Locksmith Education, Guidance, and Reviews

September 4, 2009

Lock Pick Guns

PG-20 We mentioned earlier about tools used by locksmiths to manually open locks. That ran to two parts and if you have not read them, here are Part – I and Part – II. We also wrote about Slim Jims and other uncommon tools used by locksmiths in general and you can find them from our archives or you can use the search box on this blog.

What we did not cover is the lock pick guns, and that is what we will be doing in this article.

Ever since lock pick guns were invented a couple of decades ago, the concept of lock picking has undergone a radical change. This has also led to locksmiths complicating locks so that they cannot be picked by every amateur with this gun. Actually, unlike what a lot of people think, just owning a lock pick gun will not make any person a lock picker. A lot of people walk in to stores and ask for automatic lock pick guns, buy the best ones by spending a couple hundred dollars, and when they come home and try it on the lock at home, they realize that the lock is not popping open!

So what are these contraptions, and why are they so popular?

The basic reason these were invented was to partly automate the process of picking locks. Though the guns are called automatic, they don’t crack open locks all by themselves. What they do instead, is use Physics laws of energy transfer to put pressure on the pins and cylinders inside the lock, and make it easy even for an amateur to open basic locks. To open the more complex locks an expert with considerable practice in using these guns is needed, but most of the experts anyway don’t need this machine to open locks!!

The original concept of lock pick guns was so they could be used by law enforcement authorities to break into a house, when needed, without the need for additional training on lock picking. As locks got more secure, the lock pick guns also got more complex, and today (as you can see from the picture above), there are multiple picks that go into a gun to help open different kinds of locks. In fact, the picture we put up (courtesy – Internet) is just a basic lock pick gun, and there are ones which are far more complex. The modern versions of lock pick guns are with electric motors. These electric lock pick guns are for use on the locks which need more pressure exerted – like the cylindrical cam locks, or other modern locking systems which don’t give out so easily. Since a manual lock pick can only exert so much pressure, electric ones have been invented. We’ll bring to you a separate article about that in a few days time.

The basic kind of lock pick gun is called the ‘snap’ lock pick gun, as the action when you pull the trigger actually a snap of the spring inside. This snap exerts considerable pressure on the locking drum or cylinder inside the lock, and force it to pop open. For different kinds of locks there are different kinds of picks which can be added onto the lock pick gun as extensions, and there are about 10 different kinds of picks available in the market. Between them, they can snap open most of the kinds of locks we see normally.

A lock pick gun usually comes with a user manual, and these manuals have detailed information on how to use these guns. Then there are a series of videos which are anyway available (and we will bring you the best of them here next week) on using these guns to crack open locks that are more advanced. A good locksmith will be able to use a lock pick gun and open even the most complicated lock within a few minutes. With a bit of practice, you also should be able to open the basic locks we use in our homes. Lock Pick guns are quite an innovation, and the only real danger is that once you get used to them you can’t use the manual lock picks again!


September 2, 2009

Common (and some uncommon) tools used by locksmiths


As we mentioned in a couple of articles earlier, there are several tools used by locksmiths for a wide range of services that they provide to the community at large. While most of them are to do with the opening of locked cars and doors, there are some uses which are pretty surprising to even read!

If you have not read the earlier articles we’ve written about the tools used by locksmiths, you can do so here and here.

We also mentioned about the usage of a unique tool called a Slim Jim and if you’ve missed out on that, you can get updated here.

But that is not the entire range of tools used by modern locksmiths. Since the profession has gone hi-tech, there are a lot of tools used by them to open electronic tools, but we won’t go there in this article. That is for later. But what we’ll do in this article is run through some of the most unique tools used by the profession.

The pic we have here (courtesy – Internet) is of a common set of tools which can be obtained at any good hardware store – provided your state laws allow the possession of these tools. Some of the other tool sets are

  • JackKnife Picks
  • Tubular Lock Picks
  • Vehicle Entry Tools
  • Snap Guns, Electric Picks, and other automatic equipment


The Jackknife set is among the most popular ones in the recent times. Like the name suggests, it is a set of lock picking tools that fits into a small pocket knife styled holder. Actually, it is more of like a Swiss knife, which opens different lock picks in different angles and they all fold back in. Most of the common tools including the ones shown in the picture above are present in this innovation, and thanks to the ease of carrying, this happens to be one of the most sold over the counter items. Especially for amateur locksmiths and for people whose hobbies include picking locks for fun.

