9 Clever Ways To Pick A Lock In An Emergency

By Just In Case Jack | Last Updated: September 6, 2019

How To Pick A Lock

Locks – an essential tool for protecting your most prized possessions.

Why? Because since the dawn of human history, people will steal what’s not theirs.

They are called thieves, and they are despicable.

And one of the only ways to combat a thief is to use tools to deter their behavior.

Tools include locks, safes, diversion safes, alarm systems, and in extreme cases, booby traps.

But while locks are better than nothing, they’re not foolproof! With the right skill set, most locks CAN be picked.

Now, picking locks sounds nefarious – a skill only thieves would want to learn. Right? Not true.

Lockpicking is a skill I believe everyone should master, especially if you’re into survival and preparedness.

So, today, let’s cover all angles of “how to pick a lock.” From the moral implications to the actual step-by-step “how-to” instructions:

Note: Feel free to skip ahead to any of the article sections by clicking any link above.

Are You Ready For The Tough Times Ahead? Take My 60 Sec Quiz To See If You’re Part Of 'The Fragile Masses’ Or Not… Start Quiz Now!

How To Pick A Door Lock

5 Reasons You Should Learn How To Pick A Lock

Any thief with the right skill set and motivation CAN bypass most standard locks.

And their reasons for picking a lock are simple – they covet. It’s not rocket science.

But today, dear reader, I’m going to assume YOU are NOT a thief.

Well then, why should anyone who’s not interested in the art of stolen goods want to learn how to pick a lock?

Here are a few examples of how this skill set can be used for good in the world – instead of evil.

1. Lost The Key

Standard padlocks require a key. And what’s one of the most common items to lose? Your keys…

So, what are your options if you lose your padlock key? Well – you can either invest in a large (pricy) set of bolt cutters, call an expensive locksmith, or learn how to pick a lock!

Picking a padlock can be the most cost-effective way to become re-acquainted with your valuables…

2. Escape From Captivity

Or here’s an even better reason – escape. Let’s say you were taken as a hostage and locked inside a secure room…

If you have the skills and some basic tools, you may be able to escape. And while this scenario is unlikely, I believe it’s one of the most resilient skills anyone can learn and master.

With this skill, you can quickly turn yourself from a helpless victim to a hero.

One of the most valuable skills is mastering the art of escape.

3. Feed Your Family In A Dire Emergency

Let’s say your local area has become lawless.

It’s a disaster – a free-for-all zone. Maybe it’s a local emergency (like the aftermath of a devastating hurricane) or a global economic collapse that’s gotten out of hand. OR perhaps it’s the aftermath of a nuclear attack.

The exact reason doesn’t matter. But if you find yourself starving and society is no longer functioning, you need a way to get some calories.

If you can positively identify an abandoned home, then it might be an acceptable moral decision to break in to survive.

Raiding a pantry can become a moral decision in dire circumstances…

4. Breaking Into A Building To Avoid Severe Weather

This scenario is a lot like the previous one, but in this case, it’s a storm, tornado, or blizzard that’s creating the urgency.

When it comes to survival, I’d rather break into a warehouse or building to avoid flying debris or hypothermia than be a helpless victim and do nothing.

5. Start A Small Business Venture

Finally, if you become a proficient locksmith, you can turn those skills into a profitable side hustle. Being a locksmith is a nice way to earn a living.

Why? Because people don’t call you unless it’s serious.

They’re willing to pay well for emergency services rendered. You have what’s called leverage and urgency – two powerful forces in business transactions.

This is another way to say it has good profit margins!

These are just a few examples where your ability to open a lock without a key makes you a hero instead of a villain.

As A Way To Introduce You To Skilled Survival, We're Giving Away Our #78 Item Complete Prepper Checklist. Click Here To Get Your FREE Copy Of It.

Dead Bolt Locks 2

3 Types Of Locks You Can Pick

Lock picking is an art as old as locks themselves.

And over the centuries, locks have become even more sophisticated. But so have the methods of breaking into them.

Sure, anyone with a paperclip can defeat the simple privacy pop lock on a bathroom door. But a modern deadbolt can prove a formidable challenge for even the best locksmith in town.

With such a variety of lock types on the market, it’s worth looking at several of them.

But there are a ton of lock variations out there. The good news is while there are many different locks, some are much more common and popular than others.

So, here are the most popular locks and the ones worth spending time learning how to pick.

1. Pin Tumbler Locks

The pin tumbler lock is the most common lock available today. You’ll find them in key-based padlocks, standard exterior doorknob locks, AND Deadbolts.

So, if you’re interested in gaining access to a range of sheds, warehouses, and most homes, this is the type of lock you’re most interested in picking.

2. Combination Locks

Combination locks are known for their use with gym lockers. They’re often built into school lockers. You’ll also find them on old-style safes.

So, if you lose the secret combination of numbers, you’ll want to learn how to “pick” the combination.

3. Tubular Lock

You’ll find this unique type of lock on smaller containers such as file cabinets or RV compartments.

They are unique in how they work. Thus, they take a special set of tools to pick them. But basically, they use the same concept as a pin and tumbler lock but orient the pins in a circular pattern.

