The Rise of The Machines
Electric Pick Guns
I once spent four hours straight trying to Single Pin Pick the legendary Banham dimple lock. A dimple lock like no other, where each pin in each two-pin stack is separate and opposed to the other, they push into the lock by a spring each, and made even trickier by one of the springs in each stack being stronger than the other one. This of course creates two shearlines, one on each side. It is, I must say, the hardest lock I have ever picked.....And I have only ever picked it once!
Keys for the Banham Dimple lock. An incredible lock that sucks hours and hours from lock pickers.
The point is I spent four hours on it. The time I have spent on Bumping - were you to add all those hours up - is even more insane. Hand filing new patterns from scratch onto blank keys, measuring fractions of fractions with vernier calipers and polishing the cuts with wet n dry for days on end. It's a pleasure, sometimes - as I pointed out in my last blog - to spend time on things in a culture that is obsessed with speed, that is obsessed with getting things done and moving on.
Yes, lock picking can bring out the patient craftsman in us all, tirelessly working over minute details, it appeals to the romantic image of the watchmaker working by candlelight, hunched over the object of his obsession, way into the night. It can in this sense be a beautiful, calming, almost meditative thing.
American artist Norman Rockwell captures the watchmaker at work, this time with a keen student onlooker. Romantic and endearing yes, practical? Rarely.
All well and good. But there comes a time when none of the above is required. When there's a job to do. And when there's a job to do time means money, not a relaxing pleasure. When you're staring the bottom line in the eyes, you don't want to be meditating!
This is the moment of the Electric Pick Gun (EGP) a tool that does nothing but open locks. There's no art, no eloquence, no style or passion. Just a unit, an engine, a needle and a Hell of a lot of vibration. A lock picking robot that completes the circuit between the human picker and the mechanical lock. Enter the machines!
There's many EPGs on the market, each with the usual array of pros and cons, I've used most of them and over the years, tried them in the field and in the workshop. I've spoken to many, many people about what they like, what they don't like, what works and what doesn't, what they want and what's on offer. That's why we offer three EPGs: An economy version, a mid-range pro version, and the very top of the range EPG you can lay your hands on.
In this blog I'll tell you a bit about each, and help you - should you wish to buy one - make an informed decision, and work out what's best for you. So without further ado - let's go!
1 - The Dangerfield Machina
The newest Electric Pick Gun on the block and in my opinion, the best. The design brief for this unit was simple: NO COMPROMISE. With a design team working on the casing and a design team working on the internals, this unit had to be better than existing Electric Pick Guns to make a dent in a market with lots to cfhoose from. And wow, does it live up to that no compromise demand!
Exquisitely packaged like all Dangerfield tools with an LCD real-time percentage and graphic charging display battery doc, this really is the top of the range EPG. Beautifully finished with a knurled hand grip an 0-8mm needle swing, the Machina boasts the ability to pick security pins that most EPGs struggle with. It won't pick them all, but it'll give you a better chance than the rest.
Like everything about The Dangerfield Machina, the battery doc is top-spec, with a real-time graphic and percentage charge display.
2 - The Multipick Kronos
Like all Multipick tools, the Kronos EPG is immediately nice on the eyes. You can tell just by looking at this German designed EPG that you're dealing with quality.
Once you pick it up this feeling is compounded tenfold. These hand-built machines are a work of art, the finishing is perfect, the weight is satisfying without being clumsy and there's a good sense of balance with a bias towards the needle end. In fact, everything about this in-house built EPG is an absolute pleasure. And explains why Multipick literally cannot keep up with demand. If you want one and they're in stock, I suggest you pounce!
It works as you'd expect - in a manner consistent with the build quality. The power is staggering for such a small unit and yet it purrs like a cat, unlike other premium (priced) EPGs.
With the option to purchase it alone, in a bespoke case, or with the case and an array of associated Multipick tools, the Kronos offers the user the choice of continuing to build his kit, and create a quality EPG system. Being able to build up in stages is handy, and keeps this wonder of lock picking magic, available to all.
3 - The KLOM EPG
Once upon a time about 15 years ago there were no budget EPGs. You either forked out a few hundred for a top of the range professional gun, or made your own. Yes, made your own. There was even one lock pick supplier that was selling an EPG that was converted from a set of electric scissors. They're no longer around, the scissor-based EPG or the supplier, by the way!
