Survival: Opening Combination Padlocks


Survival Tip — Opening Combination Padlocks

Finding a combination lock’s numbers can take you hours, maybe even days. You might be in a situation one day that the only thing between you and food or a first aid kit could be a lockbox or storage unit with a combination lock on it and you might not have anything to bust it open with. Well, here’s how to narrow tons of possible combinations down to only 100:

— Start at zero, pull the lock bolt up as if you were pulling it open, until it is nice and tight. Move the dial counter-clockwise until you feel it stop – it will be a little loose and should wiggle between two numbers (for example, it may stop and the furthest clockwise you will see 2 and then turn it counter clockwise and it might be at 3) The real number in that scenario is going to be whatever is in the middle of the two — in this case you’d write down 2.5 — if the two numbers it rolls back and forth with are 14.5 and 15.5 then you’d write down 15.

— After you write the number down release the bolt and pull it up again to continue finding numbers all the way around the dial. By the time you work your way all the way around, you should have 12 possible numbers. You will most likely have 7 numbers that are .5 (between numbers) and 5 numbers that have landed on a solid number. Eliminate all the .5 possibilities.

— Out of the 5 remaining numbers you will then have one oddball and the rest will end in the same number. For an example, you might have the numbers 2, 12, 18, 22, 32. — Write down the oddball number and forget the rest. This “oddball number” is your third number on the combination.

— Divide the oddball number by 4. In our selected example we used the number 18 so we’d divide 18 by 4 = 4 R2 because 4 x 4 is 16 which leaves us with a remaining number of 2. (Note: your remaining number will always be 0,1,2 or 3) This remaining number is going to help us find 10 possible numbers that is the 1st combination selection in the lock and 10 possible numbers for the 2nd number in the combination.

— Using your remaining digit, make a list of numbers by adding 4 until you have all 10 of the first choice numbers. Using our example of 2 we’d have 2, 6, 10, 14, 18, 22, 26, 30, 34, 38 (One of these ten numbers is your lucky 1st digit in the combination)

— Now, we are going to use a number key that you’ll want to burn into your memory that will help us get the last set of numbers that will be used to find the 2nd number in the combination. Here’s the key code:

0 = 2
1 = 3
2 = 0
3 = 1

— Using our key code we know that our example number (2) equals zero. Now, just as we had done before, we’ll take this new number (since our remaining number in our example was 2, we’ll be using zero) and again, we’ll add by 4 until we have 10 possible numbers. 0, 4, 8, 12, 16, 20, 24, 28, 32, 36 (the lock only moves from 0 to 39 so that’s as high as we need to go)

— Now you have narrowed it down to about 100 combinations instead of thousands.

So using our example “oddball number” of 18 we have found these possible combinations.

1st digit possibilities:
2, 6, 10, 14, 18, 22, 26, 30, 34, 38

2nd digit possibilities:
0, 4, 8, 12, 16, 20, 24, 28, 32, 36

3rd digit:

I’d start with the first digit in row one and go through each 2nd digit combination (using 18 as the third in all tries) and if it’s not that first digit mark it out and move on to the next one. Example: use 2,0,18 then 2,4,18 then 2,8,18 etc etc. then when you’ve tried all ten possibilities using 2 as the first number in the lock sequence if none of them worked move on to 6,0,18 then 6,4,18 and so on.

Keep in mind that all of your numbers might be different than the ones used in this example.. To recap a little, your numbers are dependent on finding the “oddball number” from the lock clicks — then dividing by 4 to find the remaining digit.. Using that number to find your 1st number by adding 4 to it until you have 10 choices, then use the remaining number again WITH THE KEY CODE that you’ll put into memory to find out the starting point of the last list of numbers, which out of those 10, one of them will be your 2nd digit in the lock.

Spinning — For people who’ve never used a combination lock:

— Of course you start at 0 on the lock and you spin it clockwise, in full circles until you reach your first number on its 3rd turn, then counter clockwise until you reach the 2nd possible number on the second full spin (do not pass the number on the second turn around the dial or you’ll have to start again) — then of course you’ll spin clockwise one last time and stop right on the main (3rd) number. Again, if you pass the digits and spin too many times you will have to start over. Just remember spin 3 times around right, 2 times around left, then right without passing the number at all and land on the last digit.

Using our example numbers let’s say our combination ended up being 30, 12, 18

A. Start at 0 – spin clockwise (right)… passing the number 30 twice and landing ON 30 the third spin around.

B. Starting where you last landed (30 in this case) spin counter-clockwise (left) passing your 2nd digit (the number 12 in our example) once, then stop on the number on the 2nd spin around.

Now, last but not least, spin clockwise (right) one last time… But do not pass your final digit.. We will land directly on 18. Even if your 2nd number was close to it like numbers 20 or 21 etc — You’d only move to the right until you reach the last number on its first turn.

Now pull the lock down, when you’ve found the right combination, that metal container full of food you’ve opened while searching for supplies in a post apocalyptic world will feed your family and help you to stay alive. Or, you may have just forgotten your combination of your gym locker which has your wallet, keys and a paper with the combination lock numbers written down IN THE LOCKER lol. Good luck. I suggest buying a lock or two and try this out. You never know what skills you’ll need. — —

This only works for padlocks that have o – 39 on the dial. There are tons of various lock types. We do not encourage you to actively use these skills to steal from people… These skills should be practiced on your own locks but only used when or if you really need to in a survival scenario. — Got advice  for a better way to open the lock (aside from bolt cutters and sledge hammers etc)? Let us know. We’re also interested in other kinds of locks or tricks and skills that might one day be a life saver. Write us at

Until next time..
William C. Raustler