Field Test Comparison: Hinged Handcuffs

Field Test Comparison: Hinged Handcuffs
Handcuff Field Test: How Did They Rank?

Tactical Response asked six of its readers to test five different hinged handcuffs. The reviewers are tactical-minded officers or members of tactical teams from all regions of the U.S.: large and small departments; rural and urban departments; city, county, state and federal departments. They came from all over the country, including Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Oregon, California.

The field test period was between three and five months. The handcuffs were tested in law enforcement, intended for basic restraints. Tactical Response magazine asked six of the top manufacturers to submit standard patrol handcuffs, cuffs used for everyday custody by general duty, uniformed patrol for testing and review. We requested the cuffs be either stainless steel or nickel-chrome plated steel, not aluminum. Each manufacturer was sent the criteria by which their handcuffs would be evaluated. TR left it up to the manufacturer to pick the make and model.

The following handcuffs were tested: Peerless 801; Chicago 1200; Smith & Wesson 300P; CTS Thompson Tri Max 1054; and Safariland 8122. The handcuffs were evaluated and rated on a scale of 1 (worst) to 5 (best) in a number of areas: Fit & Finish; Operational Smoothness; Double-lock; Security; Versatility; Unlock; and Features.

Peerless 801
Average Score: 4.8
The Peerless® Model 801 provides additional restraint by more effectively restricting hand and arm movements. The Model 801 features all steel construction, spun rivets, tumbled edges, and smooth single strand action. The Model 801 has the ability to fold flat for compact storage. It has a 10 percent larger inside perimeter than the Model 700. The Model 801 has been approved by the National Institute of Justice. Lifetime warranty for manufacturing defects and two keys supplied. These handcuffs are made in the USA. MSRP: $51.00.

Peerless' 801 handcuff placed first out of all the cuffs tested. It earned the highest scores in Operational Smoothness, Double Lock, Security and Versatility and Features. In the Fit & Finish category, the Peerless 801 reviews were mixed. Officer Michael Pichler, Baraboo, WI Police and Sgt. Robert Speelman, Malheur County, OR Sheriff, described the Peerless 801 handcuff as "well made, solid, nice finish." However, some officers had issues: Corporal Jeffrey Keplinger, Blackford County, IN Sheriff, was "not a fan of the links." Officer Steve Tracy, Park Ridge, IL Police, said the 801 had lots of sharp edges.

In terms of Operational Smoothness, the Peerless 801 "worked well... better than other brands I have used," Speelman noted. Pichler said they wore "perfect out of the box" and were "not too loose and not too tight." Another officer said the 801 had a smooth and positive rotation and engagement. On the other hand, Tracy thought it was "a little stiff to move the arm" on the 801.

The Peerless 801 scored all 5's in the Double Lock category. Pichler explained: "It was easy and fast to double lock, even if someone was moving around." For Security, the 801 scored high. Officer James Dalton, Auburn, CA Police had no security concerns, describing the 801 as "completely reliable." In addition, Pichler owns this pair of handcuffs and never had an issue in 9+ years. In Versatility, the 801 scored all 5's again, with most officers noting it fits both large and small hands.

In the Unlock category, reviews differed a bit, with most of the officers saying it worked well. However, one officer said the keyhole was too small, requiring to precise key insertion. In Features, reviewers disagreed on the 801. Pichler rated it a 5: "Nothing to improve on this product... they have it down perfect." Tracy said he did not like the keyhole in the middle of the cuff. "A double lock switch on both sides of the cuff would be nice to have," Dalton commented.

Chicago Handcuff 1200
Average Score: 4.6
Chicago Model 1200 hinged stainless steel handcuffs feature double locking and are serial numbered. Hinged handcuffs have slotted shackles and 23 locking positions. Inner perimeter measures 5 ½ inches to 9 inches. Two handcuff keys are included. They are stamped CHICAGO STAINLESS STEEL and weigh 12 ounces. MSRP: $30.00.

The Chicago 1200 came in second place overall, with the highest scores in Fit & Finish and Unlock out of all the handcuffs. In Fit & Finish, the Chicago 1200 received high marks from Tracy: "The smoothest cuffs in the test." The majority of the reviewers said the 1200 was sturdy, well made. In Operational Smoothness, Pichler said the hinge was smooth and the rotating arm was fluid. "They locked and ratcheted easy but not so much as to put them on too tight," he stated. In contrast, Speelman felt the hinge was too loose and too easy to over-tighten.

In the Double Lock category, the lock was easy to lock and find even in low-light conditions for Pichler. In terms of Security, all of the testers said they had no failures.

For Versatility, one reviewer thought the 1200 had good operational range, while others said it felt "awkward." In the Unlock category, Tracy gave it a 5, citing positive 'clicks' with smooth operation. "Keyhole perfectly sized, easy to insert key," he elaborated. As far as Features go, the 1200 scored high in that category. Pichler said he will be keeping them in use: "They were a very nice pair of cuffs... very well made." Keplinger said they were the best cuffs he has used in 17 years of law enforcement.

Smith & Wesson 300P
Average Score: 4.5
The Smith & Wesson 300P handcuff features a hinged design to further restrict movement along with a push-pin double locking system in a satin nickel finish. Smith & Wesson handcuffs are fabricated from the finest quality carbon steel. They are manufactured with heat-treated internal lock works, featuring smooth ratchets for swift cuffing and double locks to prevent tampering. MSRP: $46.00.

