How To Drill Out A Lock (5 Step Guide)

Do you want to learn how to drill out a lock?

Fantastic. You are in the right place.

In this guide, I will show you:

  • What you need to know
  • Equipment needed to drill locks
  • Things to avoid when drilling locks
  • And so much more!
How to drill out a lock

Before we get into the details on how to drill out a lock, please have a read of the table below.

What You Need To Know About How To Drill Out A Lock

To get a full understanding and appreciation on how you can successfully drill out a lock there are a couple of considerations that you need to know before you perform this task.

Authorization to drill

When you drill into a lock, you are basically destroying the internal pins and mechanics.

With that being said, you should only ever attempt to drill out a lock that belongs to you, or one in which you have been given authority by the owner to drill out.

Understanding how you lock actually opens up.

How to drill into a lock

Your lock is typically made up of different pins and springs, these pins are different lengths and correspond to a key that contains the correct grooves. This is critical to remember when looking to drill out a lock.

The important thing to remember is that the lock will only open when the pins have been released. When using a drill this means you will need to drill into the pins and springs and destroy them thereby forcing them open.

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Different types of lock

Ultimately there are a number of different locks, I will explain each in this section, and how they work.

How to drill into a lock


This is your typical padlock, it is generally used to close gates and containerized systems. 

For a padlock there are a generally 5 pins. These need to be released before the lock opens and disengages the u-shaped steel component and opens.

Euro cylinder lock

A Euro cylinder lock is one of the most popular locks found within the market today. This type of lock is typically found on your typical wooden doors within a building or a house.

These type of locks were originally called Pin Tumbler Locks.

They generally come in two configurations keyed alike or keyed to differ. Keyed to differ euro cylinder locks have very specific pin lengths and will only operate with a certain type of key.

Whilst keyed alike have a similar pin configuration and length. This means that a single key will have the ability to open multiple keyed alike euro cylinder locks.

One thing to further note is that due to security concerns, there are many euro cylinder locks that have been enhanced with anti-pick and/or anti-drill mechanisms.

So it is important to check this first before deciding to perform any drilling action. First make sure that you can actually drill into your euro cylinder lock.

Oval cylinder lock

Oval cylinder locks are similar in make to your euro cylinder lock. They are typically used in your roller shutter doors.

Similar to the euro cylinder lock, the oval cylinder lock also as a deadbolt that helps keep the lock fastened in the frame of the door.

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Choosing The Correct Drill Mechanism To Learn How To Drill Out A Lock

Drilling Mechanism 1: Drill into the base of the lock.

How to drill out a lock

This method requires you to use a drill bit that is approximately half the diameter of the key hole holder (plug material). You will then start drilling out this material. If you decide to go through with this method ensure that you clear out the metal as drill.

Of all drilling methods, this is the most destructive.

There will be a lot of debris as you are trying to dislodge the pins through the plug material.

As you come across pieces of spring and metal ensure that you periodically remove this debris. 

This will allow the tip of the drill bit ease of access to the remaining lodged metal pieces and pins.

Drilling Mechanism 2: Drill directly into the pins.

How to drill out a lock

This method involves drilling directly into the pins and catching them at their midpoints. To execute this method correctly will require a drill bit about a quarter of the size of the diameter of the key hole. You will also need to be a lot more precise when deciding to drill in this manner.

One thing worth noting, keep a mental count of the number of pins that you have drilled into. Check with the manufacturer how many pins the lock has, but in my experience over 90% of locks have a 5 pin system, so it is good to assume that you should dislodge 5 pins then try turn and remove the lock using a flat screw driver or flat metal piece.

Drilling Mechanism 3: Drill directly along the shear line

Ho to drill out a lock

Lastly, the most common method is to drill right across the shear line. This is the line that interfaces between the key hole material and the base material of the lock.

Drilling through the shear line has its own challenges in that you are moving your drill bit through two different materials however this method tends to work really well because you are tipping the pins at the springs. 

Which are the points of connection and therefore the easiest pieces to penetrate.


When thinking about the safety elements involved, you will often be facing small metallic pieces flying in multiple directions especially as you initially enter into the locking material.

