Lock Picking Guides

Best Practice Locks For Beginners

So you’re taking up lock picking? Welcome! First up, you’re going to need some practice locks. Keep in mind it’s definitely not a good idea to practice on locks around the house, and PickPals recommends never using an active lock for practice. These can break the bank if you end up breaking the lock, and you’re still new and inexperienced at this, remember?

When learning the art of lock picking, practice locks are just as important as a set of quality lock picks. At PickPals we have a huge range of practice locks for beginners through to advanced. The most common practice locks are:

  1. Clear Locks
  2. Cutaway Locks
  3. Progressive Locks

So which locks are ideal for beginners? Good question.

Clear plastic locks are a standard keyway set in an acrylic plastic mould. Not only do these locks look pretty cool, the clear practice locks allow you develop an understanding of how the locking mechanism works when manipulating the locks.

Advantages of clear plastic locks

  • Very clear view of locking mechanism and moving parts
  • Great for absolute beginners
  • Come as a standard lock or a padlock form

Available in standard, spool and serrated pins

Padlock Practice Lock Picking

Cutaway locks are a standard lock, often cast in brass with a cutaway window so once again the pins can be seen as they are manipulated when picking.

Advantages of cutaway locks

  • Visually understand how pins work
  • Match feedback to feel – especially with the security pins
  • Mix of standard and security pins
  • Locks can be re-pinned

Available in standard, spool and serrated pins

We also sell locks referred to a progressive system. The progressive system usually comes as a set of locks, with an incremental the pins start at 2. The Sparrows Progressive Locks can also be re-pinned to make them harder/easier so they will last a long time and provide great value. The progressive locks are a great idea for those who want to practice without windows, much as you would experience in real life. This allows you to develop feedback and a real feel of the pins.

Advantage of progressive locks

  • The progressives are great and you can create a thousand combinations
  • Stronger and more realistic feedback
  • No cheating, learn to lock pick via feel
  • As you progress you can increase difficulty
  • All standard pin (can be re-pinned to security pins)
  • Locks can be re-pinned
Sparrows Progressive Lock

The Ultimate Bundle is a set we put together and includes a few more items. It is like our Night School on steroids. You could buy the Night School and the Reload Kit which lets you pull the locks apart and re-pin, but at that point, we’d steer you toward the Ultimate Bundle.

Sparrows Night School Tuxedo Cutaways

Honestly, here at PickPals we are huge fans of the Night School for beginners. It contains almost everything you’ll ever need in terms of picks, and once you master those locks you can modify them and then move onto other locks. These locks are actually the same too, and you can re pin the other locks in the same progressive system. The Night School can be added to later, while The Ultimate Bundle as explained above will keep you going for a very long time.

And what about buying locks from the hardware store?

We’re often asked if buying locks from a hardware store is good for practicing lock picking. Firstly, these locks can be very expensive to buy and while you may be able to pick them, they do not act as a training tool. Cheap locks from hardware stores are usually made in such a way that they are very easy to pick, but give you no understanding of actually how to pick a lock – and that’s what you’re here to learn, right?

High security locks that are harder to pick may be a good idea for your lock picking progression, however, due to the high quality and technology, you can also expect higher prices. Our recommendation would be to use locks you have lying around the house already that are not in use. Another option is to get involved with a Lock Picking Association and trade some locks with your new friends.

In short, all of our practice locks are great starters, and are designed as a learning aid.

Practice locks can range in the number of pins they contain (more pins = higher level of difficulty), standard, or security pins. The most common security pins are practice locks, which are perfect for refining your lock-picking skills. With many practice locks re-pinnable, if they are damaged you can rebuild the locks.

There are different practice locks for different purposes, and everyone has their own preferences. Over your lock picking career, you’ll amass a collection of locks; some you will find easy and others you’ll probably want to throw out the window!

So welcome to the world of lock picking, pal – let’s get picking!

