Pat Watson: Less than 1% of my fellow officers knew about or were able to pick or bypass their way out of professional restraints and the other 99% were always shocked when I explained to them how easy it was to find and modify a small makeshift tool to allow an escape from law enforcement grade handcuffs.

About the author

I’m Pat Watson, I live just outside of Houston Texas where I teach CMOE and I train dogs full time. I’ve published a book on “Tactical Lock Picking” and I’m in the process of writing my second published book on the topic of CMOE and I absolutely love traveling and teaching and meeting all sorts of people in my classes. If you have an interest in learning this life-changing skill set, please shoot me an email at !


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Tactical Lock Picking &
Advanced Covert Entry Operations Training

The Article

A Covert Method of Entry Primer!

There is a huge incentive to learn “Covert Methods of Entry” skills.

There aren’t many people in the U.S. that even teach this CMOE skill set, but of those that do, many of them will provide training on the tools and the locks that they open but it’s likely that they are very limited in the scope of their training.

Some professional CMOE courses I’ve attended over the years can teach an entire 2-3 day course where the students never leave their seats or have to stand up from their desks – let alone going outside and gaining access to locked vehicles and getting bound and cuffed and breaking out of the trunk of a vehicle for restraint escape technique practice, which is what we do in even our basic courses.

Imagine going to a TCCC course and learning how to apply a tourniquet, how to stuff hemostatic gauze, and how to stabilize and maintain an airway with a nasopharyngeal airway or an OPA, but never having any hands-on time walking up to a training-casualty and never even having a discussion about how to assess the scene for triage involving multiple victims.

Imagine also having no clue that multiple injuries can exist at the same time on one victim.

Add in the fact that your triage will probably require you to treat certain injuries before others and now you have a working knowledge of tools and their application but, you don’t have a systemized approach to applying Tactical Combat Casualty Care.


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Just a matter of 2-3 seconds… silently and with evidence that can only be seen by those with the foreknowledge of what to look for

This full-spectrum “Systemized-Approach” requirement for crystalizing CMOE skills with not just “how to use a tool” but how to make CMOE entry decisions during emergencies when multiple variables exist is something that makes Uncensored Tactical unique in the training space.

Since this is a primer to CMOE, let’s give you a tour.

With a $25 set of tools, slightly larger than a pair of paper clips, and after a 60-second crash course from me, in one of my in-person Tactical Lock Picking courses, you’ll have the tools, the knowledge, and the skills to open more than 50% of all the residential front doors in this country.

And, for the residential door locks and the padlocks that you are able to open with this single small toolset, they’ll usually pop open in less than one to two minutes of inserting your tools.

Sometimes even just one to two seconds.

Even without your tools, I’ve been stationed in multiple DOD and federal facilities over the years, many of which are ripe with bulletin corkboards and shiny tri-folded information packets at the front desk of almost every building in every facility, and because of bureaucracy, an overwhelming number of door latches are improperly fit.

This allows me, and anyone else with 5 minutes of training, to make entry through most interior and even some exterior doors within secure facilities by sliding a laminated sheet of paper or a tri-fold info packet into the gap between the door and the frame, pushing the door’s latch into the receded and open position in just a matter of 2-3 seconds… silently and with evidence that can only be seen by those with the foreknowledge of what to look for if any evidence is left at all.

This is just the tip of the iceberg for the CMOE world.

The term “Lock Picking” can mean many things

When I say the term “Lock Picking”, it can mean many things.

It can mean sitting down with a hook pick, and a tension wrench, manipulating them inside of a high-security lock that holds a commercial front door locked, and trying to solve a mental and physical puzzle with years of training and finesse to perfectly lift multiple pins to the perfect height while applying the perfect amount of tension for close to an hour.

It can also mean that I visually glance at a padlock, I know that I have a tool in my pocket that bypasses the keyway to release a shackle with a simple twist of a tool, and then I quickly achieve a silent, evidence-free, entry.

Scary stuff. Scary fast.

And it is often, but not always, insanely easy to apply.

Which reminds us of the intro above.

Most instructors will in fact teach you how to use some of these tools and techniques.

