Bludgeons, blackjacks and slungshot


Bartholomew Roberts
February 6, 2012, 10:03 AM
I'm reading "Gangs of New York" at the moment, and it seems that the most popular weapon from the 1830s through the early 1900s is some type of bludgeon/cudgel/blackjack, etc.

These are some of the most commonly used weapons by the various criminals and they are often used even when firearms and knives are available. Further, it appears they remained popular over a long span of time when a lot of advancements were being made in firearms and continued to be carried and used even after relatively effective modern firearms were available.

Based on what I've read, it appears that using bludgeons wasn't due to any mistaken belief that they weren't lethal. In a lot of cases, the attack appears to be to knock the victim unconscious first and then rob/murder him. So even when a lethal outcome was desired, they were often the weapon of choice.

So this caused me to wonder two things?

1. What was it about bludgeons/blackjacks/etc. that made them so useful/desirable as weapons throughout this period?

2. When did that change and why?

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February 6, 2012, 10:28 AM
Interesting thread, Batholomew. I saw the movie a long time ago.
I wasn't aware there was a book by the same title. Who is the author and how long is it?
As to the question of popularity,I think it might have been due to factors such as low cost, being easily attainable,and if you had to abandon them in a hurry you weren't out much money- or time and effort in the making of.
I bet stones of all kinds, especially loose cobblestones were also used in assaults.
You could probably sneak up on someone, bash them in the head with something without making a lot of noise- firearms not so quiet.
Hmmm, I didn't like the movie enough to see it more than once, but perhaps the book is worth reading. Got me thinking. Thanks.

February 6, 2012, 10:59 AM
Were you referring to the book by Herbert Ashbury?

Bartholomew Roberts
February 6, 2012, 11:29 AM
Yes, the book by Herbert Ashbury is a history that was written in 1928. It apparently inspired the Scorsese film and they did a reprint of the book as a result. The film borrows some characters from the book; but aside from that and the time period/location, they aren't really alike.

Interestingly enough, it seems that the nightstick/baton on the police side is the most common/popular weapon as well.

February 6, 2012, 11:39 AM
1. They work very well. They break bones and crack skulls with little effort.

2. I have a couple of leather ones, one flat and one round, that belonged to my father. He got them after he became a state trooper after WWII. I think the agency finally outlawed them because you really couldn't hit somebody hard with one without doing some serious damage. But they certainly worked. Imagine trying to break up a bar fight or working a coal field strike or whatnot without using your sidearm and the participants are former front line combat vets. It evens the odds a little.


Owen Sparks
February 6, 2012, 11:52 AM
The vast majority of the police in New York at the time were Irish immigrants who brought with them the concept of a shillelagh as a less than lethal police weapon.

These were made short to be easier to carry and use in tight quarters and were usually front heavy in order to make up for the shortness by adding mass on the striking end. Technically they are clubs rather than sticks. Before the 1960’s the typical police billy club was usually only about 12 to 14 inches long and turned out of a piece of hickory on a lathe with a leather lanyard. I sometimes see them at gun shows and really should add one to my collection.

Bartholomew Roberts
February 6, 2012, 12:33 PM
I guess what is puzzling me is that these fights involved pistols, knives, etc. as well and the participants often had those items; but it seems the most common way one started is one guy smashing another guy in the head with some form of blunt instrument.

I considered it might be some cultural thing - that sticking a knife in someone's ribs might look like murder where smashing him in the head was more acceptable. But in a lot of these cases, they end up killing the guy anyway (often by stamping him to death while he is down from the first blow) and it seems well understood by everyone that these types of blows could be and often were fatal.

So I'm guessing there is some advantage to the weapon that I'm not getting. I think ThorinNNY may have a point about access and ability to discard; but I don't think that is the driving force because the police are basically using the same tactics, even when they do have firearms available and don't need to discard.

February 6, 2012, 12:54 PM
The advantage to the typical black/slapjack, as I understand it, is that their spring construction packs a heck of a wallop for the relatively short length. Cops used to carry them a lot. I don't see them in the wild in my area because the language outlawing them (any type of weapon known as... slungshot, Blackjack, sap, etc) is pretty common in state weapons statutes.

That said, sucker that I am for marrying the modern with the traditional, I dig this one by Draven:

Carl Levitian
February 6, 2012, 01:52 PM
I imagine that between the fact that blunt force truma is more effective immediately, where it may take a person a while to bleed out, may have something to do with it. Add in that the club/sap is quiet, gives you more time to search the unconscious victims pockets after you've dropped him. Gunshots still attract attention, as do people screaming bloody murder because they have a knife in their ribs.

When Robert Peel was setting up the very first civilian police department, he was puzzling over the choice of what to issue the policemen. He was thinking of short cutlass's r small swords, when one of his recruits, an ex Navy sailor made the suggestion of a Belaying pin. The sailor had taken part in several shop to ship actions, and he told Peel that given a choice, the run of the mill sailor would pick a belaying pin to use as a club because it was simple and effective in close quarters. When it broke bones or skull, it had an instant effect, where swords didn't.

Robert went with a short club like a belaying pin, and the first police 'billy' club was born. It must have worked, the Bobby's have used it for over a century and a half.


Owen Sparks
February 6, 2012, 03:26 PM
Peel's original police men were issued 20 inch wooden clubs.
The blackjack or sap was developed to stun or knock out a criminal without making a visable surface wound. In the days before X-Rays, photography and autopsies the police could get away with this sort of thing. Now days the head is not taught as a target.

February 6, 2012, 03:50 PM
What Owen said, plus - an impact weapon is not noisy or expensive whereas a firearm is.

Resist Evil
February 6, 2012, 03:59 PM
A retired city cop friend has said more than once that until his department turned into a "looking good is better than being good women's kaffeeklatsch" and withdrew the slapjack from the approved equipment list, it was an efficient attention-getter curbside. It was inexpensive, easy to carry in his duty pants that came with a slapjack pocket right from the clothes rack at the uniform store, was easily hidden next to the thigh if withdrawn from its pocket and fast to use.

February 6, 2012, 04:31 PM
I think it has to do with the speed with which it would stun or incapacitate the target, and the lack of noise overall. Blows to the head at the very least are going to ring someone's bell enough they will stagger for a moment. I don't think I have ever seen or heard of a person taking a solid blunt-force hit to the head and scream in pain like they would with a blade or even a bullet. Even if fully conscious from the hit, they get quiet, like "what just happened?"

