Mechanical locks have been around since ancient Egypt, with the oldest known artifact found in the ruins of Nineveh, an ancient city in Assyria, Mesopotamia, which is just across the Tigris River from what is now Mosul, Iraq.
It was a forerunner to our modern day pin tumbler locks, and no doubt fell victim to the same perils that today's locks endure—lock picking.
Though lock picking alone sounds like a devious criminal activity, it's actually a skill every aspiring locksmith must learn and master, not just for helping stranded motorists retrieve their keys from inside their locked cars, but for finally designing that masterful lock that will never be picked.
But until that day comes, any one looking to hone their locksmithing craft should know the quickest and best methods to hacking locks, from padlocks to deadbolts to car doors. Below are some of the best known (and somewhat skeptical) methods on WonderHowTo's school for lockpickers.
Many have their doubts, but expert locksmith Deviant Ollam claims it's legit (and also claims to have popularized the method, though he did not invent it).
It's the easiest known method for hacking into spring-loaded key and combination padlocks with shackles, by lock manufacturers such as Master Lock and American Lock. All you need is a beer can, some scissors and some skills. That thin, aluminum shim is enough to unlatch even the toughest of shackles. In the video below, Ollam explains it all, in probably more details than you need to know.
But what about those new anti-shim models that lock manufacturers are producing? Ollam has the answer for that, too!
Now, this isn't exactly picking locks—it's more bypassing locks, and is perfect for getting inside any zippered bag, especially suitcases at the airport. Hacking into luggage is so easy, even your grandmother could do it. And the tool of the trade? A pen. Watch the demonstration video below for the clever and undetectable hack of a locked zippered suitcase.
What if you actually wanted to crack the combination to a lock? If you were to try and crack the combination dial to a Master Lock by simply trying different combinations, it would take approximately 177 hours (without sleeping or eating) to solve the combination. This video shows you a trick to cracking combination locks down to only 100 possibilities in a fraction of the time. If you're not good with numbers and math, specifically division, then you may have difficulty with this technique.
You've seen plenty of videos about hacking Master Lock combinations. But what about those American Locks? They always seem to be forgotten, since Master Lock is the biggest combination lock producer out there. Well, instead of the beer can shim method above, this one uses a dull knife and a couple of small screwdrivers to crack the code by busting open the back. This could be the least delicate skill for a locksmith to acquire.
Got limited time? This method (which most find hard to do) only takes 12 seconds, and NO TOOLS!
Tennis balls used to break into car doors? No way! Or maybe the more appropriate reaction would be WTF?
Many have tried to prove (or disprove) that tennis ball lock picking really works, but it still seems up for debate. Mythbusters have supposedly debunked this technique. Someone over at the Auto Blog also has tested this car lock method with failed results. Yet, in the movie The Next Three Days, Russell Crowe spends most of his time acquiring forged passports, using bump keys inside prisons (seen in the next lock picking method below) and yes… breaking into automobiles using a tennis ball.
Though this is a false method of accessing a vehicle without a key—I'd like to think it actually works—just because it's cool, especially when Russell Crowe does it.
Scam School asks master locksmith Justin to unravel the truth behind bump keys, and he does just that. Learn the secrets to bump-keying just about any keyed lock. And this diabolical device is so simple, you can make it at home—for free! Also, learn what you can use to bear the bump key, for those of you worried.
See how locksmiths actually pick locks! For this, you'll need a lock pick set. Nothing fancy, just the basic lockpicking tools, though practice makes perfect with this method. Don't beat yourself up too much if you can't do it (it's hard).
This is probably the hardest, most challenging opponent for any lock picker, and can range from actually picking the lock to carefully listening to the tumblers as you move the combination dial. In the video below, you'll learn a lot about safecracking. You probably won't be able to go out and crack a safe after watching, but you'll at least know every method possible.
If you're interested in more ways to bypass locks, check out our companion guide for 15 ways to open a car or house door without a key, which covers the use of shoestrings, coat hangers, paper clips, butter knives, and more.