[Edit: See the bottom of this post. I’ve decided not to carry these in my bag in all but a total TEOTWAWKI scneario. The benefit to carrying these is not worth the potential legal entanglements and hassle.]
I’ve had my eye on one of these for quite awhile: The Shomer-Tec Access Card “Low-Profile” Discrete Professional Lockpick. The DailySteals.com web site has it on sale for the next two days for $15. (The regular price at the Shomer-Tec web site is: $24… I don’t make any money from either of these sites, by the way. I wish I did!)
I took a class through my local Maker-Space project on basic lock picking. I’m far from an expert but I now know how a lock works and I can pick a basic lock.
You can keep one of these Shomer-Tec lock picks in your wallet in case you lock yourself out of your house. Or if your neighbor locks themselves out of their house and waiting for a locksmith might take hours.
As part of your “Get Home” bag, you should keep one of these for a true SHTF scenario. For example, if you’re lost in the woods and you’ve been walking for days. It’s raining when you finally stumble upon a small cabin. Nobody’s home and the doors are locked.
Not a problem, if you’ve got your lock picks and know how to use them. (Just like any other tool… this takes training. Google: Locksport).
I’d also recommend carrying a notepad, a pen and some gorilla tape so that if you do need to gain access to a building to take shelter, you can leave a note for the owner and offer compensation for use of their cabin or building. I’d also advise immediately using their land line phone to call the local authorities and explain your SHTF situation– if possible– rather than risk a breaking & entering charge.
[This just added from my reply to a post in response to negative attention from the police while carrying a lockpick card– posted on the AR15.com site. See Wiki lockpicking article for more info on local laws.]
First– do you really think that not carrying a lock pick/card while you have: A gun, a roll of duct tape, some zip ties and a knife in your get home bag is going to make a cop say, “OK, move along.” Heck no! I highly doubt having a lock pick card behind your library card is something that’s going to attract more attention to yourself if you don’t already attract attention to yourself. Regardless– if I’m in a situation where I would need the lock pick, I’d be happy as hell to find a LEO suddenly appear (???) because it would mean I was in some deep SHTF to begin with.
I can easily imagine losing control of my truck as it spins off the road at night on some back road in the high desert of Northern Nevada. The truck is now upside-down in a lake and totaled, half-way down a ravine. By some stroke of dumb-luck, I’m able to crawl out of my truck. I finally get back to the road. It’s snowing, dark and I’m cold and wet. Off in the distance there is nothing around except for a small house. After walking for a mile, I get to the house. Nobody is home and it’s all locked up.
Sure, I can try to kick the front door in. But if I can pick the lock without destroying the door, all the better. One way or another, I’m getting in and the lock picks give me an additional option with virtually no additional weight to carry.
Once I’m settled, I’ll call 9-1-1 and leave a note on the front and back doors.
Not every SHTF involves Zombies and rioting gangs.
[Edit: After giving this hypothetical scenario more thought, it’s unlikely a person would have the fine motor skills to use the lock picks in such a dire circumstance.]
** Check your state laws to make sure that carrying lock picks is legal in your state.
In the United States, laws concerning possession of lock picks vary from state to state. Generally, possession and use of lock picks is considered equivalent to the possession of a crowbar or any other tool that may or may not be used in a burglary. Illegal possession of lock picks is generally prosecuted as a felony under the category of possession of burglary tools or similar statutes. In many states, simple possession is completely legal as their statutes require proof of intent.
In California, locksmiths must be licensed by the state. However possession by laymen may be legal in most states. This is the case because illegal possession must be coupled with felonious or malicious intent. This is also the case in Utah, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Washington State, Washington D.C., New York, and Arizona.
Edited: March 7th, 2013: I just called a laywer. The response I got was that: “It would be breaking and entering. But you would have a legal excuse, called necessity. so, no crime. ”
I then looked up “Necessity” in the legal dictionary:
The necessity defense has long been recognized as Common Law and has also been made part of most states’ statutory law. Although no federal statute acknowledges the defense, the Supreme Court has recognized it as part of the common law. The rationale behind the necessity defense is that sometimes, in a particular situation, a technical breach of the law is more advantageous to society than the consequence of strict adherence to the law. The defense is often used successfully in cases that involve a Trespass on property to save a person’s life or property. It also has been used, with varying degrees of success, in cases involving more complex questions.
Almost all common-law and statutory definitions of the necessity defense include the following elements: (1) the defendant acted to avoid a significant risk of harm; (2) no adequate lawful means could have been used to escape the harm; and (3) the harm avoided was greater than that caused by breaking the law. Some jurisdictions require in addition that the harm must have been imminent and that the action taken must have been reasonably expected to avoid the imminent danger. All these elements mirror the principles on which the defense of necessity was founded: first, that the highest social value is not always achieved by blind adherence to the law; second, that it is unjust to punish those who technically violate the letter of the law when they are acting to promote or achieve a higher social value than would be served by strict adherence to the law; and third, that it is in society’s best interest to promote the greatest good and to encourage people to seek to achieve the greatest good, even if doing so necessitates a technical breach of the law.
So… in light of all that, is it worth it to carry lockpicks? You’ll have to come to your own decision.