Plus there is blood spray. Getting bloody hands and clothing was practically a poetic symbol of murder, and left you covered in evidence of your deed. While blunt hits to the head can cause bleeding, it is slower and the soft covering used on blackjacks seems to offset this. Plus as they say with head trauma "First hit's free." No spray from the first hit.

February 6, 2012, 04:33 PM
Sounds like the book may be a worhtwhile read.Thanks.

Carl Levitian
February 6, 2012, 04:46 PM
"Peel's original police men were issued 20 inch wooden clubs."

Yeah, just like a belaying pin. A nice wood club. He had great advise.


February 6, 2012, 07:12 PM
"I don't think I have ever seen or heard of a person taking a solid blunt-force hit to the head and scream in pain like they would with a blade or even a bullet. Even if fully conscious from the hit, they get quiet, like "what just happened?"
Course they do make some noise when hit in a nerve plexus!
A flat sap to the head if done correctly gives a good stun with no depressed fractures or bloody contusions in 95% of cases. The 5% was the problem and then we had the far less effective mace and now the good tazer. A black jack or round knob cosh is far more likely to give a depressed fracture as it concentrates the blow with a lot of energy.
A combination of mace and a flat sap was damned good from the 60s to the 80s, too good for some do gooders and the police commisioners!

February 6, 2012, 07:15 PM
I was issued one in 73 when I went on the job. They were outlawed by statute some time in the mid 80's

February 6, 2012, 10:20 PM
FWIW, this article provides a bit of a primer on the subject:

Owen Sparks
February 7, 2012, 12:12 AM
Everyone needs to read the linked article in the post above ^

Lead shot in a leather pouch can effectively knock someone out without much visable damage sort of like a punch with a boxing glove.

February 7, 2012, 11:47 AM
I carried and used several different blackjacks, slappers, etc. I still have two of them (one at my front door concealed by a thin plastic bag...). Yes, they're effective at close quarters - but they have several serious drawbacks...

Like a knife -you have to get entirely too close, and if you hit someone with one you may not like the very angry response....

The most serious drawback is that they're all too often lethal... that's why most police outfits quit carrying them. When you put someone down with one... killing or permanently damaging them is a very real possibility (particularly when you're scared, your adrenaline levels are off the charts, etc.). If you don't hit your opponent hard enough to do serious injury... see item one, above.

Yes, they're easy to conceal and deploy (particularly from ambush or in a surprise assault) but you're still employing a deadly weapon and you'll own whatever the consequences are. I quit carrying them entirely after a few bad experiences. In my case I didn't want to kill my opponent - just put them down so I never used one full force and the results (to put it mildly) were an enraged individual at close quarters. At the same time there was a very serious police misconduct situation in Dade county (the Miami area) where officers literally beat to death someone they were trying to arrest (weapons in that incident were Kel Lite flashlights made of machined aluminum) and ended up in bad trouble (and their first acquittal at trial resulted in our first annual MacDuffie riots -the victim was named Arthur MacDuffie). As a result police departments were forced to deal with the truth of the matter - that head strikes with baton, slapper, flashlight, etc... were in fact deadly force. If nothing else, most agencies lawyers jerked them up short and pointed out that those kind of acts were indefensible unless you were clearly justified in killing... So it was back to the drawing boards, with a re-examination of impact weapons and the training, tactics, etc. for their actual carry and use. All of this was around 1980 and most departments today are miles ahead of where they were then...

February 7, 2012, 01:07 PM
I love his description of his 'buffalo book place holder'

"Perfect for holding your pages open in bible class during high winds.
... is half filled with lead shot to hold your book down in the nastiest of storms. The shot can be evenly distributed along the entire length or with a quick shake dropped into one end."

He makes saps, too. There's also a link to his leather shop page.

February 7, 2012, 02:31 PM
Most of the old LEO's I grew up around love them and said when used on the body and never the head unless it was life or death; the slap or blackjack was the most effective tool you had besides the cuffs and gun.

February 7, 2012, 02:37 PM
I was issued one in the early 80's while working the jail.. I didn't get to keep it when I left there, but I remember many a night slapping the desk with it to get a feel for it. I did notice that it had been sewn up many times around the lead payload.. No telling how long it had been in use before I came along.

Never used it on an inmate around the head/face area. I will admit to a couple of deep tissue hits on some combative inmates.. thigh, upper arm... :evil:

The jail I transferred to allowed us to carry a night stick (20 inch) only. Retention was by a leather strap.

February 7, 2012, 02:44 PM
Slap to the shoulder, elbow, hip, thigh, knee cap or sternum gets attention and control.

February 8, 2012, 03:08 PM
Just wondering if the gangs ever used lead pipe to bash folks with. Not as sophisticated as a sap, but I think lead pipe has been used for plumbing since the days of the Roman Empire, so discarded lead pipe was probably available during the time period your`e talking about.

February 9, 2012, 04:52 PM
I'd love to find a bunch of lead pipe.
Not for bludgeoning.
For casting round balls.

Bartholomew Roberts
February 10, 2012, 08:29 AM
Just wondering if the gangs ever used lead pipe to bash folks with.

It is mentioned on occasion; but as a specific weapon it is mentioned rather rarely.

Thanks for the link sidheshooter, it helped explain some of the weapons the book references. I'm a sailor myself and still didn't understand what "slungshot" was; though apparently it is a fearsome weapon based on the anecdotes in the book.

Owen Sparks
February 10, 2012, 10:53 AM
People have hit each other with all sorts of improvised weapons over the centuries.

February 10, 2012, 03:51 PM
Just wondering if the gangs ever used lead pipe to bash folks with.

Probably. But I think the blackjack's popularity has to do with it not causing laceration and less overt blood. Plus it's a "manufactured" item for that purpose so it would be more natural to grip, and would have better balance to swing.

Ron James
February 10, 2012, 04:03 PM
Yes, lead pipe played a prominent role in the Book, seems they wrapped it in news print for use. or to disguise it while carrying it. The term " slung shot " was used quite a bit, had to google it to make sure what it was.

Owen Sparks
February 11, 2012, 12:44 AM
One good way to carry a stick concealed is in a rolled up poster.

