How Lock Picking Works

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Lock Picking: The Picker Code

Experienced lock-pickers can make do with a few paper clips and a basic screwdriver, but the job is a lot easier when they have the proper tools. A basic lock-picking kit contains a tension wrench and several different picks. The picks differ mainly in the shape of their heads. Different heads are suited for particular sorts of locks and particular picking techniques.

Some lock-pickers will also use an electric pick gun. A pick gun basically consists of one or more vibrating, pick-shaped pieces of metal. You insert these long pieces of metal into the lock, just as you would insert a pick. As the metal pieces vibrate, they push the pins up.

This works something like raking a lock. You turn the gun as the picks vibrate, so you catch some of the pins at the shear line. Sometimes these devices will open the lock in a matter of seconds, and sometimes they won't work at all. Most recreational lock-pickers avoid these devices because they take the puzzle-solving element out of the process.

Lock picking is an essential skill for locksmiths because it lets them get past a lock without destroying it. When you lock yourself out of your house or lose your key, a locksmith can let you back in very easily.

Lock-picking skills are not particularly common among burglars, mainly because there are so many other, simpler ways of breaking into a house (throwing a brick through a back window, for example). For the most part, only intruders who need to cover their tracks, such as spies and detectives, will bother to pick a lock.

Somewhere between the locksmith and the burglar is the recreational lock-picker, sometimes called a hacker. Like expert computer hackers, their code is to pick locks for the fun of it. Of course, breaking into any private property, no matter the intent, is illegal and unethical. If a person picks a lock that belongs to someone else, chances are the person will be arrested and face serious breaking-and-entering charges.

Simply understanding the principles of lock picking may change your whole attitude toward locks and keys. Lock picking clearly demonstrates that normal locks are not infallible devices. They provide a level of security that can be breached with minimal effort. Most locks serve only to keep honest people honest and to discourage criminals. With the right tools, a determined intruder can break into almost anything.

For more information on lock picking and the technology of locks and keys, check out the links on the next page.