How to pick a door lock

Selecting door locking hardware used to be simple. You’d select from the BHMA list of functions and you’d be able to satisfy the different locking needs of a facility.

BHMA functions include Storeroom (where you always need a key to enter), Classroom (where you use a key to lock or unlock the exterior lever handle for extended periods) and Apartment (where the user chooses via a toggle switch whether or not a key is required for entry).

These three functions are also among the ones likely to be needed in the electric locking world as well. .

In the mechanical locking days, the trickiest part would be providing all the data for the keying system, as that answered the question of providing access to individual rooms or areas.

Now, that is a function more than likely to be provided by the access control system, onboard brain of the lock or even the app on the user’s mobile phone.

Thinking about electric locking solutions brings you back to selecting locking functions and setting up keying systems.

You want to make your choices based upon the needs of the end user. As a systems integrator, you will also want to try to harmonize the elements to minimize the systems the user needs to train on and maintain.

Let’s address the process in the following three steps of function, category and relationship.

The first step in selecting the correct locking function is remembering that doors are critical elements in a building’s life-safety system and there are very well-defined rules for means of egress.

If you are unsure about egress requirements, stop and do not pass go. For an existing building, generally replicating the function of the mechanical locking hardware will work, unless the owner has changed what was on the door at the time of the issuance of the original Certificate of Occupancy.

A good rule of thumb is that any door between an occupant and the last exit point of the building must open with a single motion.

That means one action to exit. Levers or panic bars on the door and then a button on the wall are expressly forbidden.

electric lock

Fire codes are in place for doors with fire labels on them (check the edge) and they must have positive latching to match the label. Next you have to choose which category of electric release.

For this article, we will talk about door locks and exclude electromagnetic locks as the primary lock on the door. The most popular electric release methods would be electric strike, electrically-released lever trim or electric lock body.

The trim and lock body solutions are door mounted and offer the choice of simply being operated by a power supply and whatever intelligence drives that power supply (from a release button at a desk, to an intercom or an access control system) or they can be provided with their own intelligence built into the trim or mounted as part of a set on the door.

Electric strikes can also be released from remote systems, but typically do not have their own standalone intelligence systems.

The next consideration would be the lock function and its relationship to the electric release. Most electric release is based upon the Storeroom lock function.

That means the door is always locked, and electric release via any of the controllers mentioned earlier allows a single entry.

The moment the “brain” stops providing power to the door, the lever is locked on the exterior or ingress side. Remember that the egress side (interior) typically provides free exiting at all times and does not require power to exit.

A key override is typically provided on the ingress (exterior) side. More sophisticated systems will allow you to establish time zones where you may allow free entry, mimicking the Classroom function.

Others may let users set the function, mimicking the Apartment function. Understanding the space usage is critical in determining the electric locking system to use.

There are other functions offered by sophisticated systems. Please note that all the different controllers (card, prox, biometric, etc.) end up providing an identical function to release the door.

We have discussed the lock receiving commands to open the door. The first electric strike was created to do just that and was connected to an intercom system in an apartment building.

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Since that time, signaling has been added to electric locking, and that has brought electric locking into the realm of critical component in a security system.

Mark J. Berger is the President of Securitech Group.

Goal: Hijacking Pin Tumbler Technology

pin tumbler diagramMost of the doors that you will find boast pin tumbler combination mechanisms. You can practice how to pick a door lock to expand your knowledge of the science as different brands feature their own technology. There is some innovation going on here, but for the most part – these things have not changed much since the 19th century.

Pin Tumbler: Internal Anatomy

how to pick a door lock feature image

Before you can employ the skill of hijacking pin tumbler mechanisms after learning how to pick a door lock; you should explore the science in its entirety. With this comprehensive guide, you’ll be able to employ a more pragmatic approach when hijacking pin tumbler technology. The exterior casing housing plug (shear line or center line) is cylindrical and sports a green sheath. When opening this lock mechanism, you’ll need to insert the key into the plug network or shear line. It’ll rotate when you employ the correct key.

The action of the mechanical key pins found in 5-6 custom holes drilled into the shear line head of this lock controls the entire network. If it doesn’t make the right connection, you won’t succeed in opening a closed door lock. All the reflex key pins are of a certain length and reddish coating. These key pins communicate with the spring-loaded drive pins positioned directly above the 5 or 6-pin mechanism. With the composite driver pins intercepting the connecting shear line, it’ll restrict the plug’s rotation.

