Shackle Hitches for Your Tow Receiver

If you're gonna 4x4, you need a recovery strap. It's the most basic piece of recovery gear you can own and probably one of the most useful.

And you need to attach it somewhere!

That's where the shackle hitch comes in: a block of steel or aluminum that slides into your tow receiver and takes a shackle.

Let's take a look at how to use these pieces of gear, and a few that we like.

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Table of Contents

  • The Winch Recovery Kit Comparison Guide
  • 6 Reasons Tow Straps with Hooks Will Kill You
  • Big Shackles for Big Trucks

  • Is Your Receiver Big Enough?

    Liberrway 2" Shackle Hitch Mounted

    Typically, we want to see a Class III 2" receiver with a 5/8" hitch pin when using a tow hitch shackle setup. This is a super common hitch.

    It's still good to know what standard towing hitches are rated for:

    Hitch Receiver Ratings
    Weight rating Receiver size Pin Size
    Class III 8,000 lbs. 2" x 2" 5/8"
    Class IV 12,000 lbs. 2" x 2" 5/8"
    Class V 20,000 lbs. / 25,000 lbs. 2.5" x 2.5" / 3" x3" 5/8"

    Companies that manufacture truck shackle hitches will often state that their hitches are rated for some ridiculous weight - but a standard Class III hitch is actually rated for 8,000 lbs. Sticking a 30,000 lb. hitch shackle in it doesn't make it any stronger.

    Factor 55 rates their Class III shackle hitch at 9,500 lbs. - this is the same as a standard 3/4" recovery shackle.

    What about big hitch shackles?

    Some of you guys are looking for big hitch shackles - we've got some of them below. These are those huge 17 - 55 ton, 2 12" monster shackles.

    The vast majority of vehicle recovery won't require that much capacity, but if you do, consider double pinning the shackle and reinforcing your receiver hitch.

    Do You Even Need a Tow Hitch Shackle?

    Simple Tow Strap Hitch Mounting
    This is okay for casual pulls. You run the risk of bending your hitch pin and you can only fit a 2" strap inside a 2" receiver hitch.

    There's another way!

    If you don't have a tow hitch shackle, we see the hitch pin method as more of a quick-and-dirty way to hook up a recovery strap, rather than a permanent solution.

    Just do this:

    Stick the strap in the receiver hole and put the hitch pin through the strap eye. Make sure you have at least a 5/8" hitch pin. Easy!

    What we like about this:

    • It's easy
    • It's free
    • You don't have to worry someone stealing the receiver shackle
    • It doesn't stick out like a D-ring on your hitch does

    What we don't like about this:

    • You can only fit up to a 2" wide strap
    • The hitch pin can bend
    • Sharp edges on the receiver could cut the strap
    • Probably not great for side pulls

    On the bent pin issue, lots of people say that they've used the hitch pin method for years without a bent pin. Other people have cut out bent hitch pins. Cutting out a bent hitch pin is no fun, so just be aware that it can happen if you go this route.

    Using a Shackle Hitch

    Shackle Hitch Holes
    More holes is better! Top holes mean you can mount the shackle sideways and prevent sideloading it in an angled pull.

    Like everything else, there's a right way and a wrong way to use a shackle hitch.

    So:

    If you don't want to read this long explanation, here are the two rules you should follow:

    1. Use a shackle hitch that can be turned 90 degrees in your receiver so that the D ring can swivel either up-and-down or side-to-side.
    2. Always orient the shackle hitch so that the D ring experiences the least amount of side loading.

    Most shackle hitches are installed with the D ring pin in a horizontal position, just like you'd see on a winch bumper. This is convenient since it doesn't stick out.

