In today’s world, buying things is harder than ever.
With so many options plaguing the market, choosing between products feels like pulling a number out of a hat – you never know what you are going to get.
Deciding which types of lock picks to include in your first lock pick set is no exception!
With all the squiggly and hooky things out there to buy, how does anyone trying to learn how to pick a lock to know what is good and what is not?
The purpose of this guide is to break down the confusion surrounding the different types of lock picks and give you a solid understanding of some of the more common and useful lock picks.
Armed with this knowledge, you can make a more informed decision on which picks to buy and how to use them!
However, before we jump into the best types of lock picks, let's quickly cover a common trap that many beginning lock pickers fall into. By avoiding this common trap, you will not only save money but progress your lock picking skills much faster!
Let's get into it and dabble in some lock picks!
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There is a common misconception surround all hobbies and skills that the tools make the master. That only those with the most and best tools can ever truly master their craft.
This misconception is dangerous because it bases your expectations and your perceived skill on your tools and not on what is important — like practice, knowledge, technique, and more practice.
Equipment doesn't matter as much as you think.
The amount of time that you spend behind the pick matters more than the pick itself.
Let's look at two reasons why you should consider starting with fewer picks.
The truth about lock picks is that there are only two types. There are hooks for single pin picking and rakes for raking.
Every single pick is just a variation of one of these two types that most times don't offer anything different in terms of utility. You can buy 14 different hooks, but the reality is they all do the same thing – individually lift pins.
You don't need 14 lock picks that do the same thing – at least not to start.
Now, this isn't always the case. There are a few hooks and rakes that perform significantly different than other picks of their type, and we will be sure to cover them below.
But if they aren't on this tiny list, then there isn't anything special about them compared to other picks.
There is an age-old saying, “Jack of all picks, Master of none!”
Maybe that’s not the saying, but the meaning holds.
When we are picking a lock, we received feedback from our pick, such as bumping into a pin, squeezing between two pins stacks to reach a higher cut pin, or even setting a pin.
The feedback that we receive from the pick is our eyes and ears within the lock. But this feedback is also how we learn and get better at lock picking. We begin to build patterns around what we feel and what we believe it means.
However, if we change the feedback we receive eight different times – such as using eight slightly different picks – we destroy our ability to form those patterns and learn.
It’s better to master a few picks than it is to dabble with many.
So, in a nutshell, you'll get much better at lock picking by spending more on locks than you will from buying a ton of different types of lock picks.
So grab a few high-quality picks or a good small form lock pick set and leave the rest behind.
With that, let's get into the meat of this guide and cover some of the better and more useful types of lock picks – starting with those used for single pin picking!
Single pin picking is the act of manipulating a single pin at a time.
In my opinion, it is the purest form of lock picking as it takes a tremendous amount more skill, precision, and practice to develop and master.
Single pin picking is also significantly more reliable because you are not just bumping and humping your way to an open lock like when raking.
Instead, you are moving components in a precise and logical way and adapting your movements to how the lock responds. You can think of single pin picking like the Tango where your actions are a response to your partner, and their movements are a response to yours.
However, because single pin picking is precise and logical, you need a type of lock pick that matches these qualities. You need a type of lock pick that is agile and maneuverable – that isn't going to bump things unintentionally.
So let's look at a few picks that gush these qualities!
The standard Short Hook is hands down the most versatile and useful pick and is an absolute staple to any pickers toolbox.
The power of this pick comes from its moderate hook that is just long enough to set most pins with ease, but short enough that it’s easy to maneuver in the lock.
In addition to single pin picking, the Short Hook is also a great pick to use for other various techniques of raking – such as zipping, bitch picking, rocking, or reverse picking!
However, the one area in which this pick falls short is literally when it falls short. Because it has a shorter hook, it sometimes may not have the reach to fully set shorter cut pins that are behind longer cut pins.
But regardless of this literal shortcoming, if you could only have one type of lock pick, the Short Hook should always be first in line to the party!
The Gem is another favorite among many lock pickers as it gives you many of the remarkable benefits of the short hook, but with a little more reach.
However, the extended point on this pick can be a double edge sword.
To the experienced picker, this pointy tip is a gift from God that gives them more precision and accurate control over their actions. It’s like trying to hit a button on your TV remote with your finger rather than your fist. The more precise the tool, the easier it is to accomplish precise activities.
However, to newer pickers, this pointy tip can cause some real emotional pain. Because it is pointy, there is a high chance of pins slipping off the pick as you lift them. To continue the nutty analogies – it’s far easier to balance a penny on an un-sharpened pencil than it is a sharpened one.
If you had to choose between the Short Hook and the Gem, I would highly recommend grabbing the Short Hook first.
While the Half-Diamond doesn't exactly scream “PRECISION,” it does provide us with a pretty unique benefit while single pin picking.
The one thing that makes this pick awesome is its ramp-like form.
If you can imagine for a moment dragging this pick across the pins – it would gently raise the pins as they went up the ramp and then gently lower them as they go down the ramp.
Now, this can be extremely useful when trying to find binding pins.
All you have to do is apply light tension and gently drag this pick across the pins until you find a pin that causes the pick to move down rather than the pin move upward. It is simply that easy to locate binding pins with the half-diamond!
