Dear Lazyweb,

Please don't make me regret asking a question that is such a hax0r poseur hot-button, but what's a practical, economical in-door lock that is not easily pickable or susceptible to pick-guns, bump keys and portable drills?

Ideally this would be like 20 locks on a 6 element key system, with dozens of keys, so let's not break the bank, ok?

And after that, what door-hardening techniques are worthwhile, e.g., thicker steel doorframes? What's the next thing they're gonna hit with an angle grinder?

I understand the principle that you don't have to run faster than the bear, you just have to run faster than your friend, but since last time there have been more burglaries of nightclubs by a group of people who own a bunch of tools and are blessed with the absolute certainty that SFPD will do nothing about it.

Keep in mind that I know little about fancy keys and never learned to pick locks because... oh right, because I just don't give a shit. However I would like to not get robbed again, that would be nice.

Previously, previously, previously, previously, previously.

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Current Music: Morphine -- Sharks ♬

52 Responses:

  1. roeme says:

    For the picking part: If I'm not mistaken, your average NA burglar is stumped by a Kaba Lock. They're basically the standard in Switzerland and hence don't cost an arm and a leg there, but I'm not sure how that translates to your location. They also have a chip-and-key system(s), which is possibly something that lends itself well to your business (lost chips don't require you to change all locks - can "simply" blacklist the lost one).

    Which leaves physical attack vectors; here I have no suggestions, sorry.

    • 1

      ^^ Strong agreement here. And as you probably want to know "how much does one of these cost in Switzerland so I can compare prices" - the major Swiss website to buy stuff online is called 'Galaxus', and you can search it in English so you don't have to run everything through a translation engine or remember your German from old Rammstein tracks: https://galaxus.ch/en

  2. Space Hobo says:

    The CoffeeNet over on Harrison in the 90s had Medeco keys (diagonal tumblers and all) and chest-high steel plates on all the doors, but it was a retrofitted fire station so it may have had different construction to your place.  Also it probably wasn't the most targeted building in the area back then.

    In the UK the gold standard seems to be chubb locks for deadbolts: they're double-sided (so you need the key to lock/unlock from either side), hard to pick, but use pretty simple tooth combinations, so we always combine them with yale locks or something more elaborate if necessary.  You can also get versions that jam when someone tries to pick them, but that's also a DoS attack vector so they're not as popular.

    The real strength of something like the Medeco system is that it's nigh-impossible for a bad-faith employee to pocket a key and quickly make copies: most locksmiths don't bother getting the partnership status necessary to order the tooling and blanks, and a hardware store isn't going to have the capability to make the finnicky little side-divots needed for the angled tumblers.  And yeah, no bump-keying is kind of nice, too.

    For reasons literally connected to the 1666 Great Fire of London, doors in the UK are mostly on the inside of the frame and open inward.  This probably makes it easier to secure the things with plates that cross the entire frame, and you're guaranteed not to have any hinges hanging out where chancers with angle-grinders can have a go.  I'm looking to replace a rotting wooden garden door with something more durable right now and I'm still in the "wait is this actually secure, or are they just frontin'?" screaming-at-websites phase, so best of luck on the reinforcement side of things.

    • Dara says:

      Medeco. That's who I was trying to remember for in-door. Seconded.

    • Matt says:

      Double-sided? Those are legal in the UK? On which doors? I always thought of them (and the continentals) as being even more safety-conscious than those of us in the colonies. I'm guessing there's a high overlap between {doors he wants to secure} and {doors you go through in the event of a fire}.

    • Grey Hodge says:

      Yeah, I was going to suggest Assa Abloy who owns Medeco. They're not cheap, but they work. We use them on our medicine vaults where we keep esketamine and IV ketamine in case someone manages to break into the clinics. 500LB wardrobe sized vaults that bolt to the floor from the inside like a safe, Assa Abloy locks.

  3. Dara says:

    Do you mean in-door deadbolts or padlocks? I think you mean in-door deadbolts, because angle grinder.

    But your photo shows a padlock, so if you mean padlocks, I'd probably suggest Paclock - they aren't bad, they aren't expensive as good locks go, they do the kind of key structure you want. I was having a recurring problem, switched to them, now I am not having the problem.