    However, in actual use this might not be the optimal orientation. Most D rings that come with receiver shackles are bow shackles and you need to be very careful about side-loading bow shackles:

    • D ring bow-style shackles are strongest when pulling in a straight line with the pin
    • D ring bow-style shackles are much weaker when pulling from the side

    When Side-Loading, You're Doing Something the Manufacturer Didn't Intend

    Good Shackle Loading - What a Rigging Manufacturer Expects
    Rigging manufacturers expect shackles to have a symmetric load when they are side-pulled. In this configuration, the shackle can work at its maximum Working Load Limit.
    Bad Shackle Loading - Side Loading Shackles in 4x4 Recovery
    When you need to pull a rig out of a mudhole or back on to the trail, you're often side-loading the shackle. If the angle of pull here is 45°, the shackle is derated to 70% its Working Load Limit.

    Shackle manufacturer's make charts and do load calculations for rigging. All the D ring shackles we use in recovery come from the world of rigging.

    But you should understand that the stuff we do while fourwheeling is often completely unlike what a shackle is designed for.

    Shackle Loading - The Strongest Shackle Pull Configuration
    When you pull straight on the shackle, it's in it's strongest orientation. Rigging manufacturers expect this setup or a split symmetrical sling load on shackles. In this configuration, the shackle can work at its maximum Working Load Limit.

    This is especially true for shackles that are side-loaded - rigging manufacturers generally expect that you'll use a shackle in a straight line, or with two equally distributed pulling points that don't exceed 120 degrees between them.

    Shackles can be "derated" for side loads up to 50%! This means that a high quality 3/4" screw pin shackle with a 9500 lb. Working Load Limit (this is standard in the 4x4 world) is derated to a WLL of 6650 lbs. at a 45 degree pull and a 4750 lbs. WLL at a 90 degree pull.

    Always try to orient the shackle in the receiver so that it isn't side-loaded.

    This derating isn't really the whole story though.

    The fact is, shackles aren't designed to be side-loaded with just a single strap. Rigging manufacturers assume that if you're putting a strap on one side of a shackle, you're also putting it on the other side of the shackle. This would make the forces on the shackle symmetrical.

    Practically speaking, your recovery shackles likely won't break in a standard 4x4 recovery situation. The breaking strength of that shackle is 54,000 lbs. - but you can still deform it.

    Shackle Pin Sizes - HOW BIG A HOLE?

    D-Ring Shackle Dimension Relationship
    A standard bow shackle has a screw pin that's 1/8" larger than the nominal (named) size of the shackle.

    If you're buying a combo shackle hitch with the D ring included, this isn't too important, but it's still good to know:

    All D ring shackles used in recovery have a "nominal" size. For instance, we have shackles that are known as 3/4" or 1".

    You might think that the pin size equals the nominal size, but you'd be wrong!

    Here's the deal:

    In D ring shackles that are 1/2" and up, the bow or body of the shackle is the nominal size, and the pin is the nominal size plus 1/8".

    This means that for a 3/4" shackle, you need a hole that's 7/8", plus a little wiggle room so that you aren't hammering the pin in there.

    Common 4x4 Recovery Shackle Sizes
    Nominal Bow diameter Pin diameter
    3/4" 3/4" 7/8"
    7/8" 7/8" 1"
    1" 1" 1 1/8"

    Normal Shackle Hitches - 2" RECEIVERS

    "Normal" shackle hitches are, to us, anything that fits in a 2" receiver hitch, uses a 5/8" hitch pin, and uses a 3/4" shackle. This is a fairly standard size for 4x4 recovery.

    Rhino 2" Shackle Hitch with 3/4" Shackle

    Rhino 2" Shackle Hitch with 3/4" Shackle
    Rhino's tow hitch shackle mount fits close to the receiver for a decent departure angle.
    Rhino 2" Shackle Hitch Specs
    Receiver size 2"
    Hitch pin diameter 5/8"
    Shackle size 3/4"
    Pin Mounting Horizontal or Vertical

    This is a standard shackle hitch that'll work for just about anyone. Rhino rates it at a tested 31,000 pounds.

    It's black, powdercoated, and simple.

