Escaping Illegal Restraints

Approx read: 5 mins

If someone kidnaps you or holds you against your will, it is very likely that they will attempt to subdue you using some form of illegal restraints.

There are some people who find it hard to broach discussions around topics like being kidnapped or being held against your will. They don’t want to ponder the possibility that they could very well find themselves in a position like that one day. Although the chances of the average person being kidnapped are lower in a majority of countries around the world, it is still something that the average person should be prepared to deal with. For instance, if someone breaks into your home and holds you prisoner, what are you going to do?

If someone kidnaps you or holds you against your will, it is very likely that they will attempt to subdue you using some form of illegal restraints. In situations like these, it helps to have some additional knowledge about these restraining methods. With this information, captives can help work themselves free of their restraints. There is no universal restraint that all kidnappers like to use, so these restraints can vary from zipping ties, to locks, and even tape. Let’s take a look at some of these restraining methods, and some of the ingenious ways you can use to work your way to freedom.

Escaping Duct Tape

Duct tape is an extremely popuescaping illegal restraints - battlefacelar tool for kidnappers. This is probably because it is easy to get, and it will not look alarming if anyone is buying some. The only way it might pique someone’s interest is if you end up buying about 20 rolls of duct tape, and even then it might not be alarming (a la Fifty Shades of Grey).

If your kidnapper binds your wrists together using a good amount of duct tape, your first instinct will be to try and wriggle your way out. This will most likely only cause unnecessary friction, but it will not result in you breaking free. In order to break free of duct tape binding, the first thing that you need to do is relax your body and try to stay calm. Next, raise your arms straight over your head so that they are fully extended upwards. In some cases, you might not be able to fully achieve this position based on how you are tied up, but try and raise them as high as they will go. Once you have done this, bring your arms swiftly down to your chest, while simultaneously pulling your wrists away from each other. The momentum and force that you apply to your restraints will help pull them apart from each other.

This method might not work straight away, but with a few tries you should be able to rip yourself free. On the plus side, this escape method makes a minimal amount of noise. If your hands are tied behind your back, this method will still work, albeit with much more effort. In lieu of this, it is probably easier to wiggle your way out of duct tape when your hands are tied behind your back.

Escaping Zip Ties

In addition to duct tape, kidnappers are very fond of zip ties because they are easy to come by and they are a little more secure than duct tape. The method described above will also work when your hands are tied with zip ties, even if it is tightly done. This method makes use of lateral momentum or lateral stress to rip the zip tie apart. In order for this method to work effectively, you have to make sure that the zip tie is as tight as possible, so if your captor did not tighten all the way, use your teeth to pull it taut around your wrists. However, there are a few other nifty ways to get out of zip ties in addition to the method described above.

Another method that people can use to escape zip ties is the “slipping out” method. In this scenario, it is necessary for you to give your hands to your captor with your fists clenched shut and your fingers facing downwards. This will essentially give the zip tie more room to cover, and it will give you more wiggle room if you change the way your hands are positioned. Once the tie has been used to bind your wrists, turn them so that your fingers are facing each other and then unclench your fist. This motion will give you enough space to wriggle one hand out and then the other. It might sound easy on paper, but it will take quite a few tries for you to successfully get this to work. This method will also work if your hands are tied behind your back, it might just be harder to pull off because of the angles.

In addition to the methods described above, zip ties can also be compromised by the use of a shim. These shims can be made from any manner of objects, as long as they are small enough to fit inside the zip ties lock mechanism and lift the locking bar. This method is easier to pull off if there is another captive to help you out. Essentially, the shim is used to lift the zip ties locking pawl. Once this bar is lifted, you can simply slide the zip tie out of the lock and you are home free.

Escaping Handcuffs

Handcuffs are not as common among burglars as zip ties and duct tape, because secure handcuffs are not as easy to get. They are not necessarily hard to purchase, but you just can’t walk into Wal-Mart or the Home Depot to buy some handcuffs. In order to bypass handcuffs, the shim method described above is your saving grace. Handcuffs work in a similar fashion to the zip ties that were described above. Handcuffs work using a ratcheting mechanism that catches onto the teeth on the single strand of the cuff. The cuffs are kept from loosening, with the help of a locking pawl, which effectively keeps the handcuffs locked. Due to the nature of the ratchet and the pawl, once the ratchet is inserted it cannot be retracted unless the key to the cuffs is used. The process of using a shim creates a barrier between the ratchet and the pawl that allows for the cuff to be unlocked. As was stated above, these methods are much more effective when they are undertaken by multiple people, but it can still be pulled off with just one person.

In addition to shimming your way out of handcuffs, captives can also pick their way out of handcuffs by utilizing makeshift lock picks. These can be fashioned from a variety of wiry materials. The only downside is that if your hands are already cuffed together, it might be hard to come by these materials. But if you can make that work, you will be able to pick your way out of the lock and be on your way to freedom. The key to working your way out of these restraints is staying calm and trying to think creatively in terms of the materials that you have around you that can be put to good use.


It is my hope that no one ever has to resort to using any of the methods described above because that will imply that you are, in some way or form, a captive. If you try one of the described escape methods and it doesn’t work, do not give up hope, simply keep at it and in no time you will work your way out. However, if you find yourself restrained by law enforcement officials, do not resort to using any of these methods because it will result in extreme force being used against you. On the other hand, if you are being held captive illegally and against your will, try as many of these options until you are free. Once you break free, make sure that your first priority is to escape the area or to contact the authorities. Hopefully reading up on hostile environment training will be of some help. Also, make sure that you upgrade your residential security by installing monitored security systems to help keep you safe.

Stay safe out there!


Ralph Goodman is a professional writer and the resident expert on locks and security over at the Lock Blog. The Lock Blog is a great resource to learn about keys, locks and safety. They offer tips, advice and how-to's for consumers, locksmiths, and security professionals.