Blackjacks and Saps

The Quick & Dirty Guide to Saps and Blackjacks


There are 3 basic "loads" in a lead filled sap;

There are 6 basic types of Blackjacks/Saps;


There are 2 basic exteriors;

The most lethal type of blackjack is a round body with coil spring in handle.

The safest type of blackjack that still offers knockout capability is the flat sap with lead shot and no spring in the shank.

Round 'Jacks concentrate force whereas the flat type spread the force out. Round saps can actually break bones with relative ease. The introduction of a spring increases the possibility of this along with the round shape.

Basketweaved leather increases the severity of damage done to the skin, to a greater degree than a regular finished, smooth leather sap will.

"Sneaky Saps"

The "Palm Sap" was a cylinder of lead encased in leather and had a strap so you could secure it in your palm with the strap going around the back of your hand. Invisible at night for sure. Some Police Officers used to simply love these types of Saps because when used in front of other "Tough Guys," because it looks like someone being knocked out by being slapped open handed. If the Officer kept the "secret" well, he would develop a reputation on the street of being able to knock someone out by slapping them upside the head. The best way they were used was in a crowd of people causing trouble, taking out the Big Mouth in the group.

The Key Fob Blackjack. This was a miniature 'Jack that had a grommet placed in the leather on the end...and you could whack someone with your keys in your hand. Most were only about 4 or 5 inches long. Think of a small Blackjack in the form of a Kubotan bit with a noticeable "pouch" on the end like other ‘Jacks.

Sap Gloves. I'm sure everyone is familiar with these nasty items. Very good leather gloves with powdered lead sewn into the knuckles. Most Departments banned these along with the others to avoid the so-called, "Gestapo image."

A Blackjack by any other name…

Although the years have blurred the terminology, a Jack is technically round and the Sap is flat. Saps are also called, "Slappers, Slapjacks," etc.

I have owned Bucheimer, Jay-Pee and Bianchi Blackjacks and Saps. My favorites were a Bucheimer "Midget" flat sap and a "Bull" blackjack and a rather large Bianchi flat sap. I don’t recall the model name or number of that Bianchi, however. The Bianchi was similar to the "Big John" from Bucheimer though.

My Bianchi was about a 10 inch flat Sap, had a flat spring in the shaft of it and a belt/pocket clip, the exact same type you would see on the back of older Gerber Boot Knife Sheaths. This was indeed an impressive close-quarters weapon that would absolutely put someone away quickly if it landed accurately and powerfully.

Bucheimer is out of business and Bianchi no longer makes saps as far as I know. I wish I could get a couple Bucheimers and the Bianchi I had again...when I stopped working for an Alarm Company, I gave the few I had to friends in Law Enforcement and figured, "I’ll just get another if I need one." (This is a disturbing pattern I have) Now the only thing you can find is flea market garbage, they’ll do in a pinch, but they’re nowhere near the quality of the Bucheimer and Bianchi Products.

The Blackjack and Sap used to be so popular with Law Enforcement in America that alot, if not most, Police Uniforms came with a long and narrow "Sap Pocket." That speaks volumes.

Blackjacks/Saps: Bad to the Bone

If you speak with most Police Officers who have been on the job for over 15 – 20 years, they will tell you that they miss the Blackjack/Sap a lot. They have experience with these weapons and they know how effective they are if used properly.

In one case I know of, a Patrolman was wrestling with someone, a standing grapple over a traffic citation [what a thing to go to jail for, huh?] and because there was ice on the ground, they both slipped. He was trying to gain control of the suspect and they were both trying to get to ground without ice on it to gain control of the situation… In desperation, the Patrolman slipped the ‘Sap out of its pocket and aimed…and splintered a patch of ice where the suspect’s hand had been a split second before. The suspect gave up instantly, still slipping on the ice, on his belly… He knew if he escalated what that Sap would do to him…it just took the fight right out of him and he never even had to get hit with it.

The "Gestapo Image" B.S. aside, Police really lost an effective tool because of the brutality of a few rogue Officers in the grand scheme of things. The deterrent value of the blackjack or sap, once drawn, is not even up for debate. You would have to be from another planet to not know what you were in for if you resisted…or worse yet, attacked the Officer. When the round blackjack started, literally, caving in skulls in the hands of the fearful or brutal, some departments banned them and "OK’d" the use of flat saps in their place. Eventually, they too fell victim to politically correct Police Department Administrators and Attorneys.

I have personally witnessed as a child and as an adult, Police Officers use Blackjacks, and it ain’t pretty folks. These are brutal tools for brutal streets to be used on equally brutal people. The streets have not changed a bit, they have become worse, but Administrators and Politicians in Police Departments have all but eliminated the Blackjack or anything remotely resembling it.


