One of the most important elements of lock picking is choosing the right tools for the job. While skill is important, matching your lock picking technique to the right type of pick is more critical because some picks just won’t cut it in some situations.
Unfortunately, most of the lock picks look indistinguishable to the untrained eye, and this often leaves novice pickers frustrated with a lock that won’t open even after a ton of practice.
When picking any pin tumbler lock, there are six main types of picks you can use: short hooks, deep hooks, offset hooks, scrubbing rakes, rocking picks, and zipping rakes. Each type is designed to suit the two basic techniques of lock picking, so striking a perfect technique-pick match is critical.
In the rest of this post, we’ll discuss in detail six types of lock picks and match each to the two main techniques of lock picking to help you choose the right tools for the job. But first, let’s review these two methods of picking a lock pin tumbler lock.
The Two Ways to Pick a Lock
The two main lock picking techniques are raking and single pin picking, and each involves a certain type of finesse that needs to be matched to an ideal type of pick.
To help you choose the right pick design for your picking style, let’s discuss these two techniques in detail and identify the best lock pick designs for each:
Types of Locks Picks for Single Pin Picking (SPP)
Single pin picking is one of the most effective ways to pick a lock. It’s mostly used on pin tumbler locks, although it can also open other types of locks provided you have the right set of skills and tools. It’s more of a general approach to lock picking than it is a specific technique.
It’s not uncommon for experienced lock pickers to combine SPP with raking (more on this later on). The latter approach is generally faster but relies more on luck than SPP.
While SPP is slower, it works on virtually all pin tumbler locks. When it doesn’t, it has more to do with the skill (or the lack of, for that matter) of the picker than the inadequacy of the approach.
With the SPP approach, the picker strives to pick a lock without relying on luck. In other words, they try to open the lock with awareness and control of precisely what’s going on inside the lock throughout the process.
That’s because single pin picking involves lifting the pins in a lock one at a time, something that you’d struggle to do if you didn’t know exactly what you’re doing.
Since precision is critical when picking the individual pins, you need a super thin lock pick. It also helps if the pick has a hook shape, which lock pics meant for SPP enthusiasts typically have (except for a few options that we’ll take a look at later on).
There are three classes of lock picks you can use for single pin picking:
- Short hooks
- Deeper hooks
- Offset hooks
Let’s take a deeper look at these categories and identify the various types of lock picks in each.
Since single pin picking is all about finesse and precision within a tiny keyhole, the right pick for such an operation must have two important qualities:
- Agility, so as not to accidentally bump anything else within the lock
- The ability to manipulate one pin at a time
As far as these two requirements go, short-profile hooks are perfect. Their profile is short enough to give your adequate space to work your way around the keyway. At the same time, they’re not too short that you can’t reach and set the pins.
Now, that doesn’t mean that they don’t come with their fair share of drawbacks.
One issue you might have with shorter hooks is when you’re working short-cut pins that are shielded by longer ones. In such a scenario, it can be tricky to set only the short pins into the shear line without lifting the long ones due to the limited reach of short hooks.
In most cases (especially with a beginner lock picker), this ends in underset or overset pins, neither of which are ideal.
One way to get around this issue would be to use a variation of a short hook. We’ve identified a few, including one that technically isn’t a hook but still qualifies for this category. Let’s review those below.
The Standard Short Hook Pick
This pick design meets two important requirements for single pin picking: agility and precision. Thanks to its short profile, it’s highly maneuverable in both tight and open spaces (within the keyway, of course) and is an ideal choice for attacking most pin tumbler locks.
As long as the picker is skilled enough, few locks out there will resist this kind of hook pick. It’s also a versatile tool because you can also use it for reverse picking, zipping, bitch picking, and rocking.
And with enough finesse, you can work around one of the biggest weaknesses of short hooks in general: a pin that’s extremely shorter-cut in relation to the one before it.
That’s perhaps why it’s the most commonly used type and the one tool that any picker shouldn’t lack in their arsenal.
The main difference between the gem and the standard short hook discussed above is that the former comes with a short, pointy tip. This might seem like a minor detail, but it makes all the difference.
It gives you a little extra reach while maintaining the great trait combo (agility and maneuverability) that makes the standard short hook so popular.