If you’re witnessing your first lock picking exercise, you’ll find that the intricate key pins won’t interact with the wrong notches. It’ll cause the lock’s shear line to bulge if the notches aren’t the correct height. That said, it’s imperative to use the correct key that will activate the pins and move them into position. It’ll become coherent as you explore how to pick a door lock properly. Of course, this isn’t an attainable goal if you don’t gather the necessary tools and technology to mimic an original lock key. The perfect lock picking resource should operate similarly to that of an original cut key.

Method 1: Traditional Lock Picking

The Tools That You Need

tension wrench for lock picking

The Tension Wrench Tool: How It Works

While many claim to know how to get into doors without a key, some people lack the extensive knowledge of hijacking the fastener without damaging the system. With the torsion tool, it’s almost effortless to use the pick for elevating the lock’s pin sets. It’s the best tool to employ pressure on the housing plug. This will position the lock’s driver pin correctly as it intercepts the split line. In turn, this will coerce the plug to rotate and you will open the lock right up with no problem.


So you’re finally getting educated on how to pick a door lock. Today, there’s an interestingly urgent need for common homeowners to learn. Surely, it’s not as daunting as you’ve long imagined but you’ll face a series of obstacles as you hone this skill. All lock picking specialists, professionals, and DIY amateurs alike need cutting tools to execute door lock hijacking correctly. If you’ve never held lock picking tools or are completely ignorant of the popular technologies, check these:

How To Pick A Door Lock Step-by-Step

  1. Put the pick inside, it’ll pressurize the corresponding key pin which will descend as the parallel driver pin intercepts the end of the plug. It’ll keep it above the split line mechanism. In knowing how to pick this type of lock, you’ll realize that consistency is key. So, you should continue elevating the connecting key pins with the tension tool until the split line has no obstruction.
  1. According to basic lessons on how to pick a door lock, you’ll need to employ the best rake. The three-ridge pick rake can literally hijack any lock and it’s the least complicated tool to employ. When you’re picking the lock with a rake, you should slide it back until it’s completely engaged.
  1. As you increase the pressure on your tension tool, be sure to keep scrubbing the rake pick back inside the lock’s keyhole chamber. You should rake or scrub the cavity of the split line using the pick as you elevate it unison to pressurize the corresponding key pins.
  1. You should employ this technique until you have reset all the pins. For absolute results, be sure to increase tension on the parallel key pins using the tension tool. While it’s fundamental to employ a reasonable amount of pressure for the pins to reset properly, it’s equally important that you achieve balance. The scrubbing technique is a widely exercised method especially when hijacking pin tumbler designs.
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rakes for lock pickingRaking/Scrubbing Method – The Easy Way

The pick rakes usually include a multi-ridge mechanism, which enables you to unlock a series of key pins at once. Have you heard the term “scrubbing” or “raking” used in the context of lock picking? If you’re learning about this the word for the first time, it’s actually a lock picking method. Certainly, it’s not everyone’s favorite, but it’s a widely practiced exercise. Its popularity is mainly on the basis of its simplistic nature. This guarantees an immediate solution to your lock troubles, but it’s crucial to exercise as a cautionary approach in minimizing unwanted damages.

Grab your torsion tool (tension wrench) as you’ll need it for this how to pick a door lock exercise. With your torsion tool in hand, simply insert it into the lock’s keyhole foot and rotate the cylinder. It’ll be extremely difficult to handle this task without a torsion tool. So, even with all the key picks in the world, hijacking a compromised lock won’t be a trivial exercise if you don’t have the right tension wrench on hand.

Single Pin Picking – Just In Case

single pin picks for lock picking

You’re not required to hijack it in one go as there’s a specialized pick that allows single pin picking and unlocking too. By far the easiest and quickest method for traditional lock picking is to use a rake. However, if you run into mushroom locks or other sticky situations, you may have to pick each pin individually. When you use this tool, follow the basics of the tensions wrench as you would for raking. This time however, instead of raking or scrubbing the pick back and forth, instead move the pick down and up, pushing each individual pin upwards until it is seized and eventually exposes the center line, opening the lock.

