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What is a bump key?

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This article gives a quick introduction to bump keys.  One of the most popular trends in lockpicking.  You can use this guide to get a better understanding of the techniques and tools you need.  So let's take a look at bump keys.

What is a bump key?

A bump key is a specially crafted key for picking pin-tumbler locks.  It's a bit like a master key in that it will work with every lock of the same type.  However, it's not picking in the true sense as bumping is the method used, hence the name bump key!

How do bump keys work?

To fully understand how bump keys work you need to have a little knowledge of how pin-tumbler locks work.

Pin-tumbler locks have a series of spring-loaded pins of varying heights.  To open, the pins need to be above what's called the shearing line to enable the cylinder to rotate in the lock.  The correct key for a lock pushes the pins to the correct heights.

A bump key is inserted into the lock almost to the shoulders of the key, then struck, usually with a bump hammer.  The action of the bump key is akin to seeing Newton's cradle, in that the pins will bounce and hop above the shear line for a fraction of a second.  If a small rotational force is applied to the bump key at the same time the lock can be opened.

More information on bump keys

This brief introduction to bump keys is further expanded in our free newsletter.

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