How to escape from zip tie handcuffs

[Video Link] What to do if you accidentally zip-tie your wrists together.

How to escape from zip ties (Via TYWKIWDBI)


  1. Ooooh!!!! Uuuh… I don’t think I have zip ties long enough at home! But I need to try that, now!

    (Oh, who am I kidding… I would just end up with a blue behind and still tied up… but I still need to try that!!!!)

  2. So….. if you’re really strong you can just break out using brute force? Ooookay, what about mere mortals, what do we do?

  3. Looks like they broke the ratchet part.  Do cops really use the crappy 250 for $10 zip ties you get at the home improvement store?  For anything serious I use the ones with the stainless steel rachets, I don’t think you could do this with those, and I’d bet the cops use the better ones.

    Huh, I just went out looking for an example of what I’m talking about and I can’t find one.  I guess I’d better guard what stock I still have at home, looks like they don’t make the good ones anymore.

    1. Part of it is how he had his hands cupped together before the zip tie went on, and this would only work assuming the arresting officer is dumb and will let you put your hands in any position you choose.

      Usually when someone is zip-tied their wrists/hands/arms are NOT perpendicular; I am used to seeing the wrists cross, like an X. I imagine this would make breaking a zip tie alot harder.

    2. Really? Zip ties with stainless parts? I haven’t seen those before. What are they made for? I have a place in my toolbox for something like that.

  4. Please note that this is useful solely with the kinds of zip-ties sold in electronics stores for bundling cable. If a police officer, DEA agent, SWAT team member, soldier, kidnapper, or dominatrix uses “tactical” zip-ties, this will likely fail; those devices are designed to withstand the jerk forces generated by wedging your posterior between your forearms.

  5. And how are the NYPD going to react if we show up on Wall Street with our wrists pre-protected with duct tape?

    1. I noticed a bunch of those swinging from the hip of one officer photographed around the time of the mace “incident”…

  6. Or palms out as Patti Bs link indicates.
    In any event, good to know for home when we can’t find our metal cuffs and have to improv.

  7. The zip ties being used on Wall Street are a lot beefier (like 3-4 times as wide) as the ones shown in this “escape” video – the ones bardfinn is talking about. I’d have to see this trick demonstrated with actual tactical zip ties to believe this would work – in the extremely rare case that it would be needed or appropriate to try.

    After all, being arrested for peaceably demonstrating and then escaping or merely trying to escape from custody would suddenly add a real felony escape charge to the original charge that will probably get dismissed (misdemeanor disorderly conduct or obstructing traffic or whatever) 

    1. more likely a class A misdemeanor, but still.  DOC, you’ll get off with a fine, escape/resisting arrest – bigger fine and/or jail

  8. ok… as someone who’s actually been handcuffed with the double-zip-tie handcuffs cops actually use (and not the dinky hardware store ones here), this will not work.  the double zip-tie handcuff are much much thicker and the ratchet is way stronger.

    but, i have escaped from them!  what you’ll need is a friend and a tiny penknife, flat head screwdriver or key.  what we did was my girlfriend at the time reached into my shoe where the tiny swiss army knife was (i had those awesome converse with the cargo pockets at the time) and opened the flathead and stuck it inside the ratchet to pull away the catch, freeing one of my hands.  the rest was simple.

  9. A few things to be aware of about this technique:
    1) This is not “brute strength” breaking of the cuffs.  You’re applying quick force against the weakest portion of the cuff…where it “locks”.  This doesn’t require strength so much as speed.
    2) This method supposedly works against the “Jersey Cuffs” as well, but will be more difficult, as they are designed to be more difficult to defeat.
    3) This takes practice.  Potentially lots of practice, depending on your level of coordination.  This is not something you can expect to do first time after watching the video.

    The page the video comes from,, has a lot more information about escaping from zip ties.  This page,, includes a bit of a disclaimer regarding why ITS posts this kind of stuff, and includes some more information on “Jersey Cuffs”.