Fred Fuller
February 11, 2012, 07:22 AM
didn't understand what "slungshot" was; though apparently it is a fearsome weapon based on the anecdotes in the book.

Fearsome enough, and once common enough, to be specifically outlawed for public carry in a good number of states...

It shall be unlawful for any person willfully and intentionally to carry concealed about his person any bowie knife, dirk, dagger, slung shot, loaded cane, metallic knuckles, razor, shurikin, stun gun, or other deadly weapon of like kind, except when the person is on the person's own premises. -- North Carolina General Statutes § 14-269 Carrying concealed weapons

February 11, 2012, 11:19 AM
Let's back up a moment and consider that all of the weapons we've been talking about are nothing but "blunt instruments" - and that any manufactured, improvised, etc, are lethal weapons as far as most legal types are concerned... I know of one small town in Dade county, south of Miami where any homicide guy will tell you that the "blunt instrument" is the weapon of choice there in most of the homicides they investigate (or was the last time I heard... and I'm certainly a bit out of date in such matters). These are almost all improvised weapons used in the heat of the moment. A rock or bottle, chair leg, or bucket of paint will work just fine, though, if that's what's available when needed.... I wonder what Cain used?

The big difference with slappers, blackjacks, and similar items is their concealablity and utility as a "force multiplier". Police outfits quit using them after more than a few deaths in situations where they weren't justified (in a legal sense). Nothing like lawyers to spoil the fun.

February 11, 2012, 09:39 PM
AND the FACT, at least proven by me and my NYPD ancestors is the beavertail slap PROPERLY applied spreads the impact over a wider surface so as to LESSEN the chance of indented fractures. The deal is I actually know of real life brothers who where young and crazy and they worked their way up using WW2 Commando information to "put to sleep" each other with a 14oz Beavertail. A hard but moderate swing to the nape of the neck or side of the upper head will ring the bell 95% of the time. One should stay away from the ear eye temple area as the bone thins there.
Many an hour I spent listening and having the sap use shown to me by Irish NYPD cops from the 50s and the more subtle instruction my Gold Shield Det. uncle learnt me. Yes the beavertail slap would suffice for 95% of bar work on or off duty! Hell a righteous barkeep hit was tolerated if warranted! I was taught that if you can't line up the "nighty night" , or if it fails then to hit the closest knee as hard as you can swing the thing! Well prolly that was the old days.
I believe a round impact surface tends to fracture and an edged surface gives lacerations.
I've stunned animal prior to butchering (right before I got out the business) with the 32 oz. "Kong" sap and you have to swing wth all you might to the top of the head but it did NOT break the skull.On a human the 16 oz. sap has proven sufficient in more than 75 years common field use. The little 8oz midget could be swung as hard as you can with very little chance of fractures but a full house swing to the upper cabeza will rings someones bell....I know.

February 11, 2012, 10:30 PM
They worked great and when used properly IMO they are less deadly than those Tazers.

Owen Sparks
February 12, 2012, 12:08 AM
Are these things still being made? They seem like an ideal way to get a knockout without risk of a skull fracture like you would with a stick or club. Sort of like a punch with a boxing glove rather than with brass knuckles.

Owen Sparks
February 12, 2012, 12:59 AM
I just found something interesting. Several companies are marketing 'coin saps' with clever names like "knocked centless". These are leather pouches that hold a roll of quarters or loose change. As far as I know coin purses are legal everywhere. A leather sack full of coins should do the job about as well as anything and you could probably even take it on an airplane.

February 12, 2012, 08:17 AM
I just found something interesting. Several companies are marketing 'coin saps' with clever names like "knocked centless". These are leather pouches that hold a roll of quarters or loose change. As far as I know coin purses are legal everywhere. A leather sack full of coins should do the job about as well as anything and you could probably even take it on an airplane.

Indeed, I believe there have been few threads on this forum about those. Though if you want to be as plausibly deniable as possible, seems like you can just put something together yourself. I carry my loose change in a drawstring microphone pouch. Only change I made was switching the string out with 550 paracord.

February 12, 2012, 02:31 PM
If I get a chance to buy a Beaver Tail one for my home office desk I will. I want one just incase I need it during marriage counseling.

Owen Sparks
February 12, 2012, 03:36 PM
A crown royal bag half full of coins would do the job and appear spontanious. So will a sock.

After a little research I found that:
181 pennies weigh a pound.
90 nickels weigh a pound.
200 dimes weigh pound.

February 13, 2012, 02:41 AM
Curious about them myself finding them in the California statutes I did some research over the years.

Many states I believe actually copy the older California prohibitions, which is why they shared the terminology.
A large number of states copied just a few states with almost identical terminology, sometimes condensing the statutes or prohibited items to one statute, or changing things slightly, but generally copying them.

California borrowed things like dirk and dagger from elsewhere ('dirk' has cultural reference from locations where people of that ethnicity were the poor undesirables often involved in crime), while I believe was first with some of the other prohibited items were initially banned in California and the terminology adopted over the years in other states.

Owen_sparks said:
These are leather pouches that hold a roll of quarters or loose change.

From my understanding the coin purse that was once carried by most people when coins were worth something instead of paper money were the basis for a lot of these weapons. Such as the 'sap' and 'sandbag' of legislation.
These coin purses were strong, made to hold heavy metal coins, and last for years without wearing through. They generally had a heavy duty length of leather cord or rope/twine to draw them closed and/or attach them to a belt.

As a result everyone had these. Quite likely some made the decision to fill their coin purse with even heavier lead, and the improvised sap was born. The lead making them a slightly more effective weapon, but everyone already had coin purses with change in them, and would continue to until the day of paper money and a dollar was not a lot of money anymore.

I have also heard of some improvised versions of these and similar sandbags consisting of a variety of potential bags common with sailors in San Francisco, which is what I believe ultimately led to a ban by name.
A major port city, with a lot of rough and rowdy sailors generally viewed as undesirables, the weapons they tended to commonly prefer as improvised items were targeted for a ban.
Sailors generally couldn't travel with firearms, and for protection tended to quickly improvise something for use when going out on the town.

