Collage of lockpicking images

Lock Picking

Lock picking is the practice of manipulating a lock to cause it to open without using the key and without damaging the lock.

You can achieve this with specially made lockpicks or other items used to manipulate the lock.

Lock picking is an activity that has existed for as long as locks have themselves. As locks have become more secure to keep lockpickers out, lockpicking has evolved with better tools and techniques over the years. As a result, it has become more complicated and requires more skill as locks have improved over the years.

Many people see lock picking as an activity used only by criminals and spies for nefarious purposes. However, it is more and more becoming a common hobby.

Lock Picking Explained

Lock picking is the skill of opening locks without using the original key. It’s like a puzzle or a challenge you have to solve. 

The goal is to manipulate the pins inside the lock using special tools called picks and tension wrenches to align them to allow the lock to turn and open.

Before you think that lock picking is only for burglars and criminals, let me assure you that it’s also a skill with legitimate uses. Locksmiths use it to open locks for customers who have lost their keys or have been locked out of their homes or cars.

But lock picking is simply a fascinating hobby or a fun challenge for many people.

history of locks
Here is a see-through view of a lock showing how the pins interact with the key inside a lock

How Lock Picking Works

Lock picking involves exploiting small variations in the parts in each lock that are inherent to the manufacturing process. However, every single part in a lock is slightly different, and each lock ever made will be different.

This results in a phenomenon in a lock called the binding order. This is where one pin in the lock will be locked in place before the others because it is slightly larger than the others or the hole it’s in is slightly out of alignment with the rest.

How lockpicking works
This is a top-down diagram of the pins inside a lock. It shows the variations in every lock that lockpickers take advantage of. Notice the white circles are slightly out of alignment and the brown pins in the holes are different sizes.

Think of this like trying to line up the head of four pins precisely in line with nothing but your hands. While you may get very close, it will never be perfect. The same problem exists in the creation of locks, but at a much smaller scale.

These tiny differences allow a lockpicker to feel the movement of the pins and, with practice, place them in the correct positions to open the lock.

Note: The bigger the differences in manufacturing a lock, the easier it is to pick. This is one of the reasons why locks of higher quality, made with smaller tolerances, are much harder to pick. So, as a general rule, when it comes to locks, you get what you pay for most of the time.

You can read more in our article about how lock picking works here.

A Brief History of Lock Picking

Lock picking has been around for a long time, like a reaaaalllly long time! 

The first recorded use of lock picking dates back to ancient Egypt. Can you believe it? They used wooden keys to pick locks, and the technology evolved from there.

But in the Middle Ages, locks became widespread in Europe. And, of course, where there are locks, people are trying to pick them. 

The first lock pickers were blacksmiths, who would make keys for people and sometimes use their skills to open locks that weren’t their own. 

old lock from lock picking history

Eventually, lock picking became a specialized profession, and by the 18th century, there were even schools in Europe dedicated to teaching the art of lock picking. Who knew, right?

Why Do People Pick Locks as a Hobby?

Lock picking may seem like a strange hobby to take up as many people see it as a morally questionable activity, but this could not be further from the truth.

Lock picking is a hobby that requires patience, attention to detail, and problem-solving skills.

For many, the challenge of opening a lock draws them to the hobby. It’s like a puzzle that needs to be solved, and there’s a sense of satisfaction in being able to figure it out.

It can also be practical from time to time to open a lock if you forget your keys but, for some reason, have a set of lock picks.

Overall, whether it’s for fun or practical purposes, lock picking can be an intriguing and challenging hobby to take up. Just remember always to use your newfound skills ethically and responsibly.

Legality and Rules Around Lock Picking

If you are wondering, “ is this lock picking thing legal?” Then you are not alone.

The short answer is no, it is not illegal, but like many things, it depends… Just like it’s not illegal to own or use bolt cutters, they can be used in highly illegal ways.

The regulations and legality of carrying and using lockpicks vary depending on your location, so you should check your local laws if you are unsure.

For more information, we have a whole article on the legality of lock picking here.

How to Lockpick

You need the right tools, a tension wrench, a lock pick, some patience, and a steady hand to pick a lock.

