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How do I Pick A Lock?

Lock Picking




Lock picking is not as hard as it might seem by selecting the right locks to start with and having the proper tools most individuals can be opening a lock within a few hours of practice.


When you start it is important to choose a lock that will match you skill level. Take a look at the lock levels section when you have a chance. I have tried to break down as many locks as I can into three groups of Starter, Intermediate and high security.


Starter locks will all function and open under the same method of attack. Intermediate Locks have special security measures that that are often used by many different lock manufactures an example would be mushroom pins. High security locks have multiple security measures that make them more difficult to pick and some are very specific to that lock, it might even require a specific tool (Medco locks).


One of the biggest set backs to a beginner is using the wrong tools. Most manufactures fill their lock pick sets with useless picks just to make the sets look more impressive. With so many picks beginners will keep trying different picks out with the belief that a magic combination will happen.



With the right set of picks and a starter lock you can build your skill level and develop the necessary methods of attack needed to open high security locks.




Picking Starter Locks.


When learning to pick it is always best to buy locks just for picking. I know you want to run to your front door with your brand new pick set but it is possible that you will damage that lock.



With starter locks the main method of attack is to focus on minor mechanical defects in the locks construction.


Almost all of the of the starter locks have five pins inside the lock. When you insert the proper key into a lock these pins are lifted to what is called the sheer line. When all five pins are at the sheer line you can turn the key and the lock opens. All starter and intermediate locks work under this principle.


Take a look into your lock and you will see the first pin hanging down from the top it should be a brass colour.




To open the lock without the proper key we must now move these pins into the same location one by one with the proper pick and tension wrench.



Select a hook pick and flex tension wrench, I find that a pencil grip on the pick gives me the greatest amount of feed back.



Insert the wrench into the bottom of the key way and slid your pick to the back of the lock. Now slowly pull the pick forward and see if you can get proper feed back from your pick and count the pins as the tip of the hook slides over them.



To pick the lock start at the back pin and apply a small amount of pressure to the tension wrench in the same direction as you would for turning the key. Slowly lift the pin and feel for movement in the lock. You are trying to set the pin to the sheer line and have the tumbler move a little bit to set that pin in position. If it does not set move forward to the next pin and try this for all five pins until you find which pin you need to set first. This is the mechanicakl defect you are searching for. When picking a lock you are looking for the order with whick you can pick the pins. Once you have set the first pin use the same method for the second pin and continue with this method for all five pins. When you have properly moved the pins to the sheer line the lock will open.



The skill is finding what pin to start with and following order for the rest of the pins in that particular lock



Common problems.


You are using the wrong pick …most of the picks in the large sets are useless filler.


Too much or too little tension. Tension on the wrench is key and often people use to much.


High security lock. If you are starting with an intermediate lock I applauded your ambition but you need to know what feature syou are against so that it may be properly attacked. Learn the basics and move on.


Pins are moved above the sheer line. Often you might have four pins at the sheer line and one moved above it by quickly decreasing the pressure on the tension wrench and then increasing it the pin might fall to the line and then open.




Raking starter locks.


Another method for opening locks is to rake the pins. By using a rake pick and a tension wrench you can quickly bounce the pins into position by rapidly sliding the rake from the very back of the lock to the front while applying pressure to the wrench at the right time. If you apply pressure to soon the pins will not have moved to the sheer line…. to late and they will have fallen back into there staring position.


It is best to focus on picking starter locks instead of raking; you will need the skill for more advanced locks. It is also harder on your tools and will increase the wear on your locks. Raking is an essential skill though for some intermediate locks you may need to use both your picking and raking skills to open a lock. Raking can also be a very fast way to open a lock.




Intermediate Locks


Intermediate locks have a variety of security features that attempt to stop lock picking. If you have knowledge of the lock and its security features you can plan your attack on the lock. The most common features are security pins, the most common types are spool and mushroom pins



Spool and Mushroom Pins

Picking locks with spool and mushroom pins takes practice, working on locks that you know have these pins will help you learn how to identify their the feed back they give you and how to attack them. In most cases a lock will contain a spool or a mushroom pin if the lock appears to be picked, but will only turn a few degrees.


To determine where the pins are in the lock gently push up each pin that you have picked to what you believe is the sheer line. Regular pins will give the feed back you'd expect, with a hard stop when the bottom pin hits the shear line. However spool and mushrooms, on the other hand, will feel a bit different. There will be a slight "backward" feed back on the tension wrench. To attack a  set spool or mushroom pin, reduce tension and push the pin up, allowing the plug to rotate backward a bit as you do. When the pin is properly set it will feel like a regular pin set at the sheer line. After setting the security pin you may have to redo some work on others pins that have dropped from the sheer line while you were setting the security pin.


High Security Locks



High Security Locks have very special and unique features that need to be attacked in a very precise manner and it may even involve the use on different tools.


Examples of high security features include


Dimple-Key Pins

These locks have the key insert horizontally in the keyway and use a flat key bitted with variable-depth holes rather than the cuts used for the familiar key. These locks are picked according in the same manner as ordinary pin tumbler locks, but require different tools that can accommodate the different shape of the keyway.

Some of these locks will even go to a secondary high security locking mechanisms. The Mul-T-Lock cylinders uses a special "telescoping" pins that contain two independently keyed tumblers.

Secondary Locking Mechanisms

High-security locks often incorporate several secondary locking mechanisms beyond that provided by the standard pin tumblers.

Often locks will use a sidebar that must retract before the plug can rotate. A variety of methods are used to key the sidebar. Medeco locks use special wedge-shaped pins that rotated into position when the key is inserted. When the pins have been rotated to the proper position the sidebar will retract and allow plug rotation