Knowledgebase-Use of Brass Knuckles

Information Product

Title:Use of Brass Knuckles
Summary:Brass knuckles, slap jacks, black jacks, and other weapons weighted with leads
are too dangerous to use in a non-deadly force situation.
Original Author:Barton, Rex
Product Create Date:09/16/97
Last Reviewed on::06/21/2017
Subject:Police--Equipment; Police--Liability
Original Document: Use of Brass Knuckles.pdf

Reference Documents:

Text of Document: September 16, 1997

Dear Chief:

You recently asked for my recommendations concerning police officers carrying “slap jacks” or “brass knuckles.” I have researched the statutes with Sid Hemsley, the MTAS Senior Legal Consultant, and discovered that the statutes that prohibit citizens from carrying those items allows an exemption for police officers, thus making it lawful for police officers to carry them. I was quite shocked to see that the legislature has not eliminated this antiquated exemption. Those types of weapons simply have no place in modern police work.

Brass knuckles, slap jacks, black jacks, and other weapons weighted with lead, are not effective unless struck against a hard, bony part of the body. The primary target areas are the ribs, sternum, collarbone, and head. There is a strong possibility of broken bones when these weapons are used on these areas of the body. At the least, there is a probability of broken skin, blood, and extensive bruising.

Modern police training emphasizes the use of impact weapons on soft tissue areas of the body. Standard baton (night stick), side handle baton (tonfu) and collapsible baton (ASP) training teach officers to use the impact weapon only on specific soft tissue areas. Brass knuckles and leaded weapons such as the slap jack, are not effective on soft tissue areas. Aerosol weapons do not impact any part of the body and are widely used to avoid physical contact.

Brass knuckles and leaded weapons are extremely dangerous and can easily cause extensive injuries, or even death. In situations where deadly force is justified, the firearm should be the weapon used. Brass knuckles and leaded weapons are too dangerous to use in a non-deadly force situation. Given the types of injuries they can inflict, I don’t think I need to elaborate on the liability exposure the city could face if the weapons are used. Liability aside, it is simply wrong to use this type of weapon in a modern police department.

If you have any questions, or if I can ever be of assistance, please do not hesitate to call.


Rex Barton
Police Management Consultant