Then one day some stock arrived from China. Usual stuff, wafer rakes, padlock shims, some picks. And there in the corner was this funny looking orange pick gun. I thought nothing of it and went about running my business. They even sent me an email with a price - $40 or similar it was then, which made me laugh. I mean, can you imagine what kind of EPG you're going to get for $40?
A few weeks later with a lack of anything better to do I decided to charge it up and have a go. MIND-BLOWN. I'd just made a video about bumping locks and had 15 Eurocylinders on my kitchen table. The KLOM EPG opened 11 of them. Wow. $40 you say? And I ordered 25. The following week I sold 25. The following day I was inundated with emails asking when I'd be getting them back in stock. The KLOM had landed.
I got so excited by this I saw an opportunity. These were going to sell like hot cakes. There was pretty much no competition and a huge demand - gold dust to an online business. I spent the night looking for KLOM online, the original Korean company. No luck. These people were keeping their heads down. But I did find their main distributor and we exchanged emails all night, me asking for European exclusivity to sell the KLOM EPG. You can imagine my shock and delight when finally it was agreed. At about 6 AM I got the email I had been waiting for. For a fixed fee and an initial order yet to be agreed I was going to be given exclusivity for this new, budget, wonder-tool. Convinced they would sell millions I set about making some videos, still amazed at their incredible lock opening ability.
You can imagine my shock the following day when I received an invoice for some $3 million. Ha! Needless to say, I didn't have anywhere near that kind of money, and even if I did I wouldn't have been able to store the zillion KLOM EPGs they were intending to send over by the shipping container full. So I wrote back and said - I'll just take another 25 for now.
The KLOM EPG works a treat. It's not a high-end product but doesn't pretend to be. If you're looking at a tool you'll be using all day every day, this is not for you, budget items don't offer that kind of luxury, their strengths lie elsewhere. If you want that kind of toughness and durability you need to spend a bit more. However, what you are going to get is a very good EPG - a gun that will open a decent amount of locks with very little training and very little fuss to use. It doesn't purr like a cat, sure, and it's a bit orange. But it comes with a good range of picks, a nice case and it does what it says on the tin. The KLOM EPG opened up the lock picking machine to everyone who wants one and that's an incredible thing.
4 - The Dino Li ion (UPDATE: No longer manufactured)
The Dino EPG came onto the scene with little or no hype and gradually established itself as the go-to mid-range EPG for the professional lock opener. Well built, good design and a ability to open locks well out of it's price range, the Dino has been a regular contender for best EPG for many years now as it ticks so many boxes.
There's a couple of things about this pick gun I really like. The Li ion Battery technology was a real step up for the time and continues today to provide a superb amount of power from a relatively quick charging time. Li ion batteries have a notoriously bad charging to use ratio - but in the case of an EPG when you only need a few short bursts to open a lock it's like the perfect battery. Set it on charge the night before work and you'll have a fully functioning unit for more than a few locks, certainly more than you'll need. In short, it works.
I am also impressed with the light on the front. Many locksmiths will tell you a lot of their work - especially emergency work is carried out at night or in other low light conditions. Looking for a tiny keyway in a tiny lock can be a problem yet this was solved nicely by attaching a torch-light on the front which activates when the trigger is pulled and stays on for a short while after.
5 - The SouthOrd E500XT
The SouthOrd E5600XT EPG is a sturdy does-what-it-says-on-the-tin kind of Electric Pick Gun. Slick design and the usual high manufacturing specs expected from SouthOrd this pick gun packs a wicked punch for it's 4.5V of power
Knowing the market so well, SouthOrd have successfully created a tough, resilient build, coupled with a very stylish housing.
I had the previous version for years and years, and it never let me down. It was only after I 'loaned' it to someone - and we know how that often goes - that I replaced it with the version I am showing you here. An effective, exceptionally comfortable EPG.
So there you go. There's plenty of other EPGs on the market, but these are the ones I have selected over the years having tried most of them. I have made sure we have a EPG for everyone - their different needs and their different budgets. If you can trust my decades of experience and the many great reviews all of our EPGs have received then you have here a fair and honest summary of the best of the pack upon which you can base your purchase, and know you're getting the best EPG for the money, and your own individual requirements.
While we're at it - it's worth mentioning, circular tension tools are absolute dream for using with EPGs, they tend to hold in the lock that little bit more, ideal when you're pumping it full of mad EPG energy. You can see ours HERE.
You can see each of the pick guns above in more detail at the links below.....
Good luck, happy picking, and stay legal!