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Brass knuckles

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Brass knuckles

Brass knuckles (also referred to as brass knucks, knuckledusters, iron fist and paperweight, among other names) are a melee weapon used primarily in hand-to-hand combat. They are fitted and designed to be worn around the knuckles of the human hand. Despite their name, they are often made from other metals, plastics or carbon fibers and not necessarily brass.

Designed to preserve and concentrate a punch's force by directing it toward a harder and smaller contact area, they result in increased tissue disruption, including an increased likelihood of fracturing the intended target's bones on impact. The extended and rounded palm grip also spreads the counter-force across the attacker's palm, which would otherwise have been absorbed primarily by the attacker's fingers. This reduces the likelihood of damage to the attacker's fingers.

The weapon has been controversial for its easy concealability and is illegal to own and use in various countries. As of 2023, Brass knuckles are currently prohibited in 21 states of the US.[1]

History and variations[edit]

Brass knuckles carried by Abraham Lincoln's bodyguards during his train ride through Baltimore. Ford's Theatre National Historic Site, 2007
An Apache revolver, a weapon that combines brass knuckles with a firearm and a dagger – Curtius Museum, Liège, 2011
Mark I brass knuckles trench knife
Homemade brass knuckles used in a lumber camp in Pine County, Minnesota. c. 1890

Metal ring and knuckle style weapons date back to ancient times and have been used all over the world for many hundreds of years. Vajra-mushti has been practiced in India since at least the 12th century and mentioned in Manasollasa. The Nihang Sikhs used an early variant called Sher Panja in the 18th century. Cast iron, brass, lead, and wood knuckles were made in the United States during the American Civil War (1861–1865). Soldiers would often buy cast iron or brass knuckles. If they could not buy them, they would carve their own from wood, or cast them at camp by melting lead bullets and using a mold in the dirt.

Some brass knuckles have rounded rings, which increase the impact of blows from moderate to severe damage. Other instruments (not generally considered to be "brass knuckles" or "metal knuckles" per se) may have spikes, sharp points and cutting edges. These devices come in many variations and are called by a variety of names, including "knuckle knives."

By the late 19th century, knuckledusters were incorporated into various kinds of pistols such as the Apache revolver used by criminals in France in the late 19th to early 20th centuries.[2][page needed] During World War I the US Army issued two different knuckle knives, the US model 1917 and US model 1918 Mark I trench knives. Knuckles and knuckle knives were also being made in England at the time and purchased privately by British soldiers. It was advised not to polish brass knuckles as allowing the brass to darken would act as camouflage on the battlefield.[3]

By World War II, knuckles and knuckle knives were quite popular with both American and British soldiers. The Model 1918 trench knives were reissued to American paratroopers. A notable knuckle knife still in use is the Cuchillo de Paracaidista, issued to Argentinian paratroopers. Current-issue models have an emergency blade in the crossguard.

Legality and distribution[edit]

Brass knuckles are illegal in several countries, including: Hong Kong, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Bosnia, Croatia, Estonia, [4] Cyprus, Finland, France, Germany,[5] Greece, Hungary, Israel, Ireland,[6] Malaysia,[7][8] the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Spain,[9] Turkey,[10] Sweden, Singapore,[11] Taiwan,[12] Ukraine, United Arab Emirates[13] and the United Kingdom.[14]

Import of brass knuckles into Australia is illegal unless a government permit is obtained; permits are available for only limited purposes, such as police and government use, or use in film productions.[15] They are prohibited weapons in the state of New South Wales.[16]

In Brazil, brass knuckles are legal and freely sold. They are called soco inglês, which means 'English punch', or soqueira, which means 'puncher'.

In Canada, brass knuckles (Canadian French poing américain, which literally means 'American fist'), or any similar devices made of metal, are listed as prohibited weapons;[17] possession of such weapon is a criminal offence under the Criminal Code.[18] Plastic knuckles have been determined to be legal in Canada.[19]

In France, brass knuckles are illegal. They can be bought as a "collectable" (provided one is over 18), but it is forbidden to carry or use one, whatever the circumstance, including self-defense.[20] The French term is coup-de-poing américain, which literally means 'American fist strike'.

In Russia, brass knuckles were illegal to purchase or own during times of Russian Empire and are still forbidden according to Article 6 of 1996 Federal Law on Weapons.[21] They are called кастет (from French casse-tête, literally 'head breaker').

