Subj: How to be Jason Bourne
“Deep breaths” I told myself.
I was kneeling in a small concrete room with my hands cuffed behind my back. Even though I was hooded I could tell there were two other men restrained on either side of me.
As I tried to calm my breathing I heard the unmistakable tat-tat-tat of a taser to my left, followed quickly by a searing pain in my side. I let out an involuntary grunt.
“Breathe in… Breathe out…”
“We already know you work for the Americans.” said a heavily accented man. “Just tell us what your mission is and this all stops.”
I flexed my core, preparing for another hit from the taser.
This process continued for another half an hour or so. I knew I needed to stay quite. If I admitted to anything things had the potential to get a lot worse. Finally I heard the man say, “If this isn’t making you talk maybe I should come back with something more fun.” followed by the sound of a door opening and then closing again.
I stayed motionless for a few seconds, listening to hear if the man was really gone. When I was certain it was safe I cautiously stood up.
The first thing I needed to do was get my cuffed hands from behind my back. I bent over and slowly worked by arms down passed my hips to behind my knees. I was then able to maneuver my right knee through my linked arms and slide the rest of my leg through. I then placed my left foot on top of my right knee and repeated the process.
Now that my hands were in front of me I was able to take the hood off my face. The other men were just now getting to their knees and attempting to stand. To my left was a well muscled man named Sam who worked for the Department of Defense. To my right was a young Marine Lieutenant named Chris.
I didn’t know how much time we had until our captors returned so I worked as fast as I could. Using a bobby pin which I had hidden in the collar of my shirt I was able to quickly make a pick. I stuck it into the keyhole and maneuvered it until I was able to release the locking mechanism. Within a few seconds I was completely free.
Chris had just gotten his hands to the front of his body and was in the process of removing his hood. Once he had done so he looked over at me and a wide smile broke across his face…
I was taking part in OnPoint Tactical’s Urban Escape and Evasion course.
OnPoint Tactical trains military, government, law enforcement, and civilian personnel who live or work in high risk areas how to survive when the worst case scenario actually happens. This particular class was originally developed for special operations teams who needed to know how to escape from custody and make it back to the Green Zone should they ever be captured.
The leader of our training was a man by the name of Kevin Reeve. Kevin has been teaching these trade secrets for the past twenty years to government and military personnel, but only within the past few years has he started teaching them to civilians.
The skills I had learned in the past few days were like something out of a Jason Bourne movie. The three day course includes lessons on how to…
- Pick locks
- Escape from handcuffs
- Defeat attack dogs
- Hotwire cars
- Detect surveillance
- Blend into a crowd
- Defeat security systems
- Use gear caches
- Escape from duct tape, zip ties, rope, etc
- Create disguises and false identities
- Gain compliance through social engineering
- And more…
Due to the nature of my lifestyle and my proclivity for finding myself in somewhat dangerous situations I figured this course might come in handy one day.
Our first day of training was spent deconstructing the anatomy of kidnappings and learning how to escape from a wide variety of restraints one is likely to encounter during an abduction. We covered everything from zip ties and duct tape to rope and electrical cordage. Everyone’s favorite lesson by far though was learning how to escape from police handcuffs using nothing but a bobby pin.
The first time you successfully escape from handcuffs with a bobby pin you feel like a huge badass. Here’s how to do it.
How to Escape From Handcuffs
You will need a set of handcuffs, and a bobby pin (or safety pin, or paper clip.)
These are Smith & Wesson M100s. They make up 80% of the world handcuff market. Should you ever find yourself handcuffed, these are what you are most likely to be handcuffed with. That being said, all commonly used handcuffs follow the same basic design, so this technique will work regardless of what make or model you face.
First you need a basic understanding of how handcuffs work.
Inside each cuff is a piece of metal with notches on it known as a lock bar (shown here in green).
This lock bar is being pushed up by a spring (shown in blue) so that it prevents the shackle (the movable claw-like piece of the handcuff) from releasing unless the lock bar is pushed down by a key.
Picking a set of handcuffs involves inserting a small piece of metal into the key hole and maneuvering the lock bar downward to allow the shackle to slide freely
Start by straightening a bobby pin and peeling the wax tip off the straight end.
Next, use the key hole of the handcuffs to bend the tip to a 45 degree angle so that it can be used as a pick.
Insert the pick into the “flag” (the straight part of the keyhole that pokes out from the circular bit) with the hook facing inwards towards the body of the cuff.
All you then need to do is press the pick back, and then inwards towards the shackle, thereby lifting up the lock bar and releasing the shackle.
While this becomes a little more difficult to do once the handcuffs are actually on you, with a little practice it becomes like second nature.
