How to Choose the Perfect Practice Locks for Lock Picking
The key to getting better at any task is practice. But unfortunately, when it comes to lockpicking, there is a large number of locks out there that are marketed as practice locks, and it can be a little daunting trying to decide which ones to get, which ones will be useful, and which ones should be thrown straight in the trash.
We’ll help you learn how to choose the right locks to practice lockpicking. Keep reading!
What Options Are There For Training Locks?
In general, there are five main options out there for practice locks:
As a new or experienced lockpicker, avoid locks that are too far outside your skill level. These more challenging locks will be frustrating and prevent you from making positive progress in the skill.
TLDR: Jump straight to the list of practice locks
By beginning with practice locks, you can gain positive feedback and have a more rewarding first experience going into the hobby. After opening these training locks, they will serve as a baseline and fall back for when you encounter a harder-to-pick lock.
Each option has its pros and cons. The price will vary quite a bit depending on which route you go. My first practice lock was a Master Lock No.1 lying around my house.
A good quality first practice lock can be found for free. We recommend looking around your own house or asking your friends and family for any discarded locks.
You will find that quality practice locks will cost $15-$40, and some types (such as cutaway locks) can go up to $95.
Let’s take a look at each of the different options!
After you have some training locks check out this guide for practicing lock picking to help you get the most out of your practice time and improve quickly.
Acrylic locks are encased in colorless acrylic plastic and are perfect for a beginner. This allows you to see inside the lock and help you understand the mechanics of what is happening.
Acrylic locks are marketed as practice locks and often come included in beginner sets of picks available from many places on the internet. By picking your first acrylic lock, you would qualify for the White Belt on the lockpicking Reddit.
The most significant advantage of these practice locks is that they are transparent. You can see inside an acrylic lock, which allows you to see which pin you’re manipulating and build an understanding of what is happening inside the lock as you pick it.
This is very important as nearly all locks prevent this, so a see-through lock allows you to see and, really importantly, feel what is happening as you push the pins to the shear line.
They’re Easy to Pick
Acrylic locks typically have relatively mild bitting (the differences in height between adjacent key pins) and don’t usually contain security pins. This makes them easy to pick open and will help build up a new picker’s confidence.
Positive experiences like this will encourage you to challenge yourself with tougher locks where you can’t see the internal mechanisms.
You Learn to Rely on Your Eyes
Acrylic locks teach lockpickers to rely on their eyes when picking a lock. This is a bad habit because real locks aren’t transparent. Lockpickers need to learn to feel what’s happening inside a lock, and although an acrylic lock can help visualize a lock’s workings, they aren’t as good at teaching to feel what’s happening.
Thankfully this can be resolved by closing your eyes while picking or covering the lock with tape after successfully picking it open regularly.
They’re Relatively Poor Quality
As far as locks go, acrylic locks are not built to last. They’re designed to be produced dirt cheap, and en masse, so the tolerances in the lock are pretty loose. This can make getting feedback from the pins harder, which compounds the problem of them teaching you to rely on your eyes instead of feeling.
Some acrylic locks are built to such poor tolerances that they can be opened simply by applying pressure to the turning tool without reaching in and manipulating any pins. Unfortunately, this false sense of security or success will hurt you down the line as you encounter even the easiest of standard locks.
Acrylic locks are suitable for when you’re just starting out to help understand what’s going on in a lock when you’re picking it. That’s about it.
In our experience, these locks are quickly picked and forgotten. They are nice to have around when you want to introduce others to the hobby and give them an idea of how locks work.
If you decide to purchase one, get some other practice locks off this list and apply what you learn on them as you gain experience.
Cutaway locks are another excellent option for beginners. They look like standard locks but have an opening in the side that allows you to see inside of them.
The difference between cutaway and acrylic locks is that acrylic locks are not re-pinnable, and you can see everything happening within the lock. Whereas cutaways are not transparent, the window cut into them allows you to see how the pins move as you interact with them.
Cutaway locks are usually of much higher quality than acrylic locks as well. For around $25, you are getting an option that would challenge you as a beginner and allow you to increase the difficulty as you progress.
You Can See the Pins
As with acrylic locks, the main draw is that you can see inside them. While you can’t see the entire mechanics of a cutaway lock, you can still see the pins move as you manipulate them.
Thus they are a step above acrylic locks in the sense that there is some mystery to what is happening.
