Lock Picking Alert: Learn How To Pick A Circle Lock (Tubular Lock)

Key Takeaway

  • To pick a circle lock using a lock picking kit, the pick must have as many pick needles as many pins in the lock.
  • If the pick doesn’t align with the lock at once, readjust the pick wires to align the pick.
  • You may also use a ballpoint pen to pick a circle lock that is not very high on security.

A circular or tubular lock is a pin-and-tumbler lock that gets its name from its shape. These locks are commonly seen in gun safes, ATMs, vending machines, elevators, public computers, etc. because they are far more challenging to pick than conventional lock-and-tumbler locks.

As a result, if you lose the key and have something critical locked inside, picking a circle lock may be more complex. But you’ll be happy to know that I learned the technique of picking a circle lock years ago, and this post will show you how to do it yourself.

In fact, while working on the skill, I realized that if you have the right tools and well-defined instructions, you can easily pick a circle or tubular lock in minutes. This article will help you how to open a tubular lock without a key, whether you’re studying the art of lockpicking or you need to access a locked object.

But before that, let us learn a bit about the functioning of a circle lock to better understand the principle of picking a circle lock.

Functioning Of A Circle (Tubular) Locks 

A circle or tubular lock is a pin-and-tumbler lock with a stack of pins responsible for locking and unlocking the lock. The pins in a circle lock are placed in a circular arrangement rather than a straight line, as in deadbolts, with a cylindrical key to match. 

When the cylindrical key with notches is inserted and twisted, each of the notches depresses a corresponding pin within the lock to a certain height, allowing the lock cylinder to revolve freely. While most circle locks have 6-8 pins, some may come with as low as 4 pins or as high as 10 pins.

Functioning Of A Circle (Tubular) Locks

Are Circle Or Tubular Locks Easy To Pick?

The circular arrangement of pins in a circle lock makes them harder to pick as conventional lock-picking techniques like using a bobby pin or a paperclip doesn’t work on them. This makes these locks far more secure than other pin and tumbler locks. In fact, some circle locks have modified pins that make picking even more challenging.

How To Open A Tubular Lock Without A Key

A tubular lock can be picked efficiently using a tubular lock pick. However, in case of the absence of a lock-picking kit, you may try unlocking it using a ballpoint pen. The method may only work for some locks, but there is no harm in trying if you want to.

In the later sections, we shall discuss both methods in detail.

How To Pick A Tubular Lock Using A Lock Pick

How To Pick A Tubular Lock Using A Lock Pick?

A tubular or circle lock pick is a special type of lock pick that can be used to open a circle lock without a key. It is essential to use a lock pick specifically designed for circle locks, to pick, as regular lock picks do not work on these locks. The handle of the tubular lock pick is connected to a circular metal component that fits the key-way. There are a number of needles, also known as pick wires, on the round metal that may be protruded or retracted.

Here are the steps to opening a circle or a tubular lock using a lock pick.

  • Step 1: Take your tubular lock-picking kit and ensure that your pick has the appropriate number of needles for your lock. Your pick should have as many needles as many pins on your tubular lock. A tubular lock usually has 4-10 pins, so for a lock with six pins, your needle should have 6 needles.
  • Step 2: Twist the L-shaped tightening wrench to loosen the pick. You should find the wrench on the side of your lock pick.
    L-shaped tightening
  • Step 3: When the pick is loose, place the lock pick against your tubular lock to ensure that the inner needles align with the lock pins. After adjusting, when the pick wires and lock pins are aligned,  tighten the pick again.
  • Step 4: Insert the pick as far as it will go into the lock. If your pick gets stuck at any time, you may need to re-adjust the needles by removing the pick from the lock and loosening it again. Adjust the pick wires until the pick fits comfortably inside the lock.
    Insert the pick
  • Step 5: Next, turn the lock pick to the right to open the circle lock. If your pick’s needles are properly aligned, this should activate a spring and unlock the lock.  However, if the lock continues to refuse to open, you must re-align the pick and try again.

