I haven’t been shy about my lockpicking habit. It’s a hobby that I love and a skill that occasionally comes in handy.
Over the past couple of years an ever-increasing number of readers have written in asking how to get started with lockpicking. What kit should a beginner purchase? I’m going to make this really simple for you.
I had addressed a lot of this in a previous post, but since then, my thoughts on equipment for newbies have shifted.
So, if you’re:
- unfamiliar with the mechanics of lockpicking
- think it’s an evil practice
- need to familiarize yourself with the basic ethical principles
- would like some resources for learning
- are looking for locks to learn on
… then you should read my original post Exploring the Lockpicking Rabbit Hole. Then disregard the lockpicking tools and lock recommendations. They are fine. I think these are better.
Beginner’s Lockpicking Tools
There isn’t a single kit that I’ve encountered that really nails what a beginner needs. Most kits either have entirely too many tools – and that’s a burden for a newbie – or two few and the kit is incomplete.
I am going to give you a list of what to buy to goldilocks this problem.
First of all, since I’m not recommending a kit, you’ll want to get a good case. You don’t need anything big or fancy, just something that stores the picks and presents them in a reasonable way.
Tuxedo Case – $7.95
Raking is one of the most important techniques for a lockpicker to learn. It’s an relatively easy way to open a lot of common locks. This also happens to be the most basic approach that newbies learn.
I think these 3 rakes are essential:
Please pay the extra dollar per rake to add the rubber handles. You’ll thank me later.
Triple Peak – $4.75
Worm Rake – $4.75
City Rake – $4.75
Hooks & Diamonds
Single pin picking is what people think of when they imagine someone picking a lock. This requires a lot more precision and patience than raking. It’s also where the real meat of lockpicking lives.
There are tons of different pick profiles, but choice either comes down to personal preference or case-specific tools. To get started, I recommend keeping the pick selection to a minimum.
Once again, please pay the extra dollar per pick to add the rubber handles.
Short Hook – $4.75
Offset Hybrid – $4.75
Arguably the most important skill that a lockpicker learns is proper tensioning. It is impossible to pick a lock without a tension tool. These are essential, even if they seem mundane.
Level One Tension Set – $6.50
Start With This Kit
The above is all that you need to build the basic lockpicking skills. This comes to approximately $38 + shipping.
You do not need more than this. I started with a lot less because when I started picking locks, good tools were kind of difficult to come by.
Now you need to pick some locks to learn on.
Master Lock is the way to go if you’re learning. I’ll give you fair warning: you’ll be shocked when you start picking these common locks open. Then the horror will set in as you realize just how prevalent they are in the United States.
I absolutely recommend getting an acrylic lock (transparent “trainer” lock) to play with. This will allow you to see how the innards of a lock function. It also lets you see exactly what your picks are doing.
While these are often referred to as trainer locks, they aren’t. I don’t recommend spending a lot of time picking on them. While they are useful for learning mechanics, they are worthless for truly practicing. Real locks are opaque.
Transparent Lock – $11.00
Master Lock No. 3
This iconic laminated steel padlock has a reasonably tough outer body and a gooey core that is perfect to learn picking on. Learning on these things is a rite of passage.
I strongly recommend getting 3 to 5 of them and randomly pulling one out of a bag so that you don’t memorize how to pick them. (Make sure that they aren’t “keyed alike.” If they are, then they will all have the same bitting, which defeats the purpose of buying multiples.)
Master Lock No. 3 – $10.45
Where to go from here…?
I will write a follow-up post where I explain what comes next. If you’re a beginner looking to take picking more seriously, you’ll want a few more tools. There are also many more locks to expand skill and confidence.
Lockpicking is a skill that requires patience and time. If you don’t pick for a while your knowledge will remain, but your touch will diminish. Keep at it.
Also remember to only ever pick on a lock that you both own and do not rely upon.