I believe, however, that what I teach is often a much wider foundation of tools and techniques that I give to my students to draw from than others but more importantly, I also provide a template for how to make decisions in the field based on your likelihood of success and failure with each tool/technique.

If you have lock picks, and you look at a lock, and you boldly tell your teammates “No problem, relax. I’ve got this” and you start picking a lock, what happens after 10-15 minutes when you still haven’t gained an entry?

You’ve now likely wasted that time when you could have found an easier lock to pick on the side or back of the building.

I’ve also been on active LEO callouts when I’ve had Deputies on scene ask me to pick a lock and when en route I’ve radioed them to check for unlocked windows and doors and shortly after I sheepishly get canceled from the call because “uh… we found our way in”.

The real value is that if you went to a discount course, you are more likely to get sucked into the problem and not make smart decisions about checking for a secondary entry point and you won’t pack or utilize a 2nd Line Gear bag with other more advanced tools, and you won’t call for a keyholder or a breacher or a locksmith early enough and you may not ever consider utilizing a multitude of other resources until it is too late and your entire primary entry attempt has failed, wasting precious time.

Pros and cons of commercial charges

Commonly asked questions.

“Yes,” you can use certain types of lock-picking tools to pick open vehicle keyways.

“Yes,” you can pick open doors and padlocks alike.

“Yes,” you can even decode combination locks using many different methods, of which I teach an entire block in my courses.

“No” it is not a set of skills that requires you to be a highly trained spy in order to acquire them.

If then, this skill is easy to learn, inexpensive, and relatively easy to apply, why exactly does it matter which course you attend if the tools are readily purchasable, and the skills can be applied literally by children?

Because these techniques, while simple, have many failure points and require a lot of troubleshooting to get some of these tools to gain entry.

Yes, it’s easy to shove a laminated piece of paper into a doorjamb, but what if the doorjamb is really tight and you’ve pushed and pushed and can’t get your flexible shim tool in?

Experienced answer: you push the top outside corner of the door to gain some flex so that you can start the insertion of your flexible tool.

Then you use both hands to slide the tool down to the latch.

What happens when you’re almost certain that this flexible tool should work, but you are pushing and pushing on the latch and it’s not budging?

Answer that is not covered in most other courses: you are either up against a protruding screw head (which is fixable by attacking the latch straight on, laterally, or by attacking up or down at a 45-degree angle) or the latch has a dead latch mechanism that prevents the latch from receding (and if that’s the case, then you can bump the door closed very hard which sometimes allows the dead latch mechanism to be overridden).

This might not make much sense in text form but at least you’ve seen that there are many steps to a troubleshooting solution that require some training and foreknowledge more than just a one-sentence product description on a website.

Imagine going to a shooting course for beginners and your instructor never telling you that guns sometimes jam, and never telling you about clearing misfires, and then thinking that you are now ready for combat.

I teach failures. The sum total of my curriculum that I’ve designed weighs much more heavily on my failures in the field than it does on my successes.

And that is a good thing.

The nuance is the key, pun intended.

My staff and I spend hundreds of hours a year on developing the proper framing and principled approach of curriculum design so that our students/operators have the most prepared mindset to apply this very simple skill set during very complex real-world entry operations where multiple variables exist and the order of operations that you choose will have very serious consequences – the easiest of which I can show you here is “time” as a consequence.

Keep learning and educate yourself on all the options

I’ve designed a curriculum from the ground up for making emergency entry with lock picking and bypass tools, and I also host an Advanced Covert Entry Operations course that puts students into multiple live-field operations several nights in a row and gives them the ability to pull intel from people and to pull information from locks and keys, then we give our students the ability and tools to use that intel to cut a working key for a target lock … while still in the field and on a mission.

It lights up my life and I love teaching top-tier skill sets in as real of an environment as possible and as far from a bureaucratic classroom setting as possible.

Many people in the tactical world take the concept for granted that “Battering rams, shotguns, bolt cutters, explosive charges, are faster than lock picking” and the ever-popular phrase “I don’t need to learn lock picking because I have (insert tool)”.

After reading this primer, those assumptions should probably be highly questionable for you by now.


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Photos by Pat Watson