  4. JM says:

    So, there is this youtube channel by a guy calling himself the Lock Picking Lawyer, where he picks a LOT of locks and deadbolts and stuff. Most of what he shows seems to be junk or novelty stuff, but sometimes he finds something more interesting to the common folks like us.

    Two leads I hope can be helpful:



    He's on the bird site as well.

    • Nai Rogers says:

      Was going suggest asking YT @lockpickinglawyer.  

      • jwz says:

        All of you suggesting this fellow need to really, really internalize the concept that "go watch 100 videos on some YouTube channel" is not the helpful answer to "please recommend a product" that you think it is.

        I thank you, and everyone you "help" this way in the future also thanks you.

        • Doctor Memory says:

          YouTube's arguably sole redeeming feature is as the Infinite Archive of DIY Instruction Videos, but even that is generally ruined by the need to turn the fucking things into a "brand". 

          "Don't forget to smash the subscribe butt--" no thank you, I have succeeded in cleaning my dryer lint trap / replacing my oven igniter / flossing my cat and I now look forward to never thinking about you in any way, shape or form again for the rest of my life.

    • Cyan says:

      I came here only to say that a jwz/lpl colab would be the best thing to come out the Internet in a very long time.

      • Dave says:

        a...."collab" ?

        honestly I would maybe fall out of my chair laughing if i heard a too-close-to-the-mic JWZ loudly dropping a "HEY GUYS IT'S JWZ HERE WITH LOCK PICKING LAWYER HIT LIKE AND SUBSCRIBE SO YOU DONT MISS ANY OF OUR VIDEOS"

  5. Marcus says:

    I wouldn’t spend a bunch of money on fancy locks, especially if you need a locksmith to master key them anyway — ask the locksmith if they can install bump-resistant security pins in your existing locks.  If not, then I’d ask them what kind of security lock they recommend / can rekey quickly.  The problem with some of these locks, even relatively well-known ones like Medeco, is your locksmith might not carry or even be able to get key blanks for replacement keys.

    After that, if you have any externally exposed hinges, I’d install security hinge pins if you don’t already have security hinges.  These basically have a pin that locks the two hinge plates together in can someone tries to grind off the hinges.  You can install these yourself with a Philips screwdriver.  https://www.hingemates.com/buynow.html.  You can tell if you already have security hinges by opening the door and looking at the face of the hinge.  If there’s something protruding that looks like it would lock the two hinge plate faces together when the door is closed, you should be good to go in this department.

    Without seeing pictures of your exterior doors it is hard to make any other recommendations that are a) cost-effective and b) universal in nature and likely to be useful.

  6. helpful bastard says:

    I have been thinking about this a lot recently. There is no such thing as unbreakable physical security. The Lock Picking Lawyer and Deviant Ollam (both already mentioned) demonstrate that. However, you aren't getting someone that practiced attacking your place.

    The best defense is not being noticed. Failing that, look tougher than the next place. Failing that, be tough.

    On windows and glass doors, get security film. Thick plastic (like a tint) that just goes on. Make sure people can't get to your door hinges. Have your doors open in, and ensure people can't hook or card the thing going into the door frame, by extending the door frame to cover the gap (sorry badly worded). Have a good strong frame with a good strong door. Can you get multi-point locks? I don't know.

    As for the locks and keys themselves, apparently you should look at the BiLock V2 from the Australian Lock Company.  youtube.com/watch?v=f5uk6C1iDkQ
    There is a North American website (bilock.com) but I'm not 100% sure if it's owned by the same company. Many advantages, including being able to get master keys and being able to rekey locks yourself (allegedly).

  7. Jim says:

    The only option in the US that has any real supporting infrastructure (i.e. a locksmith that doesn’t look at you sideways) is Medeco

  8. 2

    Medeco, welded still swing-inward door connected to frame with many many 4 inch bolts or screws.

    Have secured many a high-value warehouse over the years...

    • Nate says:

      Agree 100%. Steel door & frame is best. Make sure the latch is beefy too so the deadbolt isn't taking the brunt of ramming force. Use security screws if any are externally accessible, but hopefully everything can be internal.

      Medeco is great for bump resistance and lack of easy cloning keys. Schlage Primus is a cheaper system I've also used if Medeco costs too much for this purpose.

  9. someguy says:

    Commercially something like a Schlage Primus or Best IC will have common US availability at a "medium" security level. Medeco is harder to find on purpose, limited supply means less chance of criminals finding key blanks or unscrupulous locksmiths copying keys. Some past issues with vulnerabilities though.