The next set of tools are the tubular lock picks, which are again a modern innovation. Since the invention of locks that are tubular in nature (the shape, that is), the traditional locks have gone down in sales. Most houses now feature advanced locks that come with a tubular frame and the pins inside are operated by keys which cannot be duplicated normally. To open those locks, there are tubular lock picks, and these picks are capable of working with the tubular locks with high spring pressures as well. These are available in 7-8 pin configurations.

Vehicle entry tools are some of the most popular lock picking sets sold over the counters, and most cars would have some sort of a tool – be it a normal wedge that goes into the beading to pop the door open, or a more advanced set of auto lock jigglers which are quite popular with experts. Since modern cars don’t open with sheets of metal or with plastic wedges, there are new kinds of door openers that have come into vogue. For instance, there is an inflatable car door wedge that fits into the gap between the window and the beading on the front door and can be inflated through a little balloon on one end. This leads to additional pressure exertion – and that too without damaging the locking rod or other parts. Then there is a more advanced navigator locksmith scope that is perfect for lockpicking experts. This scope, like the name suggests, comes with a viewer that shows the user the lock’s functions once it is inserted into the keyhole. This kind of an opener is especially useful in opening automatic locks, and since most of the new cars come with this kind of a locking system, these navigator tools are quite in demand.

We won’t talk here about the electric and electronic lock openers as that is a lot of articles by itself. But most of the people out there would know about the way these lock openers work – including the most popular snap gun lock pick.

In the next articles, we’ll go into each of these kinds of lock picking tools in detail, and also come up with videos that show how each can be used. Stay tuned.

July 30, 2009

Manual Lock Picking – I

lock When you search on Google for something like ‘Locksmithing’, you will get tens of thousands of links which will teach you how to pick locks! It is truly amazing to see how many people are really interested in picking locks, and they even make dozens of videos of themselves picking locks (we will bring to you the best public videos from that genre on this blog starting from next week)!

That is probably the single largest reason why people are interested in locksmithing. Now, don’t think that everyone who is interested in picking locks has a thieving streak in him. It is human tendency that we try and do something out of the ordinary to look cool, and picking locks is near the top of that list! There are hundreds of amateur lock picking clubs in the USA, and all over the world, and they meet regularly either online or offline and discuss strategies. Now, it is more of a hobby than anything else, as someone who is looking at picking locks for a profit will not come out into the public and showcase his talent to everyone, right?

Anyway, lock picking has been around for many many years – even since the invention of locking systems thousands of years ago in ancient Egypt, and some of the earliest locksmiths were all in reality more of lock breakers than lock makers! It is like the Fosters Ad (which is embedded below) where the lady calls a locksmith because she is locked out of the house. In the earlier days, a majority of calls for locksmiths used to be for breaking locks, and if the lock has been made by a locksmith, he would be called again and again to pick the lock! With machines taking over the lock making process, today’s locksmiths are called more than even to pick locks – of homes, offices, and a lot of automobiles!

As we go along on this blog, we will bring to you simple ways through which you can ensure that you can pick a lock if needed – for your personal emergency use of course. We will focus on home locks and automobile locks, but the best option would be to keep a spare key somewhere common to everyone in the family – not necessarily next door.

Coming back to what we were talking about, manual lock picking is an art that requires a lot of patience and tremendous practice.

But the secret is that most of the locks don’t really need to be picked. We can get around locks using simple tools like a drill, bolt cutters, a bump key, or hydraulic jacks. Why unnecessarily render the lock useless if we can get around it, right? There are commonly a set of lock picking tools (here is a picture of a common lock picking tools set) which include two torsion wrenches and six blade-tools of different shapes and sizes. The picks which are commonly used in them are

  • Half Diamond Pick
  • Hook Pick
  • Rake Pick, and
  • Warded Pick

Depending on the kind of lock to be picked, these are used in combination, or separately. If you have been pursuing lock picking as a hobby, you will probably say that the easiest way to pick a lock is by using a Lock Pick Gun; but since we are talking about manual lock picking here, we will not go there (that is content for another article).

One word of caution – check the statutes of your region. In many states in the USA and several countries in the world, possession of lock picking tools is the equivalent of intention to steal and can be punished! In some more states, unless the intent is proven, carrying or possession of these tools does not make it a crime. Better be safe than sorry, right? Just check them out online.

Of all the tools used in manual lock picking, none is as important as the torsion wrench. Unless the wrench is used right, it is almost impossible to open a good lock. There might be a few cheap ones which don’t require tools at all, but we’re not worried about those!

There’s a lot more to talk about, but that is for tomorrow. Stay tuned, or bookmark this page so you can come back easily.

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