Different Types of Handcuffs: Ultimate Guide

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There’s not a great deal of magic regarding handcuffs, which are pretty straightforward in design and purpose.

Handcuffs are merely a tool to restrict a person’s arms by linking two “bracelets” around each of the subject’s wrist.

Handcuffs are only intended for temporary use.

There are some types of handcuffs that stand out from the rest, as I’ll describe in more detail. 

I will also tell you what type of handcuffs I prefer and why.

Law enforcement officers and security guards should know a little about what’s on the market.

Various types of handcuffs:

Chain Handcuffs:

Chained handcuffs, Peerless model 700
Chained handcuffs, Peerless model 700

These are the traditional handcuffs you see everywhere.

Chain handcuffs consist of two parts that are joined together in a link.

Each part has a rotating arm that engages with a ratchet that prevents it from opening once it is closed. 

This prevents the arrested person from escaping without using handcuff keys.


  • The link between the bracelets is only a few inches or centimeters long. This prevents the person from big movements.
  • Chain handcuffs are easy to handle. Once you have attached the cuff to a hand, you have good mobility to rotate and tilt the cuffs if necessary.
  • This is the most comfortable handcuff to wear.


  • Just as flexibility and mobility can be positive, they can also be negative. As stated, the person gets a few inches/centimeters of moving space. This can make the person harder to control, even with the cuffs attached.
  • Some people are flexible enough to move their hands from the back to the front of their body. This maneuver is possible with chained handcuffs.

Areas of use:

For use in daily service. Chain handcuffs are very versatile and can be used in most situations.

You can find chained handcuffs at Amazon.com here.

Hinged handcuffs

Hinged Handcuffs, Peerless model 801
Hinged Handcuffs, Peerless model 801

Hinged handcuffs have the same locking mechanism, but instead of a chain, the handcuffs are connected only by a hinge. 

This means that only one joint allows movement when attached to the wrists.


  • Very little movement space. This makes it easier to keep control of the handcuffed individual.
  • If you have attached the hinged handcuff around just one hand, you can use pain compliance techniques like bending the person’s arm with the cuffs. This causes pain and can help the person become more compliant. It allows you to attach the cuff to the other arm as well.
  • Very solid construction.


  • Low mobility makes the hinged handcuffs harder to use than chained handcuffs. If people resist, it can be hard to get the right angle when you’re about to attach the cuffs to arm number two.
  • It can be hard to attach if the person has low joint mobility.
  • Can be very unpleasant for the arrested, as they can clamp the joints and stop the blood flow. 

Finding out what hinged handcuff to choose isn’t easy. To help you decide, I’ve written an article about the best hinged handcuffs here.

Areas of use:

Can be used daily, but you must be aware that they can be challenging to use sometimes. 

These can also be used if the situation requires some extra control of the person.

You can find hinged handcuffs at Amazon.com here.

Rigid Handcuffs/Bar handcuffs

Rigid handcuffs have the same locking mechanism as the other handcuffs mentioned above. 

They have a lockable link between the two halves, just like hinged handcuffs, which makes the rigid handcuffs impossible to move. 

These handcuffs qualify as maximum use of force and should be used only if it is strictly necessary.


  • The same advantages as hinged handcuffs.
  • In addition, the link between the locks can be completely locked. This provides even more control of the restrained subject, preventing almost all arm movement.


  • The disadvantages of hinged handcuffs also apply here.

Areas of use:

Can be used daily. Remember what challenges these handcuffs can provide. 

They are very useful when it is necessary to assert additional control of the person, for example, if you are going to court or during prisoner transport.

This guide goes more in-depth on what handcuffs are made of.

Plastic Handcuffs / Disposable Handcuffs / Zip Tie Handcuffs

These cuffs are made of plastic, with the same principle as cable ties. 

Another name for this type of handcuff is flex cuffs.

There are disposable and reusable restraints, although it is easy to make them at home with ordinary cable ties.

To obtain a pair of such plastic handcuffs, I still recommend buying ready-made versions, as these are easier to use and more reliable.

Let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of using these:


  • They are super lightweight and weigh practically nothing.
  • You can purchase and keep a number of these at once.
  • Zip tie handcuffs are very cheap.
  • They are easy to use, quick to apply, and lock.
  • They are perfect for use during riots and mass arrests. Once you and your colleagues control the person, they can be put on incredibly quickly.
  • Simply use scissors or a knife to unlock the ties. Alternatively, use the locking mechanism on the reusable versions.


