Open letter to my fellow officers

Ladies and gentlemen:

Let us turn our attention to the lowly, unloved handcuffs. Actually, let us turn our attention to where our handcuffs live for 98% of the time — some form of leather or (more recently) ballistic cloth.

See that fuzzy kind of stuff lurking around in those handcuff carriers? That, my confused yet earnest apprentices, is lint. Yes, just like the stuff that breeds in your pockets.

Now, you may not know this, but when your ‘cuffs are riding in the carriers, all of that lint is busily having conjugal relations with the ever-present dust — and they’re doing this inside of your handcuff mechanism.

I was going to say “ever-present dust-bunnies”, but I’ve seen some of y’all’s gear — and “ever-present dust buffaloes” just doesn’t have the cute mental image I was going for.


Now, just what do you think happens to all of that mung when you squirt a jumbo-sized dose of 3-in-1 oil off into the handcuff mechanism?

Maybe nothing — at first. But, as things go along, as more and more dust and lint builds up, and as more oil gets coinked in there, sooner or later the inside of your handcuff mechanism is going to look remarkably like the Demon Hairball of Azgeroth exploded in there.

And (sooner or later) you’re going to be standing there with a bemused, yet apprehensive look on your face; a broken handcuff key in one paw; and an increasingly concerned — and still handcuffed — prisoner in the other.

Which means that someone — probably not you — is going to have to go find a set of bolt-cutters, chop your inmate loose; and further followed by someone else — probably with more rank than brains — in my department issuing a silly-arsed memo restricting our officers to the short, dinky, short, tiny and altogether too-bloody-short official Smith-and-Wesson issue key.

Ladies and gentlemen, if the official Smith-and-Wesson key was truly the bees knees, there wouldn’t be a booming business in after-market improved handcuff keys.

So. When you do lubricate your handcuffs, kindly use dry graphite powder, or some other variety of dry — non-Demon-Hairball-forming — lubricant.

Thanks ever so.


Oh, well done

33 thoughts on “Open letter to my fellow officers”

  1. The back story! We need the back story. No doubt it is full of embarrassing hilarity. Well, hilarity for us, embarrassment for the officer in question.

    The second rule of police work is probably the same as the second rule of EMS.

    "You don't want a rule named after you, because they don't make rules when people do smart things."

  2. I wonder if CLP's Powderblast would be a good choise, or use a can of compressed air around the hinges and lock area's before using one of the teflon sprays.

  3. While we're giving reminders, let's not forget the oh-so-important function check before the start of your shift.

    Nothing elaborate, just ratchet them through and make sure they're loaded correctly into your pouch.

    I can't take credit for discovering this bit of wisdom, but I've been told there's nothing more disconcerting that really, really needing to apply a set of cuffs Right Now, and finding out they're double-locked.

  4. Hey! That is why they invented dishwashers. One pass through squirt 'n' dry before each application of 3in1 solves that problem.

    My cuffs are about 60 years old. They aren't S&W, but are good quality. The US Marshal who gave them to me assured me so.


  5. That's not often a problem, anon: Law Dog only uses the fuzzy cuffs when he's in the pink gorilla suit…

  6. You mean like these:


  7. I am shocked at the mere suggestion that rank and brains might be inversly proportional. Shocked I tell you!

  8. Sigh… If that's what the cuffs look like, I'd HATE to think about what the duty weapon looks like!

  9. Um, being a civilian and all I realize that I know nuzzing about this topic, but uh, wouldn't occasionally cleaning out/exorcizing the carrying case be a good idea as well?

  10. And above all, whatever you do, do NOT mistake the can of 3M spray adhesive for CLP.

    Just sayin'…

  11. The official S&W keys that come with every set of M1 or M100 cuffs are great… for keeping on your key ring as backups. They are tiny, and can be toted in all kinds of tiny spaces (which of course can be a bit of a problem for us cops.).

    They are also VERY hard to manipulate when your arrestee is not cooperative, as is the case a good portion of the time. For guys with giant mitts like my own, unlocking or double-locking a pair of cuffs with those bitty things and a rowdy prisoner make for a task as hard as plucking a splinter with tiny tweezers from your own foot while driving down a washboard road in the back of a pickup truck at night.

    I still have and still use (as in, last night) my pencil-length universal key that my FTO gave me.

  12. Since those same cuffs, when they are not wallowing in the dust buffalo pouch, are clinging to the arms of folks to whom personal hygiene is not a top priority and "open festering sores" are a minor inconvienance, you may feel it necessary to douse your Peerless hinge cuffs in alcohol hand sanatizer,bleach,anti-bacterial soap or battery acid. Be warned that this stuff will turn your hinge cuffs into rusty metal bar cuffs.

    1. I’ve recently seen what hand sanitizer will do to what was formerly a decent old Winchester ’94 . . . I’m patiently chipping away the rustsicles . . .

