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How to Pick a Lock in 3 Easy Steps [Guide + Videos]

How to Pick a Lock

Ready To Go Survival asks: You know that sinking feeling you get when you lose your keys?

A few years back, I went on a weekend “bug out” camping trip with a group of friends to test out new gear, train, and get nature time.

Coming home on Sunday night, I was excited to get back to my bed and finally get some rest.

As I prepared to enter my apartment, I rummage through my BOB only to realize that my keys were missing.

Although untrained in the art of lock picking, I had a set of picks in my bug out bag and was excited to put it to use. After an hour of maneuvering, I finally got the door open and avoided paying hundreds of dollars to a locksmith, or having my mom drive out an hour to drop off the spare set of keys.

If I had any level of training, that lock could have been picked in mere minutes (if not seconds) and saved me time as well. Now that I opened my first lock, I had the bug to learn more.

In today’s post, I go over the 3 step process that I learned to open most conventional locks.

DISCLAIMER: Before you start picking locks, you have to understand that this information is not intended for illegal activity. Lock picking itself can be a crime in certain places in the world, but more than anything, you should never use this skill to undermine someone’s home security measures. You need to follow the two rules of lock picking.

Never pick a lock you do not own or have not been given express permission to pick by the owner.
Do not pick locks that are in use. (A lock can be damaged by repeated picking).

If you can follow those rules, you just need to know how a lock works, and then you can get onto finding out how to pick a lock.

How Standard Locks Work

There are many different types of locks in use today, but the most common one you will encounter use a pin tumbler system. Most homes have deadbolts, common padlocks, and keyed knob sets, that use pin tumbler lock cores. The core of a lock is comprised of two sections.

Parts of a Lock

Anatomy of a lock to help you learn how to pick a lock

Anatomy of a lock. Picture courtesy of art-of-lockpicking.com

The first section of a lock core is “the plug”. This is the part of the lock that you insert the key into. The plug will rotate when the correct key is inserted, actuating a bolt or latch so that the device unlocks.

The rotation of the plug turns a tailpiece or cam on the back of the lock core, which controls locking and unlocking. If the plug does not rotate the correct way or does not rotate at all, the lock will not open.

Within the plug, there are pins stacked on top of each other. The lowest pins in the stack that the key will touch are called “key pins”. On top of those are the driver pins. These stacks are tensioned by the downward pressure of springs that rest on the driver pins.

The driver pins need to be elevated out of the plug (compressing the springs above them) and into the second part of the lock core, “the bible”. The bible is the housing that holds the plug, the gap that separates the two (allowing the plug to turn) is called “the shear line”.

When the proper key is placed in the lock, the pins stacks will rise so that the driver pins are in the bible, and the key pins remain in the plug. Each will pin type will be above or below the shear line, respectively. If the key is not right, the pins will not be elevated to the proper height and pins will not clear the shear line and this will keep the plug from rotating.

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