When learning how to pick locks, the locksmith apprentice can practice his skill directly on working locks, though it is recommended to first practice on locks that are not in actual use. Practice locks that are specifically designed to help the student better understand how locks work, can be beneficial tools to learn lock picking, and to improve the student’s lock picking skills.
Clear practice locks are particularly helpful in understanding the construction and function of locks, especially for students who are visual learners. In working locks, the internal parts cannot be seen, of course, so the student must ultimately learn to pick by feel. But clear practice locks can give a visual understanding of how locks work and what is happening inside the lock as it is being picked. They are a great starting point for the beginner to make that visual-mental connection about how their picking techniques affect the pins inside the lock, and how the lock can then successfully be picked.
The ST-35 Visible Pin Tumbler Lock (with spool pins) and the Visible Tubular Practice Lock (with standard pins) below both demonstrate how, when the lock is not engaged, the pins are resting at different heights/levels, blocking the shearline and preventing the lock from turning.
ST-35 Visible Pin Tumbler Lock (with spool pins)
Visible Tubular Practice Lock (with standard pins)
When not engaged, the pins rest at different heights, blocking the shear line
and preventing the lock from turning.
In the photos of the ST-34 Visible Pin Tumbler Lock (with standard pins) and the Visible Tubular Practice Lock (with spool pins) here, however, the key is inserted, lifting and leveling the pins to the shearline, allowing the lock to turn.
ST-34 Visible Pin Tumbler Lock (with standard pins) - Key Inserted
Visible Tubular Practice Lock (with spool pins)
With the key inserted, the pins level to the shear line,
allowing the lock to turn.
Practice locks are available with different types of pins. Locks with standard pins are more common in the field, and have a solid, cylindrical shape:
The pins in this ST-34 Visible Pin Tumbler Lock are standard pins,
indicated by their solid, cylindrical shape
Security pins are less common in the field, but make the lock more difficult to pick. Spool pins, as pictured in the photo below, are a type of security pin and are dumbbell-shaped. When picking a lock, the cut-away center can give a feeling of a false-set, where it feels that the pin has reached the shearline, but instead, it is the cut-away center that has reached the shearline and the lock has not yet been picked.
The pins in this ST-35 Visible Pin Tumbler Lock are spool pins,
indicated by their dumbbell-like shape
Clear practice locks can make excellent learning tools for the locksmith student. They allow the student to see how his picking affects the pins inside the lock, allowing him to better understand how to pick locks effectively.
Another technique for learning to pick locks is to pick the lock progressively, by first picking the lock with one or two pin-stacks in it, then by moving on to three pin-stacks, then four and so on (with 5 pin columns being the most common here in the U.S.). The locksmith student can purchase working locks to remove the pin stacks himself, then add them back progressively for practice-- often requiring specialized tools to do so effectively.
Or, the student can use a progressive lock picking kit designed for this purpose, like the SouthOrd Locksmith School-in-a-Box. The Locksmith School in a Box is a great way to learn how to pick locks progressively. This training kit includes five locks, pinned progressively with one through five pin sets, and a wooden stand which holds the locks for both practice and storage. Four lock picks, a standard tension tool and the instructional booklet "Easy Pickings" are also included in the kit.
The ST-23 Locksmith-School-in-a-Box includes five progressive practice locks with a wooden stand,
four lock picks, one tension tool and the instructional booklet Easy Pickings.
The locks included in the Locksmith School in a Box are pinned progressively, to use as a learning tool. Once the locks have been successfully picked and mastered, however, they can be easily repinned with standard or security pins, to create different lock picking experiences and challenges. This takes the Locksmith School-in-a-Box beyond a training kit for beginners to a long-term practice tool to hone one’s lock picking skills.
The locks included in the Locksmith-School-in-a-Box are repinnable,
giving the student different and more challenging picking experiences.
Replacement pins, including security pins like spool and serrated pins, in a full range of lengths, can be purchased to use with the Locksmith School-in-a-Box. Complete LAB pin kits, and repinning supplies, such as pin tweezers, locksmith pinning mats, etc. are also available to complete the lock picking and lock pinning experience.
Though practice locks and lock picking training kits are not necessary to learn lock picking, they can be invaluable tools for understanding how locks work, and effective tools for both students who are learning how to pick locks and experienced users to improve their lock picking skills.