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Samantha Daly

Escaping Zip Ties

Escaping Zip Ties

What happens if you’re ever in a situation where you find yourself restrained? Do you possess the skills and knowledge necessary to free yourself?

Zip ties are becoming increasingly popular with home invaders and kidnappers. They’re valuable emergency resources, but they are also a cheap and hard-to-escape solution for a criminal who doesn’t have access to handcuffs.

You find yourself restrained with a zip tie binding your wrists. Yes, you could easily cut the ties with a knife or multi-tool, but if you’re being held prisoner, your captors have likely taken your weapons and tools. So now what?

These four methods have been tested on heavy duty ties, rated at 175 lbs. With some practice, you can commit these tricks to memory and be better prepared to seize the opportunity to escape should the situation ever presents itself.

  1. Slip Them. This is usually people’s first inclination when bound. You try to wiggle free of the restraints. This will work if you can slip one of your thumbs loose, but typically the ties are too tight for this. If your plan is to slip out, make sure to leave space in between your wrists when you’re being bound by putting your hands out in fists, backs to the ceiling and thumbs touching. When you rotate your hands inward later, the ties will become looser. However, if the ties are too tight, try one of the other methods.
  2. Pick Them. Zip ties work by using a locking mechanism to catch on the teeth of the tie, preventing it from loosening. This lock can be picked by sliding a very thin piece of material into the lock to hold the blade up so that it doesn’t catch as you loosen the tie. The clip from a pen, a bobby pin, or even the tag end of the zip tie (if it’s thin enough) can be used to pick the lock. This is the quietest and least conspicuous method of escape, but it requires some creativity, skill, and practice.
  3. Break Them. If slipping out isn’t an option and you’re not having success picking the locking mechanism, you can use force to break the tie. If your hands are cuffed in front of you, raise your arms above you head as high as you can. In one quick, powerful motion, swing your hands down, striking your wrists against your upper abdomen and swinging your elbows as far behind you as possible. If you’re successful, the lock will fail and you’ll be free. If doesn’t break on the first try, repeat the motion. This method will leave your wrists scraped and chafed, but it’s a small price to pay.
  4. Saw Them. Your final option for freedom is to saw through the ties. We put this as a last resort because you’ll need a decent amount of time alone to pull this one off. A rough square edge of bricks or concrete can cut through the zip tie plastic; however, this might be hard to find. You can always be prepared, though, by switching out your boot laces with 550 or Kevlar cord. This cordage could come in handy in a variety of survival situations, restraint only being one of them. Remove the cord from each of your boots and tie the ends together, into one long cord. Tie a bowline knot in each end forming a loop and place one foot in each, with the cord sitting in the arch of your foot. Thread the cord through the zip tie and move your feet in a type of bicycling motion to slide it back and forth creating friction against the tie. The 550 cord is strong enough to survive the friction, but the zip tie plastic will start to melt under the pressure and quickly give way, freeing your hands.

Armed with these strategies, you can easily free yourself from zip ties. It is important to remember to stay calm, and passive, keeping your attacker confident. Then, when their attention slips, choose whichever strategy best fits your situation and seize the opportunity!

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