Steve Santini is a man with a mission. He doesn't think much of the security of most modern restraints with their "Universal" handcuff key. But unlike others who may share the same opinion, Santini has done something about it. A highly regarded escape artist and a skilled locksmith, Santini knows what it takes to build a secure restraint. His inventions offer novel solutions to this vexing problem.
The Santini inventions are a product of his company "Mindworks". In the mid 1990s a division of Mindworks called "Securitech" marketed some of the Santini inventions. These inventions included all new designs as well as devices designed to protect the lock mechanisms of standard handcuffs and legirons. Hiatt Thompson acquired rights to and continues to market one Santini invention, a security or blue box for hinged handcuffs. Although Securitech is no longer active, Santini continues to invent and propose new ideas for modern restraints. He recently published a book, "Devices of Human Restraint." The book covers a wide variety of restraints from the ancient to the modern including some of the various Santini "Inventions" discussed here.
Two Approaches to Security
Santini has taken two approaches to the "Universal" handcuff key problem. The first approach is simply to use the universal key, but to redesign the restraint such that it is difficult for a prisoner to open the cuffs even if he has a key in his possession. The second approach is more direct, the use of a high security padlock either alone or as a supplement to the universal key.
The Peerless Pivot
One of the neatest Santini inventions is the Peerless Pivot. A conventional pair of Peerless handcuffs is modified by welding a bar to each cuff in place of the normal chain coupling. The bars to each cuff are riveted together by a swivel joint. The key hole is exposed only when the cuffs are partially folded making access to the key hold much more difficult. And for ultimate security a external padlock can be fitted over the swivel locking it in the extended position and blocking all acess to the key holes.
The Hiatt Spring Loaded Key Cover
What is better than a handcuff that requires a "Universal" handcuff key? How about a handcuff that requires two of them? This Santini invention is a modification of a standard Hiatt hinged handcuff. The key hole is covered by a sliding metal shield that is spring loaded. This key hole cover must be withdrawn and held open so the key can be inserted into the lock. In order to do this you need to hold the cover open with the double lock plunger end of a second key. This is a very secure modification. It would take considerable dexterity for any prisoner or Houdini "want-a-be" to open this cuff.
The Titan handcuff is perhaps the most famous of the Santini inventions. It is a massive handcuff that is designed to lock with an external lock. The handcuff is massive and very heavy. It is cut out of steel sheet and and very nicely riveted together with a set of stainless steel rivets. Each cuff has a separate latch mechanism that protrudes from the bottom of the cuff. In the absence of a lock this pair of levers may be pinched together with ones fingers opening the the bows of the handcuff. However, with a external lock in place the levers are held in the locked position. When properly locked with a high security padlock this is one of the most secure handcuffs ever made. The example shown here is equipped with a special Santini modified padlock especially designed for the Titan.
Pickproof Smith & Wesson Handcuffs
The most popular cuff in North America is the Smith & Wesson Model 100. It of course opens with a "Universal" handcuff key. In this ingenious Santini invention the double lock holes of a standard set of S & W Model 100 cuffs have been enlarged to accommodate a pair of high security Abloy padlocks. The nice thing about the modification is that all of the normal features of the handcuff still work. Without the padlocks the cuffs can be double locked and unlocked with a standard key. But with the padlocks in place it is impossible to remove the double lock.
These cuffs are a brute force solution to security. Simply a modern version of a classic shackles, both the handcuff and the legiron require a pair of external padlocks. Both cuffs are very solid and quite secure when fitted with proper locks.
These cuffs are made for the magic trade. They have no locks, but instead have a latch attached to a hidden plunger that protrudes from the lock case when the bow is tightened another notch. Nimble fingers or the double lock end of a conventional handcuff key can catch this plunger and open the cuff.
I wish to thank Steve Santini for his generosity and assistance with this webpage.
Joe Lauher - June 2001
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