All you need to do is use something to turn the lock the same way the key would while giving you access to the open keyway.

Next, you use a lockpick or another tool to reach into the lock and lift each pin one at a time. You must lift each one until the driver pin above the key pin stays in place. You keep repeating this until you have moved all the driver pins above the shear line, and the lock will open.

Note: This is only for a pin tumbler lock. Many types of locks, like disc-detainer and tubular locks, work differently from this.

How To Learn To Pick Locks

Ready to unlock a new skill? 

Learning to pick locks can be a fun and rewarding hobby. While you could start with hairpins and paperclips, getting the hang of it with a proper lock pick set is much easier. 

Practice lock and beginner lock picks

So why not give it a try? Let’s dive into lock picking and see what secrets we can uncover!

Now, where do you begin? First things first: get yourself a lock pick set. 

These sets come in all shapes and sizes, so research to find one that suits your needs. Once you have your tools in hand, it’s time to start practicing. Many resources are available online to help you learn the basics and improve your skills.

Let’s have a look at some of them now.

Lock Picking Youtubers

Lock picking has become such a popular hobby that there are now entire communities dedicated to it online. And YouTube is one of the best places to find tutorials, demonstrations, and general information about lock picking. Many popular YouTubers specialize in lock picking and have built up large followings.

These YouTubers not only teach their viewers how to pick locks, but also share their own experiences, tips, and tricks. Some of them even host competitions and challenges to see who can pick the toughest locks the fastest. 

So if you’re interested in learning more about lock picking, why not check out some popular lock-picking YouTubers and see what they offer?

Here is a list of must-watch lock picking YouTubers.

Lock Picking Books

history of locks

The Complete Guide To Lockpicking

by Eddie the Wire

This is a comprehensive guide to lockpicking that covers everything from the basics to advanced techniques. It’s easy to understand and includes detailed illustrations and step-by-step instructions.

history of locks

Practical Lock Picking: A Physical Penetration Tester’s Training Guide

by Deviant Ollam

This book is written for security professionals and covers lockpicking as a method of physical penetration testing. It includes practical advice and case studies to help readers understand the techniques and tools used in the field.

history of locks

Lock Picking: Detail Overkill

by Solomon Blaine

This is a highly technical guide to lockpicking that covers topics like lock mechanisms, key shapes, and lockpicking tools in great detail. It’s best suited for experienced lockpickers or those with a strong technical background.

history of locks

Keys to the Kingdom

by Deviant Ollam

This book is focused on the use of lockpicking as a tool for physical security testing in corporate environments. It includes case studies and practical advice for security professionals.

history of locks

Visual Guide to Lock Picking

by Mark McCloud and Gonzalez de Santos

This book is a visual guide to lockpicking that includes detailed photographs and illustrations of lock mechanisms and picking techniques. It’s suitable for beginners and experienced lockpickers alike.

history of locks

Open in Thirty Seconds: Cracking One of the Most Secure Locks in America

by Carl and David Hellman

This book tells the story of the Hellman brothers, who successfully picked the Medeco lock, which was considered one of the most secure locks in America at the time. It includes a detailed explanation of their techniques for picking the lock.

Articles and Online Resources

There are many, many resources online for learning lock picking. Here is a list of some of the best ones available.

The LockLabA website offering a wide variety of resources for lock picking enthusiasts, including videos, articles, and forums where users can share information and ask questions. They also offer a premium subscription service that provides exclusive content and support.
Reddit Lockpicking SubredditA community of lock picking enthusiasts on the popular social media platform Reddit. Members share information about picking techniques, tools, and equipment and provide support and advice to other members.
Locksport InternationalA non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the sport of lock picking as a legitimate hobby and educational pursuit. They offer a variety of resources, including online forums, educational resources, and competitions.
Lock Pickers UnitedA website offering a range of resources for lock picking enthusiasts, including forums, a wiki, and a marketplace for purchasing lock-picking tools and equipment. They also organize competitions and events for members.
The Open Organization of Lockpickers (TOOOL)An international organization dedicated to advancing the art of lock picking and promoting physical security education. TOOOL offers a variety of resources and training programs, as well as hosting lock-picking competitions and events.
The MIT Guide to Lock PickingA comprehensive guide to lock picking written by a former lock picker and MIT graduate. The guide covers a wide range of topics, including lockpicking techniques, tools, equipment, and the legal and ethical considerations of lock picking.