Method 2: Using A Bump Key

bump key for lock picking

 The Bump Key: What Is It?

The bump key method is completely different than traditional lock picking and is often called lock bumping. As you can see in the image on your left, a bump key has equal peaks and valley carved into the key. The basic mechanism that we are taking advantage of is the space in the center line just like in traditional lock picking. However, this time instead of picking, we are going to strike this bump key and in doing so, trick the pin tumbler lock to pop open. This method of lock picking works the best with expensive locks because the pins and cylinders are very smooth. Keep in mind, that not all door locks are able to be bumped so don’t think this is the only answer for learning how to pick a door lock. When practicing this, use a small piece of cloth to put where the key comes in contact with the lock because it is pretty easy to dent your lock

screwdriver tool for lock pickingA Striking Tool: Why

The second tool that you will need in order to pick a door lock is a solid object. A screwdriver is my preferred tool for this job, but you can also use a hammer, phone, or something else that has a nice density to it. Once you have this tool in hand along with your bump key, then you are ready to move on to figuring out how to pick this door lock with a bump key.

How To Pick A Door Lock With A Bump Key

First prepare yourself by putting the key inside the lock that you want to pick to see if it fits well. Generally, all these pin tumbler locks are so similar that you can bet on your bump key fitting perfectly inside that lock because the only difference is that each key as slightly different cuts. If you have a certain brand of lock, then a key for that brand will always fit better.

  1. Get yourself a nice bump key. You can do one of two things in order to get one of these. Firstly, you can go to a locksmith and tell them that you want a 999 key, where basically the valley of each cut is as deep as it can be and even between all peaks. Although, when you ask your local locksmith for a 999 key, they will probably think that you are looking to break into some places so beware. An alternative to this, is taking a key that you don’t need at your house and then file the teeth down until they are even and the valleys are deep.
  2. Now it’s time to shine! Put the bump key inside the keyhole and pull it out one click (you will hear it click). Then, start putting pressure on the key as if you were turning it and simultaneously hit the butt of the bumper key with a solid object like a screwdriver. When you get it just perfect, then the bump key will turn int he direction that you are pushing it in and the door will become unlocked. If you don’t get it the first time, repeat the process above! This method really does work.

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Method 3: Pick Guns

lock picking with a pick gunPick guns and bumper keys are intricate varieties that require a certain level of expertise to employ them properly. There are two basic types of pick guns, the electric ones and the mechanical ones. The great thing about mechanical pick guns is that they are never going to run out of batteries. The pro about the electric ones is that they can be a bit more dynamic and effective. So, the first and only tool that you need is the pick gun in either form

LOCK II: Puzzle Locks

Some residential and most business doors use these puzzle locks that have 4 or 5 numbers which must be pressed in sequence in order to open the door. These devices are sometimes called push-button locks.

Here is the tehnique that I’ve used to find the combinations.

  1. Turn the knob and push each button. The button with the most resistance is the first combination number.
  2. Release the knob and press that button Now search for the second number by turning the knob again and pushing each button.
  3. Release the knob and press the button that had the most resistance.
  4. Repeat until all the numbers are found.

Tips to remember: Only one number is used once. There will be only 4 or 5 digit combinations out there. Listen for the clicks when you press the buton, some give the combo away.

Lock Picking Videos

Visual Guide to Lock Picking VideoVisual Guide to Lock Picking Video

The Visual Guide to Lock Picking is the definitive guide for learning the art of picking locks. This video explains several types of locks and picking techniques. Modern computer graphics and animations allow for cutaway views that were never before possible. This video not only makes lock picking possible, but clearly shows you how, so that you can get started today.

Quickly learn the secrets of the trade from this video’s concise, yet informative style. By practicing and applying the methods introduced here, it is possible to master the picking of most modern locks. The Visual Guide to Lock Picking introduces warded locks, pin tumblers, wafer tumblers, master locks, even some high security pins. It dissects the locks, showing every moving part, making it easy to see how they work. Step-by-step instructions are given for picking each type of lock. You will be lead through the entire process, introducing the necessary tools and covering several techniques leading you to that satisfying click as the lock springs open!

To purchase lock picks, visit the Lock Picks section of the Equipment Guide.Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)

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