Combination Lock Picking

Written by Jeremy Horelick
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Combination lock picking is markedly different in execution from (if similar in concept to) pin-tumbler lock picking. While the mechanisms are somewhat different, the same principle of alignment underlies both methods. It's important to remember that while each of these safeguards offers some protection from would-be thieves, each is also readily defeatable.

While pin-tumbler lock picking (an in-depth explanation of which follows later) relies on manipulating top-and-bottom pin sets to fit a "shear line," combination lock picking works with revolving cams. The standard combination lock employs three distinct cams separated by plastic spacers. When the dial is turned, the internal cams are set in motion, then individually aligned as each number in the combination is hit.

More on Combination Lock Picking

After all three cams have been properly turned (in accordance with the right combination), their "teeth" or grooves are similarly flush. This permits the lock's latch to disengage with what's known as the "hasp," which is molded to the back of the lock. The latch may then be lifted and the lock removed from its object, be it a locker, shed door, or piece of luggage.

Many folks naively think that combination lock picking is virtually impossible given the number of possible combinations available. But not only are combinations calculable (through a somewhat sophisticated algorithm), the locks themselves are destructible. Most won't stand up to conventional lock pick sets let alone cord cutters or a bullet. Still, combination lock picking can be fun in the challenge it offers budding locksmiths, provided that fun is within the confines of the law.

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