Thru-The-Lock Tool Review

You can find a variety of thru-the-lock tools out there, they come any many different sizes, names, prices, and most importantly quality. This is a quick review on the differences in the tools and their limitations. We thought this would be a good way to start before we post some thru-the-lock articles later on down the line. Some of these tools differences are so slight they are hard to spot until you take a close look at them. To start you can see the first picture that gives us a look at the most common thru-the-lock tools.


We will start with some of the oldest generation of commercially sold lock pulling tools. The K-Tool was invented in the 1960’s when thru-the-lock entry was just becoming an option. Many of the oldest thru-the-lock tools were homemade out of modified pry bars. The increased security features being installed on doors is what drove the original thru-the-lock tools. The K-tool is still an effective tool but has a limited use which is making it outdated. This is due to tubular deadbolts becoming very common and the invention of newer lock pullers that can pull all cylinders. The K-Tool is limited to rim and mortise cylinders however it is very effective  and portable which has allowed it to perform for many years on these types of locks. The body of the K-tool is too shallow to fit over the common tubular deadbolts found today. That is where the R-tool comes in, the R-tool is essentially a bigger version of the K-tool. It has the same design and pulls cylinders in the same way. However with the larger body it can fit over the tubular deadbolts also. The biggest drawback of this tool is the size. It is very bulky and is difficult to get around cylinders when they are close to the jamb or covered by handles.  They are also much less portable due to their size. If you look below you can see the difference in the depth of the tools body.

Below you see the Rex Tool and the Modified Rex Tool. These are some of the newest generation of lock pulling tools and in my opinion are the best ones you can use today. Because of their design you can pull any type of cylinder and also pull door knobs. Its slim design lets you reach locks that are under door handles or close to jambs.  The Rex-Tool is a great design and very effective tool however to take it one step further is the Modified Rex Tool.  The Modified Rex Tool is simply the cut off head of a Rex-Tool that has had a band welded on it. The band is made to fit a Halligan and is used in a similar fashion as the K-Tool. This makes it very portable and just as effective. It is simple to make and will be used much more because of having it with you and not having to go back to the truck. We have used it numerous times and had great success with this modified tool.

It is important to note that although the Rex-tool looks like the A-tool or O-tool (which we do not have pictures of) there is a big difference in their construction and how effective they are. You must look closely to tell the difference in the Rex-tool and the A-tool. Here are the main differences. The A-tool came out first, and they look like the Rex-tool having a handle that is connected to a head in the shape of a claw. The heads are smaller than the Rex-tool and have much less material that goes around the lock cylinders. The A-tool tends to slip easier when pulling cylinders and is difficult to use on tubular deadbolts compared to the Rex tool. The Rex tool  is  more expensive than the A-tool at almost double the price, but worth it for the way it performs. The easiest way to identify which tool you are buying or already have is by the shape in between the forks. The A-tool is like its name in the shape of an A. If you look at the picture above of the Modified Rex Tool you will see its signature shape is the U. This tapered U shape is a big reason the Rex-tool seats in locks so well and holds on while you pull. There are many other features that make one or the other better which we wont get into right now, this post was mainly to make it easier to identify the names and features of these tools. A quick note on the key tools and modified pliers. These perform the same functions of tripping the locks after we have pulled the cylinders. The advantage of the pliers is that you always have them with you. Many times the key tools will disappear out of the factory case they come in. The pliers are easy to make (which we will cover in another article) and work very well.

You can get into a lot more depth about these tools but that’s easier to do when explaining how to use them. This is just a way to get your terminology straight and recognize some of the differences between the tools. There are many other thru the lock tools available out there, but these are the most common. All of these were made by guys that ran into problems and came up with a better way to do things.

Explore posts in the same categories: 1. Forcible Entry

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7 Comments on “Thru-The-Lock Tool Review”

  1. Lynch Says:

    Excellent article on the differences in the tools. I think it’s important to remember that while some tools are far and away more effiient than others, each still has limitations. I like the modified Rex tool because it’s compact and can be carried in your pocket. I think the fulcrum is bigger and provides more leverage for the user. Also, it can be used by one firefighter operating alone.

  2. Kyle Smith Says:

    look forward to the article on how to make the thru the lock pliers. I tried to make a pair but ended up braking the handle when I tried to bend it over. I even used a propane torchto soften the metal. I must have done sonething wrong. Great tips keep them coming.

  3. GaryLane Says:

    Cool little article on basic stuff. Love it. Keep up the good work.

  4. TRUCK 4 Says:

    Definately a great article, it really is definately an eye opener for people who don’t know that half of this stuff exists. Our class in Whichita definately drove home the fact that everyone could use a little refresher. There are plenty of people out there who know what this “forcable entry stuff” is but they dont know how to properly apply it. And the best way to start learning is to know about the tools that get the job done. Thanks, great stuff.

  5. tinshacktruck Says:

    Kyle, try using an oxy-mapp or oxy-actylene torch. propane doesn’t quite get hot enough.

    • tinshacktruck is right, your first choice is a torch. An oxy-actylene will heat that tool up in a matter of seconds and allow you to bend it without cracking. If all you have at the station is a little propane torch it can still be done. You must have patience and proper placement of the tip of the flame. It can take 6 to 10 minutes of torching with propane to make it bend, but it works and we have made many of them this way, just dont expect it to be fast.

  6. denis parsons Says:

    amazing tools.i did a quick experiment with the lil rex and it drew the whole lock cylinder together with the backplate through the cylinder hole.I just straightened the bolts and backplate and ring and it’s ready to be refitted into the cylinder.

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