Breaking Free: How to Get Out of Restraints

Breaking Free: How to Get Out of Restraints

Breaking Free: How to Get Out of Restraints

Although the chances of you being abducted are slim, the number of abductions of Americans at home and abroad remains high enough that you should take precautions to protect yourself from this threat and get out of restraints.

According to the National Crime Information Center, in 2010 over 65,000 people over the age of 21 were categorized as kidnapped (rather than just missing). However unlikely the chances, it’s best to be prepared for the worst.

Should you get kidnapped, you will definitely be tied up by your captors. In this article, we provide you with tips to get out of the restraints commonly used by criminals. The good news is that you don’t have to be Harry Houdini to escape these restraints.

These tips work for anyone regardless of age, gender or level of physical fitness. Let’s start off with the restraint most commonly used by abductors – duct tape.

Duct tape

Duct tape is often used because it’s usually on-hand and can be bought at stores without raising suspicion. It’s also a material that’s known to be unbreakable by captor and captive alike. When you don’t know how to get out of it, duct tape can be frustrating to struggle against and you will be led to believe that only the strongest of people can snap this seemingly unyielding restraint.

This is certainly not the case. Once you know how, you’ll never be intimidated by it again.

Step 1: Get poised to escape

To make it easier to get out of duct tape restraints, get in the “right” position. If you haven’t been rendered unconscious by your captors while they bind your hands, lean forward as far as you can. Make fists with your hands and bring your wrists and forearms together tightly. This will make it easier to break the duct tape later, and fools your captors into thinking you won’t try to escape.

Step 2: Break out

Remember that to break duct tape, you have to tear it at just the right angle. Trying to pull it apart by pulling your wrists away from each other simply won’t work. To break duct tape, you must raise your arms over your head as high as you can. Then in one quick move, bring your arms down, while forcing your elbows to go past your ribcage. It may not tear completely at the first try, so keep doing it until you succeed.

To break out of duct tape, raise your arms as high as you can (


Quickly bring your arms down, bringing your elbows to the side at the same time (
The duct tape should break rather easily; if it doesn’t work the first time, repeat (


Important notes

If the duct tape doesn’t break, you are likely forgetting to spread your arms apart and past your sides as you bring your arms down. You may also not be applying enough force; remember that it’s a sharp and quick downward pull-to-the-side motion. Don’t panic, just keep doing this until you get free.

If tied behind the back:

If your arms are tied behind your back, first work at bringing your hands in front of you. You’ll first need to sit on the floor. As you lower yourself to your knees, move your hands under and forward of your buttocks. After you’re seated, lean forward and fold your legs so you can get your hands past your feet and in front of you. Next, stand up and break the duct tape as described above. If you can’t get your hands in front of you, look for any object with a right angle or a sharp corner. It can be a chair, countertop, table or the corner of a wall. Place the tape against any of those objects, and cut through them with a sawing motion. It may take some time to cut through, but keep doing it until you’re free.

If hands and feet are tied, duct tape over mouth:

If your hands are duct-taped behind your back and your feet are also duct-taped, get your feet free first.

Get into a standing position with your feet pointing outwards in a “V”. Drop down quickly and forcefully to a squat, driving your butt down to your heels – your body weight should break the duct tape binding your feet. Next, carefully get your hands in front of you by “stepping over” them one at a time or lying down and bringing your hands out from under your legs. Get your hands free as described above, then take off the duct tape on your mouth.

Notice that you don’t need to see in order to get out of duct tape, so you can escape in the dark or even if you’re blindfolded or a hood is placed on your head.

Zip ties

The second most-used restraint, and another seemingly innocent material that criminals use to tie up their victims is the zip tie.

Step 1: Present arms

As your captors are about to put on the zip tie, clench your fists next to each other, palms facing down. This will create slack for you to move your arms later and lull your captors into thinking you will be submissive.

Step 2: Rotate and break

Proceed to break out of the zip ties. Before you do any of the methods below, use your teeth to reposition the “lock” such that it’s facing you and where your palms meet. There are at least three ways to do this; two entail no tools and one uses an improvised shim.

Method A:

Since you created some slack by clenching your fists, you may be able to slip your hands out of the zip tie. Turn your wrists so they’re facing each other, then work to get one of your thumbs out. Once you’ve done so, getting free will be easy.

Method B:

Assuming the zip tie isn’t the large, industrial size, bite the dangling part of the zip tie and pull, tightening it. Proceed to break the zip tie like you would duct tape. Bring your arms up with palms together, then quickly bring your arms down with a pull-apart motion to your sides.

Method C:

For this you’ll need a tool such as a bobby pin or small screwdriver. Use your tool to lift the zip tie’s locking bar, then pull your wrists apart to get free.

