How To Pick Handcuffs

Don’t Get Stuck In Handcuffs

Hey, you never know. You could always find yourself stranded, locked up in some handcuffs. Anyone can get their hands on a pair of these life ruiners with just a quick touch of the button on their internet browser, so knowing how to get out of them is a skill that everyone should have. When learning how to pick handcuffs, there are a few simple steps that you can take to get the heck out of there and run away. Just a little practice and you will have this down. We will first run through the anatomy of these devices to better understand what we are working with. We will then guide you through the simple steps that it takes to break out of the most commonly used handcuffs by law enforcement, military and civilians.

Handcuff Architecture

There are seven pieces to this puzzle. Knowing these parts will allow you to become a better picker of handcuffs. This guide works for any standard pair of the ratchet style cuffs. The parts inside the cuffs are as follows: double strand, swivel, links, single strand rivet, single strand, cheek rivet, pawl pin, keypost, single strand teeth, and finally the single strand groove. Keep in mind that there are various different types of handcuffs out there, but this guide is geared to the most common type found out there in the market.

handcuff internal

Locking Structure of Handcuffs

There are two different styles of locks found in handcuffs today, the single lock and the double lock. They are both very similar in construction, but we will walk you through the various nuances of each. A man named Adams invented handcuff locks way back in the 1800’s and they have not changed much since. The Royal Canadian Police started using an improved version of cuffs called Mitten Handcuffs in the 1930’s because inmates were able to grab guns from unsuspecting officers easily with the old single lock style cuffs. Although as you will see, there has been some innovation in this technology. We will not be covering the single lock apparatus because it is no longer used in the real world because it is very weak and easy to manipulate manually.

Double-Lock Handcuffs

There are two different mechanism inside of these handcuffs that make it more difficult to get out of. Basically, this is a single lock construction as a tier one security measure with a secondary locking bar that moves down and stops the lock from opening if you get past the first single lock. In essence, the bar stops the ratchet from getting any tighter or looser from this point on. The double-lock styles is by far the most common, because the single locking mechanism is not secure at all and can easily be picked. For this reason, we will be covering the double style handcuff locking mechanism when learning how to get out of handcuffs.

how to pick handcuffs diagram


On the diagram to the left, you can see the various component parts of the handcuff locking apparatus. Again the lock bar is the first tier of security in handcuffs. This bar stops the ratchet from moving, the common ‘sticking point’ when wearing cuffs. The lock spring is the piece that holds the bar in place. There is then a secondary locking bar who’s job is really to just hold the first bar.

The double lock bar rotates counter clockwise every so slightly such that the top piece of it is wedged underneath the single lock bar. Effectively, this blocks all movement of parts inside the lock – unless of course you know how to pick handcuffs. Again, this is the most common construction of modern day handcuffs that are meant to detain a person. Now that we have a decent understanding of how the physics of this works, we can now deconstruct it and figure out how to break out of these handcuffs.

Unlocking The Double Bar With A Key

Before we can figure out how to break out of handcuffs, we need to see how they unlock regularly. The key is inserted and turned to the left which hits the double bar’s top piece to the right out from underneath the single bar. They key is then turned to the right to pop the single bar open. The ratcheted claw then rotates freely without friction. Armed with this knowledge, we can now get to learning how to pick handcuffs the right way! In this quick and dirty tutorial, we will be fashioning an improvised key out of household items. This is because if you are ever put into cuffs, the likelihood of you being armed with pre-made picks is highly unlikely.

How to Pick Handcuffs

Breaking out of handcuffs by virtue of picking, like all lock picking, takes time and practice. This is especially the case when and if you are kidnapped by a bunch of Russian spies and locked up in a room somewhere. The basic principal is to imitate the actual key that is used to open handcuff locks. The best ways to pick handcuffs is to use improvised lock picking devices because these will be the most readily available types of picks in a real survival situation. We will be looking at how to pick handcuffs with a pen, however you can use just about anything including bobby pins, paperclips or anything else to get these open as you will see in just a minute here.

In a survival/hostage situation, always try to have your capture put your hands in front of your body because it will be a world easier to get out of. However, if you find that your hands are stuck behind you, it would be good to practice feeling around and getting a sense for where the parts of the cuffs are. In all likelihood, your hands will be put behind you. If you are a special type of flexible, then maybe you can get your hands in front of you – which is optimal. So get to practicing yoga dude, it will make your escape way easier. Oh, and also you cannot simply hulk smash your way out of cuffs – so forget about that.

