A Guide to Tubular Locks

A Guide to Tubular Locks

Tubular locks aren’t the most popular lock, but they frequently show up when individuals want a secure lock. Variable pin options provide an added layer of security, but if you know about the locks, you can open them with the right set of tools.

Common Thoughts on Tubular Locks

If you’ve ever noticed the lock on an ATM, a glass store display, and a bike lock, you’ve seen a tubular lock in action. Why are these locks so commonly used on important security items? These locks are commonly regarded as safer than standard options. However, the choice seems to be more a matter of habit than a decision based on fact.

It’s true these locks are generally less common than a standard padlock or combination lock. As such, fewer individuals know how to pick them. Because of advances in locksmith tools, newer tubular locks used springs of varying lengths to add an extra layer of security. As such, the lock located on your neighborhood ATM is probably much sturdier than the one guarding fashion jewelry at the drugstore.

Behind the Mechanism

A typical tubular lock features a solid central cylinder, a circular imprint, and an outside metal ring. If you look inside the imprint, you’ll find six to eight pins. The pins are moved horizontally instead of the normal vertical form. As a result, the key pins and drivers are located in the same cylinder within the lock.

The key is a circular shape with an open bottom and grooves along the side. Typically, you’ll find a notch in the key that will correspond to a notch in the outside ring of the lock proper. Usually, this notch will look rectangular. When not lined up properly, the key cannot fully insert into the lock. Once you fit the key correctly into the lock, it will depress the pins appropriately.

Picking a Tubular Lock

There are three main ways to pick a tubular lock. The first is called SPP or single pin pick. Depending on the lock, you may have to repack the lock with every quarter rotation. While this is not difficult, it can become time-consuming fairly quickly. Essentially, you’ll need to push the pins properly to bind them. After depressing the pins, you’ll need to decipher the binding order. This is fairly simple, as you need to cycle through pressing the pins until the plug rotates.

When you need speed on a budget, use a standard tubular pick. The components of the tool give you the ability to pick and decode at the same time. The tool has a handle and a series of ‘needles’ to help you pick the lock. First, you’ll have to calibrate the device before you can pick the lock. After calibration, evenly press your pick straight down, but be careful not to bend the needles. Turn the pick in the lock. If it works, you can use the pick as a key for the lock. If the lock remains shut after 2 minutes of work, recalibrate your pick. Note, this method will not work with locks that have variable spring pressure.

When the SPP and standard pick won’t work, you’ll need to invest in an advanced tubular lock pick. What you need is a pick that can individually adjust the wires. Interchangeable tips can be a great investment if you plan to use your pick frequently. While there is a method, experts say you might have a quick project if you cycle through like you would with the SPP method.

Use this guide to get you started learning about tubular locks. Start with simpler models before moving on to the harder variable pin options.

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