Locks are fragile creatures—vulnerable to so many attacks, it is a wonder we trust them at all.
At the end of this guide, you will have learned seven simple ways to break a lock—including methods that work on padlocks, door locks, or both. You can accomplish many of these methods using things you may have sitting around your home or are easily accessible at a local hardware store.
The knowledge on this page will not only make you incredibly handy in emergencies, but locks will tremble at the first glimpse of your shadow!
The methods in this guide are considered destructive entry techniques and may destroy the lock in the process. If you desire to preserve the lock, consider checking out my guide covering ways to open a lock when you don't have the key for some techniques to try before this last-ditch effort guide!
Important Note: Only use these techniques on locks that you own unless you have the explicit permission of the owner to defile their property. If you are renting a property, you do not own that lock—your landlord does!
Why You Should Know How to Break a Lock
Believe it or not, there is an excellent justification for knowing how to break locks.
The first, and most important reason, is that it teaches you about the fundamental vulnerabilities of locks.
With this knowledge comes a true understanding and power. Knowledge of how locks can be broken and the power to help you make better decisions about the types of locks you use, where you use them, and how much you trust them.
For example, drilling a lock is a common technique that can easily bypass many different locks. Without this knowledge, one might assume that the expensive lock on their front door will protect them from all the world's woes.
However, with this new knowledge and awareness, you'll not only know better, but you'll likely discover ways to better protect yourself against such attacks. You might consider replacing the pins in your lock with hardened steel replacements or upgrading your lock to drill-resistant ones.
When it comes to security, the more you know how to break it, the better you can be at preventing others from breaking it.
The second reason to learn how to break a lock is emergency purposes. You never know when getting through a locked door can mean the life or death of a stranger, a neighbor, or even a loved one.
Method 1: Drill the Lock
The goal of drilling is to destroy or remove a section of the lock that prevents you from opening it by other means.
There are many ways to drill a lock successfully and many different areas you can target with your drill.
- You can target the screws that hold the lock body to the door, and once removed, you can use a screwdriver to actuate the locking mechanism.
- You can target the screws in a padlock that holds the plug in the body.
- You can target the top of the pin stack and destroy the shear line of the lock, which keeps the lock's plug from rotating without the correct key. For reference, check out the lock diagram below!
- You can target the springs that push the pins into the plug on euro-profile locks.
Lock drilling is an art, and the best way to know which method to use in which situation comes down to understanding how a lock works and the standard anti-drill countermeasures commonly used–such as drill-resistant pins made of hardened steel.
Lock drilling is a topic too large to cover in this guide; however, somegood rules to follow when drilling are:
- Spend some time understanding how locks work and what each component does. Locks are simple creatures, and you can learn most there is know within 10-15 minutes. Check out my guide on how locks work to get a running start!
- Spend a little time examining the lock for any anti-drill countermeasures. For example, is the front pin made of steel or brass; or is there an anti-drill faceplate that will spin or catch if you drill the keyway?
- Larger drill bits will destroy more components and (in most cases) will make the job easier.
- Use good quality drill bits and use a starter punch to create a place to drill.
- Never drill a padlock while holding it in your hand. Any slippage may result in "not-so-fun" time.
- Be careful drilling the keyway of euro-profile cylinders. You can destroy the cam if you drill too far, and the lock won't open.
Method 2: Use a Screwdriver
A screwdriver driver can open a lock in so many ways.
If you have a heavy-duty flat-head screwdriver, you may be able to rotate the keyway and snap the internal components (the pins). For most locks, this will require a significant amount of turning force to accomplish and may require the use of another tool to give you the leverage to turn the screwdriver.
Additionally, if you have a can of compressed air, you can turn the can upside down and spray it into the keyhole of the lock. This may seem like movie magic, but compressed air can freeze the metal enough to make the metal more brittle and easier to break.
If this method doesn't work, you might be able to use a screwdriver to open a lock in other ways—such as prying the door away from the doorframe and slipping the latch. Or might be able to remove the hinges if they are on your side of the door.
For a comprehensive list of other ways to use a screwdriver on a lock, consider checking out my guide on how to open a lock with a screwdriver.
Method 3: Melt it!
If you have a blowtorch sitting around and don't mind melting your lock into a frothy puddle, you might consider using fire!
I don't recommend this method as it is dangerous, but it is an excellent last-ditch effort option if nothing else works or there is an emergency.
Additionally, if you use a blowtorch, only use it on loose locks like padlocks or even chains, never on home locks or any type of lock embedded into something that can catch fire.
Method 4: Use a Hammer
There are two common techniques to open a lock with a hammer and which you use depends on the type of lock you are trying to open.
