How to Pick Your Way Out of Handcuffs

by September 10, 2009 09/10/09
Handcuffs

How to Pick Handcuffs 01Today we’ll be showing how to pick your way out of Handcuffs using only a bobby pin.  We realize this may be a sensitive issue to some out there, as this information in the wrong hands could be detrimental; here’s our take.

The current “swinging bow rachet – type” adjustable handcuff design dates back to 1912 when the Peerless Handcuff Company patented it. Even the “double lock,” that we’ll get into later in the article, came about shortly after this. First off, why are we still using relying on this deprecated technology to keep our officers safe? Why are law enforcement grade handcuffs readily available at nearly any surplus store, readily available to be used on someone during a home invasion? Lastly, why is this simple key design still being used?

It’s an undisputed fact that handcuffs can be picked with a simple bobby pin, which reveals a fundamental problem with the lock design. We feel the more awareness that is brought to this issue, the better.

How to Pick Your Way Out of Handcuffs

Handcuffs, like the Model 100′s made by Smith & Wesson that we’ll show, are in use by Law Enforcement across the United States and abroad and available to purchase by nearly anyone for around $25.

We hope that articles like this help to convince Law Enforcement that changes need to be implemented. Unfortunately one of the main reasons it would take a fundamental change across the country, is the simple key design that almost every model of handcuffs use. Changing the locking mechanism on cuffs would require every single officer to switch to new keys, this could be the main reason no change has ever come about. Especially today, when most law enforcement officers aren’t even issued a trauma kit and solely dependent on EMS in an emergency situation.

Our reason for presenting this information is not only from an awareness perspective, but also a skill-set perspective.  The chances of ever winding up in a situation where you’re unlawfully handcuffed against your will (which means not by a law enforcement officer)  are slim, but with the knowledge you’ll gain from this article, you might not ever leave the house without a hidden bobby pin again.

At the very least, one stashed in your wallet will provide some peace of mind.

Lock Mechanics

How to Pick Handcuffs 05The way a handcuff key works is simple, the key gets inserted into the lock to its stopping point. The stopping point is just enough to allow the key to slip past the handcuff housing and turn free in the lock.

When the key is resting the the proper position, a turn towards the cuff’s direction of travel will release the single lock. The reason we state “towards the cuff’s direction of travel” is that the direction to turn (clockwise or counter) varies with each cuff.

The double lock is set by taking the opposite side of the handcuff key (pin-like end),inserting it into the horizontal slit in the cuff, and pressing it away from the cuff’s direction of travel.

This engages the double lock and prevents the single lock from releasing until the double lock is unlocked. To do this the key must now be turned away from the cuff’s direction of travel.

Once the double lock is unlocked, the key can not be turned towards the cuff’s direction of travel to release the single lock.

Prepping the Bobby Pin

How to Pick Handcuffs 02The first step in picking handcuffs is to prep a bobby pin. This is done by bending the bobby pin into a 90Ëš angle and removing the plastic tip at the end of the straight section.

After removing the tip, insert the straight sided bobby pin into the upper portion of the lock on a handcuff. Only insert the pin halfway into the lock, if the pin is inserted all the way in, the proper bend will not be attained.

Next, bend the bobby pin to the left, creating a 90Ëš bend. Insert the pin again halfway past the first bend, and bend to the left 90Ëš. This will create a modified “S” shape (see photo).

Picking the Single Lock

How to Pick Handcuffs 03To pick the single lock, insert the pick (bobby pin) into the upper cutout of the lock pointed towards the cuff’s direction of travel.

Once the pick has been inserted and is resting under the handcuff housing, add tension and press the pick towards the cuff’s direction of travel.

This motion will recreate the key’s raised area pressing against the locking mechanism and release the cuff.

It will take a while to become proficient at this, and it truly is a skill, so be patient. We’ve added the video below to help illustrate the technique, as well as a few photos.

The photo that shows the cut-away view of the handcuff above, illustrates where your pick will press in order to release the single lock, as well as the double lock.

We highly recommend that you become proficient at the single lock before moving on to the double lock.

