How a Tumbler Lock Works

How a Tumbler Lock Works

To understand how a tumbler lock works, it helps to first become familiar with the parts of a padlock and how they function. 

parts of a padlock

A tumbler lock is made up of a shell that holds a plug with holes drilled into it. These holes are designed to hold pins.

These holes are designed to hold pins, which act as a security measure to prevent the rotation of the plug. The plug turns (and the lock opens) when the pins are lined up in a specific way. 




If you have a clear padlock (you can get them in our beginner lock picking set or buy one separately), insert the key. See how the pins and springs align themselves to match the key's bitting pattern. 


What is a Tumbler Lock?

When the locksport community talks about pin tumbler locks, they're usually talking about cylinder locks like those described above. However, other types of tumbler locks exist. 


Tubular Pin Tumbler Locks

With a tubular pin tumbler lock, the pins are arranged in a circular pattern instead of lined up.  

You'll find tubular pin tumbler locks on vending machines, bicycle locks, and elevators. 


Dimple Locks

A dimple lock is a pin tumbler lock where the bitting pattern is located on the flat side of the key blade. 



If you're curious about how a tumbler lock works, you may be interested in learning how to pick a tumbler lock. Check out our resources page for our guide. 

We also offer a number of lock pick sets, including a beginner set that comes with clear locks for practice. 

We hope you give it a go! 

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