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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.
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For those who are not used to nautical terms, the bowline knot described is pronounced bo-lin not Bow Line. If you learn no other knot, learn the bowline as it is the knot likely to save your life. It will absolutely not slip and is easy to undo even after under extreme tension. You can use it to make a loop around yourself to be hoisted up a cliff or secure yourself to a tree without it slipping and cutting you in half. Sailors use it to secure themselves to the boat in high seas. Google Bowline knot to see how to tie one and how useful it is.
@Allen if you decide to use the para cord bicycle string trick, make sue that after the wire ties are cut, that you remove the cord from your feet before running away or your escape will make a fast and sudden stop. ouch!
Gas a teen, this is very helpful and I can use this to persuade my parents to let me out of the house!
Great video..Great for men. I know few older women who cannot use brute strengh much. But the real question is: How does a women (older especially) hide, conceal these tools on her possession. Where or what does she use to keep them accessible??
Thank You for this vido on the zip ties I have two young friends that want to travel over seas for a job in their field. This helped them relize they didn,t have to take martal arts to servive. But the use of some common sence and a little learning could keep them from becoming Victoms.
I have pants with a cut in the seam behind the belt where I have placed a handcuff key on one side and a small blade on the other for when I to out behind enemy lines in occupied territory, and the EDC, don't plan to get nabbed in the first place
Question: How would one escape from zip ties if they were bound to a chair? For instance, a traditional wooden chair with arm rests and your kidnapper zip-tied your wrists to the arm rests? How about the feet to chair legs? Curious to know. Thanks!
Note to self: Try to avoid getting restrained in the first place by...
1) Not pissing off your neighborhood Mexican drug cartel.
2) Not being the sole witness to a major crime (murder, extortion, bribery, robbery, etc.)
3) Not fraternizing with the wife and/or girlfriend of any U.S. service member, emphasis on those with Spec Ops training. (Veterans Day +1 shout out).
4) Not going on a camping trip in the boonies with your buddies and selfishly drinking all the damn beer.
@SHTFboy #4 being the most important, and also the most likely of all scenarios.
Umm i tried the first one and the one with the two zip ties, my friend also tried it. For us it didnt work...
Please make a demo of women of various sizes and ages trying to escape from these restraints. Also please show us how to escape from being rope bound without your cutting devices.
I'm more fearful of getting Tetanus from the rusty shimmies than the kidnapping... but then again, what do I know, I won't ever get kidnapped because I am the God of war. ;)
@babypurple78 Best case scenario you'll be able to move your hands from behind your back under your feet to your front.
Voila: front facing tied hands.
Very good and interesting video. Even though NZ doesn't allow citizens to carry guns in public like America, I still love this website.
Thank you so much for this information - I had no idea there were so many methods of getting out of these.
Not that I expect to ever be restrained like this, but knowing what to do in a crisis situation is empowering. Sort of like knowing what to do if your house is on fire. So, thanks for that. :)
I was curious if you guys had any pointers for getting out of these when your hands are restrained from behind. If you have any ideas, I'm sure some of us would love to know.
Lol, what if what if what if. Seriously people. The videos explain that these methods work for the supplies that the common stupid criminal would use. Most of us aren't important enough to have a special ops team with high end supplies come kidnap us. These are what a broke junkie mugger would use.
If you are someone important enough, for someone well trained, to have a reason to come and collect you, then you are likely already trained or prepared with all possible options to evade or correct the situation to be more in your favor.
This was great information for the common person to gain some knowledge on what a common criminal would most likely use to restrain you.
@studog Put them in front of yourself, duh. I can easily pull my arms below my body and lift my legs over my wrists, but I'm not fat. If you're fat, lose weight now, cause you can't lose fat over the course of one kidnapping.
Your less likely to be kidnapped if you're fat so if you do lose weight you're more likely to be kidnapped.
I love these videos! Great suggestions. I am wondering however would this work on children? Do you have any suggestions for if a child is kidnapped?
how do u get out zip ties when ur hand behind ur back!!! some body has a concel knife for a watch or parcord thats a 1" to cut it but i lost the site!!
So, I just tested out the "escaping cable ties" and it never worked, what could I possibly be doing wrong?
Thanks for nice info....
You do realize that as helpful as these may be they are also harmful. In making these videos available to the public you are showing the people who would use these things to restrain people a way for people to escape and they are just going to use something else now or make sure that whoever they use these on are not holding their hands like you showed them. I'm all about safety and awareness but seriously anyone can Google these videos. How helpful will they be if the ones who use them know how to combat your escape?
