Lockpicking Kicks Ass

I was first turned on to the idea of ethical lockpicking from Bryan at ITS Tactical. I used his instructions to make my first pick and torsion wrench from a pair of paperclips – And it works! Since then, I can’t say I’ve done much, but the little I have done and learned has been 100% enjoyable. Now let’s be clear here. Ethical lockpicking is a process of education and sport. One of the major organizations out there for this is TOOOL and there’s several chapters around the world. Another is Locksport International. These are good places to start gathering knowledge and mission statements.

Last year, I wrote this post where I talked a little bit about some of the things we could consider for the security of our homes and also workplaces as applicable. A basic measure is to improve all critical locks (esp. front and back doors). The best way to find out which locks are the best for you is by learning which ones are the most difficult to defeat. And the best way to learn which ones are the most difficult to defeat is to try it yourself! I guarantee that you’ll learn much more that way, and not only will you have a useful skill set that could save you significant expense and hassle, you’ll at least have some idea of how long a particular lock would last at the hands of a determined criminal. And, you’ll get to keep your padlocks, bike locks, combo locks, etc. without having to cut them off. Win-win!

Obviously, if you don’t lock your doors or you let in people you shouldn’t let in, it’s not going to do much for you. Likewise, if you leave easier entryways, criminals will simply bypass the lock entirely. Or, they could just break their way in. That is why one measure alone is not a great deterrent. Even the best measures work better when coupled with others. However, if you suspect that a criminal has defeated your lock to get into wherever they’re not supposed to be (and made sure they’re still not there or coming back!), you can check out Lockpicking Forensics to get much more technical information. Of course, things like the surface of the pins and stuff will require special tools if you want to keep the lock intact, but examining the face of the lock and other external signs is something you can do with the naked eye or simple tools.

Well, we really haven’t gotten to what can make ethical lockpicking so darn fun. Here’s some personal experience from me to you.

To start with, here’s a good guideline I follow: I will only pick locks that belong to me or those that I have explicit permission to pick. I have not always followed this to the letter, but more on that in a moment.

Using a paperclip pick, the first of a few locks I opened in such a manner was actually one of those “Shot Lock” things that by law have to come with rifles and shotguns and the like. They’re totally BS and serve not the ostensible purpose, but I did use it to lock the back gate for a while. And it made a pretty good padlock-style practice lock! Let me tell you, the exhilaration of picking a lock open for the first time is fantastic. How can this be? All these years, I could only open a lock if I had the proper key. Now I, myself, have managed to do so without a key? It’s like an entire world has opened up to you and it truly has. It is something that inspires confidence in oneself.

I continued to practice on that for a while and get a technique down. I tend to do a mix between raking the lock and picking individual pins – If the raking isn’t really going anywhere, I feel around for the last one or two pins and pick them individually. The next padlock I opened was for a friend. It was much sturdier, but it took no more than one or two minutes to unlock regardless. We were having a cook-out at his place on the patio but the deck chairs were wrapped and chained. He didn’t have a key with him so I offered to unlock it. He was on board with the idea and everyone was at once impressed and a little shocked at just how easy it was to do so. Cook-out crisis averted and we ate the best burgers I’ve ever had.

The next time I picked open a padlock was when I strayed from the guideline. These locks I did not have explicit nor express permission to pick and they were not mine. However, they were in the trash and it was clear they were no longer being used. They were attached to broken, empty former suggestion boxes made of cheap plywood and the braces holding the locks in place weren’t even attached anymore. Perhaps I shouldn’t have messed with them but it turned out fine in this case. These were very small, though, and for them and my friend’s padlock, I used this composite Jack knife-style multi-pick. The tools are rather thin and not too strong, but it’s light and at home on your keychain (somehow, that’s fitting). Anyway, in just a minute or so, both were open and I put them back in the boxes with a little note.

Where I haven’t encountered success (yet) is the front door to my home and trying to shim open one of my combination locks with shims cut from strips of soda cans. That’s part of the fun, though. You try and try and when you feel the lock give way, man, that is one of the best feelings in the world. All it takes to start is locks that you own and shaping a couple paperclips, and I know we all got those. If you’re interested at all, first makes sure whether carrying picks around is frowned upon in your state. Don’t worry if it is, you can always practice at home. If you’ve been looking for something to keep your hands busy, I’d highly recommend stepping into the world of lockpicking.

Stay tuned, and stay safe.
-DH

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~ by demonhide on June 4, 2013.

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