I would like to cover budget lock pick sets, but I first felt it necessary to put in my thoughts on the best lock picks to look for in a set, and why. This will be more of a guide on the different types of lock picks and their purpose.
All These Picks
So many picks to choose from! So expensive!! What should I buy? Well, let’s answer first why I should buy this or that particular set.
There are essentially 2 different types of picking methods when compromising a pin tumbler lock. We have Single Pin Picking (SPP for short) and Raking. Sure, you can combine the two and it’s called “Bitch Picking” but it’s not a real technique someone should spend too much time on, it’s just something you can do when frustrated, or you have a really cheap lock. Bitch Picking uses luck. SPP and Raking use skill.
Single pin picking is considered the best method as it’s not only more precise, but it also helps develop skills that can be moved over into high-security locks. This is important because there are very few high-security locks that you can open by using the raking method alone. Single pin picking just gives you more control over the lock and provides more feedback to what is happening within the lock.
With single pin picking you’re manipulating each pin individually, one at a time, by lifting them and setting them, or leaving them alone because they don’t want to set, and then moving on to another pin. This can be arduous, to say the least, and there are other factors involved like tension on the torsion wrench (“tensor”, and “tension wrench” are other names for a “torsion wrench”) as well as looking for a binding order. You may also be looking for security driver pins, and possibly in rare situations security key pins. So the single pin picking method has its advantages, as you will run into many different obstacles in every lock.
Raking is considered a “novice” method by many locksport enthusiasts, but locksmiths swear by it, and it’s definitely a go-to method when encountering an everyday pin tumbler lock in the field. This method is also commonly known as “rubbing” or “scrubbing” because you are essentially scrubbing the key pins with your rake pick in a violent back and forth motion, almost like your cleaning the pins inside the lock. By doing this, you are manipulating the key pins and driver pins, while simultaneously applying rotation to the plug with a tension wrench. In time, all the pins will be set at the “shear line” of the lock, and it will open. Note: When the cylinder finally turns inside of the lock, it’s activating the tail-piece, which in turn releases or rotates a latch or deadbolt and allows you to open the door.
Most lock pick sets will consist of picks that are designed to apply the above two techniques (SPP and Raking). The only other picks commonly found in North American lock pick sets, that are not used for single pin picking nor raking, are The Snowman a.k.a. “Double Ball,” The Half Snowman a.k.a. “Single Ball,” the Half Ball, and Double Half Ball picks.
These picks are primarily used for Wafer Locks only. Wafer Locks are not pin tumblers as they do not have pins, but instead flat wafers. These locks are found on cabinets, desks, small money lock boxes, and even glove compartments in cars. However, they are not the same as a vehicle door nor ignition locks that utilize wafers, because they are assembled much differently in that regard, and therefore require different tools and techniques to be manipulated. The Snowman, Half Snowman, Half Ball and Double Half Ball picks should be only used for single pin picking on Wafer Locks, however, they have been known to be used for raking pin tumblers, but that is not their intended purpose. Additionally, you can just use a normal lifter pick to single pin pick a wafer lock, so there is not really a need to add them to your lock pick set.
Single Pin Picks
The most common lock pick of choice for single pin picking is the Hook Pick, also know as a Lifter Pick or Short Hook Pick.
There are honestly at least a dozen variations of the classic Hook Pick. There are Gonzo Hooks, Rocker Hooks, and Rocker Picks to name a few.
But when it comes to single pin picking, the simpler and smaller the better.
So now onto Rake Picks. The fact is, a lock doesn’t know if you have a legitimate Bogota styled rake pick, an “S” pick, or a “Z” pick. Nor does the lock know if it has 2 ridges or 3. Raking a lock open isn’t exactly technique as much as it is probability and luck. So the most common rakes you will find can be summed up in 4 styles, all of which work the exact same.
First, there is the oldest style… the S Rake, or better known as the Snake Rake or Squiggly Rake.
These are most common in HPC and Southord sets as they have been around for over 50 years.
Next is the W Rake, also known as the Z Rake or Triple Rake.
The above is my favorite style of rake and is found in Peterson Pick Sets and some cheaper sets.
Next, we have a Bogota Rake, designed by Raimundo from the locksport internet forum Lockpicking101 about 10 years ago. He was inspired by the mountains in Bogota, Columbia. Below is a Bogota Rake pick.
And lastly, we have the L Rake, also known as a Long Rake, or the City Rake. (This is my second favorite rake pick.)
As previously discussed, the only other picks you should encounter will be the Snowman and Half Snowman picks used for wafer locks. These are better known as the Double Ball, Single Ball, Double Half Ball, and Half Single Ball. Either way, the lock doesn’t know the difference, does it?
Yes, there are about 50 other picks I did not cover… like the Diamond and Half Diamond picks, or the Deforest pick (Hooked Diamond), or the “King” & “Queen” picks. But guess what, they all do the exact same thing as the picks previously mentioned. They either lift the pin or they rake the pins as a whole. That’s it. No other special tricks!
The only other pick that might do anything remotely different for a pin tumbler lock other than single pin picking and raking, is the Groove Pick, also known as “DCAP Lifter Pick 1″ or“High Reach” pick. It was originally offered by Peterson Lock Picks and now by several others companies such as Sparrows.
The only purpose for that pick is to physically grab the pin for either lifting or rotating it. Some high-security locks require the pins to be rotated before being lifted to sheer line. That usually means you’re probably picking a high-security lock such as Medeco, and you’re dealing with a high-security pin tumbler lock. These locks are not very common and I will not go into further detail on that lock or tool right now. However you can argue that the Groove Pick is great for single pin picking, and that’s totally fine because in the end, it’s just another hook pick with a small groove cut out in the tip.
So that’s it. All you really need are two picks. One for single pin picking and one for raking. If you want to have a complete set, then add a ball pick in case you run into any nasty wafer locks, but you could just use your common lifter pick on that with some practice.
Be sure to keep an eye out for my next article where I will cover some budget lock pick sets that include the picks mentioned here.