How to Pick Locks

Lockpicking is one of the most useful skills for an Intelligence Officer who finds themselves on the wrong side of information they need to access. Many times it’s useful to be able to open a door, such as when you lock yourself out of your home or car, or lose the key to a padlock.

Luckily, learning to pick locks is relatively easy. After reviewing the resources below you’ll have a basic understanding of how different lock technologies work and can then examine the further reading section for more comprehensive resources. Good luck!

Lock Picks

This is an example of a set of lock picks. The pick you choose is used with a tension wrench. You can see the hook pick and the rake here from

The tension wrench is inserted into the lock in order to create tension, and then the pick is inserted in order to push the pins in the lock up to the “shear line.” When all the pins are lined up above the shear line, the lock will open:









Padlocks are the simplest locks to pick so I recommend starting here. A Master Lock number 3 (pictured) is a good lock to start with. A Master Lock can be raked or pin picked,

I learned to pick a Master Lock #3 in a few hours.

Warded Locks

Warded locks are a specific type of simple lock mechanism that is used in old style locks (since the pin tumbler lock above wasn’t invented until the 1840s.) Warded locks use an obstruction in order to prevent the wrong key from fitting. This means that many potential keys will open a warded lock.

The black Master Lock is the warded version.

The jagged plug (where the key enters) is a convenient way to tell if you’re dealing with a warded lock. You’ll also note the lock uses simple obstructions rather than a set of cuts and grooves like in a pin tumbler lock.

Warded Picks

Warded picks are used to defeat warded locks, they have a variety of simple shapes to defeat the warded lock. They are sometimes referred to as skeleton keys, however this may also describe replicas that are not designed to actually work in locks.

Try-Out (Auto) Keys

Try-out keys are similar to bump keys above, but designed to accommodate auto locks which are a form of disc lock. Your car key is not unique, and so try out keys are available for most brands that allow auto locksmiths to open them.

They are sometimes called auto jigglers because a jiggling motion will help you open the lock.

Bump Keys

Bump keys exploit the idea that the pins in a lock only need to be up to the shear line for a split second in order for the lock to open. ┬áBump keys look like regular keys but they’ve been cut down to the bottom, so that they can transmit maximum force to the pins when inserted into the lock.

Cutaway Lock Kit

This is an example of the first set of locks I learned to pick with. Each of the locks has an extra pin so that as you learn to lift one pin to the shear line, it gets easier. Eventually you work up to 5 pins, which is a common house lock.

Further Reading


Do you pick locks? Are you interested in learning? Let us know in the comments below!

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