How to Escape from Zip Ties
In our How To Escape and Evade in an Urban Environment article, we briefly discussed escaping from zip ties.
There are quite a few hasty methods of illegal restraint, and zip ties are a method that’s available to any would-be kidnapper.
A few of the other methods seen are duct tape, rope and phone cord, but with a little education you’ll see that all of these methods can easily be defeated.
There are two things you’ll need in any escape situation, and without these two things, nothing we’ll show you will work.
Those two things are time and opportunity. You’ll have to first have the time to be able to put one of these escape methods into action and the opportunity to do so.
Your captors are most likely not going to have the resources or the patience to keep eyes on you constantly, and when they don’t, it’s time to make your move.
Update 2015: We’ve recently put together this comprehensive how to video guide on escaping illegal restraint. This is an update to many of the videos you’ll find below.
How Zip Ties Work
The best way to defeat any type of restraint is to first analyze how it works.
Zip ties consist of a sturdy Nylon tape that contains small teeth running lengthwise down one side, and a ratchet with small teeth housed in a small open case.
The ratchet is molded to allow downward pressure to be placed upon it as the tape is threaded through the open case, then springing back up to position as the valleys of the tape align with the teeth of the ratchet, locking the zip tie.
At this point further forward movement will continue to tighten the zip tie, and backwards movement will lock it.
The particular zip ties we used in all our demonstrations were the most heavy-duty zip ties we could find at Lowes or Home Depot, the Zip Ties shown in the photo with a 175 lb. rating.
We chose these because realistically if someone was determined to go out and buy zip ties to use to illegally restrain someone, they’d likely hit the local hardware store and find the toughest ones they could.
To defeat zip ties, you can either completely break the zip ties, shim them, use a friction saw or with a little forward thinking just be able to slip right out of them.
Breaking Zip Ties
Shimming Zip Ties
Friction Sawing Zip Ties
Slipping Out of Zip Ties
Dual Zip Ties
Now that we’ve gone over these four methods in detail in the videos, let’s talk briefly on how you’ll be bound, because it’s equally important as the method you choose to escape.
For an exercise, so that we’re all on the same page, put both of your hands straight out. Now touch your wrists together. This will be called “wrists together, horizontal.” This position is the easiest to escape from by slipping out.
Next rotate your wrists so your right hand turns clockwise, your left hand turns counterclockwise and your wrists touch. This will be called “wrists together, vertical.” This position is not preferred, but as shown on the breaking videos, can be defeated.
Now, from the “wrists together, vertical” position, rotate your hands so the backs of them touch together. This will be called “wrists together, inboard.” This is the hardest position out of the four, but can still be defeated by breaking.
The final way you could be bound is by crossing your hands at the wrists, making an X. This will be called “wrists together, crossed.” This position is a bit harder than the first for slipping out of, but it’s still possible.
The first thing you should always do in any restraint situation, is remain passive.
Let your captor know that there’s no fight in you, that you’re scared and helpless. This will psychologically lead your captor to believe that you have no plans to try to escape, and thus make what we’re about to tell you easier.
You want to make every effort to present your hands to your captor before they use force to restrain you. Essentially you’re presenting the wrist position of your choosing to them, hoping they’ll use it.
Using the information we’ve provided to your advantage, you can put yourself in a better position to escape or determine which of the methods presented will work best in your circumstances.
We hope at the very least you watched the videos we’ve made, so you have the information stored somewhere in your mind, tucked away just in case you ever have to use it.
Let us know your thoughts and any questions you still have about escaping illegal restraints.
Update 3/2010: We’ve just released this article explaining our position on the content of this article and why this information is important to get into the public, in the article we also talk about an important safety alert on a product called Jersey Cuffs. More Here.
Update 5/2010: Restraints we’re proud to endorse!
Update 7/2013: We’re now offering our ITS Urban Kit as a solution for tools you may need to escape from illegal restraint during a home invasion scenario.