The Door Lock Method
If you are trying to get through a door lock—such as a deadbolt lock or doorknob)—the approach you'll want to take is complete and total destruction. Note this method will likely ruin your door and maybe your door frame.
Take the hammer and start bashing the lock at a downward angle until it ultimately comes off the door or there is enough space for you to actuate the locking mechanism with a screwdriver.
The Padlock Rapping Method
This method aims to knock the locking bar out of place, freeing the shackle from the lock.
To use this method, pull on the shackle and begin rapping your hammer against the side of the lock. If the lock doesn't open, try hitting the other side.
Now, this technique doesn't work on all locks. Many higher-quality padlocks use a different locking bar mechanism that prevents this type of attack. But as a last-ditch effort, it's always worth a shot.
As a final note, if you don't have a hammer, you can always take the caveman approach and try breaking the lock with a rock. It's been before and can likely be done again!
Method 5: Cut a the Lock
When most people think about destructively bypassing padlocks, the first thing that typically comes to mind is a bicycle thief running around with bolt cutters snapping locks and riding away into the sunset.
Cutting the shackles of padlocks is a tried and true method but does come with its own set of obstacles. There are quite a few ways to cut locks, but four common methods include bolt cutters, hacksaws, angle grinders, and cutting torches.
When using any of the methods below, be sure to take appropriate safety measures, including eyewear, gloves, and common sense! Whatever is on the other side of the lock likely isn't worth losing a finger.
Using Bolt Cutters
Using bolt cutters is a little more complicated than you might think. You'll need to consider the durability of the lock's shackle and the leverage the cutters give you. If the bolt cutter's handles are too short, you might not even make a dent in the shackle. A set of 30-inch bolt cutters will get you through most locks.
Using an Angle Grinder
Angle grinders with the correct grit and material disc can make quick work of locks—shackles and lock bodies alike. Ideally, you'll want to use a 1.2 mm 60-grit disc.
To cut a lock using an angle grinder, cut slowly and perpendicular to the shackle. Consider using a vise or pliers to keep your hands away from the lock and keep it from slipping. The lock will be hot, so give it some time to cool!
Using a Cutting Torch
If you want to take the overkill approach, a cutting torch or plasma cutter is your huckleberry. These fire-slinging hell monsters will cut through most shackles like butter.
Using a Hacksaw
Hacksaws work fantastic against cheap padlocks, however, higher-quality hardened-steel shackles will put up quite a fight, and you may end up wearing down your blade before you even make a dent. If you're up against some harder steel, you can use heat to help soften the metal—such as a propane torch!
To use this method, heat the shackle until it glows red. Give it a minute to cool, and then start hacking away!
Method 6: Ramset
A Ramset gun is a nifty tool that uses .22 caliber blanks to actuate a piston that can drive nails into hard surfaces like concrete or steel.
However, it didn't take long for people to realize that by using these guns at strategic locations on the lock, you can easily bust them open!
You can find Ramset guns online or at most Home Depots!
Method 7: Shoot the Lock
I think it's important to state here the guides at Art of Lock Picking are solely designed for informational and sometimes entertainment purposes. We by no means are responsible for your or anyone else actions.
For what I hope are obvious reasons, using firearms to open locks should only be used with extreme caution. If you genuinely can't think of a reason why shooting a lock is a bad idea, it's probably best for everyone to skip this method.
Additionally, this method should only be considered for padlocks. Nobody needs bullets flying through a door or into a neighbor's house.
That being said, bullets are a great way to destroy a lock and can even open of the world's strongest locks—check out the video below!
I've never shot a lock, so I can't offer any advice beyond the fact that it does work!
Whether you have lost your only key or there's an emergency that requires you to get through a locked door, knowing how to break a lock is a handy skill to have that could one day save a life.
I hope that you found this guide helpful. However, if it didn't answer all your questions or you feel there is any way that I could make this article more valuable, consider dropping me an email on my contact form. I always love to hear from my readers!
Thanks for reading, and happy picking!
What is the easiest thing to pick a lock with? ›
Generally, all you'll need to pick a lock are some picks (long, thin metal pieces with curved ends of different shapes for different types of locks) and a tension wrench. You can use paperclips as picks in a pinch, and a tension wrench can be any tool used to create tension, including a flathead screwdriver.Can you break a lock by lockpicking it? ›
There are many ways in which lock picking can permanently damage a lock. Several common ways include breaking the springs, eroding internal components, or even breaking your pick in the keyway. For these reasons and more, you should never pick a lock that is currently in use.Is there a lock that Cannot be picked? ›
In the world of lock manufacturers, the name Abloy holds an exalted reputation. Their series of Abloy Protect 2 locks are near unpickable due to two key factors. The locks have advanced manipulation resistance, making them impossible to be picked.How do you unlock a door without a key? ›
- Use a bobby pin. The bobby pin lock pick is one of the most common tricks used to unlock doors. ...
