Can a Bullet Really Break a Padlock?

Can a bullet really break a padlock

Movies are compelling. The good ones are convincing, especially when they sell the same story over and over. It’s brilliant manipulation and quite underappreciated. Unfortunately, the tactic leads to tropes, cliches that are not based in reality. Good guys always win is a classic example. Much like the guns that never run out of bullets on scree, the gun that blasts away a padlock seems overused. It’s hard to tell what is Hollywood magic and what’s real at times.

Can a bullet really break a padlock? Yes, some types of bullets can break a lock movie style. Well… not quite movie style, but at a distance a 12 gauge Brennke slug can pop a lock. Other bullets can probably ‘chew,’ through a padlock with enough shots. The Remington .223 Soft Point makes a nice small hole, and with a handful of shots, the lock would be no more. The way you shoot the lock may also make a difference. Aiming at the bottom or the hasp may get different results from shooting the padlock body.

What Types of Padlock Are There

Far from the basic model we see every day, padlocks can vary wildly. Not only do their inner workings change, but the type of lock (only some use keys) and materials, as well as style, depends on the user. The companies that manufacture locks also vary. Quality control and materials can be very dissimilar from one to the next.

Outdoor locks, for example, are designed with different levels of corrosion resistance. A stainless steel lock can sit in water. The lock on your kid sisters’ diary will rust if you think about water near it. You can pick that kind with a bent pin in a couple of seconds.

  1. Brass- These are usually a little smaller and less durable. They are meant for indoors and light use.
  2. Aluminum- Aluminum is very lightweight. While it will break more easily than steel, it also won’t weigh down a latch and bend it as easily.
  3. Combination- This lock style has numbers or letters that are set on a cylinder so you can turn them around. Some are designed so you can configure your own passcode. They may also have a hidden keyhole, but not always.
  4. Locker- When you think of a high school locker, a dial lock like this probably comes to mind. The mechanism has more in common with a non-digital safe than most traditional locks.
  5. All Weather- The most common version of this style uses a simple rubber coating around everything but the hasp and keyhole.
  6. Safety Lockout- These models are designed to comply with OSHA workplace safety standards. They are made of aluminum or plastic most often.
  7. Stainless Steel- When you see the iconic lock used everywhere, you are probably looking at stainless steel.
  8. Laminated Steel- Touted as the most durable lock available, laminated steel padlocks are cheap and easy to produce.
  9. Solid Steel- Solid locks are often used on things like rolled steel doors in front of stores and for other outdoor uses.
  10. Hidden Shackle- Truly unique, the hidden shackle locks are added security for things like vending machines and other publicly accessible, regular use lockable.
  11. Disk- These round locks have very little exposed hasp which makes cutting very difficult.
  12. Cable- An integrated cable ‘chain with a lockable end
  13. Monoblock- These massive locks are tough to cut and most often used for chains.
  14. Taplock- Some padlocks have hi-tech fingerprint scanners. This is overkill. If you need a fingerprint scanner on your padlock, spring for better security measures on whatever you’re locking up.
  15. Single Use- A hasp and a piece that bolts on is all there is to this style. The bolt shears off, and you have to cut (or shoot) to remove the lock.

Gun Safety

If you plan to shoot locks, please consider your safety first. This isn’t the sort of thing where you can wear a pair of safety goggles and relax. Locks have so many small parts inside they make great shrapnel. It might seem glamorous to shoot up a lock, but in a real escape situation, it could go badly for you.

Shooting yourself isn’t impressive Hollywood razzle-dazzle. It’s just dumb. If you feel the deep need to shoot at locks, at least set up a safe range. Shoot from a fair distance with proper gun safety protocols. I recommend the following Gun Safety Kit from Amazon. Click Here for the latest pricing.

How Else Can You Break a Padlock

Can you break a lock with a hammer? Not all locks are created equal, but yes. Without overwhelming you on the details, those with more complex insides don’t break as easily as those that are simple. Master lock, a common brand, can indeed be popped open with a hammer and some tension.

