Along with many other types of survival skills, how to escape from handcuffs is the kind of practical information that everyone should know, and hope never to need. In the event that you do find yourself unlawfully restrained, knowledge of these escape tactics and the various tools required could be invaluable. This overview will cover the main ways to escape from standard ratchet-style metal handcuffs after maneuvering into the best position to do so: lock picking, releasing the pawl with a shim, and duplicate keys.
Upon unlawful detainment, the first thing to keep in mind is the position of your hands. If you can at all control your hand position as they are cuffed, you have a better chance of escape. Escaping from cuffs is very difficult if your hands are behind your back, so do everything possible to ensure that your hands are in front of you. In the worst-case scenario, you may need to sit or lie down, lift your legs and feet as close to your body as possible, and maneuver your hands around to the front of your body beneath your feet. This will put you in a much better position to begin to pick the lock. The more flexible you are the easier this will be, so practice this regularly if you are in a line of work or often find yourself in situations where being unlawfully detained is a threat.
Once your hands are positioned as best as you can get them, the lock can be picked with a simple length of wire such as a straightened paper clip or bobby pin (sans rubber cap).
The wire first needs to be prepared. To do so, bend the end into a 90 degree angle by inserting the pin or clip halfway into the upper portion of the lock and bending to the left to attain a 90 degree bend. Take it out and re-bend it in the opposite direction to achieve a roughly S-shaped bend, where both bends are about 90 degrees but heading in opposite directions. The next step will require the most practice to become proficient: insert the newly-bent pick into the upper portion of the lock (this may take a bit of maneuvering, as the pick needs to bypass the lip of the lock) and apply enough tension (mimicking the key pressing against the lock mechanism) to release the lock. Check out this helpful video tutorial from ITS Tactical:
If you do not have access to a suitable length of wire, you can also pick the lock by using a shim to release the pawl. A shim is any small, flat piece of metal you can find, about the width of a credit card and narrow enough to fit into the locking mechanism. To release the pawl, insert the shim between the locking mechanism and the teeth. With the shim in place, tighten the cuff a single notch, and simultaneously push on the shim. The cuff should unclick. This method will not work if the cuffs are double locked, because the double lock prevents the cuffs from ratcheting any tighter. WikiHow has a great series of photographs demonstrating the shimming technique.
While the aforementioned methods can work with practice and under the right circumstances, a much surer method of escape is to keep a duplicate key on your person. This at first sounds nearly impossible until you consider the fact that most handcuffs can all be unlocked with the same universal key- a feature that greatly simplifies the process for law enforcement. TIHK is an excellent solution due to the easily-concealable design that allows you to clip it to your clothing in undetectable places. A tiny inconspicuous handcuff key is a valuable addition to any survival toolkit, and can be easily taken with you and hidden on your person if you think you may find yourself in an unpleasant situation.
Why should a universal handcuff key be made available for everyone to purchase? While handcuffs themselves are in use by Law Enforcement Officers in order to protect and serve our communities, they can be legally purchased by anyone. It only takes a few minutes to place an order online and obtain the exact same handcuffs used by Law Enforcement nationwide.
If anyone can easily own a handcuff then why would it be illegal to own a handcuff key? It is not. In fact, there is no Federal or state law restricting ownership of handcuff keys.
While there are too many situations to list in which a Universal Handcuff Key could come in handy, the legality of its use is important to consider. If you are legally detained by a Law Enforcement officer and utilize a handcuff key, shim or other implement to remove the hand cuffs then you are crossing the chasm of legality. By doing so you have exponentially increased the risk to the arresting officer, and their potential response to your self-induced "freedom" may be commensurate. Along those same lines, it would be wise to notify an arresting officer of a Universal Handcuff Key on your person to avoid any ambiguity regarding your intent to escape or do harm.
So then why would anybody want to own or carry a Universal Handcuff Key? If you're a criminal, or plan on committing criminal acts, then you should not put yourself or any public servant's life in danger by having one. If you're a Law Enforcement Officer, Active-duty Military, Private Security, or other first responder then you should always have a backup universal handcuff key- for countless reasons. If you're a law-abiding citizen with common sense and want to be prepared for the unexpected event which may require its use then you also should own one.
In conclusion, handcuffs are prolific devices that can be purchased by anyone, including criminals. We do not encourage illegal use of our product, but firmly believe that a citizen has every right to own our product and make the decision on when they use it.
Notice to Florida Residents:
In the State of Florida there are some specific restrictions on handcuff key possession that prevent them from being carried by a person in a manner that could indicate an intent to prevent discovery by a law enforcement officer, unless you yourself are a law enforcement or security officer. You can find out more on this Florida State government website: http://www.flsenate.gov/Laws/Statutes/2011/843.021
Disclaimer: The TIHK is only to be used to counter illegal detainment and in accordance with all local, state and federal laws by trained law enforcement, military and security professionals. Improper use by civilians is not endorsed or encouraged. Use of the product is at your own personal risk and discretion.
Since the invention of the highly-effective ratcheted handcuff model, patented by W.V. Adams in 1862, nearly every style of handcuffs sold has used some version of the ratchet design. The primary differences among modern handcuffs, aside from brand variances in lock design, lie in the way the two separate cuffs are connected. The three main styles of ratchet handcuffs in use today are chain cuffs, hinge cuffs, and cuffs connected with a rigid bar.
Chain cuffs are by far the most popular cuffs for everyday use in law-enforcement due to their ease of application (even on a struggling subject) and the fact that they can be folded in half for better portability. The two cuffs are attached by a short chain, typically just two links long, and the ratchet arms are usually swing-through for even greater ease and speed of application: they can be applied to the subject’s wrist with just one hand.
Hinged cuffs are very similar to chain cuffs in every capacity save the connection point: they are attached by a hinge rather than a chain. Hinge cuffs are shorter than chain cuffs when extended, thus allowing for less movement on the part of the subject. This makes them potentially more secure, but more also potentially more difficult to apply if the subject is in motion. Many law enforcement officers find that the solution to this problem, if one wrist has been cuffed but the subject is non-compliant, is the ability to apply uncomfortable torque on the cuffed wrist as a method of persuasion. This method of eliciting compliance would be difficult or impossible with the more flexible chain cuffs.
The third most common type of cuff is connected by a rigid solid bar. When actively used on a subject, they function more like hinged cuffs, holding the hands closer together than chain cuffs and providing the least mobility for the subject. This makes them more secure than chain cuffs, but the downside is that they are also more difficult to carry even than hinged cuffs because they cannot be folded in half. Rigid bar cuffs, like hinged cuffs, allow the law enforcement officer to apply pain-compliance techniques that aren’t possible with chain cuffs. Where chain cuffs are more likely to be used during an initial arrest, rigid bar cuffs may be used when transporting a subject from one place to another, particularly if the subject is known to be non-compliant.
What all of these cuffs have in common is the potential to be opened with a universal handcuff key such as TIHK. Regardless of the type of connection between the two cuffs, most modern handcuffs have a very simple lock design for practical reasons. As a result, a universal cuff key may very well be able to open chain cuffs, rigid bar cuffs, and hinged cuffs, though ease of use may vary according to the varied mobility provided by the different styles. Variations in manufacturing and lock styles notwithstanding, TIHK can open every one of these types of handcuffs.
Last Updated: October 10, 2017
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