Lock Picking Tips

Want to learn a new skill or improve? Check our lock picking tips and tricks.

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!

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.

Disk Detainer Locks – Lock Picking 101

What you're looking in front of you there is a disc detainer padlock. There's something you got to get straight in your head. This lock is a disc padlock, sometimes called a discus. That's not what we're talking about today, so put that thing out of your mind. We're not talking about that. What we are talking about is the locking mechanism of this padlock here. It doesn't have a normal key. It has a key like that, which is usually half round on one side, and flat on the other side. Sometimes in a really cheap one, it's flat on both sides, like this thing is, and it's got these funny angled cuts in it. These angled cuts fit into the little discs inside that mechanism, and it's lining up those discs that you've got to do to open the lock. The sort of pick that you use for that is one of these strange looking things. They pick completely different to any other lock that you've ever dealt with, guys. It's not a beginner’s lock. There's one more thing I need to tell you about these. They really come in only two flavors, Chinese, which is virtually every single one of these that you're ever going to see, in which case, they're fairly easy to get into. The other type that you'll see is the type made by ASSA ABLOY. A-S-S-A, and then A-B-L-O-Y. The ASSA ABLOY is pretty much the most secure mechanically keyed lock you can buy. Nobody can reliably pick those with an instrument like this. There are some guys that are learning, but there's nobody that's got it right every time. If you get yourself some Chinese ones of these and one of those, you can have some fun.

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 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.

You've just added this product to the cart: