This pick, that pick, what are all these different types of lock picks for?
What is the purpose of this squiggly pick or that squiggly pick? Is there a big difference between this pointy hook and that flat hook? What are the best lock picks?
But, most importantly, should you invest your hard-earned cash into all these different types of lock picks, and will they benefit your ability to open locks and progress your lock picking skill?
Let's tackle all of these questions and then go into the primary purpose of many of these different types of lock picks – their strengths, shortcomings, and when to best utilize them!
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Before we jump into the different types of lock picks, I want to try and break a harmful little bias that influences many newer pickers. If you are looking at that set of 20-something lock picks, this section is definitely for you!
The truth is, you don't need very many picks to absolutely slaughter the majority of locks. As a matter of fact, most lock picks are fluff and are simply variations of the same tool with very small differences in how they affect the lock.
One of our contributing authors Jesse has always put it best, "Lock picks are like fishing lures, they are meant to catch the fisherman, not the fish."
Sure that shiny new fishing lure with the red and blue feathers, polished metal spinners, and scent of fresh dog turds looks like it would ABSOLUTELY slaughter that trout under hiding under a log at sunset, but the reality is, in the eyes of the fish, it's not likely that much more appetizing than any of the other lures you already have.
There is a dangerous mindset that plagues every craft, whether it be fishing or lock picking. This mindset is that the tools make the player. That having the correct lures or bait make the best fisherman and that having the right lock picks for the right locks make the great lock picker.
This mindset 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.
And even further, when these expectations are broken – when that new lock pick fails to easily open that lock – what will remain is a feeling of frustration and more often than not, the urge to give up on lock picking entirely.
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In addition to all this, if you are a beginning lock picker, it is best to stick with a couple of types of lock picks. Progressing your skills is about developing your senses and recognizing patterns based on those sensations.
When learning how to pick a lock, swapping between 17 different tools will only give you 17 different variations of the same feedback. It can be very difficult to learn anything when the information you receive is always changing. So even if you desire to own every pick ever made, for the sake of getting better — RESIST –, at least as a beginner!
You will progress far faster spending that extra cash on more practice locks that you will with more picks. Grab a few high quality picks or small form lock pick set from a quality manufacturer such as Peterson, Sparrows, Multipick, or SouthOrd that accommodate the style of picking that you wish to do – more on that below – and then bunker down and focus on mastering those tools. Also, do your best to stay clear from those cheap Chinese picks on Amazon.
Now, this isn't to say that you can’t nor shouldn't ever go nuts and buy a bunch of random lock picks. One of the great joys of lock picking is collecting different lock picks and trying out new pick profiles. You never know which picks will be your favorites!
Just don't fall into the mental trap of thinking that a particular pick profile will make all the difference in your progression and skill.
So, with that out of the way, let's cover the more common lock picks, their intended use, and their strengths.
When it comes to picking pin tumbler locks, there are essentially six different types of lock picks that are designed around the two fundamental styles of lock picking. These two styles are single pin picking and raking!
Both of these styles require different techniques that are matched with an ideal pick design.
So let’s explore many of the more common types of picks within each style of picking!
Single pin picking is exactly as the name implies, the act of picking a single pin at a time.
However, lifting individual pins one at a time requires a tool that is very thin and precise. To this end single pin picking tools are typically designed in the shape of a hook – however, there are a couple of exceptions to this as we will see in a moment.
There are basically three categories of picks that are ideal for single pin picking:
Let’s go over the advantages of each category and take a look at some of the more popular and useful picks within each of these categories!
Because single pin picking is a game of pinpoint precision and finesse, all within an itty-bitty keyhole, the most effective pick will be those that:
This is the power of shorter profile hooks. They are short enough that they allow us ample room to maneuver within the keyway, yet long enough to reach and set pins.
However, one of the great drawbacks of shorter profile hooks is when we encounter shorter cut pins that are stacked behind longer cut pins. Sometimes setting these tricky short pins can be a real pain using a shorter hook as they just don't have the reach to push the short pin to the shear line without also lifting the longer pin as well. This can sometimes cause issues such as overset or underset pins – which can be a real headache for beginners.