Picking the Double Lock

How to Pick Handcuffs 04We’ll start explaining picking the double lock by looking at the aforementioned cut-away view of the handcuff. In the photo you can see the arrow pointing at a bar that appears to have a tooth pattern to it.

As we understand it, when the double lock is set, a spring is pushed away from the cuff’s direction of travel taking the tooth-pattern bar along with it. The tooth renders the single lock inoperable .

When the double lock is unlocked the bar slides back over and the single lock can be released again.

To mimic the key unlocking the double lock, insert the pick into the upper cutout of the lock as the single lock, but this time point the pick away from the cuff’s direction of travel.

What must be done is to manuever the pick under the handcuff housing and turn in the direction the key would turn to release the double lock.

The double lock takes more pressure to move and thus requires more tension against the pick. What happens is the pick, when in the right location, presses the bar on the double lock and releases it.

After the double lock is disengaged, you’ll still need to pick the single lock too.

Notes

The best thing to do is get your own pair of handcuffs and study the movement of the key while it’s unlocking the single and double locks, which will give you a better idea of how to maneuver your pick.  There are also cut-away trainers for sale to further aid in visualizing how everything works.

Please let us know in the comments if you have any questions regarding this topic, and anything we can elaborate further.

These lock picking tips and techniques provided in this article are only to be used in accordance with all local, state, and federal laws and provided for lock sport (recreational lock picking) use only. Lock sport should be used to learn about the illusion of security, and how to properly protect yourself and your possessions. Don’t do anything illegal.


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Youngerthanyou
Youngerthanyou

Does anybody know how to unlock double locked fury tactical handcuffs? 

chiujunk
chiujunk

Im a convicted felon with a few burglary charges under my belt. iM NO LONGER ON PAROLE . ive recently gained interest in survival but with my record if I get caught with a bobby pin its considered a burglary tool. aNY COMMENTS ON HOW I WOULD ANSWER THAT Q IF ASKED?

olgrunt
olgrunt

a comb works even better and quicker, by sliding it down the bar and releasing pressure on the lock,  use the end of the comb, always carry one and take 4 to 5 of the first teeth off one end or the other. it is easy to slide it right down the cuff inside the cuff into the bar that locks them and will release tension and open much quicker than a hairpin.

olgrunt
olgrunt

a comb works even better and quicker, by sliding it down the bar and releasing pressure on the lock, 

use the end of the comb, always carry one and take 4 to 5 of the first teeth off one end or the other. it is easy to slide it right down the cuff inside the cuff into the bar that locks them and will release tension and open much quicker than a hairpin.

Railynn
Railynn

How are you supposed to do this when they are on your wrists though??

Zenopher
Zenopher

You make a very valid point when mentioning the simple lock design that is implemented for handcuffs today. But there really is another reason as to why mechanism hasn't been changed. The reasons being that to any competent LEO cuffing/restraining techniques should be second nature and that handcuffs are only a temporary solution to the problem of restraining a subject(prolonged use of cuffs can cause nerve damage.) There are only a few basic rules to follow.

1. Cuff with the subjects thumbs facing up (palms facing outwards)

2. Cuff behind the back to reduce hand eye coordination

3. Always double lock ( You wouldn't want your perp to intentionally/accidentally

tightening his cuffs and causing nerve damage)

4. Always cuff subjects with the keyhole facing away from the fingers. (I.e. key holes should be visible to you

if you are cuffing a subject who is standing.)

If proper cuffing technique is used it is not possible to pick your way out of them.

Zenopher
Zenopher

You make a very valid point when mentioning the simple lock design that is implemented for handcuffs today. But there really is another reason as to why mechanism hasn't been changed. The reasons being that to any competent LEO cuffing/restraining techniques should be second nature and that handcuffs are only a temporary solution to the problem of restraining a subject(prolonged use of cuffs can cause nerve damage.) There are only a few basic rules to follow. 1. Cuff with the subjects thumbs facing up (palms facing outwards) 2. Cuff behind the back to reduce hand eye coordination 3. Always double lock ( You wouldn't want your perp to intentionally/accidentally tightening his cuffs and causing nerve damage) 4. Always cuff subjects with the keyhole facing away from the fingers. (I.e. key holes should be visible to you if you are cuffing a subject who is standing.) If proper cuffing technique is used it is not possible to pick your way out of them.

