Have you ever found yourself locked out, thinking “Can I just pick my lock myself?” If so, you’re in the majority of car or homeowners who have locked themselves out and considered (even briefly) trying to handle the problem themselves. Then you should also ask yourself “Is it safe to pick my own locks?”

Most of us carry around several keys (anywhere between 3-10 keys): keys to our home, relatives’ homes, car, office, safe, spare keys – you name it. Our keyrings are crowded and demonstrate just how often we have to interact with locks throughout the week. Keeping track of all those keys is tough, and at one point or another, we lose a key. 

It may be tempting, when locked out of your car or home, to think that you don’t need professional help. But the reality is that lock picking requires special tools and skills that most people simply do not have. In this article, we’re going to address the question of whether or not it is safe for you to try to pick your own locks when you’re locked out. 

How Lock Picking Works

Lock picking is defined as the manipulation of a lock’s internal components in order to open the lock without a key. In order to understand lock picking, you have to know how your lock works with your key. 

Locks come in all shapes and sizes, with all kinds of innovations and locking mechanisms. However, the type of lock most people are familiar with is the cylinder lock. Inside cylinder locks, there are puzzles of sorts, which only the right key can “solve.” These puzzles are commonly known as pin-and-tumbler lock designs and are the easiest to pick. 

is it safe to pick my own locks - the mechanism

(A standard pin-tumbler lock mechanism)

Pin tumbler locks are made up of an outer casing (colored green in the picture below) which houses a plug (colored yellow.) The small space between the outer casing and the plug is known as the shear line. The plug contains the opening for the key. When the right key is inserted into the plug, the plug will rotate and unlock the lock. In order to rotate the plug, you need to lift all of the key pins (colored red) to the right height until the gap between the key pins and driver pins (blue) reach the shear line. When all the pins are in this position, the plug will rotate and your door will be unlocked.

is it safe to pick my own locks - the mechanism

(Internal pin-tumbler lock components)

Tools Needed For Lock Picking

Essentially, when you pick a lock, you’re just using tools, instead of a key, to align everything within the lock, rotate the plug, and unlock the lock. It’s a fairly simple process. However, it requires a special set of tools:

is it safe to pick my own locks? Tools necessary

(Standard lock picking toolset)

There are two main tools commonly used to pick a lock:

So, the tools that locksmiths use to pick a lock are actually quite simple, but require lots of practice and training in order to use them properly. And while most people can be trained to use them successfully, an important question remains: 

Is It Legal To Own Lock Picking Tools?

Well, that depends. There is a common misconception that it is illegal for anyone besides licensed locksmiths and first responders to own lock picking tools. In actuality, in most states, it is totally legal to own a lock pick set. as long as you have no intent to illegally enter a home, car, or building. 

Some states have laws that designate the ownership of lock picking tools as prima facie evidence of criminal intent. If you’re caught with these tools in these states, you’ll have to prove that you were not planning to commit a crime in order to avoid criminal charges.

So, to summarize: owning a lock pick set is perfectly legal as long as you don’t have any nefarious intentions. You can read more about lock picking laws across the country here.

Debunking the Myths

The internet is full of “expert” advice about how to how to help yourself out of lockout situations. These “experts” claim you can successfully pick your lock using any kind of household item from bobby pins to credit cards, to coat hangers. However, these methods rarely, if ever, work. Additionally, fooling around with your locks using these “tools” can complicate your situation. Even leading to permanent damage to your locks that require costly repairs or replacements.

Even if you own the proper lock picking tools, you will still have to extensively practice using them until you have successfully acquired the necessary skill to open a lock. This can take many hours and failed attempts with expensive, professional equipment. Most people simply do not have the time for this, and thus, will have to defer to a professional.

So, Is It Safe For Me To Try Picking My Lock?

The short answer is no. Unless you have the proper tools and extensive practice with using them, you will not be able to unlock your door. You will have to call in a professional locksmith to get you back inside safely and efficiently. 

That’s where Royal Locksmith comes in! We offer all kinds of emergency lockout assistance. Whether you’re locked out of your home, car, or commercial space, we can come to your location and get you back inside without damaging your locks. 

We hope this article has been useful in helping you understand how your locks work. Furthermore, we encourage you to call Royal Locksmith when you have any problems with your locks and keys!