- Use a screwdriver. ...
- Use a knife. ...
- Lock picking. ...
- Use a credit card. ...
- Use a Bump key. ...
- Remove the hinges.
Lock bumping is when a bump key is used to align the pins of a common cylinder lock. It's a picking technique used to unlock a door, usually for the purpose of burglarizing a residence. With a little practice, few tools, and the opportunity to commit a crime, burglars are able to easily enter homes with cylinder locks.What liquid metal breaks locks? ›
An alloy of gallium and aluminum easily destroys the lock's structure in a few hours. Gallium is a metal with an extremely low melting point--about 85 degrees Fahrenheit. The shiny metal, which isn't found by itself in nature, can be melted just by placing it in your hand.What are the golden rules of lockpicking? ›
Rule 1: never pick a lock that you don't own or do not have permission to pick. Rule 2: do not pick locks that you rely on or that are in use. Rule 1 is pretty straightforward. It's your good old fashion, common sense, “stay-out-of-jail” rule.How fast can someone pick a lock? ›
Myth 2 | Lock picking is instantaneous
This is rarely the case. Even on very low-security locks, it could take 10 to 15 seconds to open the lock. For more complicated locks, it is more likely to take minutes. But all of this takes skill and success is not a given simply by virtue of using lock picks.
Granit locks have a tensile resistance of over six tonnes, making it almost impossible for attackers to release the shackle from the lock body by force.How do you pick a lock like a locksmith? ›
- Insert Tension Wrench into the Bottom of Key Hole and Apply Slight Pressure. ...
- Insert Pick at Top of Lock. ...
- While Applying Slight Torque to Your Wrench, Scrub Your Pick Back and Forth in the Key Hole. ...
- Repeat Until All the Pins Set.
Can a magnet pick a lock? ›
The magnet doesn't make the lock move: Every lock will work differently, but it's typically friction that causes this problem. If a piece of your lock is supposed to move, be sure it can move easily. If it's attached too tightly, your magnet may not be able to move it.What tool can cut a lock? ›
Bolt cutters are the common tool of choice for to cut padlocks during forcible-entry.Can you pick a lock with a paperclip? ›
Picking a lock with paper clips works pretty much the same way as picking a lock with a traditional tension wrench and rake. You just need to turn two paper clips into those two very same tools, and then pick the lock with them like you'd normally do.Is there a key that can open any door? ›
A skeleton key has the warded section of the key removed so that it opens all the doors of a system. Some applications, such as a building with multiple entrance doors, have numerous locks that are keyed alike; one key will open every door.How do locksmiths open doors without keys? ›
One of the most common ways a locksmith will attempt to open your door is by picking the lock. Their lock picking kit will contain the tools needed to open your locks. Lock picking leaves your lock in good working order. Meaning that your key will continue wot work with the lock and it will not need to be replaced.How do you unlock a door with a screwdriver? ›
You first will need to take the screw driver and push it under the two latches on the side of the door on the lock. Keep pulling back on the latches with the screwdriver until the door pops open, this can take a few minutes or a few seconds depending on the lock strength. This will work on most normal door locks.What are the 7 types of locks? ›
There are plenty of other door locks, and many fall within the seven categories of knob locks, deadbolt locks, cam locks, padlocks, mortise locks, smart locks and keypad locks.What are the 6 types of locks? ›
- 1 Knob locks.
- 2 Padlocks.
- 3 Deadbolt locks.
- 4 Mortise locks.
- 5 Cam locks.
- 6 Euro profile cylinders.
Lock a deadbolt from the outside.
Slide the key into the deadbolt keyhole and turn it clockwise as far as it will go. If you turn the key far enough, the door should lock. To remove the key, turn it counter-clockwise back to the position at which you slid it in – but no further! Pull the key out of the keyhole.
Bump keys are specially cut keys that can bypass the security mechanisms built into traditional pin and tumbler locks. Bump keys are also referred to as “999 keys” because all of their ridges are cut to the maximum depth (999) in a key-making machine.
Do skeleton keys exist? ›
In the past, when locks were a lot simpler and all you needed to do was bypass the wards to engage the cam at the end of the barrel and turn it, skeleton keys did exist. They were keys that were ground down to the bare bones, hence the name skeleton, featuring just the part needed to bypass the wards.How does a Chinese lock work? ›
When it is locked, the sliding bolt is trapped by the opening springs against the inner wall of the lock-body. For opening, the key is inserted and its head squeezes the opening springs so that the sliding bolt can be separated from the lock-body.How do you punch a lock out? ›
Steps to drilling out a lock:
Make an indentation on the lock by striking the punch with a hammer two or three times to make a guide point. Begin drilling using the 3mm drill bit, drill a hole through the lock cylinder on the guidance point. Your objective is to destroy the pins inside the lock to open the lock.