    NOTE: I am in no way affiliated with ITS.  Just sharing some info since there seems to be a lot of misconceptions in this thread.

  10. They’ve found they can’t break the mil-spec ones — don’t depend on this technique.

    1. Any cop that doesn’t bother to check your ass pocket before tying you up and leaving you unsupervised long enough to cut through nylon tactical zip ties is an idiot

  11. The cops will pat you down, so putting a small knife in a pocket is a waste of time.
    if you want to have something to get out of these with, I suggest wearing sandals with a covered toe and heel straps.

    slip a handcuff key under one foot and a small folding knife or multi tool under the other foot.

    if you want to be really sneaky, you can trace one out on the sole and use wood carving tools to cut out a niche for the tool to fit in. tie a  nylon thread to them and let that hang out behind your heel and you can retrieve it even with your hands cuffed.

    I started carrying “flat” tools in sandals (with black socks) after the nightclubs I like to frequent started using metal detectors (never bother wanding my shoes).

    My favorites have been CRKT Folding Kiss (with the belt clip cut off with a hack saw… dont remove it by taking out the allen hex screws as the compressed washers never go back in right.

    The honorable mention is a german “cat knife”  They are quite thin and easy to stand on for hours if need be and have a long enough blade.

    Prior to the metal detectors, my underwear would work well enough.

      1. mdhatter03  in reply to CSBDis that where you kept the hummingbirds?

        Actually, in that thread I articulated the position that I was/am in favor of executing animal smugglers.

    1. I started carrying “flat” tools in sandals (with black socks) after the nightclubs I like to frequent started using metal detectors

      What kind of nightclub lets in people wearing sandals with black socks?! Hell, I wouldn’t let you in my house wearing that.

      1. The night clubs around here (Detroit area) are worried about Guns, Hats, and Gang Colors… not Keen brand sandals.

  12. Or you can just subject the zip ties a few months of gamma radiation and they will become brittle and break easily.

  13. I can dislocate my thumbs and slip out of normal LEO cuffs… never tried it with zip-cuffs… hmmm.

  14. How well do police/military grade zip cuffs hold against a pointy rock or metal from your belt?  Or necklace soft metals?  Or keys?

    You know, real practical Macgyver questions.

    1. That is exactly what I was going to say. Either a small gut hook or the fish scaler blade from a cheap knife. You could disassemble a five-buck field knife, attach the scaler with the teeth facing up, just behind your belt. When the zip ties go on, you just press the strap against the scaler teeth and saw, saw, saw.

      Of course, as was said earlier, it’s one thing to get nipped for protesting and quite another to break free while in custody. In the long run, it’s easier to just deal with the disorderly conduct charge (if it sticks).

      1. Yeah, but the way things are going, how long will it be before protesters start to “disappear” in custody? It’s always good to have the option to get the hell out while you can.

        1. *Citation needed. Yes, the police are arresting more people than they should/doing so on sketchy grounds, but this isn’t Pinochet’s Argentina. No one’s going to be dropped into the ocean from a helicopter. Taking the DOC is better than the misdemeanor for 99% of the protesters, and an attempted escape will almost definitely get you maced/tazed.

  15. The cupped fist is acting as a fulcrum – the length of the forearm as a lever would definitely apply some force.  Particularly for a relentless masturbator with a wrist like a fiddler crab.

    I’d bet if you examined the zip tie, the tongue is now inverted, rather than the plastic being broken, so the width of the strip isn’t the key point, the size of the channel and the structure of the little metal tongue make up the weak spot, and it probably isn’t weak in the tactical version.A good reason not to try too hard at this unless you’re in Dexter’s trunk is how close to the surface nerves and blood vessels are in that area, and how easily the joint can be gapped to stretch ligaments.  After all, that’s where the “carpel tunnel” of the syndrome is so easily irritated.

