Learning How to Escape Restraints and Evasion Tactics

Escape restraints

In some, if not most cases, a homeowner/occupant is restrained with whatever material is available in the home. This usually means the intruders are not professionals and are adjusting on the “fly”. Professionals would have carried the necessary restraints with them. The typical restraints are plastic zip ties, handcuffs, tape and cordage. Rope is not as common today because of the availability and ease of zip ties.

Zip Ties

Once again, however if someone breaks into your home under the assumption no one is home then that person will grab whatever is available to restrain you. The restraints can include electrical cords, window blind cordage, and tape or zip ties if readily available.

The standard zip tie available at the local hardware or retail store is usually plastic with a ribbed edge held tight with a plastic locking mechanism. They are called zip ties because once the pointed end is inserted it literarily zips tight around an object making a zipping sound, and is held in place by the ribbed edges and the lock.

The pointed end will be sticking out a few inches once you are restrained with a zip tie. One way to break loose from a plastic tie is to insert the pointed end in where the locking mechanism is and pry it back loosening the pressure on the plastic ribs. This only works if the zip tie was large enough to have a few inches left over after tightening. This does require a bit of skill and of course, it is made much easier if your hands are restrained in front of you.

“Practice makes perfect”.

Another way to break free is to apply pressure by raising your hands and flaring out your elbows and then quickly bring your hands down as you apply pressure outward. This can force the plastic lock to break away from the ribs. The lock should be between your wrists so you may have to maneuver it into place before applying pressure.

The weakest point of any zip tie is the locking mechanism. Use this method whether your hands are in front or back. If there are multiple people restrained you can work together to break each other free of zip ties by using the pointed end or any small object. Obviously, the best method is by cutting the restraints, so unless you have a set of cutters handy you will have to force the lock to break, or manipulate it to loosen the tie.

Law enforcement, military personnel and other professionals do not use standard zip ties found at the local Wal-Mart they will use ones specifically made for restraining people. If restrained with these your chances of breaking free using the above-described methods are extremely slim. Zips designed for restraining people typically have steel ribs and a stainless steel locking device and some may even have a straight bar that fits between the wrists. This means you could not apply pressure or attempt to snap the ties by pulling the wrists apart.

Tape and Rope

Duck tape or other tape can be manipulated enough by flexing your hands and wrists in most cases to where you can pull a hand free and the same thing applies to rope unless the person restraining you is a professional. Keep in mind that 550 Paracord has a woven outer layer that can be used to “saw” through tape and in some cases plastic zip ties. If you have shoelaces made of Paracord you may be able to maneuver your restraint material close enough to use the rough outer layer to work yourself free, so another practical use for 550 Paracord.


Handcuffs have been used for decades and the mechanism has not changed much since their inception. Those in the business refer to the standard mechanism as a “swinging bow ratchet” used since around 1912, developed by the Peerless Handcuff Company. Soon after 1912 the “double lock” was developed. The double lock supposedly was designed to make the cuffs less susceptible to manipulation.

The simple design is why the handcuffs are still in use today and are used by many law enforcement agencies. This means the keys are the same and it is quite likely that if you have a handcuff key secured on your person, and you are restrained with a set, the key will allow you to break free.

When an officer slaps the cuffs on someone, the jailer or other law enforcement personnel must be able to remove the cuffs, this is the main reason the keys are interchangeable. It would be impossible to keep up with all the keys if each set had its own unique key.

There are however, cuffs out there that have a unique key and they are used by specialized units in the military and by certain law enforcement agencies or personnel. The typical burglar or other criminal will have likely picked up a set of handcuffs at a surplus store so the key you have hidden on your person would likely work.

Hide a key by duct taping it to the inside of your belt, belt buckle, and waistband or even under your watchband. Keys can also be hidden under Paracord survival bracelets and even in their buckles. You can also use bobby pins or other stiff pieces of metal to manipulate the lock. This will take practice and it is recommended that you pick up several models of handcuffs to practice on. Make sure you have the key available and only secure the cuffs to one wrist until you have mastered the locking mechanism.

Lock Picking

You are asking yourself why you would need to know how to pick a lock. Only criminals need this information. Your typical criminal does not pick locks they smash windows or doors or pry the lock off with a pry bar. Professional thieves and others do pick locks to gain entry quietly or in an emergency when a key is not available.

You may need to gain entry or to escape a building or room so having a basic understanding can save your life or the life of a loved one. Imagine you discover a loved one is locked in a shed or in a sealed room in a basement with a heavy padlock on the door. How do you get inside if you do not have the key or heavy tools needed to smash the door or to pry the hasp off? You pick the lock that is what you do.

Locks are rated on how long it would take someone without a key to open it, similar to how safes are rated. The longer it would take a so-called professional to open a lock or safe means it has a higher rating. Thieves do not want to be standing on your front porch for 30 minutes fumbling with the lock. The better the lock the less chance of someone breaking in, not that they could not open the lock given enough time, but time is the key element. The simple fact is all locks can be manipulated and opened without the key; it is just a matter of time.

Lock picking tools are varied and contrary to what you may see on television, it takes more than a paper clip in most cases. At a minimum, you need a tension bar to apply pressure and a “rake bar”. Probably the fastest way to ruin a lock and to open it is by raking the pins.

Raking the pins may very well ruin the typical padlock or deadbolt but that is the point in most cases. The tension bar is inserted to apply pressure and the raking tool forces the pins to move. The tension bar is held tight by one hand to open the bolt or shackle as the pins are manipulated into position rapidly. In a padlock, the shackle is held by a shackle spring and considerable tension must be applied using the tension bar as you rake the pins.

There are numerous videos and detailed instructions on the Internet on how to pick a lock. The information is available and everyone should have the skills to open a lock, because having the skills can save a life one day including your own.

There is not a moral question here. Having the skills to save a life is never a bad thing and the more skills you have the greater chances of survival. Remember a skill you possess in one area may be applied to other situations so never stop learning new skills.


In survival school, the students are taught that if you can survive and evade then you do not have to worry about resisting interrogation or planning an escape. Easier said than done, but to increase your chances of surviving you must do what you can to avoid capture.

This is especially true in home invasions. If you can conceal yourself from the intruders, you can survive. Unfortunately, some cannot avoid being restrained or captured and the ending is never a good one. Safe rooms are ideal if designed for that purpose. Locking yourself in a bathroom will work if the intruder (s) does not know you are there otherwise, it is a simple matter to break the door down.

Concealment is the key, and proper concealment means the bad people do not know you are there. A safe room must be designed to keep someone out. You are safe inside while they ransack the house. Material things can be replaced family members cannot be.

Getting out of the building can save your life because unless you have a fortified safe room no room is safe if they know you are in it.