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  Locksmithing FAQ - Bump Keys
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This FAQ does not attempt to teach you locksmithing, just to answer simple questions, give you some hints on getting started, and point you to sources of information. Also included is a glossary of common terms. The Appendix covers many supply places, books and tapes.

15. What is Lock Bumping?

Lock bumping might be referred to as lock picking’s lesser known cousin. It’s an unfamiliar term at best. It is, however, at least as big a problem as lock picking, and perhaps even more sinister for what it entails. Bumping is a type of lock picking. Instead of using typical lock picking tools though, all that is required is the use of a bump key. It has, for this reason, the potential to be much more sinister than lock picking.

One of the biggest problems is that few locks are immune fromlock bumping. This is because most locks work on the same principle. The most common type of lock, found on every home and business in the world, is the pin-and-tumbler lock. To understand how lock bumping works, it helps to understand how a pin and tumbler system functions.

Inside every pin and tumbler lock is a cylinder (or key cylinder.) Within the cylinder is a chamber (the plug) containing stacks of pins. The pins it contains vary in length. When the correct key is inserted into the cylinder, the ridges or teeth on the key match the pins inside. Rotating the key causes the pins to spring apart and the plug to rotate. This rotation releases the latch from the door jamb.

Trying to insert the wrong key will produce one of two results. Either the key will not enter the cylinder at all, or, it will enter the cylinder, but won’t be able to rotate the plug because the match is incorrect.

Old-school lock picking usually requires a broad range of tools. Lock bumping, in contrast, requires only one special key. A lock bump key looks like an ordinary door key. It would be unlikely to draw any suspicion, were it to be used to gain illegal entry to a home.

To the untrained eye, a bump key might pass for a regular key. A closer inspection, though, would reveal that the teeth (or ridges) and the notches are even. All of the cuts, in fact, are made to maximum depth. They may also be referred to as “dummy keys” or “999″ keys. The number “999″ is derived from the fact that the cuts are all made to a depth of nine.

Opening a door lock with a 999 key isn’t as simple as simply inserting and turning. It does take a particular feel and a certain degree of practice, just as old-fashioned lock picking does.

What is alarming about lock bumping is that only two tools are required: a 999 key and a small “bump tool.”

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