You don’t need to be a robber to know how to pick a lock; it’s actually a useful life skill for when you accidentally lock yourself out of your house.
How to Pick a Lock for When You’ve Locked Your Keys Inside
Why Should I Learn How to Pick a Lock?
- It opens your eyes to the reality that security is an illusion. You can use all kinds of locks to secure your home, loved ones, and belongings, but if someone really wants to, they can pick them all open and find a way in with the right skills and tools.
- It’s a very handy skill that can save you from times when you’ve locked yourself out of your house or car like a doofus. Sometimes it takes forever for help to arrive, so it’s best if you know how to do it yourself.
- Not only is lock-picking a handy skill, but it’s also a fun and novelty skill to have. The idea that you can pick locks and enter any room just lends to you living the badass ninja or spy life you never thought you’d live.
Legality and Lock-Picking
There’s a common belief that the only people who are legally allowed to own lock-picking tools are licensed locksmiths and first responders. But this is not true.
In several states, anyone is allowed to carry their own lock-picking tools. However, this is as long as you’re not using them to illegally enter someone’s house.
There are some states that have laws stating that having lock-picking tools can be used as evidence of criminal intent. If caught, and if you don’t want to be charged as a criminal, you have to prove that you weren’t committing or planning to commit a crime.
So what did we learn from all this? It’s perfectly okay to own lock-picking tools as long as you have nothing illegal planned.
How Pin Tumbler Locks Work
It may surprise you to know that the design of this lock has been around since 4000 BC. Meanwhile, cylinder locks like the ones on your front door have been in use since 1861 and have changed little over the years.
What we’re saying is that the technology you’re using to keep your doors locked has been around for centuries. It also has not evolved much, which means that different ways of lock picking have been on the rise over the past few hundred years.
Here is how pin tumbler locks are formed:
They are made of an outer cylinder casing that houses a plus. A gap between the outside casing and the plug housed within is what we call the shear line
The plug consists of an opening for the key which, when inserted, makes the plug rotate and unlock the lock.
Atop the plug, there are five or six drilled holes that contain key pins of varying lengths. They are named so because they touch the key when it is inserted.
On top of every key pin are driver pins that are spring-loaded. These allow the pins to click back securely after every movement.
Without the right key, the pins won’t lift to the correct height. All lock-picking tools do is create the right lift to these pins so that the lock will be unlocked.
Tools for Picking Pin Tumbler Locks
On this post, we’re going to focus on using the most common lock pick tools. These are called the tension wrench and pick rakes.
Tension wrench definition – these tools are used to place torque towards the lock plug. This is to keep pins from getting pushed back after being set correctly. They are usually shaped like an “L.”
Pick rake definition – this is used to literally rake repeatedly across the pins forcing them upwards while the tension wrench is applied to the plug.
There are many variants of these lock-picking tools, and you can even buy them in travel-friendly sets you can slide in your wallet. You can buy them online, or resort to making your own.
Each lock is unique, and picking them constitutes more of an art rather than a science. By far, the easiest way of picking a lock is by scrubbing:
Slide the tension wrench into the bottom part of the keyhole and apply slight pressure. Turn it in the direction where the key normally turns in order to open it.
Keep in mind that the pressure has to be very light. There has to be just enough that the driver pins just rise above the shear line and enough torque for them to catch the plug as it turns.
Insert pick into the top of the keyhole. Slide it all the way to the back.
While keeping a slight torque to your tension wrench, start scrubbing your rake pick back and forth. Every time you pull it back, do so with a lifting motion.
Keep on scrubbing as you apply torque until all the pins have been set. If no progress has been made, allow the pins to rest, start over, and keep in mind that less pressure is key.
Keep on Practicing
There is no exact science on how to pick locks, as you do them mostly by getting the right feel for it. The only way to get a feel for it is to pick locks until you get to that point.
You can buy different kinds of tumbler locks and try your hand at picking at them whenever you have the time. When you’ve gotten the hang of it, you can even try challenges such as timing yourself.
There are also training locks available for practice. Training locks are comprised of clear plastic so you can see what’s happening on the inside as you’re picking the lock.
CIA Lock Picking FIeld Operative Manual – You see them kicking ass in the movies, now learn how to pick locks from them in real life. This is probably the closest you can get to learning spy stuff (unless you’re already working from them).
MIT Guide to Lock Picking – This guide is a very thorough and in-depth reading of the physics and mechanics of lock-picking. Read up if you’re serious about being a master of locks and picking them.
Go forth and unlock all the locks! But always remember to use this knowledge only for fun and legal ways of entering. If you use it for illegal stuff, we wash our hands of you and scream “for shame!” Everybody knows you’re only supposed to steal hearts (the metaphorical kind, not the literal kind, otherwise you’re probably really messed up).
Got any lock-picking techniques or hilarious attempts of your own? Let us know in the comments section!
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