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  • Writer's pictureJonny S.

Escaping Illegal Restraints: Duct Tape

Most people like to think that they can handle themselves in a bad situation. We scenario train in our heads, tactically daydreaming out the scenario. Perhaps a bad guy comes through the door with a gun drawn doing X, Y, or Z and then we appropriately respond for the given variable. This type of mental training although fanciful seeming is rather important, it trains your decision-making process for if or when that would actually happen allowing you to act quickly rather than thinking through given challenges. You have already decided, prior to the situation, a possible set of best actions to take, much like a chess Grandmaster. That said it is unlikely that sort of thinking includes an abduction scenario as we all like to think of ourselves as the hero of a given situation and heroes typically don’t get abducted. It’s not as fun a scenario to game out in our minds as it, in part, admits to a prior defeat.

Perhaps you are an adult male and reading this thinking to yourself, “No one has any reason to abduct me, that’ll never happen.” You could be right, however if you have women or children in your life that should give you all the reason necessary to learn how to escape illegal restraints to make sure you can pass these skills on appropriately. We’ll cover how to escape illegal restraints topic by topic, in future posts, starting with one of the most common and easily found restraints, duct tape. For those of you who are more visual learners you can see most of what's written here demonstrated in this video, but it does not include all of the techniques below.

Duct tape is cheap, convenient, and exceptionally strong in terms of tensile strength which makes it a crowd favorite for criminals. One of its main features, susceptibility in the realm of shear strength, makes it easy to tear which is great news for those trying to escape it. That being the case a lot of the information you will see on escaping from it is highly oversimplified and doesn’t account for the edge of the tape rolling over. Once the tape edge rolls its shear strength becomes much stronger thereby nullifying the most commonly taught technique of escape. There are great work-a-rounds for this so fear not! Seeing as you’re likely to be putting up a fight and/or your captors will be in a hurry to get you bound it is also likely the tape edge will roll so that does call into question the intrinsic value of this technique, but it is arguably the quickest and easiest if the conditions are right so it is still important to know.

The Easy Method

Setup: Your hands are duct taped in front of you and the edges of the tape are not rolled.

Bring your hands to shoulder height or higher and pull your elbows down and back past your ribs as if you are doing a rowing type motion.

It is important to do this movement explosively and take advantage of the momentum of your arms by not stopping short. You want to follow through much like you hear about Taekwondo martial artists “punching through” a board.

If not rolled the tape should easily shear allowing you to make your next move. Note that some say this technique can work the opposite way as in when your hands are taped behind your back. Ultimately, we’ve seen very few people who can do it that way. It requires great shoulder mobility and longer arms as well as some decent strength in a rather unnatural position, it’s possible but likely shouldn’t be relied upon.

The Handwashing Method

Setup: Hands are taped in front or behind and the edge of the tape is rolled.

This method is very effective albeit very uncomfortable, though since our lives are at stake comfort takes a backseat for certain. It’s just like it sounds, you are going to have your palms flattened together, if possible, and work your hands back and forth as if you’re soaping them up, whereas your left hand moves away from your body and your right hand moves towards your body alternating.

This tends to roll the tape even more and creates space through time and effort.

With a little work it usually will allow you to slip one hand out. It does a number on your skin so be careful not to practice this one too many times in a row. If the tape is too tight or wrapped horizontally and vertically on your hands, like a cross pattern, struggling with this one for too long is a bad idea and moving on to a different method is recommended. This can cause your wrists to swell up a bit, so if it doesn’t look like it’s going to work after some effort save yourself the time and pain and move on to a more appropriate technique.

The Pop-a-Squat Method

Setup: Your hands are duct taped in front of you or behind you and the edges are not rolled.

Hands in front: Bend over as if you’re attempting to touch your toes. From this position you’re going to do a fast bodyweight squat by bringing your butt towards your heels so that your knees will come between your arms forcing them apart and shearing the tape. As you approach the lowest position be sure to spread your knees open to add extra force. Pulling your elbows back once the tape is secured under your knees can also help add force.

Hands behind: This one comes with a word of warning that not all people can do this if their hands are behind them. If you have a long torso and short arms it will not be possible. Pending that is not the case put your hands beneath your hips/under your butt more towards the top of your hamstrings by way of bending over slightly. Once in position you will then try to either squat down or sit down and pull your arms up doing a shoulder shrug. If done correctly and your build allows your hips should force your hands apart shearing the tape.

The Friction Method

Setup: Hands in front or behind, taped any way, this will work.

This method is really great, but it does require you to have something in your environment to work with. Rougher surfaces are preferred as this will allow for greater friction and thereby better and faster cutting. If you try to do this on something that is smooth it should work eventually but will not be worth the energy you put into it. We want to escape quickly and efficiently. If we don’t have any energy left after breaking out of our restraints then we may not have enough energy left to fight for our survival, these are important things to keep in mind. A corner of a wall, desk, or whatever is in the environment that allows you to slide the tape along it repeatedly should work. A concrete or stone edge works very quickly but a painted wall tends to take more time.

If it will take more time it’s best to find a smooth and steady rhythm so you don’t gas-out right away, after all a steady jog is typically easier than several sprints. If your hands are behind you it’s best to do squats while using your weight and arms to lean into the cutting surface, let your big muscles do most of the work.

Be careful to keep your skin off the cutting edge as this will do a number on it.

