How to Pick a Lock: The Complete Guide | The Art of Manliness

  Lock Picking Technique

  Lock picking is more art than science. You definitely have to develop a “feel” for it. Each lock is different, but the same basic principles apply. The easiest way to pick a lock is to use the fast and dirty method: scrubbing.

  1. Insert Tension Wrench into the Bottom of Key Hole and Apply Slight Pressure


  The tension wrench is the key (no pun intended) to successfully picking a lock. Thanks to video games, people wrongfully think it’s the pick, because that is the thing that’s actually lifting the key pins to line up with the shear line.

  Here’s why the tension wrench is so important: as you’re lifting the pin sets with your pick you need to apply tension on the plug. If you’re applying the right amount of torque on the plug, once the driver pin passes the shear line, the plug will rotate slightly. When you pull your pick out, the key pin will drop back down, but the driver pin will catch the edge of the plug, thus staying above the shear line. Here’s a diagram of what it looks like:


  You’ll keep lifting pins with your pick and applying pressure with your tension wrench, until all the driver pins have cleared the shear line.

  So far so good? Alrighty.

  So take your tension wrench and place it in the bottom of the key hole. Apply slight pressure in the direction you would turn the key if you had it. And by slight I mean slight. If you apply too much pressure, you’re just going to cause the driver pins to bind below the shear line. You need to have enough give to let the driver pins rise above the shear line, but have enough torque that when they start dropping down, an edge of the drive pin catches the plug as it starts to rotate.

  How much is too much pressure? If your tension wrench is bending a lot, then you’re probably applying too much pressure. So lean on the side of applying less pressure than more.

  2. Insert Pick at Top of Lock


  Pick your pick. I prefer the Bogota rake that has three ridges. This one has picked every lock that I’ve used it on very easily.

  Slide the rake all the way to the back.

  3. While Applying Slight Torque to Your Wrench, Scrub Your Pick Back and Forth in the Key Hole

  Keep applying that slight pressure on your tension wrench. I use my left hand for that. With your right hand, scrub or rake the inside of the plug with your pick. As you pull the pick back, simultaneously lift up in order to apply pressure on the pins. It looks sort of like this motion:


  4. Repeat Until All the Pins Set

  Keep applying torque on your wrench and scrubbing the pins until they all set. You may need to apply more torque and pressure on the pins with your pick as you get near the last one or two pins that need to set. If you’re not making any progress, you probably applied too much torque with the wrench. Relax, let the pins reset, and start over again, focusing on not using too much pressure.

  That’s it! Really. That’s all there is to it. You can successfully pick most pin and tumbler locks using this scrubbing method.

  You may run across locks that require a little bit more finesse by picking each pin set one at a time. In these trickier locks, you may need to get more methodical by looking for the pin stack that resists the most and picking it first and then repeating the process until all the pins are successfully picked.Practice, Practice, Practice


  Like I said above, lock picking is more art than science. The best way to learn how to do it is to simply pick locks as much as possible. Buy yourself different pin and tumbler locks at the hardware store and keep them on your desk or by your couch. When you’re taking a break from work or while you’re watching TV, practice picking. I’ve got three or four locks in my drawer that I’ll bust out during the day for practice sessions.

  You’re one step closer to becoming Jason Bourne. Remember, use this knowledge for fun or for legal entries. If you’re going to burgle, only burgle hamburgers. Robble, robble.

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