Many of you will be familiar with Bosnian Bill and his amazing lock picking skills. Here at PickPals, we thought we’d get to know him a little bit better with a little interrogation of our own.
We put out any questions you may have to the Australian Lock Sport Guild and got some great questions that we put to Bill.
The answers are great reading and inspiration for your picking. Learn about his army and EOD training, how Bill learnt to pick, his favourite locks to pick and where the future of security is heading.
Lets get to the questions…
1. How did you get into lock-picking and for how long have you been practicing.
Most people don’t know this, but EOD operators are frequently detailed to the Secret Service
ANSWER: The Army taught me to pick locks as part of my EOD training many years ago. Most people don’t know this, but EOD operators are frequently detailed to the Secret Service and other agencies as part of the security umbrella for government officials. Those duties include searching areas before the VIP arrives. If we encounter something that’s locked, we ask the owners to open it for the search. If they can’t find the key in a reasonable time, we pick the locks open. I had to pick everything from offices and closets to drawers and filing cabinets. Insofar as practicing I usually pick locks almost every evening after work – at least for a few minutes because I find it relaxing after a stressful day at work.
2. What is your most favorite lock to pick and why?
ANSWER: I really enjoy high-security locks, especially the Mul-T-Lock pin-in pin locks. They are very precisely made and pretty unforgiving when you make a mistake or get in a hurry. I fail with them much more often than I succeed.
3. Is there anyway, other than lots of experience, to work out the best way to attack a lock. Eg. shimming, raking, SPP, bypass, bumping etc?
If you face a disc detainer, you can rule out shimming, bumping, raking, and bypassing.
ANSWER: I use a mental “flow chart” when facing a new lock. The most important thing is to realize what attacks are possible and eliminating the attacks that are not. For example, most door locks cannot be shimmed or bypassed so I don’t waste time trying. (There ARE exceptions of course, but only experience can teach you those oddballs.).
If you face a disc detainer, you can rule out shimming, bumping, raking, and bypassing – basically giving you two options: Picking the discs or brute force. Knowing your limitations is also important. For example, I have never successfully picked open an Abloy disc detainer. When I face one of those, my only options are finding an alternate entry, or brute force.
I have never successfully picked open an Abloy disc detainer
In most cases, you’ll know what kind of locks you are likely to face. In N. America the most common are Kwikset and Schlage so I always carry those common bump keys in my bag because my experience shows that is the fastest way to gain access. There is no substitute for experience but understanding the basic lock mechanisms will go a long way to helping you decide on the best method of attack.
4. What is the most overlooked yet useful pick in your opinion?
ANSWER: There’s no “right” answer here… I’m doomed. My go-to pick is a 0.015” medium hook because it works on most locks we face. I also really like the DeForest diamond, both in 0.025” and 0.015”, but only because you guys are super-devious and send me crazy-assed pinning on challenge locks.
5. With all your experience, if you could initiate one change, that lock manufacturers had to abide by to make locks more secure, what would it be? – Winning Question
ANSWER: Serrated pins.
Regardless of quality, every lock’s picking resistance would be improved greatly by serrated pins. No chamber threading or counter-milling is necessary, just replace all those standard pins with serrated pins and most locks are ten times harder to pick.
American locks are the perfect example – they contain one standard and all the rest are serrated or serrated spools. As a result, they are most lock picker’s nemesis.
I get more emails asking for help with serrated pins than all others combined. If all locks had serrated pins, we could pretty much throw away all our rakes because they’d be useless.
6. Bill, How many times do you resort to brute force when “On the job”
ANSWER: Most of the time, unfortunately – and I don’t have to do it. The tactical entry team commander decides on the method of entry to minimize risk to the team and, to a lesser degree, the target. Almost 100% of the time when the building is occupied
Almost 100% of the time when the building is occupied he’ll choose brute force because it’s fast and gains entry quickly with a very high success rate. If the building is empty, the chance of detection low, and we need a clandestine entry, we’ll attack the lock. It is not nearly as sexy as everyone seems to think.
7. What is one lock that you would love to pick?
ANSWER: I would have liked to try to pick the Bowley lock. It was demonstrated in a YT video a few years ago by Lockman28 & looks absolutely awesome. The designer did contact me and offered to send one for me to check out, but unfortunately, it never happened.
The company apparently made only a few prototypes for demos, then had a kickstarter that ultimately failed to raise enough money to begin production. Looking at the design I believe the precision and complexity made production costs too high to mass produce. The company was going to attempt a second kickstarter but I never heard any details about the results. Still, every day I get 3-4 emails from people asking “when are you going to pick the new Bowley lock?” Since it rarer than unicorns, probably never.
Until then I’ll keep flailing away on my Mul-T-Lock MT-5+, praying for an open…
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