You have to forgive her, she thinks owning a gun makes you insane and shooting your attacker a racist.
@MichelleHardigree If you're all about safety and awareness then you should just accept that these are helpful. This site is insanely helpful especially to teenage girls going off to college. Most people who would do anything of this sort would not suspect a teenage girl to be able to keep her head and think these through. There was no reason to give them crap about making this available to anyone who would need this information to feel safe. It was rude and they obviously understand the pros and cons of posting it online. Personally, I'd rather know this even if my attacker knows about it too. The more you know, the safer you are. Knowledge is power.
@Anonymous That actually made no sense or relevance to her comment. She wasn't talking about criminals escaping, she was talking about criminals understanding escape methods and trying methods that are harder to escape.
@AutumnStone @MichelleHardigree I agree wholeheartedly with Autumn here. I guess the simple fact is that most people who do something like this probably have never done it before, or at least haven't made it into an art or formula. You have the advantage if you are mentally prepared, but also that does mean more than just reading some instructions on a site. You need to be able to recall them under pressure and execute an escape while under duress. Most people have difficulty to move or make any action that might induce a violent situation in normal life, let alone when bound.
The knowledge is useful, most attackers probably wont know or understand it, yet it takes more physical and mental strength than many people will have in the situation.
Oh my god shut up and go back to Tumblr you fucking yuppie. You came to a site with a watermark that features a cracked skull inside of a cracked shield and bitch that the contents of the site MIGHT be dangerous. Well no shit Sherlock. Claiming that this knowledge might be used by criminals to escape detainment is like saying that a video that teaches kids to swim might lead a child to drown. Go back to your safety zone where you can censor everything you want and live in your bubble of happy and let us adults decide for ourselves how we choose to entertain ourselves.
Out of curiosity, i have run across steel cable ties that I would worry a kidnapper or someone intending harm might use after seeing videos like the above and that are all over the internet now regarding breaking free from these nylon and polymer zip ties.
Wow I wish people would stop giving bad people advice on how to capture others (3 zip ties and being bound to chairs and such) just take these videos and be happy in the knowledge that we have good escape avenues. Most of these people's comments seem like they are trying to help kidnappers, GEEZ!
Thanks so much to the person making these videos I am happy to have learned something useful!
What is your opinion on Tuff-tie's and do you feel they are a better or worse alternative to flex cuffs?
There is always an limit to what you can do. It is like asking: i have a spare tyre, but what if all four tyres of my car gets flat at one time? What if you get hogtied and shot in the head - how do you escape that? What if you get restrained with ten ties and one is tightly around your neck? What if you are sentenced to death and restrained in an electric chair - how do you escape that? Some things are just inevitable. You can use methods to your disposal and as taught but the scenarios are to many - at some point you will have to use your own imagination and skills to try to escape certain scenarios.
I have been escaping restraints since the early 90's before it was cool. IF you are lucky to have someone use cheap zip ties, and zip tie you like the video...awesome. If I zip tie you, it will be with three separate ones. One for each hand, and one connecting behind your back. The primary purpose of restraints is to let you know you are under control. If you do not ascertain you are under control, and break restraints, it is now a mutual understanding that lethal force can be used, and you can be shot.
so, are you guys trying to be serious? Or just some guys pretending? Impress me by breaking zip ties I put on you....hell, I'll give you ( I will tier it only because I am impatient) hours and cash if you can break mine. One hour, $1000, 4 hours $500, 8 hours 250, 16 hours $20...I kind of think you have had a proper chance. The deal is that I will not cut the ties, regardless of time and you must sign a waiver for any injury suffered during the challenge.
@cbboss The purpose of the video seems to be how to break them - not a course on hostage survival. If you have no idea how to break the restraints efficiently or quickly, you could miss your one and only opportunity to exact escape. For the record - you're correct on that. If you're taken hostage, unless you have been trained, you should likely not attempt escape and should avoid aggravating your captor(s) and further. If you are kidnapped and no one yet knows you're gone - escape might be the way to go. Furthermore, you make this sound like a pissing contest. It's pretty unlikely anybody here is joking besides yourself. 9 out of 10 captors are likely to make big mistakes like they described above, so instead of posting tips for the captors (the entire first paragraph of your comment), let us just allow them to make mistakes and be dirtbags. Be a dirtbag or don't - I could care less. But don't help other dirtbags be dirtbags.
@cbboss you are a jerk!! Why the hell you teach how to do a crime?! Fucking moron