I ate my wafer...



So, I've promised that I'd write about padlocks, and I believe that my background on the topic is pretty substantial. I've collected padlocks for years since they're often the cheapest and most available source of interesting locks for my lock addiction. I've also used padlocks to secure all manner of things, including exposure to heavy weather and marine environments. I have tested a great number of padlocks using tools from conventional lock picking to salt water spray. I tried to keep this list short and useful, reviewing common locks from low to high security, but I know that I've left out quite a few locks. If anyone desires my opinion on some lock that I've omitted, please let me know!

Here's the basics: the bigger diameter shackle that you can use in a given application, generally the more force-resistant the lock. If you can conveniently use a shrouded shackle lock, it will be more forced entry (saw and pry resistant). Most locks aren't defeated by Surreptitious Entry such as picking, shimming, bypass tools etc, but I'll rate common locks for that feature as well.

I've tried to cover most of the common padlocks below, rating them on a scale from 1-5 in the areas of Forced Entry, Surreptitious Entry, and Weather Resistance. The higher the number, the better the rating.

Master Lock Combination Locks
Forced Entry: 1
Surreptitious Entry: 0
Weather Resistance: 1

Although it is possible to gradually manipulate the lock and determine the combination to open the lock, the Master Combination Lock only locks on one side of the hasp, and are completely vulnerable to shimming. A bent open bobby pin can shim a master padlock in a couple of seconds, leaving virtually no forensic evidence on the lock. There is no good reason to use one of these locks anywhere where security is even remotely a concern.

Master Warded Locks
Forced Entry: 1
Surreptitious Entry: 1
Weather Resistance: 4

There are a variety of warded lock styles, but the one that concerns us here is the Master Lock model, and its Asian knock-off equivalents. Although the warded padlocks don't yield quite as readily to shimming with improvised tools, they're insanely easy to pick with a "skeleton" key that mere bypasses all of the warding for all locks of the same model. A retarded chimp could make a skeleton key from a regular warded lock key in 5 minutes. Avoid these locks completely, at least with the combination locks you don't have to carry a key, but there's no good reason to every use a warded lock for anything

Master Simple Pin Tumbler
Forced Entry: 3
Surreptitious Entry: 2
Weather Resistance: 3

Once again, the standard lock here is the Master Lock, such as the Number #3. Although these locks are nearly an order of magnitude better than the locks discussed above, they're basically the first level of lock worth using for anything. I'd point out that they're still pretty easy to cut off with bolt nippers or a dremel, and they're one of the simpler pin tumbler locks to pick. The asian knock-offs of this type of lock are usually serviceable, though not nearly as durable, and prone to rusting.

American Padlock

Forced Entry: 3
Surreptitious Entry: 3
Weather Resistance: 2

Traditionally, American has a relationship with Master much like Chevy/Ford. The standard American model is vulnerable to bypass tools used in the keyway, and to simply drilling out the rivet that holds the cylinder in, but they're VERY hard to pick open. I personally have had bad luck with weather resistance on American locks, but their still a very decent lock for the money. They beat the snot out the average Master laminated lock, and Menards often has them onsale for less money. The knock off American style locks are pretty decent usually, and not a horrible buy.

ABUS Pin Tumbler Diskus locks

Forced Entry: 5
Surreptitious Entry: 4
Weather Resistance: 3

Most Do-It BEST stores stock the cheaper ABUS disk lock for $14 or less, and its a heck of deal for the money. An experienced person can pick them, but they are not a trivial lock, and they usually take a significant amount of time to Surreptitious ly bypass . It is very hard to remove one forcefully without an acetylene torch, and compared to the non-ABUS knock offs, they're even hard to torch apart. The Master lock knock-off is quite inferior in all regards.

Rotating Disk Abloy-Types (ABLOY, ABUS Granit, etc)

Forced Entry: 4
Surreptitious Entry: 5
Weather Resistance: 5

These are probably the best padlocks around: the keys aren't easily duplicable, it takes very special tools AND experience to pick them, and the rotating disk mechanism is as weatherproof as mechanically possible. The problem is that the Abloy and Abus products aren't very cheap, running into the $100 range, though ~$20 from ebay. I have seen some knock-off models that are much cheaper, including a set of three, keyed differently with a master key that I got off eBay for $20. Virtually any rotating disk lock is superior to all pin-tumbler padlocks.


  • Good post. You should link to it from the main page, so people who read your site later can find and navigate to it. More of this kind of stuff (of which you seem to have wide knowledge) and you should sell ads. This is the kind of stuff people use google to find out. I don't need a lock TODAY, but when I do I'd like an easy link back to this post;)


    By Blogger Jake, at 5:20 PM  

  • Thanks Jake, you have a point...I really should link my more useful posts. Otherwise they just get drowned out by the ranting:-)

    If you, or anyone has any suggestions for posts I should permanently link, let me know.

    By Blogger Bob, at 1:10 AM  

  • I agree with you for the most part, but I can pick Abus pin tumbler diskus locks with my eyes closed. I would rather deal with one of those than a heavy duty American Lock. You would never be able to pick it surreptiously.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:01 PM  

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