Thanks to ITS tactical I was able to get a crash course on basic lock picking and Sparrows was nice enough to get a starter set my way to play with. This "Tuxedo" set includes 6 tools and 6 tension wrenches with a bonus little case. I still have plenty to learn, but from what I know so far, lock picking is quite the interesting skill set combining technical knowledge with hand finesse dexterity. Although most pickers will have favored tools, the benefit of having a some sort of set becomes very apparent when working with lock variety. Lock sizes from smaller padlocks to common house locks can vary greatly so having the right size tool speeds up the process quite a bit and in tough cases it makes picking possible at all.
So what makes a lock tool a quality tool? Generally they need to be slim to fit in those tiny keyholes while still being thick enough to have long term durability of all that raking and tension. Just a dash of flexibility helps wiggle in tight spaces, while not being overly flexible which would result in decreased feedback and manual control. This Sparrows set has taken a good beating from all my practice and applications which seems to be a great durability test. Despite generally being rough with them I have not seen any bending or breaking issues at all.
The tool variety offers multiple lock picking methods to allow appropriate matching of problem solving different lock types. The Tuxedo set includes:
-"Best-Buster" is an altered profile similar to the traditional "snake rake". This rake is effective on many lock types, but is specifically designed for shallow, sweeping key bitings like those found in Best, Arrow, and Falcon locks.
-"Triple-Peak" is used on the withdrawal stroke of the making it one of the most effective rakes available. It differs from a traditional rake in the way it functions by using a "ramping" effect similar to bumping. Similar to the double peak with different spacing.
-"Small half Diamond" acts like a wedge while manipulating pins in keyways that are arranged in a manner that disallows a hook-type pick. The half diamond wedges itself under, and sometimes past the pins that are set too low to get a traditional hook under.
-"Offset Hybrid" is a combination of a shallow hook, and a rounded half diamond. The wedge-like point and specially rounded bottom edge slides through the keyway. With the pick acting as a centered fulcrum you will find that this pick has extremely smooth and controlled lifts. This is critical for locks like ASSA.
-"Standard short hook" or lifter is the first "go-to" pick in the arsenal. This Pick is more versatile and is used more often than any other pick. It is designed to let the picker feel of the intricacies of the lock and manipulate pins individually. When the pick is used in a raking type technique it is also possible to work several pins at the same time. This pick is good for a wide range of keyway types, and pinning arrangements.
-"City Rake" is a standard rake that has proven to be indispensable over the years. This pick does a fantastic job of emulating the key bitings found among most common commercial and residential locks such as Kwickset, Weiser and master.
Personally I like the Best-Buster a lot since it has a nice angle tip to sneak under small lock pins and a little wiggle to offer both precise and rake tool features. For an additional personal observation I wish the Triple-Peak had a lower profile tip since I have a little trouble lifting pins smoothly with the current very rounded tip.
The tension wrenches mostly vary by sizing, but 3 are twisted for comfort while the other 3 are double sided to offer more length options. The varied width is crucial for varied keyhole sizes and then having additional short tension ends comes in handy when dealing in small locks. How far the tension bar is inserted and which one is used can adjust the tension feel to assist the operator's needs.
Sparrows main customer in mind is definitely for LEO / MIL / and Locksmiths, but when state laws allow, a nice lock pick set is quite handy for a civilian as well for all kinds of legal uses such as fixing locking yourself out of the house or losing the key to that old rusty padlock. Lockpicking also can give great insight into one's own security level to decide if adequate. All lock picks shown are manufactured by Sparrows out of American Made 301 Cold Max steel with average tension strength of 280,000 PSI. If interested in a set at all I recommend checking out their site as they offer quite the selection. If these tools can survive my monkey ass learning on them, they will also be able to hold up use from an actual pro.