  13. I use my wife's sonic jewelry cleaner. Twenty minutes, every year, in a mild soap solution. Then a spray with canned air to dry, graphite spray inside, an oiled cloth outside and ready for duty.

    I also go over the inside of my case with a flat wire lint brush.

  14. Peerless used to be the gold standard, but S&W's 800 lb marketing gorilla rules the waves.

    That said, Lawdawg, have you considered submitting your post here to the Penthouse Forum?

    I'd imagne that more than a few hapless buggers (usage intended) there might need benefit from your insight and guidance here.

    Now if you'll excuse me, I need go wash my brain out with bleach.

    Sunk New Dawn
    Galveston, TX

  15. Honestly, all I ever do to mine is heavily "disinfect" them. That and fight with the jailers to get the right pair back! 🙂

  16. I was at Ft Benning going through Jump School with "Drew". Drew was a former Deputy Sheriff before he took the colors. He also had a pair of old Cuffs he kept over the gearshift of his POS 944. We were out one night and he slapped the cuffs onto my right wrist as I was driving. Problem, he had lost the keys sometime before and they were non Standard keys as well. Showed up at the MP Desk and trying to explain to a Skeptical Desk Sergeant what had happened. Spec 4 came in off the road and with the help of some bolt cutters and a hacksaw I was released from perdition. Drew paid for that many times over.

  17. 3-in-1 oil is evil. It comes from the same black pit as Microsoft PowerPoint, integral gun locks, and carburetor cleaner (used on M16s by lazy troops looking to buy Uncle Sam new M16 barrels…)

    Seriously, 3-in-1 is vegetable based and a)dries into gunk and b) attracts dirt; we used to chase kids wanting us to fix bikes they had lubed with 3-in-1 out of the bike shop.

  18. I see a lot of cops using zip ties down here in Florida. I thought everyone went to them long ago.

    I figure your average career crook has at least a couple of handcuff keys. I haven't seen one yet that could get out of those zip ties without cutting a hand off.



  19. There's a much more effective solution guaranteed to leave your cuffs pristine. Get pair of waterproof non-organic gloves and large mouth glass jar half full of concentrated sulfuric acid. Before starting, check glove integrity. Go to stainless steel two-compartment sink, like the one likely to be in your kitchen. Plug the side with the garbage disposal, if present, and fill it 2 inches from the top with water. Otherwise either side will do. Plug other side, place glass jar in empty sink. Using stainless steel tongs place handcuffs in sulfuric acid and swirl around gently. Carefully remove cuffs and let drip for a bit, then slowly immerse in water. Close jar of acid. Turn water on and remove water drain plug with tongs if gloves aren't long enough. After water drains, work cuffs open and closed several times under the faucet locking and unlocking several times. Leave to dry. Remove plug in 2nd sink and rinse jar clean. Leave jar to dry. any organic compounds in the cuff mechanism will have been destroyed and the residue washed out under the water.

  20. Sounds like a recipe for sulfide stress cracking if you ask me.

    Just flush out the guts with CLP or electrical contact cleaner or brake cleaner or some similar solvent based cleaner, then wash in a dishwasher with a half cup of bleach added to the wash after the tub fills to ensure complete disinfection, and then follow with a good shot of a Moly Disulfide dry film lube to the innards.

  21. The most useful chemical reaction I ever learned in chemistry class years and years ago in school wasn't actually in the lesson plan. It was what the teacher used to clean fossilized gunk out of whatever.

    Hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, salt, water. Boiling makes it work better, but it works cold too. I have yet to encounter any kind of greasy fossilized crud that is impervious to it.

  22. Both sulfuric acid and hydrogen peroxide are strong oxidizers, so cleaning steel with them sounds like a bad idea to me. If you're going to try it, get the stuff rinsed off and neutralized pronto…

  23. C'mon Sarge…
    Quit preaching at me already.
    I only fractured the perp's wrist.

    *hides in shame*

    -Steve Ronin

  24. Long time corrections officers know that nothing works as good as a standard Peerless or SW handcuff key. Those aftermarket keys are cool, and cool is important. I have a key extender that uses a standard key, but makes it the size of a ball point pen.

    Matt – Why would you take your cuffs off of a non-compliant prisoner? I wouldn't.

  25. You know there are companies that will Gunkote or DuraCoat your handcuffs, right? In addition to acting as a dry lube, it will help with the inevitable "hey, the pink and green zebra-striped cuffs are mine" at the jail.

    I notice they don't give a lot of detail about the coating on these, but I'd guess the end result is similar to the above products. (Though only in solid colors, unfortunately.)

  26. I recommend compressed air in the cuffs before oiling them. It's worked for me for the last 12 years or so.

  27. NON Demon Hairball forming lubricant. NON. Got it. At least now I know what that… thing in my cuffcase is. Bastard has been eating my jellybeans for years. How do I kill it????

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