Club (weapon)

A club, cudgel, truncheon, night stick, or bludgeon is perhaps the simplest of all mêlée weapons. A club is essentially a staff, usually made of wood, and weilded as a weapon. Related mêlée weapons such as maces and flails are different types of clubs.

Typically, a club is small enough to be wielded in one hand. Clubs that need both hands to wield are called quarterstaffs in English.


The club is perhaps the simplest of all true weapons; a club is typically carved from a single piece of wood; any piece of wood that is narrow enough on one end to be grasped by the hand of its wielder can be used as or made into an improvised club. Baseball bats and axe handles or pickaxe handles are common instances of clubs. Police sometimes refer to clubs as impact weapons, or impact tools.

Hercules fights the Lernaean Hydra with a club
Hercules fights the Lernaean Hydra with a club

In folklore, fantasy literature, and comics, clubs are associated with barbarians and giants. The hero Heracles was famous for wielding a club. Many, probably most, stereotyped cartoon cavemen carry a rough conic club so large as to probably overwhelm the strength of the best-developed human wrist.

In computer and roleplaying games, a distinction is often drawn between a "simple" and "composite" club, where the composite club is formed from two or more materials joined together (as opposed to simply hefting a stick).

In the game of Cluedo or Clue, players must specify which weapons a murder was committed with, among choices that include a wrench, a lead pipe, or a candlestick, and as to their purpose (a weapon inflicting trauma), each of these household items serves as a club.

The wounds inflicted by a club are generally known as bludgeoning or blunt-force trauma injuries.

Various kinds of clubs are used in martial arts, police work, and other specialised fields.

Police and army batons

Batons, truncheons, and nightsticks

Old police baton
Old police baton

A baton (from batôn, the French for stick) or truncheon (nightstick or billy-club in American English) is essentially a stick of less than arms-length, usually made of wood, plastic, or metal, and carried by law enforcement, correctional, riot control, and security personnel for non-lethal self-defense or combat situations. A baton is used to strike, jab, block, and aid in the application of armlocks.

In the Victorian era, police in London carried clubs about one foot long called billy-clubs or truncheons. The impact weapon has developed into several varieties available today. The basic impact weapon is a straight baton made from wood or a synthetic material, approximately one and a quarter inches in diameter, and from 18 to 36 inches long; this is also called a nightstick. The 36" and longer batons are called "riot batons"; the handle end is sometimes fluted to aid gripping.

Sometimes wooden truncheons or batons are ornamented with organization's coats of arms and suchlike and used for symbolic presentation rather than as weapons.

Traffic baton is red to make it more visible when used as a signalling aid when directing traffic.

modern baton
modern baton

Until the mid-1990s British police officers carried traditional wooden truncheons of a sort which had changed little from the Victorian era, but since the early 1990s all forces have chosen to replace truncheons with more modern side-handle (tonfa shaped) and telescopic batons for all but ceremonial duties.

Compare mace and staff of office for the marrying of defense and symbolism.

Making straight batons of rubber results in a softer initial impact due to some of the kinetic energy being used to bend and compress the rubber, causing it to bounce off the object that was struck. The Russian police standard issue baton is rubber, except in cold areas like Siberia where extreme winter cold makes the rubber go brittle.

Both types of batons have their advantages and disadvantages. Side-handle batons are more flexible, enabling many more kinds of strike and block, but they require more training to use than straight batons, and they are very bulky. For the advantages of expandable straight batons see below.

They are now seen mostly in cartoons.

Recent design innovations

Several design innovations are being tested in response to some of the perceived limitations of the currently popular expandable baton and side-handle baton. These drawbacks include inherent compromises due to the dual (and competing) goals of 1) control effectiveness and 2) safety for both officer and subject. Generally speaking, the more control a piece of equipment offers an officer, the less safe it is for the subject (eg; Gun). This has spurred a review of "arrest & control" tactics as well as a flurry of design innovations. Three of the more notable designs to come to light are 1) The Rapid Rotation Baton, 2) the Cuffing Baton, and 3) the TSB-45. Each of these offers a unique redesign of the basic baton with a value proposition based on a better combination of control and safety characteristics.

Rapid rotation baton

The batons designed by RRB Systems International appear to focus on handle characteristics that permit rapid and fluid grip changes as well as incorporating hand protection in the form of a unique "cross-guard".

Cuffing baton

The cuffing baton by RMB Industries marries a unique baton design and a integrated handcuff. The baton itself is reminiscent of steering wheel "Club" - there is a long straight section and a "y-shaped" yoke at the other end. The yoke includes a triggered handcuff that can be remotely unlocked.


The Todd Group has introduced a "two handled expandible, rotating rear handle device". The incorporation of two handles is the defining characteristic - suggesting enhanced hand protection an the ability to disarm a subject safely.

Telescopic batons

Both ordinary batons and side-handle batons are available in collapsible variants.

