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How To Pick A Lock

A lock is a specially designed metal device made up of pins and springs that form an obstacle too difficult for most people to overcome when in the correct position. However, locks can be picked by individuals who know how locks work and where to place skeleton keys or a lock pick to open safes, doors, chests, and others.

In Florida, the Florida Statistical Analysis Center reports that from 2007 – 2017, there were 1,212,071 residential burglaries recorded. Imagine how many of these occurred through lock picking.

Lock picking is the act of opening a lock by manipulating the components of the lock device without any original key. In other words, it’s a way for accessing locked commercial, home, car, or other places where you need to enter or retrieve something from it. While this was originally done with keys, people now use various methods and tools to do so.

Tools Necessary For Lock Picking

1. Pick Gun or Snake

The snake is the most commonly used lock pick gun today. They are small, compact, easy to use, and can be carried anywhere. However, they are made for right-handers only. It consists of a pair of metal strips joined together by a pivot or hinge at one end. One strip has a handle on its free end, which fits into the palm of your hand. The other strip is the operating arm with a steel needle resembling the trigger at its tip.

  • Hold the tool in your closed fist with the needle pointing out between your first finger and thumb. When using this tool, place it inside the keyhole with its long side parallel to the shear line so that the needle rests on top of the key pins. The jack should be back and out of the way. 
  • When taking pressure off the trigger arm, its pad should be touching your thumb and forefinger so that it does not move while you pull back the operating arm. This point is essential in determining how much pressure to apply when forcing a particular pin-up, for it has been reported that using too much strain can break some needles. Depending upon what level of pick gun you have, they vary from having one to three needles protruding from their tips. Each needle represents a pin that needs to be set during the lock picking process.

One good thing about this tool is that it can be used in both directions with equal effectiveness, but it is wise to use the same opening to change direction after using it in one direction. It has been reported that these are not very effective when used to “feel” for pins. They work best when they are in contact with the top of the key pins. Also, you must be careful not to push too hard or give too great a twist because this will break needles.

2. Tension Wrenches

These tools greatly assist in lock picking, especially if you plan to open many locks within a short period. They do this by offering extra torque needed for turning the plug which would typically not be available without one. This means that this tool will keep the pressure required on either side of the lock pin so that when you lift it up using the shorter pick, you will be able to move it upwards and open your door.

However, make sure you do not use too much force when trying to pick locks with this tool because if you happen to apply too much pressure, there is a high chance for pins to get crunched and thus rendering them useless. 

These tools come in many shapes and sizes and also come in two varieties:

  • Long Handled. This is recommended for beginners who need more control over their devices while maintaining a safer distance from the lock itself.
  • Short Handled. This variety has less space between where your fingers are holding it and where the tips are touching the pins inside the lock.

When using this tool, make sure that you never force it because even though they are designed to take in a reasonable amount of torque, if you try to use too much force, you risk breaking either your tension wrench or bending its tips. Also, ensure that when rotating the plug, you do not twist them into an unnatural position because it can break or distort your tension wrench, thus rendering it useless for future use.

3. Rakes

This type of lock picking tool works very similarly to the tension wrench because it also helps move the pins inside the chamber, allowing you to set them in an upright position just enough to spring back down when released.

The only difference is that rakes are specifically designed for bumping or jiggling all the pins at once rather than one by one. They work exceptionally well if there are not many pins to consider that are most common with cheaper locks. It can also be utilized regardless of whether you’re right or left-handed, as can you place it into the keyhole (we’re assuming that before using this device, there’s already a key inserted into your doorknob), you can maneuver it with ease.

4. Bump Key

A bump key is used for turning the plug (cylinder). It looks exactly like any other regular key except that instead of having grooves or teeth cut into it, it has cuts on its side, which are placed in between each groove. This allows for an easier time inserting the key into the lock and gives more damage if not inserted carefully. Not only can this stuff break your lock open, but this can also break your doorknob or doorknob.

5. Diamond Pick

A diamond pick-in lock consists of one long and flexible shaft with notches cut into it along the side every quarter inch or so. These notches allow for more torque and grip when picking. The other part that makes up this tool is the head which usually has teeth on either side, allowing for extra grip while pulling back pins within the cylinder. 

This tool is handy when one needs to open a lock but cannot. It happens many times when you lose your keys or someone has broken into your house and changed the locks for their purposes. Using this will mean that you do not need to rekey the locks, thus allowing for access until you can get new keys made.

6. Hook-Type Lock Pick

A hook-type lock pick is the most accessible type to learn, yet it’s also one of the most effective styles. So, what makes this style so great? The lack of complexity, for starters. To use a hook, you insert into the top or bottom of the keyway and pull back on the pick until it engages with the sheer line (the part where force is transferred from your turning tension wrench to rotating the plug). Once engaged, push forward toward the front face of the door (away from you) and slowly turn at a 45° angle. Some tension should be present when using this technique. However, too much pressure can cause unnecessary wear on your lock pick and your pins/keyway.

7. Torque Wrench

A torque wrench allows you to apply more pressure on the lock while you pick so that when your pins are pushed up beyond a certain height, they will fall back down and reset. This allows you to pick them repeatedly without needing to start over so many times. This makes picking locks easier because it reduces the number of times you need to lift each pin.

Potential Problems When Picking Locks

When picking any lock, there will be some problems as follows: 

  • The pin is too high or too low. One pin is either too high or too low compared to all of the rest. Meaning, sometimes (if not done correctly), popping will happen when the pin is pushed up too high and will not go back down because other pins are pushing it up.
  • Binding. If any pins are bent or broken, they may fall into another pin, which blocks them from being lifted to the height they need to be before popping occurs. This can create a problem because you cannot pick those specific pins due to the other pin blocking the path of your pick. It cannot slide past this problem, so you need to move on and try again with different pin positions.
  • Snapping. This happens when trying too hard and forcing your lock-picks in at an angle instead of straight up and down. If done too forcefully, your pin will snap off, leaving you with the big problem of having to drill the lock out. 

What You Can Do

One of the things that may help is understanding how different pins bind. Snap is their height compared to each other, making it difficult if any pin is not at its designated height before another pin pops above it. After lifting all of these pins, you need to go back and pick them again since certain positions may block other pins from being lifted. This further enhances security even more than most conventional locks. 

When picking a lock, you don’t want to snap off and remain stuck in the cylinder of your lock. Use different size springs to prevent this, so if one does break, you have another one ready to go. If everything else fails, you can drill out locks, but it will leave holes that make the lock less secure than before. Thus, defeating the whole purpose of picking them in the first place.

In case problems arise while picking a lock, call a certified locksmith near you immediately.