An overview and notes on some common lockpicking tools and techniques.
This is what a common lock pick set looks like. It consists of RAKES such as the Ball, Half Ball and Multi-Diamond designs. These are used when raking a lock. FEELER PICKS come in two shapes, Half Hook and Full Hook. These picks are designed to lift one pin at a time. TENSION WRENCH a small level-shaped metal bars used to turn the cylinder in a lock. They are vital to lockpicking.
One of the better locking picking manuals available is the MIT Lockpicking Guide. Print it out and study it.
These are clever little metal shims to slide down into the latch on a padlock. They do work, but will become damaged after a few uses.
Southern Ordance Padlock Shim Set Manual
The shims are designed for use on padlocks with spring operated latch(es). Generally, they are more effective on the cheaper type of padlocks. The more expensive locks tend to be made to better specifications and are therefor more resistant to opening with any shims.
For these shims to be effective, there must be sufficient clearance between the shackle diameter and the holes in the padlock body to enable the shims to be inserted.
On single latch padlocks, any slack in the pivot side will help if the clearance is minimal.
These shims have been manufactured from the highest quality carbon spring steel to give more durability and longer life. Sometimes a shim or pair of shims will open several locks, whereas, occasionally with the better made locks, it may become necessary to try another new shim if it becomes damaged.
Method of Use
First, determine whether the padlock is single or double latched. If this is not known, then slide a single shim down the inside of the pivot leg of the shackle to feel for a latch. Ideally, knowledge of the lock is the best way of knowing whether it is single or double latch.
Single Latch Padlocks
For most padlocks, the latched leg of the shackle is generally on the same side as the serrations of the key. Choose a shim having the same or slightly larger bend radius than the shackle diameter.
A slightly larger radius will close down to the correct shape more accurately than an undersized one will open up. It may also be necessary to shorten the length of the arms before using a shim on smaller padlocks.
- Exert some pressure on the pivot side of the shackle to ease the shackle towards the latch side and increase the clearance between the shackle diameter and the hole.
- Then insert the shim into the clearance on the outside of the shackle opposite the latch, and twist and push the shim down as far as possible.
- When it is fully inserted, rotate the shim around the shackle so that the tongue of the shim approaches the latch from the side and eases it back. Once the shim has been rotated until the wings of the shim are pointing outwards away from the lock, it is likely that the latch has been sprung and the shackle can be pulled up to open the lock.
Double Latch Padlocks
Use the same procedure as for the single latch, but when the first shim is positioned, exert pressure on the outside of the pivot side of the shackle and ease another shim into the clearance. Again, twist and push the shim down into the gap until it is fully down. Then rotate this shim around the shackle until the wings are pointing outwards. With the better padlocks, it is this last maneuver that is difficult or even impossible. However, once both shims are down and rotated outwards, it is probable that the padlock can be pulled or easily forced open.
One some types of padlocks with weak latch springs, it may be possible to force the shim down onto the latch(es) directly from above, and ease it (them) back. However, if this technique is used on a latch with strong springs, the tip of the shim could bend and the latch would not be pushed back far enough to release the shackle.
Picture overview of a shim on a Master combination padlock
Though highly overrated (you can pick most locks with just a feeler pick and a tension wrench), mechanical lockpicking guns do actually work. With a little practice, you can open some locks in seconds. The lockpick gun also requires the use of a tension tool for turning the lock's cylinder.
E-Z Pick Gun Manual
Adjusting the Tension
- To adjust the tension of the blow, turn the knurled wheel counter-clockwise (toward you) for greater tension.
- WHEN NOT IN USE turn the knurled wheel to the least tension to weaken the spring action.
- Large Locks = Heavy Tension, Small Locks = Light Tension.
- Try first without tension.
Use of the Tension Tool
- Apply to either top or bottom of keyway. Always use light pressure on tool in direction that lock should turn. (IMPORTANT)
Inserting Point on Needle
- Insert in lowest point of keyway and guide UNDER THE PINS without raising them. Must be STRAIGHT LINE, DON'T PUSH TOO FAR.
- Point (needle) must work free at all times.
- Narrow keyways - use 0.025 point needle.
- POINT MUST BE STRAIGHT - never file on top of point.
Working the Trigger of Tool
- Pull trigger RAPIDLY. (MUST hit keys and not keyway)
- If after five shots lock does not open - lower tension on tool.
- Allow pins to drop back and start over again.
- DON'T PICK ONE AT A TIME - TRIGGER ALL AT SAME TIME.
- New locks are more difficult to open.
- Use only when lock cylinder is in a position where needle cannot be inserted in a straight line.
Simple Tension Tool Trick
Here is simple trick you can use to apply the right amount of tension on a cylinder while trying to pick a lock. It involves drilling several 1/16" holes in the handle of a tension wrench to allow the hanging of some lead fishing sinkers. The sinker's eyelet need to be modified slightly by clipping one side to form a hook. Be sure to use high quality drill bits when drilling the tension wrench holes.
Picture overview of a lead sinker tension wrench in operation
Links & Notes
- Surreptitious Entry Tips
- Finding a "Lost" Combination for a Master Padlock (47k PDF)
- Master Lock Combination Cracking
- Several Lockpicking Text Files
- TOOOL - The Open Organization Of Lockpickers
- Lockpicking 101
- How to Recover the Combination for a Master Combination Lock
- Simplex Locks: An Illusion of Security
- Simplex 5-Button Combination Locks
- Instructions on Recovering a Lost Master Lock Combination
- Locraker Automatic combination lock cracker.
