The purposeful design of the universal handcuff key means that most handcuffs can be opened with the same basic universal key shape. This is intentional; it allows for easy transport of prisoners between locations, jurisdictions, facilities, etc. However- as with all rules, there are a few exceptions.
For your basic non-malicious misdemeanor sort of bad guy, a normal set of handcuffs is fine. But there are some people that you just can’t afford to let loose. For the really bad guys, there are high security handcuffs. High security handcuffs cannot be opened with a universal handcuff key. Many high security handcuffs include a waist chain to further impede the prisoner’s mobility. These cuffs are pick-resistant with restricted key control systems, and some even include a secondary mechanism that increases the strength of the double lock. High security handcuffs are keyed individually.
Thumb cuffs are not anywhere near as common as handcuffs, in large part due to the increased risk of injury associated with them. Some thumb cuffs may be able to be opened with your standard universal handcuff key, but many come with their own personalized set of keys. Don’t count on being able to open them with a universal key.
You may find some variation amongst handcuff brands and find that your “universal” handcuff key doesn’t work with a particular brand. This may change even from model to model within a brand. But by and large the simple universal handcuff key design and a sturdy, well-made key will open just about any pair of standard modern cuffs you can get your hands on (or in).
Last Updated: October 10, 2017
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