So let's look at two popular variations of the shorter hook and one that isn't a hook, but still adequately falls under this classification!
One of the best and most beloved pick designs that is both precise and agile is the standard short hook!
Because of its shorter profile, the standard short hook allows us to easily maneuver in both open and tight spaces and is the ideal tool of choice for single pin picking the vast majority of pin tumbler locks. With enough skill and practice, there really are few locks that this pick can not defeat.
However, the standard short hook's greatest weakness is a pin that is drastically shorter cut than the pin before it. But with enough practice and a little cleverness, we can typically finesse our way through these tricky pin situations.
The standard short hook is the most used and versatile tool in any lock picker's arsenal. Mastery of this pick is often correlated with mastery of lock picking itself. So if there was but one single pick that you were to get, it should absolutely be the short hook!
The gem is another very popular pick that simply adds a short, but pointy, tip to the end of the short hook. This gives us a little more reach without sacrificing any of the maneuverability and agileness of the beloved short hook.
Because of the extended tip, the gem is typically a good pick to have when dealing with paracentric keyways, heavy-ish warding or locks with radical bitting. It also feels less clunky and makes it slightly easier to locate pins and stay within the pin chambers – this can be a real benefit for beginners that don’t yet have a good grasp for the spacing between pins.
Additionally, because there is a slope at the tip, you can drag the pick across pins to probe and lift them rather than having to approach them from below like flatter tipped hooks. This ability to drag the tip across pins also adds a degree of maneuverability as it gives you more room to move and angle the pick.
However, because both the end of this pick and the tip of the key pins are pointy, pins can sometimes slip while being lifted. While this isn't that big of a deal, it can cause some frustration and confusion among beginners.
Regardless, the gem is a fantastic pick that finds a balance between the short hook and a deeper, more obstructive hook, like the deep hook.
The half diamond is essentially a hybrid pick between the gem and the short hook that while isn't necessarily a hook, is used much like one. However, like the gem, it has the awesome benefit of being able to quickly locate and set pins.
It's very similar to the gem in which it acts like a ramp that allows pins to slowly lift and descend in a very controlled manner. This allows us to quickly locate and set binding pins by simply dragging the pick across the pin stacks. To better illustrate this, check out the animation below!
However, the half diamond is a particularly fat pick and can sometimes be clunky and hard to maneuver within the keyway due to its wide base. This issue however really only becomes prominent when trying to reach shorter cut pins that are between longer cut pins. It sadly just doesn't have the reach nor precision to squeeze between pin stacks and reach extremely short pins.
Also, because it is a particularly tall pick, it has a hard time fitting into keyways that are paracentric, small, or have heavy warding.
Yet, as versatile and powerful as shorter hooks are, they sometimes just don't have the reach needed to easily get around tricky pin configurations nor other lock conditions — such as heavy warding.
However, if we add a little length to the end of our hook we'll find that these headache-causing situations can quickly turn into an open lock.
The deep hook is a very straightforward design as it’s simply a short hook, but with more length and reach.
The extended reach makes it very easy to pick those sneaky short pins that are hiding behind longer cut pins. In addition, these picks are VERY useful in dealing with extremely paracentric keyways or those with heavy warding – LockpickingLawyer has an excellent video demonstrating that here!
However, even though deeper hooks such as this one are excellent in tricky situations, they truly do make poor primary lock picks due to their big and bulky nature. But it's always good to have one – or an offset hook – handy just in case.
So we know that the benefits of shorter hooks are their maneuverability and agileness, however, they sometimes lack the reach that's required for tricky bittings. Vise Versa, deeper hooks have that extra reach we sometimes need, but significantly lack in maneuverability.
What if there was some magical way to take the best from both, but minimize the flaws?
Say hello to the offset pick!
An offset pick is a type of pick that – for lack of a better word – “offsets” and extends the tip of the pick in a gradual manner. As a result, we get a pick that is deep, precise, and best of all not overly clunky nor intrusive in the keyway.