There is a long history in our nation of banning the weapons affordable or improvised by the poor, while retaining the right for the well to do to employ firearms.
Firearms were once much less affordable to people living job to job. People actually had to make a decision to save for awhile to purchase one, and the people that tended to go drinking, buying time with prostitutes, visiting opium dens, and similar ways in those times to blow their money quickly didn't get enough from a single paycheck to buy firearms in general.
This means they were men that typically relied on 'dirks', 'bowie' knives, 'daggers', coin purses and bags of lead and sand, belaying pins, and various other items.

Ironically it was not that many of these items were that much more lethal than other blunt objects, but rather they were the improvised version of their day and so were the ones banned by legislation.
As a result choosing to copy them today would simply be a failure to improvise with your own modern everyday normal item that would not appear out of place.
They were improvising, it was not because they were the best possible weapon, but because they were very effective objects that were inexpensive and made from items everyone was around on a regular basis.
Various security forces, and police would copy them, because as the story in the thread highlighted, they were not improvising, but rather asked people who had improvised what was effective and then copying them.
The belaying pin turning into the common billy club being a result.
Today a billy club is a purpose made weapon, but back then it was just a normal item on a ship.

They were turning regular items into purpose made weapons. I can think of dozens of regular everyday items that would be entirely normal to have, and would break a bone or kill with a single strike. Items which are not out of place anywhere, and many of which you can even carry on an airplane. Now if a bunch of people started carrying them as weapons they would get banned, so I won't start listing them.
Listing them just encourages restrictions because you take the mental requirements out of the equation, and allow others with less common sense to copy and ruin it.

In fact any legality aside, using such a regular item is preferred because it actually has a use, and does not require taking up yet additional weight and space. It multitasks, providing benefits besides just protection, and is actually a better use of limited space.
You don't even have to go out of your way to get one, but rather notice when certain items you use are very well built or come in a version that is, could easily take very solid blows without breaking, and have some density or heft to them.
You got a weapon right there, some of them a lot more effective than purpose made gimmicky weapons people commonly have marketed to them.

People who get fixated on weapons that are made as weapons are the ones that limit themselves.
They think inside the box, and they are who the legislation banning purpose made weapons clearly is effective with. These people don't see what can be a deadly weapon, but rather what other people have told them is a weapon, or is marketed as a weapon, or a movie or book has informed them is a weapon.

Blunt objects have long been preferred by criminals and citizens living in rough areas because they were cheap, disposable (not just for criminal use, but even as a regular citizen traveling between destinations the weapon could be dropped or discarded without loss of something of value after arrival), random objects anyone could acquire in a few minutes. They are easier to use than similarly common knives, and raise even less suspicion as common items in the environment.
In a historical context they were items required as tools for various jobs or while working, to items for carrying change when coins were the primary currency, to the bricks that made up your streets and buildings and were loosely available everywhere.
Someone with 5 minutes could readily grab a heavy object, improve it a little for better grip or striking, and have an inexpensive disposable weapon for either offensive or defensive use.
People with less imagination looked at what the next thug, sailor, immigrant, was using and instead of designing their own followed their example.
People with money had firearms. Legislation targeted the people without money, the undesirables. Many places had no restrictions on firearms until relatively modern times because they were not the tool of the undesirables until mass production made them inexpensive enough that anyone of even the lowest income levels could buy one without the need to plan or save for it. At which point they became things like 'Saturday night specials' and 'junk handguns' and were targeted by legislation intending to set a minimum price on handguns to reduce who could easily afford them, keeping them out of the hands of most of the poor.

February 13, 2012, 03:26 AM
I wanted to add that many items currently recognized as martial arts weapons from the orient were likewise just some improvised item. Often farm tools.
The elite class could have say a Samurai sword, and other purpose made weapons banned for the average person. So some improvised and became very effective with farm tools and other common items.
Today many of these are recognized as purpose made weapons, so copying them would be a failure to adapt to your modern times, and rather focusing on what others have taught you are weapons but which serve no other purpose in modern society.

There is plenty of regular objects just as effective as the regular objects people 100 or 500 years ago were improvising with which today are identified as purpose made weapons that are very effective.
You can identify and carry a suitable regular item. If you make that item popular to carry as a weapon though be prepared to lose the option of carrying it sometime in the future when others with less common sense copy.
Then you will have to figure out and move on to another common regular item that is suitable.
It remains legal until it is espoused as a weapon in public, on boards like these, or by word of mouth, and people without common sense that would have never viewed such a thing as a weapon start carrying them as such and getting into trouble with them. Someone considers them a problem, and that regular item is no longer allowed as many places or may be targeted by legislation.

But when only you know it is a weapon, it doesn't get banned.
Most of these things started out as legal, not considered weapons, and the first people with them could have them wherever they wanted without restriction.
Then word got out they made good weapons, and they got restrictions (and some people started manufacturing them as purpose made weapons.)

February 13, 2012, 07:26 AM
the more recent poor man's weapon I've come up with is my 1 liter water bottle.
A liter of water is a kilogram + the container weight which is negligible.

The N of force developed by swinging 1kg is significant.

February 13, 2012, 10:46 AM
Very good explanation Zoo... and you're right on the money about improvising. I've travelled with my own improvised set of weapons off and on. Before 9-11 it was a simple single blade pocket knife (that just happened to lock open and was very, very sharp - and didn't look "tactical" at all). After all the addtional travel resrictions it's been something else, best not discussed on an open forum.

The ideal improvised weapon... that's up to each individual. I've seen at least one real time video of bikers going at it with "what they brung" to the party and noted that every weapon was trumped by the guys who brought guns...

Owen Sparks
February 13, 2012, 11:54 AM
There is some great information in Zoogsters posts. Throughout most of recorded history weapons have been forbidden to commoners who have had to adapt and our times are no different as the 2A has been largly over ruled by the courts. One of the best improvised weapons for the modern times is the walking stick. Various shorter sticks and clubs can be adapted from common items in your every day environment.

Most people spend the majority of their time in just a few places. You are in your home, at work, in your vehicle and a few other places like stores and church and where you do your recreation. In most of these situations you can either carry a cane (like the grocery store) or pre-arrange by having a suitable object close at hand. For example, you might always keep a 2 piece pool cue in the front seat of your car (perfectly legal as long as you have both halves) The butt half makes a dandy fighting stick. You can probably come up with a reason to have a length of pipe, tube, or tool handle of some sort handy at work. For example, one high school teacher I know replaced the wooden dowel rod in a pull-down map with a length of steel pipe. This thing is just three feet behind his desk.
Another adaptation is to disguise your weapon by making it appear to be something else. You could keep a stick in a rolled up poster or "hide" your wifes birthday present of a solid brass fireplace poker in your office. Nobody will care and unless something goes wrong they will have no clue that you can use it as an effective weapon as long as you keep your mouth shut.