As A Way To Introduce You To Skilled Survival, We're Giving Away Our #78 Item Complete Prepper Checklist. Click Here To Get Your FREE Copy Of It.

how to pick a mast lock

9 Clever Ways To Bypass A Lock

All locks have the same goal.

To secure stuff, be it behind a door, within a container, or the item itself (such as a bug-out bike or survival trailer).

And each lock application and type of lock requires different “picking methods” to bypass. So, let’s go over the most common ways to bypass locks.

1. How To Pick A Lock With A Card

The first method of lock picking uses a thin plastic card. This method is best suited to simple spring latch doors. These types of doors are commonly found in supply closets and offices.

Most people think that a credit card is the best option. But a thinner, more flexible plastic card is easier to use.

Gift cards, hotel key cards, and store loyalty cards are great choices and easy to find.

There are three things to check before you try using a card to open a lock:

  1. NO DEADBOLT: If the door has a deadbolt, you won’t be able to open it with a credit card.
  2. NO HINGES: You need to be on the proper side of the door for it to work. If you can see the hinges, you’re not on the right side for a credit card to work.
  3. NO OBSTRUCTIONS: You need to be able to slip the credit card along the edge of the door. So anything that obstructs your access to the latch area will be a problem.

Once you have the right card and verify this method is possible, it’s a matter of three simple steps.

First, slip the card into the space between the door and the latch plate. It’s easiest to slip a corner in first, then straighten the card until the entire edge is inserted into the gap.

Next, bend the card towards the doorknob. This will force the card to bend slightly around the corner and toward the latch.

Finally, press the card further into the gap and slowly wiggle it back and forth.

This motion will walk the edge of the card back towards the latch and up the slanted face of the latch itself.

This forces the latch inwards and pops the door free!

2. How to Pick A Door Lock With Bobby Pins / Paperclips / Screwdriver

Many home interior locks are designed to provide privacy, not security.

This includes most bedroom and bathroom doors. So knowing how to open them is a must for most parents with small children.

These doors have a small hole in the center of the doorknob, which gives you access to the unlock mechanism.

While they usually come with a wire “key,” those are almost always missing when you need one.

Instead, insert a tiny screwdriver or a straightened paperclip into the hole.

A pressure switch or a small, straight-blade screwdriver slot will be at the back of the hole. The pressure switch is more common and can be opened by merely pressing on the switch until it pops.

The screwdriver-style locks are less common. But they only require a slight twist to open the latch.

Picking A Tumbler Lock

With a more secure door, or one featuring a deadbolt, you must learn some real lock-picking techniques.

Rather than defeating the latch, these methods all work on the lock mechanism itself.

These locks work on a rotating lock cylinder with several spring-loaded pins. These pins must be individually lifted to the right height to allow the cylinder to turn.

They take practice and some specialized tools. But can be mastered quickly with a practice lock and pick set.

Lock Picking Tool Sets

The Ultimate Lockpicking Toolset

Ultimate Lockpicking Toolset

A good lockpicking toolset doesn’t need to cost you an arm and a leg.

You can get a set at a surprisingly affordable price, AND they can last you a lifetime – making them a great investment.

I recommend you buy several sets, one for each of your vehicles; that way, you’ll never be without your lockpicking gear.

You should get The Ultimate Access Lockpick Set.

See Through Practice Lock (c)

This reasonably priced set of high-quality picks can open nearly any lock in the world.

You’ll also get a see-through practice padlock. So you can bypass the learning curve that most newbies get stuck on and rocket your skills to the master level fast.

Another option is to invest in a pick gun like this one.

3. The Scrubbing/Raking Method

The how-to-pick a door lock method is called “scrubbing.” It’s a fast and dirty way to do the job on most locks.

It’s an art – you need to develop a feel for the technique and how it works with each different lock.

Despite the reliance on feel, the steps are largely the same for scrubbing most locks.

  1. First, insert the tension wrench into the bottom of the keyhole. Next, try applying pressure. The tension wrench should rotate the lock cylinder slightly. Don’t press too hard, or you risk binding up the lock cylinder and making it more difficult to pick.
  2. Next, try inserting the pick rake at the top of the keyhole and slide it to the back of the lock.
  3. Lift the rake upwards into the pins and draw it forward. As the pick slides across each pin, it will lift the pins upward into position. Hopefully, the lip of the slightly turned cylinder will catch and keep them in place.
  4. Repeat steps 2-3 until all the pins are in position and the cylinder turns further.
  5. Turn the lock cylinder with gentle pressure on the tension wrench and open the door!

4. The Pin-by-Pin Method

While scrubbing is a good first choice, it doesn’t always work.

When the lock requires more finesse, turn to the Pin-By-Pin method.

This is a good way to improve your lock-picking skills. It allows you to feel the delicate movements inside a lock cylinder as the pins slide into place.

Pin-By-Pin picking (or single-pin picking) is similar to scrubbing. But instead of blindly pressing up on all the pins, you probe each pin one at a time. You meticulously search for the pin that’s currently binding up.

