Lock picking is often depicted in movies as a given. There is a character that can do it, and the plot moves forward without incident. Well, I agree in part with Hollywood’s portrayal of security knowledge in one respect; locksmith knowledge will increase your chances of survival.
There are some many doors that are opened to you by understanding locks, literally. It has benefits in terms of short term and long-term survival. Whether you are alone in the elements or trying to survive the zombie apocalypse, you need the keys to safety.
However, many people still do not learn the basics about locks and security, let alone master them. Survivalists focus much more on weaponry and stockpiling. I am here to make the case, which you need to learn about security if you want to stay safe. Not only is locksmithing a helpful skill, but it is also a necessity for survival.
For most people, the simplest way to gain access to a shelter is through violent entry. In all cases, a violent entry will damage the protection that the shelter had been offering.
Whether it is kicking in the door, drilling out the lock, or shooting out the hinges, the shelter is no longer secure. There will not always be materials present to fix the damage caused by a violent entry.
The simplest solution to this issue is to be able to undo the security of a shelter without causing permanent damage. The shelter you enter by picking the lock, or opening it by other nonviolent means will remain viable for security and keep you safe from the elements. In the middle of a snowstorm, you don’t want to have a door that doesn’t shut.
Barricading a door is only possible with an excess of heavy materials. If you are injured, exhausted, dehydrated, etc. finding the strength to move large objects may be impossible. Having locksmith training is sure to afford you security without overextending yourself. Survival is about using what you have, so try to not break the important things.
Making Lock Picks
A good locksmith knows how to make his or her own tools. This will make sure that you are never without lock picks and bump keys. You can make a bump key with any old key. It is as simple as filing down the grooves to the lowest possible depth. Lock picks are quite easy to make, and can be constructed in a pinch with a few paper clips.
With some time for fabrication, windshield wiper inserts can be bent into tension wrenches and filed into picks. Other materials such as music wire (also known as piano wire) can be transformed into lock picks.
As long as you understand what is needed to open the lock, you can make it out of many scrap pieces of metal that other people would not think to scavenge. Purchased tools will also break from overuse, so it is important to have the locksmithing know-how required for tool fabrication.
Let's face it, you can’t throw a grenade at every door you see. In a dangerous and life-threatening scenario, you do not always want to advertise your presence. An extensive knowledge of locks will allow you to enter a structure without any sign of forced entry. By picking, bumping, or bypassing the lock, you will gain access to an area quietly and secretly.
Any type of surreptitious entry will require the insight of a forensic locksmith in order to determine if the door was opened without the key.
In a doomsday scenario or similar event, there would be no chance of your pursuers conducting this type of investigation. Covert living may be key to survival, but you do not need to sacrifice shelter for concealment.
When you find a shelter that you are going to hunker down in for a while, picking the locks to regain entry every time will become impractical. There will be instances where you need quick access to your permanent/semi-permanent shelter.
Making keys will become a necessity. Without a key, there will have to be insecurities built into the shelter so that you can enter quickly.
This type of security makes the structure less safe but its very nature. With a background in locksmithing, you will be able to decode an existing lock and make a key to fit it. Both key-making and decoding only require a file and a piece of metal.
Obviously, the more tools you have, the faster and more precise that this could be done. However, it is possible to make usable keys with metal and a file. Chances are you may be able to scavenge key blanks, and that will improve the efficiency of this process.
Whether it is a car lockout at a remote camping site or the end of the world, getting into a car can save your life. Vehicles offer shelter and may also contain supplies. The most common solution to vehicle entry in movies and television is breaking the window.
This is very dangerous. It creates the opportunity for injury and subsequent infections. It is possible to be hurt while breaking the glass, or be cut while you are crawling through the shards.
This will also make it obvious that the vehicle has been accessed, and reduce the shelter that is offered. Auto locksmith knowledge will be of paramount importance in these types of scenarios. Most often you will be able to wedge the door open enough to manipulate the interior locks with a probe, but sometimes you could simply use your shoelace to pop the lock.
When these methods are not working, you need to know why. Battery failure or deadlock features in certain cars can create unique problems that demand lock picking. Picking car locks require some different tools and knowledge than a common lock picker would have.
When everything falls apart, there are going to be a lot of safes out there. Some of these vaults may contain life-saving materials, and others may simply offer protection to your valuables.
In any case, you need to be able to open them. In situations where you do not care about damaging the safe, there are still certain things that you will need to know.
Not every safe can be pried or cut into, especially if there is no electricity. Safe manipulation is one of the most guarded locksmith secrets, and it is very difficult to gather information on without a dedication to the craft. Safe knowledge is sure to open up your options in terms of scavenging for resources. The safe itself is surely a resource if the combination can be uncovered, but there may also be something in the safe that can help your survival.
Now that you understand all of the protections and access to resources that locksmithing has to offer, it is time to hone your skills. Many introductory lessons about locks can be found online. From there it is important to have practical training. Keep in mind that lock picking is a perishable skill and requires constant practice in order to stay proficient.
Without these skills, you will have to rely on luck or the kindness of others for finding adequate shelter. There is too much left to fate if you do not understand locks. By not learning these skills you are limiting your maneuverability, scavenging potential, shelter options, and potentially gaining unwanted attention. Don’t back yourself into a corner. Take charge and learn one of the most important survival skills in existence. Be safe, and survive.
Ralph Goodman is a professional writer and the resident expert on locks and security over at the Lock Blog. The Lock Blog is a great resource to learn about keys, locks, and safety. They offer tips, advice, and how-to's for consumers, locksmiths, and security professionals.
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on September 10, 2016, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.