Lock picking is a skill used by locksmiths and security professionals to open locks without the use of keys. It involves manipulating the lock’s internal mechanisms to gain access without damaging the lock itself.

In order to do this, various types of lock picks must be used depending on the type of lock being picked. This guide will provide an overview of different types of lock picks and their uses, focusing on basic and specialized tools, as well as different techniques for using them.

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Basic Lock Picking Tools

Lock picking is a skill that requires the use of specialized tools in order to open locks without the original key.

The four main types of lock picks include tension wrenches, hook picks, diamond picks, and raking and ball picks.

Tension wrenches are used to apply torque to a lock cylinder so that the pins inside can move up and down as they should when a key is inserted.

Hook picks are designed with curved tips which allow them to reach deeper into the lock mechanism and manipulate individual pins or tumblers.

Diamond picks have sharp points at their ends which help them dig into stubborn locks.

Raking picks are designed with several sharp points along their length which allow them to rake across multiple pins simultaneously while ball picks feature rounded tips that help guide each pin up as it is manipulated.

Tension wrench

The tension wrench is an essential tool for manipulating pin tumbler locks. It is a thin metal bar that applies torque to the plug of the lock when pressure is applied.

The purpose of the tension wrench is to hold the cylinder pins in place, allowing each pin to be manipulated by using a pick or rake. This allows the user to lift each pin until it reaches its shear line and unlocks the plug.

Depending on their design, tension wrenches can also be used as picks themselves, with some models featuring multiple ends of varying shapes and sizes.

Tension wrenches come in a variety of shapes and sizes, depending on their intended use. Some are designed for general-purpose applications while others are made specifically for more advanced techniques such as single-pin picking (SPP) or raking.

In addition, some tools feature adjustable heads that allow users to customize their torque levels depending on the type of lock they are attempting to open. As one of the most important tools for any lock picking set, it is important that users select one that suits their needs properly so as not to damage the lock mechanism itself.

Hook pick

Hook picks are an essential tool for lock picking, used to manipulate the pins inside a pin tumbler lock. They have a curved tip resembling a hook and are designed to catch the pins of a lock in order to lift and separate them.

The design of the hook pick is versatile enough to allow it to be used on many different types of locks, making it an invaluable tool for any aspiring locksmith. In addition, hook picks come in various sizes and angles which makes them useful for more complex locks as they can be manipulated more precisely than other types of picks.

As such, they can often be used to open higher security locks that would not be possible with other tools. Hook picks require considerable skill and practice to use effectively however; novices should seek out guidance from experienced professionals before attempting such challenging tasks.

Diamond pick

A diamond pick is another specialized tool used in the field of lock picking, featuring a tip that is shaped like a diamond. This pick is often considered to be more versatile than hook picks, as it can be used for more complicated locks and keyways.

The diamond pick works by inserting the tip into the keyway of the lock and manipulating it around so that all of the pins line up correctly with their associated bittings. It’s important for users to note that diamond picks work best on pin-and-tumbler locks, which use small metal pins instead of wafers or discs.

The shape of the diamond pick allows for greater control when manipulating each pin within a lock, as compared to other types of picks such as rake picks or tension wrenches. Because of this increased accuracy, it can be an ideal choice for those looking to open higher security locks without damaging them or causing too much disruption to their inner workings.

Additionally, because they are designed specifically for pin tumblers they do not require constant pressure while being worked with – making them very user friendly.

Raking pick

Skillfully manipulating pins within a lock can be made easier by utilizing a raking pick, which is designed to quickly open pin-and-tumbler locks. It works by applying pressure to the pins and then rapidly sliding the pick across them in order to push all of them up simultaneously.

The raking technique is effective for opening most standard locks, as it reduces the number of times the user needs to guess at the correct combination or key.

Raking picks come in various shapes, sizes, and materials:


  • Straight rake – Creates greater tension on pins when opened.
  • Snake rake – Creates more intricate movements between pins when opened.
  • Diamond rake – Creates uniformed movement between all pins when opened.


  • Short – Allows for more control over smaller locks but can be harder to insert into larger locks.
  • Longer – Easier to insert into larger locks but can lose precision with smaller ones.


