The Premise: In Issue 32, our feature “A Look at Locks” provided an overview on common household locks, and elsewhere in our latest issue Chad McBroom did up a nice primer on lockpicking as well. In many survival, escape, resistance, evasion (SERE) courses, you’ll find that lockpicking is often a common part of the curriculum. Whether it’s defeating locks to find food, seek shelter, or escape from unlawful incarceration, there’s no denying that understanding how to bypass locking mechanisms is a critical part of survival training. The Visual Guide to Lock Picking, 3rd Edition is a good starter manual to familiarizing yourself with the anatomy of many of the most common locks you’re likely to encounter.

The 411: The information is provided in very straightforward, easy-to-understand prose. Everything is clearly explained, and a helpful glossary of common terminology is provided at the end of the book. The authors dissect how to identify warded locks, tumbler locks, combination locks, tubular locks, lever locks, and wafer locks and describes what the differences are on each category’s variations. The book also discusses how the aforementioned locking mechanisms operate and the tools and techniques used to bypass them. Each chapter contains a healthy dose of black-and-white illustrations, so the reader has numerous references to visualize the instruments and systems described. Each chapter starts out explaining the basic theory behind how each lock category works and progressively builds on information from previous chapters.

The Verdict: Will you be an experienced locksmith by the time you finish this book? No more than you’d be an experienced doctor after you graduate with a degree in medicine. The next logical step, and the book encourages this, is to experiment with various locks and gain a tactile understanding of the methods and lock types described. However, the book does a good job explaining things clearly to give the reader a baseline of how common locks work and the differences between them.

Because the Visual Guide to Lock Picking, 3rd Edition is primarily focused on portable locks, it barely touched on dead bolts. Be that as it may, it’s bereft of security countermeasures, such as strike plates, security bars, and reinforcement locks. To be a bit more idealistic, the authors would’ve earned points with us if they’d included tips on defeating security latches commonly found on hotel room doors and older homes.

We were surprised there were no descriptions of different handcuff types and would’ve liked to have seen that included. It would’ve also been helpful if they’d included a few chapters dedicated to basic automotive locks. If you’re looking for information on electronically controlled locks, you won’t find it here. That’s a whole other animal involving a greater deal of technical savvy that this book isn’t intended to address.

Also, a page at the end of the book offers a DVD or VHS version of the book and is intended to be torn out and mailed in with payment info. What’s discouraging is that the website shown on the cover of the book is no longer active and a search for “Standard Publications” doesn’t turn up any info. It makes us wonder if the company has gone out of business since the book’s 2006 copyright. No such DVD or VHS could be found through an internet search either.

The book begins and ends with disclaimers about the potential legal implications of lockpicking, but understandably doesn’t go into detail about what exactly could provoke repercussions. Since laws change over time and vary from region to region, it’s basically letting the reader know it’s incumbent on them to do the research and make sure they aren’t breaking any laws.

Book & Author
Visual Guide to Lock Picking, 3rd Edition
by Mark McCloud and Gonzalez de Santos

Standard Publications

$20 (Amazon)



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