    It comes with a 9500 lbs 3/4" shackle, or you can add a recovery strap to it to do a package deal.

    Factor 55 HitchLink 2.0

    Factor 55 Aluminum HitchLink 2.0
    The aluminum HitchLink has 2 mounting positions so that you can set the depth that you want it to stick out.
    Factor 55 HitchLink 2.0 Specs
    Receiver size 2"
    Hitch pin diameter 5/8"
    Shackle size 3/4"
    Pin Mounting Horizontal

    The 2.0 HitchLink from Factor 55 is designed for any 2" receiver hitch.

    Factor 55 makes its shackle hitches from aluminum, so they are very light: 1.9 lbs.

    Unlike other shackle hitches they also come in a few colors.

    Factor 55 rates these at 9,500 lbs. with a breaking strength of 50,000 lbs. This is plenty strong for most of us.

    We don't know why they didn't drill another 90 degree hole so that you could mount the shackle pin vertically, but they did drill an extra hole so that you could set how much the mount sticks out.

    Liberrway 2" Shackle Hitch with 3/4" Shackle

    Liberrway 2" Shackle Hitch with 3/4" Shackle
    This mount comes powdercoated with a 3/4" shackle included.
    Liberrway 2" Shackle Hitch Specs
    Receiver size 2"
    Hitch pin diameter 5/8"
    Shackle size 3/4"
    Pin Mounting Horizontal or Vertical

    This tow shackle hitch from Liberrway is just like the Rhino version!

    Why include it?

    It's got that red shackle pin!

    This is another dual-mounting, 3/4" shackle, 2" receiver hitch mount that'll get your recovery work done.

    The shackle is rated for 9500 lbs.

    But if you need something bigger, keep reading.

    Big Shackle Hitches - 2", 2.5", AND 3" RECEIVERS

    A Few D-Ring Shackle Sizes
    From left: 1/2" (not for 4x4 recovery!), 3/4" (standard for 4x4 recovery with 7/8"), 1 1/8", 1 1/4"
    Factor 55 Shackle Hitches Compared
    Factor 55 offers shackle hitches for 2", 2.5", and 3" receivers.

    What's a big shackle hitch? In this category, we're looking at hitches that take big shackles and may accommodate larger receivers. These are not the ridiculously huge shackle hitches that you'll see below. To us, big shackle hitches are the mid-range option.

    Winch recovery kits almost universally use a 3/4" shackle which is the red one in the above image.


    Billet 4x4 2" MEGA Shackle Hitch with 1" Shackle

    Billet 4x4 MEGA 2" Shackle Hitch with 1" Shackle
    This shackle mount definitely sports a larger shackle than normal! If you need to go with a bigger shackle hitch and you think 35 tons is ridiculous, this mount is for you!
    Billet 4x4 2" MEGA Shackle Hitch Specs
    Receiver size 2"
    Hitch pin diameter 5/8"
    Shackle size 1"
    Pin Mounting Horizontal or Vertical

    If you need a big shackle hitch, but not a massive one, Billet 4x4 has you covered.

    Their MEGA shackle hitches come with a 1" shackle that has a Working Load Limit of 17,000 lbs.

    This is definitely for big rigs!

    These fit into a standard 2" receiver hitch with a 5/8" hitch pin.

    Made in the USA.

    Factor 55 HitchLink 2.5

    Factor 55 Aluminum HitchLink 2.5
    The 2.5 fits all Class V hitches that have a 2.5" receiver.
    Factor 55 HitchLink 2.5 Specs
    Receiver size 2.5"
    Hitch pin diameter 5/8"
    Shackle size (not included) 3/4" or 7/8"
    Pin Mounting Horizontal or Vertical

    This lightweight aluminum shackle hitch from Factor 55 weighs only 3.5 lbs!

    Shackle hitches that fit Class V 2.5" tow receivers are pretty rare, and aluminum ones are even less common.

