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How To Pick A Lock 

 November 10, 2020

By  Mike Millerson

While it can seem odd to be telling people about how to pick a lock with pins and other tools highly-likely at your disposal, one day, it can be worthwhile. Imagine a situation of being locked in some dark and unfamiliar room. And you are not a locksmith, to add to the hardship. After reading this article, you will know in theory how to use pressure and tension to open a lock with a bobby pin and find out more information about the tools that will help your fleet out of dangerous incarceration.

Since ancient times, people have used locks to keep their stuff safe from those who want to take what does not belong to them.

For these purposes, you can also use various devices: alarms, gun safes, and even different household traps. Many people consider the lock to be the most convenient and simple way. Although this is true, the lock is not completely reliable. Most locks can be opened even if you do not have the correct key.

The skillset that superheroes and humanity’s true saviors have in movies can help you if you strive for a rural or urban survival or if you cannot find a correct key.

In this guide to lock picking, you will find everything you need to know to open a door if you do not have a key. We will cover many aspects of the topic “how to pick a lock.” Let’s touch on both moral aspects and “how-to” instructions. Read on and find out more about the item every preppers list should have.

5 Reasons to Learn How to Pick a Lock

It may seem to you that learning to pick locks is disgusting, and a decent person will never learn lock picking. This is true only if you are a thief and encroach on someone else’s property, or you want to destroy someone’s privacy policy. We hope you are not a cruel person. So, for what purpose might a kind human being need to pick something? Let’s consider just a few examples of how picking locks may help you without harming anyone else.

1.    Lost A Key

How many times have you been in a lost key situation? We are sure that a lot. According to statistics, a key is one of the most frequently lost items. And you need a key to open all standard padlocks.

Instead of spending a lot of money and waiting for the locksmith to arrive, you can quickly solve the problem yourself and open the lock without a key but using simple equipment or a lock pick. Imagine that you lost your car key and have kids or dogs inside, or when you cannot find a correct key. It will not be necessary to lose time and wait for technicians. You may use basic lock picking skills to open a car lock without a key.

2.    Finding Food In Complex Emergency

With some global economic collapse, a horrid hurricane, or even a nuclear crisis, society may stop functioning. In this case, the only way to survive might be access to an abandoned pantry or house to feed yourself and your loved ones. We have already mentioned that it is horrible to encroach on someone else’s property, but in complex emergencies, to pick a door may be acceptable from a moral point of view.

3.    Breaking Into A Building To Be Saved From Natural Disaster

Imagine that you need to escape from a raging wind, an impending flood, or other natural disasters. What will you choose – stay for dead or break into the building to hide behind its solid walls or climb onto the roof to be rescued? We think the choice is obvious. And for your salvation, the skill of picking locks will be useful, so picked lock will open a way for surviving.

4.    Escape From A Locked Space

We hope this unlikely scenario will not happen to you, but life is unpredictable, so it is better to be prepared. If you are locked up or held hostage, and a correct key is not in your possession, learning how to pick a lock can save your life. You will need just some basic urban survival skills to get out safely. You will also need the ability to use picking tools to free yourself when locked somewhere; such things occur quite frequently.

5.    Start Earning Money

You can improve your skills and make them profitable. In the modern world, not everyone knows how to pick locks, and your skill will be able to feed you in emergency circumstances. If people need to open something urgent, they will be ready to pay good money. You will be able to get a good source of income. You only should buy various picks to start working.

Here are some examples of when the ability to pick a lock can not only save your life but also make you a hero in the public eye. It is not rocket science. You do not require any special abilities to learn lock picking, just a set of picks and a little perseverance, but this skill set may save your life.

 

3 Types of Lock You Can Pick

As soon as the first locks appeared, it became necessary to pick them.

Simple privacy padlocks can be opened just with a paper clip, not special picks, but with the lock device’s complexity, the art of lock picking has also improved.

There are many different types of locks. You can spend a lot of time studying them all, but luckily, some lock types are more popular than others. We suggest looking at the three most common types.