Practicing Lock Picking

The next step, once you have some lock picks and a few locks to practice on, watched some YouTube videos, and have read some articles on how lock picking works is to get started practicing! 

To start with any picking is good, and you should try to pick as many locks as you can get your hands on. Just don’t get frustrated if you can’t open them all straight away.

Once you start and get into the hobby, you may want to create a plan around how you practice lock picking to improve as fast as you can and continue to improve.

This article will help you create a plan for your lock picking practice to get the best results.

Techniques of Lock Picking

Lock picking is a catch-all term for many techniques and tools used to open locks. 

So let’s have a look at some of the most common ones.

Single-Pin Picking

Single pin picking is one of the most basic techniques used in lock picking. It involves using a tension wrench and a pick to manipulate each pin inside the lock individually until they are all set at the correct height to allow the lock to turn. 

single pin picking lock picks

This technique requires a good understanding of how locks work and a steady hand to set the pins at the correct height. 

Single-pin picking is a slow and methodical technique that can take some time to master, but it’s a valuable skill in your lock-picking arsenal.


Raking, also known as scrubbing or jiggling, is a faster and more aggressive technique than single-pin picking. 

rakes for raking open locks quickly

It involves using a pick with a series of ridges or bumps on end to quickly move the pins up and down inside the lock, hoping to set them all simultaneously. 

While not as precise as single-pin picking, raking can be useful for opening locks quickly and efficiently, especially if you’re working with a lock with low or medium security.

These are just two of the many techniques used in lock picking, and each requires a different set of skills and tools to master. 

With practice and perseverance, however, anyone can learn to pick locks like a pro. So why not try it and see what kind of locks you can open? 

Who knows, you might just discover a hidden talent for the art of lock picking!

Essential Lock Picking Tools

To pick any lock you will need some tools. But it can be a bit of a headache if you don’t know what you are looking for. 

For a beginner, the easiest thing you should do is to just get yourself an inexpensive lock pick set, and this will contain the basics to get you started. Even if most beginner kits contain many picks you will not use.

Lock Picking Kits

There are many lock picking kits available in the market, ranging from beginner to professional level. 

The beginner kits typically include a set of picks, a tension wrench, and other basic tools to help you get started. As you progress in your lock picking skills, you may want to invest in more advanced kits that offer a wider range of picks and tension tools.

Types of Lock Pick Tools

Lock picking is a skill that requires the right tools, and there are different types of lock pick tools available. 

lockpicks for locksport

The most common ones include tension wrenches, rake picks, hook picks, and diamond picks. Each tool serves a different purpose in opening a lock, and skilled lock pickers often have various tools at their disposal to handle different types of locks. 

With the right tools and practice, lock picking can be an engaging and rewarding skill.

For a more in-depth look at lock pick tools, here is our article with much more information.

The Lock Picking Community

There is a large, committed, and passionate online lock picking community. There are forums, Reddit, Facebook groups, and more where you can find all the information about lock picking that you will ever need. As well as celebrities like the LockPickingLawyer, LockNoob and BosnianBill


One of the biggest lock picking communities on the internet lives in the r/lockpicking subreddit. There you will find endless discussions about lock picks, techniques, and locks, and it is also the home of the lock picking belt ranking system.

Lock Picking Forums

There are several forums on the internet dedicated to lock picking. These usually have some of the most in-depth knowledge available. Here are some of the biggest ones:

Facebook Groups

One of the other great resources available is Facebook groups for lock picking. While these can be a little noisy and not as dedicated as Reddit or the forums, they can be a good place for a beginner to start. 

Here are some of the top Facebook groups for lock picking

There are smaller groups that you can find but these are by far the largest with the most activity.

Locks for Lock Picking

Lock picking only exists if there is something to pick. This entire activity is to open locks in ways that were not supposed to be opened.