However, this pick has two downsides.
To sum the Half-Diamond up, it can be a good beginner pick that can help you orientate yourself in the lock, but when it comes to picking higher-skilled locks, the Half-Diamond will start to lose its glamour.
So use it if you have it or if you're genuinely interested in trying it, but I wouldn't go out of my way to get one.
The Deep Hook – if you didn't guess – has a longer hook that gives us a deeper reach.
The benefit of this added length is that it can reach further between pin stacks without bumping the adjacent pins.
This makes it a terrific weapon against shorter pins behind longer pins or when dealing with heavy warding and paracentric keyways. Because of their reach, you can easily lift the pins without having to maneuver your pick through the warding!
However, there is a trade-off. Because the Deep Hook is longer, it is also much more intrusive and harder to maneuver.
So it's not ideal to use a deeper hook as a primary pick, but instead as a secondary one. If you find that you can’t easily reach a pin with a shorter hook, you can swap over to a Deep Hook to solve your problems!
The Peterson Reach is a little bit of an oddball pick, but it kicks some ass.
This type of lock pick is what we refer to as an “offset hook.” The goal of an offset hook is to take benefits of the shorter and deeper hook but minimize their downsides.
This is typically done by creating a curved-like shank that can pivot around pin stacks without bumping them!
The Peterson Reach is an excellent example of this and is literally curved!
It also has a rounded tip that can make finding and lifting pins feel buttery smooth. But sadly, nothing is perfect. The Peterson Reach has the fatal flaw of being very thin and fragile. If you have a heavy hand – as most beginners do – you may find yourself snapping this poor guy's little neck.
That being said, the Peterson Reach is my favorite pick, and there are truly few locks that this little guy won’t absolutely slaughter! I like to compare it with the killer bunny from Monty Python and The Holy Grail!
The Deforest Diamond is another standard offset pick that blends the power of the Half-Diamond with a little more reach.
The main benefit of this pick is its ability to slide under the pins – much like the half-diamond – and then leverage them up by rotating the pick, similar to a crowbar. This allows us to get under the pins without lowering the pick, which can be a blessing in tighter keyways.
However, just like the Half-Diamond, its fat base can make it difficult to squeeze between pins and sometimes even fit in the keyway at all.
In my experience, I have never found the Deforest Diamond to be a fantastic pick. However, many skilled pickers better than myself swear by it, so your mileage may vary.
That will do it for single pin picking!
Raking is the act of manipulating multiple pins at the same time with the goal of bumping them to the shear line and setting them as quickly as possible. It is a type of lock picking that is very imprecise and unpredictable.
If we jump off our previous analogy of single pin picking being like the Tango, raking is much more like club dancing. You do whatever the hell you want and whatever happens, happens.
Because the goal of raking is to manipulate as many pins as possible, the best type of lock pick is one that touches the most pins at any given moment.
This is why most rakes have tons of humps and bumps along their shafts.
However, the downside of rakes is that they are almost useless against locks with security pins and sidebars – so don't expect to be able to rake your way to lock picking mastery!
Let’s look at three of the most common rakes for causing havoc in the lock!
The Bogota – also known as the Bogie or Pagoda – is one of the most powerful and popular rakes there is!
The power of the Bogota comes from its extremely polished triple peaks that glide through the keyway like a pickle flying out of a cheeseburger.
With each pass through the lock, the Bogota has three chances to strike and set each pin – except for some of the pins in the back where some of the peaks can’t reach.
This type of lock pick is also extremely effective against radically pinned locks that have a high – low – high – low pin arrangement.
The Snake Rake – also known as the C Rake or Double Rake – is one of the first rakes ever developed and manufactured. But regardless of its age, it's still a powerful little rake that's a staple to many lock pick sets.
Its main benefit comes from its smaller size and length. It can more easily fit into smaller keyways and is much more maneuverable than other rakes such as the Bogota.
It’s a simple rake that you can never go wrong with having.
The last rake is the oddball of the group – the City Rake! It is also referred to as the L Rake or Long Ripple.
The City Rake gets its name from its resemblance to a city skyline! Can you see it?
Now, this pick is a little different than most other rakes in both how it looks and how we use it!
Rather than using it in scrubbing motion, the City Rake is best used in a rocking motion! Check out the animation below!
The City Rake is also very powerful against pin arrangements where there are shorter pins in the middle and longer pins in the front and back.
This all being said, you can also find success using it as a traditional scrubbing rake as well!
I hope this guide on these different types of lock picks brought a little order to the chaos and gave a little clarity of what all these hooky squiggly things are and their purpose!
Remember it's not about how many picks you have, but instead about how you use the picks that you do have.
Forget that set of 104 different types of lock picks and focus and mastering only a few. Any of the picks above are an excellent place to start when selecting or building your first lock pick set!
However, at the very minimum, I'd grab a short hook, a deeper or offset hook for those tricky pins, and a rake to play around with. With these three simple picks, you can easily defeat 99% of pin tumbler locks!
So go forth and conquer, and if you have any questions or comments, be sure to leave those below!
Dabble on Pickers!