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Will 'PICK X' open 'LOCK Y'?

Posted by Chris Dangerfield on

Hello Lock Pickers

Mul-t-lock garrison lockOne of the most common emails I receive (apart from the endless 'Thank you for a great service and super-dooper, ultra-discount lock pick' ones, of course) is one of the many variations on the 'Will these picks open this lock?', accompanied by a blurry picture of an old rim-cylinder, padlock, bike lock, or tubular lock on an old safe. This email - if you know anything about lock picking is as simple as it is complicated to answer. For instance, were it a 6 pin cylinder, generic keyway, then yes, sure, a set of rakes, a pick gun, a pick set - even Mica - can open that lock. But it depends on a lot of things out of my control. What condition is the lock? Is it full of sand (locksmiths who live in hot countries by the beach - even cold countries near the beach - will know the amount of trouble sand can cause locks), is it full of bent and/or damaged pins where you (or someone) has tried to force it, snap it, drill it, etc. Without knowing the state of the lock I don't really know what will certainly work on it, and I never could. Assuming the lock is in perfect working order, what are your abilities as a lock picker? You may have bumped a couple of locks, you may have had a few lucky rakes (and as much as I love raking, isn't all raking a little bit lucky? That's the beauty of it, surely?). In many walks of life a small amount of success can give us a false sense of our own abilities, and then, faced with a new lock, you think 'I can do that!', I'll just send a photo to the nice people at UK Bump Keys and they'll send me the CORRECT lock smith tools.

So we have a few variables slowly mounting up: The lock, the condition of the lock, the picks, the condition of the picker (by which I mean their abilities, not their sobriety!) all of which make answering this question tricky - especially when you add the fact that it's not a library! We're not lending you the picks, you're buying them! And money does funny things to people, if you say (and by 'you say' I mean 'I say') 'Yes, that pick opens those locks' I risk everything, and I need to add a couple of additional operative words: 'Yes, that pick CAN open those TYPE of locks' - which goes some way in covering me - not in a deviant, deceitful way - but in a way where the customer (who often isn't a locksmith and therefore doesn't realise the variables which make this question difficult to answer, both simple and complex at the same time) understands that you can never say 100% that a particular pick will open a particular lock. Certain picks are made for certain types of locks, if the lock is in good shape and your lock picking abilities are good enough to make the picks work to the best of their ability then yes, there's a good chance that you can open that lock. But that is all! a GOOD CHANCE! 

As a lock picker I think a 'good chance' is an amazing thing. Good chances in many things in life have meant the difference between getting something done - achieving something - and not. A poor chance, a small chance will often discourage, often stop a project before it's had a chance to start. But a good chance - without them we'd have no lock picking, no new picks or techniques - and arguably, no new lock pickers. If it was generally thought that lock picking gave you a small chance of opening a lock, you'd probably give up on it and go play with your Playstation instead. If it were only a small chance, locksmiths would be broke and rarely called, instead, emergency window fitters would be rich, as smashing a window gives you a GREAT chance of getting in - which is why thieves tend to use such techniques and have little of no interest in lock smithing tools (but that's another blog or two!).

You see, aside from the lock picker's abilities, aside from the quality of the lock, there's another variable that corrupts all averages - mean, modal and median (see, I was awake during one maths lesson at school) the variable which throws the whole question (and of course, answer) into random-city is this: Some locks won't respond to some techniques! Not some TYPES of lock, not some ABILITIES of picker. No, some locks - whatever they are, how expensive or cheap, or old or new, or high security or low security - a lock, whatever it's merits and faults, whatever its features and promises, whatever it IS - sometimes doesn't matter. Just like the lock picker, locksmith, or complete noobie, sometimes it doesn't matter. Whatever the quality of the bump key, whatever the quality of the lock picks, the pick gun, the bump key or the jigglers - sometimes it doesn't matter. The simple fact that prevents me from answering the question 'Will pick X open lock Y?' is that some locks don't respond to some techniques.

I have a lock that I cannot bump. It surprises me as I can bump most locks (within reason - magnets etc, proofed against bumping, etc, aside) but not this one. Everything about it suggests I should be able to bump it. It's keyway is generic - I have about 10 handmade bump keys on the generic profile, ones I've perfected over the years to deal with all types of pins, spacings, depths, bitings, condition, etc. But this lock won't budge. It won't respond to bumping. I've raked it, and I've single pin picked it, but it WILL NOT BUMP.

I have another, a 7 pin GE GE - I CAN bump it (there's a video somewhere) but can I open it with a pick gun? No. Not a Brockhage manual pick gun, not a KLOM pick gun and not what I consider the best Electric Pick Gun in the world, the Li ion Dino Lock Pick Gun. It just doesn't respond to Pick Guns. Some locks won't respond to certain techniques, they seem impossible to open when attacked with one tool. And that's before we've taken into account all the other variables mentioned above - skill of picker, state of lock etc. Add it all together and the question becomes increasingly more complicated - and yet still quite simple. I don't wish to get all Derridian on you, post-structural thought has little room here, but the answer to 'Will pick X open Lock Y' starts spiraling negatively inward and the answer becomes (un)reassuringly 'Yes and no'! Not what a prospective customer wants to hear, and as helpful as it is pointless.

There is of course another, more sensible route to go down, and why locksmiths have a variety of tools for each type of lock. You can never say a lock pick will open a lock. Not 100% - even those picks like the SouthOrd Tubular picks which have NEVER failed me. There's just too many variables at work to say for sure a pick will open a lock. Having a variety of tools for the same lock type is the way to increase your chances of success, it's why there are so many types of pick for each type of lock, and why new picks are greeted with excitement even though there may be many other picks for those locks. If a lock won't respond to one type of rake, it might respond to another, if it won't open to both rakes or a pick gun you can try and bump it, etc, etc. A locksmith will equip themselves with a load of tools to ensure entry. With a family with kids, standing in the rain after 3 weeks in the sun and a 13 hour plane ride behind them, want to get in, and if all else fails, out comes the drill! But not before a good few techniques have been attempted.

For the casual picker, noobie or enthusiast, the predicament is approached and solved backwards. If you buy a new set of rakes, a pick gun, a bump key etc, make sure you have a variety of LOCKS! The amount of times I get email saying 'I haven't managed to rake/bump/pick/wish my lock open' is incredible. And I say the same thing every time - get some more locks! Some locks won't respond to the technique you're trying to master - it's as simple as that - to ensure your not crushed by frustration, to ensure your excitement isn't snuffed out before it began, give the picks a chance! Opening locks is good for morale, it gives you confidence, and confidence gives you that gold-dust of lock picking assets - patience! Make sure you have a few locks to try! Accumulate locks - it can only do you good, and working out why one lock opens at the mere sight of a Bogota rake and another lock seems to eat the pick without blinking is what teaches you, the learning with most things in life is not in finding the differences, not in finding the similarities, but learning how to deal with either.

Even with Single Pin Picking, some locks are a zillion times harder than another that - from the outside at least - seems pretty much the same, it isn't. Having all the punches in the book can make you a great boxer, but using them on just one opponent doesn't. Give yourself and your picks a chance - get plenty of locks, because lock picks, after all - thankfully - are not keys, even ones of the 'bump' variety.

Until Next time.

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