With the elongated tip, the gem is ideal when you’re up against paracentric keyways, locks with radical bitting, or warded locks. Additionally, this pick doesn’t feel clucky.
It also makes it less of a hassle to locate the individual pins and stay within their chambers, which comes in handy for novice pickers who are yet to master awareness of the spacing between the individual pins.
The slope of the tip of the gem is also advantageous because it means you can drag it across the various pins to lift them. This adds to the pick’s maneuverability by giving you more space to move the pick around as you try to get your angles right.
With a flat-tipped hook, this wouldn’t be possible, and you’d have to approach the pins from below.
Perhaps the one issue you might have with the gem is that its pointy tip can sometimes cause the pins to slip when trying to lift them. While this might be less of an issue for experienced pickers, it can easily make an impatient beginner frustrated.
Apart from that minor issue, the gem is a great pick that strikes a balance between the standard short hook and the more obstructive deep hook. And while it’s primarily used for single pin picking, it’s a versatile option that you can also use for rocking, bitch picking, zipping, and reverse picking.
This pick is a hybrid of the standard short hook and the gem. While it isn’t a hook per se, it’s used pretty much like one. The half-diamond is similar to the gem in two ways.
For starters, it’s great at quickly locating and setting pins in a pin tumbler lock. Second, it mimics the picking mechanism of the gem by acting as a ramp that lets you slowly lift the pins and descend them with utmost control and precision.
This is important for speedy picking because it makes it easier to find and set binding pins by sliding the pick across the pins.
Additionally, the half-diamond pick comes with some degree of versatility. Besides single pin picking, you can also use it for rocking, zipping, and scrubbing.
But while the half diamond pick comes with some of the conveniences of the gem, it comes up short in some aspects.
For instance, its fat profile makes it a bit clunky, while its wide base means it’ll be less maneuverable within the keyway compared to the gem. Chances are, however, that you’ll only notice this issue when you’re up against pin stacks with short pins sandwiched between longer ones.
Likely, the shorter pins will be hard to reach with a half-diamond pick because it lacks both the precision and the reach you’d need to maneuver between the pin stacks and get hold of the short pins.
Additionally, the tall profile of a half-diamond pick means it’ll be hard to fit it into small or paracentric keyways. It won’t make your life easy when dealing with those with heavy warding, either.
While powerful and versatile, short hooks may not provide the kind of reach you need to maneuver around unorthodox pin configurations and some lock conditions like heavy warding. By adding a little bit of length to the end of the hook, deep hooks address these shortcomings.
The extra length (and as a result, reach) is the only design difference between a short hook and a deep hook. It’s also why experienced lock pickers often turn to a deeper hook when a short one fails on locks with radical bitting because the extra reach makes it easier to access short pins that may be obstructed by longer ones.
Additionally, deep hooks come in handy when trying to pick locks with heavy warding and paracentric keyways.
But while a deep hook may be great for lock picking situations that would be tricky to deal with using a short hook, its bulky nature makes it a not-so-great primary lock pick.
It also makes it a poor tool to use on tiny keyways. Additionally, there isn’t much else you can do with a deep hook except single pin picking.
With that said, any experienced picker will agree that it’s better一than not一to have a deep hook (or at least an offset hook) in your arsenal because you never know when you’ll need it.
Up to this point, we’ve established that short hooks bring two lock picking essentials to the table (agility and maneuverability), albeit with limited reach. On the other hand, deep hooks provide that bit of extra reach but aren’t as maneuverable as their short counterparts.
What if there was a way to get the best of both worlds without sacrificing efficiency and effectiveness?
Enter offset hooks.
Offset hooks are a type of lock picks that gradually counteract and extend the tip of the pick. And while their description might seem unclear, their benefits aren’t.
Thanks to their design, offset hooks have a perfect combination of precision and reach, all without being too clunky or intrusive in a lock’s keyway.
Additionally, the slight curve at the end of the shaft of these picks allows them to pivot and rotate around pin stacks. This comes in handy when you’re looking to set short pins that are obstructed by longer cut pins, addressing one of the main shortcomings of short pins in general.
