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Lock Picking Is Not For Locksmiths And Burglars Only

Do you spare some time to view instructional videos or read articles about lock picking? If your reply is a surprised “Why?” or “What for?” you’re not alone. In fact the reaction is a common one because many people think that lock picking is not like driving, cooking, coding, dancing and other skills that many people learn because they think they are useful or they enjoy doing them.

If you are one of those who reacts at the questions as if you are being asked to do something bad maybe it’s time to realize that knowing how to pick locks is not just for burglars, locksmiths, and security professionals but also for locksport enthusiasts.


Yes, lock picking, the skill or method of unlocking locks without using their respective keys is also a recreational sport and not just for criminal activities related to forcible entry. Lock picking is done by analyzing the mechanism and manipulating the locks’ parts using some tools without causing damage to the lock.

Recreational lock pickers are also called hackers. Just like the ethical computer hackers, they just want to break through a lock’s mechanism for fun and intellectual exercise.

So locksport competitions troughout the country are held to determine who can open the lock first by correctly analyzing the mechanical puzzle, choosing the best tools and skilfully breaking without damaging the lock mechanism. Enthusiasts compare the thrill of lock picking to chess or Rubik’s cube. A Google search for “Locksports near me” will bring up the results for locksports in your local area.

There are lock sport groups that organize annual lock picking competitions like the:

  • SSDeV (Sportsfreunde der Sperrtechnik – Deutschland e.V. or, Sportsenthusiasts of Lockpicking). Steffen Wernéry founded this organization in 1997 in Germany.
  • TOOOL (The Open Organisation Of Lockpickers) which was organized in The Netherlands in 1999.
  • Defcon Convention in Las Vegas and the
  • Hackers on Planet Earth(HOPE) in New York

In the United States, locksport was considered to have started in the 1970s as part of the MIT hacker culture. One of the favorite references for those who want to learn lock picking is “MIT Guide to Lock Picking” which is available online. There are also how-to videos that can be viewed and downloaded for free.


Ethical Lock Picking

Locksport is not just a means to satisfy the enthusiasts’ need for intellectual challenges. They adhere to a strict code of ethics that include but is not limited to the following:

  • Picking only locks that they own, or to which the owners have given them permission to pick,
  • Acquiring more skills to improve their evaluation of the locks’ security vulnerabilities or weaknesses and to inform the lock manufacturers as well as the consumers.
  • Not to use their lock picking expertise in illegal activities.
  • Willingness to share with lock manufacturers the results of their lock evaluation to help in further improvement of their respective products

Legality of Owning Recreational Lock Picking Tools

Lock picking tools may seem harmless but security professionals know that they can be dangerous in the hands of a skilled lock picker. There are states where anyone owning or carrying lock picking tools but are not licensed locksmiths or security professionals are suspected of having criminal intent unless he or she can prove otherwise. In this case, the recreational lock picker should request the approving authorities for clearance to carry his or her tools.

Who else should know or understand about lock picking?

The basic lock picking techniques are not really secrets that the veterans keep to themselves. The availability of information and training materials benefit people who buy or use locks because they should have some understanding of lock picking or how vulnerable to lock picking are the locks that they intend to buy. Isn’t that how people buy food, clothes, computers and other things? They try to know and understand the capabilities and other characteristics of the items they choose before finally making the purchase.

It’s not necessary for a lock user to be an expert or skilled lock picker because it takes a lot of practice to be one. It’s just important to know at least the basic information such as:

  1. The parts most locks usually have:
  • Springs which apply downward pressure on the pins
  • Plug which is the central part of the lock where the key is inserted placed. The plug must be turned to open the lock.
  • Driver Pins which is pressed by the spring when the lock is closed
  • Key Pins which the part the key is in direct contact with when opening the lock.
  • Shear Line, the level between the lock’s plug and cylinder where the driving pins must be raised to open the lock
  • Some locks have additional or fewer parts depending on their design


  1.  Lock picking tools

Some burglars claim that they can pick locks using only hair clips, paper clips and safety pins. However, locksport participants use many more tools such as the pick guns, torsion wrench, bump keys as well as the hook, pick, ball, half-diamond and rake picks, Just search online and you will find other types of tools at Amazon, eBay and other sellers.

Anyone interested will also find instruction videos showing how various lock picking tools are used.

  1. Common, non-destructive lock picking techniques

Lock pickers use various techniques to effectively use depending on the tool and the type of lock mechanism. Raking, bumping and shimming are just a few of the techniques. Again, anyone who is interested will find a lot of reading materials and videos on how the various lock picking techniques are performed.

What i learned

After becoming familiar with what lock picking can do, i realised with concern that lock picking is relatively easy to learn. I can see that it’s a recreational sports for some and i had a fun evening, but it is not for everybody. The whole experience taught me a lot, but i don’t think ill be attending a locksports event again soon.

Another serious realization that i made, is that although lock manufacturers design locks that prevent at least one but not all of the lock picking techniques (bump proof and pick proof locks), they are not reliable as the sole security measure.

However, the appropriate lock is still an important part of a security system together with strong windows and doors, a reliable security and alarm system and neighbors that watch out for each other.