Introduction: How to Make a Manual Pickgun - Wiper Insert

Picture of How to Make a Manual Pickgun - Wiper Insert

This instructable will walk you through the creation of your very own manual pick gun.
A pick gun (in this case a snap gun to be specific) is a tool locksmiths occasionally use in lieu of picking. It's thought that these tools helped those incapable of picking, but really they prove useful, even to the experienced picker. The tool works by bouncing all the pins above the shear line while you apply tension via tension wrench. The goal, as in all tumbler picking, is to get all the lock pins above the shear line at once. This tools sometimes expedites hat by bouncing them all in a bit of a random fashion. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, it's a good idea to find and read the MIT guide to lockpicking.
This particular tool is created using a windshield wiper blade insert. There are plenty of designs floating around the internet, usually using a coat hanger. I just happen to have a surplus of these wiper blade inserts.
Whatever medium you use, it's probably best I tell you that this is not my original idea. I just wanted to share it. Being my first instructable, I expect errors in grammar, punctuation and such. I'll probably even give some false information. I only ask that you take it easy on me when informing me of such mistakes.

Step 1: Basic Design.

Picture of Basic Design.

I made these two without a precise design, and they worked out anyhow. I recommend you at least have a good mental image of the finished product. I didn't think to document the first one, so I recorded the steps for #2.
#1 (green background) has a shorter throw
#2 (wood background) has a longer, curved throw, theoretically giving more of a snap.

The only tools you'll *need* are a pair of pliers and/or vice grips and a Dremel or similar grinding tool.
For this tool, it's ideal to use one of the longer wiper inserts (if nothing else, just to have extra material). 20 or 22 inches will do nicely. For anyone wondering, these wiper inserts are the two metal strips found in almost all windshield wiper blades. Save them when you change your wipers, or maybe go scavenge some from the auto parts store's rubbish bins. Sometimes, those guys will collect these for you, if you're nice.
I also use these to make my tension wrenches, since I go through them so frequently (made an instructable for them - see it here).
So, let's get down to it.

I'll be using three different types of bending techniques with this instructable:

The bend - usually 90 degrees. Made by holding the piece with one set of pliers and bending against those pliers with your hand.

The twist - always 90 degrees. Use two sets of pliers, holding the flats of the piece, and twist away from one-another.

The curve - much tricker. Hold the non-flat sides of the piece with two sets of vice grips (pliers would theoretically work), and curve gingerly - so as to not break it along the curve.

One last note - I didn't actually measure anything. I think the best way to go about this is to do what looks or feels right to you.

Step 2: Pending for a Bending.

Picture of Pending for a Bending.

The very first bend should be the loop. Just bend it around something round. I used a jeweler's ring sizer. Obviously, not everyone has one of these, but use what you got. That is, after all, the main idea behind this instructable.
This loop should be approximately 8 inches or so from the side you intend to be the pick end. One full turn is enough, don't get fancy.

Step 3: The Right Stuff.

Picture of The Right Stuff.

Right angle, that is. Using a pair of pliers, bend a 90-degree angle in the metal somewhere around 3/4 the length of the pick side. In other words, if you made the pick end 8 inches from the loop, make this bend at about 6 or so. Again, these measurements won't be exact. Use what looks good.

Step 4: Do the Twist

Picture of Do the Twist

Use your vice grips and/or pliers to give a couple twists. The pick end twist should be close to the loop. The snapper end should be near the 90 degree bend. I'll explain all those black lines in a bit.

Step 5: Measure It Up

Picture of Measure It Up

This was the first time I pulled out a ruler. It proved useful, though I eventually flubbed it up anyhow. Actually , I didn't even use the ruler for measurements so much as ensuring I would get an even, squared end. This helps ensure a good, sharp snap. Bend in a box toward the loop. In other words, the end coming from the loop will be off-center - bend the box in the direction to compensate for this.
Also, for this example, I had to put a couple curves in the box to make it snap-to at the right spot, and at a flat angle. This proves tricky, unless you have some vice grips (and some patience), but it can be done. Just grip the metal on the non-flat sides and bend just like any other bend - just more gradual.
Also,put a twist in the last end, just further along than the twist in the other side of the box. Hopefully, the pictures will help. Use that twist to bend the end around itself and clip off the excess.

Step 6: Pick in a Box

Picture of Pick in a Box

That's right - put your pick in that box. You're done - sort of. You can take this time to grind the pick end down a bit. You'll probably want it smaller in width and height, but the length should be fine. I even added a pick end to the underside. May as well make it useful.

Step 7: Go Try It Out.

Picture of Go Try It Out.