They’re Higher Quality Than Acrylic Locks
Some cutaway locks are made from functional locks, like this one from Covert Instruments. Some lock pickers have made cutaway locks from their own locks, but this is quite advanced and not something for a beginner.
We recommend looking at manufactured cutaway locks. These locks are designed and built as cutaway locks, so they have clean-cut lines and securely hold the internal pieces of the lock.
The higher quality of these locks ensures that the lock’s mechanics will work as designed and may include other features like different pin types.
Option to Re-Pin
Some cutaway locks allow you to re-pin them. This is primarily a great option to have down the line. Re-pinning a lock takes some skill, but once you can do that, you can create your own “challenge locks”.
By re-pinning the lock, you can insert security pins in the chambers. You could rearrange the pins, so their heights would be different and change the feel of the internals.
This important option can level up a beginner practice lock to as high as you would like to go, with the ability to increase the lock’s difficulty on your terms.
They Have Holes In the Sides
This is how cutaway locks work; they have holes cut in them that allow you to see the mechanisms. Unfortunately, this also would defeat the purpose of using them in any security applications.
Some cutaway locks can be damaged with a drop, thus causing the internals to fall out, but a quality cutaway will not have that issue.
As stated above, a high-quality cutaway lock can cost up to $95. However, even cheaper cutaway locks, such as the Cut Away Lock from Sparrows, cost at least $20 and don’t offer any security application options. So if you want a cutaway lock, be prepared to spend quite a bit of cash.
A good step up from acrylic locks, but they may cost a bit more. A cutaway lock could be a great place to begin and allow you to grow.
If you can purchase a cutaway lock that can be re-pinned, we believe you could skill up into an intermediate in a cost-efficient manner. Of course, this would require additional cost and equipment, but it could prove well worth it.
A good quality cutaway lock would be a solid starting place for someone who can afford to spend a little bit of money to explore the hobby and challenge their skills.
Progressively Pinned Locks
Progressively pinned locks are a set of locks that are all pinned with the same bitting (the height of the key pins in each slot). The trick is that the starting lock only contains two pins; the next includes three pins, four, and so on.
A set of progressively pinned locks provides a slowly increasing challenge as you work your way up through the set, allowing you to build up your skills slowly and progress when you feel ready.
The Difficulty Increases Gradually
The progressive nature of these locks is a huge plus. After cracking the first lock open, you move up to the next one and the next, increasing your skill by gradually picking harder and harder locks.
The increasing number of pins does increase the difficulty. However, an ideal set would increase the pin count and introduce a security pin or two toward the end.
They Allow You To Progress At Your Own Pace
You don’t have to move up to the next lock in the set. Instead, you can keep picking one lock until you’re confident, then move up when you feel ready. This allows you to learn at a comfortable pace rather than having to advance when you don’t feel ready.
The flexibility of revisiting a previous lock quickly, without having to re-pin or re-purchase a lock, is a great option. In addition, this will allow you to master some fundamental basic techniques without additional work.
We think a beginner lockpicker will quickly outgrow a progressively pinned lock set’s first two or three locks. With this knowledge, you may realize you are getting half the set for the price of a full one.
If you can find a set with around four or five locks, with the final lock containing a security pin or two, at $30-$40, then you are in luck. Again, this would be a great place to start as a beginner and gradually allow you to level up to an intermediate upon picking the complete set.
Another way to increase the value of the set would be to look for re-pinnable progressive sets. This would allow you to create your own progressive locks but with some additional work and cost.
If you can afford them, these are great tools to add to your collection. They introduce you slowly and build you up to a level where you’re essentially picking real-world locks. Once you’re comfortable with a standard set of progressively pinned locks, try to find a set that includes security pins to learn how to pick them similarly.
We recommend shopping around and finding a quality set that provides good value and medium-term challenges and growth.
These practice locks are more aimed at beginners, especially the two or three-pin locks. Sparrow sells a set for under $30, a reasonable price, but we think you won’t touch half of the progressive locks after your first day with them.
Drilled and Tapped Locks
A drilled and tapped lock is a normal lock body, but with one change: the tops of the key chambers have screw threads tapped into them, allowing you to secure the pins with a removable set screw. This means that you can unscrew the screws, dump out the contents of the lock, and re-pin it however you want without having to gut and reassemble the lock completely.