This is an ever-advancing war between lock makers and lockpickers, the former continually trying to create locks that are harder and harder to pick and lockpickers continually improving their techniques and tools to open more and more secure locks.

Here is a list of practice locks that work great for getting started or advancing your skills

Types of Locks

Pin-tumbler locks are the most common you will come across in the world, and they are the best starting point for starting lock picking. But there are a lot more out there.

Here are some of the most common types, and each one uses different picking tools to be able to open them:

  • Wafer locks: With double-sided keys, wafer locks are what you will find in a car. Instead of pins, they use sliding metal wafers that interact with the key. They come in wide varieties of difficulty, from very easy to pick to highly advanced, and are one of the most common types of locks you will come across.
  • Dimple locks: Normally considered a higher-security alternative to a standard pin lock, dimple locks work in a similar way to a pin tumbler but have dimples on the sides of the key that the pins fall into rather than cut along the top edge.
  • Most people consider Tubular locks high-security; these will be seen in many places like lock boxes. Unfortunately, unless they have been manufactured specifically to resist it, picking these types of locks is very easy with an inexpensive tool you can get on eBay.

Impact of Lockpicking on the Security Industry

history of locks

While some companies don’t listen to the lock-picking community and continue to sell inferior products to unsuspecting consumers that don’t know any better.

Several others actively engage with the community and incorporate feedback from lock pickers to improve their products.

Tips to Improve Your Lockpicking

  • Watch YouTube videos to see the technique people use to open locks.
  • Start with a clear lock to understand how lock picking works.
  • If you are finding a lock hard to pick, try applying more or less tension while you pick the lock.
  • Get your hands on as many locks as you can to practice with. The more different locks you can practice with, the better.

Lock Picking FAQ’s

Does a Pick Proof Lock Exist?

No, there is no such thing as a pick-proof lock. There are only locks that are easier or harder to pick.

In theory, any lock can be picked; some have only been picked a couple of times. Such as the Bowley lock that only around five people in the world have picked.

Is Lockpicking a Cheap Hobby?

Lock picking is a relatively cheap hobby. The main cost of lock picking comes from where you get the locks that you will learn to pick with.

It will be very cheap if you can get them all for free from your home, friends, or possibly a locksmith. Then it will be very affordable. However, if you need to buy all the locks, it will be much more expensive.

Is Lock Picking Easy?

Yes, basic lock picking is easy to learn, and anyone can get started quickly with some essential tools.

But like many skills, there are many levels, ranging from beginner to highly advanced. Becoming a master lock picker takes many years of dedicated practice and experience.

Who is the World’s Best Lock Picker?

There is no “no.1 best lockpicker” in the world. This is because lockpickers have different skills and all locks are different, so it is tough to compare two pickers. 

Unlike players of a game like chess, where the game is very rigid, there is a clear winner.

Is Lock Picking a Good Skill?

Lock picking can be valuable if you’re always misplacing or losing your keys. It is also a widely practiced hobby. The key to learning this skill is understanding how locks and keys work. However, it’s important to note that lock picking can be illegal in some places if done without permission.

Can smart locks be picked?

Smart locks can be picked in much the same way as traditional locks as most smart locks have a traditional key as a backup for power loss or other potential issues. 

The only way a smart lock can be immune to lock picking is if it does not have a backup key. There are some smart locks that have this feature but it does come with its own risks in the case that the smart lock stops functioning.

Bottom Line

Lock picking is an interesting and challenging hobby that requires patience, precision, and attention to detail. 

The goal of lock picking is to manipulate the pins inside a lock using special tools, such as picks and tension wrenches, to align them to allow the lock to turn and open. 

Although lock picking has existed for centuries, it has only recently gained popularity as a hobby. 

lockpicking a padlock

It is important to remember that lock picking should only be used for legal purposes and never for breaking into someone else’s property. 

To get started with lock picking, one should invest in a lock pick set and practice regularly. There are also many online resources available, including popular lock-picking YouTubers who share their knowledge and experiences. 

As with any skill, practice makes perfect, and lock picking can be a rewarding and intriguing hobby when approached with the right mindset.

We hope you found this article useful. Please share it with a fellow, or future, lock picker!