  • Metal – Traditional material used for making picks and provides maximum leverage against a lock’s components.
  • Plastic/Rubber – More lightweight than metal but not as durable and may cause less damage if slip occurs while picking a lock.

Ball pick

Characterized by its spherical shape, the ball pick is a tool used to manipulate pins in locks for unlocking purposes. It consists of a handle connected to a stem with an angled tip, which contains multiple small balls.

As the pick is inserted into the lock and manipulated, each of these balls applies pressure onto one or more pins at once. The amount of pressure applied can be adjusted by rotating the handle, allowing individual pins to be moved separately.

Another advantage of using a ball pick is that it can act as both a raking and single pin picking (SPP) tool depending on how it’s used. When manipulated quickly along the shear line, the multiple points of contact created by the balls let it mimic rake-like movements for faster results than SPP alone.

However, when moved slowly and precisely through each pin chamber, this same design lets users feel small changes in tension as they interact with individual pins for more delicate work.


Specialized Lock Picking Tools

Tubular lock picks are a type of lock pick that feature a cylindrical shape and are used for tubular locks, or locks with round keyways. These types of locks are often found on vending machines, coin-operated laundry machines, and other commercial applications.

Bump keys may be used in combination with tubular lock picks to open certain pin tumbler locks by using the torque from striking the key in order to ‘bump’ the pins into the correct position.

Electric lock picks use an electric current to manipulate and open pin tumbler locks, while pick guns use an internal hammer mechanism which causes the pins inside the lock to jump up at once when activated.

Tubular lock picks

Known as one of the most difficult locks to pick, tubular locks provide a unique challenge for even experienced lock pickers.

Tubular lock picks are specifically designed to open this type of lock, which features a cylindrical shape and pins arranged in a circle.

To use a tubular lock pick, the tool must be inserted into the center of the cylinder and rotated in either direction while applying tension.

The tool will then make contact with each pin inside and push them up simultaneously until all pins are aligned at the shear line.

A variety of specialized tools have been developed to make picking these locks easier, including specialty picks that feature several interchangeable tips or picks with various curves and angles.

Some tubular picks also come with adjustable tension wrenches to further enhance their effectiveness when picking more complex locks.

Although this style of lock is much harder to pick than others, it can be done with practice using these specialized tools.

Bump keys

Bump keys are a specialized tool used to open locks by manipulating the pins within them. Bump keys are comprised of blank, pre-cut keys that match the profile and size of any lock, with each bump key being specific to the type of lock.

To use a bump key, an individual applies force to the key while striking it with an object such as a hammer or screwdriver handle in order to move the pins into place and unlock the door. The four main components of using a bump key effectively include:

  1. Using an appropriate blank pre-cut key
  2. Applying downward pressure on the key
  3. Striking hard enough for momentum
  4. Having a good feel for when all pins have been set correctly

The effectiveness of this technique relies heavily on experience and practice in order for it to be successful. Bump keys can also be used by law enforcement officers during criminal investigations or other situations where access is needed quickly and safely.

Electric lock picks

Electric lock picks offer a specialized method of gaining access to locks without the use of a traditional key, allowing for quick and secure entry. These devices allow users to open pin tumbler locks and disc tumbler locks by applying varying levels of electricity. This is done by setting the amount of current that is used to control the voltage and then slowly increasing it until the lock is opened.

Electric lock picks are particularly useful in situations where speed and precision are important, such as when dealing with high security systems or when bypassing restrictive security measures.

The most common type of electric lock pick is the direct-current (DC) pick, which uses an electrical current to manipulate pins within a pin tumbler cylinder. Other variations include alternating-current (AC) and variable-frequency (VF) picks, which use pulsed electric signals instead of DC currents. The VF pick is one of the more advanced models as it can be adjusted to match different frequencies emitted from different types of electronic locks.

Regardless of the model chosen, electric lock picks provide a highly effective means for quickly opening locked doors without any damage or destruction to either the door itself or its internal components.

Pick guns

Pick guns provide a specialized tool for gaining access to locks without the use of a key, facilitating fast and secure entry. Pick guns are more commonly used by professional locksmiths due to their complexity of operation and cost.