They’re Highly Versatile
A drilled and tapped lock will come with a set of different-length key pins, standard driver pins, and security driver pins, allowing you to configure it in virtually any conceivable manner.
You don’t have to fill in all the pin chambers, so you can set it up anywhere from a single-pin lock that comes open if you look at it funny all the way up to a six-pin monster where you’re exploring extreme bitting, serrated pins, and counter-rotation.
The exact pins you get depend on the supplier you get them from. There is a range of options for these locks.
Covert Instruments sells one with some regular, spool, and serrated driver pins. Sparrows sell one that comes with regular, spool, serrated, and mushroom pins.
These types of locks can be on the pricier end of things. For example, the one from Covert Instruments costs $50. On top of this, drilled and tapped locks don’t usually come with the equipment needed to use them effectively.
The need for additional tools can increase the cost to around $60-$70 – plus shipping. A good option for storing the pins in is a pill caddy – they already have multiple little chambers so that you can separate your pins by length and type, so you don’t confuse them.
Oh yes. Lock pins are relatively small, and each chamber contains two pins, a spring, and a screw. On top of that, you’re constantly worrying that you’ll lose one of the pins down the back of the couch or that somebody will bump you and spill the pins all over the carpet.
Two pins that are only one size different from each other can have less than half a millimeter difference in length, so if the pins aren’t color-coded, then there’s a lot of holding them next to each other to compare the lengths.
Handling these pins and springs may require you to buy a lock gutting kit, which would be an additional cost to consider.
They Can Take a While to Repin
With other locks, you grab a different lock. With a drilled and tapped lock, you’ve got to undo all the set screws, dump out the contents, sort them back into their containers, get out the new pins, put them in the lock, and do up all the screws again.
If you want to grab a lock and pick it up, then the time it takes to re-pin a drilled and tapped lock can get to be a little annoying and slow your progress.
If you can handle the fiddliness and the time it takes to re-pin, then a drilled and tapped training lock is possibly the best thing you can have in your collection.
These locks give you much control and flexibility regarding what you want to challenge your skills with. If you don’t want to deal with messing around with all the pins, springs, and stuff, then you may want to get a set of progressively pinned locks.
Practicing on the locks you get from the hardware store is the ultimate way to practice. Buying the right practice lock will be the hardest step.
You can go over the lockpicking Reddit’s belt rankings and use that to narrow your list. By looking for locks on the lower tiers, under the White and Yellow belts, you’ll understand what to get when it comes to your first, second, and third training locks.
After going over the advantages and drawbacks of actual locks, let’s look at a few ones you can use to practice on.
Where to Get Used Locks
The first place to look for your first practice lock is your own house. You may already have a cheap hardware store lock or a Master Lock from moving or using a school locker.
After searching around your house, we recommend looking on Facebook Marketplace, OfferUp, or Craigslist. Research for things like “Master Lock”, “clear plastic lock”, or “padlocks,” and explore your area.
Thrift stores may also be an option, but we have had little luck there. Antique and consignment stores will have old-school locks, but their level of security may range quite a bit, so some research may be required.
Standard or actual traditional locks are the real deal. This is what you are practicing for, so trying to open these locks will give you motivation and a lot of encouragement once you get them open for the first time.
Think of this as hands-on training. Being able to hold and handle a functioning lock is the end goal and how the best in the hobby practice themselves.
No Two Locks Are the Same
You could buy a handful of the same lock model, but each would pick differently. Having a handful of such locks would require approaching each as a blank slate.
These locks would allow you to focus on improving your overall skills and not just focusing on how to open one lock. By repeatedly practicing on different standard pinned locks, you will soon master that and could move on to locks that feature security pins or narrow keyways.
Price Range Varies
Understandably, as you begin to purchase higher security locks, they become more and more expensive. Thankfully there are options for most budgets if you shop around.
Beginner to intermediate locks are affordable ($10-$20). You can find cheaper locks on Facebook Marketplace, garage sales, lockpicking club meets, or consignment stores.
Buying used isn’t an issue. Whether a lock comes with a key or not won’t matter; make sure to look up the make and model to ensure you aren’t buying a lock way outside your skill level.
Best Practice Locks
Using the list below, we will help you identify specifically which locks you should be on the lookout for.
Master Lock #1 and #2
These Master Locks are ranked under the White belt, are relatively cheap, and easy to find, thus a great place to start. My local hardware store and MegaMart-type store sell a brass Brink lock that has proven to be a solid beginner lock.
