What Is Lock Picking? A Hobby, Sports or a Crime?

Lock picking is the skill of opening a lock without using the original key.  A few years back, I read a report by the Wall Street Journal indicating that sales of lock picking tools have risen by nearly 10% annually since 2014, indicating a growing interest in lock picking as a legitimate hobby. In recent years, the popularity of lock sports has grown significantly, with annual events such as the DEF CON conference featuring lock picking contests and workshops.

I also read a survey report by the Associated Locksmiths of America which indicated that 90% of locksmiths have reported that they had been called to open a lock for a customer who had lost their key. This indicates that there are many legitimate reasons for lock picking beyond criminal activity.

So, in this article, I will explore what is lock picking and its current standing as a hobby, sports or a crime in today’s era.

feature image of article what is lock picking? A hobby, sports or a crime? A lock on display

What is Lock Picking?

Lock picking, which is the act of unlocking a lock without the original key by manipulating its pins and tumblers, requires both specialized tools and an in-depth understanding of lock mechanisms. From the history of lock picking to its modern-day applications in cybersecurity and access control, there is a wealth of information to explore for those interested in what is lock picking and its various aspects.

As a lock picking expert, I can say, based on my experience, that no matter whether you’re professionally locksmithing or a hobbyist, mastering the art of lock picking involves honing your techniques, staying up-to-date on the latest tools and technologies, and navigating the legal and ethical implications of this intriguing practice.

Historical Background of Lock Picking

Lock picking is an ancient ability that has been passed down through generations. Initially, it was employed by locksmiths to gain entrance into locked homes and structures.

Lock picking became popular among monarchs during the Renaissance period as a method to demonstrate their riches and authority. Lock picking has become a popular activity among followers in the twentieth century.

Importance of Lock Picking in Modern Times

Lock picking, despite being a hobby or a potential tool for crime, also has practical applications in modern times.

1. Used by Law Enforcement Agencies and Firefighters

One application of lock picking is its use by law enforcement agencies and firefighters to gain access to locked buildings or rescue people trapped in locked spaces.

law enforcement agency workers performing lock picking to open the door for stuck people inside the door.fire fighters struggling to open the locked door and stucked people inside the room.

In such scenarios, the skill of lock picking can be lifesaving.

2. Helps Security Experts

law enforcement security agent increasing security of home door

Security experts also use lock picking to test and improve the security of locks. This is done to ensure that locks are not easily picked by potential intruders or criminals. By testing the vulnerabilities of different locks, security experts can develop and implement better security measures to protect homes, businesses, and other sensitive areas.

3. Controversial But Still A Valuable Service

symbolically indicating saving life through lock picking with a brown door and written save life above it

Lock picking has a controversial reputation but it also serves important practical purposes. Whether it is used to save lives or to improve security measures, the skill of lock picking remains relevant in modern times. And understanding what lock picking is, how it works, and its various applications can provide valuable insight into this unique skill.

1. Lock Picking as a Hobby

Lock picking has become a popular hobby in recent years. Many individuals find it fascinating and challenging to manipulate the pins and tumblers within a lock to gain access without the key. But what is lock picking, and how has it evolved into a hobby?

Lock picking as a hobby involves the use of specialized tools and techniques to manipulate a lock’s mechanism without damaging it. It requires patience, skill, and knowledge of how different types of locks work. Lock picking as a hobby may be done alone or in groups, and it is becoming increasingly popular throughout the world. I started lock picking as a hobby and gained more and more knowledge by joining different related groups.

Evolution of Lock Picking As a Hobby

The origins of lock picking as a hobby are unknown, however, it is said to have begun in the nineteenth century as locks got increasingly complicated and difficult to pick.

Many organizations and clubs dedicated to the hobby of lock picking, known as “locksport” groups, exist today. These organizations frequently organize tournaments, workshops, and meetings where enthusiasts may exchange their expertise and experience.

Popularity Factor

The sense of struggle and achievement that comes with successfully picking a lock is one of the reasons behind lock picking’s appeal as a hobby. It demands patience, focus, and problem-solving abilities, which may be both fulfilling and rewarding. It is also a low-cost pastime because it does not necessitate the purchase of expensive equipment or supplies.

It is crucial to stress, however, that lock picking should only be done legally and ethically. While lock picking is not unlawful in and of itself, employing the expertise to obtain unauthorized access to the property or participate in criminal activity is.

For individuals interested in the mechanics of locks and the thrill of successfully picking them, lock picking as a pastime provides a unique and demanding experience. It takes expertise, knowledge, and patience, but the benefits may be substantial. Lock picking may be a fascinating and entertaining activity for people all over the world as long as it is done legally and responsibly.

Equipment Used in Lock Picking As a Hobby

different tools used in lock picking arranged horizontally with two locks and a tools pouch

When you get to know initial information about what is lock picking, you get curious about what you need to pick a lock. Picking requires specialized tools such as lock picks, tension wrenches, and rakes. These tools come in different shapes and sizes to fit different types of locks.