Easy Pickings - Guide Book

7 myths of lock picking

Oh, we get it. Lock picking is taboo. But believe it or not, it’s a fast-growing hobby both in Australia and around the world, and what many people don’t yet realize is that it is a very engaging, fulfilling pastime that comes with a range of benefits. So let’s explore some of the myths surrounding lock picking, debunk (most of) them, and then hopefully you’ll see why you should give it a go.

Myth #1

“Lock picking is only for criminals!”

Lock picking is an art. It takes time, skill and determination to understand how locks are picked. The lock picking community is dedicated to protecting the sport and follows a strict code of ethics.

Myth #2

“Lock picking is not a sport”

Lock picking is practiced all around the world. In many countries such as the UK, Netherlands, USA and Australia, competitions are held for challengers to test their skills against others in the community. Organisations such as TOOOL run these competitions and the trend has been growing year-on-year.

Intro Lock Pick Set
Pickpals Intro Bundle Clear Lock

Myth #3

“Lock picking is only used by locksmiths”

Lock picking was once the default practice of locksmiths, however with the advance in technology, traditional lock picking has taken a back seat to newer, quicker methods of entry. There are even groups within the lock picking community that are focused on protecting the art of lock picking.

PickPals Ultimate Bundle Learn LockPicking
Sparrows Vorax Lock Pick Set
Sparrows Night School Tuxedo Edition +

Myth #4


“Lock picking is hard”

Like any skill, lock picking is going to take time to learn. However, we have a range of products to get you opening your first lock and feeling the excitement that comes with hearing that satisfying first “click”.

Myth #5


“Lock picking is expensive”

We have a range of tools for every budget. Our tools are of the highest quality and will last a lifetime if used and cared for properly. With our intro set starting at just $29, you can give lock picking a go without breaking the bank. In many cases we also offer free shipping as well as bonus guides and tutorials on our website.

Myth #6


“Lock picking is addictive”

Ok, this one is true. Lock picking is highly addictive. Once you open or ‘pop’ your first lock, you’ll just want more and more. It’s a great sense of accomplishment to open a lock, much like working on a puzzle. We’ve heard of some people taking days to understand and open a single lock!

  • PickPals Intro Lock Pick Bundle Plus

    $USD 94.08
  • PickPals Intro Lock Pick Set

    $USD 21.15
  • PickPals Intro Padlock Bundle – Limited time only

    $USD 50.32
PickPals Australian Bump Keys
Sparrows Progressive Locks Buy

Myth #7


“Lock Picking isn’t for me”

We sell lock picks to everyone. From mechanically-minded folk who want to understand how to work and manipulate a lock, to seniors who work on their fine motor skills, to die-hard Doomsday Preppers fans who need tools for the field, lock-picking appeals to people from all walks of life. Lock picking is a fantastic skill we encourage men and women of all ages to try.


If you have any more myths or questions, be sure to get in touch with us - we’d love to hear from you.

  • Australian Bump Key Set

    $USD 28.44
  • Brockhage Pick Gun Holster

    $USD 28.44
  • Clear Practice Lock

    $USD 28.44
  • Clear Practice Lock Bundle

    $USD 72.20
  • Clear Practice Padlock

    $USD 18.23
  • Cutaway 6 Pin Re-pinnable Euro Lock

    $USD 57.61
  • Cutaway Lock Bundle

    $USD 108.66
  • High Quality Padlock Shims (Pack of 20)

    $USD 28.44
  • HPC Deluxe Pick Set

    $USD 72.20
  • HPC Flip-It Tool Plug Spinner

    $USD 79.49
  • Law Lock – Straight Knife Bypass tool PRO

    $USD 18.23
  • Law Lock Hooligan Pry Bar

    $USD 13.86

How To Apply Tension When Lock Picking

Okay. Topic of this video, guys, is how to tell when you've got the right amount of tension. Honestly and truly, this is a subject that beginners get hung up on all the time. So, listen. This is important. The first thing is, you can't give an absolutely specific number. If I said you want 3.2 Newtons, that's just ridiculous. What you want is enough tension so that one pin binds. That's it. That's as complicated as it gets, fellows. Let's say I've got no tension on that lock at all at the moment. I've put my pick in there, and surprise, surprise, none of those pins are binding. Right. On the other hand, let's say I put an absolutely ridiculous amount of tension on there. You can see how much that big, thick pry bar is bending. Everything’s locked solidly in there. I just can't get any decent feedback from that at all. Somewhere between those two extremes is going to be the point where just one pin, there we go, you heard me set the thing there, right? There was just one pin binding there. I could feel it was binding. I set it, and off I went. That is how you tension a lock. There's no mystery to it, fellows. It is just a case of finding that amount where one pin binds, and nothing else does. Easy as that.

