The Bowley Lock is a one-of-a-kind lock, and its smart design has challenged even the most skilled and talented lock pickers.
Locks of Bowley
The Bowley Lock and the other lock from the company are original designs and are backed by high-security features. While the concepts of the locks are pretty straightforward, they make a lot of sense and are rated well for their security applications.
These designs and security features are evident in the three Bowley Locks we will recap for you, the original Bowley Lock, the Bowley 543, and the recently released Rotasera Lock.
The Bowley Locks seem to be designed with the idea that if a lock picker can’t easily access the pins, good luck picking the lock.
Original Bowley Lock
The Bowley Lock is accompanied by an eye-catching and head-turning key. Even people with little to no interest in locks do double takes when they see a Bowley Lock key.
The Bowley Lock features a unique ward-like keyhole. The keyhole looks open and accessible, but you will notice something missing with a quick look inside. There isn’t a cylinder to tension off of.
Designed by combining a warded lock and a pin tumbler lock with a focus on preventing bumping and lock picking, the lock is a tough nut to crack. Our article on skeleton keys explores warded locks and how they work.
Let’s take a few steps back and see the journey of the Bowley Lock.
In late 2015, the Bowley Lock made its first appearance on the world stage through a Kickstarter campaign. The funding goal wasn’t met, and the project quietly disappeared back into the frozen tundras of Canada.
A year later, the Bowley Lock was relaunched on Kickstarter with lower funding and quickly got the funding needed. This gave its creators, the Canadian Bowley brothers Ryan and Tyler, the springboard they needed to bring their fascinating lock to market.
They do make some cutting-edge locks with their unusual approaches to locks and keys. Let’s examine the original Bowley Lock and the latest lock creations in the Bowley line.
Thankfully, the Bowley Company has provided the public with easy-to-read diagrams and a great video showcasing their lock’s unique build and how it works.
This unique design brings options for the industry to learn from. Bowley has been transparent with its technology, thus allowing other security companies to incorporate the design.
Many lock enthusiasts have critiqued other companies for their lack of innovation. Hopefully, these new ideas can be adapted to their locks.
Let’s now look at why these designs are so impressive and how they are nearly pickproof.
Picking the Bowley Lock
When we received our Bowley Lock, we knew it would likely end up in our naughty bucket. The team game planned multiple attack methods and went at it.
First thing first, we tried bumping the lock. In this attack, we ground the key to the lowest bitting of our original key using a rotary tool.
We began smacking away using a mallet with the key inserted and engaged with the pins. After each team member tried, we quickly moved on.
We knew we were in for a difficult time when we started single-pin picking the Bowley. Simply finding the best way to tension the actuator in the rear of the lock was our first struggle.
We made an L-shaped “tensioner” with the short leg going into the key to engage the actuator.
We had to create five picks to reach each of the different pin locations for a usable pin.
We quickly ran into issues setting a pin and then getting our next pick into the lock. Our recommendation would be to create a five-in-one type design.
This would require a tensioner for the actuator in the back and five picks that could simultaneously slide into the lock and engage the pins individually.
When it came to racking the lock, there was simply not enough room to use the traditional style of rake in attacking this lock while maintaining tension.
Once again, the limited spacing deterred us from allowing full use of the rake’s various pin heights to engage the lock’s pins.
After we examined and attempted to pick the Bowley Lock ourselves, we were curious how the experts, the LockPickingLawyer and BosnianBill approached this lock.
The Bowley website admits that less than five people have successfully picked the lock they know of. Chris Ahrens could pick the lock successfully using a self-designed four-piece tool.
Well done, Chris!
The LockPickingLawyer is an expert in locks and their inner workings. He has years of experience in the field and has been posting YouTube videos since 2015, showcasing his skills and pointing out flaws in lock designs.
In his video 636, he reviewed and gave insight into the Bowley Lock. The LockPickingLawyer provided a comprehensive examination of the lock as we gutted the lock and gave his 4 million subscribers a close-up look at the inner workings.
This is one of the only locks that the LockPickingLawyer hasn’t picked.
He described the difficulties of accessing the pins, which otherwise wouldn’t present a challenge for most experienced lockpickers. The lock includes one spool and one serrated pin in its chambers.