Method D:

Another way is to use your shoelaces. From both your shoes, take out the laces from only the first eyelet to give you a length of shoelace you can work with. Thread one of your shoelaces between your wrists and inside the zip tie; thread it through and tie the ends of the shoelaces together. Lie on your back and do a pedaling motion with your legs, always keeping the zip ties in contact with the laces. The shoelaces should work like a saw and cut through the zip tie.

Your own shoelaces can save your life, as they can be used to saw through zip ties (

Important notes

Shimmying out of the zip ties takes time and can hurt. Use methods B and D if you don’t have time and don’t have a tool to lift the locking bar. Some preppers recommend you swap out your shoe laces with paracord so it’s longer and more durable for cutting zip ties – this method also works on rope.


Whether it’s made of natural or synthetic material, it’s no surprise that rope still has a place in the criminal’s bag of tricks. It’s not as commonly used as zip ties or duct tape, but it’s still worth knowing how to get out of it.

Step 1: Assume the position

Getting yourself “ready” to be tied with rope by your captors isn’t the same as duct tape. Present your arms to your captors with palms together and elbows apart. Don’t have your elbows together; you need the slack from the resulting curve in your wrists to get out of rope.

Step 2: The escape

Method A:

After being bound by rope with your elbows apart, it’s time to bring them together. Extend your arms in front of you while keeping your palms and elbows together. Start shimmying your hands free from the rope until you get one of your hands free. Bite on one of the strands to loosen the rope and escape quicker.

Method B:

As with duct tape, you can cut through rope by placing it against a right angle and sawing through it, be it the corner of a wall, table or chair.

Method C:

Just as with zip ties, you can use your shoelaces or a length of paracord to saw through the rope. If you have paracord, tie a loop on each end. Position the center of the paracord on the rope, while putting each foot through each of the loops. While sitting or lying down, do a pedaling motion to saw through the paracord.

Important notes

Most criminals who bind you with rope won’t be very good at knots, which is why it’s important to let yourself be bound with your palms together and elbows apart. The shimmy method works with any thickness of rope; except it takes longer if the rope is thinner. Should you be unlucky enough to be bound by someone adept at tying good, strong knots, use the other methods.


These restraints aren’t as popular with criminals but it helps to know how to defeat them anyway. You can buy a variety of handcuff keys or lock picks, but check the laws in your area to see if there are restrictions concerning carrying them on your person.

In the absence of a key, you will need tools. To get out of handcuffs, here are the steps:

Step 1: Make a “key”

You’ve probably seen bobby pins used in movies and TV shows as tools to defeat handcuffs. It’s actually true. A bobby pin is the easiest tool to use, but only after you’ve modified it slightly to make a “key”. To do this, you’ll need a pair of pliers.

First, straighten out the bobby pin. Remove the nub on the end of the smooth side and put a 45-degree bend in it about a quarter of an inch from the end. The result should be what looks like a tiny shovel.

The movies and TV got it half right: a bobby pin can pick handcuffs but it has to be modified first (

Step 2: Escape the cuffs

Since most people are right-handed, treat these instructions as performed with your right hand. The “teeth” of the cuffs (the part that goes into the locking mechanism) must be on the bottom. Focus on the keyhole of the handcuff, which is a small circle with a slot. Insert your “shovel” into the slot and ignore the round portion, going in until you feel it touching the metal inside. As soon as it touches metal, pull the bobby pin toward the ground then right. These are two separate motions, don’t move the bobby pin diagonally. Pull down then to the right or the locking mechanism won’t disengage.

For your peace of mind, you can carry a cleverly-concealed handcuff key like this one at the end of a shoelace (


Some paracord bracelets come with a hidden handcuff key (

Important notes:

Failed attempts may cause your bobby pin to lose its “shovel”. Take a breather, restore it to the right shape and continue. Remember to move the bobby pin slowly and gently; this process calls for finesse and not strength.

Final notes

Should you ever be abducted, remain calm, focused and determined. If you’re abducted and restrained, don’t try to escape unless you know you can overpower or outrun your captors. Failing to run or subdue your captors can antagonize them and you could be beaten into submission.

Wait until you are alone to make your play, but don’t wait too long. The longer you postpone your escape, the more opportunities your captors have to reinforce your restraints (like put you in chains, put you in a guarded cell or take you to an isolated area). They may even torture or kill you if you aren’t being held for ransom.

Finally, avoid dangerous places and situations where your chances of getting kidnapped are high (see below). When going abroad, take note of any travel advisories and follow them.

Be wary of the risks of traveling abroad, and prepare accordingly. (






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