How to Choose The Right Lock Picks For You

What is the standard pick that you should use for most locks? I'll tell you now, it doesn't really matter about the brand. There are a lot of different manufacturers out there, but they will all have a thing called a standard short hook, and that's the Sparrows one. It comes in three different thicknesses, and that's really important because what you want to be able to do is get good with that particular shape and then have that apply to different locks with different sized key ways. I've got it here in the 25/1000ths and the 15/1000ths. There's a 20/1000 one in the middle there. Those two picks, I would say, would get you into literally 95% of locks that you are ever going to see. Those are the go-tos for me. Down below here is the Sparrows steep hook. This is the cousin to the short hook, and you can see that the hook, as its name implies, is a little bit steeper. You use this one for getting up underpins and seating something in the back of the lock. For difficult combinations of betting, these are the ones you need. For 95% of locks you're ever going to see, this is the one you use. Potted summary there, guys, find a short hook that you are comfortable with, make sure it comes in at least two, and hopefully three thicknesses, and get good with just that one hook. Don’t use a scattergun approach. Pick one, and use it well.

Understanding Lock Pick Feedback in Lock Picking

  The subject to this video is feedback. That is a subject dear to every lock Pickers heart, believe you me. What do we mean when a when we say a lot gives good feedback, or if we say that a lock is talkative? What we mean is that it's quite easy to work out what is going on inside the lock. With most locks, when you've got your pick in there, and when you've got the finger on the tension wrench, you can feel an awful lot about what's going on inside there. What pins are binding and what's moving against what, whether or not you've got something on the shear line, all that sort of stuff.   On the other hand, some locks give you virtually no feedback at all, and they are very difficult to pick. This old Lockwood here is one of the best examples of that. These Lockwood padlocks have been around about 50 years, and in Australia and New Zealand, we see heaps of these. Don't try and use this as the first lock you try and pick, guys. Half of the time, even I can't get decent feedback out of these things. That's not done by design that way. That's just how these padlocks are. Other locks are designed specifically so they don't give you feedback, so they're harder to pick. Every lock gives you some. Some gives you more than others. The ones that do give you a lot of feedback are called the talkative ones, and they are generally the easier ones to pick.
Lock Picking in Action

How to pick a lock – in 3 simple steps

So, you’re bored and need a new hobby. Want to learn a new skill that’s both challenging and fun. Or maybe you’ve seen the awesome products in Australia’s leading online lock pick shop, and want to get in on the action.

Welcome to the awesome world of lock picking. Question is – where do you start? Should you just buy a lock pick set and figure it out?

Nah. Make things easier for yourself and just follow our handy guide. We’ve even got a simple, step-by-step video that walks you through the steps below, so you can see lock picking in action. And follow along using your own lock pick tools.

Why bother learning lock picking?

Alright, before we begin let’s look at why you should even give a toss about lock picking. Why are some people so into it? And what’s the point of picking locks if you’re not a crim with a penchant for stealing 50” TVs?

