Escape Handcuffs: Learn How to Pick Handcuffs

Key Takeaway

  • Handcuffs can be opened without a key with the help of a bobby pin or a paperclip.
  • A Z-shaped metal tool, when inserted into the locking mechanism of the handcuff, releases the locking mechanism to open the handcuff.
  • Picking a handcuff when lawfully detained is a felony and can lead to criminal charges.

I watched a documentary about the infamous serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer last night, and let me tell you; it wasn’t a good idea. I was suddenly filled with paranoia and worried that someone might break into my house and kidnap me. 

I immediately began looking for ways to get out of such a predicament, and I discovered that most abductors use handcuffs to kidnap. But what happens when you are in a situation where you need to open a handcuff without a key to escape? Thanks to my paranoia, I figured it out! 

Picking a handcuff can seem like a daunting task, but it is actually possible! Handcuffs are designed to be extremely secure, but with the right tools and a little bit of know-how, you can learn how to open a handcuff without a key. 

In this blog post, we’ll discuss the different ways of getting handcuffs off without a key, as well as some tips for success.

Handcuff Anatomy (Parts Of a Handcuff)

Handcuff Anatomy (Parts Of Handcuff)

Before we get down to understand how to unlock the handcuff, it is important to understand different parts of the handcuff first.

The Half-Rings: These are the two semicircular pieces of metal that fit around the wearer’s wrist or ankle.

The Sivel: These are the two curved arms that hold the cuff in place on the wearer’s wrist or ankle. 

The Lock Housing (Clasp): This is the part of the cuff that locks into place when it is closed. It consists of two arms that slide across each other and secure the cuff.

The Keyhole: This is where a key can be inserted to unlock the cuffs.

The type of clasp depends on the type of handcuffs. Standard cuffs have a simple clasp, while more advanced handcuffs often have more complex clasps, such as double-locking mechanisms, ratchets, and combination locks.

Most handcuffs are designed to be opened only with a key, but it is possible to pick them without a key. 

Types Of Handcuffs

Handcuffs come in various sizes and styles, but all have the same purpose. There are three main types of handcuffs: chain handcuffs, hinged handcuffs, and rigid handcuffs. 

Chain handcuffs are the most commonly used type. They are lightweight, easy to transport, and have the ability to be tightened or loosened. Chain handcuffs are usually made from stainless steel and feature a double-lock mechanism that prevents the handcuff from slipping off. 

Chain handcuffs

Hinged handcuffs feature two sets of cuffs that are connected by a hinge. This makes them easier to apply and remove than other types of handcuffs. They are also less likely to slip off, as they lock in place when closed around a person’s wrist. 

Hinged handcuffs

Rigid handcuffs are the strongest type of handcuff available. They are constructed from solid metal and cannot be adjusted once applied. They are more secure than other types of handcuffs, making them the preferred choice for law enforcement officers.

Rigid handcuffs

How To Pick Handcuffs

No matter whether you need to escape a chain, hinged or rigid handcuff, you can unlock it with the help of some tools other than a key. The level of difficulty, however, depends on the robustness of the lock and the effectiveness of your lockpicking skill. In this section of the article, we shall discuss two ways to lockpick handcuffs.

Please note this guide is only made for educational purposes or to escape in cases of emergencies. Trying to escape the handcuffs when lawfully detained is a felony, and this post does not encourage it at all.

Unlocking Handcuffs With Bobby Pin

Unlocking Handcuffs With Bobby Pin

Follow the steps given below to learn how to pick handcuffs with a bobby pin.

  • Step 1: Take a bobby pin and remove the plastic tip from it, if there is one. If you don’t have one, you can easily purchase it from a drugstore or a convenience store,
    bobby pin
  • Step 2: Use your thumb and forefinger to pull apart the two arms of the bobby pin to make it a straight metal rod. Next, bend the pin about a quarter of an inch from the top. The bent tip of the bobby pin should only fit halfway into the lock of the handcuff.
    bend the pin
  • Step 3: Now insert the bent part of the pin into the keyhole of the handcuff lock. Once you’ve inserted the tip all the way into the lock, bend the bottom of the pin to make another 90-degree angle. The bobby pin should now be in a Z shape.
    Z shape of Bobby pin
  • Step 4: Wiggle the bent part of the key at a 90-degree angle to the keyhole.
  • Step 5: Twist the pin in different directions in a way that the tip should align the pins inside the handcuff lock and click the cuffs open. Repeat the process a couple of times if you don’t succeed at once. 
  • Step 6: For double-lock handcuffs, pick the additional lock following the same steps. Double-lock handcuffs are basically handcuffs with an additional lock for enhanced security. 

Be sure to keep trying different angles and positions until you find what works. Once you have found the correct angle, continue to apply gentle pressure until you hear a clicking sound or feel a slight give in the cuff, indicating that it has been unlocked.

Unlocking Handcuff With Paperclip

Unlocking a handcuff with a paperclip is a surprisingly easy task. Here are the steps to learn how to pick a handcuff lock with a paperclip.

  • Step 1: To do this, start by straightening out the paperclip to form a straight rod. 
  • Step 2: Next, use the other finger to bend the top of the metal at a 90-degree angle. The bent tip of your makeshift key should only fit halfway into the handcuff lock.
    small "L" shape
  • Step 3: Once this is done, insert the bent end of the paperclip into the keyhole of the cuff and bend it back to make another 90-degree angle giving it a Z shape.
  • Step 4: Next, push the pin down on the tension bar inside the cuff and twist and wiggle it a couple of times to disengage the locking mechanism, allowing you to open the cuff.
  • Step 5: For a double lock handcuff, repeat the process with the second lock.

When using a paperclip to pick a handcuff, it is important to be gentle and patient. Too much pressure can damage the cuff or the paperclip itself. It may also take some time to find the exact spot in which to insert the paperclip so that it engages the locking mechanism correctly.

Frequently Asked Question

Q1. Is it possible to break a handcuff without a key?

Answer – In most cases, it is possible to break a handcuff without a key. However, the level of challenge to bypassing a handcuff lock may vary depending upon the type and robustness of a handcuff.

Q2. How to open a zip-tie handcuff?

Answer – You can open a zip-tie handcuff without a key easily. To do so, take a bobby pin or paperclip and insert it into the lock mechanism. Use the bobby pin to press down on the release tab while pulling the zip tie away from the cuff. You may even break the handcuff by exerting some force.

Q3. How to get police handcuffs off without a key? 

Answer – It is important to note that picking police handcuffs is illegal in most jurisdictions and can lead to criminal charges if you are caught doing so. If you are looking for an alternative way to unlock police handcuffs, you should contact the police and ask them to open it with their key.


The ability to pick a handcuff without a key can be an invaluable tool in many situations. Knowing how to open a handcuff without a key can be a lifesaving skill, and it is important to practice and perfect your technique if you are ever in the position of needing to use it. With the right tools and practice, anyone can learn to pick a handcuff without any key.

If you have any more questions about the art of lockpicking, write to me in the comment section I will be happy to answer. Thank you for reading!

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Hey! I am Mark. Though I am not a locksmith by profession, but locks have always fascinated me since my teens. And it all started when I got locked out of my house and I had to pick the lock. Since then it has become my hobby to learn more about different kinds of locks, understand their working and methods to pick them up. In due course of time, I have also become better aware of how installing the right lock goes a long way in ensuring iron clad security. I aim to share my passion (about locks) through this blog. If you are also passionate about picking locks or are just looking to beef up the security, hop on the ride.