February 13, 2012, 12:31 PM
A stainless steel thermos bottle can be used in an emergency.I got it because i got tired of repacing those fragile glass liners the old type used :cuss:. Empty, it`s got some heft to it.Filled, its even heavier.I always though if I ever needed to bust the glass out of a car,it would do the job.
I suppose it could be used for other purposes,as well. :evil::fire:

February 13, 2012, 04:19 PM
Very good posts, Zoogster. Great history and observation. Guys like you are why I read this forum.

I see a few others have talked about water-filled loads. Eh, I don't know. With blunts, density is often more important than mass. Water is 1 gram per cubic centimeter. Lead is 11.34. More than 10 times the weight in the same size, which partially explains why it is the preferred weight of blackjacks. Following that logic, tungsten is 19.25. Heeding Zoogster's warning, that's all I'm saying...

February 13, 2012, 06:07 PM
Hey glistam, can you carry a sap anywhere like a stainless water bottle?
I'm just trying to take zoog's posts and suggest something mundane we see everyday that would make a better than decent improvised weapon.
Since water doesn't compress, the mass of the water is all moving together, provided the bottle is full. This means that momentum is conserved and transferred into the target.
The full 1kg x whatever speed you can swing it makes a fair amount of momentum even when at a slow gravity like pace of 9.8m/s.

As with our arguments for the cane, based on utility and ubiquity, I think a case can be made for a stainless bottle. It's innocuous and it has an easily explained utility.

February 13, 2012, 07:49 PM
I'm looking at filling a panel of a Maxpedition wallet with #9 Tungsten shot and having webbing loop sewn on. "sure here is my wallet" !!!!!!!!

February 13, 2012, 08:25 PM
I set up a table at a gun show in December. Two of the items I put out were a braided leather black jack and a 16 oz. sap.

Both were bought by 30-something females.

I guess that domestic tranquility can start with the chemical symbol PB.

February 13, 2012, 09:05 PM
When I was in LE I carried a sap in the sap pocket of my trousers.

Had to attend a class before being allowed to carry a sap.

I never used it on duty.

In the class we were told that striking the skull is a no-no but any place else was a legitimate target such as the face, nose, jaw, elbow, knee cap, a number of muscles, hands, kidneys, collar bone. I would imagine that a strike in any of those places would be painful (remember bashing your elbow) and probably result in a certain degree of incapacitation.

I also had a pair of sap gloves (weighted driving gloves) and a palm sap. I don't have these two anymore but do still have the two flat saps that I carried. Wish I could still carry one.

I know first hand that a strike across the forearm with a baton can result in a broken bone. A strike with a sap would probably be much the same.

I also have a weighted thingy that I use to hold a book open. It's about a foot long. Made of a nylon webbed strap folded over and stitched on the sides and filled with lead shot. I suppose it could be used to slap someone up side the head in an emergency.

February 13, 2012, 11:38 PM
I also have a weighted thingy that I use to hold a book open. It's about a foot long. Made of a nylon webbed strap folded over and stitched on the sides and filled with lead shot. I suppose it could be used to slap someone up side the head in an emergency.

I like to read.



February 14, 2012, 05:41 AM
I enjoy reading these threads and remembering the good old days(?) when cops and bouncers carried such impact weapons.

However, I caution you, using one of these now days will probably get you a felony conviction for aggrivated assault. Mere possission makes you a person of special interest to young cops.

Owen Sparks
February 14, 2012, 08:51 PM
My wife has one of these:|level=2-3|pageid=6678

I got it out and played with it after sideshooter's post. It seems a little too light for a knockout but would do the job if applied to a bony prominence. The weight must be a stone as it is non-magnetic and a little light to be lead. This would be a whole lot better than nothing on an airplane if something went wrong.

BTW, she only paid $9.95 for it at the Barns and Nobel book store.

February 15, 2012, 02:35 AM
So long as we are discussing page holders, here's one purpose built for double duty (scroll down):

February 15, 2012, 10:12 AM
Andy's stuff is first rate!

February 15, 2012, 05:18 PM
No doubt. Andy is a first rate guy too.

February 16, 2012, 10:55 AM
I was watching a DVD titled WORLD WAR II:The German Front. In one of the segments, they discussed how the Nazis planned their takeovers.The first thing they did was try to establish a "Fifth Column" of Nazi sympathizers inside the country they wanted to take over.
Once they had a cadre of Nazi sympathizers, they began a campaign to "soften up" the opposition. Guess what was their weapon of choice? Yep, you got it-a blackjack!

Owen Sparks
February 16, 2012, 01:08 PM
While there is no 'safe' way to knock someone out the SAFEST way would be with something slow and heavy, relatively soft that spreads the force out over a large area. When properly applied, a shot filled beavertail sap should be no more dangerous than knocking someone out with a boxing glove. Sure, there have been a few deaths in boxing but they are exceedingly rare. More people die from football related injuries, (usually broken necks) than die in the ring from closed head injuries.

Sticks and clubs are much more dangerous when applied to the head as they concentrate a large amount of force on a small area. This tends to fracture the skull. They also take a lot more room to use and pose a danger to other bystanders. A sap fills a niche in controling someone in aa close in scuffle that no other impact weapon can. I wish that I had known about these when I worked as a bouncer. It would have solved several problems.

451 Detonics
February 16, 2012, 03:18 PM
I just stick with my change purse...holds enough quarters (2 rolls worth) for parking meters, tolls booths, and payphones and has a place for business cards, is easy to carry, made from very sturdy leather, and I can access it one handed....

Owen Sparks
February 16, 2012, 03:23 PM

451 Detonics
February 16, 2012, 04:34 PM
This is were I got mine from...

interesting video of it...

Steel Talon
February 16, 2012, 04:35 PM
Great thread.. Any books or reference manuals on how to construct a Sap?

