Lock picking is one of life’s essential skills. Although many people see it as something “criminal,” no one feels that way when they can pick a lock successfully because they’ve left their keys behind.
But improving your lock picking skills can be a challenge for beginners. If you feel that your lock picking skills haven’t improved, it is likely due to one of the following mistakes. Here are the issues that beginners often encounter.
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What Are the Biggest Mistakes that New Lock Pickers Make?
We often think of mistakes as a sign of failure. But mistakes are really just opportunities to level up your lock picking skills.
If you make any of the following mistakes in your lock picking routine, you're not alone. Here are the top six beginner mistakes and how to fix them.
1. The lock you’re picking is beyond your current skill.
The best way to improve your skills is to challenge yourself to get better. But, if you continually try to pick locks that go beyond your current abilities and developed senses, the experience will cause more frustration than joy.
Tip: If you keep getting stuck on a lock, try to put it away for a few minutes to think about what could change. You might consider picking a familiar lock to build your confidence while plotting out what can be done differently on the piece that’s giving you trouble.
2. You’re only picking one lock type.
When you keep picking the same lock, you’re developing a specific skill set that applies to that one piece alone. Although popping a lock feels great when it happens, picking the same lock repeatedly can quickly lead to memorization more than physical development.
Tip: Try to work on multiple lock types and styles to practice your skills instead of developing a routine of mindless sequences and motions.
3. You don’t have the right tools.
Although lock picking sets are relatively cheap online, most of them are hot garbage. You need to have high-quality tools to produce the results you want. When the items are made cheaply, they can break, bend, or rust easily.
Not only does that outcome require you to buy more tools, but it also creates the possibility that your lock could get damaged. A damaged lock may be impossible to pick.
Tip: If you’re starting a lock picking journey, the best investment you can make is in a couple of good hooks, a variety of tensioning options, and some rakes.
4. The locks you keep picking are transparent.
Many beginners like using clear cutaway locks to develop their picking technique. When you can see what you’re doing at each step, it can help you learn how each one feels so that you trust your instincts.
But, if you learn to rely solely on visual cues in lock picking, you miss out on the most fundamental skills, which means you're less likely to be able to pick more challenging locks.
Tip: The goal should be to learn from and then transition away from those transparent locks as quickly as possible. This hobby, career, or competitive skill relies more on feel than visual cues.
Find some cheap, easy locks to assist in the transition.
5. You’re using too much tension.
Life often follows an 80-20 rule. That means about 80% of the work comes from 20% from one resource or a small group.
When you apply that idea to lock picking, it means that 80% of your skill comes from how you’re using those tensioning tools in your pack. The remaining 20% is everything else that needs to happen to earn a pop.
If you have heavy tension, you’re amplifying the feedback to get a better feeling of what is happening. When you cross the line where too much of it gets applied, you can bend the pins to the point they no longer move.
Tight pins increase the risk of breaking your tools. Snagging your pick on a tight pin is an excellent recipe for snapping your tools.
Tip: Avoid any heavy tension while raking. When your fingertips feel uncomfortable from the pressure and tension getting used, it is probably time to lighten up a little.
6. Your primary focus is on raking.
Raking delivers a satisfying result because you can open a simple lock relatively quickly with little skill. You get a taste of why it can be addictive to have lock picking as a hobby, making you want to do it even more.
It’s also true that raking can only take you so far as a lock picker. Some beginners gauge their talent based on this one skill, which is why they get frustrated by tougher locks.
Some locks just can’t be raked!
Tip: Expand your skill set by embracing single-pin picking. You can even start with the simple locks you've been raking.
Don’t Forget to Practice Your Lock Picking Each Day
Generally, you need to practice about 60 minutes each day to master a new talent across several months and years. But the goal is not always mastery. If you want to pick locks as a hobby, you should try to practice at least ten minutes per day.
Although basic locks will fall quickly, you’ll notice items like security pins take more sophistication and proficiency. Only frequent practice can help you get better.
When you can avoid these mistakes during those early days, you can have your skills progress rapidly. However, it’s also important to remember that we won’t have as many opportunities to get better without the adversity of an error.