An expandable baton or telescopic baton or telescope baton is an intermediate-force weapon often carried by law enforcement and security professionals, used to gain control over violent subjects. The expandable baton typically comprises a cylindrical shaft that contains telescoping metal pieces that lock into each other when expanded, and a solid metal tip at the end of the extended shaft. When swung, the extended baton can cause substantial damage because of the high kinetic energy imparted by its solid metal tip upon striking a surface. Most strikes are done on large muscle areas of the subject to avoid permanent injury. Expandable batons come in various sizes, including 16, 21, 26, and 31 inches when extended. The purpose of a collapsible baton is threefold:

  • The collapsible shaft makes it easier for the officer to carry it and to sit in a car seat wearing it, since when collapsed it is between six and ten inches long.
  • The baton can be psychologically intimidating to an aggressive suspect upon seeing and hearing the baton being extended.
  • Many police administrators think that it presents a more peaceful image to the general public than the regular non-collapsible baton.

As of the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 2000s, a popular type of telescopic straight baton or friction lock baton is made of steel tubing which collapse together for carrying, and which slides apart to expand into the extended configuration. This device is commonly referred to as a "teleton", "asp", or 'cobra stick'. A small metal knob on the end adds weight when the baton was used as a bludgeon.

Electric-shock batons

See stun baton for batons desinged to administer an electric shock.

Side-handle baton

One type of these is the Monadnock PR-24 Prosecutor, which was made infamous by the LAPD in the Rodney King beating. Side-handle batons come in rigid and expandable models. The rigid models are typically made of polycarbonate. The expandable models usually have an aluminum chassis which a polycarbonate section extends from. Almost all side-handle batons in use are made by Monadnock.

The side-handle baton a side handle at a right angle to the shaft, about six inches from the handle end. One make of this is the PR-24 "Prosecutor" side-handle baton (although the use of the original name of "Prosecutor" was discouraged) and is almost identical to the martial-arts tonfa.

a tonfa
a tonfa

The PR-24 has greater defensive capabilities than a nightstick, as it can be held by:

  • One end, the corner between the shaft and the handle used to catch a long swung blunt or sharp weapon.
  • The side handle, the shaft along the hand and forearm to splint and shield the arm against an expected blow from a club.

Side-handle batons are derived from the tonfa, a Japanese martial arts weapon, and are used with a similar fighting technique.

Maglite and other flashlights

Currently, many policemen and others carry long metal-bodied flashlights which are used both for illumination and as a club (though police are specifically discouraged from doing so). The 5 D-cell Maglite is a popular example, and was also made infamous by another alleged police brutality incident, the Malice Green beating in Detroit.

The kel-light is a popular flashlight among police officers. It is rumoured that it was designed as an impact weapon first and a light-source second. The use of a metal-cased flashlight as a baton is discouraged by law enforcement officals.

pickaxe handle used as guard baton
pickaxe handle used as guard baton

Pickaxe handle

In the British Army the pickaxe handle is used as a standard guard baton when firearms are not carried, and is also used for measuring, so by Army rules must be exactly a yard long. Pickaxe handles are also used as "raft beaters" to help tighten the knots in the traditional pole-and-barrel rafts sometimes used during training. Very many times also pickaxe handles have been used as batons unofficially -- for instance, in the United States, where they were handed out by segregationist Lester Maddox to the white patrons of his Pickrick Restaurant (ostensibly to keep that establishment from being "integrated.")

Baseball bat

The baseball bat is often used as an improvised weapon.


A blackjack (known in British English as a cosh) is a small, easily-concealed weapon consisting of a leather-wrapped lead weight attached to the end of a leather-wrapped coil-spring or rigid shaft, with a lanyard or strap on the end opposite the weight. Materials other than lead and leather are sometimes used to construct these weapons. It ranges from six to fourteen inches long. The blackjack can be made of braided leather with a strap or sewn into flat pieces of leather.

Blackjacks are popular due to their low profile and small size, and their potential to inflict enormous damage on human beings.

A blackjack is sometimes referred to as a sap, which is the name for a weapon of similar design (also called a slapper) which has a flat profile as opposed to a cylindrical one.

Another variation on the sap is a sandsock or sandclub, which as the name implies, is a weapon of flexible sheath construction filled with a heavy fragmented weight. The sandsock may be filled with sand, but more likely with lead shot. The covering may be a pouch of leather or heavy cloth, such as denim or canvas. The sandsock is almost universally used as an improvised weapon.

Blackjacks can be used to inflict devastating damage on bones and tissues, and are considered in many jurisdictions to be deadly weapons. Blackjacks are also illegal in many jurisdictions. Traditionally used by police officers, they have been replaced to a large extent by telescopic and side-handle batons.The blackjack was featured in the novel Tangerine, by Edward Bloor. In the novel, Arthur Bauer attacks Luis Cruz with the weapon, also by Nick Nolte's character in "Mulholland Falls".


This is a variation of the blackjack. It consists of a longer strap which lets it be used flail-type, and can be used as a club, and for trapping techniques as seen in the use of nunchaku and other flexible weapons. Other concealable batons include the kubotan and yawara.

Palm sap

This is a variation of the sap. It is a lead weight sewn into a leather or nylon cover, carried in the palm and held in place with a cord or elastic band. A glove is usually worn over the palm-sap. The palm-sap is used by slapping a suspect. A police officer related a story of using a palm-sap on a combative suspect and indicated the suspect "dropped like a sack of potatoes" when slapped on the side of the head.