Owen Sparks
February 16, 2012, 04:47 PM
You can still buy them. Several links have been posted. Get one that contains shot rather than a solid piece of lead. They seem to be safer and just as effective. The sap coin purse linked above would be less likely to land you in court. Watch the video.

451 Detonics
February 16, 2012, 05:06 PM
Mine made it through both the Indy airport and the Houston airport last fall on a trip south without any problem. I was asked what it was. I replied "change purse for phones and parking meters", got a raised eyebrow but that was it.

Steel Talon
February 16, 2012, 05:21 PM
The sap coin purse

Yes I've made a couple of those over the years What I'm looking for is a "how to"/ "tutorial" so I can create the capsule for the shot,and the spring or spring steel channel. Instead of recreating the wheel.

I am considering to purchase one and reverse engineer it to learn the construction.

February 16, 2012, 06:04 PM
And then there is this:

February 18, 2012, 12:02 PM
Yesterday I got a copy of the book THE GANGS OF NEW YORK, which the OP referenced in the first post. Thank you for making me aware of that book. I read a little of it last night. Think its going to be a good read.
I liked the quote by Inspector Alexander Williams "there is more law in the end of a policeman`s nightstick than in a decision of the Supreme Court".

Fred Fuller
February 18, 2012, 01:46 PM
I ran across a copy of the book at the bookstore Thursday, and brought it home with me. Looking forward to reading it.

Seems like a trend :D.

February 20, 2012, 01:20 PM
Sentances into English:

"Tim Sullivan buzzed a bloke and a shakester of a reader.His jomer stalled"

Then your`re either very,very old and kept bad company.
you read Vocabulum-The Rogue`s Lexicon by Geo.Matsell,1859.
you read the list of slang terms in The Gangs of New York.

February 21, 2012, 10:06 PM
I'm rereading "Gangs of New York" for the umpteenth time- good story there.

Someone mentioned nylon webbing sewn down the sides. It's made in a tubular weave as well. I made the sheath for my Buck 426 out of a piece of 2" tubular webbing- cost about sixty cents a foot at the yuppie mountain climbing equipment shop- and they make it in a 1" width as well. Would probably hold shot better than a flat piece sewn down the sides if you wanted to make a page holder.

February 22, 2012, 07:54 AM
Here's the two flat saps I carried when I was in LE.

And my page holder.

rio nueces
February 22, 2012, 11:32 AM

" Last Sunday I spoke of the first Federal troops that ever came to Houston, the 'Army of Occupation' an Army such as that, there were 'toughs' and a few of those broke from time to time and caused trouble. However, they did not always get away with the play, for when a six-shooter was at that time as much a part of a man's outfit as his boots or shoes, there were always two sides to an attempted knockdown...

The slingshots used by the thugs were made of lead and were about the size of a large egg. They were fastened to a leather thong and this was slipped over the wrist and securely knotted there. It was a fearful weapon and and with it skulls and bones were easily crushed. An old German was found on Washington Street one morning with a crushed skull, while a negro had his shoulder crushed somewhere out on Main St. No doubt there were other cases, but if so, I have forgotten them. I do remember three casualties on the other side. One was a soldier found on Main St. just above where the Rice Hotel stands. He had been shot through the head and the slingshot attached to his wrist told the story of why he had been shot..."

True Stories of Old Houston and Houstonians' Dr. S.O. Young, Houston, 1913

February 22, 2012, 09:49 PM
rio nueces said: HOUSTON, TEXAS - 1865

" Last Sunday I spoke of the first Federal troops that ever came to Houston, the 'Army of Occupation' an Army such as that, there were 'toughs' and a few of those broke from time to time and caused trouble. However, they did not always get away with the play, for when a six-shooter was at that time as much a part of a man's outfit as his boots or shoes, there were always two sides to an attempted knockdown...

The slingshots used by the thugs were made of lead and were about the size of a large egg. They were fastened to a leather thong and this was slipped over the wrist and securely knotted there. It was a fearful weapon and and with it skulls and bones were easily crushed. An old German was found on Washington Street one morning with a crushed skull, while a negro had his shoulder crushed somewhere out on Main St. No doubt there were other cases, but if so, I have forgotten them. I do remember three casualties on the other side. One was a soldier found on Main St. just above where the Rice Hotel stands. He had been shot through the head and the slingshot attached to his wrist told the story of why he had been shot..."

True Stories of Old Houston and Houstonians' Dr. S.O. Young, Houston, 1913

While I appreciate you sharing a story that helps highlight some historical use of the items in question, there is some assumptions I would like to point out in the quoted story that may be missed:

First due to a certainly strong dislike of the military occupiers at the time there is going to be a motivation to blame them for more of society's ills than they are even responsible for. This was in 1865, the North had just won the war, many bad things were done during the war, emotions and hatred were high, and they were occupying.
This means while the troops, many young rowdy men, certainly were responsible for their share of trouble, it must be kept in mind that there would be a motivation to blame them for many unsolved attacks, and various others problems in society beyond what they actually caused.
I doubt the soldiers were the only ones carrying or using such items at the time, just the most disliked group at the time there who did.

Second the "a six-shooter was at that time as much a part of a man's outfit as his boots or shoes" also must be kept in context.
These guns were expensive then, and while certainly they may have been common amongst some classes, like the well to do southern gentleman of the time who had tremendous influence in society, as well as various middle aged men of many classes, and some young men, they were not common amongst everyone.
Otherwise there would not have been a large number of young men running around with various other weapon types as their primary defensive, offensive, or mutual combat weapons. From the infamous bowie knife, to various saps and other devices. We know these other weapons were quite common, weapons many men had, and some of them would even be targeted by legislation. Often times targeted more severely by legislation than the six-shooters that were found less frequently in the hands of the lower income and undesirable classes.

