How to Pick Locks: Tools and Techniques for Private Detectives

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How to pick locks
Learn about the tools and techniques used to pick locks.

What is Lock Picking?

Lock picking is an art. Some locks are easy to pick while some others need a lot of skill along with special tools and techniques. If you intend to become an expert locksmith, it is important to know different kinds of locks and be able to work with them. You have to know the companies that make locks that are most commonly used and see how they design them. Only then will you be able to have the right tools and be in a position to pick locks on the go.

Commonly used lock picking techniques

Different kind of locks will need the use of various tools and techniques to unlock them. Here are some off the most common techniques used by locksmiths to open locks of different kinds.

Raking or scrubbing is usually used to get started with picking a lock. In this technique, you use a torque wrench to apply torque to the cylinder of the lock, and push individual pins upwards using a lock pick. The lock pick should ideally be wide-tipped so you can push all the pins up in one go.

Vibration pick or gun is used mainly by law enforcers for quick picking of locks. When struck along with a light use of force on the cylinder of the lock, it pushes all the pins up to the top of the well. This creates a space temporarily to pry open the lock if you get your timing right.

Bumping makes use of specially designed bump keys. These keys are designed slightly differently from that of the manufacturer’s, with the cuts slightly lower and the piece of metal removed from the shoulder of the key. Striking the bump key hard creates an impact similar to using a vibrator pick which separates the pins temporarily, creating a space to unlock.

Tubular locks and combination locks may require other specialized techniques, depending on how well they are built. If they are poorly built simple locks, they can simply be picked using a padlock shim. Specialized locks will require you to improvise on the spot, which is only possible if you are good at what you do.

Basic lock picking tools

There are different tools that you will need to pick different kinds of locks. But there are also some very basic tools that are necessary to start the process of picking a lock. Here is a list of some of the very common tools required for picking the most common locks-

  • Lock picks for single ball, double ball, small and large diamond, long and short hook, C and S rake locks
  • Torque wrench or tension wrench
  • Padlock shims for single latch and spring-operated latch padlocks
  • Broken key extractor
  • Slim jim for car door locks

Lock picking is a skill that improves only with practice, no matter how much you may read or know about picking locks. So get some common locks of different kinds and start practicing your skills on them so you can be on your way to becoming an expert locksmith.

Lock Picking Books

Have you ever wondered how to pick a lock?  It looks so simple on TV and in the movies.  Someone walks up to a door, slips in a special tool (sometimes even a simple credit card) and the door miraculously opens.  It may not be as easy as it looks, but you too can learn the tricks for bypassing locks with these helpful lock picking books and reference guides. These “how-to” lock picking reference books will explain:

  • How different types of locking mechanisms and keys are designed, and how to understand the type you are dealing with
  • The tools that private investigators and police use to gain access to a secured door
  • How to pick a door like a pro using basic tools
  • How to pick a combination lock
  • How to pick a tubular device
  • Learn techniques such as shimming, bumping and bypassing
  • Where to buy the equipment that is necessary to perform the job

Although it is unlawful to do so in most circumstances, private detectives may find themselves in situations where breaking in to a particular location may be necessary. Let’s face it, sometimes an investigator has to bend the rules to get the information needed to find a lead or break the case. While it is difficult to pick up all of the necessary skills simply from reading, books will help you understand the basics.

Following is a list of best-selling books and reference manuals on the subject:

Visual Guide to Lock Picking (Third Edition)

The definitive guide for learning the art of lock breaking includes graphical illustrations for how it is done. This guide explains the many different types of latches and the step-by-step instructions to circumvent their protective features. Having visual images makes understanding the process much easier. This book is great for both for private investigators, security personnel and locksmiths.


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

An instruction manual that is geared toward penetration testers and information security professionals who test the ease or difficulty of breaking latches or bolts. The book includes detailed diagrams and easy to follow instructions. It discusses techniques used by professionals such as shimming, bumping and bypassing. Includes a helpful DVD with videos and color images. In addition, the appendix explains the tools that are available to support your needs.


Secrets Of Lock Picking

This book reveals the tricks and tools for bypassing key and combination locks with pin tumblers, mushroom and spin, warded, tubular cylinders, magnetic, padlocks, and car door locks.

Buy these and other Lock Picking Books at Amazon.com.

Additional Resources

Following are recommended tools and resources for picking locks.

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