A resource for consumers, locksmiths, and security professionals.
Posted On by Ralph Goodman
When I talk about beginner locks, I am talking about locks that are easy to pick. Their ease needs to give encouragement to the picker. There should be a bit of an initial struggle, but that will be there regardless of how easy the lock is to pick. A beginner lock allows you to get the basics of picking. Focus on the tension, and work on your single pin picking (SPP). When you can zip or bypass a lock it is going to make you feel good. Once your confidence is up, you can start to implement different methods of picking, and try out your different lock pick tools. You may also want to practice changing pins, exchanging cores, decoding, etc. Affordability is also very important to many beginning pickers, so that will also be a factor our list. I would suggest you rethink your security if you are actively using any of these products. Consider investing in some higher security and moving your cheaper locks into your lock collection.
There is only one reason to own a Master Lock product, and that is to learn how to pick locks. The Master Lock No. 3 is readily available, and if you know anyone that has one, showing them a google search might land you a free lock. (Trust me, no one should want one of these locks after they see how easy they are to open). It has a standard Master four pin core. The fewer pins the lock has the easier it is to pick. All four of the pins are standard, non-security. You can easily rake this lock open. And the lock gives very strong feedback to help new pickers develop their SPP skills. These can also be shimmed. The springs are pretty strong, so it is better to have two strong metal shims. And you will need two, one for each side of the shackle.
This padlock cannot be shimmed because it uses ball bearings, but it is a great starter lock for dimple picking. It will open with either single pin picking (SPP) or raking. If you ever get frustrated with SPP you can rake the the lock open. It opens very easily, but you will start to get the feel for a different type of pinning. This type of lock will also give you the chance to use any flag picks that you may have, and experiment will other picks you may have never used.
This is a very standard and extremely cheap tubular lock. If you own a specialized tubular lock pick, then this is the perfect lock to try it out on. It does not have varied spring pressures so the standard SouthOrd will do the trick. It is a 7 pin lock, which is the average pin number. There are also 8 and 6 pin tubular locks (6 is the rarest), so make sure that your tubular pick has 7 pick wires. For SPP tips and tricks, I would suggest checking out our article on tubular locks (it’s pretty great).
Disk detainer locks can be some of the hardest locks to pick, but not these. Howdy produces a low-quality Chinese made disk detainer padlock. But their mistake is your opportunity. One of the most challenging things about disk detailers are the false gates. A false gate is a gap in the disk that sends confusing feedback to the picker. Disks in the Howdy padlock do not have false gates. When you line up the gaps with the sidebar you can feel things move into place. Perfect for trying out your special disk detainer pick. Also, the body of the core is made out of plastic, and the disks are easy to remove. This allows you to experiment with bypasses and gain a deeper understanding of the inner workings of padlocks.
It is definitely a feel good lock, at a price that can’t be beaten. With the off the shelf product, you get 6 pins, a few security pins, and some counter milling in the plug. It gives you a feel for these type of internal protections but makes them all very approachable. The most beginner friendly thing about this lock is that it can grow with you. It has a removable core so that you can upgrade the difficulty as you develop. You can also practice re-pinning and/or re-keying the cylinder. Another plus is that if you decide not to pursue lock picking as a hobby, or just give up on this lock, in particular, you still have a great lock (just replace the core).
If you have this type of lock on any door, I would recommend replacing the lock and using it as a practice lock. Yes, Kwikset is a popular brand, but just because something’s popular, doesn’t mean that it is quality. Just because we are never more than 115 miles away from a McDonald’s does not mean I want to eat there. For picking, stay away from the SmartKey cylinders. They provide no protection against forced entry, but they are not a beginner lock. Standard Kwikset cylinders are very easy to pick and rake, and the deadbolt housing will give you a different experience than a padlock.
When you purchase your Kwikset deadbolt, just get the door knob combo pack. There is a slightly different feel to picking a core while it is in a door knob. Some lock pickers prefer it. I enjoy being able to turn the knob after the lock is picked. It’s oddly rewarding. Just make sure that it does not have the SmartKey Cylinder. In case you skipped the “Simple Deadbolt” section (firstly, how dare you), (secondly) the SmartKey cylinder is not secure, but this is not an easy lock to pick either. You can also install the knob in a piece of wood, that way you can feel like it is on a door. While it is in the door, the lock will also be easier to use a bump key on.
Learn from these locks, and try to keep yourself from developing bad habits. Because of how easy these locks may become to pick, you will need to keep your skills sharp in other ways. Do not pick the same lock exclusively. Not only will picking one lock, again and again, break the mechanism, you will also begin to pick for that specific lock. Diversify the locks you pick. Do not become complacent in you picking. Lock picking is also a perishable skill, so if you take any time off, your ability will atrophy. That is another reason to keep some beginner locks around as part of your collection. You might have to return to the basics a couple times to get your groove back. It is a very common experience, for lock pickers to go through a crisis of self-confidence. Sometimes the lock is just not talking to you. Whenever that happens, put the lock down, and relax. Pick up a Master No. 3 and get your mojo back.