Third the assumption that everyone with such a device was up to no good is clearly given, especially in " told the story of why he had been shot" but is entirely an assumption.
Especially if such devices were entirely legal at the time (and even if they had not been).
It may be an assumption correct many times that such an armed person was up to no good, but wrong many other times.
That would be similar to an assumption today that young men carrying a folding knife as a potential weapon were up to no good. Or that one found dead with one in the hand (or even similar to a knife on a belt, in a pocket, or clipped onto clothing, because of how saps were transported) on the streets was using it in an offensive capacity rather than a defensive capacity when killed.
Clearly that would be an assumption, and they may very well have had one ready for potential defensive use while walking through a bad area at night and were attacked or there was a robbery attempt and they got shot.
The common way to carry such things was also tied around the wrist, and hidden within the palm, like when walking through a bad area at night. It could be deployed by dropping it from the hand, or out of a sleeve and swinging it from the loop tied around the wrist or simply hitting something with it held in the palm with the tie acting as a retention device.
So it doesn't even necessary show it was intended for use offensively just because it was tied on the wrist either, and was not being transported as one normally did when they wanted it potentially available.
The soldiers were also in a hostile foreign land far from home filled with people that hated them and everything they represented. You can be sure there was soldiers murdered by southern men that didn't like them, or were ambushed and killed by locals when the opportunity presented itself. The need and desire to be capable of effective defense even without a firearm would be high.
Some incidents could also have been mutual combat scenarios where someone was injured or killed when the situation escalated to or involved weapons.
Rather than the assumptions given by the article that bad guys used the saps, and anyone with one was bad, and anyone injured by one was victimized. While the guy that shot someone with such a device and took off can be presumed to have only been defending themselves from a thug, and was not an attacker, robber, or mutual combatant themselves.

rio nueces
February 23, 2012, 07:08 AM
In reply I can only say that Dr. Young was there at the time, and we were not.

He was born in Houston in 1848, educated in Virginia, a physician in Houston during 'reconstruction days', and a Houston newspaper reporter later on.
The book is entitled "True Stories of Old Houston and Houstonians" and, while personal feelings and local sentiments must be considered, I have no reason to doubt the veracity of his reports.

You could take it up with him, but I'm afraid he is not available.

February 25, 2012, 09:02 PM
Rio nueces
I enjoyed reading the story told by Dr.S.O. Young.Thanks for posting it. I valued it for the way Dr.S.O. Young saw things then.It was a window into the past.I`m sure many of his contemporaries would have agreed with him.Others might not have.

February 25, 2012, 10:36 PM
A little Google-fu:

I was cracking up at some of the stories Dr. Young told, but I have a lowbrow sense of humor at best.

February 26, 2012, 02:35 AM
I started as a cop in 1981. At that time lot of the older guys around here still carried saps or blackjacks in the sap pocket of their uniform pants and did so until about '84 or '85 when such weapons were specifically prohibited by policy. Most of the guys used them as a backup impact weapon, in case they bailed out of the car in a hurry and forgot their straight baton.

I bought a Bucheimer "Convoy" blackjack and another model with a lighter weight. One of my older mentors who worked for the Sheriff's Department told me to use the lighter one. I carried it as a backup until policy changed. (This same guy had been in a battle with a drunk sometime in the late 70s and ended up hitting the guy along side the head with the edge of a flat sap (by accident) and just about tore the suspect's ear off. No lasting repercussions from that, but he immediately switched to carrying a lighter weight round blackjack with the spring as a result. I saw him break a guy's collar bone with it in the parking lot of a road house one night when we went to a fight at bar time. That fella’ quit fighting immediately . . . )

I still think a lighter weight blackjack may have utility in some applications.

I traded another old timer a black GI wool sweater for his sap gloves. Only used them once, breaking up a fight in a parking lot outside a bar. A strong punch to the sternum stopped a guy who wanted to fight me dead in his tracks. (Which was good, because I'm a big boy and he was about the same size and a lot more muscular (and certainly meaner) and I think I would've been in trouble if he'd have gotten his hands on me or landed a few punches)

February 26, 2012, 02:54 PM
The edge of a flat sewn sap is a "dirty hit" almost sure to lacerate. That is why I had my flat saps made with a rounded edge with turned inside stitching . You get the flat sap impact spread and no lacerations. The round headed jack is a bone breaker for sure and I do not like them unless it is warfare.
A lighter (about 6oz is the minimum to be able to get a reasonable knock out IMHO and 8oz is much better) flat sap has to be really swung fast to work, and a handle allowing a snap really helps (versus the Convoy strap that runs almost to the saps head) it work. A 14-16 oz beavertail has shown to work good knock outs with a moderate controlled swing like the Convoy design was meant to give. I prefer a strap type handle on my saps and jacks that by looping the wrist allows retension, creates more distance,gives a flexible joint and increases the snap. Braided is even better IMHO . Nothing like a good 8 oz midget in the civilian's pocket or a 16-22oz Beavertail for an on the job officer in this unreconstructed opinion. Top is a 32oz one to stun animals, middle is 16 oz. "police" sized, bottom is an 8oz. "personal" sized! All filled with #9 lead shot.

February 26, 2012, 06:03 PM
An interesting side note, the “blackjack” was developed by an L.A.P.D. captain. The idea was by using weapon with a spring it would reduce the damage done to anyone who was hit with one, Vs. the damage done by the typical wooden baton. Sadly just the opposite happened, and sadly one of the most effective, if properly used, police weapons has been outlawed by almost all departments.

February 26, 2012, 06:20 PM
Apropos of nothing, but I like your taste in knives, Gordon.

Owen Sparks
February 27, 2012, 11:13 AM
Are those saps filled with shot? If so, where can I ger one?

Owen Sparks
February 27, 2012, 01:09 PM
Here is an old catologue page for mail order police supplies. Be sure to click 'enlarge'.
Notice the headline in the ad for the sap at the bottom of the page:

"The Great Pacifier"
"A sure knockout without a mark."

February 27, 2012, 06:43 PM
Andy Langois will make you one like it if you request it, yes filled with #9 shot. Those were Mad Dog saps and no longer available and quite collectible.

February 27, 2012, 08:57 PM
I used my blackjack once. It was spring loaded, wrapped in leather and filled with shot. Had a bad,ineffective experience during a violent arrest. I decided it was not a very good tool and got rid of it.

March 3, 2012, 09:44 PM
Dang he must have been on Dope.

March 5, 2012, 11:34 PM
Forgive my departed Uncle Gil's NYPD duty gun and another NYSP fighting pistol but I think they work so well with the beautiful Foster Bro. cosh which is a technicolor copy of a 1950s model! This bad boy jack WOULD injure anyone who got hit with it, but better than what the revolvers would do!

March 5, 2012, 11:43 PM
Thin this is Scott Foster, very nice!