1. Tubular Lock

To open tubular locks, you should use lock pickers since these locks have a unique working principle. A concept is similar to a pin tumbler lock, but you should orient the pins in a circular pattern with tools.

Tubular locks are commonly used on bicycle locks.

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2. Combination Lock

You are definitely familiar with this lock, as this type is installed on all school lockers and old safes. No need to break the door, now you can learn how to “pick” a combination with simple tools.

The typical combination locks have a dial attached to a spindle that runs through several wheels and a drive cam. Each wheel has a wheel fly. The driver pins spin the first wheel until it makes contact with the wheel next to it.

3. Pin Tumbler Lock

A pin tumbler lock is a type of lock-in in which several pins are arranged in a circular pattern, and the corresponding key is tubular or cylindrical in shape. Hence, it prevents it from opening without the correct key.

These locks are the most widespread in the world. They are included in a standard set with doorknob locks and deadbolts. Pin tumbler lock is often used in key-based padlocks on the doors of warehouses, sheds, and some houses.

9 Smart Ways To Bypass A Lock

Like any bug-out bike bag or a box in your survival trailer, all locks are similar in only one thing; they all exist to protect a thing from theft. Just as there are many different types of locks, there are different methods for picking locks. For some methods, simple things will be enough, and in other cases, tools like tension wrench or torque wrench are required. We will consider the most popular methods below.

1. How To Pick A Lock With A Card

The first thing you need to do if you decide to learn how to pick a lock with a card is to make sure that the lock or door is suitable for lockpicking it this way. The door shouldn’t have a deadbolt. You should be on the correct side of the door – the hinge should be on the opposite side of you, so you should not see the hinge. Finally, there should be no obstacles to your access to the door. You will need to bring the card to the edge of the door, so clear this area.

If the door and lock are suitable, choose the right type of card you will use as a lock pick. A thin, flexible card, such as a hotel key card or store card, works best. You can also use your credit card in case of an emergency, but it may pick locks worse since it is thicker.

Insert the card into the space between the door and the latch plate. Start inserting from the corner of the card, and then pull up the entire card.

Then fold the card towards the doorknob, so you fold the card around the corner and toward the latch a little. This will allow your card to slide with the edge of the card back towards the latch and up the slope of the latch itself.

So, following easy steps, you will force the latch to go inside and open the lock.

2. How to Pick A Door Lock With Bobby Pin Or Paperclip

If you have small children or pets, you have probably encountered accidentally locked bedroom or bathroom doors. So this lock may become for you the first lock to pick. Locks on these doors are usually simple, as they aim to provide privacy rather than preserve the items stored in these rooms or provide home security.

The simple lock is located on the door handle itself in a small hole. To open such a mechanism, you need a tiny pin or a straightened paperclip that you will use as a key. First, you need to take one of these items and put it into the lock’s hole.

If you can push the switch and the door lock opens, your lock is with a pressure switch. Such locks are more common.

If this action was not enough, there is a small slot at the back of the hole in the lock for a straight-blade screwdriver. To open this lock, you need a small torque of your improvised key.

Picking A Tumbler Lock

These methods require a specialized set of lockpicking tools, which will replace a key for you.

The techniques discussed below work with more serious doors. They act not on the latch but on the lock mechanism itself.

Tumbler locks work on rotating cylinder locks with several driver pins, which are spring-loaded. Below each driver pin is a set of key pins. Each key pin has its own height.

To pick pin tumbler locks, you need individually lift the pins to the right height to allow the plug to rotate.

When you put key pins to the right height, the gap between the key pins and driver pins aligns with the plug’s edge.

You will need more practice for this skill with lock picking tools.

Lock Picking Tool Sets

We recommend taking The Ultimate Access Lock Pick Set. This lock picking set has three big advantages. First, these lock pickers are given away at a reasonable price. Secondly, the picks set includes a transparent practice lock, which will make your life much easier and help you acquire an important skill of lock picking without breaking real locks. So it might become your first lock to pick. And most importantly, the lock picks are made of high-quality materials so that they can serve you all your life.

