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How to Pick Handcuffs and Escape Restraints

Discover ways to escape from handcuffs, duct tape, rope, and zip ties

In the unfortunate event that you are taken, you will probably be restrained in some way. In this article you will discover numerous ways to escape from these restraints including getting out of handcuffs, duct tape, rope, and zip ties.

In this article, the term handcuffs is used for all types of restraints, including how to escape police handcuffs. 

Position and Wriggle

To position yourself for an easier escape, present your hands in front of you and make yourself larger by:

  • Puffing your chest.
  • ​ Flexing your muscles.
  • ​Pushing your forearms down so the restraints are around the larger part of your arms.
  • ​Spreading your hands while keeping your thumbs together. This creates the illusion of closed palms, while leaving a gap at your wrists.

Once you are tied up, shrink yourself down to normal size to create gaps you can wriggle out of.


Spread your hands while keeping your thumbs together

When in a chair, breathe in deeply and arch your lower back.

Straighten your arms as much as you can without being obvious, and move your feet to the outside of the chair legs.

If possible, bunch up a bit of the rope in your fist. 

Once alone, do not reposition yourself until you have accessed the restraints and made an escape plan. You do not want to make things worse or get caught in the act with no plan.

If your hands are behind you, move them to one side of your body and look down. Alternatively, use any reflective surface, such as a window or mirror.

To get your hands in front of you, lower them to the back of your knees and step through them one at a time.

To wriggle out of rope restraints, straighten your arms out in front of you and press your hands flat together. Shimmy your arms back and forth until you can get one out.

How to Escape from Handcuffs by Cutting

Many types of restraints are easy to defeat if you have something to cut them with, such as a razor blade, glass, or an aluminum can. Be careful not to cut yourself, especially in an artery.

When you don’t have something sharp, find a 90-degree angle. A rough surface, such as the corner of a wall, a chair, or a piece of furniture, works best. Put your hands in the middle of the edge and do a sawing motion until the material is cut.

If you have some paracord, tie a foot loop on each end. Insert the paracord between the restraint material and your body. Place your feet in the loops and lie on your back. Make a bicycling motion with your feet to saw through the restraints.

How to Break Handcuffs

If you have duct tape handcuffs on hands and/or ankles, you can use momentum and force to tear through it. If you need to do so, take these actions suddenly: 

To free your ankles, turn your feet outward into a V. Squat down quickly, driving your buttocks into your heels.

For your wrists, extend your hands forward at shoulder height and then drive your elbows back past your rib cage.


Breaking out of duct tape

An alternative method to force your wrists free is to raise your arms high above your head, and then drive your arms down and out to the sides, past your hips. 

To use this method for escaping from zip ties, first move the locking mechanism to where the palms of your hands meet, or as close as you can get.

When duct-taped to a chair, lean back as far as possible. Thrust your head towards your knees as if you were assuming the crash position on an airplane.

To break handcuffs, use a thick piece of metal (like a seatbelt) to pry the arms apart and break the rivet. Expect to get cut while doing this.

3-How-to-Pick-Handcuffs (1).jpg

Using a seatbelt buckle to pry open handcuffs

How to Get Out of Handcuffs by Shimming

Use any thin wire (e.g., a paperclip) to shim open the locking mechanism of zip tie handcuffs.

Wedge the wire between the ratchet and teeth of the zip tie, and then pull your wrists apart.


Shimming out of zip tie hand cuffs

Get some zip ties and paperclips to practice here.

You can use the same principle on handcuffs that aren’t double-locked, but the shim needs to be sturdier. A bobby pin or hair barrette works.

Drive the shim between the teeth and the ratchet. Once it is in as far as you can get it, tighten the handcuffs on you a little more to get the shim in deeper. This will release the cuffs so you can lift your hand out.

Ensure your shim isn’t too thin/weak, or it will get stuck. For example, if using an aluminum can, double it up.


Using a shim to open police hand cuffs

Picking Handcuffs

Picking is a safer way to get out of handcuffs because you don’t have to tighten them. It also works on double lock handcuffs.

Use a bobby pin or thick paperclip to create the pick.

Straighten it out and make two 90-degree bends. If using a bobby pin, make the bends on the smooth side of it. 

You can use the keyhole in the cuffs to make the bends.


Shape of pick for opening handcuffs.

Hold your hand so the teeth of the cuffs are on the bottom. Insert the bent end of your pick into the small slot part of the keyhole until it hits metal.

Pull it towards the ground and to the right in two distinct movements. This action does not require force.


Picking handcuffs

For double lock handcuffs, release the other side first in the same manner.

Here's a video to demonstrate picking handcuffs with a bobby pin.

How to Escape Handcuffs Conclusion

In this article you discovered several different types of handcuffs and various ways to escape them including wriggling, cutting, forcing, shimming, and picking.

The technique you use to get out of handcuffs depends on the material used to restrain you. Let’s hope you never have to actually put these escape techniques into practice.

Did you find this article about how to break out of handcuffs useful? If so, please share it with your friends.

Article by Sam Fury

Sam Fury 3 png
Sam Fury 3 png

Sam Fury is the creator and owner of the Survival Fitness Plan.

He has had a passion for martial arts and outdoor pursuits since he was a young boy growing up in Australia.

As a young adult he joined the military and studied outdoor leadership in college. After that, to further his skills, Sam started traveling to learn from the best in the world in various fields related to the Survival Fitness Plan including various martial arts in China, SE Asia and Brazil, Parkour in Singapore, Surf Life Saving in Australia, and others. 

These days, he still enjoys learning new things, traveling and sharing what he has learned via the Survival Fitness Plan. 

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