former Editor-in-chief at Elsevier (2008-2009)
I think you could teach yourself to do this with a bit of practice. However, the video included in Matt Willis’ answer ignores a common police doctrine.
If your officer knows what he is doing, your cuffs will be applied so your hands are facing palms out (knuckles to knuckles), and the keyholes of the cuffs are on the side opposite the hands. I learned a technique of doing this that involves a wristlock maneuver, coupled with loading the cuffs into the case a certain way and pulling them out a certain way. This is how I was taught to do it, and I had never used handcuffs before, so I didn’t have to “unlearn” any bad habits. I never realized how naturally it came to me until I heard another officer say that no one could get cuffs applied to a prisoner faster than me. I never viewed myself as especially skilled with this.
If the keyholes of the cuffs are on the side away from your hands, getting out of them, even with a real handcuff key, is going to be a lot harder. This will be doubly hard if the cuffs are the hinged type used in that video, as those don’t permit any lateral flexing of the wrists. These are standard handcuffs:
and these are the sturdier hinged type:
I always carried two pairs of cuffs, one of each type.
The standard British police kit includes a variation on the hinged type, called Speedcuffs, that are even more difficult to get out of:
A faster way of getting out of cuffs is to “shim” them, by sticking a narrow piece of metal into the well where the single strand portion enters the locking mechanism, and pushing the pawl away from the ratchet teeth. If handcuffs are not double-locked, so that the single strand cannot get tighter, this is pretty easy to do. If they are double-locked, that method won’t work.
I should add that most law enforcement agencies have policies that mandate double-locking of handcuffs, both for security and to ensure against injuries from the cuff getting too tight.
Writes about Police, Law Enforcement, and Campus Security & Safety.
Yes, but not like they usually show. The keyhole is not involved at all—it has more to do with the ratchet mechanism.
I won’t go into detail, but I’m sure the information is freely available on YouTube.
It’s easier to just stay out of handcuffs altogether.
jack of all trades at Lots of Places
It’s possible. One way you can do it by shimming the teeth between locking mechanism. Pushing down on that will release the lock.