To use it, hold your thumb on the flat end while gripping the pick side. If you made the loop big enough, you can even stick a finger in there to get a better grip. Push down with your thumb. Slide your thumb off and let it snap back up. Don't forget your tension wrench (not shown in the photos - only one hand here). I usually try about 8-10 snaps, reset the pins, and repeat.
One could easily create an entire instructable on using this device to the best of its ability, but that's for someone else - not me. Rest assured, it does indeed work, better on some locks than others, once you get used to its use.


anniesprinkles (author)2016-05-17

I've made this three times and it turns out great until the part that secures or holds it in place. I have everything ready for a fourth go at it, but would you be willing to elaborate more on the part that secures it so it stays in place (I guess that would be step 5). A really good picture would be awesome, it's hard to tell exactly what you did from these pictures. Thanks for the instructable, hope to hear from you.

pmann1 (author)2013-02-06

Excellent work, Boris. I pick for fun (and occasionally out of necessity!) and this Instructable demystifies the lock-pick gun. Well done!

lockpicken (author)2012-04-23

Tried this but cant get it to work so now im waiting on my order pickgun from

pyrorower (author)2009-08-27

I'm looking forward to making one of these. Being a locksmith of sorts, I was wondering if you could help me with this: I use my lockpicks to pick whatever locks I can find in my house, but one lock that I have never been able to pick was one for luggage. It's one of those locks that has the 3 dials and a keyhole so that TSA people can open it. Whenever I attempt to pick this lock, the lower half of the pins (the ones that you can see) never come completely down after I push them up unless I stop putting pressure on the tension wrench. Do you know if this is a security feature or if I am simply doing something wrong?

xarlock667 (author)pyrorower2010-08-28

Sounds like a set pin. It has no upper pin and is there because, A) They were cheap, or B) for security. Just relax the torsion bar and let it drop. Then open the pins behind it and pop your lock.

Or maybe he was applying too much pressure on the torsion wrench. I know it's an ancient post, but I might as well populate your comments.

dannyt1995 (author)2009-03-22

Hey i was just wondering how long it takes you to pick locks using a tension wrench and a pick (not this crazy contraption) because im 12 and i can pick some padlocks in 20secs to 1min and i was wondering if i was any good or can most people get that time??

xarlock667 (author)dannyt19952010-08-28

20 seconds is not bad at all. I can pick most dead bolts in 20-30 with just raking the pins and using a torsion wrench. Actually picking in 20 seconds is decent and above my level. My fingers are just not that sensitive.

mowie (author)dannyt19952009-09-21

well i can pick locks on doors in about the same time as it takes to open it with a key xD but where i live most of the padlocks keyholes are too small

Aztof (author)dannyt19952009-07-13

what kind of picks do you use?

I wouldn't concern myself with speed. While you don't want to spend an hour at a customer's house, it's much more important to be careful and avoid any possible damage.

We're not thieves, so we don't have to get the lock open in seconds. Besides, if a customer sees me open their lock that quickly, they aren't going to think it's worth the price I charge them.

I'll also say that some locks will indeed take longer than others based on things like number of pins, cut of the key, or presence of security pins. As I said, it's much more important to do a good job than to do a quick job.

As always,

angannchye (author)2010-04-21

hi, thanks for sharing. Managed to try  locks that my friend(locksmith)  find them difficult to pick. Guess what?
Btw, I hv difficulty if  pins are at the bottom, (any solution?)  if not, it's the best homemade that I ever come across! Cool!

Thelonelysandwitch (author)2009-01-05

How does this work, I only pick locks with a set of picks, I have never seen any of these.

It works on basically the same principle as the commercial pick guns, or even bump keys -- just slower. Step 7 displays the proper way to hold it. You put the pick end in the lock, apply tension via tension wrench, push down with your thumb (or squeeze), then release your thumb. It snaps quickly, with the bottom of the loop slapping the pick end. This throws the pins up (like pool balls). You just keep trying, resetting tension every snap or two.

berky93 (author)2008-11-04

nice - I made a few of these out of paperclips in school once, but when I hammered the end of the paperclips flat to make the pick ends out of them, it was either too brittle or too small. can you get wiper inserts at wallgreens? (I'm sure there are plenty of other places I can get them, but wallgreens is 3 blocks from my house, so its extremely convenient if I want or need to make a new pick) you know, now that I think about it, I also made one of these once out of a coat hanger (also had to hammer the end flat) but it didnt work because I didnt have a file to shape the end. but I just remembered - I DO have a file now! i'm going to try this tomorow.

BorisTheSpider (author)berky932008-11-09

I can't say for sure whether Walgreens carries wiper blades. I think so, though. I just get the inserts from old wiper blades. Garbage cans at parts stores are great places to find them. Or, ask a mechanic - a lot of people change their blades rather frequently, and usually at the same time as an oil change. It's just a quick disassembly to get the parts I use. Keep the rest though - you never know when you'll need another bit.

sniper1 (author)2008-10-08

nice looks good to be home made and if you know what your doing works great i give ya a 5 good job and good job at explaning on how to do it 5 stars *****

sergentslaughter (author)2008-09-29

You should spend less time bending wire and more time sanding you table lol

And ruin that vintage rustic look? Pshaw - I think not!

