Zip ties can be useful items in a survival kit, as they’re good for securing and fastening different things during emergencies. But what if that emergency is a situation in which you have been taken captive and your hands have been bound with zip ties? While it’s illegal to break out of lawful custody (police placing you under arrest, even if you’re innocent), it is within your rights to escape when being held illegally or abducted. If you had a knife or multi-tool, you could simply cut the ties. But chances are good that if you’re being held prisoner, you’ve been searched for weapons or tools.
So, assuming you have nothing to work with, commit to memory these three ways to get out of zip ties.
1. Break Them
If you are strong enough, you may be able to snap the locking mechanism on common zip ties. The average tie is made from plastic or nylon, and it has a toothed surface that engages with a flexible metal or plastic blade. If you are cuffed with your hands in front, or if you can get your hands in front of you, raise your arms above your head. Then, jerk your hands downward with great speed and force. The goal is to strike your tied wrists against your upper abdomen and swing your elbows as far behind you as anatomy allows. If done correctly, the locking blade will fail and you’ll be free. If it doesn’t break on the first attempt, keep trying. It’s going to hurt your wrists, but at least you’ll be free from the restraints.
2. Pick Them
The locking blade can be picked by sliding a very thin piece of material into the zip tie’s lock to hold the locking blade up. This keeps it from contacting the strap’s teeth and allows you to back the strap out. A pocket clip broken off a pen can make a good pick. Some small hair barrettes are just right for the job. Picking the locking blade with a shim is the quietest and most low-key method for escaping from zip ties. If it’s thin enough and strong enough, the tag end of one of your binding zip ties can be inserted into the lock and used as a shim. In that case, the tool you need is right at your fingertips.
3. Saw Them
A rough square edge could cut through zip tie plastic, but it takes some time. Brick, concrete, stone, and cinderblock edges work well; however, these square edges might not be readily available in a captive situation. This is where you need to be prepared with a back-up plan. By swapping out your ordinary boot or shoe laces with 550 cord (or Kevlar cord) when you first start wearing them, you’ll always have several feet of remarkably useful cordage material available. To use the 550 cord to cut through zip ties, start by removing the laces from both shoes. Tie them together and then tie a large loop at either end of your extended cord (a bowline is the perfect knot for the loops). Each loop should be large enough to slide over your foot to the arch. Thread your cordage under one of the zip ties, put a foot in each loop and start moving your feet to make the cord slide back and forth. A “bicycling” motion works best, and keep the cord in the same stop on the zip tie. The 550 cord is resistant enough to the friction heat you’ll generating, but most zip tie material should melt and wear away under this friction. Bicycle as hard as you can, and the ties will soon be cut. Re-lace your footwear, and be ready for escape and evasion.
Ever had you hands bound in zip ties? By all means, tell us how you escaped that one.