Having discussed some of the benefits of offset hooks, let’s take a look at two of the most popular options:
The Peterson Reach is a favorite for many pickers, both experienced and beginners. This offset hook provides a balanced blend of the agility of a short hook and the exceptional reach of a deep hook.
The slim profile comes in handy when you need to reach and set pins in locks with tricky configurations, meaning it’s the kind of pick you’ll want to turn to when you’re up against pin tumbler locks with radical bitting, tight or paracentric keyways, rotating pins, and heavy warding.
Meanwhile, the round but slim shape allows this pick to effortlessly pivot and gradually curve around pin stacks, which is critical when lifting and setting pins tucked at the rear end of the lock.
There’s also the round tip, which helps minimize pin slippage to minimize the frustrations novice pickers would experience when working with a pick with a pointed end like the gem.
Also worth mentioning is that the Peterson Reach can be a great tool to have when you want to challenge yourself by picking a high-security lock like the Medeco Biaxial because it can easily rotate pins in such locks.
Despite these strengths, the Peterson Reach does have one major weakness.
While the slim profile makes it a great tool for undoing locks with unorthodox configurations, it also makes it more fragile than many other picks. So if you’re heavy-handed, you might break a few of these picks.
That’s likely to happen when you’re working against a corroded or rusted lock because the components in such locks often require a bit of force.
The Deforest Diamond is a blend of the best features of the gem and those of a short hook. The best thing about it is the unique way its profile interacts with the pins as you gradually change the angle.
When you slightly angle the deforest diamond, it provides the kind of slope you’d experience with the gem. In case you don’t remember what we said about this kind of slope in our discussion about the gem, it allows you to slide the pin across the pins to lift and set them.
The added benefit is that it enhances the pick’s maneuverability since you don’t have to sink it too deep to get it under the pin stacks (AKA approaching the pins from below).
But while the slope is important, the unique capability of the deforest diamond truly manifests when you start to remove the angle. Then, the pick’s tip gradually starts to flatten out and rise.
This makes it very easy to lift the individual pins and minimizes instances of pin slippage during this process, which translates to fewer hassles and frustrations.
What’s more, the wide profile of this offset pick allows it to pivot and curve around pin stacks, all without touching any of the pins. Such capability makes it easier to set those problematic short pins in locks with radical bitting.
However, such unique functionality comes at a cost. It means that the deforest diamond has to be fairly bulky, something that makes it hard to fit the pick into small keyways or paracentric ones.
Lock Pick Types for Raking
Also known as scrubbing or rake picking, raking is the opposite of SPP in several ways.
While a picker using the SPP method targets one pin at a time with utmost awareness and control of what’s happening inside the lock, someone looking to rake a lock looks to manipulate multiple pins simultaneously, often relying on elements of luck.
And unlike SPP, raking is typically used when speed is required and often only works on low-security locks or those without radical bitting.
Raking a lock involves lightly brushing the pick against its internal components in an up-down motion to stimulate them. As such, the tools used for this picking approach typically have a long profile, with several points of contact to stimulate as many components as possible.
Generally, the more the contact points on any given raking pick, the quicker it’ll open a lock. As such, the most preferred rakes (another name for raking picks) are those with many points of contact.
With that said, the effectiveness of a raking pick may vary greatly based on other factors like the bitting. Depending on the situation, a simple rake design may cut it where radial ones fail.
Usually, rakes are classified according to the style of raking they’re used for. There are three styles of raking, namely:
To help you choose the right tools for your raking job, let’s review the various types of rakes used in each style.
As the name suggests, this refers to rakes that are typically used for scrubbing. This raking method is characterized by scrubbing motion, where the rake is vigorously moved back and forth within the keyway in an attempt to bounce the pins into the shear line.
The most effective tools for this kind of picking are rakes that are designed such that they can stimulate each pin more than once with a single motion. It also helps if the pick causes minimal snagging and friction.
Let’s take a look at two types of such picks:
While primarily a scrubbing rake, the versatile Bogota can also be used for rocking and zipping. It’s arguably the most powerful rake today and perhaps the most commonly used picking tool in its class.
While the Bogota is an effective tool as it is, you can make it even more powerful by changing the angle as you rake a lock.
