rotational force in the direction of unlocking the lock.
Step 3: Feel for binding pins by gently moving your pick over them.
Step 4: Lift binding pins upward until they reach the shear line, listening for clicks.
Step 5: Check for any false set, indicating a partially set pin.
Step 6: Continue setting the remaining pins systematically.
Step 7: Address any counter-rotation with your tension wrench.
Step 8: Re-check for false sets and ensure all pins are in the correct position.
Step 9: Rotate the plug with your tension wrench to unlock the lock.
Practice regularly and be patient as you improve your lock-picking skills.

Lock picking can be a fun skill to learn if you practice regularly. It’s essential to use good-quality tools over having too many of them. Picking locks with security pins can be tricky, but don’t be afraid to give it a try. Enjoy your time learning and practicing lock picking!

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