To counter act this, please ensure that you wear adequate protective eyewear to ensure that you do not get any of the debris flying at high speed into your eyes.

Also ensure that the area you are working in is reasonably well lit. If this is not the case do not be afraid to wear a headlight as additional illumination.

There are so many examples of even experienced lock smiths and DIYers drilling through locks at wrong angles or making basic errors in judgement purely because they could not see very well.

Do not let that be you.

how to drill out a lock

Equipment You’ll Need To Know How To Drill Out A Lock

To perform a drill into a lock, you do not require a lot of equipment. Here is a list of the essentials.

  • Cordless/corded drill drill
  • Set of drill bits that are made for drilling into metal/steel
  • Tape
  • Flat screw driver

5 Step Guide On How To Drill Out A Lock

Step 1: Determine the type of drill

This is the all important step of determining what type of lock you are looking to drill into. The key here is to determine a couple of things:

  • Were are the pins located – This will provide you with the various locations through which you can possibly drill based upon the type of lock you are trying to open.
  • Is the lock equipped with anti-drilling security measures – This is often overlooked. Many manufacturers now equip their locks with an anti-drilling mechanisms. What this then actually means is that the pins are protected by ceramic covering or steel to prevent them from snapping when they come into contact with a drill.
  • What type of drilling method are you looking to employ – Now the last question you need to ask yourself is what type of drilling mechanism are you going to utilize. Will you go drill directly through the key lock, the shear line or through the base of the lock.

These simple planning mechanisms will help you determine if drilling is possible -number one, and lastly whether you will be able to fully carrying it out number 2.

Step 2: Measure out the drilling length

Now that you have determined that drilling the lock out is possible, the next step is to determine your drilling depth.

The reason we do this is because various types of locks such as your euro and oval cylinder locks have fastening mechanisms in the form of a deadbolt in place that keeps the lock firm and within position.

The aim of drilling out a lock is to destroy the pins and not go any further as we might destroy these locking mechanisms as well making it practically impossible to remove the lock from its position.

The simplest method of measuring how far you should drill is to use the same length as the key. All 5 pins are situated within that length.

Step 3: Create a Pilot hole

Create a pilot hole at the location you want to start drilling. You can typically use the tip of your flat screwdriver to create the tiny incision. This pilot hole will help create the initial friction that will be necessary to get the drill penetrating into the lock.

Step 4: Drill 

Maintain a steady hand and drill through the lock.

What will happen is you should feel the difference between drilling through the lock metallic material and drilling into the drill pins. When you move your drill through these pins you should feel a tiny popping like sensation.

This will tell you that the drill has broken a pin.

Whilst performing this action make sure to keep a mental count of the number of pins that have been penetrated.

Occasionally what might also happen is that the drill pins and springs might get stuck within the drill hole.

So every now and then if the drill is not travelling smoothly do not be afraid to back out the drill back and forms slowly to remove debris and crush any large pieces of material.

Step 5: Open the lock

If you have drilled through the pins successfully, you should be able to turn the lock with a simple flat screwdriver.

If you are sure that you have hit all 5 pins, then just make sure that the hole does not have too much debris as this can cause jamming of the opening mechanism.

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Final Thoughts On How To Drill Out A Lock

I hope this guide has provided you with more insights regarding how to go about drilling out a lock. I had a lot of fun creating this article.

The key here is to remember to follow the basic steps, take head of the type of lock you are looking to drill into and with those in place you should ready to perform a drill out with no hassle.

Mogale Modisane, PrEng

Mogale Modisane, PrEng

Mogale is a professional engineer (PrEng). With experience working on large-scale Solar, Wind, and Hybrid Projects. He has been exposed to multiple tools throughout his career and has a keen interest in breaking down the often murky world of power tools, machines, and measurement equipment making them more accessible and understandable to everyone.

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Mogale Modisane, PrEng

Mogale Modisane, PrEng

Mogale is a professional engineer (PrEng). With experience working on large-scale Solar, Wind, and Hybrid Projects. He has been exposed to multiple tools throughout his career and has a keen interest in breaking down the often murky world of power tools, machines, and measurement equipment making them more accessible and understandable to everyone.

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