How to Pick Handcuffs With a Pen

how to pick handcuffs with a penStep 1 Creating The Pick

The crafting of the pick is often times the quintessential component to successfully picking handcuff locks quickly and quietly. What we are doing here is crafting a make-shift key. What you want to do, is either cut a strip from the pen or cut away 80% of the end of one, leaving behind a tab that is about 4mm in height and width. Either way, bend the pen into an “L” shape. Make sure that the surface is smooth and uniform – this is very important or the key we are making will not work. At the very end of the pen strip make a 4mm x 4mm “L” bend. If you are using the pen whole, you don’t have to worry about this part because the cut we made before will be sufficient.

Step 2 Picking The Double Lock

The best way to pick handcuffs is to use this pick that we just created above and start moving quick. First let’s pop that double lock by putting the make-shift pick into the top of the lock. Put the bent end piece pointed down such that it is not touching the anywhere near the center of the handcuffs. Here comes the more difficult part. Begin turning the pick to the left and keep torque on it, think like you are opening these with a key. Keep putting some force down on that thing and you should feel that double lock start to give and then stop moving and remove the pick from the hole. Some handcuffs are more sophisticated than others, the cheaper ones may give you an audible clicking sound when you do this step of the process.

Step 3 Picking The Single Lock

Since we have now done the hardest part, let’s figure out the more simplistic part of the puzzle. Re-insert your handmade pick the same way that we did before however now make sure that the 4mm bent part of the pick is facing toward the center, the opposite of last time. This time, turn the pick to the right, again think opposite, while applying equal amounts of torque like in the previous step. Again, you should be able to sense the single lock bar go away from the ratchet claw.

Once you feel this process occurring, simply pull up on the cuff claw arm and you are out! If you are dealing with really cheap handcuffs, you will likely know by the feel of them. If this is the case, then you will only need to perform this step in the process in order to break out of them. This is because they will only have the single lock bar construction and therefor it will be pretty simple to get out. You will leave your assailants confused and bewildered at your urban survival skills in handcuff picking. Now that’s how you break out of handcuffs!

Practice With Trainers

Handcuff picking trainerThe best way to get started learning how to pick handcuffs is to get a nice pair of trainer cuffs. These come with a transparent locking area so you can see exactly what you are doing. Just like traditional lock picking, this will take a bit of time, but in the end it is well worth the effort in learning. Once you become proficient with the trainer set, you can then graduate to purchasing real handcuffs and trying to pick those.

Once those are nice and easy for you, then try unlocking them behind your back. Just make sure that you remember where you put the key so you aren’t getting yourself locked up and stranded – because that would totally suck. You can pick one of these up almost anywhere on the web and they are completely legal to have so don’t worry about getting a suspicious knock at your front door after getting a pair of these.

Trainers: The Best Way To Get Out

These trainer handcuffs will help you understand the mechanisms well. I would suggest that you sit down and play around with them for a while. Pay special attention to how the pieces of the lock move as you manipulate them. Then try closing your eyes and imagining them moving in your head. This visualization exercise will help you not only remember how to get out of handcuffs. It will also help you break out of handcuffs when you hands are locked up behind you where you cannot see. Visualization is a huge deal when learning how to get out of handcuffs with out a key.

Study each moving part of the cuff, then before you go to bed, imagine yourself unlocking them while your hands are locked behind your body. Being prepared is far more important than knowing simply how to pick them while sitting on your couch eating some Cheetos. Let’s get real and get some real cuffs on and try to break out of them! You never know, until you know.

Purpose Of This Skill

The purpose of learning this skill is purely survival and understanding. Lock picking is universally known as one of the most important survival skills in urban areas where most of us live. Using this skill of any sort of nefarious purpose can get you in some serious trouble with the law and no body wants that trust me. Obviously, don’t be a loser and try to break out of handcuffs when you are arrested because you will only be put away for longer.

This teaching is meant to help you out if you are unlawfully detained by some spies, burglars or terrorists. Maybe you just like to get freaky or maybe you are in a life and death situation. Either way it is always a good thing to be equipped with this skill so that you can get out of handcuffs with ease and return to normal life. It’s a crazy world out there, so let’s get pickin’ and stay safe!