Try the same trick with two hammers. Hit both sides of the lock at the same time. Alternately you can take a pair of wrenches and use the opposing force to open some padlocks. Provided you learn the very basic technique, it is not hard to open a cheap padlock. Using a gun isn’t necessary. Frankly, you can hit a Master lock with something heavy, like a gun. When you’re done you still have a lock you can use.

It might be faster to use bolt cutters. Of course, carrying bolt cutters is unwieldy. It’s also very obvious. Stealth is out of the question with anything that size. You can saw through a padlock with a jewelers handsaw instead. It’s a smaller tool at least. It requires less strength to saw, though it takes a little longer. A little hand strength and leverage is surprisingly effective. Having a specialty tool doesn’t hurt your chances either.

How to Pick a Lock

Lockpicking isn’t as easy as it looks on TV. Sure, those cheap diary locks can be picked by a novice with a bent wire, but anything more complex takes some knowledge. However, you can pick a lock with paperclips, bobby pins or even a safety pin provided you learn how.

It’s a lot easier to ‘bump the lock,’ with a screwdriver or blank key. You set the key/screwdriver against the lock hole and hammer it in hard. It doesn’t always work and can backfire causing the lock to… well to lock up. It takes some strength and a little finesse, though not as much skill as picking a lock.

With two thin pieces of metal, you can pick a lock. It doesn’t matter where you get the metal as long as it’s flexible and doesn’t break. You need a ‘tension wrench,’ piece first. Make this by straightening out a piece of thin metal. Next, you need your ‘pick.’

For the pick, take and bend the tip of a piece of metal at a 45-90 degree angle. The tension wrench (AKA tension rod or torsion wrench) goes in to hold the pins in place.

Use the pick to basically jiggle the parts into the open position. It takes some skill. Try watching a few YouTube videos. It’s not a hard skill to learn, just time-consuming. Here is a locking picking kit for beginners. Click Here for the latest pricing. if you need a highly rated lock picking guide to learn lock picking Click Here.


Wait a minute! Didn’t the Mythbusters say you can’t shoot out a lock? Sort of. They tested several options very quickly and said a handgun doesn’t work. On the other hand they proved a shotgun and another gun did the job just fine. Also, I’d like to point out that, while I love Mythbusters, they are on TV! Trusting TV as your source for information is lazy and foolish, even when it’s amazingly cool TV like the Mythbusters. They get it right often, not always.

Final Thoughts

Sure, shooting a lock looks like fun, but it’s not practical. Do it for a lark with friends. The novelty can make a nice change of pace, plus you could post a YouTube video about it. Make an afternoon out of it and shoot at lots of kinds of locks with different bullets. Try turning the locks and shooting top and bottom portions. As long as you’re not planning to try this in some practical situation. If you are in danger and need to escape there’s probably an easier way.

The power of the padlock is all about looks. Yes, they will keep the uninitiated out of something for a while. Unfortunately, they are quite easy to ‘hack.’ There are a million videos to show you how to open any kind of padlock. You only need very basic materials. The sad truth is that a padlock might slow you down for a minute or two, but it should never stop you. My verdict, it’s not practical.

Additional Questions

Can you shoot a door open? The short answer is yes. There are shotgun rounds, known as “breaching rounds,” designed to do this exact trick. Enough damage and you can take out locks, knobs or even hinges. Real life is not TV and without a “breaching round,” it isn’t one shot. Common sense should tell you that bullets do massive damage, some more than others. Enough damage will go through anything.

Can a bullet ricochet back at me? They certainly can. What’s more, they can kill you. Bullets can ricochet off of any solid surface. They can even ricochet off of water if they hit just wrong. More than just a bullet can bounce back. Shrapnel can also ricochet and do as much damage, sometimes more.

Is there any kind of unbreakable padlock? No. There are some amazing padlocks on the market, but none are perfect. Especially if someone is going to shoot at them with large caliber weapons then the lock will eventually break. A thief who’s into chemistry can even use liquid nitrogen to freeze and shatter a lock. Alternately, a basic plastic explosive will do the job. Overkill or not, there’s always a way.

Recent Posts