Lock picking is the skill of unlocking a lock by analyzing and manipulating the components of the lock device, without the original key. Although lock picking can be associated with criminal intent, it is an essential skill for a locksmith. Lock picking is the ideal way of opening a lock without the correct key, while not damaging the lock, allowing it to be rekeyed for later use, which is especially important with antique locks that would be impossible to replace if destructive entry methods were used.
The move towards combination locks for high security items such as safes was intended to remove the weakest part of the lock: its keyhole.
In normal situations it is almost always easier to gain access by some means other than lock picking; most common locks can be quickly and easily opened using a drill, bolt cutters, padlock shim, a bump key or a hydraulic jack. The hasp, door, or fixture they are attached to can be cut, broken, unscrewed or otherwise removed, windows can be broken etc. Therefore a lock that offers high resistance to picking does not necessarily make unauthorized access more difficult, but will make surreptitious unauthorized access more difficult. Locks are often used in combination with alarms to provide layered security.
Some people enjoy picking locks recreationally. This may also be referred to as Locksport.
Lock pick kits can be purchased openly via the Internet. Many different selections are present. Nine-piece sets and a 32-piece set equipped with a Pick Gun(an automated bump key) for example differ in value and price greatly. However, many lock pickers state that for most simple locks, a basic set of five picks (or even a single pick) is enough; therefore it is unnecessary to carry around a wide variety of professional lock picks. Lockpicks can also be improvised from common items, or machined at home with relative ease. This is also the case with warded locks.
The process of picking pin/tumbler and wafer locks is concerned with causing the two sets of pins (upper or driver pins and bottom pins) to separate such that the cylinder will turn. The point at which the pins properly separate when the lock is unlocked is called the shearline.
This type represents the vast majority of American and European domestic locks, the UK being an exception where lever locks are generally a requirement for home insurance. A different tool set (such as the Hobbs pick) is required for more complex locks which are not easily fabricated.
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