The 300P handcuff from S&W ranked third overall. In Fit & Finish, Pichler said it was well made, with no defects or flaws found. However, Keplinger noted the 300P cuffs: "appear rough and hinge welds look rushed." Reviews differed on Operational Smoothness, with some officers scoring it a 5 and others lower. Speelman described it as "too stiff" but Pichler said the arm was "smooth and easy to secure."

Smith & Wesson's 300P received all 5's in the Double Lock and Security categories, tying with Peerless. "The double-lock always worked well," Speelman noted. In Security, one of the reviewers commented on the 300P's novel and clever design, with "no rivets to come loose." Opinions varied on the Versatility of the 300P. Tracy said the cuffs were smaller than the rest and "may be too tight on really large wristed arrestees." However, Pichler thought they were good with a range of large to small wrists. Most reviewers said the Unlock feature was easy to do, with most rating it a 4 or 5. In Features, Dalton said the 300Ps were good for handcuffing females, but not as good for large males as the hands are too close together. Tracy concurred: "I wish these hinged handcuffs were bigger." However, Pichler noted these cuffs were "major improvements over previous versions... well needed changes were made."

CTS Thompson Tri Max 1054
Average Score: 4.2
CTS Thompson Model 1054 nickel and Model 1055 black triple hinged handcuffs feature: Multi-drop bars and teeth; Positive "click back" back loading system; Hinged handcuffs further restrict movement for added security; Oversized for larger wrists. Inside perimeter is: 6.25 inches minimum, 9 inches maximum. Two handcuff keys are included and they weigh 13.4 ounces. MSRP: $40.00.

In Fit & Finish, CTS Thompson's 1054 scores differed slightly, with some officers agreeing it was "smooth," while another thought it was "rough." For Operational Smoothness, Pichler felt the rotating arm was "too stiff and needed oil or something to free it up." On the other hand, Tracy said the rotating arm movement was "smooth, positive and easy."

Most reviewers had no issues in the Double Lock category, but the 1054 cuffs did double lock once when dropped for Dalton. In terms of Security, the rotating arm slipped on ratchet at minimum openings before double lock for one officer. Otherwise, most of the testers had no issues or failures in Security with the 1054. For Versatility, the CTS Thompson cuff received mostly high marks. "No issues with large or small wrists" for Pichler, while "Fit was good for all but the biggest wrist," Dalton said. The majority of the testers had "no problem" with the Unlock feature on the 1054. In the Features category, Dalton said a double lock switch on both sides of the cuff "would be nice to have." In addition, Pichler felt the 1054 "needs work on stiffness to make them smoother."

Safariland 8122
Average Score: 4.2
Safariland's Model 8122 Standard Hinge-Style Handcuffs' features include: Solid links connect the cuffs as opposed to the roller chain; Heavy-duty, solid hinges for reinforced holding power; Hinged models provide greater subject control; More comfortable feel in your hand; Available in Nickel or Black; Nickel Model 8122-1-31 Certified Under NIJ Standard 0307.01. MSRP: $46.00.

Although the Safariland 8122 tied for fourth place overall with the CTS Thompson cuff, it scored fairly high in the Unlock and Double Lock categories. In Fit & Finish, Tracy noted it was "not comfortable to hold tightly in a 'ready to cuff' position." However, Speelman thought it fit wrists well, and Keplinger described the 8122 as "good quality." For Operational Smoothness, one officer said the tri-hinge was "a bit stiff/binding, but had good rotating arm movement and teeth engage." Most of the testers had no problems with the Double Lock feature and thought it was easy to find. In terms of Security, "no failures to report" was what most officers said, although one reviewer experienced "the rotating arm slipped on ratchet at minimum opening before double lock."

In Versatility, some officers thought the 8122 had a "large range for wrists of all sizes" while one officer said there was "no flexibility when arresting 'large' people." Keplinger described Safariland's cuff as having a "smooth release" and Tracy said it was "very easy to use" in the Unlock category. In terms of Features, a few testers rated the 8122 high, but a couple officers gave it a 3. "Hinge did not move freely enough" for Tracy and Pichler thought they needed to be smaller. "...when folded in half, I had to use a double cuff case and no second set of cuffs."

Opinions and Personal Preference
Even though the Peerless handcuff came out at the top of this evaluation, the reviews of the handcuffs varied. Some of the scores were close, such as in the Double Lock and Security categories. As with any field test comparison, opinions differed due to personal preference, as evidenced by the wide range of scores for each category. Some of the reviewers thought certain handcuffs were suited for all general-duty patrol applications and all sizes of people, while others thought they fit smaller arrestees better.

Please note: This was strictly a hinged to hinged comparison, as if chain cuffs did not exist. When choosing which hinged handcuff is right for your department, take a look at all the options it offers before making your choice. We extend our sincere thanks to our panel of testers. Their time and efforts are greatly appreciated.

Jennifer Gavigan is the Managing Editor of Tactical Response, LAW and ORDER and Police Fleet Manager. She can be reached at

The two-link Chicago 1200 was the only all-stainless steel handcuff of the test. All the other cuffs were nickel plated steel.

The three-link Smith & Wesson 300P uses a unique welded stamping design. No rivets to scratch or come loose.

The three-link CTS Thompson Tri MAX 1054 performed reasonably well in each of the patrol oriented categories.

The three-link Safariland 8122 could have been smoother to operate but scored well on the Double Lock and Unlock phases.

Published in Tactical Response, Sep/Oct 2012

Rating : Not Yet Rated

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