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How To Drill Out A Lock

Drill Lock_shutterstock_Volodymyr Plysiuk

Drill Lock_shutterstock_Volodymyr PlysiukDrilling out a lock should always be your last option. Once the lock is drilled, it will be ineffective and need replacing. What’s more, locks are designed to prevent people from gaining entry to a property, so it stands to reason that some lock models are designed to prevent you from being able to drill through them. Drilling through an anti-drill pin means that you will never be able to get through that lock again.

Alarmingly, there are several other methods you can attempt to help you get through that locked door. One of them may negate the need to pay for a locksmith or permanently damage your lock. It may also have you looking at your door lock in a different light – if you can get through your locked door with a pick gun, so can anybody.

If you have checked and double-checked everywhere for your keys and have exhausted all your other efforts, we have included steps on how to successfully drill through a lock, including the steps for an empty lock and the steps required if you have a key stuck in the lock.

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Before you reach for the drill, however, try the following:

  • Try Picking – Picking a lock isn’t easy, even for experienced locksmiths, but it can work, especially on very simple locks. If you know the manufacturer and model of the lock, try Googling lockpick videos for that particular model. Use the raking lock picking method, because this works more often than other techniques and is easier to learn. Lockpicks are illegal in some states.
  • Use A Pick Gun – A lock pick gun frees up all of the pins at once, briefly freeing the cylinder and allowing for the lock to be opened with a tension wrench. These guns only work on pin tumbler locks, and certainly don’t work on all locks, but they’re cheaper than a locksmith and might be worth a try. Pick guns qualify as lockpicks so may be illegal in some areas.
  • Try A Bump Key – The bump key was designed by locksmiths and slides into and out of the lock easily. Slide it in until it is one notch short. Once in place, you tap the key with a hammer, which causes an impact on all of the pins. Repeated tapping can lead to the lock being opened, and if this technique is going to work, it will usually work within the first couple of dozen strikes. A bump key may be illegal in some states, including some areas where lockpicks are legal.

Before You Start

Keys Pocket_shutterstock_ds_30
Image Credit: ds_30, Shutterstock

If you have tried everything else, including double-checking the bottom of your pocket to find the key, it may be time to drill the lock. Before you do, ensure that you have the owner’s permission. You will also need to have a replacement lock ready to install straight away, otherwise, the door will be left unlocked and easily accessible. Once you’ve drilled, the original lock will be unusable, so you will need the replacement.

Drill An Empty Lock

If you’ve lost a key or your key no longer works on the lock and you’ve tried everything else, you can attempt to drill into the lock to break the pins and provide access. You will need to use a different technique, outlined below if the key is still stuck in the keyhole.

1. Make A Guide Hole

You need to create a guide hole in the lock. Use a punch or a bradawl to create the hole, which should be between the inner and outer ring of the lock and in the direction of the jagged side of the key.

2. Start Small

Use a small, ⅛-inch drill bit and drill through the guide hole and into the lock. This will destroy the pins, of which most locks have five, but some have six. It should become more difficult to drill when you reach a pin and will get easier as you finish that pin.

3. Drill Slowly

Drill as slowly as possible, but do ensure that you apply constant pressure to the drill. If you drill too fast, you are unlikely to maintain the line you need and you may cause damage to other areas of the lock that will prevent this technique from working properly.

4. Increase Bit Size

Move to a ¼-inch bit and drill again, ensuring that you go into the existing hole. This will further break the pins and should make it much easier to open the lock.

5. Use A Screwdriver

Insert a screwdriver into the drilled hole and turn it in the direction you would normally turn the key. With any luck, the lock will turn and you will get access.

6. Destroy the Lock

If this didn’t work, you can go up another bit size, to a ¾-inch drill bit and then drill through the hole again to destroy the lock mechanism.

Drill A Lock With The Key Jammed In

Drilling Jammed Key_shutterstock_Andrey_Popov
Image Credit: Andrey_Popov, Shutterstock

If your key snaps off in the lock, while it is locked, it can seem completely helpless. And, in a lot of cases, you will need the services of a professional locksmith, but you can try drilling the lock using the steps below.

1. Drill To The Key

With a ¼-inch drill bit, drill into the cylinder until you reach the level of the key. Ensure that you are only drilling through the metal cylinder.

2. Turn the Lock

Use a screwdriver, place it into the drilled hole, and try to turn the lock in the direction you would normally turn the key. Hopefully, this will convince the lock to open and give you access.

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Drilling Out A Lock

Locksmiths have experience and knowledge of different types of locks as well as their various mechanisms, but they do not really have any additional or special tools. They will try and use the techniques above and will lock, bump, or even drill the lock on your door.

Locksmiths will use different techniques for master locks and pin locks, they will know whether a lock has anti-drilling defenses, and they will have experience of how best to deal with a certain make and model of lock. But before you call one in, you can try the techniques above. Before drilling through a lock, be aware that you will not be able to use that lock again in the future and will need a replacement immediately.


Featured Image Credit: Volodymyr Plysiuk, Shutterstock

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