Survival and the Craft of Lock Picking

Survival and the Craft of Lock PickingIn a world cannibalized of resources, where the basic necessities are no longer obtainable through means of monetary exchange, one should rely on other tactics to survive. Lock picking is a craft that would become useful in such a world as it will help even the average individual to acquire the essentials to survive.  

 “It is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change.” ~Charles Darwin

Who better to characterize survivalism than the father of survival theory. While Darwin did place more weight on an individual’s superior biology to determine their survival factor, this theory still defines the very essence of the survivalist. That being those “most responsive to change” will ultimately survive. Change is inevitable and for the most part it is very gradual, allowing the average human time to adapt. But sometimes it isn’t so progressive, sometimes it’s blunt and crude.

It is these swift changes in the world where the survivalist thrives. Not because of biology, but because we are responsive to this new world in a different way. We know how to live in it because we have the knowledge and skills that allow us to.

Among the most important skills are those for acquiring resources which will likely no longer be available through means of monetary exchange. Food, water, weapons, shelter, medicine, cloths – the things that, for the most part, are easily obtainable to us today may be a thing of scarcity and competition tomorrow. We must adapt to this deficiency or go without our basic necessities. There really is no in between, no other option.

While there is an abundance of skills that can help us acquire these basic necessities, one is often overlooked. This is the craft of lock picking. There are often two subjects that are contested in terms of lock picking as a survival skill. The first area is its ability for being a skill that is both acquirable and utilizable by the average individual. The second is its practicality. Lets start with the latter.

Plucking the High Fruit

A simple reality of our world is the lowest hanging fruit always get plucked first. The resources that are out in the open and easy to acquire will always be the first to go. Furthermore, it’s only natural that people will fight, and die, trying to acquire these easy goods. The rest will likely be in places that most people have not the skills nor resources to access. This is where lock picking comes in.

While many places can be accessed by means of brute force attacks, not every door can be kicked in nor every padlock cut. Furthermore, who wants to search for and lug around all the tools necessary to access these places. A set of lock picks are lightweight, multi-purposed, and most importantly, they are non-destructive.

I mention this non-destructive nature because each lock we pick grants us something extraordinary. It gives us the ability to once again lock and secure wherever we just gained access to. This provides us with more than just the ability to acquire scarce resources, it provides us with the power to use this security in our favor. Shelter is nice, but shelter with some means of security will always be welcome.

Learning the Craft of Lock Picking

So this begs the question, is lock picking difficult to learn? The answer… no. The most commonly utilized locking mechanism in the world is that of the Pin Tumbler lock. These locks are very simple creatures by nature and are based off of 6,000 year old technology.

Any beginning picker that has an understanding of how these locks work can quickly find success picking one. There are quite literally hundreds of YouTube videos of individuals picking their first lock within 10 minutes, absolutely baffled by how quickly their lock popped open. But let’s not take my word for their simplicity. Let us instead take a look at how these simple devices work.

The Pin Tumbler Lock

To learn how to pick a lock we must first learn why a lock can be picked. To do that we need to take a quick look at the lock’s anatomy. The basic pin tumbler lock is comprised of 6 main components.

1.Plug: The plug is the part in which you insert the key and rotates.

2.Key Pins: The key pins (red) make contact with the key when it is inserted into the plug. Each key pin is of a different length that correlates with the biting of the key. When the correct key is inserted, each pin will align perfectly with the bottom of the shear line.

3.Driver Pins: The driver pins (blue) are used to block the plug from rotating while there is no key inserted. However, when the correct key is inserted, the key pins push the driver pins up and out of the plug flush with the top of the shear line.

4.Springs: The purpose of the springs are to allow the pins to read the biting of the key. They also push the pins back into the plug once the key is removed.

5.Housing: The housing of the lock is what contains the components of the lock.

6.Shear Line: The shear line is the physical gap between the lock’s plug and the housing. Notice in the image above that once the correct key is inserted into the plug, the gap between the keys pins and the driver pins all align perfectly with the shear line. Once this alignment happens, there is no longer any physical barrier stopping the plug from rotating and the key can unlock the lock.

This is premise of lock picking, to mimic the use of the key by bumping the driver pins up and out of the plug.

Picking a Pin Tumber Lock

Now that we understand how a lock works we can go about picking it. The simplest and quickest way to gain entry to a basic pin tumbler lock is through a method called “raking.” This method uses a pick with a curvy end that can push multiple pins to the shear line at once. This quick and dirty guide to raking a lock is enough to get anyone started.

That’s really all there is to the basics of lock picking. Most pin and tumbler locks can be picked using this quick raking method.

As a final note, lock picking is a skill and should be treated as such. To acquire a level of competence requires practice and study. The difference between the novice picker and the master could, in a survival situation, be the difference between life and death. I hope that you all consider adding lock picking to your toolbox and that you all proceed with a standing confidence that when push comes to shove, a lock will never be your enemy.

Article written by Ryan Brown for Prepper’s Will.

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