When starting out picking ASSA 700 and the related locks, I noticed that there is absolutely nothing written about picking these works of evil. Now that I've picked quite a few, I feel cocky enough to write a little guide for those starting out, detailing the things I'd have wanted to know when first trying (and failing) to pick them.
I'm not sure I'm even remotely qualified to be writing this - I am more stubborn than good at this - but at least noone should be worse off after reading this guide than before.
For the past 40 years or so, the ASSA 700 has been the standard medium security offering from ASSA. In Sweden, they are probably the single most common cylinder. While there are some older locks originally sold as ASSA 700, as well as various custom pinned things with varying security levels, what I'm going to focus here is the most common variant, which is both the single most common one as well as what you can expect if you buy a factory pinned ASSA 700 today.
They come with the characteristic driver pins I call "mushroom cloud pins" (otherwise known as "christmas tree pins"), sometimes mixed with the "half spools" or "gin bottle pins". What all these pins have in common is that they have one or several sharp lips. Picking these on their own is somewhat trickier than normal spools, but what really makes ASSA 700 stand out - or rather stay locked - is the deep counter-milling in the plug chambers for them to get stuck in.
The ASSA 700 also has torpedo key pins that help complicate both picking and impressioning.
Typically in a factory pinned 700 you will have 3-4 security pins, both key and driver.
Link to cutaway lock showing security pins: https://blackbag.toool.nl/wp-content/up ... sa-700.jpg
On top of this, they are manufactured to very tight tolerances.
Together, this makes ASSA 700 potentially one of the most challenging mass produced pin tumblers, although the actual difficulty level varies a lot even with factory pinned locks. Some locks have seemingly similar pinning and bitting yet differ a lot in pickability.
This guide also applies to certain other ASSA locks (eg. the top pins of older Twins) as well as similar locks from other manufacturers, like the outright clone DCS DC500 by DORMA. Some of the older ASSA locks lack the torpedo key pins but commonly have nothing but security drivers.
I'm going to assume that you are picking a lock with the most common profile, as pictured above, or a similar profile - like the second most common one, that's basically a mirror image. The basic principles obviously apply regardless.
Stage 1: Getting a false set.
Some locks, especially those with many security pins, you can either rake into a false set or kinda poke around in half-heartedly and then fire up the pick-fu. Not the ASSA 700. You not only have the tight tolerances, but also the torpedo pins. They have a natural tendency to rise under tension - this is what makes them prevent impressioning, but also mean that they overset very easily.
As you are aware, normal pins will naturally tend to stay at the shear line and there will be a noticeable differential in the force needed to move them past it. Torpedo pins however, with their rounded heads, will happily keep travelling. Once you get past a certain, surprisingly early, point, the head and neck will "set" at the shear line and stay there. To make matters worse, this often feels very much like an actual set.
You need to be gentle with the lifting, stopping instantly when you feel the pin set, and above all disturb neighboring pins as little as possible. Typically what will happen if you approach it in the wrong way and/or with the wrong tools is that you will poke around for a bit and perhaps feel like you set a couple of pins, only to end up with a single overset torpedo pin and nothing else.
With the standard profile, you will typically want to start poking the pins from the very bottom of the keyway using a long sharp hook or deforest diamond. The little "ledge" right below the pins looks like a nice place to insert a pick (and this works perfectly fine with some other locks that share the same profile, such as the Biltema "ASSA light"), but this will not work very well with most bittings unless you get really lucky with the pick choice.
Stage 2: False set.
After finishing stage 1, you will get a false set, often accompanied by a loud "thunk!". It will be significantly shallower than what you'd expect from normal spools, and as you can tell from the picture it might not even be visually obvious without a frame of reference, but there is no mistaking it when it actually happens during picking.
The false set can be one of two different kinds; one is shallower and one is deeper (note that this is very relative - what's pictured above is in fact the deeper one).
The shallow one means that the wide lip of a pin is above the countermilling but below shear. This is remedied by simply pushing the pin up and the lock will go into the deep false set, without any drama but possibly with a little bit of counter-rotation. Since there is no danger of oversetting pins at this point, you can just give all pins a poke when it happens.
Also, if the lock returns to the shallow false set later during this stage, it means you either underset the current pin or partially dropped a pin. In either case, the remedy is simple - just give the pins a good poke each, starting with the one you were just working on, until the deep false set returns.
Now, before we get to the fun part, it might be worth mentioning that unlike regular spools, having "set" a pin during the first stage is no guarantee that it isn't a security pin. You will want to test all pins - again, there is no danger of overset at this point.
From this point on, you may want to tension the lock in a way that gives you bi-directional control. This means either using two wrenches as pictured here, or a single wrench that fits snugly in the keyway. This is not strictly speaking needed with most 700's, but it's certainly helpful.
With very light tension, test each pin for counter-rotation.
If the chamber is not counter-milled, it will set following the same basic principles as a normal spool or mushroom pin albeit with somewhat more difficulty.
If the chamber is counter-milled, you will get a bit of counter-rotation and then it will come to a stop. If you just keep lifting at this point chances are higher
that you will bend the pick than that the pin will get out of the counter-milling and set.
Regardless of which, you will want really stable contact with the pin - use the widest and/or thickest pick possible.
Now, there are two different techniques to use here, and the best one to use for a specific pin in a specific lock will vary.
The first one is to rock or vibrate the pin out of the countermilling. You basically give it a series of small pushes under light tension, letting the core counter-rotate slightly each time until it's worked loose.
The second one is to apply a bit of counter-rotation manually. You don't want to actually rotate it a lot - then you will not set the pin and potentially drop stuff - but rather apply a small pulse of counter-rotation to give it a nudge. You want to be applying regular tension again as soon as its starting to lift. If you are using two wrenches, under no circumstances should you let off the regular tension completely. Instead you should work against it with small bursts of counter-tension.
The pins will have a tendency to fall back down at this point. You will have to hunt for the proper order to set them in, although this isn't fundamentally different from locks with tricky spools. If a pin consistently causes you to drop stuff when using the first method, you should consider applying the second. Even if it's getting out of the counter-milling without help, you may have difficulties controlling the rotation while lifting it otherwise.
If a pin has a high cut and you are pivoting from the bottom, you may have to lift the pick off the bottom to lift the pin all the way. If this is the case, it will typically surface as the lock entering a shallow false set after you think you have set the pin.
If no pin gives you any counter-rotation whatsoever, it means they are all hopelessly jammed up in the countermilling. Give it a bit of counter-rotation - basically as much as you can without dropping pins.
Whether or not to actually hold both tension wrenches when hunting for the next false set is a matter of personal preference. On one hand, it can give you more feedback. On the other hand, it can also give you feedback that feels very different.
Repeat above until open. Then pick it again. Then pick some more!
PS. If you are Swedish, brand new ASSA 700s can be found online at http://www.laskompaniet.se/product/cylinder-701-assa Or in your neighborhood lock store, at a slightly higher cost.
PS2. I should give credit to asdfkoas on YouTube for being the first one to publicly demonstrate using two wrenches like this.