Michael
Michael

The only cuffs that this will not work on are box cuff's for escape artist's and ASP makes a set of cuffs that have two teeth on the key! If you make a "V" 2 fingers and put your other hand in the middle of them you can't see the bottom finger, well that's how this type of cuff's work, and the key has 2 teeth as well! when "THEY" start using these cuff's then there will be no picking! Just hope you have a Hide a key that works!

Joseph S
Joseph S

I bought a pair of Model 100s just so that I could learn to pick them. The video was great and after a few tries I found it quite easy to pick the handcuffs in front of me, and then while handcuffed in the front loosely. I haven't been able to try harder situations of picking though because I destroyed the few bobby pins I had. It's been difficult finding bobby pins with rubber tips that I could pull off. They don't seem to make them like that anymore.

John T
John T

This is just one reason why I prefer to purchase/carry/use the Peerless hinged cuffs and apply with the lock holes only visible to the top. With the perpetrator's hands secured with the top of the wrists touching (so the palms are out). This prevents the suspect from turning the wrists palm to palm and attempting a lock bypass of any sort. The hinged cuffs limit movement even further and would require an accomplice to pick. When the officer properly secures the suspect in the back seat with the seatbelt, even the accomplice (if you have happen to have two back there) can't do the picking either. So even though the locks are 'antiquated' they are still effective when practicing good officer safety procedures.

knowing the above demonstrated technique is great, even for you old warhorses out there.

John T
John T

This is just one reason why I prefer to purchase/carry/use the Peerless hinged cuffs and apply with the lock holes only visible to the top. With the perpetrator's hands secured with the top of the wrists touching (so the palms are out). This prevents the suspect from turning the wrists palm to palm and attempting a lock bypass of any sort. The hinged cuffs limit movement even further and would require an accomplice to pick. When the officer properly secures the suspect in the back seat with the seatbelt, even the accomplice (if you have happen to have two back there) can't do the picking either. So even though the locks are 'antiquated' they are still effective when practicing good officer safety procedures. knowing the above demonstrated technique is great, even for you old warhorses out there.

Ted
Ted

I like the concept and I agree with the logic but the reality of escaping from handcuffs is very unlikely for most people. Defeating the locks "on the bench" is one thing but picking your way out of handcuffs is extremely difficult and takes a lot of skill and practice.

Also, an average sized guy is at a big disadvantage. A skinny kid or a female might be able to spin their wrists inside the cuffs and/or step through them which makes escaping much less difficult.

If you've been handcuffed properly, (hands behind your back, palms out and cuffs double locked) you're going to have a hell of a job getting out. It's hard enough with a key.

Hinged or high security cuffs, forget it.

Having said all that, obviously handcuffs aren't 100%. Don't think the cops don't know that and, rest assured, there are simple methods of thwarting escape artists. What's covered here is common knowledge and isn't going to cause law enforcement any grief. Standard cuffs are secure enough for almost any bad guy.

Standard handcuff keys are standard. Once in a while, you'll find a type of key that is incompatible with a brand or type of cuff but, for the most part, standard is standard.

Non standard cuffs are probably high security so forget those. You're not getting out until someone lets you out.

Ted
Ted

I like the concept and I agree with the logic but the reality of escaping from handcuffs is very unlikely for most people. Defeating the locks "on the bench" is one thing but picking your way out of handcuffs is extremely difficult and takes a lot of skill and practice. Also, an average sized guy is at a big disadvantage. A skinny kid or a female might be able to spin their wrists inside the cuffs and/or step through them which makes escaping much less difficult. If you've been handcuffed properly, (hands behind your back, palms out and cuffs double locked) you're going to have a hell of a job getting out. It's hard enough with a key. Hinged or high security cuffs, forget it. Having said all that, obviously handcuffs aren't 100%. Don't think the cops don't know that and, rest assured, there are simple methods of thwarting escape artists. What's covered here is common knowledge and isn't going to cause law enforcement any grief. Standard cuffs are secure enough for almost any bad guy. Standard handcuff keys are standard. Once in a while, you'll find a type of key that is incompatible with a brand or type of cuff but, for the most part, standard is standard. Non standard cuffs are probably high security so forget those. You're not getting out until someone lets you out.