- Bumping Locks by Barry Wels & Rop Gonggrijp (556k PDF)
- Bump Keys Photo overview by Zeke79
- Wendt Opening Tools (Catalog)
- Lockpicking by Deviant Ollam
- Southern Ordnance Hobbiest lockpick vendor
- Peterson International Professional lockpick vendor
- Gurney's Defcon Lockpicking Page
- Matt Blaze's Lock Photos
- Safecracking for the Computer Scientist by Matt Blaze (2.7M PDF)
- Impressioning Manual for Amateur Locksmiths
- Guide To Lockpicking Tubular Circular Locks
- Greg Miller's Guide to Lockpicking for Beginners
- Key Spacing & Depth Tips
- PlugSpinnerDrDave.ZIP Plans for a homebrew plug spinner, by Dr. Dave (MISSING - Don't know how it got deleted and I don't have a backup!)
- Improvised Lock Picks (2.5M PDF)
- CIA Lockpicking Manual (2.3M PDF)
- Lock Pick Templates (88k PDF)
- How Lockpicking Works (500k PDF)
- Catalog of High Security Locks v1.0 by Graham Pulford (135k PDF)
- Lockmaster's Catalogs Direct catalog downloads.
- Lockpickshop.com Sells lock picks
- Abus Internal Lock Pictures - #1 (Abus Internal Lock Pictures - #2)
- Compromising Locks http://dp.penix.org/locks mirror site. Has a few missing pictures.
- The (SoftDrill) Computer Manipulation System
- Mas-Hamilton SoftDrill Information
- SouthOrd TPXS Tubular Manipulation Picks Manual
- Multipick-Service Online catalog
- The History and Science of Lock Pick Guns by Tommy Tyler
- Pickmaster - The Fiber Pick Overview of the fiber lockpick. Missing a few pictures.
- Crest Spinbrush Conversion to Electric Pick
- Peterson MiniKnife Instructions
- Convert a Oral B Toothbrush Into a Vibrating Lock Pick
- Project Autodialer by Kyle Vogt
- Unlocking a Combination Lock Using a Stepper Motor by Vince Long
- Locraker by Neil Fraser
- Code to Defeat Electronic Keypads on Cars
- LSS+ Electronic Infobase Edition of Locks, Safes, and Security by Marc Tobias (v4.06-0202195 Public 3-Day Time Limit Torrent)
- LSS+ On-Line Tour of the Electronic Infobase
- Cracking Safes With Thermal Imaging
- Illegal Engineering An illustrated lecture about the history of safes and safe breaking.
- Brute Forcing Combination Locks
- The Lockdown: Locked, But Not Secure - Part 1 (Part 2)
- Falle Safe Lockpick Pictures High-resolution JPEG scans of unknown orgin.
- ezPicking The Independent Locksport Voice!
- The Ben-Jim Emergency Door Opening Tool
- Chris Belcher - Tools & CB Picks for Locksmiths
- The Sidebar Blog by Marc Weber Tobias
- Non-Destructive Entry Magazine
- Sneakey: Reconsidering Physical Key Secrecy Teleduplication via optical decoding.
Related Audio & Video
- Defcon 7 Speech: V1RU5, Stephen Wadlow, Gurney Halleck and *Hobbit* - Lockpicking Demonstration (19.3M MP3)
- Defcon 8 Speech: V1RU5 - More Lockpicking - Part 1 (621k MP3)
- DEF CON 10: Lockpicking Techniques and Tools for High Security by Gingerbread Man (YouTube) (MP3)
- DEF CON 10: High-Security Locks and Access Control Products by Michael Glasser, aka Laz (YouTube) (MP3)
- DEF CON 13: Introduction to Lockpicking and Physical Security by Deviant Ollam (MP3)
- DEF CON 13: Physical Security Bypass Techniques: Exploring the Ethics of Full Disclosure by Marc Weber Tobias and Matt Fiddler (YouTube) (MP3)
- Lockpicking at the H2K (2000) Conference in New York Audio by Barry "The Key" Wels. (9.9M MP3)
- H2K2 (2002): Lockpicking by Barry "The Key" Wels. (YouTube) (MP3)
- The Fifth HOPE (2004): Lockpicking - Part 1 by Barry "The Key" Wels, Marc Tobias, and Matt Blaze. (Part 2) (YouTube)
- HOPE Number Six: Lockpicking - Exploits for Mechanical Locks by Barry "The Key" Wels and Marc Tobias. (YouTube) (MP3)
- Pop Can Shim Jason Lynn shows how to open a Master lock with a pop can. (3.3M WebM)
- B and E; A to Z - How to Get In Anywhere, Anytime (YouTube)
- B and E; A to Z - Volume 2 (YouTube)
- Make the Unobtainable! Falle-Safe Tension Tools Recreated (YouTube)
- Lock Combination Decoder U.S. Patent 4,905,490 (400k PDF)
- Lock Decoder U.S. Patent 4,433,563 (300k PDF)
- Tool For Determining Safe Lock Component Positions U.S. Patent 4,056,956 (180k PDF)
- Microprocessor Controlled Micro-Stepping Chart Drive U.S. Patent 4,377,847 (270k PDF)
- Manipulation Assistance Device and Method U.S. Patent 4,803,860 (484k PDF)
- Vibratory Lock Pick U.S. Patent 3,264,908 (116k PDF)
- Power Actuated Lock Pick U.S. Patent 2,565,254 (231k PDF)
- Apparatus for Picking Pin Tumbler Cylinder Locks U.S. Patent 4,156,375 (218k PDF)
- System and Apparatus for Opening Cylinder Locks U.S. Patent 4,606,204 (306k PDF)
- Locksmith Tool U.S. Patent 5,172,578 "Sputnik" (369k PDF)
- Lock Picking Apparatus U.S. Patent 5,956,984 "Medeco Pick 1" (292k PDF)