These locks are great for practicing single-pin picking and raking. In addition, it will be a great lock to have to test new picks, learn the fundamentals, and experiment with tension.
Master Lock #3 and #7
The Master Lock #3 features what’s called a paracentric keyway – the wards, the bits of metal that stick out where the keyway zig-zags, stick out across the centerline of the keyway, restricting the amount of space that you can fit a pick into, so they are an excellent soft introduction to what you will likely encounter down the line.
The Master Lock #7 is similar to #3, but it’s smaller, so you will be required to practice getting into narrow keyways, a common feature of upper-level locks. Don’t be surprised if you break a pick or two in one of these locks.
Master Lock #140 and #141
Master Lock 141 has four pins but has a more narrow keyway than other Master Locks mentioned. As a result, it’s an excellent lock to work on your Yellow belt.
The original version of the Master Lock 141, with an uncovered metal body made out of brass. As well as not having a plastic cover, the 140 has a big difference from its brother: it contains a spool pin. As a result, the 140 serves as an excellent introduction to the world of security pins.
Once you’ve picked the Master Lock 140 and its single spool pin, why not try an Abus 55/40, another lock on the Yellow belt list? This lock is a casual step into higher security locks, as it contains three spool pins. An Abus 55/40 will provide a nice challenge for beginner pickers looking to improve their skills.
The Abus 55/40 is an affordable lock and will be a nice challenge for a beginner lockpicker. However, we recommend adding it to your collection early on.
The Abus 83/40 is a solid lock to challenge any intermediate lockpicker and gain your Orange belt. The lock contains five pins, each a spool pin; thus, it will be a formidable challenge for a new lockpicker.
With such a challenge, a lockpicker will practice and get familiar with false sets and understand how to read tension. We highly recommend this lock once you get comfortable picking the Abus 55/40.
American Locks 1100 Series
This is a highly recommended lock for advanced-level pickers! The 1100 series is a Green belt lock, as it comes with a whopping five or six security pins, depending on the model you get, with a mix of serrated pins and special serrated-spool pins. To make matters worse, some of the key pins also feature serrations.
This would be a great lock to pick up once you feel comfortable picking a lock with multiple security pins. Also, locks like the 1100 series are great for having long-term goal locks.
Practice Lock Belt Rankings
The Locksport community has created a belt ranking system to show the levels of pickers judged by what locks they are able to pick. These need to be confirmed by video proof that the picker was actually able to pick the lock.
We have included a cut-down list of locks in the ranking list. If you want to see the complete list then you can find it here.
- Acrylic Padlocks
- Any lock with any tool
- Cutaway Locks
- Master Lock #1
- Master Lock #2
- Master Lock #3
- Master Lock #4
- Master Lock #5
- Master Lock #6
- Master Lock #7
- Master Lock #8
- Abus 55/30
- Abus 84/35
- ACE laminated 40mm padlock
- Assa Abloy Tesa TE-5
- Master Lock 130
- Master Lock 140, 141
- Master Lock 4140
- Master Lock 930
- Master Lock DG
- Schlage Mortise
- Squire 440
- Squire 660
- Squire Defiant
- Abus 45/50
- Abus 55/40
- Abus 64Ti Titalium
- Abus 65/40
- Abus 83 /40
- Abus C51
- Abus Cisa
- Abus Monobloc
- Abus Ti12
- Abus Titalium 54TI/50
- Brinks House Key
- Brinks Weatherproof Padlock
- Garrison Brass Padlock
- Kasp 160 series Diskus
- Lockwood 110/40 (or bigger)