    Abloy Protec will be the gold standard. Very different system than most US keys so much different tools needed to open. Likely have to go through a few locksmiths to find it and expensive.


    Not much that can protect against somebody with an angle grinder and some undisturbed time to use it though. Even the best locks can be drilled out with a good drill and 1/2" bit with enough time. Defense against that is adding more security layers: more and thicker metal, man-trap style double doors, monitored alarm system with shock/vibe sensors on the doors, and so on. After that it's live(human) security.

  10. g-na says:

    Mul-T-Lock may be the solution you're looking for, combined with steel-reinforced doorframes.


    The locksmith that helped me is in the East Bay, but maybe it's worth contacting him.


  11. Dave says:

    A store around here spent a lot of money armoring their doors.  It turned out you could go through the old bricks with a sledgehammer a lot faster.

  12. Yngmar says:

    So get the local Capo to make an example of some unsanctioned burglars. Jeez, don't you pay your protection money?

  13. Eric says:

    A good metal roll-up door is worth considering. It's a quick way to add a second layer that a potential burglar would have to bypass/smash through.

  14. Carlos says:

    My locksmith says that of the common locks, Schlage products tend to be harder to pick - but my experience does not go up into the Fancy Locks for Expensive Business Premises territory, so not particularly helpful.

    I mostly came here to lament that man traps and spring guns fell out of favour.  When the authorities won't protect your stuff...


    • david konerding says:

      Is anybody else disturbed by the terrible things whomever made that sign did to the fonts?
      Keming, italics, *and* gothic script.  I was expecting it to devolve into comic sans.

      • Carlos says:

        I believe it's a repro of an actual period sign (this is from a museum) - late 18th or early 19th century.

        Their typography scares me, too.


    • Eric says:

      Your average burglar probably wouldn't use anything this sophisticated, but there are Lishi tools that let you pick open almost any Schlage (or Schlage compatible) lock without much lockpicking experience.

  15. mhoye says:

    In addition to the Schlage, Mul-T-Lock and Medeco suggestions above, steel doors & frames and making sure that your hinges are security hinges when they are required to open outward and expose the hinge pins, which fire code frequently insists on for excellent reasons.

  16. zloster says:

    Another write up from EU/Europe:
    1) About the power tools resistance:

    In EU there is a standard/classification system about this: security classes 5 and 6. It sets a minimum time the door have to resist (15 and 20 minutes) when the burglars are using POWERED tools (angle grinder, saw blade and drilling machine).

    Note the text at the end of the document:
    "At this time, there is not a similar classification system for "armoured" door and window products in
    the United States, other than for detention facilities and Department of State (DOS) specifications."

    So the time window of the door resistance to power tools is important detail when choosing.

    2) http://www.americanmasterdoor.com/doors/intrusion-resistant/forza-4/
    Here is an example door construction with burglar resistance category 4 (no power tools involved).

    3) About the locks and the recommendations:
    I'm recommending Yale locks and cylinders. The company is part of the already mentioned Assa Abloy.
    https://www.assaabloylibrary.us/yalecommercial/2022-Yale-Commercial-Price-Book/1/# - this is their current commercial price list. I don't know if the prices are "good" but it is a good reference to compare to.

    4) I don't know if the following made it the market in some form: recent relevant improvement to power tools resistance:

  17. Matt says:

    In the vein of "faster than your friend", a simple confounding step could be installing the lock cylinders upside-down. Wigs me out on my own door which I have a key for. It'd make using a pick gun more awkward and if the first couple attempts fail and you have a motion sensing light at the doors they'll hopefully just leave. It's possible gravity will also make it easier to over-set pins with a bump key or pick gun which would protect you, but I don't have practical experience to back that up.

    As for lock recommendations, not sure if it's suitable for your needs and don't know how commercial products need to differ from residential ones, but maybe consider a recent Kwikset SmartKey model. You can see LockPickingLawyer defeat one easily here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XqsAFdFsQmQ but notably recent models (like what he picks in this video) have a sidebar internally which requires an extra tool (thin shim of metal) + specific lock knowledge to attack. A bump key or pick gun shouldn't beat it. Googling around, Kwikset SmartKey can be sheared with brute force fairly easily, but that also requires an extra tool (Kwikset key blank, or I guess a Kwikset bump key) and specific lock knowledge. So, it's still easy to defeat, it's just less likely that an attacker will be prepared for it.