But this multi-faceted product has limitations – it should never be used to lubricate locks! The main reason for this is that WD40 is not a true lubricant; it is a water and oil displacing solvent. This means that it can actually remove any lube already in the lock, leaving it dry and susceptible to sticking.Should you spray WD-40 in a lock? ›
Should I use WD40 to lubricate door locks? The simple answer is you should not use WD40 to lubricate locks. WD-40 is one of the solvent-based lubricants and does not contain any lubricant and over time can make your lock even stickier by gumming the lock up.Does WD-40 help with lock picking? ›
Here are a few tips that can increase your chance of success in picking pin tumbler or wafer locks. Lubricate the plug generously with WD40 or any other approved spray. Do NOT use graphite. Spend a few seconds raking the tumblers with a rake pick to distribute the lubricant.Can every lock be picked? ›
Essentially, every lock that has key cylinder is susceptible to lock picking. But the most common locks that you will find on domestic doors are a mortice and/or Yale (night latch) for a wooden door and a euro cylinder lock for a uPVC (plastic) door.Is lockpicking a good skill? ›
A thorough knowledge of how lock picking works is a great skill to show off. You'll be better equipped to help others. It's a useful survival skill for not only yourself but for others who may need help.What skills do you need for lockpicking? ›
An ability check for lockpicking with Thieves' Tools is almost always going to be Dexterity because that represents nimbleness, agility, and finesse, which are very important for the task.Are lockpicks illegal in the US? ›
Generally, possession and use of lockpicks is considered equivalent to the possession of a crowbar or other tool that may or may not be used in a burglary. Illegal possession of lockpicks is generally prosecuted as a felony under the category of possession of burglary tools or similar statutes.
Why don t burglars pick locks? ›
They wait until no one is there before gaining unlawful entry through an open or unlocked door or window. Since picking a lock requires a specific skill set to be successful, most burglars damage or remove doors and windows to gain entry when locked because it is faster and easier for them than using tools.What can cut a thick lock? ›
Bolt cutters are the most common. Simply clip off the lock's shackle to remove it. You could also use an angle grinder and cut through the shackle, but you'll need to secure it with vice grips and wear face protection to protect against flying sparks.How do you poke a key out of a lock? ›
It may be possible to use a flathead screwdriver small enough to fit into the keyhole. By inserting it in the lock, you can try to lever or loosen the positioning of the key until part of it extrudes from the lock. At that point, you should be able to extract the broken piece with needle nose pliers or a strong magnet.Which item Cannot be picked by a magnet? ›
Magnets attract, or pull, objects made with iron.
A magnet will not attract paper, rubber, wood, or plastic.
Many metals, such as aluminum and copper, are not attracted to magnets. That's why a magnet can pick up an iron nail or a steel paper clip, but not an aluminum soda can or a copper penny. Other materials such as plastic, wood, and paper are not attracted to magnets.What will a magnet not pick up? ›
Certain metals in their natural states such as aluminium, copper, brass, lead gold, and silver don't attract magnets due to the fact they are weak metals. However, properties including iron and steel can be added to these metals in order to make them magnetic.What household items can you pick a lock with? ›
To pick the lock, choose an object that's small enough to fit into the hole, but sturdy enough to put pressure on the locking mechanism. Ideal choices include a small screwdriver or hex wrench, a hairpin, or a heavy-duty paper clip.Can I pick a lock with a paperclip? ›
Picking a lock with paper clips works pretty much the same way as picking a lock with a traditional tension wrench and rake. You just need to turn two paper clips into those two very same tools, and then pick the lock with them like you'd normally do.How do you pick a lock with a small screwdriver? ›
You first will need to take the screw driver and push it under the two latches on the side of the door on the lock. Keep pulling back on the latches with the screwdriver until the door pops open, this can take a few minutes or a few seconds depending on the lock strength. This will work on most normal door locks.How do you unlock a door with a penny? ›
Step 1: Lock Without a Key
Start by pushing in the door near the top. Slide several pennies into the crack between the door and the jamb molding about 18" above the handle. Repeat process below the handle. Keep adding pennies equally to the top and bottom until you can't squeeze another one in.
How to pick a master lock? ›
The easiest way to pick a Master Lock is by raking it. This is done by first tensioning the core and using a lock pick to bump all of the pins to the shear line. Master Locks can also be picked with a variety of makeshift tools including paperclips, bobby pins, soda cans, and even chicken bones.