How to Get Out of Handcuffs, Flexicuffs, and Duct Tape
Action Hero Life Hacks
You've been kidnapped, thrown into a dark room, and your hands are cuffed behind you. You can hear your nameless, faceless abductors through the thin walls laughing at your predicament. We've all been there a time or two, but if you have a very specific set of rather simple skills it won't take long for you to turn the tables on your would-be captors. They won't know what hit them... if, that is, you know how to get out of your restraints.
If you're interested in more action hero lifehacks, such as How To Knock Someone Out With One Punch or How To Kick in a Door, then all you have to do is go check out my full Vocal archive once you've added this piece of necessary survival know-how to your mental toolkit.
How To Get Out of Handcuffs
While they might seem like the most secure way to keep a prisoner from getting loose, handcuffs are nowhere near as tough to beat as they might seem. For starters, as Mental Floss points out, mass-produced sets of cuffs (the sort carried by most security officers, cops, black baggers, etc.) all have the same locks, and take the same key. So if you're really paranoid about being abducted it's a good idea to keep a spare on your key ring, or maybe in that little change pocket of your jeans. Seriously, you can buy universal handcuff keys on Amazon, and they're not all that expensive. If you don't have a key, or if your key doesn't fit, then you're going to have to pick the lock.
This is nowhere near as difficult as you might think, but it is certainly a little harder than Hollywood would have you believe. For starters, you need your hands in front of you, which might take some bending and straining if your hands are cuffed in the small of your back. Once your cuffs are around in front of you, simply take a paperclip or a bobby pin and bend the bitter end at a 90-degree angle. Once that's done slip your makeshift pick into the lock toward the end where the tooth of the key would go. Rotate the pick slowly, and the cuff should pop right open. This might take a few tries, but it's the simplest lock you'll ever try to pick as long as you're not in some elite, one-of-a-kind set of cuffs.
What About Breaking Out of Flexicuffs?
Flexicuffs are really nothing more than a set of plastic zip ties that go around an individual's wrists. There are no locks to pick, so the only solution you have is to bust out of them. You don't need to be the Incredible Hulk to do it either; you just need to know the proper way to apply your force.
The first thing you need to do is to get your hands in front of you. Once you've done that, pull your wrists outwards and tighten the cuffs as much as possible so there's no give in the plastic. It will be uncomfortable, and breaking them will hurt. Hold your arms all the way out in front of you, take a deep breath, and piston your arms back toward your chest. Keep your elbows tight to your ribs, and the force of the thrust as the flexicuffs are pulled against your chest will cause them to burst. A quick-fix solution if ever there was one.
As a side note, this may not work with heavier duty plastic cuffs and ties, but as long as what you're bound with looks like it came from a hardware store or off the set of 24, then you should be just fine.
All Right, But What About Duct Tape?
Myth Busters taught us that duct tape can do anything... even restrain hostages. There aren't any locks to pick, and it would take a superhuman amount of force to snap the tough strands. You can buy a multi-pack of it online for a little more than $10, and it doesn't put you anywhere near a watch list. However, if you find yourself wrapped up in it, you can get out. All it requires is some grit, determination, and a decent pair of boots.
You're going to need a good, strong boot lace; the round kind that you usually see in hiking and combat boots. Tennis shoe laces just won't get the job done, which is, of course, why James Bond never wears sneakers (though, side note, if you're curious about the inspiration behind the infamous super spy you might want to take a look at Who Was The Real James Bond? in the near future. The answer might surprise you). Once again, get your hands in front of you if they're not there already. Untie your boot and stretch the lace up. Grab one end in your teeth, pull it taut, and saw the duct tape back and forth until it breaks. Alternatively, you can unlace the boot entirely. Throw the lace over the duct tape, and tie loops in either end. Hook the loops over your toes, sit or lie back, and make a bicycle motion while pulling against the duct tape. This will saw right through the tape, leaving you free in a matter of moments.
You do, of course, need to lace up your shoes afterward if you go this route.
If you'd like to see video demonstrations of any of the methods mentioned above, then check out the following clip. It should give you more than ample reference to see these tricks in action!