How to Pick a Combination Lock With a Paperclip

Combination locks are often used to secure things like lockers, gates, and storage closets. There’s no need to call for help or break it down with brute force when you don’t have the key handy. Instead, you can pick a combination lock with a paperclip in less than ten minutes!  This blog is going to be about how to pick a combination lock with a paperclip. 

With the right tools, picking an average-strength commercial grade lock is possible if you know what you’re doing. But even without any experience at all, a paperclip will do the trick. It doesn’t take much skill or practice; follow these simple steps mentioned in this blog post.

How to Pick a Combination Lock With a Paperclip

What You’ll Need to Know First

The basic concept of a combination lock is simple. The dial inside the mechanism moves the locking bolt so you can open the door when turned in the correct direction. But instead of turning and pushing and pulling, you’ll be using your paperclip to manipulate the internal components and turn the dial to set it. It’s a simple concept, but picking a lock is difficult because all the parts inside aren’t visible. But don’t worry, picking a lock isn’t as complicated as it looks!

Combination locks are divided into two main categories: Master-keyed and Non-master keyed. You’ll often find master lock combinations on storage facilities, school lockers, or desks at the office where you need to open many similar locks. So instead of using up all those keys to guess which one fits each locker or desk, you have one key with the matching number for every lock.

This saves a lot of time so that you can spend your effort more efficiently. But this also means if someone at the office could access all those keys, they’d be able to open everything too. Also, non-master locks like padlocks and other types of household and commercial safes are easier to pick because you only have one set of components inside the lock.

Required Materials:

  • Paperclip
  • Pen or Pencil  (optional)

How to Pick a Combination Lock With a Paperclip

Step 1:

Bend the paperclip into a “U” shape. Make sure it’s roughly three-quarters of an inch long. If you don’t have anything to measure, use your finger to determine how long your U-shaped paperclip needs to be!

Step 2:

Take the two ends of the bent paperclip and bend them to a ninety-degree angle. When you turn the dial, you’ll use these two parts of the paperclip to move the locking bolt in and out of place.

Step 3:

Make sure each arm of your paperclip has about an inch of length on it, so you have room to work with later.

Step 4:

Insert the straight part of one arm into the bottom left hole so it looks like a capital “L”. Your top arm should be sticking out of the top right hole.

Step 5:

At this point, you need to decide if your lock is Master-keyed or Non-master keyed. If you’re unsure whether your lock is master-keyed, you can always test it out by trying to open the lock without turning the dial (just in case!). The technique for both locks is basically the same, but one has an internal mechanism that’s easier to “feel” than the other.

Step 6:

Take your pencil or pen and gently push the paperclip down like you would turn the dial. Keep your other hand on the paperclip to keep it steady while you apply pressure.

Step 7:

If you’re picking a master-keyed lock, nothing will happen when you apply pressure with your pen or pencil (except maybe an indent if your alignment is perfect). But if you’re picking a non-master keyed lock, you’ll notice the locking bolt moving to one side or another. It’s usually directional, so try pushing the paperclip in different ways. Once it moves without resistance, you’ve found the right direction to turn your paperclip!

Step 8:

Now that you know which direction to move your paperclip in, turn the paperclip counter-clockwise while applying pressure with your pencil or pen. This is where having a second pair of hands would come in handy. But if you don’t have someone to work with, lean into the lock and push your paperclip down as hard as possible while slowly turning it in that direction.

Step 9:

Turn the paperclip until you have about 1/16 of an inch of space between the bottom right hole and the locking bolt. You’ll make this measurement with your pen or pencil if it’s easier for you to do so. That’s all there is to turning the paperclip down while applying pressure; hopefully, some parts will start falling inside when you get to this point.

Step 10:

Spin Your Paperclip Around and See

Spin your paperclip around and see if you can feel a few of the pins inside clinking against your paperclip. If you don’t hear anything, keep turning! And if you do, stop turning because it means there’s probably a pin at the top of the lock ready to make noise when it drops into place.

If you’ve successfully dropped that pin into place, do the same thing with one of the other holes on your paperclip. Only this time, turn the paperclip down!

7 Things To Consider When Lock Picking With a Combination Lock:

1. Time The Lock Takes To Open:

If you are just starting with picking locks, you must pick a lock that can be opened within 1-2 minutes. If the lock has too long of a combination time, it will take forever for you to pick. However, if your target uses a short combination time, like 30 seconds or less, you will need to find a more complicated lock.

2. Time It Takes to Reset the Lock:

After you open the lock, if it automatically sets itself back to locked mode, you will need to either pick it up again or break into whatever is being protected by the lock. If your target uses one of these locks, there are two ways around them. You can either pick the lock twice in a row and go away as if nothing happened, or you can open the lock, disassemble it, and solder a wire to each of the numbers on the dial.

Every time they turn the dial back into the position, it will break your soldering job and leave them with a useless combination lock. Remember that you must ensure you have a soldering iron and solder on hand if you choose this route.

3. The Size of The Numbers on The Dial:

To pick a lock, you must match up your tools to the size of the numbers on the dial. If those numbers are too small, break into whatever is being protected by that lock because it is too complicated for you to pick.

4. See If There is Any Master Lock Reset:

Looking at the dial, you can tell if there is a master lock reset. If notches link each number together, then those numbers will always be in the same spot when you turn the dial. This means that you do not have to worry about keeping track of anything as long as you can turn the dial to one of those numbers.

5. Always Go For The Number That is Higher Than Your Guess:

The Number That is Higher Than Your Guess

The biggest mistake people make when they try to pick a lock with a combination is getting the first number right. The truth is that you should never start trying to get the first number right, just like you should never start trying to get the first digit of your social security number right. Instead, start at a higher number and go all the way down until you can find the combination.

6. Go for The Numbers With no Letters on Them:

The biggest trick most people use when picking a lock with letters is to try all the numbers with a letter next. This is not very efficient and will take you a lot of time, but it does work. So instead, try all of the numbers that don’t have letters next to them until you find the right one.

7. Try Different Combos:

Sometimes the combination lock you are picking will have a pattern to it. You can see this by watching how it opens and closes. For example, if the numbers stay in the same spot every time there is a gap but constantly change their position when there isn’t a gap, it probably has a pattern you need to watch for. This means that you can try a different combination if you know there will be a gap and it won’t work, but the first combination you tried will work fine.


The lock may be a little rusty, and the paperclip might not work at first, but with patience and some trial-and-error, you should have it open in no time. Remember to use your paperclip on the bottom of the shackle before trying any other tricks or techniques mentioned above. Believe it or not, this is one widespread way that locksmiths get into many safes around the world!

With these simple steps mentioned on how to pick a combination lock with a paperclip, you’ll be able to pick a lock in no time. Of course, we can’t guarantee it will work for every type of lock, but we would love your feedback on how this has worked for you! Thanks again for reading, and happy unlocking!

Elizabeth Davis

Elizabeth Davis

Elizabeth is a creative writer and digital editor based in the United States. She has a passion for the arts and crafts, which she developed from a young age. Elizabeth has always loved experimenting with new mediums and sharing her work with others. When she started blogging, she knew that DIYquickly would be the perfect platform to share her tutorials and tips. She's been writing for the blog from the beginning, and her readers love her helpful advice and easy-to-follow instructions. When she's not writing or editing, Elizabeth enjoys spending time with her family and friends.

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