The elbow joint, collarbones and groin slaps were all favorite targets… The elbow being particularly effective if you had someone handcuffed and they started to act crazy and resisting more. A quick and discrete crack on the elbow joint would bring them in line quickly, just as a Kubotan thrust into the ribcage with a quick "shake" will as well.

In close quarters, they are as effective as they are illegal in most places. Even the small ones pack one hell of a wallop. Much like Brass (and other metal) Knuckles, they are an instant bust in most locales if you are caught with them with the added bonus of it being a felony…

The Know-it-alls

I read somewhere where someone said that Saps were good weapons, but they were not effective against large muscle groups. These people don’t know what they are talking about.

There are certain things some people will say when speaking about some subjects and you can tell immediately if they really know what they are talking about.

If you hear that the Flat Sap is not effective against large muscle groups, this is someone that does not know what they are talking about or they were never taught how to use one by "The Old School" of Police Officers…

You simply strike with the edge of the Sap instead of the flat of the Sap. It’s really that simple and very effective. That edge of the Sap will transmit force, cutting through the muscle [not literally, we’re speaking about pain/damage, not laceration].

You can tear someone down with the edge of a Sap. I learned these things from the same veteran Officers who schooled me in the use of handcuffs as metal knuckles and another LEO-Restricted item, the Iron Claw as a metal knuckle or fistload.

The Slungshot

This is sort of funny. I keep seeing folks who think Slingshots are banned but the State that banned them does not know how to spell "Slingshot" and instead, the people think the State has misspelled the word with a "u" instead of an "i."

As I understand it, I’m not a Sailor, but Sailors in times past used to work with knots and braids just for something to do in the down times when they were bored, etc.

There were a few different types of Slungshots. They were banned in most States and you will see "Sand Club" in many States on the banned list of weaponry as well. A "Sand Club" is just what it sounds like. A Sack of Sand used as an improvised blackjack. Just like a bar of soap or a lock in a sock, etc.

The Monkeyfist Knot

Sailors would make a Monkeyfist Knot out of hemp rope and they would place a steel, lead or brass ball, whatever they could get their hands on, inside the knot before tightening the knot down. After you tie the Monkeyfist Knot, you have two "tails" coming out, they could add one piece of rope to that and begin a simple French Braid. Once the braid was of sufficient length, they could double it over and whip the end with thread. All things a Sailor knows how to do, especially in times past.

The hand would be placed in that loop and the whole thing became the vicious and deadly Slungshot. You were "slinging shot." Some people have said that grapeshot/canister shot was popular and this is where the device received the name.

The device could be swung with maiming/deadly effect. Or, the weighted portion could be held in the palm and the lanyard was around the wrist, and the weight could be thrown directly into the face of the other person, this would stun the person and then rapid and very powerful full-power swings could finish them off.

Immigrant Slungshot

I call this one the "Immigrant" Slungshot because I heard about Immigrant Irish Railroad Workers "taking care of business" with this one in groups.

One person would be targeted and a group would surround the person to block the view of witnesses. This had to do with the establishment or the "maintenance" of Unions and Gangs, etc.

The Slungshot Man would enter the circle and throw the weighted shot in the face of the victim and then simply pummel them until they were dead or at least maimed and seriously injured. Remember, this is a weapon that can change a person’s face forever, in an instant. Your facial structure is crushed. It’s a brutal weapon.

The difference between these two types of Slungshots was not in the usage, but in the construction of the weapon. The "Irish Immigrant" Slungshot was usually a heavy-duty leather bag with long straps. Dump the "shot" into it for weight and there you have it.

Other Improvised ‘Jacks

What was it…Sean Penn in "Bad Boys?" Used a sack or sock of some sort with cans of full soda in them to bust someone up? Expedient and effective.

Locks in socks, sand in socks…lock on the end of a chain…there are so many things…the chilling scene in "Full Metal Jacket" comes to mind…

The Jailhouse Blackjack is very well known, a bar of soap wrapped in a towel or in a sock…like that used in the aforementioned movie.

Steven Seagal wrapping a billiard ball in a bar towel in "Out for Justice," just another example of a Slungshot/Blackjack that is improvised and very effective. Hollywood sometimes gets it correct. If you hit someone with these things…you will bust someone up badly. They’re lethal.

Check out "Fighting Bandanas" for more information on improvised ‘Jacks.

One simple way to make a blackjack quickly is to obtain a fishing sinker, a large one, a heavy duty coiled spring about 7 inches in length, some ParaCord and black electrical tape.

Drill a hole lengthwise through the fishing sinker then run the ParaCord through the length of it and out the other end. Not the cord so it cannot go back through the lead sinker.

Run the ParaCord through the length of coil spring and when it exits, tie it off securely and create a thumb loop.

Now, simply cover the entire thing in tape. There you have it.

The picture below just represents some things in the article, obviously the Jay Pee Iron Claw is not a Blackjack or Sap. It is simply placed in the article so people will know what it is.


Don Rearic


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