Lock Picking Techniques

Now you know what is lock picking and what equipment you need to pick a lock. The next task is to excel in lock picking techniques. There are various lock picking techniques, including single-pin picking, raking, and lock bumping. These techniques require different levels of skill and expertise, and each is suited to different types of locks.

Community of Lock Pickers

There is a growing community of lock picking devotees that share their knowledge and abilities with one another. They frequently hold events and gatherings where members may hone their abilities, discuss tips and methods, and even compete in lock picking competitions.

lock pickers practicing locksports

The lock picking community is a terrific resource not just for novices who are just learning what lock picking is and how to pick locks, but also for seasoned admirers who want to remain up to speed with the newest techniques and innovations in the industry. Lock pickers may connect with like-minded folks who share their interest in this unique pastime through these groups.

2. Lock Picking as a Locksport

When a person gets involved in picking locks as quickly and accurately as possible in a competitive activity, it is known as Locksport. Amateurs to professionals participate in Locksport competitions which take place around the world, attracting a wide range of participants.

These events attract people who share a common interest in lock picking and provide a platform for like-minded individuals to connect and learn from one another.

While some may consider lock picking to be a problematic hobby, the Locksport community places a significant emphasis on ethics and accountability. Many Locksport groups have rigorous rules of conduct that forbid members from utilizing their abilities for illegal reasons. This emphasizes the significance of education and training in the lock picking pastime, which not only encourages responsible conduct but also helps to dispel negative perceptions about what is lock picking.

You can find more about Introduction to Hobbyist Lock Picking Aka: LockSport

Competitive Lock Picking

Lock picking competitions are conducted based on a set of rules and regulations that govern those competitions. The competitors who participate in the competition of locksport are given a set of locks and asked to pick them as fast as possible. The fastest person who picks all the locks becomes the winner.

Advantages of Locksport

  • Locksport is a popular activity for people interested in knowing what is lock picking because it gives a pleasant and difficult approach to enhancing lock picking abilities and understanding of lock systems.
  • It also promotes the development of improved locks by raising knowledge of lock security concerns.
  • Since lock picking is a vital skill for professionals in a variety of industries, including law enforcement and security, participation in Locksport may give practical benefits to anyone looking to develop their talents in this area.
  • Participating in Locksport contests helps players to interact with others who share their interests, building a feeling of community and camaraderie among people who are interested in what is lock picking.

Findout if ‘Locksporters’ Pick Locks For Fun?

3. Lock Picking as a Crime

Lock picking as a hobby or sport is legal but if the act of picking locks is done without permission, then it can have negative connotations. Lock picking is often associated with burglary, theft, and other criminal activities as well.

licensed locksmith professional opening a lock

Is Lock Picking illegal?

Lock picking abilities can be utilized for unlawful purposes such as breaking into houses or companies. It is crucial to highlight, however, that using lock picking abilities for criminal purposes is not only ethically reprehensible but also illegal and can result in serious legal penalties. So, yes lock picking can be illegal depending on the purpose with which it is executed.

The ownership of lock picking tools is lawful in many nations, but their usage without authorization is not. As a result, it is critical to evaluate the legal and ethical consequences of lock picking and to utilize lock picking abilities and tools appropriately at all times.


Lock picking is a fascinating skill that can be used for both legal and illegal purposes. While it is often associated with criminal activities, it is important to recognize that lock picking has a rich history as a craft, hobby, and sport.

Whether you are interested in lock picking as a hobby or sport, or as a way to improve your security skills, it is essential to approach it responsibly and with a clear understanding of the legal and ethical considerations involved.

So if you’re curious about what is lock picking and want to explore this fascinating world, don’t hesitate to give it a try!


Is lock picking legal?

In most countries, the possession of lock picking tools is legal, but their use without permission is not.

What are the benefits of lock picking as a hobby?

It improves problem-solving skills, hand-eye coordination, and sharpness. It is challenging and fun to learn about locks and security.

Is lock picking considered a sport?

Yes, lock picking is considered a sport and has a growing community of fanatics and contenders around the world.

How can I get started with lock picking?

To get started with lock picking, you must first grab complete knowledge of what is lock picking. Then buy a set of specialized tools and a lock to practice it. Access resources and tutorials by joining lock picking communities or forums and gain more experience.


  1. The Complete Book of Locks and Locksmithing By Bill Phillips · 2005
  2. Practical Lock Picking A Physical Penetration Tester’s Training Guide By Deviant Ollam
  3. A Summary of Lockpicking by OFC SARL
  4. The Use of Locks in Physical Crime Prevention
  5. Introduction to Hobbyist Lock Picking Aka: LockSport
  6. ‘Locksporters’ Pick Locks For Fun


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