So you bought a set of picks, read a few blogs, watched a few videos – even picked a few locks. But in your heart you know that when you decided to delve into the strange art of lock picking, you held back a little bit on the expenditure – a wise move, probably. You may not have enjoyed it, you may not have had any luck – you may not have picked any locks. Or, alternatively, you held back far too much and bought absolute junk from one of those absolute junk websites and you know now that you have more chance of picking a lock with your elbow. Whatever your story, if you’re reading this you responded to a link that suggested it might be time for an upgrade, so I’m going to give you some guidance, some advice, and help make your next purchase the best it can possibly be. Let’s go!
Firstly, some sets are better than others. The quality of the manufacture, the actual making of the picks. The time, knowledge and experience that went into the design. The selection and range of picks, rakes, and tension tools. The case, the cost, and the service. All of these things contribute to the overall quality of the set. Yet – and this is key – rather than look for the best lock pick set, look for the best lock pick set FOR YOU.
So here’s a checklist you can use when seeking an upgrade. I have been supplying and manufacturing lock picks for decades now, and reckon I know a little bit about them. This checklist will help you identify the best lock pick set for you.
1 – Check comments, reviews, feedback, etc.
Most supplier websites will have the option for customers to leave reviews. These are gold-dust. Obviously do your best to ensure the integrity of such reviews, but this is simple enough. Also, look for reviews elsewhere online. Pick manufacturers who have faith in their products are usually eager to have their products reviewed and will often send out pre-sale sets for review. Sites on You Tube, blogs, etc are always worth checking out. Again, check to make sure these people aren’t in any way connected to the profits and aren’t just shilling for their own pocket. Reviews on Amazon aren’t so trustworthy since customers are often incentivized to leave positive feedback, but on independent sites you should be able to glean a fair amount from the information that’s available. Lock picking forums are also a good place to look, but be aware that many forums are connected to a shop and again be aware of active biases at work.
2 – Reputation of manufacturer/supplier.
Companies with a long history of quality lock pick manufacture will often ensure anything new they release maintains this reputation. Ensuring their name continues to be associated with quality, well designed, manufactured and considered products. Now you cannot 100% rely on this, but it’s usually a good indicator of a certain level of quality. Combined with the reviews etc (which long standing companies will certainly have arranged pre-release) you’ll be able to glean a fair amount of useful information.
3 – Contents of set.
You need to identify what you want, setting a goal of sorts. It’s very hard to get what you want if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Perhaps you’re very happy with your previous set but feel like you want a few more rakes. Or, you have plenty of tension tools and rakes, but have found hooks work well for you and wish to add to that part of your kit. Alternatively, you might be looking for a completely new set – an ‘all day carry’ as it’s often called. A new set that has the right balance (for you) between picks, rakes and wrenches. Whatever it is, be sure you know as you can without doubt find either a specialist set dedicated to a particular type of pick, or a general set containing a good balance of all of them. There are sets of just hooks (like the Sparrows SSDeV set), or set of just rakes (the SouthOrd ‘Pagoda’ set). You can but sets of wrenches too – so it might be a question of combining a couple of specialist sets to correct and expand the overall balance of your kit. Many suppliers sell ‘empty’ cases in all types – zip-up, wrap-around, fold-over, etc. So you could for instance add some hooks and wrenches to what you already have, buy a case and put everything in the one case, creating the perfect – sort of ‘made to measure’ set perfect for your requirements – again, you’re looking at creating, or buying the best set for YOU.
4 – Price, durability, longevity.
In a perfect world price wouldn’t be an issue – and as an indicator it’s usually – but not always – a pretty good measure of quality. I say not always as there was once a lock pick manufacturer (they’re no longer in business!) who’s picks sold well above the market average. They looked lovely, the finish was great, and the cases were very nice. After an initial few months of success the bad reviews began to appear. It turned out the nice finish managed to hide all manner of problems with the base metal. They were very cheaply made with poor quality metal. Reports of them snapping, bending, becoming brittle, all sorts of nightmares you don’t want after spending the best part of a week’s wages on a set of picks. This is rare though and - combined with customer comments, reviews, reputation, etc. A high price will certainly offer quality. But will it offer the picks you need? Does it solve your problem? Spending high might mean the metal is top-end, and the design is near perfect, but if its picks you already have or not the selection you want, they’re pretty much useless. An inch is better than a mile in the right direction, etc.
If you don’t have a new case to put the picks in, will the case they come in look after them? I am aware of companies that make some wonderful picks, then supply them in sub-standard cases. Sometimes companies offer upgrades on the case, with something more durable, that won’t fall apart a few months after purchase. You want these picks to be an investment. You want them to last. As a lock picker you’ll soon find certain picks become your favourite and it’s quite a loss to lose on snap one. Be sure to check the time of the comments and reviews, a flurry of good reviews just after launch could have been incentivized, or fail to review the quality of the picks after a bit of use. The slick finish might be attractive, but does it start to fade, chip, etc? Some of the more decent You Tube review sites will often test the metal, it’s well worth seeing if you can find such a review, it’s nice to know what’s going on under the surface.
There you go. Your pick sets are an investment, and will have a lot to do with your success at picking locks as well as the pleasure you enjoy in doing so. Take your time, make a bit of effort, be vigilant, and spend your money wisely.