  16. Before you go to the demonstration, put the forearm on your dominant side in a cast.  Place in easily-removable sling.  They can’t cuff you AND you’ve got a Hellboy arm.

  17. I was herded up in a demonstration on the first day of the iraq war, they threw about 25 of us, zip tie cuffed, in a paddy wagon – backpacks and all. Down at the bottom of mine, I remembered that I had a skateboard kit with a razorblade in it I had been using to clean the bearings.

    Long story short, the ride was much less uncomfortable than it might have been, and when we rolled into the suburban lockup the guards were not at all pleased to see a whole mess of cut  up zip ties all over the floor ;)

  18. Lulz at the irony… to go and join a protest about unemployment/jobs* but resisting arrest won’t exactly open doors in the future.

    *Not debating that’s a serious issue the country needs to address in hurry/completely

    1. I think it depends on what kind of job you’re going after and who it’s with.  If you were to tell some people I know that you were hauled in for resisting arrest, they’d just want to know what for so they could share their own stories.

      1. Uh… no…?? An intelligent person would just take the DOC, get it dismissed and move on.  Going to prison isn’t a joke.  They’re being assholes rounding people up, but anyone who escalates it further is taking a hell of a gamble with their future.  Do you really think they’re gonna give hugs and puppies once you’re free? Anyways, believe it or not, you’re not young forever…

        1. That’s exactly what I meant, the NYPD is making it clear that this will go down on your permanent record, that coming to NYC to voice your opinion will quite likely have consequences. Since the only images I have seen of protestors so far in the NYT, or the major networks is of people getting arrested, and are not of the other 99%. 

          who do you image you’re talking to? children?

  19. I suppose it is reasonable to assume that this video is a “weak zip tie vs. forearm leverage w/ fist-palm fulcrum”, but the ‘action’ happened out of frame. we know there is an assistant there. 
    It is clear to ME that out of frame, he slipped his arms into a custom zip-tie cuff cutter, which was obviously suspended from the ceiling, just out of view. the assistant activated the cutter, and after which he was able to bring his arms down, looking as if he did it with his own strength. 

  20. do they really only use one zip-tie? I’ve only experience the purpose made zip-tie cuffs, and then if they run out of those they will use two zip-ties, one on each wrist, and connect them, seems like it would be pretty easy to just squeeze out of one.

  21. I feel like this video may prompt kids who are protesting to ruin their lives. This information is only useful if you’re being tied up by a criminal. Most cops aren’t bad guys, they’re just doing their job. I know it’s fun to “rail against the man” but come on. Resisting arrest? That’s a one way ticket to a ruined future.

  22. On the other hand, I am glad to see the technique.  

    Out of the million or so people who see this post, there could be someone zip-tied by a predator other than a cop.  That kidnapper/pirate/hijacker would be more likely to use these hardware-store ties than official Blackwater/Halliburton “9/11 memorial Never Forget” brand tactical cuffs.

  23. Some people can’t afford to let themselves be captured, even if the charge is minor.
    Consider the situation of someone who is an undocumented asylum seeker in the US.  Being processed means being deported means being tortured or killed.
    Consider the transgendered person who faces a very significant danger of being assaulted by guards or other prisoners during even a brief stay in jail.
    Or the runaway youth who will be turned over to their abusive parent as soon as they’re released.

    Sometimes escaping from the cops is the best choice available.

  24. So like I didn’t go through the comments to see if that had been posted but this isn’t relevant to getting grabbed in a mass arrest. Zip-tie handcuffs are two distinct loops, mimicking regular handcuffs, not one continuous loop like a single zip-tie. Your best bet is to turn your wrists so they are side by side (makes it easier to move) and make as tight a fist as possible (increases wrist volume by like 5%).

  25. Isn’t it kind of sad that folks are rounded up often enough for people to know what kind of handcuff is used? I mean seriously, how many Western democracies can you think of where you see handcuffed people in the news every day?

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