I have travelled to some pretty “fun” places around the world over the years. In a lot of these places I have been in danger of being kidnapped. Yes, I have had specialist kidnap insurance so that a ransom payment could be made if necessary, and have had the appropriate security. But but what if the worst happens and I wasn’t kidnapped for ransom?
Quite frankly, I really didn’t fancy ending up on Al Jazeera in an orange jump suit. So, I made sure that should the worst happen I had the means to get myself free. With an increase in home invasions and terrorist hostage taking I feel there is mileage in ordinary people having a working knowledge of these techniques. Certainly, Serving Military and Contractors should learn how to do this as a matter of course. In fact, it wouldn’t do any harm for Police officers either, as it will show you how some of the scrotes you arrest could get free and cause you trouble.
Before you read any further please be aware that the following information is given strictly for use in the situation you are unlawfully detained. Do not use any of these techniques if you are lawfully detained by a legitimate authority. It will not end well for you if you get picked up in the town on a Saturday night and hand a copper his cuffs back when you get out of the back of the Black Maria at the nick…..
Where to start?
Firstly, you are probably going to be restrained in some way. Chances are that it will be by one of three most likely means. Zip ties/plasticuffs duct tape or handcuffs. These are all readily available and can be purchased almost completely anonymously, especially the zip ties and duct tape. There are other restraint options, but I will deal with them later. What we need to know is how to defeat each of these means of restraint.
Zip ties are used an awful lot for restraints. They were certainly used for prisoners when I was serving. The good thing about these is they are really simple to defeat. It all comes down to how they work. You might have a big thick plastic zip tie around your wrists, but the part that matters is the “buckle”. Think about how they work. The loose end of the zip tie is pushed through the buckle where it is held in place by a stud which clicks into a slot on underside of the zip tie. It is not the zip tie we need to defeat, just this stud. There is a simple technique for doing this, it works both with your hands in front or behind your back. Given that a picture paints a thousand words, see here for in front and here for behind your back. It also works if you are secured by two zip ties.
How To Break A Zip Tie From The Front
Here’s the next fun fact the techniques above will also work for duct tape! This time instead of defeating a small plastic stud we are taking advantage of the way duct tape is made. Duct tape is designed to be torn across its width so that you can remove the length you want from the roll simply by tearing it. When it’s wrapped around your wrists that tear point is neatly placed right where it will take the most force when you use the technique.
“What if I have an injury that stops me from using that technique?” I hear you cry! Don’t worry I’ve got you covered. For this you are going to need a tool. There are two options for this, some type of blade or a type of saw. Let’s deal with the blade first. We’re moving on to something a little more advanced here as it means we will need to conceal an item on our person somewhere. But that’s another post altogether. I have a great little tool that I carry on a paracord bracelet. I regularly get onto planes with this and can safely say it’s never been noticed. I have a short length of paracord on it to make it easier to use. You can also use a good old fashioned razor blade, but they are trickier to use and risk injury to yourself. Other small concealable blades are commercially available but tend to be more bulky and harder to conceal.
Ok let’s move on to saws. Two types we can use here manufactured and improvised. First up manufactured. There are a ton of commercially available saws for SERE use. The better ones, to my mind, are constructed so that they can also be used as a handcuff shim. When you are trying to minimise your carried kit to reduce the likelihood of discovery it makes sense. This is a very simple item. It’s straight and it’s serrated. Don’t think you’re going to chop down trees or cut through cell bars, but you will be able to cut zip ties, duct tape and good old fashioned rope.
Next we have the improvised saw and this is my personal go to as it is easier to use, with the caveat that you have your feet free. The improvised saw we are going to use is a friction saw. There are, again several commercial products available but they all use the same technique. Where I can, I use paracord for my laces. Paracord is great for making friction saws out of. If you have your shoes taken away, which is a possibility, you can make a friction saw out of pretty much any type of cordage. Simply tie a loop at each end, hang it over the tape or zip ties you want to cut, put your feet through the loops and use them to work the saw back and forwards. Keep going until you are free! A good old wire saw in the hood of your smock with loops made from a drawstring would be a good solution for a soldier.
Now we are stepping up another level. Before we start looking at how we open them, we need to know how they work so we can understand what weaknesses we are going to exploit. Ok, the bit that goes around your wrists has a hinged arm with several slots in it. When the handcuff is done up a stud on the inside of the cuff clicks into these slots. This is so that the cuff can be sized for whoever is wearing them. Obviously, the arm can only click in one direction. The stud is connected to the key mechanism so that it can be withdrawn from the slots, by use of a key, to open the cuffs. Roger so far?
The first technique we will look at is shimming. We’re not going to concern ourselves with the lock at all at this point. We are going to use a tool to exploit a design weakness in the handcuff. The tool is called a shim.
It is designed to slide into the gap where the arm enters the cuff and to disengage the stud from the slot. This will let the cuff swing open. You don’t need to use a specialist tool like the one pictured above, you can improvise one very easily.
To start with I am going to include a technique that isn’t picking. Use a key! We’re going to exploit another weakness here. Handcuffs pretty much have one key type regardless of the brand. The rationale behind this is twofold. Firstly, Copper number 1 arrests a scrote, handcuffs him and chucks him a Black Maria. Copper number 2, back at the nick, takes the scrote out of the Black Maria, takes the handcuffs off and slings him in a cell. Each set of cuffs needs multiple users. As such, one lock and one key makes sense across an entire organisation. This is based on the premise that only those who are meant to have keys do… Secondly, the more complicated the lock, the more expensive the cuffs. Make it too complicated and you will price yourself out of the market.
You can get a universal handcuff key from an online retailer for a couple of quid. They’re pretty small and easy to conceal. If you chose to go down this route avoid plastic or polymer keys. You can break them in the lock and that then stops you from using any other picking techniques to get free. As an aside, if you are a police officer/prison officer or similar, you should be carrying a spare key hidden somewhere on your person. Nothing more embarrassing being found locked up with your own handcuffs should a scrote get the upper hand.
OK, on to picking. First, let’s understand how the lock works so we can find a weakness to exploit. There are two types of handcuff locks. Single and double locked. Single lock handcuffs simply allow the arm to be released when a key is turned. Double lock cuffs have a secondary lock on them, usually engaged by use of a spike on the back of the key which stops the cuffs from being tightened. This is so that should you get cuffed and decide to struggle or mess with them they can’t over-tighten and cause you nerve damage or cut off/restrict blood flow. Police/prison officers will have double lock cuffs. A handcuff key is a very simple key for the reasons already explained.
Quite simply when you turn the key in the lock it does one of two things. Disengages the double lock or disengages the stud. In order to pick the lock, we will need a tool. Our tool can be one of two types. We can either make something that is essentially an improvised key. Or a straight tool which just pushes the lock release mechanisms. The best materials for both of these tools are paperclips or hair grips. Both are easy to conceal and might not be removed if found during a search as they are so innocuous. As you know I love my simple illustrations…
I’m out of my restraints, now what?
Well that’s another post altogether…
This Kit Pest Review article was written by Ben OToole. Hopefully you enjoyed it and if you have any thoughts or comments related to this article then leave a comment!