How to Pick a Pin and Tumbler Lock


Learning to pick a standard pin and tumbler lock shows just how vulnerable they really are. Pin and tumbler locks feature two pins (a driver pin and a key pin) in each channel, as well as a spring. When the proper key is inserted, each pin stack is lined up along what’s called the shear line and this allows the internal cylinder to rotate.

The goal in picking a lock is to apply tension and push each pin stack upwards, causing the driver pin to move past the shear line and stay put. Once each pin stack has been manipulated, the cylinder will now turn freely.

Begin with a lock pick set that includes a tension device and a hook or rake pick. Insert the tension device at the bottom of the keyway and apply slight tension. Now, use the pick to push the pin stacks individually until you feel each driver pin stick above the shear line. This process takes practice and patience, so don’t become discouraged and take frequent breaks. Once all the driver pins are above the shear line, you should feel the cylinder turn and the lock will now open.

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