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Padlock's Dark Secret

This past month a local storage facility had 40 units robbed in one night. The location was gated and they had security cameras (that did not work), but I wondered about the padlocks.Those thieves had to get past 40 padlocks, do it quickly, and do it quietly. The dark secret is that most padlocks are really not all that secure. If these common thieves could defeat dozens of them without attracting attention, imagine how long it would take them to defeat your lock. In fact, you don’t need to imagine, watch the following video to see just how easy it is to defeat a common padlock.

Pick, Grind, Cut, or Drill

I get calls every week from people who have lost the keys to their padlocks. Many are surprised when we cut the lock off in under 20 seconds. As you can see in the video above, even hardened steel is no match for a simple dremel tool or grinder. But what about disk style locks, trailer hitch locks, or other padlocks where the shackle is protected? In that case a 1/8” drill bit above the keyway makes short work of the lock. Unfortunately, that thick, heavy padlock you have on your shed or storage unit is not a deterrent to most criminals (although it may keep the neighborhood kids away). Master Lock, one of the biggest padlock manufacturers, released this commercial recently demonstrating the durability of their locks (spoiler alert – there are guns involved) :

I am am not disputing that the lock can take a beating and even a bullet, but the same grinder or cutter you saw above will eat through that shackle in seconds.

The Answer:

Unfortunately, there is no “one size fits all” solution. But I am confident the answer cannot be found for $15 at your local hardware store. The best padlock (by far) is made by Mul-T-Lock. This padlock is…amazing. Not only is the keyway the most secure of any lock we work with, but the padlock itself is extremely well designed and beefy. As you can see in the picture, the shackle is protected. Now a grinder will eventually tear enough of the lock apart to get it open, but my testing showed that it took four cuts of more than three minutes each with my angle grinder. 12 minutes may not seem like much, but it is an eternity for a thief especially when making as much noise as an angle grinder does. Of course the price tag reflects its value.

The Hockypuck:

If the above lock seems like overkill to you, you can always try a hockey puck style padlock. This padlock requires a special hasp (also pictured), but when installed the shackle is completely protected. Of course the keyway itself is still exposed to be drilled. In my testing I was able to drill the keyway in approximately 60 seconds, but cutting the lock off the door took nearly 10 minutes to find the right spot. These locks usually run around $50 depending on the manufacturer and another $20 for the special hasp.

The Disc Padlock:

So if neither of the two locks above float your boat. I understand. That storage unit with grandma’s old couch is just not worth the trouble. In this case, at lease purchase a disc lock from your local hardware store. The shackle on the disc lock is somewhat difficult to access and you can most likely pick one up for $20. Of course we were able to cut this lock off a hasp in less than a minute, but it does provide some protection against standard bolt cutters.


Don’t fall for fancy marketing. Just because the manufacturer calls that hunk of metal a lock does not mean it is secure. Also, consider what you are attaching the lock to. An excellent lock on a pot metal hasp held in with some 1/2” screws is not going to protect your items. Remember that most thieves will come prepared with a battery powered grinder or a pair of bolt cutters. Try to consider what a thief would do if he/she was attempting to defeat that padlock. Would a pair of bolt cutters do the trick? a grinder? or perhaps just a crowbar to rip the hap off that rotten wood shed. You can also call a local locksmith to review your gate, shed, door, or storage unit to make suggestions on how to keep your belongings safe.

Bonus Video:

Shooting locks looked like a lot of fun so I decided to include this video from Mythbusters where they obliterate several padlocks and deadbolts with a variety of guns.

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