  • Not for use on high-risk prisoners.
  • They are not as strong and don’t give the same control as ordinary handcuffs with links or hinged handcuffs.
  • When first tightened, you can’t loosen it up again, which increases the risk of harm to the person.
  • The reusable ties can be opened quite easily, especially if several prisoners are gathered together. They can help each other to open the cuffs.
  • Because they are made of plastic, they are easier to rip apart.

Areas of use:

Can be used in daily service, but this is not recommended. 

They are, however, instrumental in riots and mass arrests.

Remember to watch the prisoners so no one helps another loosen the handcuffs.

I’ve placed some in my police patrol bag along with other gear.

Find Zip Tie Handcuffs at Amazon.com here


Thumbcuffs are rarely used. 

I have only used them once, during an arrest in which I had used my two other cuffs, and there was still a third person in the room:

By coincidence, a couple of thumbcuffs were on the kitchen table, so I used them on the third person.

After that, I bought myself a pair of thumbcuffs to always have with me.

However, I’ve never tried to use these on someone actively resisting arrest.

I’ve written a short

review on the best thumbcuffs here. Take a look if you are interested!


  • Small footprint and easy to hide.
  • They weigh nothing.
  • They are cheap.
  • Thumbcuffs have no joints and allow minimal movement


  • Thumbcuffs are hardly usable and are challenging to use on people who resist arrest.
  • Require a compliant individual.
  • Can stop the blood flow and injure the prisoner.

Areas of use:

Not recommended for everyday use. 

They are good to have as a backup if you have used all of your other handcuffs. 

They can also be used in combination with regular handcuffs to provide additional control over the arrested.

Find Thumbcuffs at Amazon.com here.

Leg cuffs

These are not quite types of handcuffs, yet they are an excellent tool to keep control of the arrested.

There are a wide variety of leg cuffs, including some that are based on the same principle as handcuffs with chains. 

The difference is that they are a little bigger, so it’s possible to get them around the ankles.

The links are also longer so that prisoners can walk but not run while wearing the cuffs.

This makes the subject’s mobility severely restricted.


  • Provides extra control over the prisoner, as they can’t run away while wearing these.


  • High level of force. It should not be used unless strictly necessary.

Areas of use:

They are not suitable for use in an arrest situation but should be used after you have gained control of the prisoner with regular handcuffs. 

These may be used if a higher level of security is required. 

They are too big to carry in your belt and thus must be left in the car.

Locking devices for handcuffs

Today’s handcuffs come with a double locking mechanism. That means that the handcuff has two locks. 

One lock is designed to prevent the person from removing the handcuffs.

The second lock prevents handcuffs from tightening around the person’s wrist and prevents intentional or accidental injury. 

In this way, we avoid accidental injury or pain.

Single-lock handcuffs have only one locking mechanism, which prevents the prisoner from opening up the handcuffs. 

Without a double lock, some people might intentionally tighten the handcuffs so that you loosen them and give them a chance to harm you and escape.

If you have only single-lock handcuffs, you should find the angle grinder, cut them up right away, and buy a pair of double-locks!

Be sure to keep your handcuffs well maintained, and you will keep them for years. Find some tips in this guide on handcuff maintenance.

Handcuff Key Types

Most handcuffs come with a universal handcuff key.

This makes it easy when your fellow police officers bring your prisoner to the police station with your handcuffs. They have the same key and can unlock them.

At the same time, standard handcuff keys can pose a danger:

Anyone can get hold of a universal handcuff key, and they’re so small that it’s easy to hide somewhere on the body. 

Check my article about hidden handcuff keys here

Therefore, you can’t let your guard down completely once the arrested is in handcuffs

Carefully conduct a body search and ensure that the prisoner doesn’t have a separate key.

High security handcuffs (Maximum security handcuffs) come with special keys.

These are often used when there are high-risk prisoners to be transported because they are impossible to pick and thus provide safety for officers.

My choice of police handcuffs:

Different Types of Handcuffs Peerless and Smith WessonPeerless chained and Hinged and a Smith & Wesson chained.” class=”wp-image-77274″ width=”256″ height=”193″/>
Different Types of Handcuffs, Peerless chained and Hinged and a Smith & Wesson chained.

I will delve more deeply into specific handcuffs in other articles. Still, I can reveal that I prefer regular chained handcuffs daily, as these are the most useful in most situations.

I will delve more deeply into specific handcuffs in other articles. Nevertheless, I can reveal that I prefer regular chained handcuffs daily, as these are the most useful in most situations

Many law enforcement officers prefer to wear at least two pairs of cuffs.

Some have to pair of chained handcuffs, and others have the same setup as I have.

What types of handcuffs do you prefer?

Did I miss any kinds in this guide?

Let me know in the comments below!

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