March 16, 2012, 07:30 PM
It is a dang gum shame one of the best things a LEO could be taught to use that IMO is safer than a Tazer that is in such vouge today is the Blackjack or Slap. I used to have a friend who was a Fort Worth Motor Cycle Cop back in the late 40's till about 1965 he said they were issued Slap gloves and a beaver tail Blackjack upon graduation from the academy. He said his Gloves and Jack never failed him.

April 15, 2012, 09:14 PM
Let me say this is a great thread! Of course, jacks are near and dear to me < been making them for years (I am Scott Foster). My love of jacks started with my grandpa who was a yardbull for the railroad back in the 60's. He always carried one when he would take me along to the local store when I was a kid.
When I got older I found one of his old jacks and it was in poor condition. Got me intrested in making them and the history of them.
When i first became a police officer all the older patrol guys knew jacks very well. Most leaned toward the lighter ones because under stress a 15 oz Convoy can be deadly. Back in the day the most "formal" training you would get would be to hold the jack upright in your hand and punch the bad-guy in the chest. This would cause the jack to fall forward upon impact and break the collar bone. As luck would have it, a few bad-guys bleed out when the collar bone splintered and cut an artery. The smaller 6 and 7 oz models are what I see most often when people send them for repairs from where they found them in "grandpa's closet". Must have been a short learning curve with the heavy! Politically incorrect and maybe a bit outdated but you got to admit they are just cool!!

April 16, 2012, 01:15 AM
Wow , the man himself!
I love saps and to a lesser extent jacks also. Agree that an 8oz SAP can be swung about as hard as you want with a almost certainly less than lethal out come. The jack ball however concentrates the force and will cause indented fractures if not used solely on none lethal nerve plexes or joints for a disabling hit. I believe you made my beautiful two tone jack which is pictured here in my museum. ;)
After trying it out on various martial arts media it is one deadly sucker!
The beavertail saps however, especially when made with rolled smooth seams like the ones I pictured,deliver the blow over a wider area and I believe a hit to the head with an 8oz is NOT LIKELY to be permanent damage. I'll relate to you my sap history;
In the late 50s my late Uncle Gil took me to NYC where he was a NYPD Gold Shield Detective . He was an NYPD cop from the late 30s until he retired in the early 60s after 25 years. He also found time to be a part time Vibraphone and drummer in clubs in the City. He was divorced since the late 40s and allways had a girl friend which was scandalous in my family , but he had the connected cop excuse. He took me mostly to Chick Gaylords "cop shop" in the "fur" district to show me the life. Chick was a big old round jamoke 'gun fighter' and holster maker par excellance. He always treated pre pubescent me to donuts and a little sneaky coffee. All the cops with class made the rounds to Chicks place to shoot the trash and buy cop stuff; guns, knives, holsters and saps and jacks. Funny thing I don't think Gaylord made any thing except holsters and he sold Bucheimer impact weapons. Any way I lived to see the detectives horse around with their saps and jacks for my benefit, showing me how and where to hit, spiced with what ethnic groups or drunks, crazy and dopers responded to what hits! There was a LOT of respect (fear) for the LEO on the streets in those politically incorrect days. You did your dirty deeds as far away from the cops as you could and NOBODY sassed them to their face. If you did you met the sap or , shudder, the jack from the 'Dicks'.
Of course I got my hands on a small Denver sap and a couple times jumped by Italian gangs in my native Jersey Shore , got away unschathed from blades or a thrashing by judacious application of my sap. I had street respect and went away to U of Georgia carrying it in the then yankee hostile South of the earlier sixties. I had the " lights out" move down pretty good if given half a chance and knew how to make the opening for it! I found one of those and a hostile groups backs off quick! :evil:
After 9 years of Army Active duty I found myself in the early DEA academy and thought about a sap for the first time in ten years (had 5 years of Tae Kwon Do by then but no saps!) . I got a hold of one from Paris Theodore who took over Chick Gaylords outfit while I was having fun overseas. I did whack a few noggins and elbows and knees around Newark where I was assigned :barf: but allready the times were a changing and you were supposed to use a gun, if warranted, on the dealers and dopers and not rough them up! :banghead:
After a shooting I came out to California and became a gentle soul and it was the early 80s before I got a politically connected reservist sheriff position and shortly after the saps and jacks and uber kewl sap gloves were taken from us because of pressure from the Spanish speaking community, had to go gentle on the gangs which emerged right after that!:fire:
Any way saps and jacks are an uber no no in Kali now and you are far better off legally with a registered and concealed .45 if you need help. :confused:
But I still like a non marking beavertail and an 8-10 oz one is comforting in places you would not be seen using it quickly and briefly .:neener:

April 17, 2012, 06:40 PM
Love me some sap and jack discussion :).

Personally I like a sap and I train to use the edge to strike with. Ideal target is somewhere between the jaw hinge and the side/middle of the neck. (Scm muscle). I will take incidental collar bone or wrist hits that may occur, or even a solid hit to the front deltoid or acromion.

Anecdotal reports and physiological facts would indicate this area is reliably stunning or can create KOs with less risk of unintended lethality.

It also interfaces nicely with a boxing structure and boxing style jabs or crosses with a little twist at the end to get an arc and hit with the edge.

The arc makes the hit somewhat deceptive, too.

April 17, 2012, 11:35 PM
Gordon: Great brief history, I would have love to go back in time and browse around in Gaylords. And yes, I did make that jack of yours.

Conwict: I have always thought someone with boxing experience would be very hard to deal with if additionally armed with a jack or a sap!
I also prefer edge strikes and practice running one like a knife using the edge. The smaller "midget" and "junior" style saps are very capable tools.

Owen Sparks
April 18, 2012, 01:00 AM
Scott, can you make a sap with shot in it that will retain the flat bever tail shape?

April 18, 2012, 11:30 PM
Scott, am I right in thinking you do mostly/all jacks and your brother Todd does saps?



April 19, 2012, 08:10 PM
That is correct, Todd does the saps (tfoster&
I do the jacks. Not really a business arrangement or anything, it was just our personal prefernce when we carried them growing up.
Owen: Todd does shot filled beavertails like you described.

April 19, 2012, 08:48 PM
Could you post pictures of both his and your wares? Pretty please!

April 19, 2012, 09:31 PM
I need to get one they make great paperweights.

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