They are typically constructed with an ergonomic handle that houses an electric motor which drives a pin into the inside of the lock. The pins move back and forth in order to find the correct combination within seconds, allowing the user to open the lock quickly and conveniently.

Pick guns come in various models, each designed for specific types of locks such as padlocks, door knobs and deadbolts. They can also be used on different types of locks such as cylinder or tubular locks, dimple-style keys, mortise locksets and others.

Some pick guns have interchangeable tips that enable them to work on multiple lock types while other models must be purchased separately for each type of lock. Common features include adjustable tension knobs and speed adjustments for better control when picking a lock.

Different Lock Picks techniques

Lock picking is a skill that requires knowledge of the various techniques and tools used to open locks.

Single-pin picking, raking, bumping, and decoding are all common lock pick techniques with their own unique characteristics.

Each technique has its own advantages and disadvantages depending on the user’s skill level as well as the type of lock being picked.

Single-pin picking

Single-pin picking is a method of lock manipulation wherein a single pin or wafer within the lock is manipulated. This technique requires knowledge of how locks are designed and constructed, as well as the use of special tools to pick the pins inside the cylinder.

Specifically, it involves using a tool called a lock pick which consists of two components: an entry tool and tension wrench. The entry tool is used to move each pin up and down in order to find its correct position, while the tension wrench applies torque to keep pressure on the lock plug so that when all pins are aligned at their shear line—the point where they can be moved freely—the plug can be turned and opened.

Single-pin picking requires precision, patience, and skill but can be an effective means of opening locks with minimal damage. However, it is important to note that this technique should only be attempted by experienced individuals who have received proper training in order to avoid damaging locks or causing other issues.

Additionally, some locks may require specialized tools which may not always be available or accessible for those attempting this type of manipulation.


Raking is a method of lock manipulation which involves using a tool to quickly slide multiple pins up and down at the same time in order to open the lock.

This is done by placing the rake into the keyway, then manipulating it back and forth while applying tension to the plug with a tension wrench.

Raking has several advantages over single-pin picking:

  • Faster: Raking is much faster than single-pin picking as it requires fewer movements.
  • It’s easy to learn: As long as you have an understanding of how locks work, raking is relatively simple.
  • More effective: As long as you use the right tool for the job, raking can be very effective in opening locks without damaging them.
  • Versatile: Rakes come in many shapes and sizes so they can be used for different types of locks.

This makes raking a great option for those who want an efficient way to open locks quickly without having to resort to more invasive methods such as drilling or destructive entry techniques.


The art of lock bumping offers a unique and effective way to open locks, with speed and precision. This technique is based on the use of a bump key, which is basically an altered key that has been cut in such a way that it can be used to open locks of different sizes. The process involves inserting the key into the lock and then striking it with a small hammer or other object in order to create vibrations that will push the pins of the lock up at the same time. Once this occurs, the lock should open easily.

A great advantage of using this type of technique is its speed and ease-of-use compared to traditional methods such as picking or raking. Additionally, since many locks are designed with protection against raking methods, bumping may provide an additional layer of security for those interested in protecting their valuables or property.


Moving on from the technique of bumping, another useful technique in lock picking is decoding.

Decoding involves examining a lock’s keyway and manipulating its components to determine the exact size, shape and depths of each cut required for a successful unlocking. This process can be done with both traditional lock picks and specially made code cards, or impression tools.

The following are three advantages of decoding:

  • It is one of the most reliable methods for unlocking locks without knowing the combination.
  • It can be used to create new keys quickly and accurately without having to disassemble the entire locking mechanism.
  • By understanding how different locks work, it can help a locksmith better understand all types of locks and develop more efficient strategies for unlocking them.


Lock picking is a versatile skill used to open locks without the use of a key. With the right tools and techniques, locksmiths can open any lock they come across.

Basic lock picking tools such as tension wrenches and picks are used to manipulate pins found in pin-and-tumbler locks. Specialized tools, like electric pick guns and jigglers, can be used to quickly open certain types of locks.

Different lock picking techniques include raking, single pin picking, snap guns, and bypassing keyways. All these different methods serve their own purpose for unlocking various types of locks.

Lock picking is an art form that requires patience and practice in order to master it. With the proper training and knowledge anyone can become an expert at opening any type of lock with just a few simple tools.