Doing this makes it easier to set short-cut pins at both ends of the lock.
Bogota’s effectiveness is largely down to the way its peaks are designed. They come rounded and polished to minimize friction, which makes it easy to slide the pick along the keyway.
Having triple peaks also comes in handy when raking a lock because it allows the pick to work several pins simultaneously with each glide.
It also increases your chances of setting the pins because the triple peaks stimulate each pin (besides the rearmost ones) thrice with a single motion.
You can use the Bogota to undo a lock with radical bitting, something that you may not be able to do with any other types of rakes.
But like any other raking pick, it’ll be useless when you’re up against moderate-to-high quality locks, particularly those with deep-cut security pins.
The Snake Rake
Despite being among the oldest types of rakes, the snake rake remains a staple for both experienced and novice lock pickers. Of course, this isn’t by coincidence.
While the snake rake has one less peak than the Bogota, its shorter profile makes it a handy tool to have in your picker set. It gives you more room to vary your angle of approach and makes the snake rake ideal for raking locks with paracentric keyways and radical bitting.
In some cases, the snake rake may go by other names such as the double rake, C-rake, or squiggly rake. Whatever name, this rake is a versatile tool that you can use for not only scrubbing but also zipping and rocking.
However, the snake rake may not be the right tool for the job when you’re facing locks with tight tolerances or security pins. It might also struggle against locks whose keyways are very tight.
Rocking is a slightly more gentle way of raking a lock than the scrubbing method we’ve just discussed. It involves constantly and gently changing the pick’s angle inside the keyway in an attempt to get the pins into the shear line.
Most of the picks can be used for rocking, but the city rake is perhaps the most authentic pick designed primarily for rocking. There are other picks with the same design (the Peterson’s mini ripple, for instance), but most of them are recreations of the city rake.
Since it’s widely regarded as the original rocking pick, let’s review the city rake below.
The City Rake
Also known as the long ripple or the L rake, this raking pick closely resembles the bitting of a key. The way it’s used is also different from how typically you’d use any raking pick.
While the usage of scrubbing picks involves a similar motion to that of brushing your teeth, that of the city rake is mostly a rocking one. With that said, subtle scrubbing may be combined with this rocking motion to give the various peaks of the city rake a chance to make contact with and (hopefully) set all the pins, including the short-cut ones.
The rocking motion used when raking a lock with this pick allows it to rotate around just about the middle of its profile. This makes the city rake an effective tool for picking locks with short pins at the center and longer ones at the front.
The main downside to the city rake is that, like most raking picks, it might not be the most effective tool for picking locks with small keyways, security pins, or very tight tolerances.
The last type of raking picks are those that are used for zipping. This raking method is less gentle than rocking and involves vigorously bouncing pins into the shear line by explosively yanking the rake out of the keyway as you exert upward pressure on the pins.
Several picks (including the half-diamond and the short hook) may be used for zipping, but the Batarang is specially designed for this purpose. Its unique design increases your chances of successfully picking a lock by rock zipping because it maximizes the “bounce” force exerted on each pin, which makes it more likely for them to set in the shear line.
Let’s take a deeper look at the Batarang in the next section.
Commonly referred to as the triple rake, camelback rake, or the S-rake, the Batarang is characterized by two radically sharp peaks.
The two peaks give you a double chance of setting each pin as you yank out the pick, while their sharp edges allow you to bounce the pins into the shear line forcefully.
But as the Batarang might seem, it has one major weakness.
It tends to break when it’s up against paracentric and/or tight keyways, rusty/corroded locks, or heavy warding. Basically, if the lock you’re picking has anything that might snag the pick as you pull it out, chances are it’ll break.
Luckily, manufacturers are aware of this weakness, and many are beginning to reinforce the bottom part of Batarang rakes to address it.
Our discussion of the Batarang rounds up today’s post where we’ve identified six various types of lock picks. These include short hooks, deep hooks, offset hooks, scrubbing rakes, rocking picks, and zipping picks. There are sub-categories in each of these six types, each with unique lock picking capabilities as well as shortcomings.
Hopefully, you’ll be able to use this information to choose the right type of pick for the various locks you might encounter in the future. Best of luck!