    For non-lock attacks, no practical experience here but a theme I know about is improper installation leaving too much space between the door and the floor or frame. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bX-6LFPSQuk for getting between the door and frame, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O74Q1VTz4j4 for getting under the door, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ciqsCJD3f0 for getting between doors. Outside that theme, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nJu_-Iuppc0 for attacking hinge pins and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U5-qy2tbDG8 for exploiting a lack of shielding in sliding aluminum door locks. A few of those videos discuss mitigation for the featured attack, but there's no such thing as an impenetrable door.

    I've picked a couple locks as a hobby but am by no means qualified to give your business security advice. I guess my advice is, if you're looking for a serious level-up you'll get what you pay for; either spend money for a security consultant to answer the security consultancy questions in your post or spend a few afternoons of your time on youtube (LockPickingLawyer, DeviantOllam, BosnianBill) learning about what attacks are out there and mechanically how they work so you can DIY your strategy and only pay for hardware/installation. Personally I wouldn't be comfortable using the comments here for more than a starting-off point; without evaluating your actual space, our recommendations here could be about as good as an outdoor security gate that is helpfully also a ladder: great suggestions, but wrong application.

  18. matt says:

    Medeco M4 is a key system your locksmith can get and is secure enough that LockPickingLawyer can't pick one in a few minutes. It's capable of what you need. I use its predecessor, the M3, at my house. Easy to install.

    I also like the ABLOY PROTEC² key system. Some locksmiths are religious about this stuff and if yours wants to sell you Protec, let him.

    Steel doors and steel jambs are a requirement. No windows in them, obviously.

    Replace hinge screws with "door hinge security pins" which are easily found online for $20. The hinge screws you don't replace with security pins, replace with the longest screws you can find. Most hinges come with tiny screws. This is very easy DIY.

    For any doors you can lock from the inside, add a floor bolt and a bolt into the top of the frame. Easy for a locksmith or as a DIY.

    If SF thieves wield Halligan bars (like the fire dept.) then add a vertical strip of steel to the outside of the door that covers the gap between the door and jamb on the strike side. Hire a welder or a locksmith - whichever is easier.

  19. Bill Paul says:

    As far as locks go, if it was up to me: Abloy Protec2 or Medeco M4. I give preference to Abloy because it may be easier to get both padlocks and door lock cylinders on the same key system and I think disc detainer locks are immune (or at least highly resistant) to bump key attacks.

    As previously mentioned, Schlage Primus locks are a cheaper option, but there's a reason for that. Superficially they're similar to the Medeco M4 in that both combine a pin tumbler mechanism with a sidebar mechanism. The presence of the sidebar makes them hard enough to pick that most people won't bother. However Primus locks are apparently vulnerable to bump key attacks, though only if you have a bump key with a bit code that matches the lock. That said, Primus locks are grouped into different key security levels, and level 1 (commercial) keys all have the same sidebar bit code.

    Both Abloy Protec2 and Medeco M4 incorporate an active key element to further complicate picking. The Protec2 system is supposed to have over 1.9 billion possible key combinations. I'm not sure about the M4.

  20. グレェ「grey」 says:

    Just chiming in, Medeco are at least readily availble. Warman Security on Sacramento in San Francisco is a local "authorized dealer". iSEC Partners (one of my previous employers, prior to them being acquired by NCC Group) used to use them.

    Admittedly, I also had to go through a bit of a rigamarole to get on the "authorized" list in order to get copies made, because my predecessor left without authorizing anyone else; but that wasn't impossible to work around? Social engineering exercise left to the reader.

    There are more difficult to pick locks and get copied keys most certainly. I won't go into details because you already stated you don't want to know about them elsewhere in these threads and some of them (all) are more challenging to source as they are not manufactured in the USA and finding viable importers, particularly capable of contending with multiple keys, let alone installers who know how to set them up properly, is non trivial. It could also potentially be considered a trade secret and I don't need my security impacted and lowered further than it already is by giving out such information freely and openly presently.

  21. Andrew says:

    Taking a step back, can you set up a security system for the likely points of entry such as the front door, with pro monitoring of alarms, feasibly? Then as long as it takes longer for the bad guys to steal valuables than for the cops to show up...

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