Picking a Handcuff Lock

Have you ever locked yourself out of your car, and in those helpless moments before you call the locksmith, you imagine how much easier (and cheaper) the whole situation would be if you knew how to pick a car door lock? It’s a skill you probably imagined you would never need…until that moment. Similarly, the ability to pick a handcuff lock is one that may come in handy when you least expect it; anyone can legally purchase and carry handcuffs, therefore everyone should have knowledge of how to escape should they be unlawfully restrained.

Picking a handcuff lock, while requiring practice and the right circumstances, is simple in theory. Most handcuffs can be unlocked with a single universal key. The reason for this is ease and speed of use for law enforcement officers- imagine the difficulty if every single pair of handcuffs required a unique key! Because most types of cuffs can be unlocked with the same key, they can also be picked in much the same way. All you need is a length of wire, about the circumference of a paperclip or bobby pin, and patience.

One thing to note is that this method is much easier if your hands are in front of you, and you can see what you are doing. It may be necessary to maneuver your hands around your legs into a better position if they have been cuffed behind you. If you are using a bobby pin, straighten it and remove the rubber cap on the end. This is much easier to do with pliers, so it isn’t a bad idea to prepare a bobby pin in advance and keep it on your person. If using a paperclip, straighten it.

Bend the end into roughly a 90 degree angle- the easiest way to do this is by inserting the pin or clip halfway into the upper portion of the lock and bending it. This will allow you to maneuver the wire into the lock and apply tension in the appropriate place.

The next step will require the most practice to become proficient: insert the newly-bent pick into the upper portion of the lock, the curved portion of the pick heading toward the center of the cuffs (this may take a bit of wiggling, as the pick needs to bypass the lip of the lock.)

Then apply enough tension, mimicking the key pressing against the lock mechanism, to release the lock.

Double locks make handcuffs significantly more difficult to pick. In order to disengage double locked handcuffs, insert the pick into the upper portion of the lock as you would with a single-locked cuff, but face the curved portion in the opposite direction. Maneuvering the pick into the right location will require some practice. Once again apply tension to mimic the key disengaging the lock- a double lock may require significantly more force. Once this lock has been disengaged, you will need to remove your pick and re-insert it in the opposite direction to pick the single lock.

If you like to be prepared, you will want to supplement your newfound lock-picking knowledge with a useful tool like the Tiny Inconspicuous Handcuff Key, which removes the guesswork of a length of wire and is even easier to conceal!