tl;dr Have fun and don’t screw it up for anyone.

Created by Keyla Sentry in cooperation with the Lockpicking community.

Locksport Handbook to Challenge Locks

For Makers: 

  • To meet blue belt requirements, a CL must contain at least 6 approved modifications. Beyond the blue belt requirement, there are really no hard rules. Following this guide will make a better experience for everyone. 
  • Always be courteous and gracious. Treat each other well. 
  • Please be safe. Power tools and heat sources can cause serious injuries. Please familiarize yourself with workshop and power tool safety. Wear appropriate safety gear, especially safety glasses or goggles. Gloves are often not recommended around rotating machines. Consult the owner’s manuals that you should have already read. 
  • Must be pickable. If it’s an extreme challenge, likely to break picks, or otherwise extreme in some manner, make it well known. No one wants to break all their picks in the pursuit of fun. You also don’t want a high-black level lock to go to the average orange belt picker. 
  • Must include a working key, unless it’s to be impressioned. Include a key tag with whatever name you prefer and the name of the lock. Maybe even include the date finished. 
  • Include any unusual tools that may be required. We have shims, screwdrivers, and hex keys, but anything custom made for the lock should be included. State size needed so we don’t have to search. 
  • If your lock has trap pins and you can’t back out, you need to include instructions. It’s preferable to use grub screws so you can gut only the offending chamber. It should also be disclosed when sharing such a lock that it contains them. (There is some disagreement on this one.) 
  • Sometimes you need to include detailed instructions. “Please Gut” if you’re proud of your pins. Something like “Do Not Gut!” if it’s a nightmare inside. 
  • If this is your blue belt challenge lock, you may post pics to the moderators to prove your mods. Then your picker only has to confirm shipment tracking. This will greatly speed up your belt upgrade.


  • These aren’t required, but they’re recommended to provide the best experience for both maker and picker. 
  • Name your lock. People will remember it, and it will be easier to talk about and track. 
  • Pick the lock you made. Is it a challenge, or is it a basic lock with fancy pins? 
  • Make an effort to understand how your mods work and interact. This is the whole point of the challenge lock requirement for blue belt and up. Just throwing a bunch of random mods into one lock doesn’t magically make it challenging. Often it’s quite the contrary. 
  • Test the mods extensively. Do all the things to it that others will do. Do them multiple times, and don’t be gentle. 
  • Letting the person know general “belt level difficulty” is nice, as well as telling them if it needs to be shimmed. On that note, it’s best to shim all locks, especially challenge locks. 
  • Tell us if it can’t be picked with commercial tools due to MACS violations or whatever other reason. 
  • Likewise, it’s nice to know if the lock requires dimple picks or other tool besides standard hooks. Not everyone has the required tools. 
  • It’s probably best if the key is obscured, i.e. separately packaged so you can do a blind pick without knowing the key until you decide to. 
  • Opinions vary, but this is worth your consideration. Avoid cheap tricks, especially if they make a lock impossible to pick. For example, a trap pin that bricks the lock, thus requiring gutting, does nothing for anyone. Some keyway mods are cheap tricks, such as grinding away the face to make tensioning difficult. With that being said, “prank” locks can be fun sometimes. 
  • Consider registering your lock at 
  • Take pics and videos, share them, and have fun!

For Pickers:

  • You may know that there is a challenge lock requirement to earn a blue belt. If you accept a requirement lock, be willing to get to it immediately. At least be willing to gut it for verification before you pick it. If the maker has sent proof pics to the mods, you will only have to confirm shipment tracking or receipt of the lock. 
  • Add a key tag to any unmarked keys you get. Put as much relevant info as you have. 
  • If you get a “box set”, Do Not Separate! They’re to be experienced together. This is different than receiving several challenge locks at once. A box set will be obvious. 
  • A challenge lock, once sent out, is considered community property unless specifically gifted to an individual or otherwise noted by the maker. 
  • When gutting, make sure you check the pin chambers for mods. They can be surprisingly easy to miss. 
  • If you break any part of the lock trying to pick it or gut it, TELL THE MAKER! Things happen, and we assume no one would intentionally break a challenge lock. Work with them to repair it if possible, or send to the maker for repairs. Or, work out a modification that makes it a CL again. 
  • Try to tell the maker where their lock is, and where it’s going next. You won’t be able to find some, and others won’t care. That’s just how it goes. 
  • Don’t intentionally damage or destroy a CL unless it’s yours. 
  • Don’t modify a CL unless it’s okayed by the creator. 
  • Challenge Locks are intended for SPP only unless otherwise specified by the creator. Never attempt to rake or impression a CL unless it was built specifically for that purpose. 
  • CLs are for trading, not for collecting. Life happens and we all sit on a lock for too long sometimes, but please try to move them along eventually. 
  • If you receive a CL that secures some sort of prize, replace with similar prize before passing along. 
  • Check and leave a message. This could satisfy the recommendation to tell a maker where their lock is currently located. 
  • Take pics and videos, share them, and have fun!

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About the Author

Author: Keyla Sentry

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