How to Pick Locks: Tools and Techniques for Private Detectives

picking a lock

Picking locks 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.

Following are recommended tools and resources for picking locks.


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