How to properly use handcuffs:

Standard Operating and Handcuffing Procedures.

It is important to remember that handcuffs are a temporary restraining device. They are not intended for long-term immobilization. It is recommended that periodic checks be made of the subject's hands and wrists to avoid soft tissue or nerve damage. The restrained subject should be considered a threat, even though restrained. The restrained subject should be kept under observation, when possible.

Handcuffs should be carried in such a manner that they can be accessible and ready for immediate use. Store the handcuffs in the "loaded" position by pushing the shackle jaw through the ratchet in the body of the cuff, until it is almost through. (1 or 2 teeth remain in contact with the shackle jaw.) The tip of the shackle jaw will extend through and beyond the body of the cuff. In this position, as applying the cuff to the subject, give a steady and rapid pressure and send the shackle jaw the rest of the way through the cuff body. This should cause it to swing around the subjects arm and back into the ratchet of the body in the cuffed position. Hiatt handcuffs have a unique preloading feature. The design is such that the shackle jaw can be swung around backwards and the last two teeth can be "back ratcheted" into the preloaded position. In any event, a preloaded handcuff will assure immediate and effective use. Make sure that the double lock is not engaged until after the cuff is applied.

You should always carry two keys with you. One should be readily available for the removal of the handcuffs, and the other should be concealed on your person for emergency use.

In general, handcuff the subject first and then conduct a thorough search. The search procedure should insure that there are no weapons or foreign objects which could be used to pick the locks (i.e., ball point pen ink cartridges, pins, metal strips, hair pins, etc.)

Attempt to keep the subject off balance when applying the handcuffs. Keep yourself in a well balanced, alert stance while performing the handcuffing sequence.

Overtightening can cause soft tissue and/or nerve damage. Perform periodic checks to insure the subject's hands are in good condition and to deter any possible escape.

Never handcuff a subject to yourself, to a fixed object, or to a vehicle.

There are a wide variety of handcuffing techniques and positions. The method utilized depends on a number of variables. These include: the subject's mental state; level of cooperation; physical characteristics; physical position; the specific surroundings; and the level of support present. In general, the subject should be kept off balance with a restricted view of the officer's actions. The officer should remain alert while employing the safest, most effective procedure.

To apply the handcuffs, have the subject position the right hand behind their back with the palm facing outward. (thumb up) Maintain control by keeping the subject off balance while using an appropriate finger control technique. (holding the subjects top two fingers) Hold one handcuff in your free hand with the keyhole facing toward you.

Place the shackle jaw against the subject's wrist between the base of the hand and the wrist bone. (See figure 1) Press the cuff firmly against the wrist causing it to swing through the cuff body and re-engage. Tighten the cuff, being careful not to pinch the skin, catch clothing, jewelry or other material.


Now have the subject bring the left hand behind the back with the palm facing out. (thumb up) Again, using an appropriate finger control technique (top two fingers), position the left wrist to accept the handcuff. Again, press the cuff firmly against the wrist causing it to swing through the cuff body and re-engage. Tighten using the same criteria as mentioned previously. Your handcuff orientation should look like (figure 2) if properly applied.


When properly applied, the backs of the hands should be together, both palms facing out, with both key holes also facing out. (Both thumbs up) *NOTE: You need to have the cuffs applied with a proper amount of tightness. To test this, try placing a finger between the shackle and the wrist of the subject. If you can't get your finger in, it is too tight.

Immediately double lock the handcuffs by inserting the tip of the key into the double locking hole on your specific cuffs. (see figure 3) Smith and Wesson has a sliding lock while most others have a button in a hole on the end of the body of the cuff. If your handcuffs do not have a working double lock, take them out of service and get a pair that have a fully functioning double lock.


Check to make sure that both cuffs are double locked by applying pressure to each shackle. It they do not move, the handcuffs are properly double locked.

Removing handcuffs can present as many possible safety threats as applying them. It is important to follow a handcuff removal procedure that keeps the subject off balance and discourages an escape attempt or assault. Having other law enforcement personnel present is highly recommended.

Inspect your handcuffs for wear, damage, and malfunction. Any handcuffs that become loose working or show signs of wear on the teeth, ratchet, or moving parts should be removed from service and replaced. Well used handcuffs are much easier to escape from than new cuffs with close tolerances.

Much of this material was found in the instruction manuals that comes with each new pair of handcuffs. (i.e.; Peerless, Hiatt, Smith & Wesson, American Handcuff)

This page was posted on this web site - July 2007 -