Also, you can consider taking a pick gun like this:

Pick guns or electric lock picks are tools that can be used to open a mechanical pin tumbler lock (a common type of pin cylinder lock) without using the key.

Consider buying various lock pick sets to satisfy different purposes.

The best option would be to buy several lock picking sets to always have them with you. Then it will not happen that the lockpicking tools are locked in the room you need to get into as you lost your key.

Your lock pick sets should include tools like a torque wrench or different tension wrenches to apply tension to the lock.

3. How To Pick A Tubular Lock

To open this type of lock, you will need to use the right lock pick set; improvising lock picking tools will not be useful here, as it also works with driver pins.

Tubular locks are most commonly found in motor home storage boxes and filing cabinets.

In tubular locks, there are a set of pins and a tumbler lock. They are set up in a circular pattern. The key pins and the driver pins are pushed towards the lock’s front, which prevents the plug from rotating. When each key pin and driver pin is correctly aligned, the plug may turn.

Use the lock picks to map these pins to pick them.

You can practice picking a lock while watching the guide below.

4. The Scrubbing/Raking Method

Let’s consider the fastest, but at the same time, the dirtiest way to pick a lock. It’s called “scrubbing.”

In this lock picking method, it is essential to rely on feelings while pin picking. You should use picks for pin cylinder locks.

Below are five common steps for scrubbing most locks.

1.   You need to insert the tension wrench into the bottom of the keyhole and apply pressure. Once your “key” is inserted, the tension wrench turns the cylinder locks slightly. Proceed carefully, do not apply tension too much. Otherwise, you might accidentally bind up the lock cylinder

2.   Put the rake pick into the top of the keyhole and slide it to the back of the lock.

3.   Try to lift the rake upwards into the pins and draw it forward. If the pick slides across each lock pin, it lifts the pins upward into position. Then the lip of the slightly turned cylinder will catch and keep them in place.

4.   You should repeat steps 2 and 3 until all the pins are in the right position and the cylinder turns further.

5.   Finally, turn the lock cylinder with gentle pressure on the tension wrench, as if you turn the key, so you can open the door. Remember to avoid putting too much pressure.

You can check a guide of this lock picking method below in the video.

5. The Pin by Pin Method

The pin-by-pin picking (or single pin picking) method resembles the previous one. Its difference is that you do not click on all pins but probe each pin one at a time.

The pin-by-pin method will become a great way to apply your lock picking skills. Here are 6 steps of single pin picking:

1.   Get started by putting the tension wrench into the bottom of the keyway and apply some torque so that the tension wrench may rotate in the cylinder locks. Do not put too much pressure, or you may risk binding up the pin cylinder and making it more difficult to pick.

2.   Insert the single hook pick into the top of the keyhole. Then you should slide it to the back of the lock, its shear line

3.   Lift the pick upwards and pick each pin individually – one pin at a time. You need to pick the pins one by one until you find the one that’s binding the cylinder.

4.   Then press the binding pin upwards until the cylinder shifts slightly. As the torsion wrench shift will be tiny, this is done mainly by feel.

5.   You should repeat steps from 2 to 4 until all pins will be in place, and the cylinder will turn further.

6.   Finally, turn the lock cylinder with gentle pressure on the tension wrench, as if you turn the key, so you can open the door.

We recommend you to watch the guide video to get a better understanding of using the single pin picking method for pin cylinder locks:

You can use a hairpin as a tension tool, but we don’t recommend it if you want to be a professional at lock picking.

Watch this video of single pin picking with a hairpin:

6. How To Pick A Combination Lock

A distinctive feature of the combination lock is that the locking mechanism consists of the dial and the shackle.

The main part of the locking mechanism is its dial, which spins. The shackle will be locked inside its main compartment if you turn the dial in the wrong sequence.

In this method, you do not pin picking a lock. You are cracking a code, as you need to manipulate the lock to figure out the right combination.

