Championship disciplines under the microscope: Padlocks



Opening of padlocks is one of the traditional disciplines of lockpicking. It is suitable for lockpickers of all levels including beginners. The locks in the padlocks competition are usually simpler than in the discipline of opening of cylinders.


The art of opening of padlocks is very old, likely almost as old as the first padlocks which appeared more than 2000 years ago in ancient Rome and China. As the padlocks evolved, so did the opening methods. Nowadays, most padlocks use pin-tumbler mechanisms.

There are two basic groups of attack used to open padlocks. The first group of methods involves bypassing the locking mechanism and release the shackle without manipulating the tumblers. Since these methods usually are very quick, do not require any skill and can be possibly misused, they are not part of picking lockpicking competitions. Luckily, these methods are not usable on most padlocks manufactured today with the exception of very cheap models. The second method used to open the padlocks is picking which is very similar to picking of cylinders with the only exception being that the contestants have to hold the lock in their hand.


The lock types are generally unknown until the beginning of the championship and are based on what the sponsors donate to the Association. In general, all the padlocks in the competition are pin tumbler locks. There was one notable exception to this custom. In 2017, Tokoz donated 3 Pluto padlocks which are using the disc detainer mechanism. Since specialized tools were not allowed, no one was able to open the lock in time.


The rules of the padlock competition remained unchanged. The time limit for each lock is 5 minutes and the maximum number of competitors is set to 48. The rules are described in more detail below.


Allowed tools

  • Lock picks (commercial or home-made)
  • Tension tools (commercial or home-made)
  • Pen and paper


  • Arrive early (at least 15 minutes before the start of the competition)
  • Every contestant needs to have his/her own equipment!


  • New, unused, padlocks are provided by the organizers.
  • Based on the number of contestants, qualification groups will be formed. The groups and seating places will be assigned randomly.
  • The padlocks must be held in hand during the opening, vises and other holding equipment are not allowed!
  • In each round, the contestants have 5 minutes to open their lock.
  • For each padlock opened, the contestant gains one point. The opening times will are added together.
  • The results of all competition rounds are based on the number of points obtained. In case of a tie, the total opening time is considered.
  • For each unopened padlock, 5 minutes are added to the total of opening times.
  • From each qualification group (based on the number of participants) 2-4 contestants advance to the “A finals”, and the following 2-4 contestants to the “B finals”. There will be usually 6-12 contestants in both the final groups.

Additional info

  • Maximum number of participants are 48 competitors (in the order of signing in).
  • Before the start of each round, the contestant may try out his tension tool in the lock and take it out. Insertion of any manipulation tools inside the lock is before the start is prohibited! At the start of the round, no tool may be inserted inside the lock (not even the tension tool). Contestants that do not obey this rule may lose a point.
  • The padlock is considered open when the shackle is loose and no tool is inserted inside the keyway.
  • When the contestant opens the padlock, they indicate this by pressing the button, saying “Open!” out loud and raising the hand. The referee then tells the contestant the opening time and the contestant writes it down into the provided sheet.
  • If a tool gets stuck in the lock or if the lock is damaged, the contestant will be disqualified.
  • If the lock is faulty, it will be withdrawn from the competition by the referee.
  • After opening the lock, the contestant should remain silent and must not disturb other contestants.
  • There are 3 locks of each model (not necessarily same bittings) so that each group will be competing with the same models.
  • Locks that were too easy, or were not opened at all may be exchanged for the final round.