The days of sleeping with our doors unlocked are long gone. Humanity has changed. It’s become more brazen, and as such, we need to do what we can to ensure that our families are safe while home.
The same can be said for protecting investments such as trailers, boats, and sheds full of tools that we likely have to leave outside. One of the most practical ways of doing so is to ensure that you have high-quality locks on all of your doors and outside gear that need to be chained down.
As a locksmith, I’ve learned that not all locks are created equal. I’ve replaced a lot of locks and picked a lot of doors open, and I’ve come to the conclusion that some people are going about their daily lives with virtually no means of hardware security whatsoever.
The field of locks is a complicated and sometimes mysterious subject though, and it can be incredibly confusing to attempt to pick through all of the rubbish to find the golden nuggets.
So I’ve attempted to do that for you below. If you are somebody who takes security seriously, here are the five locks that you want to avoid at all costs:
1. Old Kwikset Entry Locks
My absolute favorite lockout call to get is for a residence that has one of these on its doors.
While I’ve spent a good portion of time lockpicking in my field, I am by no means anywhere near as proficient at it as Bosnian Bill or the Lock Picking Lawyer on Youtube. Maybe someday I’ll be, but at the moment that’s a distant dream.
As such, I really like getting access to doors that I can pick open pretty easily. It makes my job much more enjoyable and considering the fact that people like to lock themselves out of their homes right as I’m about to clock out, in the freezing cold, or when it’s raining, the quicker I can gain entry, the better.
When I walk up to a house with an older Kwikset entry lock on it, I know with a fair degree of certainty that I can be inside that house in all ten minutes.
It’s wonderful. I make more money because I charge by the job and the job gets done quicker (leaving me more time for the next).
2. First Generation Kwikset SmartKey
While I’ve never met anybody who could pick open a Smartkey lock, the fact of the matter is that with the first generation there really wasn’t any need to.
All you needed to gain access to these doors was a flathead screwdriver.
If you wedge it into the gap between the lock cylinder and the housing body you can literally just pry the lock right out of there. It’s a destructive means of entry that will leave the lock with a big dent in one of the sides of it, but it’s incredibly fast.
You can’t do that with the newer generation SmartKey products, but I’m still just not a huge fan of Kwikset.
Related: How to Build a Secret Bookcase Door
3. Anything Old, Rusted, or Beat to Pieces
If your lock looks like it’s seen better days, then you need to replace it pronto.
Not only does this mean that I could likely pick my way into your house relatively easily (the inner pins are likely worn down to nubs), but it also means that your lock is going to break at the worst possible moment.
This happens in two different ways.
First, something in the inner workings of your lock is likely to either break or freeze up, rendering your lock inoperable. The only way to get into your house through that door then is going to be with a drill. If you need to quickly get somebody to the hospital when this happens then you’re furthering a bad day.
The second way in which this can break is due to the extra difficulty that will take place with turning your key over. It’s only a matter of time with these types of stiff locks before your key breaks off in the inside of the keyway, once more rendering your lock inoperable.
You’re not going to have the tools that you need to get that little broken piece of metal out of there either.
4. Master Pad Locks
Some Master padlocks are better than others, and I myself do use the ones with the rubberized coating around them.
However, I avoid using the layered metal ones as much as I can. They’re just too easy to pick. I can typically beat them with a simple scrubbing attack, and apparently, a lot of other people can as well.
The majority of all break-ins are due to forced entry, NOT because somebody picked your lock. This means somebody’s more likely to kick through your door or go through an open window than they are to actually own a set of picks and use it to fiddle with your front door for a set amount of time.
However, padlocks of any kind seem to be the exception to that. I routinely end up with customers coming in to buy higher security padlocks because they’re discovering their stuff being messed with.
Most of the time this is for some form of outside purpose. It may be a storage trailer, a shed, a gate, or just about any other purpose that you can think of for using an outside padlock.
My theory on this is that curious, ill-meaning teenagers with a lot of extra time on their hands somehow get their hands on a set of picks and then go about looking for opportunities to use them.
If you have an old shed that’s right on the edge of the woods by the local high school, it may just be too much temptation to pass up.
5. Anything with a Tubular Key
These things are notoriously easy to pick open, often with nothing more than a cheap Bic pen.
What’s funny though is that you’ll find these types of locks used on all kinds of things that really should be kept under a very secure form of storage.
For example, landlords keep copies of all of their tenant keys in a box on the wall with this kind of lock on it.
To me, that seems like something of a liability.
If anybody gains access to that office and knows their way around a tubular key they could easily have that box picked open in all of five minutes. Imagine what that person could then do with those keys, and you’ll see why I think tubular keys need to go the way of the dodo bird.
What I Recommend Instead
I’ve yet to be able to pick one of these things open, and I’ve spent a heck of a lot of time attempting.
These are much more affordable than most of the Assa Abloy padlocks that you’ll see on the market as well.
When customers come into the shop looking for a higher security padlock because they’ve been having issues with the cheaper quality stuff they’ve been getting at their local hardware store, American Lock padlocks are what I sell them.
Schlage or Yale Door Locks
While there are higher security options out there, I think that for the average user both Schlage and Yale door locks provide a sufficient level of security. Schlage can be found at just about any hardware store out there, and they are significantly harder to pick than Kwikset gear.
Most of the time this is due to mushroom pins and tighter pin tolerances. That being said, Schlage is still considered an easy lock by most experienced lock pickers.
Yale is not as common of a keyway for residential locks, and so it’s going to be unlikely that a bad guy will have a bump key set for a Yale keyway. They’re harder to pick than Kwikset as well in my experience.
However, you’re likely going to have to visit a locksmith to pick up Yale products. I’ve yet to see them for sale at any hardware stores.
While yes, these are incredibly secure keyways that are virtually unpickable, I don’t recommend them for the average client. To begin with, they’re prohibitively expensive – we’re talking somewhere around $200-300 per door.
That’s insane. If you need extra keys made you’re going to have to visit a locksmith with the appropriate gear to cut you another blank as well, and these can cost you $30/key.
I view them as incredibly expensive ways to secure a door from an attack that is unlikely to happen compared to other attacks.
Picking is still something I want my home secured against, but I’ve provided layers of protection to my doors so that even if the lock is picked, nobody is going to be getting inside.
The bottom line is that there are most certainly higher security locksets available out there, but I don’t think they warrant the increased price.
If you really have your heart set on some type of high-security lockset, then I would look into Schlage Primus. They’ll be more cost-effective, and offer a greater amount of protection against picking and bumping than a lot of other options out there.
Again though, you’re going to have to go to a locksmith to pick this one up.
All of the above being said, I think that if you’re really concerned about door security choosing the proper lock is really only the first step.
If you don’t have a deadbolt installed on your door in addition to a key-in-knob, then you need to add one as soon as possible.
Your door can easily be kicked open or likely swiped via credit card.
I highly recommend some type of night latch and a security strike as well.
These make kicking in your door exponentially harder, and I’ve witnessed a lot of videos proving that the addition of such can make your door almost impossible to break-in, even with a police battering ram.
By adding these to your doors in addition to avoiding the above locks you’ll have a much more effective means of protection and security.
Are there other locks that you think should be avoided at all costs that I didn’t cover within this piece? Do you have any past experience with shoddy locks? Let us know in the comments below.
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5 Keylocks You Should Avoid. Do You Have One Of Them? is written by Aden Tate for www.askaprepper.com