We all need an occasional self-inflicted beat down to keep our egos in check…
There’ll come a time when you feel like you’ve reached you limits with “normal” locks and decide to specialize
in one specific type or brand of high security lock. It usually breaks down to three choices: Medeco, Abloy and Mul-T-Lock. Each require a very specialized skillset and can really take the rest of your life to become proficient.
Medecos are probably the most common high security lock available in N. America. These are VERY tough locks to open and it can take many years to develop the special “feel” to detect the angled pins and false gates. These are so difficult to pick that the U.S. Government chose Medeco cores for the locks they use to secure everything from cryptological equipment to firearms, to nuclear weapons. So great is the U.S. Government’s confidence in Medeco that they’ve specified that all of their Embassies worldwide will be equipped with Medecos.
The level of finesse, manual dexterity and sensitivity needed to feel pin positions inside a Medeco is so great that few people ever manage to master them. Your decision to specialize in Medeco locks is a serious commitment of time and concentration. The locks aren’t cheap either…
Abloy disc detainers are the second most popular type of lock that advanced pickers specialize in. Abloy, based in Stockholm, has made this style of locks since 1918 with few changes. The Abloy disc detainer has remained one of the most difficult-to-pick locks in existence, requiring specialized tools and a great deal of training and practice. Oddly, most pickers specializing in Abloys seem to focus on finding some type of bypassing technique or design defect. Because of the mystique surrounding the impregnability of Abloy’s locks, there are thousands of locksport enthusiasts critiquing every design change. This constant oversight results in one of the best designed locks in existence.
The third most popular lock to specialize in is the Israeli-designed Mul-T-Lock. There are many variants of this lock, all of them with the same pin-in-pin design. They range from the old 4-pin (8 counting the inner pins), to the 5 and 6-pin models. Because of this progressive pinning over the years as MTL improved their designs and security, MTLs are one of the easiest high security locks to learn without special cutaways or training aids.
Years ago, as pickers developed the skills to open the “normal” 4, 5 and 6-pin MTLs, the company added a new security feature: an interactive pin, called the MT-5 model. Impossible to “read” by eye, it was also a key control measure for different dealers. Still, it increased picking resistance and forced MTL specialists to learn a new skill.
The latest innovation is called the MT-5+, and adds a number of sliders to the MT-5 design. This is, by far, the most difficult MTL to pick open and represents the peak of MTL skills. If that isn’t bad enough, MTL has licensed their MT-5+ design to other lock makers, who have continued to improve upon the security of the lock. One maker, Zeiss has added a second row or pins directly above the first ones, making it very difficult to set one row without oversetting the second. This design, as far as I know, has not yet been picked.
Some people decide to specialize in a specific brand because they find the design elements intriguing. Examples include:
- Zeiss Ikons with their extremely tight tolerances and advanced security pin designs.
- Ruko with their anti-picking pin designs and paracentric keyways.
- Assa Twin-combi with the 6-pin tumbler lock combined with 5 side pins.
- Schlage Primus, very similar in design to the twin-combi but easier and cheaper to find.
- Post Office locks, containing complicated warding
- Lever locks, not common in N. America but a unique skillset is needed
- Kaba dimple locks, some of the most sophisticated locks in existence
- Gambling machine locks
- Telephone cash box locks
- Vending machine locks, etc, etc.
Whatever lock you specialize in should be seen as a huge advance in your skills.
Me? I dabble in ALL of them because I don’t have the focus (or pocketbook) to specialize in any single design.