And because of the way in which the end of the shaft gradually curves, these picks can rotate and pivot around pin stacks, making it extremely easy to set those short cut pins that are tucked behind longer cut pins – even in the rear of the lock.
Let’s take a look at two very popular offset picks!
First up is one of my all-time favorite picks, the Peterson Reach!
This is an amazing offset hook that combines the reach of a deep hook and the agileness of a short hook. I've always like to think of it as a ninja on a stick!
It has an extremely slim overall profile that absolutely excels at reaching and setting pins in tricky configurations, such as radically short pins that are tucked tight behind extremely long pins.
Additionally, its round and slim shape allows it to easily pivot and curve around pin stacks, even while lifting pins in the rear of the lock!
It also has the benefit of a round tip that reduces pin slippage — compared to pointed ends — and gives an overall smooth picking experience.
And finally, if you ever feel the need to emotionally damage yourself, the reach is also a very effective tool for rotating pins in high-security locks such as the Medeco Biaxial.
However, there is a downside to this awesome pick. Because it is a uniquely stretched out piece of metal it is much more fragile than most other pick profiles – which naturally makes it more prone to breaking. While at the moment of typing this, I have never broken one, but I truly feel it is only a matter of time.
So if you are a beginner with a heavy hand, fair warning that you’ll want to be gentle with this one! Also, try and keep it out of locks that are rusted or corroded as the components in those locks will sometimes need more force than the good old reach can provide!
The Deforest Diamond is an interesting pick that you'll either love or absolutely hate – there really is no middle ground.
Regardless, the cool thing about this pick is that it takes the best parts of the short hook and the gem and blends them together into the creature you see below.
Now the beauty of this pick is the profile and how it affects the pins changes as you alter the angle.
When slightly angled, this pick offers a similar slope to that of the gem – which gives us the benefit of being able to slide it across pins. Additionally, this makes the pick slightly more maneuverable because we don’t have to lower it as far to get it under each pin stack.
However, when we begin to remove the angle, the tip of the pick begins to flatten out and rise which makes lifting pins very easy and reduces any chance of slippage. And because it has a very wide offset, it easily pivots and curves around pin stacks without touching them, making setting those short pins in the back an easier task!
However, all of these perks packed into one pick does come at a cost. It is a fairly bulky pick that sometimes doesn't quite fit into smaller or paracentric keyways.
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Raking is an erratic and volatile style of lock picking whose purpose is to manipulate as many pins as possible in the shortest amount of time.
To this end, we typically use picks that are long and have many points of contact within the lock. In theory, the more points of contact you have with the pins while raking, the quicker you will set those pins and open the lock. So the most effective rakes are those that touch more pins more times.
But this doesn’t always mean longer and more radical rakes are the answer as the effectiveness of any rake can greatly depend on other factors such as the bitting of the pins. Sometimes the most simple of designs are the most effective at getting the job done.
While there are a lot of ways to use a rake, there are three main styles that the majority of picks fall under:
So let’s take a look at a few very popular rakes that are extremely effective for each style!
The first category of rake is those that are used for scrubbing. Scrubbing is a simple method of raking that resembles the scrubbing motion of, let’s say, brushing your teeth.
It’s a somewhat violent back and forth movement with the goal of bouncing pins to the shear line.
Some of the most effective scrubbing rakes will be those that can strike each pin several times with each pass and also those that reduce friction and snagging.
Speaking of snagging, when using rakes in this manner, you typically want to use lighter tension as heavily bound pins could possibly snag and break your pick – not fun.
Let’s look at an example of scrubbing in action with our first rake style pick – the Bogota!
The very first rake on this list has to be the Bogota. This is arguably one of the most powerful and commonly used rakes out there today.
The Bogota is very effective when used in a scrubbing manner and can be even more powerful when the angle is changed while raking. This makes setting those short cut pins in the front or back a breeze. It's also a very useful pick to use in a rocking manner (our next raking style!)
What makes this rake so effective has a lot to do with the rounded and polished peaks that reduce friction and allow it to slip and slide within the lock like a buttered up fat kid farting through space.