  1. Insert the tension wrench into the bottom of the keyhole and apply some torque. The tension wrench should rotate in the lock cylinder. Don’t press too hard. Otherwise, you risk binding up the lock cylinder and making it more difficult to pick.
  2. Insert the single hook pick into the top of the keyhole and slide it to the back of the lock.
  3. Lift the pick upwards and test each pin individually. Do this until you find the one that’s binding the cylinder.
  4. Press the binding pin upwards until the cylinder shifts slightly. This is done mainly by feel because the torsion wrench shift will be tiny.
  5. Repeat steps 2-4 until all pins are in place and the cylinder turns further.
  6. Turn the lock cylinder with gentle pressure on the tension wrench and open the door!

Watch the following instructional videos to understand better how this process works.

Here’s a video showing how to pick a lock with a hairpin. So yes, it’s possible. But if you’re going to become a master at picking locks, hairpins are not ideal.

5. How To Pick A Combination Lock

Actually, you’re not technically “picking” this lock; it’s more accurate to say your “cracking the code.”

In this technique, you will manipulate the lock to determine the combination code.

The combination lock comprises two basic components: the dial and the shackle.

The dial is the bulk of the lock and is the part that spins; the shackle is the bent metal locked inside the main compartment unless you rotate the dial in the proper number sequence.

Watch the following video to learn how to pick a combination lock:

6. How To Pick A Tubular Lock

Now we come to special locks found on small filing cabinets and motor home storage boxes.

Tubular locks have a set of pins and a tumbler. But they’re set up in a circular pattern. You’ll need a special tool to map these pins and pick them.

Tubular locks are nearly impossible to pick without the right set of tools. However, if you have the proper tools, you’ll easily map the pins and pick this type of lock.

Master this technique by watching the following instructional video:

Other Bypass Methods

There are many ways to get around a lock. Sure, most people go straight to picking a lock, but there are other ways to overcome a lock.

Sometimes, you must “think outside the box” to get around a locked door.

So before you spend lots of time and energy lock picking, make sure it’s necessary. It may not be the best option.

7. Remove the Hinges

First, check the doorway for exposed hinges.

Most manufacturers install door hinges on the same side as the lock mechanism. But sometimes contractors don’t pay attention. Or the door has to swing outwards for safety reasons.

If the hinges are on your side of the door, it’s worth trying to remove the hinge pins.

Start by checking to see if the hinge pins are screwed in or simple straight pins.

If the pins are screwed in, you may need an Allen key or specialized screwdriver bit to remove them.

If they’re simple straight pins, you may be able to insert a flat screwdriver under the head of the pin. Try prying upwards slowly.

You can often persuade stuck pins with a bit of spray lube. So try tapping gently upwards on the bottom of the pin with a pointed tool such as a Phillips screwdriver.

Once the pins start to move, be sure to remove the bottom ones first. This will help prevent the door from binding the lower hinges.

After all the pins are removed, you should be able to swing the door open from the hinge side and remove it from the frame.

8. Destroy the Lock

In the movies, it looks easy to shoot the lockout of a door.

While possible, shooting at a metal doorknob is just asking for a wild and dangerous ricochet.

Instead, take a large hammer and smash it down on the handle until it breaks free.

Without a handle, you’ll have access to the inside of the lock mechanism. If so, pull the latch back enough to open the door.

9. Bend The Door Frame

If all else fails, you can always grab your vehicle jack and try bending the frame out of the way!

This is a method that law enforcement uses to open stubborn doorways.

Basic Hi-Lift Jack

A hi-lift or hydraulic bottle jack is usually best to bend the door frame.

These high-capacity jacks allow you to put a lot of force on the door frame at very specific points.

First, place the jack sideways from the hinge side to the latch. You may need to add blocks if the jack is too small. The blocks will help to “raise” the jack. The point is you need the jack to press outwards on the door frame.

If the frame is wood or sheet metal (instead of solid steel or concrete), you’ll see it bowing outwards under pressure.

Once you have enough of a gap, you should be able to pop the latch free and open the door.

Action Plan

Lock Picking Action Plan

Picking locks is a great survival skill to have in your back pocket.

They don’t require much in the way of tools but do require dedicated practice.

Make a game of it. Try picking your own door locks and your friend’s (if they’ll let you).

So put the time in and learn how to pick locks and open doors. You may find yourself able to get out of a sticky situation. OR into a locked cupboard full of snacks!

So here’s your 3 step plan to becoming proficient at picking locks:

  1. The Ultimate Lockpicking ToolsetInvest in professional locking-picking tools
  2. Watch all the videos in this article
  3. Practice, practice, practice.

That’s it. Just make sure you only use this newfound power for good. Don’t be evil!

Jason K.

P.s. Are you ready for the tough times ahead?

Find out now by taking my short Readiness Score Quiz - it’s absolutely free. Once complete, you’ll know exactly where you stand on the “fragile” vs.” resilient” spectrum.


Get My 10 Steps To Basic Preparedness Video For FREE.
Plus daily survival tips (unsubscribe anytime).