scottUK
scottUK

first off cool site! ok, i see the usefulness with this write up and the videos but from what ive seen the most common method of cuffing someone is by doing so behind the back, now im sure you could still pick the cuffs but damn it going to be hard. Any plans on a video showing how to do this?

GLENN ALLEN
GLENN ALLEN

Now try it with the hand cuffs on, properly, with your hands behind your back,palms out, double locked with the key holes facing toward your body. Not so easy is it? Damn near impossible. Drop your pick? Now try it in different positions, lying down, on your back, in the dark, in a closed confined space. Even more difficult.

Keep a key taped to the inside of your belt, or cut a small slit in the waist band of your pants. You can hide a key in the little pocket created in the waist band. Tie it to a piece of the inner strand from paracord, through the whole in the top of the hand cuff key, then sew the end of the paracord to the inside of the waist band. Feed the cord inside the waist band. Now you have a key that you cannot lose. You can hide lots of picks, keys, shims, even a small section of a hack saw blade, inside the same pocket. Place the pocket in the middle of your back. You can put several keys,picks, shims. etc in other seams of your clothing too. Sometimes shimming is better, other times picking is better, some times you have to improvise so the more tools you have on hand the better. Look for LE Sensitive briefings on concealment for creative ideas. Trade craft ,look into it. Happy Picking.

GLENN ALLEN
GLENN ALLEN

Now try it with the hand cuffs on, properly, with your hands behind your back,palms out, double locked with the key holes facing toward your body. Not so easy is it? Damn near impossible. Drop your pick? Now try it in different positions, lying down, on your back, in the dark, in a closed confined space. Even more difficult. Keep a key taped to the inside of your belt, or cut a small slit in the waist band of your pants. You can hide a key in the little pocket created in the waist band. Tie it to a piece of the inner strand from paracord, through the whole in the top of the hand cuff key, then sew the end of the paracord to the inside of the waist band. Feed the cord inside the waist band. Now you have a key that you cannot lose. You can hide lots of picks, keys, shims, even a small section of a hack saw blade, inside the same pocket. Place the pocket in the middle of your back. You can put several keys,picks, shims. etc in other seams of your clothing too. Sometimes shimming is better, other times picking is better, some times you have to improvise so the more tools you have on hand the better. Look for LE Sensitive briefings on concealment for creative ideas. Trade craft ,look into it. Happy Picking.

Justin
Justin

Nearly universal but not always and any chance the key doesn't work you're screwed that's why you make your make your plan fit the situation and not a situation to fit your plan

Dude007
Dude007

Ummm... Why not simply carry (and/or conceal) a regular handcuff key? Why bother with all the "you might not ever leave the house without a hidden bobby pin again" stuff and fumble around with its awkwardness? Real handcuff keys are cheap, easily purchased, and nearly universal.

patrick
patrick

hey, i was just wondering if the smith&wesson m&p lever lock cuffs work differently when trying to pick the double lock with the bobby pin. i've tried it on my pair but i can only get the single lock. are the mechanics different for the double lock for those cuffs?...or do i just need to keep practicing?...

patricia
patricia

shouldn't this be a secure sight so the shit bags don't get this info. They already do but why give them more ????

usmc85
usmc85

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7CBEe5WK-hE

I found this video usefull for shimming. Its hard to hear this kid but the see through cuff helps. I hace a set of peerless and i used a bobby pin for a shim. I used the straight side for the shim and the curved to bump the lock that way i wouldnt have to bend the straight part. I also filed the pin down a bit. A regular one will work its just kinda tight.

usmc85
usmc85

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7CBEe5WK-hE I found this video usefull for shimming. Its hard to hear this kid but the see through cuff helps. I hace a set of peerless and i used a bobby pin for a shim. I used the straight side for the shim and the curved to bump the lock that way i wouldnt have to bend the straight part. I also filed the pin down a bit. A regular one will work its just kinda tight.

usmc85
usmc85

Any luck with shimming videos yet?