He also mentioned how bumping would not work in this case. Due to each of the locks having a zero cut on one of the pins, the slightest nudge would overset the pin and prevent your best efforts from bumping the lock.
He suggested with a lot of luck and five bump keys with zero cuts in each possible pin position, there may be a tiny chance of success.
The LockPickingLawyer also failed in raking the lock and using an electric snap gun that rapidly vibrates pins to push them to the shear line.
The LockPickingLawyer pointed out that the Bowley Lock would also be tough to impression as the pins are soft brass material that may not leave any noticeable markings on a key blank.
He closed by praising the Bowley Lock Company for listening to feedback and improving their already highly secure lock.
BosnianBill is another superstar in the lockpicking community, and his channel has a strong, passionate following. He was one of the reasons the LockPickingLawyer joined the community and began making videos on YouTube.
Bill did a great job demonstrating a bumping attack on the Bowley Lock and, not surprisingly, failed just like us. He used a zero-cut bump key and even tried multiple techniques.
He also highlighted that the lock’s pin chambers include three different spring types that would affect a lockpicker’s ability to feel the motion and setting of the pins. That’s if they could access the pins to work them.
BosnianBill also approved of how secure and challenging this lock was, especially in a door that would limit some attack efforts.
Review and Where to Buy
The original Bowley Lock is an excellent option for someone looking to improve the security of their door lock. This is a solid upgrade option with the upgrade option of hardware sold by Bowley and the anti-picking attacks.
The original Bowley Lock can only be purchased from the Bowley Company website as a deadbolt for a door. The deadbolt has two different options of varying heavy-duty components.
The Grade 2 option is upgraded heavy-duty material that can withstand hammer attacks. Just make sure your door lock hole fits the upgraded lock sizing.
The Bowley website provides all the installation information you need online and in the lock package. They recommend a locksmith if you are not comfortable installing it on your own.
- Pick resistance
- Heavy duty construction options are available
- Expensive compared to standard door locks
- Breaking a key in the lock will require replacing the entire lock
Bowley Lock Model 543
In April of 2018, the Bowley Lock Company revealed the Model 543 Lock through a Kickstarter campaign. The lock features a dual forked key that interacts with two separate rows of pins on opposing sides of the cylinder for a total of 9 pins.
This lock looks like something legendary from a Tolkien novel.
The lock, regardless of the three different material options chosen; aluminum, stainless steel, and brass is a beefy and secure-looking lock. The high shackle guards provide ample protection from cutting attacks.
Each lock build has a bottom keyhole plate of 17-4 stainless steel. This protects the lock from any drill attacks on the core and lock.
The appearance of the keyhole is an angled line shaped as a line with rounded ends with a large circle in the center of the line. This allows the rounded key to pass into the lock effortlessly.
The mechanics of the 543 lock are similar to that of the original but mirrored onto the opposing side. Like the original, this lock also uses warded and pin tumbler mechanics for its core.
When the key enters the keyway, it slides by the warding of the keyhole, as the key can only be inserted one way, then it passes the internal protective shield. Upon being fully inserted, the key can rotate freely.
With the key rotated 45 degrees, it will move deeper into the lock. Rotating the key another quarter turn will open the lock and release the shackle.
After researching the mechanics of this lock, we knew we were in for quite the challenge of attacking the lock.
We made multiple attempts using various attacks to open this lock. We tried single-pin picking, racking, and even key impressioning.
Like in our attacks on the original Bowley Lock, we kept running into the same issues.
Not surprisingly, we constantly struggled with the limited spacing in accessing the pins.
We tried to use the Chris Ahrens approach of a multiple-part tool to tension and pick the lock but quickly ran out of room in the keyway. There simply was not enough room to slide enough picks to pick all nine pins in the lock.
A thinner toolset could work, but then you risk the possibility of breaking off a piece of a pick in the lock and causing more significant issues.
So using something similar to a Lishi style of lock picking tool would be ideal in attacking the original Bowley and the 543 locks.
In his video 653, the LockPickingLawyer explains the lock’s mechanics and guts to his audience. BosnianBill similarly explained the internal and attack strategies with his stainless steel lock, in Video 1269 and closed with a giveaway.
We will watch out for successful efforts to open this very challenging lock.
Review and Where to Buy
Unfortunately, the Bowley 543 is not available for purchase anymore. The lock could be purchased only through the Kickstarter they hosted in 2018.