Alternately, you could hide handcuff keys in your clothing in the event you are ever detained against your will.
Our second day of training focused on evading capture in a hostile environment. We practiced picking different kinds of locks using both standard and improvised picks. We were taught a foolproof method for hotwiring cars. (Find a low-end vehicle made prior to 2004, stick a Philip’s head screwdriver in the ignition and twist it with a wrench. This will shatter the locking mechanism and allow you to start the engine.) And we were even given a brief overview of how attack dogs are trained so that we would know how to defeat them should we ever need to.
Our final day of training was a live field exercise in which we would put our new skills to the test.
The scenario was simple. While traveling in a “foreign country” (Downtown Santa Monica) we would be kidnapped and interrogated. At the earliest opportunity we were to escape and make our way to the extraction point while Kevin and his team of trackers searched for us. Should we be caught we would face further interrogation up to and including being water-boarded by a former US Army Special Forces interrogator.
Once we were all free from our restraints we needed to put some distance between ourselves and our kidnappers. Chris, Sam, and I left the concrete room and used the stairwell to exit the building.
Once on the street we split up to retrieve the gear we had cached in the city the previous night.
As I made my way to my cached gear I received a text message. We had been told that during our evasion we would be given tasks to complete which would simulate the protocols we would need to follow in a real world scenario.
The text indicated that my first order of business was to create an improvised weapon and then make my way to a local coffee shop where I would make contact with a partisan using a pre-arranged code phrase. (“Sure is hot.” To which he would respond, “Not for summer.”) Once I had verified that I was speaking with the right person I needed to convince him to assist me in my extraction.
While walking I found a large nail and an old roll of duct-tape near some dumpsters which I used to make a basic prison shiv.
As I approached the coffee shop I kept my eyes open for the trackers. They knew I would be in the area and there was a chance they were running surveillance on the coffee shop.
I decided to approach from a nearby side-street and enter through the back entrance to be safe. I was told my contact would have multiple tattoos and would be wearing a black hat.
I recognized him immediately upon entering the shop and sat down at the table next to him.
“Sure is hot.” I said, trying to sound casual.
“Not for summer.” he responded. “Come sit with me.”
I stood up and moved to his table. Just then I noticed the two other participants coming into the coffee shop. They spotted me and immediately came over.
He told the three of us that he was a Kurd fighting against ISIS, and while he could help us make it back to safety, he needed something in return. Two of us needed to enter into the building next door and come back with a detailed layout of the building including exits, security cameras, and number of employees. Sam and Chris immediately volunteered.
I on the other hand would be tested on my social engineering ability. I was to persuade someone in the coffee shop to buy something off the menu for me using their own money.
I walked over to the counter and stood in line. Within a couple seconds a man in his forties got in line behind me.
The key to approaching someone without putting them on their guard is to make it seem as if you just happened to start talking to them randomly and that you don’t have a preconceived agenda.
Still facing forward I patted my side pockets then let out a small sigh and an annoyed “God damn it.” I waited a beat and then turned over my shoulder to the man behind me.
“Excuse me.” I said, pointing to my contact. “Do you see that man sitting right there? I’m here for a job interview and that’s the guy interviewing me. I offered to buy him a coffee but I just realized I left my wallet. Do you think you could do me a huge favor and buy a small coffee that I can bring over to him? I hate to ask, I’m just in a really awkward position now that I already offered to buy it for him.”
The man smiled, “Just a small coffee. Sure thing.”
“Thank you so much. You really saved me here.”
A few moments later I walked back to my contact with a fresh cup of coffee. He asked what I said to the man.
“I told him that I said I had a job interview and offered to buy my interviewer coffee but I forgot my wallet.”
“I’ve never heard that one before. That’s good.”
A few minutes later we were again joined by Chris and Sam. They had a sketch of the interior of the building they had scoped out, along with a detailed layout including cameras and security personnel.
The rest of the day consisted of us completing tasks throughout Santa Monica such as picking locks, locating vehicles which could be hotwired in a pinch, finding day and nighttime hide locations, and more; all while being hunted by Kevin and his team of trackers.
So would I recommend OnPoint Tactical’s Urban Escape and Evasion course to others?
If you find yourself traveling overseas, or even just through bad parts of town, learning how to blend into an urban environment and not draw attention to yourself as a potential victim is invaluable.
With my training I know that I can disappear into almost any urban environment, and should the need arise I am confident in my ability to escape a bad situation and make my way to safety.
If you would like to take OnPoint Tactical’s Urban Escape and Evasion class, you can view their upcoming classes at www.OnPointTactical.com/enroll.
Until next time,