PNG images: Handcuffs

Handcuffs are restraint devices designed to secure an individual's wrists close together. They comprise two parts, linked together by a chain, a hinge, or rigid bar. Each half has a rotating arm which engages with a ratchet that prevents it from being opened once closed around a person's wrist. Without the key, the handcuffs cannot be removed and so the handcuffed person is unable to move his or her wrists more than a few centimetres/inches apart, making many tasks difficult or impossible. This is usually done to prevent suspected criminals from escaping police custody.

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There are three main types of contemporary metal handcuffs: chain (cuffs are held together by a short chain), hinged (since hinged handcuffs permit less movement than a chain cuff, they are generally considered to be more secure), and rigid solid bar handcuffs. While bulkier to carry, rigid handcuffs permit several variations in cuffing. Hiatts Speedcuffs are rigid handcuffs used by most police forces in the United Kingdom. Both rigid and hinged cuffs can be used one-handed to apply pain-compliance/control techniques that are not workable with the chain type of cuff. Various accessories are available to improve the security or increase the rigidity of handcuffs, including boxes that fit over the chain or hinge and can themselves be locked with a padlock.

In 1933 the Royal Canadian Mounted Police used a type called "Mitten Handcuffs" to prevent criminals from being able to grab an object like the officer's gun. While used by some in law enforcement it was never popular.

Handcuffs may be manufactured from various metals, including carbon steel, stainless steel and aluminium, or from synthetic polymers.

Sometimes two pairs of handcuffs are needed to restrain a person with an exceptionally large waistline because the hands cannot be brought close enough together; in this case, one cuff on one pair of handcuffs is handcuffed to one of the cuffs on the other pair, and then the remaining open handcuff on each pair is applied to the person's wrists. Oversized handcuffs are available from a number of manufacturers.

The National Museum of Australia has a number of handcuffs in its collection dating from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These include'T'-type 'Come Along', 'D'-type and 'Figure-8' handcuffs.

Plastic restraints, known as wrist ties, riot cuffs, plasticuffs, flexicuffs, flex-cuffs, tri-fold cuffs, zapstraps, zipcuffs, or zip-strips, are lightweight, disposable plastic strips resembling electrical cable ties. They can be carried in large quantities by soldiers and police and are therefore well-suited for situations where many may be needed, such as during large-scale protests and riots. In recent years, airlines have begun to carry plastic handcuffs as a way to restrain disruptive passengers. Disposable restraints could be considered to be cost-inefficient; they cannot be loosened, and must be cut off to permit a restrained subject to be fingerprinted, or to attend to bodily functions. It is not unheard of for a single subject to receive five or more sets of disposable restraints in his or her first few hours in custody.

However, aforementioned usage means that cheap handcuffs are available in situations where steel ones would normally lie unused for long times. Recent products have been introduced that serve to address this concern, including disposable plastic restraints that can be opened or loosened with a key; more expensive than conventional plastic restraints, they can only be used a very limited number of times, and are not as strong as conventional disposable restraints, let alone modern metal handcuffs. In addition, plastic restraints are believed by many to be more likely to inflict nerve or soft-tissue damage to the wearer than metal handcuffs.

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