Bump Key

Bump Keys

Bump, bump, bump, and we are in. It can be just as easy as when a lockpicker uses the “bumping” technique and a bump key to open a lock. 

Bump keys are another tool in a lock picker or locksmith’s tool kit. Knowing what to look for when buying a bump key is essential, as one does not fit all locks.

Bumping a Lock

Bumping a lock is used to open a lock without the lock’s key. It is a very effective method of opening a lock and leaves behind very little evidence it was performed. Unfortunately, residential thieves have used this technique for those exact reasons. 

practice lock picking

It is estimated that as many as 90% of doors to American homes are bumpable. With bump keys readily available and cheap, making your doors bump-proof should be on your to-do list.

What Is a Bump Key?

A bump key is a specifically made key used for lock bumping. The crucial features of bump keys are the deep cuts and even peaks of the key biting. 

The key is shaped with each pin location shaved to the deepest cut possible. The biting looks odd as it would indicate that each of the pins are identical, meaning you would “pick” each to the same height. 

practice lock picking
Side view of the cuts of a bump key. Note: all pin positions are cut to the deepest point.

Bump keys work shockingly simply. The bump key allows the pins to settle into the biting when the key is inserted into the lock. 

The deep cuts will set any pins too the low on the key. Next, you will use the bumping of the key to set the rest of the pins.  

Key bumping uses the keys’ vibrations and “teeth” to jump the locking pins. It is a simple but effective attack on many locks. 

Bump Key Set

A bump key set includes the bump keys for specific locks. These are typically familiar lock brands, like Kwikset and Schlage. 

Kwikset Keyway VS Schlage Keyway lock bumping

The keys in bump key sets are designed to fit standard keyways. This makes it possible to bump quite a few different locks. 

There is a large selection of bump key sets available on the market. In addition, some sets will include bump keys for other brands’ standard locks. 

You can also find individual bump keys for sale. 

Look for a bump key set that also comes with bump key washers or rebound rings. These washers protect the key and keyway while also allowing you to “bump” the key more with a hammer or mallet.

LockJudge Bump Set Recommendations

There are a few bump sets or options we recommend. If you stick with a reputable brand, you’ll be set for the long term. 

The Sparrows Bump Set includes six (6) bump keys, with the option to add a bump hammer. The set covers both standard residential and commercial locks. The set consists of the bump keys for these specific lock brands and keyways:

  • Schlage (SC1)
  • Kwikset (KW1)
  • Yale (Y1)
  • Weiser (WR5)
  • Dexter (DE6)
  • Master (M1)

The LockPickingLawyer also sells bumping tools and keys on his Covert Instruments site. We like that he offers single keys as well as bundled sets. The shop also provides rebound rings, which is excellent as you’ll need to replace them occasionally.

Bump key with rubber rebound ring

Some expert lockpickers use small metal springs in place of the rebound rings. Like the rebound rings, the spring is there to nudge the key back after every hit. Since they are metal, they aren’t going to need to be replaced anytime soon.  

Bumpable Locks

Once you have the bump key set, we can provide you with our LockJudge recommendations if you don’t have the necessary locks. These locks can be bumped with one of the bump key sets we recommend or by purchasing the matching bump key from Covert Instruments. 

  • Schlage with SC1 keyway
  • Kwikset with KW1 keyway
  • Yale with Y1 keyway
  • Weiser with WR5 keyway
  • Dexter with DE5 keyway
  • Master with M1 keyway

Another good thing to know about bump keys and locks, you can easily make your own from one of the keys that comes with the lock. 

Making a Bump Key

With the right tools, making a bump key is relatively easy. Making a bump key from a copy of a working key, is a piece of cake, as the pin locations have already been readily identified for you. 

As we described earlier,  a bump key is cut to the deepest possible cut while maintaining consistent “peaks” between them. Unlike a blank key, an existing key shows you where to file the key down. 

You can file the key using a needle nose file or a rotary tool with a grinding bit.

The file may be a better option as it allows you to be more in control of the depth of filing. The rotary tool option is nice to have when removing a lot of material, to reach the correct depth for the bump key.

How Do You Use a Bump Key?

Now that you’ve got the equipment, bump your first lock! Here’s how you do it.

It is recommended to clamp the lock in a vise. This keeps the lock stationary while you are hammering away. In addition, we recommend a portable tabletop vise that you can quickly move around as needed. 

After you have the lock securely clamped down, insert the bump key into the lock. 

Be sure to note the direction that the cylinder turns when opening the lock. Is it a clockwise or counterclockwise turn? 

You can also insert a tensioner into the hole of the key. This trick will keep your fingers out of harm’s way when hitting the key with your hammer, mallet, or another blunt object. 

Next, while applying light rotational pressure on the key, begin hitting the rear edge of the key. 

Lock bumping animation
Slow motion animation showing the movement of the bump key and pins in the lock while bumping a lock.

You will need to hit the key forcibly, but you can build up to that as you find your rhythm and comfortable level. 

Hammer away until the key turns.

The vibrations of the bump key move the pins in their pin chambers. Eventually, they are lifted clear of the shear line which allows the key to turn and open the lock. 

Are Bump Keys Legal?

Lock bumping and bump keys are legal in most parts of the United States. However, like lockpicks, bump keys are classified as burglary tools. This sounds frightening, but they are viewed as legal tools as long as you have permission to open the lock from the owner or as long as you don’t exhibit felonious intent while carrying them. 

Like the legend Bosnian Bill says, “stay safe, stay legal.”

Some states require you to be a licensed locksmith to possess bump keys, so check your state’s legal code. 

Final Thoughts

Bumping a lock open is a low-effort and low-skill but highly effective method of opening a lock. It’s how locksmiths open many of the locks they encounter when called by clients. 

It’s an excellent skill to have, but not likely something you’d use or work on as a lockpicker regularly. If you are in a pickle, however, owning the necessary equipment and skills may help you out.

Thank you for taking the time to read our article, and don’t forget to share it with your fellow lock picking enthusiasts. 

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