All About Disposable Restraints

All About Disposable Restraints

As many of our loyal customers have pointed out to us, a handcuff key will be of little use if you find yourself tied up in disposable restraints. Read on to learn all about disposable restraints, the circumstances in which they are often used, and some tips for escaping unlawful detainment.

What are They?

A disposable restraint can be an extremely effective tactic, yet as simple as a single zip tie. Zip ties come in different units of “tensile strength”, which is the maximum stress they can withstand before failing. A standard nylon tie sold for the purpose of detainment (such as a Flex-Cuf) will likely have a tensile strength of anywhere between 300-600 pounds. (Cable ties sold at your local hardware store will be tough, but likely with a lower tensile strength.) These cuffs come in two types: a single length of cable that is wrapped around both wrists, or a set that looks more like traditional handcuffs with a separate loop and lock for each wrist. Zip ties function with the same ratchet mechanism as standard handcuffs, the difference being the absence of a lock and key.


Silverxxx / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0 / GFDL

Where Are They Used?

Disposable restraints are most often seen when law enforcement anticipates a high number of arrests that renders metal cuffs impractical, such as riots or demonstrations. They are cheap, lightweight, and easy to carry in bulk, which makes them ideal for detaining a large number of individuals at once. They can also be more easily attached to one another than metal cuffs, which allows an officer to easily contain a group of detainees if working alone. Zip ties are also a common restraint of choice for those with more sinister motives, for the same practical purposes: cheap, quick to use, and lightweight, not to mention easily concealable.

helloturkeytoe / CC BY 2.0


Should you find yourself unlawfully restrained with plastic cuffs, rest assured that with a little practice and resourcefulness, there are several ways to escape them. The effectiveness of these tactics will depend on the material type and thickness as well as the positioning of your hands and what tools you have at your disposal.

-Brute force: by tightening the cuffs as much as possible and then bringing them down hard against your body, it is possible to snap the cuffs.

-Melting: a flame or cigarette lighter may be able to melt the plastic, weakening it enough for you to pull the cuffs apart (preferably before burning yourself).

-Sawing: a sharp serrated edge may be able to saw through the material, if you can position your hands correctly or rub them against the tool.

-Shimming: because zip ties operate with a ratchet mechanism, you can shim them in the same way you may shim standard metal cuffs that haven’t been double locked.

Check back next month for a more in-depth study of disposable restraint escape methods.