Why You Should Learn the Basics of Lock Picking

By Ryan B

how-to-pick-a-lock-1To be a survivalist by nature means to take your fate into your own hands. To develop a mentality that says I am the master of my destiny and no obstacle – be it man, earth, or mind – will stand in my way. The survivalist hopes for the best, but prepares for the worst by acquiring skills that they may never once need to practically use in their lives. Skills that one day could very well be the difference between life and death.

But what begs the question is what skills one should allocate their time towards training in. What skills could carry the most weight in terms of utility in a world that has fallen into chaos. While the necessity of some skills are obvious, such as self defense and firearm proficiency, some skills lack the attention that they so deserve. One such skill is that of lock picking.

Lock picking has many negative connotations associated with it, such as being the craft of criminals, and it’s understandable why people hold it to this shady light. The very purpose of lock picking is to undermine and compromise security, so many ask why would one ever need to learn such a skill if not to use it maliciously.

The reality is that the majority of lock pickers are either hobbyist who enjoy the challenge and puzzle that lock picking provides or they are individuals who want to understand and improve their own security. Regardless of why one chooses to learn this craft, one thing is for certain. The world is an open door to the lock picker and for an urban based survivalist this can make a monumental difference in a variety of ways. Lets take a gander at the convenience and value that this skill can provide.

Lock picking is dependable: In any urban based survival situation you may find yourself with the desire to open something that is both locked and in which you do not hold the key for. In such a situation you may be inclined to resort to brute force. But while doors may be kicked in, lock boxes breached, and padlocks broken, there are always those physical barriers that are impervious to muscle. Wherever we find ourselves in life we desire reliability and that is one of the finer gifts lock picking can provide us.

The majority of locks utilized today are that of the pin tumbler lock, which are remarkably simple in their design. By understanding the basic principles of lock picking and with proficiency in the skill itself, the survivor can virtually gain entrance to 99% of locks without the use of force or a key. By means of lock picking, you can acquire a certain peace of mind and confidence knowing that locks are not an enemy to be feared.

Lock picking is subtle and gentle: There may be times where keeping a low profile is ideal and bashing down a door could attract unwanted attention. One of the fantastic qualities of lock picking is that it is covert. You can gain entry to places without anyone ever knowing you did so. Furthermore, because you are essentially mimicking the use of a key, there will never be any evidence left behind that a lock was picked and entry gained.

This non-destructive nature of lock picking can also serve a greater purpose. If the need ever arises, you can utilize every lock you pick. If you ever find yourself in need of a secure place to take shelter, you can always pick the lock and re-lock it behind you or collect padlocks to use at a later time. Additionally, you will have the means to remove a lock without damaging what it is protecting. For example, you could pull a trigger lock off a firearm without the potential of damaging the weapon. Lock picking has a finesse about it that is often underestimated.

Gain a higher understanding of security: Understanding the basic principles surrounding lock picking will open your eyes to a very concerning reality. The concept of the lock is an illusion. Locks deceive us with false promises of protection when in truth they offer very little against anyone with a set of picks and a little knowledge of how they work. By way of lock picking you will gain a genuine mindset regarding your own security and by what means you can further increase that security.

There is a famous saying from the ancient Chinese general Sun Tzu, “Know thy enemy.” You never know what skills or manner of techniques potential enemies may have and being ignorant of these possible skills could be detrimental to your safety. But by acquiring the knowledge that your enemies may have about locks and security, you can sleep peacefully at night with confidence that you and your interests sit at the pinnacle in terms of security.

Achieve an economic edge: In addition to an advantage in terms of security, you will also gain an edge over others in regards to the resources available to you. In times of a post collapse, resources become scarce and having access to areas that many others will be forced to pass over will give you an additional selection of assets.

So just how difficult is it to learn how to pick a lock? There is a common misconception that lock picking takes years and years of practice to acquire. While this is true in terms of skill mastery, basic concepts and picking techniques can be learned and applied in a very short amount of time. After you understand how exactly a pin tumbler lock works, which is very simple in theory, you can realistically begin picking locks immediately. This being said, lock picking is still a skill and to gain and maintain proficiency, it must be practiced.

Why not just use a crowbar or just kick down the door – well because you might not want to make a lot of noise that could draw attention, you may not want to leave sign that you were there, or you might need a place to sleep and want the locks intact to help protect you once you’re inside.

Also keep in mind that no one is advocating illegal activity, or taking from others – we are talking about surviving a worst case SHTF event and only taking to save our life and then only from unused sources, and not from families or other preppers.

A basic set of lock picks can easily be purchased online for around $25. Of course before you do so it is best to check if owning a set of picks is legal in your country. A complete guide regarding the legality of lock picking in your area can be found at lockwiki.