Michael
Michael

Bryan,

I have been told that inserting a thin plastic cable tie along the path of the cuff and then pushing the cuff and cable tie in together will work. Is there any truth to this? I have avoided being handcuffed so so never had a reason to test it.

Cheers

Mike

Michael
Michael

Bryan, I have been told that inserting a thin plastic cable tie along the path of the cuff and then pushing the cuff and cable tie in together will work. Is there any truth to this? I have avoided being handcuffed so so never had a reason to test it. Cheers Mike

ITS Admin
ITS Admin

Jesse,

Very true, especially on the Peerless cuffs. In fact, to answer Matt's question above Peerless are actually easier to pick than the S&W 100s All you do is bump the double lock (which is easier to bump than the S&W 100's) and just shim the cuff.

I find that on the 100's since you're already there bumping the double lock, it's easier to just take care of the single as well. The peerless are much difficult to pick open, which is why shimming is the answer on the single lock.

We'll be going into shimming here soon on ITS.

Thanks for the comment!

Bryan

Matt Archilla
Matt Archilla

Ouch, while I see your point in writing this article it still hurts. Does this work on all cuffs, such as peerless, ASP etc?

Jesse Krembs
Jesse Krembs

I've found that it's much quicker on some cuffs to bump the double lock out of position and then just shim the cuffs.

Bryan Black
Bryan Black

Agreed Justin, did you feel that the article was just one sided?

olgrunt
olgrunt

@patricia what if some shitbag cuffs you up?

Bryan Black
Bryan Black

You can't think like that... This information is everywhere already. If ITS was to hide behind that it would prevent the good, honest people from obtaining this information.

ITS Admin
ITS Admin

Essentially that's it, but not the best video. Just remember a double lock will need to be negotiated prior to shimming, so just carrying a shim with you won't get the job done.

~ Bryan

ITS Admin
ITS Admin

Essentially that's it, but not the best video. Just remember a double lock will need to be negotiated prior to shimming, so just carrying a shim with you won't get the job done. ~ Bryan

audrey
audrey

okay im very embarrassed but i need help my brothers friend came over who is a sheriff and i put the cuffs on my hand he left the key at home him and my brother have left to the far place he lives and im stuck with very tight bulky cuffs plzz help i need these off !

Dru
Dru

I know this is a while after initial post, but yes this works on ASP cuffs. Within five mins of this video I was easily opening both single and double locked ASP cuffs.

ITS Admin
ITS Admin

Matt,

See my response to Jesse about peerless. We haven't gotten a hold of ASP cuffs, but I suspect they're much different. Almost all cuffs follow the same basic mechanics. And yes, all the cuffs we've had experience with can be defeated.

Thanks for the comment,

Bryan

ITS Admin
ITS Admin

Matt, See my response to Jesse about peerless. We haven't gotten a hold of ASP cuffs, but I suspect they're much different. Almost all cuffs follow the same basic mechanics. And yes, all the cuffs we've had experience with can be defeated. Thanks for the comment, Bryan

ITS Admin
ITS Admin

Jesse, Very true, especially on the Peerless cuffs. In fact, to answer Matt's question above Peerless are actually easier to pick than the S&W 100s All you do is bump the double lock (which is easier to bump than the S&W 100's) and just shim the cuff. I find that on the 100's since you're already there bumping the double lock, it's easier to just take care of the single as well. The peerless are much difficult to pick open, which is why shimming is the answer on the single lock. We'll be going into shimming here soon on ITS. Thanks for the comment! Bryan

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  1. [...] of crimes that involve people being illegally restrained and this may save your life one day. How to Pick Your Way Out of Handcuffs Additional reading: Protecting Against Home Invasions How to Escape from Zip Ties Please don't [...]

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