Rectifier (author)2007-11-20

8-10 snaps? So roughly between 1-2 minutes (looks like it would take about 10 seconds per shot to reset the device)? I would say I can usually rake the "average" lock open faster than that, assuming no security pins. On the other hand, have you successfully dealt with security pins with this guy? I've not really had much interest in automatic picking devices of any sort, as the challenge is half the fun, but having an quick way to pop open a security-pinned lock would be pretty neat. Rectifier (Not a locksmith, but a lock hobbyist thinking of becoming a locksmith if he was a bit better at finding those damn false-set pins)

BorisTheSpider (author)Rectifier2007-11-20

It doesn't really take long to set the device. You put it in the lock, and you snap it 8 to 10 snaps. The only resetting you're doing between snaps is moving your thumb back to position.
I don't really use the thing. I can't imagine what my customers would think if I pulled out that device. It's not exactly professional-looking.
I have heard of great success with similar devices, and of course, real pick guns have been around for a loooooong time.
This is a sort of last resort anyhow. You should never rely on a pcikgun, a bumpkey, or any other technique outside of actual picking. Personally, I am of the school of thought that says, "If you can single-pin pick, you can open anything." So far, it's worked out great for me. I've been fortunate enough, however, to not run into a Medeco. They train their own guys for those anyhow (they treat each customer like a bank does with a safety deposit box).
Anyhow, good luck and happy picking! Just make sure to NEVER PICK A LOCK YOU DON'T HAVE A RIGHT TO!

Rectifier (author)BorisTheSpider2007-11-20

Of course I would never pull a homemade deal like that out in front of someone, heh. It was more of a question as to the concept of pick guns, whether they can handle security pins. I agree that single pin picking is the best technique though... but I always try a rake first just in case it works. My parents' house came with Medecos... can't imagine why the overkill, but I haven't even bothered to try picking them. When I used to live there, when I locked myself out, I would just sit on the porch and wait for them to come home.... They are supposed to be pretty hard to drill, even, I heard. Not that you would want to drill a lock that is worth more than the damn door! You are a real locksmith? If you don't mind, what would you say the biggest part of your income comes from, and what's a good way to find work? Will a shop take a guy on as an apprentice? I used to be an electrician, but after a shoulder injury I have to look for lighter work. I figured since I already am decent with locks, with some practice I could go into locksmithing...

stasys (author)Rectifier2008-09-15

Hehe, im only 12, and if i pulled this object out in front of my classmates, they would be SIMPLY AMAZED. no one is sophiticated enough in my class to unterstand that sort of stuff. 5 stars!!!

BorisTheSpider (author)Rectifier2007-11-20

I'm not a locksmith. It's hard to say exactly what I am.... I am to a locksmith as a cook is to a chef. I don't have the papers. I'm working with a company wherein I'm trying to work my way to locksmith. There's a lot of income potential there, but I do well what I'm doing. What I do for the company varies a lot, and I think it's unfair to name the company here. If you want to, feel free to PM me and I'll tell you about the company and how to find work like it.

nuclearscience (author)2008-07-17

you could probably hurt people with that

Yeah, it can absolutely smash your fingers if you do it wrong. Hehe.

that would suck cuz then u can't play any video games with hurting fingers

take some heroin and continue gaming.

ok ok JK, I dont support using heroin, its the most addictive drug out there.

freerunnin1 (author)2008-07-20

u watch futurama dont u i mean pending for a bending... lol

Haha, glad someone caught that. That is indeed the reference.

bowmaster (author)2008-07-18

I pefer a bang pick.

chardster (author)2008-07-13

I have a question, after you pick the lock, is the lock still useable?

BorisTheSpider (author)chardster2008-07-15

Unless you've done something else to it, like turned a deadbolt cylinder too far with nothing in it, there is a slim chance to do any damage.

zachninme (author)2007-10-31

Ooohhhh! I finally understand how these work! (it basically spins the wire, in a nutshell, to those still in the dark) I've wondered how the heck these things were working :P

BorisTheSpider (author)zachninme2007-10-31

Actually, no. There's no spinning - just snapping. It snaps up and applies a bit of a "pool ball" style action to the pins. I'll try to add a brief description to the instructable that may help.

chardster (author)BorisTheSpider2008-07-13

Ahhh when you said "pool ball style action" I understood how this twisted piece of metal works.

BorisTheSpider (author)zachninme2007-11-20

After reading this comment again, I think you do get it. I assume you mean, "from the side angle, the loop end basically spins around the central loop to snap the long end upwards." If so, yes, you're exactly right.

zachninme (author)BorisTheSpider2007-11-20

Don't loose sleep over it, I understand it now, and I didn't before :P

safdar (author)2008-06-09

this iz crap

fosockingdude (author)2008-01-14


brainspater (author)2007-12-23

that may work on some locks.

joejoerowley (author)2007-10-31

Cool! Maybe you could add a short description of what a pick gun is to the beginning. Other wise great instructable!

Thank you. The main reason I left out a description of what it is exactly is this: If you don't already know what it's for, there's a higher chance you shouldn't be using it. I'll try to add a brief description, though, and just count on the better judgement of the community.

Oh. That makes sense.Thanks

About This Instructable



Bio: I pick locks for a living. Never pick a lock you don't have a right to.
More by BorisTheSpider:Tension wrenches a la wiper blade inserts.How to make a manual pickgun - wiper insert
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