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Urban Survival SHTF: How To Pick A Lock

Learn how to pick a lock quickly. Lock picking is a fun hobby and important urban survivalist skill when SHTF comes to find shelter, food, and more.

DISCLAIMER: We do not condone criminal activity in any way, these skills are for shtf situations only!! Lock picking is always a controversial subject. We are not advocating lock picking for illegal purposes. Lock picking is a fun hobby and is legal to practice on your own property, plus it’s fun and a great survival skill. In many areas it’s a crime to carry picks on your person/in your vehicle unless you are licensed. Additionally you can purchase lock picking books and lock picks on Amazon, so yes it is legal.

Lock picking basics are very easy to learn and once you have a set of picks, you will be opening all the doors and padlocks in your home in no time at all.

A simple lock picking guide (like this one) can teach you how to easily gain entry to doors, cars, and even small safes if you’ve lost the key.

Knowing how to pick a lock, and just as importantly, how to make a lock pick set from scraps, are valuable skills today and even more so in SHTF.

Why Learn How To Pick A Lock?

We like to share urban survival tips from time to time, and knowing how to pick a lock could be vital for your safety and at least a valuable skill in SHTF no doubt, especially for an urban survivalist. You could open locks without anyone ever knowing, and additionally having the ability and tools to pick locks is a skill you could barter with.

Not to mention that knowing how to pick a lock could save a call to a locksmithing and their costs, not to mention the time wasted waiting around for them to show up. Lock yourself out of your house? Knowing how to pick a door lock could save you $125 or more.

Left your keys in your car (the most common reason to call a locksmith)? It’s simple and only takes a few minutes to open it yourself, if you learn how to pick a car lock ahead of time that is. The same can be said for padlocks, cabinets, and small safes when you’ve lost your key.

Pro Tip: A lock is not a deterrent against thieves! They are easily busted open, worked around, or simply picked. This is the most important takeaway for a prepper. You need more than a lock to protect yourself and your property!

On the other hand, knowing how to pick a lock during SHTF could get you out of handcuffs, let you open doors to abandoned buildings for a safe nights sleep, or even give you access to abandoned food, water, and other survival gear.

urban survival shtf pick a lock food

The Morals Of Picking Locks

Many people assume only criminals need to know how to pick locks but In reality common criminals rarely pick locks, they almost always smash and pry their way through instead.

Lock picking has grown into a hobby for many. While picking most locks is surprisingly easy, lock-picking is really only if you want to be quiet, are in no hurry, and want to save the lock.

If something has a lock on it and it isn’t your possession it could be seen as a criminal act, regardless if you have good intentions or not. Don’t go messing around with other peoples property unless you have permission.

The Legality Of Lock Picking

Carrying lock picking gear is a criminal offence in some areas, or will at least result in a lot of hassle. Always check your local laws and know your rights before buying any lock picking tools.

Don’t assume that just because one lock picking tool is legal in your area that they all are. While some areas may allow a simple lock pick set, they may outlaw bump keys or slim jim’s (the flat bar used to pop some car door locks).

Lock picking tools for opening car doors are particularly illegal in some areas, so again make sure you know before you buy and don’t carry them around with you.

If you are doing something that could looks like a crime, even if it’s not, there is an attached risk and ignorant people could give you trouble. Lock picking trips a lot of false alarms in many people’s heads.

Say for example, you wanted to know how to pick a deadbolt lock so you practice on your front door. If someone walking by saw you they probably wouldn’t understand it’s just practice and may call the police. Would you be in trouble? Of course not, but you’ll still have to spend 30 minutes explaining why you want to know how to pick locks to the cops.

Anyone attempting to pick locks they don’t own will need permission from the owner, else they are likely breaking the law.

Learn Lock Picking

If your interested in learning and practicing this skill yourself I recommend a set of practice locks. They are clear housings with standard locks inside. Practice locks are invaluable learning tools because you can actually see what you’re doing and don’t have to go by feel alone. You’ll also need a set of lock pick tools or an automatic lock picking gun.

Best Rated Gear For The Job

Kuject Practice Lock Set - Transparent Cutaway Padlocks And More For Lock Picking Practice

Kuject Practice Lock Pick Set – Transparent Cutaway Padlocks And More For Lock Picking Practice. 

Includes The 3 Most Common Types of Locks.

In this excellent video below you will learn how to pick a lock with paperclips. bobby pins or just about any small and bendable metal object could also work.

In this video, you’ll get an understanding of how lock picking works and you’ll learn how to pick a lock with hairpins. With this video and just a bit of practice, you will add a new skill to your portfolio.

How To Make A Lock Pick Set

You can print out lock pick templates online and then cut or bend the shapes out of your metal of choice.

urban survival shtf pick a lock paperclip 300x250

During SHTF you may not have the time or tools to make intricate lock pick tools. If you find yourself in a pinch without any lock picking tools (or a printer to make the templates because all of society has collapsed), you can make a DIY lock pick tool from two paperclips using a multi tool or a pair of needle nose pliers to shape them, bending one into a simple “L” shape and giving the other two raised bumps near the end as shown in the picture.

The most common scavenged lock picking tool in movies is the bobby pin. While they can certainly be used, in reality you have a much better chance of finding something like a paperclip.

A standard hose clamp off of a car and a pair of pliers to cut and shape it make an excellent set. You can also make them from hacksaw blades, coke cans, or just about any stiff and thin metal that you can work into an L shape and a “double bump”.

Of course, with professional lock pick kits cheaply and freely available one has to wonder why not simply buy them now and put them in your prepping supplies.

In this infographic by you can see how to use lock picking tools and how to pick a lock in four simplified steps.

urban survival shtf pick a lock infographic

The Alternative

You may find yourself in a situation without any sort of lock pick or with no desire to save the lock. If you’re not trying to be stealthy… simply prying, cutting, or smashing your way in are always alternatives.

Pry bars, bolt cutters, wedges etc… All these tools can be used as alternatives to picking a lock. They are usually faster, but the downside is how loud they can be and it’s very obvious someone has been in a place or is there now, not so good for OPSEC. If that’s not a concern and you don’t care if someone knows you’ve been there feel free to smash away.

A lock pick kit (or MUCH better for the inexperienced, a pick gun), a small pry bar, a flat head screw driver, and a few door stoppers are lightweight enough and will get you into just about anything quickly and you’ll have many options for whatever you come against.

The door stoppers act as wedges to keep the door open when you pry it. Once you have that gap, you can open the door by slipping in the screwdriver. This is what many locksmiths do, and they can do it in under 30 seconds. Wedges even work on car doors, just wedge it open and then use a clothes hanger or other long and flexible item to hit/pull the locks.

Bottom Line

Be prepared and have many lightweight tools in your prepping supplies. Get a practice lock and a high quality lock picking kit, or an automatic lock pick gun. These pick guns work very quickly on most locks (residential doors, padlocks, etc…) and require almost no skill at all.

That all being said, lock picking is fun to practice and an important skill to know today and when SHTF comes. Those in cities can especially benefit from knowing how to pick a deadbolt or master lock of an abandoned building during SHTF to find shelter.

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Sergeant Survival

I spread the news of disaster preparedness and homesteading skills to the masses. My mission is to teach the keyboard commandos out there some real life skills.


  1. Make sure you do not carry this in your car. Police will look at these tools as possible burglar tools. Just saying……

    1. Very true. It cause to be searched and harassed for no reason. Keep them off your person unless you need them right then.

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