A resource for consumers, locksmiths, and security professionals.
Posted On by Ralph Goodman
The art of lock picking is no longer a skill used exclusively by the dregs of society. In fact, most criminals have given up on lock picking all together. In the absence of criminality, an amazing hobby has taken hold. I know a lot of people think that it is illegal to own lock picks. I would refer you to our article on the legality of owning lock picks, but this is not the case in very many places in the United States. And just as an FYI, if you don’t have to consult a lawyer before getting into a hobby, then that hobby is most likely lame.
Cool hobbies are the things that people consider as going against the grain of society, but still not illegal. You want your hobby to be like a nice leather jacket. Rugged but still approachable. Practical, but without losing the cool factor. Forget about model trains. Forget about wine tasting. And try your hardest to forget about competitive dog dancing. There will be no need for any other hobbies once you get bit by the lock picking bug. But this bug is a werewolf! And it is going to turn you into a security bypassing beast. If you still aren’t convinced, let’s explore the topic a little further.
It is important to get you familiar with the most basic ethics behind lock picking before I start giving you the sales pitch. Because lock picking gives you powers beyond the realm of mortal men, you must abide by not only the laws of your land but also the code of the lock pickers. These rules must be followed even when the law is absent or takes no stance on the issue. The guidelines are simple and easy to remember:
With that basic two rule framework, you can avoid the morally gray areas of picking. The second rule can have exceptions based on your chosen profession, but the first is a hard and fast rule. Even if you want to become a locksmith or other form of security professional, you will always need the permission of the person, whose locks you are picking. Getting this permission, as well as verifying their ownership, keeps everyone safe. It makes sure that you are not breaking the law, and it also makes sure that no one is gaining access that they should not have. The second rule is to protect the lock itself. Excessive picking of a lock will damage it. At that point you will probably have to find a locksmith well versed in the art of damaged lock repair. That means that you should not experiment with locks while they are being used for security. Again, if you are picking locks which are in use for your work, then that is a different story. As a hobbyist, it is important to stay away from such things.
There are a lot of hobbies that people take up, which don’t really transfer to a job. If you really like to pick locks, then there are actually jobs where you can do it, and get paid. It is true that there is quite a bit more to locksmithing then picking locks, but you don’t have to become a locksmith to use lock picking. There are other jobs in the security field that require quite a bit of lock knowledge and manipulation facility. Businesses and companies will hire private contractors to test out penetration attacks on their security.
Usually, people think about white hat hacking, which people in movies do from a remote location, without ever stepping into the building they are hacking. In the real world, the physical protection that a company has will secure certain servers that cannot be remotely accessed. Such physical protections require physical security penetration. These jobs really do exist and involve you being paid by companies to break in and steal their stuff. The path, to what sounds like easily the most exciting job on the planet, begins with learning the basics of lock picking and constantly practicing what you learn. From there you would move on to access code systems, and maybe even hacking. There is so much cool information that you can learn, and once you do, you are more qualified to use your abilities for legal and profitable employment.
Not only is it practical because it can land you a job, but it also allows you and the people around you to save money on locksmith services. In almost every state you can have lockpicks, you are allowed to use them if given permission by the owner of the lock. Mother-in-law is locked out of her house? Head over there with your lock picks and get her back in just in time to catch Alex Trebek welcoming her to Jeopardy. This is also true for your own home. If you or any of your family members lock themselves out, then you most certainly have your own permission to pick your locks. This ITS Tactical article also talks about how lock picking can save lives.
Essentially, nonviolent entry into a home where an elderly person is living keeps them more safe than someone having to kick the door down. Even if you are not going to go out into the world and begin helping out all the people you know with their lockout conundrums, you will have a lot of knowledge to bestow on the people you meet. Being a resource for information will keep your loved ones safe from locksmith scams. If they think that something is fishy, all they have to do is give you a call. Some scammer is claiming that a basic Kwikset deadbolt (not the SmartKey cylinder) needs to be drilled open because it is “high security”. You are going to be able to tell your friends to send that conman on his way. Hopefully, you will also convince your friends to get better and new locks installed.