    Factor 55 rates this unit at 18,000 lbs with an ultimate breaking strength of 70,000 lbs. It'll take a 3/4" or 7/8" shackle.

    You can get it in gray and yellow.

    Billet 4x4 2.5" MEGA Shackle Hitch with 1" Shackle

    Billet 4x4 2.5" Class V MEGA Shackle Hitch
    This is a rare shackle hitch made for 2.5" CLass V receivers. Still uses a 5/8" hitch pin.
    Billet 4x4 2.5" MEGA Shackle Hitch Specs
    Receiver size 2.5"
    Hitch pin diameter 5/8"
    Shackle size 1"
    Pin Mounting Horizontal or Vertical

    This steel shackle hitch from Billet 4x4 comes with a big 1" shackle.

    It'll fit 2.5" receiver hitches with a 5/8" hitch pin.

    You can mount the shackle so that the pin is horizontal or vertical. There aren't a lot of 2.5" Class V shackle hitches available, so this is a rarity.

    Factor 55 HitchLink 3.0

    Factor 55 Aluminum HitchLink 3.0
    The 3.0 fits Class V hitches with a 3" receiver.
    Factor 55 HitchLink 3.0
    Receiver size 3.0"
    Hitch pin diameter 5/8"
    Shackle size (not included) 3/4" or 7/8"
    Pin Mounting Horizontal or Vertical

    This is the only Class V 3" receiver shackle hitch that we could find!

    It's also aluminum! At 5 lbs., it's much bigger, but much lighter, than a conventional shackle hitch that fits a 2" standard tow receiver.

    This dual-pin mount is rated at 18,000 lbs and has a breaking strength of 70,000 lbs.

    If you see another 3" shackle hitch out there, we'd like to hear about it!

    Huge Shackle Hitches

    What's a huge shackle hitch?

    Anything that looks enormous on your truck!

    Some of these hitches will fit up to a 55 ton shackle! Our "normal" shackle hitches are tiny compared to these beasts. Remember, those smaller shackle hitches only use a 4 3/4 ton 3/4" shackle.

    If you're looking for a huge shackle hitch, you want to take a look at Bigass Hitches

    https://bigasshitches.com/

    .

    Bigass Hitches 35 Ton Shackle Hitch

    Bigass Hitches 35 Ton Shackle Hitch
    At 35 tons, the 3/4" standard recovery shackle looks pretty puny next to this....
    Bigass Hitches 35 Ton Shackle Hitch Specs
    Receiver size Variable
    Hitch pin diameter 5/8"
    Shackle size 2"
    Pin Mounting Horizontal

    At 35 tons, this is one of the biggest shackles you're going to find on a truck (except for the 55!).

    These hitches are custom made to fit your truck's receiver hitch and can come in whatever finish you want.

    Bigass Hitches also offers these with a trailer ball, so that you can still get some towing functionality of the hitch.

    Too big?

    They also come in a 17 ton.

    Bigass Hitches 55 Ton Shackle Hitch

    Bigass Hitches 55 Ton Shackle Hitch
    For trucks using such a large shackle hitch, you'll need a lift to actually clear the huge shackle.
    Bigass Hitches 55 Ton Shackle Hitch Specs
    Receiver size Variable
    Hitch pin diameter 5/8"
    Shackle size 2.5"
    Pin Mounting Horizontal

    These are the largest shackle hitches you can get. With a 2 1/2" 55 ton shackle, these shackle mounts are massive!

    Some sort of lift is definitely required to run these, or you'll be scraping the shackle on the ground!

    These come as a custom package from Bigass Hitches with the finish and fit that you need.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tyler Branham

Tyler came out of the womb with a Birfield in one hand and a stick of 6010 in the other, ready to weld any piece of trail-busted steel back together. He has wheeled, broken, and modified a variety of rigs, from Toyotas to Jeeps to Fords to Chevies. He likes doing long distance overland travel and would happily spend every night in the bed of a pickup under the stars.

Last updated: September 5, 2019