Here’s why we (and other lock pick enthusiasts) get a kick out of it:

  • It’s so cool. Chicks dig it. Alright, they probably don’t, but lock picking is still cool. It’s like being part of a secret society of stealthy, handy ninjas. And once you learn how to pick locks, you’ll know how to do something a lot of people don’t. Suckers.
  • It’s fun. Knowing that you have the knowledge and knack to open doors without a key (legally, of course!) is pretty fun. And practicing lock picking gets pretty addictive, especially as you test your skills on tougher locks. Lock Picking has grown in popularity here in Australian and New Zealand. You can even enter comps.
  • It’s cheap. Some hobbies are so expensive (yeah snowboarding, we’re looking at you). It’s like you need thousands of bucks just to buy the most basic gear, and then there are membership fees and all the rest. Lock picking is a pretty contained hobby, when it comes to cost.
  • Increase your skills. Like most puzzles lock picking requires a lot of patience. While some locks are easy to pick others can be very challenging and take a pragmatic approach to understand the workings of the lock before you can successfully pick the lock. Lock picking is also great for dexterity and fine motor skills.

 The legal stuff

Before we go into how to pick a lock, let’s get something straight. This guide is not to be used for opening locks that you shouldn’t open. It’s illegal. And dumb. So be sure to stick to the ‘lock pickers code of conduct’ and stay tuned for our FREE eBook on the legal side of lock picking in Australia.

How to pick a pin tumbler lock

Alrighty, you eager beaver. It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for: it’s time to pick a lock!

We’ve used a pin tumbler lock (see it in action in the video above) because it’s the most commonly used one in lock picking. And it’s an easy one when you’re starting out.

Which lock pick set should you start with? We recommend the PickPals Intro Lock Pick Set. Check out other lock pick sets and practice locks.

 How does a pin tumbler lock work?

 You need to know how a pin tumbler lock works, cos otherwise you won’t be able to pick it.

Bit of pub trivia for you – pin tumblers have been around for over 6000 years! And the basic mechanism hasn’t really changed in that time.

There are only a few parts in a pin tumbler lock:

  • Core: also known as the plug. This is what the key goes into. It turns to open.
  • Pins: on top of the core are holes, which the pins go into. When the key is inserted into the core, the pins try to stop it from turning.

A word about the pins: these need to be the right length to fit the notches in the key. So when the key goes in, the pin will only go to the top of its hole (the ‘shear line’). If the pin is too long or the key is incorrect, the lock will stop the core from turning and the lock from opening. See a demo of this in the video above.

It’s all about figuring out how to get the pins to the right height. How do we do that? We exploit the tolerance of the lock.

What does that mean? Well, we have to make one of the pins bind or ‘talk to us’. We do that by rotating the core just a tiny fraction. We get it to the sheer line (you might feel or hear a click, or feel the pin stop moving). And then, repeat it for the other pins.

This is what happens when you put the right key into the right lock. The key pushes the pins into the right position, and the door unlocks. When you pick a lock, you do the same thing, but without a key.

It’s as simple as that.

But it’s also not as simple as that! Those are the basics, but there is a true skill to doing this right – and on more complicated locks.

How to pick a lock

It takes a little bit of knack and patience to pick your first lock. But after that, you’ll get a feel for it, and it’ll become more second nature.

The easiest method for learning how to pick your first lock is called, raking. The below method will focus on this technique.

Let’s go through all the steps:

  1. Put the tension wrench in the bottom of the lock

Get your tension wrench. You need to use it to place tension on the core, while the pick does the jiggling. Most locks and all our practice locks turn in a clockwise motion. It's really important to be very gentle and light on the tension otherwise the pins can't move. Our video explains more.

Put the wrench in the bottom of the keyhole. Add a tiny amount of pressure, turning in the same direction as the key would turn (if you were using one). Don’t be heavy handed, otherwise the pins will stick beneath the shear line.


  1. Put the pick in the top of the lock

With tension applied, get your pick, insert it into the top of the lock, and slide it all the way in. Very gently move the pick back and forth, you should be able to feel the pins moving.

  1. Scrub the pick

What do we mean by scrub? Basically ‘rake’ the pick back and forth. Be sure to keep putting a little pressure on with the wrench at the same time. When you pull the pick back, be sure to lift it up. This will put pressure on the pins.

Do this action until all the pins are set into position. Still not getting anywhere? You might have put too much pressure on with the tension wrench. So ease off, reset the pins, and go again with light hands.

Congrats, you just picked your first lock!

Practice makes perfect picking!