In Serbia,[22] brass knuckles are legal to purchase and own (for people over 16 years old) but are not legal to carry in public. They are called боксер, literally 'boxer'.

In Taiwan, according to the Law of the Republic of China, possession and sales of brass knuckles are illegal. Under the regulation, brass knuckles are considered weapons. Without the permission of the central regulatory agency, it is against the law to manufacture, sell, transport, transfer, rent, or have them in any collection or on display.[12]

In China, brass knuckles are completely legal as per the Law of the Republic of China. According to Article 32 of the "Public Security Administration Punishment Law of the People's Republic of China",[23] citizens can legally own them for self-defense, but they are prohibited items in certain places. For example, brass knuckles are not allowed to be carried when travelling on the subway, buses, trains, or other public transport. In ancient China, although brass knuckles were also very popular, they were used all the time as a concealed weapon or self-defense tool. It shows that the brass knuckles do not have the direct lethality of the sword and knife, but they are still regarded as a cautious item. Unlike most of the ancient cold weapons, even today, the brass knuckles have not been eliminated and have become police equipment.

In the United States, brass knuckles are not prohibited at the federal level, but various state, county and city laws, and the District of Columbia, regulate or prohibit their purchase and/or possession.[24] Some state laws require purchasers to be 18 or older. Most states have statutes regulating the carrying of weapons, and some specifically prohibit brass knuckles or "metal knuckles". Brass knuckles can readily be purchased online or, where legal, at flea markets, swap meets, gun shows, and at specialty stores. Some companies manufacture belt buckles or novelty paper weights that function as brass knuckles.[25] Brass knuckles made of plastic, rather than metal, have been marketed as "undetectable by airport metal detectors".[26] Some states that ban metal knuckles also ban plastic knuckles. For example, New York's criminal statutes list both "metal knuckles" and "plastic knuckles" as prohibited weapons, but do not define either.[27]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Brass Knuckles Legality by State 2023".
  2. ^ Frost, H. Gordon (1972). Blades And Barrels, Six Centuries Of Combination Weapons. Foreword by Leon C. "Red" Jackson (1st ed.). El Paso, Texas, USA: Walloon Press. OCLC 1106930.
  3. ^ The Handbook Of The SAS And Elite Forces. How The Professionals Fight And Win. Edited by Jon E. Lewis. p.325-Tactics And Techniques, Personal Skills And Techniques. Robinson Publishing Ltd 1997. ISBN 1-85487-675-9
  4. ^ Mihelić, Marija (18 February 2012). "Zabranjeno oružje - idealan dar: kupite bokser za samo 350 kuna" [Prohibited weapons - an ideal gift: buy a boxer for only 350 kuna]. Novi list (in Croatian). Rijeka, Croatia. ISSN 1334-1545. Archived from the original on 13 June 2013. Retrieved 11 February 2013.
  5. ^ "Anlage 2 (zu § 2 Abs. 2 bis 4) Waffenliste" [Appendix 2 (to Section 2, Paragraphs 2 to 4) list of weapons]. Waffengesetz [Weapons Act] (in German). Berlin, Germany: Federal Ministry of Justice. Archived from the original on 22 February 2014. Retrieved 3 November 2014. Abschnitt 1: ... Verbotene Waffen ... Der Umgang mit folgenden Waffen und Munition ist verboten: ... 1.3.2 ... Schlagringe [Section 1: ... Prohibited weapons ... Handling the following weapons and munitions is prohibited: ... 1.3.2 ... Brass knuckles [lit. striking rings]]
  6. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions". Dublin, Ireland: Department of Justice and Equality. Archived from the original on 23 March 2018. Retrieved 22 March 2018.
  7. ^ "Corrosive and Explosive Substances and Offensive Weapons Act 1958 (Revised 1988)". Putrajaya, Malaysia. Archived from the original on 17 April 2022. Retrieved 18 September 2022 – via Commonwealth Legal Information Institute.
  8. ^ "Corrosive and Explosive Substances and Offensive Weapons (Amendment) Act 2014". Archived from the original on 4 August 2016. Retrieved 1 June 2016.