In addition, because of its triple peaks, it can manipulate several pins at the same time and with each pass through the lock has the chance to set each pin three times – with the exception of the rearmost pins.
The Bogota thrives against high-low-high-low pin cuts, which is something many other rakes cannot claim. However, like all rakes, it's basically useless against any moderate-quality locks with deep cut security pins and will sometimes struggle against locks with very high tolerances. You're not going to rake an American 1100 – at least not easily.
Other common names for the Bogota are "Pagoda" by SouthOrd or "Bogie" by Peterson.
The snake rake is one of the oldest styles of rake and to this day still makes many pickers' list of best pick profiles. Being a staple in many beginners and advanced lock pick sets, it is a very powerful little rake to have.
While the snake rake only has two tiny peaks of different heights, its effectiveness comes from its smaller profile. Unlike the Bogota, the snake rake is very short. This not only gives it the ability to be used at various and more extreme angles while raking, it can also be used in smaller or more paracentric keyways.
Other common names used are "C Rake", "Squiggly Rake", or "Double Rake". But regardless of all these alternate names, most lock pickers refer to it as the snake rake.
The second category of rake is those that are used for rocking.
This is a very simple and gentle method in which the picker continually changes the angle of the pick within the keyways with the goal of lifting pins to the shear line.
This method can be used with almost any pick, however, there is one particular pick that was designed with rocking in mind.
The City Rake gets its names from its resemblance to a city skyline and has a very similar profile to that of the bitting of a key. Other common names for this rake are the “L Rake” or the “Long Ripple.”
This particular rake is used slightly differently than the typical rake. Rather than scrubbing the pins as we do with the Bogota or snake rake above, the city rake is used in a rocking manner.
Additionally, while rocking, a slow scrubbing-like motion can be applied that ensures that the different peaks have the chance to touch and set other pins. Combining both rocking and mild scrubbing can turn this pick into a very powerful little tool – check out the animation below!
The rocking motion allows it to rotate around the center of its profile making it very effective against locks with longer pins in the front and back and short pins in the center.
However, like all rakes, the city rake performs poorly against locks with tighter tolerances, small keyways, or security pins. This pick is also not very powerful at scrubbing on its own but can be used in that manner if you desire.
There are also a ton of designs based around the original city rake – such as Peterson's mini ripples, but in my opinion, they are but a shadow of the original city rake design!
The final category of raking is zipping!
The goal of zipping is to violently bounce pins to the shear line by forcefully pulling the pick out of the keyway while applying an upward force on the pins.
This can be accomplished using a variety of picks, even including the short hook and half-diamond.
However, there are several picks that have been designed to maximize the “bouncing” force applied to each pin and increase the success rate of them setting.
The Batarang – also widely known as the "S-Rake", "Triple Rake", or "Camel Back" – is one of the few picks that was designed around this style of zipping.
It has two peaks to give it two chances to set each pin per zip and each peak is radically sharp so that it can violently throw pins to the shear line.
However, one of the fatal flaws of this pick is its tendency to break where the beginning of the rake meets the shank of the pick. This makes this pick pretty weak against tighter keyways, paracentric keyways, heavy warding, rusty and corroded locks, or essentially anything that has a chance of snagging the pick on the way out.
Manufacturers have recently begun to re-enforce the bottom of these rakes to help diminish this weak point.
This guide got a little longer than I planned, but I hope it helps clear any confusion for those looking to get into this amazing craft!
And for those looking to get their first set, any of these 10 lock picks will not only serve you well, they’ll likely be all you ever use. So stay away from those huge or low-quality sets of picks and grab a few picks that are high quality and useful. Or even check out some of our beginner lock pick sets!
As you progress, you can apply the concepts of this guide to any strange and obscure picks that cross your path to better understand their design and intended purpose.
But remember, there are no rules! Never feel that you can’t nor shouldn’t explore and innovate with your tools. The first picker to turn their hook upside down and use it to rock pins was likely thought an idiot, but today it’s seen as such a powerful technique that’s used by thousands!
If you have any questions or comments about this guide or other topics, be sure to drop that in the comments below or throw me an email here. I always love to hear from you guys!
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