 Those are the basic steps for picking almost any lock. But because lock picking is a skill, you’ll get better at it the more locks you (legally) pick.

Grab yourself a few practice locks (they’re clear so you can see the pins) and have a go at practicing lock picking whenever you’re bored or have free time – like when you’re watching TV.

Remember, stay calm and keep the tension light. The more relaxed you are the more success you will have and most importantly,  have fun!


Lock Picking Guide – How to pick a lock

Introduction & Rules

So, you’re interested in lock picking? Maybe just curious? Well, the sport of Lock Picking (Lock Sport) is a hobby shared by many people worldwide and is growing rapidly in Australia and New Zealand.

We can’t offer you legal advice regarding lock picking legality but we can point you in the right direction. Remember, here at PickPals we want to promote and encourage the benefits of Lock Picking and help the sport grow in Australia and New Zealand. We need your help to do this. In this Lock Picking Guide, you’ll find a few simple rules and a code of conduct we follow here at PickPals.

Lock Picking Legality

Disclaimer: None of the advice below constitutes legal advice in respect to lock picks and lock picking in Australia or New Zealand.

First, we need to establish a couple of rules shared by pretty much every locksport association worldwide:

1. Never pick a lock you don’t own without the owner’s permission

2. Never pick a lock in use

The first rule is pretty understandable, the second needs some minor explanation. When you attempt to pick a lock you are exploiting weaknesses in the design, it is completely possible that in doing so you will damage or break the lock. You don’t want this to happen to any lock that is actively in use. Do not practice on your front door, windows, car or anything else that is actively used. If you lock yourself out of your house: call a locksmith.

There are plenty of other rules published by different associations, this one published by locksport.com is very good and covers most of the important points. Follow the rules and keep lock picking legal for all.

Lock Picking Australia Law & Legalities

You should also be aware of the law regarding possession of lock picks in your state of Australia.

Download our FREE ebook on the laws in your state of Australia.

Lock Picking New Zealand Law & Legalities

For those of you in New Zealand check out the following document.

Locks, How do they work?

Ok, so you’re here because you want to know how to pick a lock? There are different methods for picking locks, we will talk about the most common type of lock first, the pin tumbler lock. Unless you live in Norway (for some reason high end security locks are common there!) this is likely the type of lock you have on your front door.

🔒 Pin Tumbler

Lets have a look at a pin tumbler lock in its locked and unlocked states now.

The pins prevent the barrel from turning when in the locked position.


unlocked_front unlocked_side unlocked_real

The key raises the individual pins so that the break lines up along the sheer line, allowing the lock to turn.

🔒 Lock Picking – How to pick a lock

So, how do we get our pins into the correct position without a key? Welcome to the art of lock picking.

Lock picking, like hacking, exploits flaws in the manufacturing process of lock making. Almost every household lock is made with these flaws (don’t be shocked). Even quality brands have these flaws, unless you pay hundreds of dollars for a high security lock, the imperfections will be present.

When we try to turn the lock without a key there is normally a single pin preventing the lock from turning. This pin is known as the binding pin. If we put tension on the lock with a tension wrench and raise the binding pin to the sheer line, it will stick there!

We continue this process for each pin, whilst it is hard to know which pin will be the binding pin (no there is no set order) we can just go through each remaining pin feeling for the one that sticks. We use feedback through the pin to ‘see inside’ the lock. We then know another pin is locked in place.

At this point we should take a look at a lock picking technique called raking in which while holding tension on the lock we move the rake back and forward over the pins of the lock. This is more of a brute force attack, which is the best place to start when you are learning how to pick a lock.



New to Lock Picking?  Try our best selling PickPals Intro Set. Everything you need to get started!

How do you pick a padlock? Well, a padlock is the same configuration as a “door” lock and works in the same manner. Learning to pick locks on one of our clear practice padlocks is easy and fun and the best way to learn how to pick a lock! learn how to pick a lock.

PickPals Intro Lock Pick Set


Images and animations are mostly sourced from http://deviating.net/ and are licensed under creative commons. Any other images/animations are original creations and are also licensed under creative commons.

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