When I meet someone new invariably the conversation moves onto what I do for a living. The answer "I'm in Lock Picks" never fails to pique interest. However, after a brief explanation of what 'in lock picks' actually means (ie manufacture, import, export and retail) the question is asked: 'Who buys lock picks?' It's an odd question since it assumes a certain cynicism, as people tend to already have an idea, they already assume it's something dodgy. In short, the assumption is that thieves buy lock picks, people who wish to steal things OBVIOUSLY buy lock picks and therefore in some way UK Bump Keys is colluding with crime.
Luckily I'm not an idiot. Well, not all the time, and especially not when it comes to business & lock picking, in fact, I reserve my idiocy for all other areas of my life, the less important things like health, relationships, and family. Having been in this game now for over a decade I've had many conversations with law enforcement agencies of various types and all of them say much the same thing. Thieves don't care about the lock picker's primary concern: non-destructive entry. Someone who has speed as their primary concern doesn't want to be fiddling around with picks, adjusting tension, looking for binding pins, etc etc. No - a hammer, house-brick, or even a foot - is far more reliable in such a situation. An officer with 15 years experience on the front line said he had NEVER come across a thief using non-destructive entry tools, NEVER!
I'm a pretty good lock picker, given time and a few practice locks I can work out how to open many locks and if the tools don't exist for a specialist lock, I could (probably) get together with some of my friends with expertise in different areas of lock picking and come up with something to do the job. But (and it's a big BUT) I would still - were I the thief - prefer to put my foot through the door, or a sledge hammer through the window. If - like in some British crime drama - I were approached by someone who had my family hostage and was forced to steal something to get them back safely, I wouldn't look toward lock picks, in fact they would be the last thing I'd consider. The idea of getting out a torch, or a illuminated headset, spreading my picks out on the floor, kneeling down and in a high pressure situation try and work among the tiny tolerances of lock picking - well, I may as well not bother and pull the trigger myself.
So - who does buy lock picks? I can only speak from my own experience but I'd say about 50% of our customers are trade - obviously, with so many standard locksmith items (pick guns, auto-entry items, pick sets and rakes) our frequently below market average prices makes us a regular (and over 80% of our customers return for more) for professional locksmiths or other people in the property industry such as landlords, estate agents, handymen etc. The next biggest group will be the locksport fanatics, that curious breed of people who open locks for fun, puzzle-solving types essentially, who crave new ideas, new tools, different approaches and interesting solutions to non-destructive entry.
So that's without doubt the two biggest demograpics, lock-related trades and lock picking enthusiasts. But the rest are the interesting ones. We've supplied all the emergency services, ambulance, police and fire services, we've supplied Ministry of Defense related agencies, and roadside recovery services. One of the more interesting customer bases though is The Movies, we have supplied more than a few movie production companies who in an attempt to add a little realism to the lock picking part of their story want to get it right - and credit to them, how many times have you seen a character in a film pick a lock without a wrench? The old 'one pick pick' so to speak. It looks stupid and lets down the 'reality' of the story. Interestingly when a film production company contacts us for tools they are quick to ask for advice in using the pick and videos where possible - with over 70 videos on our site we're always happy and able to oblige. Many such people have even been so good to send us links to the finished movie, perhaps one day I'll make a compilation of all the movies we've supplied lock picks too, but only if they get it right!
So in answer to the question, without sarcasm the answer is simple: Who buys Lock Picks? People who want to open locks who don't have the right keys, and who don't want to damage the locks. Not thieves.
Lock Pickers of the world unite! Almost every week I get someone on Twitter ( @ukbumpkeys ) accusing me of aiding crime. They do so - as is the way with Twitter - with no evidence, just an arrogant sense of them possessing the truth, which is the kind of truth that invariably ends up being false, being untrue. It might be counter-intuitive but it's what the people who have experience say, it's what the evidence suggests.
I believe in freedom, freedom to choose and freedom to access all available information. Calling for a ban on the sale of lock picks doesn't only miss the target by light-years, it wastes time and money that could be better spent doing something to actually prevent crime. Where would I start? Lock manufacturers who happily supply security items that provide none. Ironic really that in an attempt to increase the safety of our property and our families, it's not the lock pickers that are the problem, but the locks themselves.
Until next time.