Lock picking is essentially magic to the general public. People do not understand it, and a part of them does not want to understand it. (Ignorance being bliss, and all that.) That means that when you have a couple pieces of metal and a padlock, you are a magician. People have fun and are entertained by the prospect of seeing something out of the norm. A person picking a lock and then passing it around is outside of the realm of basic social interactions. Being knowledgeable about subjects that have real world applications is also pretty cool. I have been at all kinds of parties where people wanted to know about locks and picking them. I once had an incredibly long conversation about how to decode a master key system.
At first, I thought that no one would be interested in the nerdy lock knowledge that you pick up from being in this community, but people love learning weird things. Though I have never met someone that is not interested in learning a bit about locks, I still make sure that they are not bored to death by the subject. It is a subject that everyone has some preconceived notion about because they deal with locks every day. So everyone always has questions. I will often use this as a way to move the conversation on to movies. For example, how the most recent Mission: Impossible (Rogue Nation) shows you a bit of how locks work. Their cell phone lock pick makes no sense, but it still shows how a basic pin tumbler locks on the inside. Then they ask, “Well why wouldn’t it work?” That answer is a whole different blog post, but essentially this breaks the ice and moves the conversation along. All the while, people are impressed.
This may sound subjective, but in my experience, it is a pretty universal truth. Granted, unless the person is very lucky, or naturally adept, the hobby will begin as frustrating. But the fun will come! As soon as you open up a lock you will get an amazingly rewarding sensation of euphoric accomplishment. I can only guess at the reasons for the seemingly across the board reaction to opening a lock, but whatever the reason, the sensation is addicting. Once a person gets a lock open, they rarely give it back. They will lock it back up and try again. This is the obvious reaction. Most people are in disbelief and riding high on wonder. They have done the impossible. After all that talk of how lock picking is not as easy as it looks in the movies, they have completed the same task as James Bond. I remember the first time I picked a lock.
A friend was passing around his picks and a deadbolt. Everyone was giving it a try, and then I got it open. I reluctantly passed it on to the next person, but I wanted to keep going. It may seem, from my example, that addicting is a little more apt than fun, but don’t let my personal lack of impulse control turn you off. There is no sickness that lock picking gives you. It is more like being bitten by a love bug. It is hard to shake. Even as I talk about it I am smiling. If you find it half as fun as I do, you are going to have a great time.
I mean you specifically. Doesn’t it sound perfect? I mean you somehow ended up here on the site, then you started reading the post. Then you got down to the last reason and started to read it. And for those who this doesn’t apply to, they will never see it. So you might say, “Well what if I have only read this part of the article, and haven’t read the rest?” First off: I appreciate the imagination and thought crafting, and even think that your contemplation of this fact shows a level of critical thinking which lends itself perfectly to lock picking. Secondly: I need you to back off. You are coming at me with a lot of hostility, and frankly, I am not in the mood for this level of sass. Are you cooled down? Good.
You should really pick locks. The hobby really compliments the way you live your life. It is going to open up so many different avenues for experience and financial opportunity. You were made to do this! Born into the fate that you would be a great lock picker. And there is no need to act against your destiny. The only thing waiting for you at the end of this path is happiness and treasure beyond your wildest dreams. And your dreams are huge, so that is a lot of treasure and happiness. It is going to be great, just you wait and see.
Between the marketability and the practicality, you would think that I didn’t need to keep going, but there are just so many reasons to take up lock picking. Sure you are going to open yourself up to having some of the coolest jobs on the planet Earth (perhaps even the universe), but more importantly, people are going to think you are a wizard. With the power to open any locks you can get your picks on, and the moral fortitude to keep yourself from using your powers for evil, you will become a real life superhero.
Am I perhaps blowing things out of proportion? Maybe. You, however, will definitely be blowing people’s minds with your veritable “Alohomora” charm. Blowin’ minds and havin’ a grand old time. Truly you will be enjoying yourself at the same time as you are becoming a more rounded and contributing member of your community. The hobby of lock picking just seems to make people better, and you were so great to begin with. Join us, and together we will rule the galaxy.