Sap gloves

These are a variation of the sap. They are gloves with lead shot or powder contained between layers of leather located across the knuckles. Police officers tend to refer to such items in euphemistic terms. Sap gloves have been referred to as "balanced driving gloves."


The St. Patrick's Day Shillelagh
The St. Patrick's Day Shillelagh

A Shillelagh (pronounced "shil-lay-lah") is a wooden club or cudgel, typically made from a stout knotty stick with a large knob on the end, that is associated with Ireland in folklore. They are traditionally made from blackthorn (sloe) wood (Prunus spinosa) or oak. It was named after the Shillelagh forest in County Wicklow, a forest of oak which produced some fine examples. The wood would be smeared with butter and placed up a chimney to cure, giving the Shillelagh its typical black shiny appearance. Shillelaghs may be hollowed at the heavy "hitting" end and filled with molten lead to increase the weight; this sort of Shillelagh is known as a 'loaded stick'. They are commonly the length of a walking stick (distance from the floor to one's wrist with elbow slightly bent). Most also have a heavy knob for a handle which can be used for striking as well as parrying and disarming an opponent.

In the folk song "Finnegan's Wake", shillelagh law refers to a brawl. There was a popular song, "The Same Old Shillelagh", recorded by several Irish-American singers in the 1940s, including Bing Crosby and Billy Murray, about such a weapon being passed along from father to son. X-Men villain Black Tom Cassidy was portrayed to wield a Shillelagh both as a club and, as his mutant power, generate destructive concussive force through the wooden stick. Professional wrestler and Northern Ireland native Dave Finlay uses a shillelagh as his signature illegal weapon.

Sally rod

A Sally rod is a long, thin wooden stick, as the name suggests generally made from willow (Latin Salix), used mostly in Ireland as a disciplinary implement, but also sometimes used like a club (without the fencing-like technique of stick fighting) in fights and brawls.


A Knobkierie, occasionally spelled knopkierie or knobkerry, is a strong, short wooden club with a heavy rounded knob or head on one end, traditionally used by Southern African tribes (e.g. Zulu) as a weapon in warfare and the chase. The word Knobkerrie derives from the Dutch knop (knob or button), and the Bushman and Hottentot kerrie=kirri (stick).

It is employed at close quarters, or as a missile, and in time of peace serves as a walking-stick. The head, or knob, is often ornately carved with faces or shapes that have symbolic meaning. The knobkierie itself serves this function in the crest of the 2000 new federal coat of Arms of South Africa.

The name has been extended to similar weapons used by the natives of Australia, the Pacific islands and other places.


One of the more unique weapons of the samurai police (Keisatsu-Kan) was the Jitte (or Jutte). Basically an iron truncheon, the Jitte was popular because it could parry the slash of a razor-sharp sword and disarm an assailant without serious injury. Essentially a defensive or restraining weapon, the length of the Jitte requires the user to get extremely close to those being apprehended.

A single hook or fork, called a Kagi, on the side near the handle allowed the Jitte to be used for trapping or even breaking the blades of edged weapons, as well as for jabbing and striking. The Kagi could also be used to entangle the clothes or fingers of an opponent. Thus, feudal Japanese police used the Jitte to disarm and arrest suspects without serious bloodshed. Eventually, the Jitte also came to be considered a symbol of official status.

In sports

Clubs or club-like implements figure in a number of sports. The tools used in golf to hit the ball with are called golf clubs, although golf clubs are perhaps less traditionally club-like than baseball or cricket bats, both of which are still made of wood; a baseball bat is a round club traditionally made from ash tree wood; a cricket bat resembles a paddle and is traditionally made from willow wood. Few golf clubs are made of wood in current play.

A much smaller wooden truncheon-like bat is used to strike the ball in pelota, a game similar to jai-alai.

A shillelagh appears in the logo of the Boston Celtics.

The Shillelagh Trophy is an annual football game between members of the University of Notre Dame and Purdue University and takes place in Indiana, United States.

The Jeweled Shillelagh is awarded to the winner of the annual football game between the University of Notre Dame and the University of Southern California. The club has small medallions representing the winner. A shamrock for the Irish, and a Trojan head for USC. Notre Dame leads the series 42-29-5. In case of a tie, the medallion is a shamrock with trojan head overlay. The first club ran out of room and is stored at Notre Dame University, South Bend, Indiana, United States.

Police use of batons

Before the 1970s, the common practice was to "skull" a suspect — that is, to hit him on the head with the weapon. As a result of civil lawsuits and claims of police brutality, more training was given to officers, and now the primary targets are nerves such as the common peroneal nerve, or large muscles such as the quadriceps or biceps. If an impact weapon has to be used to deliver lethal force, parts of the body targeted can include the wrists, crotch, skull, and neck.

Striking a suspect on the head/skull is strongly discouraged although the face is a legitimate target area. Head injuries can be deadly.



Most of Wikipedia's text and many of its images are licensed under the
Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License (CC BY-SA)

Return to Main Index