- Master Lock 150
- Master Lock 4150
- Master Lock 532
- Master Lock 570, 575, 576
- Sargent Mortise
- Trelock Euro Cylinder
- Yale 125/40
- Yale 74424
- Yale Mortise
- Yale Y110/40
- Abus 72/40
- Abus 76/40
- Abus Bravus
- Abus C73
- Abus C83
- Abus C90
- Abus E-series
- Abus Titalium 80TI
- Abus V14
- Abus XV14
- Abus Y14
- Abus W14
- Abus XD25
- Abus Xp10
- American Lock 1100
- American Lock A1100
- American Lock S1100
- American Lock 2000 puck lock
- American Lock 5200
- American Lock 700
- Commando IC3 Tactical
- Commando Marine
- Commando Peacemaker
- Kryptonite 6-pin padlock
- Lockwood 120/40 or Larger
- Master Lock 410
- Master Lock 6835
- Master Lock 911
- Master Lock 931
- Master Lock Pro Series
- Master Lock S32
- Mul-T-Lock 7X7
- Paclock 100a/g
- Paclock 90a/g
- Paclock UCS
- Sargent Mortise
- Abus Bravus 3000
- Abus D10
- Abus KV14 / KY14 / KW14
- Abus XP1
- ASSA 500
- ASSA 700
- ASSA Flexcore
- Chubb Cruiser
- Cisa Astral S
- ERA Fortress
- Federal Lock 6KD3110
- Kryptonite Disk Detainer
- Lockwood 270S70
- Lockwood 334B45
- Lockwood 356S63
- Lockwood V7
- Mauer RedLine G
- Mauer RedLine GM
- Medeco Biaxial
- Medeco BiLevel
- Medeco Original Camlock
- Metal Zx5J
- Mottura Champion
- Mul-T-Lock Classic
- Mul-T-Lock Integrator
- Paclock 90A Pro
- Paclock PL410
- Union 2100
- Yale 500 series
- Yale Superior
- Zeiss Ikon
- Abus Bravus 4000
- Abus TS5000
- Abus XP20s / XP2s / Cisa AP3 / Bricard xp s2
- Agent LS3 / LS4 / LS5
- ASSA 600
- ASSA Desmo
- ASSA Guideline
- ASSA Twin Combi
- Federal Lock UCF3100
- BiLock Certain variations
- Chubb Biaxial
- EVVA DPI/DPS/DPX/EPS (Slider version)
- Kwikset Smartkey
- Lockwood MT5
- Lockwood Twin
- M&C Color / Color Pro / Color+ (≥4 sliders) / Vachette V-DIS / V-DIS+
- M&C Condor / M&C Move
- M&C Matrix
- Medeco Biaxial / M3 Camlock
- Medeco Original / Biaxial / M3
- Mul-T-Lock Jr / Classic / Interactive
- Mul-T-Lock MT5
- Mul-T-Lock Omega Plus
- Sargent Signature
- Schlage Everest 29SL
- Yale 5000
- Yale Superior
- Milencio Magnum
- Van Lock
- Mauer Nw5
- Abus Plus
- Gerda Tytan Zx
- Assa D12
- Vachette Radial Nt
- Mul-t-lock Interactive
- Dierre New Power
- Gerda Hss
- Gerda Rim 6000
- Kaba Gemini
- Bricard Chifral
- Miwa Ps
- Fichet 666
- Mauer Nw4
- Lips Octro
- Assa P600
- Kaba Gemini Plus
- Mul-t-lock Classic
- Evva Ics
- Abloy Classic
- Bks Janus
- Evva 3ks
- Kaba Star
- Miwa U9
- Kaba Expert
- Abus Plus
- Vachette Radial Nt
- Banham M2002
- Miwa Pr
- Goal V18
- Kaba Quattro
- Dom Rs 8
- Goal Z
- Chubb 3g110
- Kaba Penta
- Dom Ix Saturn
- Jpm Surf
- Evva 4ks
- Evva Mcs
- Abloy Protec2
- Abloy Exec
- Evva Ics
- Bks Janus
- Dom Diamant
- Evva 3ks
- Kaba Star
- Miwa U9
- Kaba Expert
- Kaba 20
- Bowley Padlock
- Bowley Door Lock
- Fichet F3d
- Miwa Pr
- Goal V18
- Abloy Sentry
- Kaba Quattro
- Assa Twin Combi
- Mul-t-lock Mt5+
- Dom Ix Twinstar
- Goal Z
- Kaba Penta
- Fichet 484
Practice is essential when it comes to all kinds of skills. For example, in lockpicking especially, it is crucial to maintain the feel of how locks work and judge how much tension and touch are needed.
Lockpickers of every level need practice to maintain and improve this talent. Beginners should focus on fundamentals and learn how locks work and what is happening as they manipulate the pins and core.
Intermediate-level lockpickers should focus on locks that gradually challenge them with the inclusion of security pins. Advanced lockpickers, like the LockPickingLawyer, practice challenging locks and picking locks of all varieties multiple times over.
Finding your first practice lock is essential to becoming a talented lockpicker.
All the best, and feel free to comment with any thoughts or questions regarding this article!