Brass Knuckles: A Misunderstood Self Defense Tool?


Brass Knuckles: A Misunderstood Self Defense Tool?

September 1st, 2019 marked the first time that Brass Knuckles would be legal in Texas since 1918. It’s an exciting development due to the near-prosecution of a young 21-year-old woman who was facing $4,000 in fines and a year in jail for a keychain. Brass knuckles are a lot like automatic knives: misunderstood and villianized. In truth, they are like any other weapon — a tool, and the person wielding them decides what they do.

Like auto knives, they are banned in many states or at least have some form of law regarding them. In my home state of Florida, they can be owned but not manufactured, sold, nor carried. I own a massive, kind of heavy bottle opener that resembles brass knuckles and its basically a cool prop I keep to show people — and yes, to open bottles.

Empire Tactical makes mine, and they aren’t even brass. Most ‘brass’ knuckles aren’t brass. My knuckles are aluminum, and that seems to be the prevalent material. Brass knuckles are just a term used to refer to all forms of weapons that go over the hand to increase punching power.

Our hands and feet are our original weapons, and the idea that we can make them more-effective weapons seems to be a natural one. The Greeks and Romans had the ‘caestus’ gloves designed to increase punching power. Knuckle dusters became incredibly common in the United States during the Civil War, and President Lincoln’s bodyguards famously carried them. Let’s not forget the US Trench knife with its built-in knuckles.

It was after WW1 we began to see the rise of brass knuckle bans, followed by switchblade bans, and so on.

Why Are They Illegal

It seems silly that brass knuckles are still illegal when all 50 states have some manner of legally carrying a handgun. The main reason they are likely still banned is that no one cares. We have gun rights organizations and knife rights organizations, but no one cares about knuckles. Especially when I can carry a SIG P365 or even build my own Polymer 80 handgun and carry it.

Knives Are Quiet legal

Without a doubt, brass knuckles can be deadly weapons but are not especially dangerous when you consider the alternatives. A skilled pugilist can most certainly kill another when armed with brass knuckles. With that in mind getting shot or stabbed is much more likely to result in your death.

I imagine most of the legislation was due to their rise in popularity during WW1 and that they became more prevalent in civilian hands. I imagine some ruffians got their hands on some and a few isolated events spurred legislators to ‘do something.’

Are Brass Knuckles Effective?

I want to give you a solid answer, but I’ve never punched someone or been punched by someone wearing knuckles. However, they’ve been around for quite some time, and it seems that if they weren’t adequate, we wouldn’t see them used throughout history. It looks like men involved in heavy hand-to-hand fighting,  from bodyguards to soldiers in the trenches, appreciated them.

They would undoubtedly protect your knuckles from the pain of smashing someone’s face. The use of metal means they’ll cut and break the skin easily. The added weight will equal more kinetic energy and cause more pain. You’ll undoubtedly rattle someone hit with a set of them.

My brass knuckles from Empire Tactical certainly seem to strike with some real force when tossed against a punching bag. They also protect my bare hands from the sting of the punching bag.

Different Kinds of Brass Knuckles

Most people are used to the traditional brass knuckles. They look like my Empire Tactical Bottle Opener. That’s one style, but numerous different types exist. The keychain style models that are shaped like dog or cat heads are common at gun shows and flea markets and certainly fall under brass knuckle laws. Other, more discreet models like this single knuckle by Bastion are more popular and handier due to the additional carbide tip designed for breaking glass.

There are even knuckle dusters made from plastic and hard polymers. While not as effective, they can bypass metal detectors and still add some stick to your punch.

Companies like Nicknuk make very discreet impact weapons that slide between your knuckles and work and have the same function as any other brass knuckles. Suarez International also produces a few different weapons that sit in the hand and increase punching power.

The Catch

While brass knuckles are effective at punching someone and causing pain, if I’m going to draw a weapon, it’s going to be a gun. The smaller, more discreet knuckles are a better option and can be carried a little easier. However, as many know, they are still illegal to carry in many places.

If it is legal in your states to carry a knuckle-based weapon, I’d choose a small and discreet type. Something easy to carry, and preferably hard to identify as a weapon.

Some can be quite discrete

Brass Knuckles have an undeniable charm. They shouldn’t be treated as they are by the law. They do increase the damage of a punch but they aren’t a great self-defense option. I can think of a few weapons that are more effective and just as easy to carry, but the cool factor is why I ordered my rather heavy and large bottle opener.

Related: Noogie “Brass Knuckles” Tactical Bottle Opener


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Travis Pike is currently a writer for AllOutdoor who has chosen not to write a short bio at this time.

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