How To Pick A Tubular Lock With A Ballpoint Pen

To use a ballpoint pen to open a circle lock, you would need a pair of scissors and, of course, a ballpoint pen. Follow the steps given below to try your luck in opening a circle lock using a pen.

  • Step 1: Ensure that the diameter of the ballpoint pen is either equal to or slightly smaller than the keyway aperture of the lock. Since we only need the pen’s body to pick the tubular lock, remove the ink tube and any springs from the pen.
  • Step 2: Using a pair of scissors or a cutter, cut the tip of a ballpoint pen so you have a straw-like tool. 
  • Step 3: Make four vertical notches on the back of the pen. The notches should go up and down the edges of the pen. These will keep the pen flexible when it slides into the lock.
    four vertical notches
  • Step 4: Insert the pen into the keyway of the circle lock. Insert the pen all the way inside the lock. If the pen gets stuck and you feel any resistance moving forward, lengthen the notches. 
    the pen into the keyway
  • Step 5: Once you align the notches on the pen with the pins of the tubular lock, shake both the lock and the pen until the pins come loose. You may have to shake it several times to succeed. 

If the lock still doesn’t unlock, you have no option but to invest in a lock pick to open the lock.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. Does picking a circle lock damage the lock?

Answer – Yes, picking a deadbolt lock will result in minute dents in the lock mechanism. Additionally, misusing a tool by applying too much pressure can seriously affect a deadbolt’s durability and reliability.

Q2. Can I pick my circle lock using a paperclip or a bobby pin?

Answer – No, you cannot use a bobby pin or a paperclip to unlock a circle lock, as the pins in a circle lock are arranged in a circular manner instead of a straight line. Hence, the tool to pick the lock must be circular on the face.

Q3. Is it possible to pick all tubular locks using a ballpoint pen?

Answer – No, a ballpoint pen may not be able to pick any tubular lock as it becomes practically challenging to cut many notches on the pen. If you have a more secure model of a circle lock with 7-10 pins, you need to use a special tubular lock pick.

Q4. Can I remove a tubular lock by drilling it?

Answer – Yes, you can remove a tubular lock by drilling it, but the process will damage your lock completely. Hence, you should only use the method in case of emergencies and restrict to using a lock picking kit in regular cases of losing or misplacing a key.


If you installed a circle or tubular lock on your safe or home to secure it more efficiently, you have made quite a wise choice. However, losing or misplacing the key to your lock might make you question your choice, as tubular locks are more complex to break in.

And if you are planning to use a standard lock-picking kit for the same, trust me, you have no chance as you need a tubular lock pick to accomplish the task. In the case of some tubular locks, you may try using a ballpoint pen.

In case you were looking for how to open a tubular lock without a key, this article must have helped you find detailed instructions. Please share it with your friends and family if you found the information useful. If you have any more questions about tubular locks, write to me in the comment section.

1 thought on “Lock Picking Alert: Learn How To Pick A Circle Lock (Tubular Lock)”

  1. Top insights , very interesting, I have had success with various lock types with extremely limited homemade picks ,it’s not for material gain to myself it’s more about pushing oneself to achieve endless knowledge , it’s not like your gonna fill your mind/(Brain) up to capacity.Easily understood your directions and your explanations where sublimely put ,surely even a total novice could convert your input into immediate practice , thanks truly for your efforts and work to relay such useful know how , BWELL BTRUE B1 . Your servant . S . J Atkinson .


Leave a Comment

Hey! I am Mark. Though I am not a locksmith by profession, but locks have always fascinated me since my teens. And it all started when I got locked out of my house and I had to pick the lock. Since then it has become my hobby to learn more about different kinds of locks, understand their working and methods to pick them up. In due course of time, I have also become better aware of how installing the right lock goes a long way in ensuring iron clad security. I aim to share my passion (about locks) through this blog. If you are also passionate about picking locks or are just looking to beef up the security, hop on the ride.