So as we can see, lock picking is a very practical skill to acquire. Whether it be to solve an ordinary everyday problem, such as locking yourself out of your home, or to deal with an survival situation like that of removing a trigger lock from a firearm, lock picking is a skill set you can always rely on. You will feel a certain level of confidence knowing that if push comes to shove, you can tackle just about any lock with grace and certitude. Open up your world and learn the craft that is lock picking.

Note: Be sure to check your state and local laws before possessing lock picking tools – in some areas it’s against the law (what isn’t) to own these tools…


  1. This is skill that will come in handy. You will loose keys. You will need to know how to change the combination on you safe. And it could end up being a marketable SHTF skill.

  2. wish diagrams could be included with some of these articles as it would be very helpful. Following written examples is difficult at best. I have a lock pick outfit and have attempted numerous times to achieve the skill but have never been able to do it. it is something I am doing wrong I am sure.

    • BlueJeanedLady says:

      @ Tom. Do a search on ‘YouTube’ as there are several videos available on this topic. Not that I’ve ever viewed them . . . 🙂

    • Tom:

      Paladin Press has books and a DVD.

    • Try clicking on some of the links that are provided in the article…

    • Thomas The Tinker says:

      Tom: What MD said… “how to pick a lock” in how to achieve an edge…..

    • when picking a lock the main thing too remember is a light touch on both the lever and the pick you will feel the tumblers move past the shear line and become ingaged, even after many years of picking locks you must understand that all lock are not created equal most kwick set are a piece of cake but even these if the tumbler have a large degre of change from one pin to the next it is harder to pick

    • Check out the authors’ website. Art-of-lock picking.com ,there are some good diagrams and more instruction on lock picking

  3. There is also a Lock Picking Guide from MIT, that you can download. (http://www.lysator.liu.se/mit-guide/MITLockGuide.pdf)

    In addition if you shop around you can get a set of tools for a decent price (Amazon and Massdrop are good sources)

    To help you refine your new found skill, you should get a set of practice locks. I would suggest that you go to second hand stores or community building supplies. You can usually get locks for pennies per pound.

    They include locks that are new and old, rusted and upkept, simple and complex. They are super cheap and provide a good variety for training.

    In addition you can talk to other people that Pick Locks because there are many societies that teach and train as a recreational activity and then trade locks you can open quickly, for new-to-you pieces. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Locksport)

    • Jeremy is right…I did not look up the guide, but the practice locks are invaluable and the right price.
      Depending on how you pick locks also requires some study…pick, sweep, raking, and and a lock clicker.
      How hard you push that tension bar is a make or break situation. Go very light handed.

  4. I’ve tried it- some locks are really tough, others are too easy.
    get one of the cut-away training locks from amazon ($25). and practice. …and get hand cuff practice set. you’ll laugh that you can pick a hand cuff with any paperclip in under a min. it’s something that needs to be learned because you never know when that skill might come in handy is something I totally agree with…

  5. I used to paint apartments back in 70’s, as 1 tenant moved on & next gonna move in…..large complexes, master keys successful 80-90% of time….. Regular locks easily thwarted w/heavy screwdriver. Leverage technique…. a little practice & few marks left….. Dead bolts were usually another matter- some not too hard….

    Getting proficient in article’s material a boon, overall. Especially as goons will crawl out of woodwork post shtf….. think of gacy…. Used trick handcuff gag, switched w/real pair on potential victims….

    Powdered graphite a good prep item, great lock lube…..

    • sometimes the lube and graphite is your enemy, the trick to picking locks is keeping a pin just past the shear line which requires some friction you are relying on the slight difference in the bore holes to creat this friction with lube it driver will slide back

  6. Thomas The Tinker says:

    MD….. I have a new ‘Winter’ past time……….. Thanks…… skills, skills, skills…..

  7. Crazy Joe in South Jersey says:

    Excellent SKILL article . Easy to learn , tools are easy to get and not to much money . Both my sons picked up on this in their late teens . It has helped both on one or more occassions . I personally hate having locks with a lost key but this skill eliminates that problem . It should be noted that there are various size pick sets going from the cheaper cost to more expensive depending on the number and type of picks & tools included . Both of my sons went with the mid price sets which covers most pad locks and door locks out there .

  8. Rkc_rider61 says:

    Here is a web site to aid with this skill. It also shows cutaways and videos. Best of all it is free. https://store.itstactical.com/security.html

  9. Prepperism is addicting isn’t it?! I love the store option that you have now. Lock picking is a great skill to know! http://pickeroflocks.com

  10. If you have to “pick a lock”? You’re doing it wrong. Just saying..

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