The next two methods will be contingent on you being prepared for when something like this happens i.e., having the correct tools on your person to facilitate an escape. That’s where our Undertac underwear come into play. We designed these tactical underwear for Special Forces operators who needed a better solution. A boxer brief that allowed for easy access to do your business when concealed carrying, wearing a gun belt, or body armor, hence our ambidextrous QR [Quick Release] fly. They also feature an Escape and Evasion Pocket on the back of the waistband which appears as a simple tag but in realty can hold a few hundred dollars, a handcuff key, Kevlar kite string, a razor blade, bobby pin, etc.

As aforementioned abduction as a grown man is not something we generally fear in the United States, however when we travel that becomes a different story. Being an American citizen that is traveling typically shows two things, one you come from the wealthiest country in the world, the other since you are traveling you likely have monetary sources with you. Being in an impoverished place can exponentially raise your chances of being abducted hence why Undertac underwear are arguably the best travel underwear in the world, not to mention they are also the most comfortable, and our Special Forces contacts have dubbed them the best underwear for rucking, but back to the task at hand.

A quick note on retrieving your tools if wearing Undertac Infantry Underwear. The Escape and Evasion pocket appears as a tag on the rear of the waistband so in order to retrieve the tools when your hands are taped behind it is super easy. You should be able to access the pocket with a finger or two. If carrying a razor blade, it is recommended to have it wrapped in duct tape or currency to prevent accidentally cutting yourself or clothing while carrying or accessing. Warning: If you choose to carry any sharp object it is at your own risk! If your hands are taped in front of you, you can rotate at the waist and grab the waistband on either of your sides and pull in order to rotate the Escape and Evasion pocket towards the front of your waist. That being said it is easiest to drop your trousers and slide your Undertac underwear down a bit, ideally above the knees but just enough for you to easily access the pocket. We recommend not having an audience when practicing.

The Razor Method

Setup: Taped any way, front or back.

This method is a surefire way to free yourself but it requires the ability to articulate your wrists well, which not everyone can do when they are taped together. Your goal here is to use the razor blade to cut enough of the tape to allow some slack for the handwashing method.

It can be tricky to try and cut through the tape, most angles will have you cutting towards your skin so this one is likely best not to practice fully until it is a last ditch effort of survival. Use extreme caution, especially if your hands are behind you.

The Bicycle Method

Setup: Heavily taped in front.

This method as well as the following method employ Kevlar kite string. 200 lb. test is recommended or stronger, but 200lbs is rather easy to conceal due to its lack of bulk. Retrieve your string which should already have a loop tied on either end of it large enough to get the front half of your shoe through. Hold one end of the string in your teeth and lay it over the tape.

Sit down and place one loop over each foot. At this point there should be three contact points. The loops on your feet and the string pulling down on the tape holding your hands together. Once in place you can lean back until your feet come into the air and you are resting on your back. From here start to peddle your feet as if you were riding a bicycle.

The string will cut through the tape rather quickly as it rubs back and forth. Be careful to keep your skin out of the way of the string as it cuts through, it also gets really hot from the friction. Once you start peddling this should cut through like a hot knife through butter.

You want to have about 2 foot more string than your height, so if you’re 6 foot tall about 8 foot of string should do the trick. You can also use your shoelaces but those are typically too weak to hold up to these methods, if you want to use shoelaces you can replace them with paracord. However, this doesn’t allow you to be fully prepared as you will need to have loops tied on each end of the string and you don’t want to waste valuable time trying to tie knots while you’re restrained and being held captive.

The Swimmer Method

Setup: Heavily taped behind.

This method uses the Kevlar string just as above but now we have to make an adjustment since our hands are behind us. It can be tricky to get the string draped over the tape as we no longer have our teeth to use. The best way to do this is to have one of the loops dangling about 6-12 inches from your hand. In order to throw the loop over the tape you will have to bend over quickly and flick your hands up towards your head. Given enough tries you should feel the string end loop go over the tape and now be between the tape and your body. Be careful to grab the end you just threw over the tape and even out the length of string so the halfway point is resting over the tape. Now kneel down and lean back. Grab one of the loops with your fingertips and wrap them around the tip of your foot. Repeat with the other foot/loop. This can be quite tricky to do and being flexible can make it a lot easier. Once the loops are placed over your feet gently roll to your side and then onto your stomach. Now just start kicking your feet as if you’re swimming being careful to keep the string off your skin as much as possible.

The Spear Method

Setup: Ankles/Legs are taped and tape is not rolled.

Bring your hands palms together to a prayer position and point them down towards your toes.

Bend over forcefully and spear into the edge of the tape.

This may take a couple of spears but it should shear the tape.

The Sink-N-Split Method

Setup: Ankles/Legs are taped slight roll.

This method generates more force so it does have the ability to shear through a slight edge roll of the tape. Put your heels together and point your toes outward into a “V” shape so they are pointing roughly to the 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock positions. Now sink your butt quickly down to your heels in a low squat position. This should cause the tape to split.

So, there you have it! Many ways to free yourself if being restrained by duct tape. We highly recommend learning these skills and passing them on to your loved ones as this could save their life one day. If you enjoyed this information please support us by giving our Undertac Infantry underwear a try and if you like them tell a friend! We donate a portion of our profits to Veteran groups that help fight human trafficking. You can order them here.

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