Here you can watch the video as a guide to combination lock picking.

Other Bypass Methods

Sometimes it is better to avoid lock picking and find a better way. You may not have suitable lock picks with you or be out of time. Try to get around a locked door using other methods before you spend all your day picking a lock.

7. Destroy The Lock

Perhaps this is the fastest and most effective way if you do not want to pick a lock. In any case, this is exactly what is shown in the movies. In fact, you need to be more careful. If you shoot a metal doorknob, you can become a victim of a ricochet, and the lock will remain closed.

Better take a big hammer and hit the door handle or lock housing. After the handle breaks off, you will have access to the inside of the lock mechanism. Then you need to pull the latch back and forth to open the door.

8. Remove The Hinges

This method is real if the door hinges are on your side, and you can see them. If so, then you can try to pull out the hinge pins.

First, check if the hinge pins are screwed in or simple straight pins.

If the door has simple straight pins, you may be able to insert a flat screwdriver under the head of the pin. Try prying upwards slowly.

If the pins are stuck, try lubricating them with spray lube and tapping gently from the bottom up with something like a Phillips screwdriver.

If the pins are screwed in, you may need an Allen key or specialized screwdriver bit to remove them.

First of all, you will need to remove the lower pins to prevent the door from binding the lower hinges.

After removing all the hinges, you can easily open the door from the hinge side and remove it from the frame.

9. Bend The Door Frame

Finally, you can borrow the way of opening doors from law enforcement. If all other methods fail to help you, or you do not have enough time for difficult lock picking, you can use a jack to bend the door frame out of the way.

It is better to use high-capacity jacks to put a lot of force on the door frame at particular points. Hi-lift jacks or hydraulic bottle jacks will be the most suitable here.

Place the jack sideways to the latch on the hinge side. If the jack is too small, add some blocks to raise it. Then press outwards on the door frame. The door will buckle under the tension. When you get the required gap, release the latch, and open the door.

To summarize our guide to locking picking, here are three steps required to master the skill of picking locks:

1.         Buy professional lock picking tools

2.         Explore at least all the videos in the article or study other lock picking guide

3.         Practice with training locks or your own door locks.

Remember that picking locks can save your life, or at least feed you. This skill is not as difficult as it seems, you need to spend a little time learning how to pick a lock, but this will definitely help in a difficult situation or simply when you forget your key. Despite popular belief, not only thieve pick the locks without a key, using lock picks. With this survival, the skill can get out of any confusing locked up circumstances.

FAQs

What household items can you pick a lock with?

If you do not have special tools, you can use what is at hand. For example, pins, hairpins, paper clips will be suitable for this action. In general, it can be any thin and strong object that can be placed into the hole in the lock.

How do you pick a lock with a bobby pin?

If it is bent, then first straighten it and insert it into the hole. Then try pressing the switch at the end of the hole. This part of the lock is called the shear line. Often this will be enough. If not, try to turn the hairpin.

How to pick a lock with a paper clip?

The principle is the same as when using a hairpin. You need to straighten the object and insert it gently into the shear line. As your “key” is inserted, try to push and open the lock or turn the tool.

How to pick a lock on a car?

Insert the lock picking tool into the lock and move it up and down. Act as if you are trying to open a door with a key. It may take time. If all else fails, you can remove the lock using a flat head screwdriver. You need to insert the item into the gap between the lock and the car door. Then push the lock forward so that it pops out.

How to pick a padlock?

To open a padlock, you need to insert the short end of your tension wrench into the shear line. With a little pressure, turn the wrench as you would turn the key in this padlock. Continuing this action, you need to put the rake pick into the keyway and push it. Then you should apply upward pressure to the pins with the end of your rake and gently snap the pick out in a scrubbing motion. Each of the pins needs to be pressed up. Wiggle the pick over each of the pins starting from the far back of the lock. You should repeat this step until the lock unlocks. You should hear a slight click when done right.

Mike Millerson

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