Training Locks & Progressives

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I frequently get questions from people who don't have access to a regular lockpicking club about where they can get "progressive" lock sets for practice, those pinned from one pin stack to six pin stacks. The options I come up with for them range from "easy button" to a bit more "do it yourself". When you start, the "easy button" version may be more attractive, but as you get more familiar with locks you really have to get comfortable taking them apart, and you'll learn more (and save money) using the DIY approach.

Option 1: Just buy the progressive set from TOOOL's equipment page or a vendor like Lockpicktools or Lockpick Extreme. Having one through six pin locks is nice, but honestly, you don't need to go beyond 5 pin progressives. If you get past those, then you should be working on padlocks or other pin tumblers.

Option 2: Buy a re-pinnable cylinder with an assortment of pins that allows you to set up any scenario you want. This is a great option because it allows you to use ONE cylinder and change the pin configuration as you wish, including adding security pins. The downfall of this is that you will eventually learn the binding order so you know which pin to hit in sequence. I'm personally a fan of the EZ Rekey CutAway Practice Lock 6-pinned KW lock.

Option 3: Sparrows has an interesting option in their "Revolver". It can be re-pinned just like Option 2, but it actually has four different sets of pin chambers, so it has four different binding combinations. If you're looking for something portable to toss in your travel bag, this is it because it's like carrying four locks in one.

Option 4: Buy inexpensive KIK cylinders and "dump" pin stacks to make your own progressive sets. This is pretty easy if you know how to take apart a KIK cylinder and have a plug follower, but can be intimidating to a newbie. Note, that a 1/2" dowel cut to 3-4" length and slightly sanded down will fit most US brands like Kwikset, Schlage, etc., and it's EASY to do this.

Option 5: The most complicated but possibly rewarding DIY approach is to go with a generic mortice cylinder and make it your own repinnable core like Option 2. Starting with a cylinder like the 1" Kwikset "1176" Mortise Cylinder

  1. Disassemble the lock completely, taking all the driver pins and springs out
  2. Using a thin micro-screwdriver and a small hammer, tap the edge of the brass plate covering the pin chambers to get the edge started, and then pry the rest of the plate off using plyers.
  3. Using a 6-32 hand tap, tap the first 1/8" or so of the top of the pin chamber to make threads
  4. Re-pin the lock, inserting the core first, then dropping the driver pins and springs into each of the chambers first
  5. Top off each chamber with a #6-32 x 1/8" hex cap set screw. A 1/16" hex wrench can be used to tighten that down.
  6. Re-pin to your hearts desire

- Patrick