  9. ^ "Real Decreto 137/1993, de 29 de enero, por el que se aprueba el Reglamento de Armas" [Royal Decree 137/1993, of January 29, which approves the Weapons Regulation]. Noticias Jurídicas (in Spanish). Madrid, Spain. Archived from the original on 18 September 2022. Retrieved 20 August 2012.
  10. ^ "Yasak Ateşsiz Silahlar" [Prohibited Non-Firearm Weapons] (in Turkish). Archived from the original on 17 September 2013. Retrieved 18 September 2022.
  11. ^ "Controlled and Prohibited Items Under Police Licensing and Regulatory Department" (PDF). Singapore. p. 11. Retrieved 18 January 2018.
  12. ^ a b 槍砲彈藥刀械管制條例 [Firearms, Ammunition and Knives Control Ordinance] (in Chinese). Taipei, Taiwan. Archived from the original on 9 August 2022. Retrieved 18 September 2022.
  13. ^ None. "Passenger carrying weapons arrested". Khaleej Times. Retrieved 2024-02-20.
  14. ^
  15. ^ "Can you bring it in?". Australia: Border Force. Archived from the original on 2023-10-09. Retrieved 9 October 2022. Import permits are generally only issued for police/government use or 'specified purposes' such as for filming a movie.
  16. ^ "NSW Police Force – Firearms Registry Schedule 1 – Prohibited Weapons Prescribed Safe Storage – Reference Clause 35A of the Weapons Prohibition Regulation 2009" (PDF). Sydney, New South Wales, Australia: New South Wales Police Force. p. 2. Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 February 2017. Retrieved 16 September 2016.
  17. ^ Department of Justice Canada (16 September 1998). "Regulations Prescribing Certain Firearms and other Weapons, Components and Parts of Weapons, Accessories, Cartridge Magazines, Ammunition and Projectiles as Prohibited or Restricted (SOR/98-462)". Part 3: Prohibited Weapons, §15. Former Prohibited Weapons Order, No. 8. Archived from the original on 16 September 2022. Retrieved 2 November 2011.
  18. ^ Department of Justice Canada (1985). "Part 3. Section 91". Criminal Code, RSC 1985, c. C-46. Archived from the original on 6 July 2011. Retrieved 29 May 2007.
  19. ^ Canada Border Services Agency (19 January 2022) [17 July 2002]. "D19-13-2 Importing and Exporting Firearms, Weapons and Devices". Ottawa, Canada. §43: Brass knuckles. ISSN 2369-2391. Archived from the original on 1 September 2022. Retrieved 22 January 2016.
  20. ^ "Décret n°95-589 du 6 mai 1995 relatif à l'application du décret du 18 avril 1939 fixant le régime des matériels de guerre, armes et munitions" [Decree No. 95-589 of May 6, 1995 relating to the application of the decree of April 18, 1939 establishing the regime for war materials, weapons and ammunition] (in French). Paris, France: Légifrance. §B, 4th category, paragraph 1. Archived from the original on 10 February 2017. Retrieved 18 September 2022. Tous objets susceptibles de constituer une arme dangereuse pour la sécurité publique, et notamment les ... coups de poing américains ...
  21. ^ Федеральный закон от 13.12.1996 N 150-ФЗ (ред. от 14.07.2022) "Об оружии" [Federal Law No. 150-FZ of December 13, 1996 (as amended on July 14, 2022) "On Weapons"] (in Russian). Moscow, Russia. 13 December 1996. Article 6. Restrictions on the circulation of civilian and service weapons, §1, paragraph 4. Archived from the original on 6 September 2022. Retrieved 18 September 2022 – via Консультант Плюс [Consultant Plus].
  22. ^ "Zakon o oružju i municiji" [The Law on Weapons and Ammunition]. Paragraf Lex (in Croatian). Archived from the original on 22 March 2022. Retrieved 11 December 2016.
  23. ^ "Public Security Administration Punishment Law of the People's Republic of China". Congressional-Executive Commission on China. Retrieved 2023-08-29.
  24. ^ "Brass Knuckles Legality by State 2023".
  25. ^ "14,000 Brass Knuckles Found Disguised As Belt Buckles". Local 6 News. WKMG-TV. 11 April 2006 [10 April 2006]. Archived from the original on September 27, 2008. Retrieved 8 November 2008.
  26. ^ Wei, Ben (6 July 2007). "New Undetectable Weapon Could Slip By Security At Airports This Summer". New York, USA: ABC News. Archived from the original on 8 May 2017. Retrieved 18 September 2022.
  27. ^ "Consolidated Laws of New York Ch. 40: Penal Law, Part 3, Title P, Firearms and Other Dangerous Weapons, Article 265.01". New York, USA: New York State Legislature. Paragraph 1. Archived from the original on 15 August 2022. Retrieved 18 September 2022.