The Box O’ Truth #5 – The Locks O’ Truth

My friend DVDTracker, sent me an IM on and asked, “OP, I wonder how difficult it is to shoot a lock off? I’ve seen it done on TV and in movies, but wonder if it is as easy as they show it to be. How about if I send you some funds to buy some locks. Will you shoot them and report back?”

The only answer was, “Sure! Why not?”

So, with funds supplied by LifeLibertyEtc, I set up an experiment.

The question is: How hard is it to shoot a lock off?

This is the set up.

This is the set up.

The locks were “MintCraft, 2 inch Laminated Padlocks”, a knock-off of Master type locks.
They were heavy-duty and turned out to be tough.

We shot from a distance of about 15 feet, mostly to be far enough away in case of lead splattering.

Guys on the movies sometimes place the muzzle against the lock, but I’m not that crazy.

First, we shot a lock with 9mm ball.

You can see that it flattened out and dented the lock. It froze-up the lock and it could not be unlocked. But it held tight.


I decided to shoot the same lock with a 9mm JHP.

As you can see, it dented the lock, but bounced off.


Next, it was time for John Browning’s finest, the .45 ACP.

The .45 ball flattened out against the lock, but the key would still open it.

Not much effect.


So, it was time for the .44 Magnum, “The most powerful handgun in the world and capable of blowing your head clean off!”, at least according to Dirty Harry.

I used a 240 grain JHP.

I’ll admit to a bad shot that only hit the bottom of the lock, but the second one centered it just fine.

You can see where one of the pins on the lock was blown upwards.

The lock was frozen shut.

But the lock held like a rock.


Well, it was time for the rifles.

Now, just to get a little technical, rifles, when shot at close range, have what is called “sight-offset”, which means they will shoot low due to the sights being higher than the bore.

I tested one shot before taking the shot at the lock.

The sight offset for an AR is about 2 1/2 inches.



It was now time to shoot the lock, and aim 2 1/2 inches higher than the desired impact.

First, an AR shooting XM193 Ball.

The 5.56 went through the lock like a hot knife through butter.


This is the exit on the back of the lock.

The lock was frozen, but still held.

We also tried a round of Remington .223 Soft Point, with the exact same results.


Next, we shot the FAL, with Australian M1A2 Ball.

Here I am busting it.

Here I am busting it.

I am holding the new lock on the right just to compare.

The .308 blew the bottom half of the lock off.

But, once again, the lock held and did not come off, even when pulled.

I also loaded up a round with a pulled .30 AP bullet and got the same results.

This is the lock.

This is the lock.

We were not able to get a “Breeching round” for a shotgun, but my friend Blain had sent me a sample 12 gauge Brennke slug to test and this seemed like a good time to use it.

Here I am getting ready to test the shotgun.

Here I am getting ready to test the shotgun.

This is the result.

It blew it to pieces!

It blew it to pieces!

This picture shows where we found the biggest piece of the lock, 50 feet behind the target.

This picture shows where we found the biggest piece of the lock, 50 feet behind the target.

This is the rest of the lock.

This is the rest of the lock.

And here is a look from where we found it back to the target area.

And here is a look from where we found it back to the target area.

Lessons learned:
  1. “How hard is it to shoot off a lock?” Answer: Very hard.
  2. Pistols won’t shoot a lock off or even penetrate the lock.
  3. Pistols are pistols and rifles are rifles. Enough said.
  4. I now understand why our troops are often seen carrying “breeching shotguns” on their backs and a rifle in their hands. Shotguns will blow a lock off. Rifles will blow holes through a lock, but will not reliably shoot one off.
  5. The rifles went through the locks with ease. It is obvious that you could “knaw” off the lock, little by little with a rifle, but a shotgun does it with one shot.

Ain’t retirement great!

Thanks to Tman for taking the pictures and thanks again to DVDTracker for the sponsorship.

Addendum to The Locks O’ Truth:

I am often asked the question: “Don’t you know that the way you shot the locks is not the “best” way to break a lock?”

Answer: Of course I do. I was not trying to determine the “best” way to break a lock. To do that, the shooter should either shoot down onto the top of the lock body, or shoot the hasp itself.

What I was doing was testing the way locks are often shot in movies and TV shows to see if that would actually break or open the lock.

It so happens, that a few weeks ago I was watching the movie “Ronin” (a good one, BTW), and the bad guy was running down an alley trying to escape. He came to a locked gate. He pulled his 9mm pistol and shot the lock right in the body, just like I did.

The lock exploded and he made his escape.

I had to laugh.

6 Comments on The Box O’ Truth #5 – The Locks O’ Truth

  1. Great info. Lucky me I found your website by chance (stumbleupon).
    I’ve bookmarked it for later!

  2. Unsure of it’s deployment but akin to an under-barrel granade launcher, under-barrel shotguns for breaching are in many military inventories, i saw one being evaluated by a half-dozen CSOR & JTF2 members on a C8 while demoing a selection of select fire 7.62 carbines last year. I believe it was a semi-auto 2+1 box magazine design, because of my lower clearence i didn’t get closer than 100ft to it & had no interaction with them. I really don’t see why US marines carry a shotgun when entering a room when he could breach with a superior carbine & not handicap himself & his squad. I watched the evaluation for well over an hour and i observed no malfunctions, the evaluators consistantly breached the front foor, dropped all tagets inside & breached the hardened interior door’s hinges that they were setting up inside too, by the end they had three interior doors and 1 was randomly locked several times requiring the hinges to be shot off, they were all reloading the shotgun as fast as their C8’s (the shotgun attach was being moved to each personal carbine), it locked open on empty allowing for quick recognition & single shell in-the-hand OR box-mag reloads, 1 jtf2 guy did both, grabbing a shell from his pouch with a new mag, timing him he got 2+1 in under 3 secs everytime.

    seeing them all clear 4 locked rooms, with a dozen man-size targets spread throughout & then exit & engage more on the range until twice empty or 2 minutes (total) expired … i’m dumbfounded anyone would ever use an entire additional weapon. .. sure these were CSOR guys but it was their first ever hour on it! It worked phenomenally well!

  3. John Pate // May 15, 2016 at 8:48 am // Reply

    In the British military we were told to shoot around the lock in a door so that when you kicked the door it separated from the lock, for the very reason that shooting at the lock isn’t as effective even with an SMG.

  4. Have you tried using explosive rounds on a lock?

  5. While hunting, I had to deal with a locked gate blocking public land. The rancher was notorious for doing this. I had my 30-06, backed up behind a nearby tree to steady the shot and fired. I got lucky. The lock, a heavy duty padlock, disappeared with the first round fired. So while a puny .223 won’t work, a more powerful rifle does just fine.

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