We hope the Bowley Company brings the lock back to their web store. We will be grabbing another right away.
Should the Bowley 543 padlock become available, we recommend it for either a bike lock as part of a chain or a lock on an outdoor shed.
In these situations, the 543 lock provides excellent security against pick attacks and even may stall cut attacks due to the closed shackle.
- “Unpickable” lock
- High-quality product
- Not currently available
- Limited expert experience from local locksmiths if you have issues
- Heavy key
The Bowley Rotasera lock is the latest innovation from Bowley. This time the company designed a disc detainer lock with a new take on warded lock technology.
The key, like other Bowley keys, is uniquely designed. It has a tiered or stepped key design with a center stem with an additional upward curved extension of the key. This portion has notions that engage the discs within the key core.
With such an odd key, the internal and core of the Rotasera lock are designed differently.
When the key is inserted, it smoothly enters underneath a protective shielding that limits the keyway. The lower key bit avoids this “warding” and freely enters the lock.
The key will move further into the lock and engage a spring that pushes the pusher backward into the lock and allows the key to rotate and engage the discs.
Once the key is rotated 180 degrees, the discs will be in the correct position, but one more step is needed. The key needs to be pushed slightly forward, once again, thus clearing the discs of the core and allowing the core with the key inside to unlock and rotate freely within the core.
At this 180-degree position, the lock engages a ramp that lets the sidebar drop into the core. When the sidebar drops in, it clears the core and will enable it to rotate freely in an unlocked position.
Disc detainer locks are tough to pick, and Bowley increased that difficulty.
Our team is still making attempts at this disc detainer lock. We found that gaining access to the discs was the first challenge.
To access the discs, we slid the shield gate to the side, mimicking the key but still found limited access to the discs.
The other challenge we dealt with was moving the sidebar once the discs were in place, which was the ultimate goal. We have yet to find a suitable solution for this issue.
Even the disc detainer lock tool designed by Bosnian Bill and LPL is no match for this lock.
The LockNoob did a great job showing the Rotasera lock and even gutted the lock on camera. We liked how he included Bowley’s design graphics when explaining the lock’s internals.
Review and Where to Buy
The Rotasera Lock can be purchased from the Bowley web store. There are multiple options available.
For the padlock option, we recommend the ABUS 83CS/55 with the Rotasera cylinder. ABUS is an excellent vessel for the cylinder, and the Rotasera core is a high-quality cylinder.
We like the ABUS 83CS/55 option, as it has a closed shackle. This protection will further deter attacks on the lock and provide you with peace of mind.
The Rotasera lock is also available as a deadbolt with Grade 2 protection that features heavy-duty components that protect against destructive entry methods.
The keys can also be keyed alike at your request when you order directly from Bowley.
- Multiple lock options (deadbolt and padlock)
- Easier to use than the other Bowley Locks
- Small low profile key
- Heavy duty upgrade options are available
- High price point
The Bowley Lock and the company were started by two brothers, Ryan and Tyler Bowley, out of Canada. Combining their knowledge in mechanical engineering, business, and marketing.
Following a string of robberies in their community years ago, they looked to buy a high-security lock for their homes. After being shocked by the pricing, they took matters into their own words.
After years of designing, prototyping, and filing for an international patent Bowley Lock and the company was brought to life in 2015.
The Bowley Lock Company is also unique for a simple reason. The founders and the company are constantly striving to improve their products.
They listen to the lock-picking community and gather feedback regularly. It is refreshing to see a company trying to improve its security products by listening to the market, its fans, and even the critics.
The Bowley Company has been transparent with its designs, thus allowing others to learn from them and improve.
This attitude and their unique designs are industry-changing. We would love to see similar locks available to the larger market at a more affordable price.
The original Bowley Lock has gotten a lot of well-deserved press for this ingenious design and security. The Bowley brothers and the company could have retired after this single highly received product.
But they didn’t. They went even further into the wild side of locks.
Since then, the company went on to design the legendary Bowley 543 and the newly released Bowley Rotasera Lock.
The odd key is needed to avoid key and pick blocking features that make accessing the discs difficult. It is another well-designed lock by Bowley.
We can’t wait to see what they release next as Bowley truly lives up to their slogan, “innovation is in our core.”