Getting Started with Picks and Tools
Beginners to the locksport hobby commonly ask me what types of picks they should be starting with. Oak City Locksport sells our own kit, but as your skill improves, or you want to tackle different kinds of locks you will need additional tools. Your starting point may be budget limited, so you'll be tempted to go with a really inexpensive kit. You get what you pay for, so finding something that is economical but still of high quality is important. The inexpensive picks you'll find on Amazon, Alibaba, and some other online shopping sites may look good but are typically made from metal that is either not well polished, too thick, or not resilient. Also be cautious about the jackknife style picks. They are convenient for a quick backup option, but will not be practical or comfortable for picking practice.
Very beginner: Something like a beginners pick kit might seem attractive because it's so low cost. These low end sets might be made of decent metal, but the handles are very thin and can become uncomfortable during a picking session. The few picks in these kits tend to not include what I would consider important for tackling anything beyond a very basic lock.
Beginner to intermediate: This is my recommended starting point. A more complete kit containing a larger variety of picks that also have "laminated", plastic, or rubberized handles for comfort is typically the best place to start. The OCL pick kit that we sell at our meetings and Lockpick Village at conferences contains five picks and three tension wrenches of different widths for both top and bottom of the keyway. This kit has been curated to include picks to tackle common challenges and eliminates some of the extra picks that you'll never use that are included in some sets. You can even make these laminated handles more comfortable with some 5/16" electrical heat shrink tubing.
Experienced: Most pickers at this point will either buy individual picks to expand their capabilities or buy a whole new kit for consistency. Sets or individual picks such as those from Sparrows are high quality with custom handles. One aspect that many overlook at this point is that having a wide variety of tension tools will make your life a lot easier. If at this point you don't have a set of prybars in several thicknesses this is the time to get some. Sparrows has some good ones, and Lockpicking Lawyer's Covert Instruments has a nice ergo set that is very comfortable to use.
You're serious now: At this point you may decide that this is a hobby that you'll have for quite some time and it's worth investing in some premium tools. At this level you might look at a packaged set plus some individual picks in several thicknesses from higher-end manufacturers such as Peterson Locksmith Tools.