What is a Blackjack Weapon or Sap? How Do You Use It?

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By Bryan Lynch •  5 min read

I remember as a kid seeing most police officers on duty, and other law enforcement officers, carrying a baton. I also remember thinking it was a bit odd because it was just a unique-looking kind of club, which seemed rather primitive considering the other tools on their belts.

After seeing how effective these were first hand I realized why they were carrying them and no I was not hit by anyone in law enforcement on duty or off, just some stupid friends.

Later, I found out that there was another similar tool that officers use to carry that was not only just as effective but also smaller, the blackjack weapon.

Even if you have never heard of this weapon, I’m willing to bet you have seen it used in movies or television. Ever seen a scene where a bad guy strikes his palm or the back of someone’s head with a small leather-looking tool? That was a blackjack.

law enforcement carry other similar weapons to a baton

What Exactly Is A BlackJack?

lead shot

I have since heard the blackjack called by various names such as the leather slapper, sap, baton, and sand club.

Blackjack, which is what I am used to calling it, is a simple self-defense tool. It consists of a durable material, typically leather, where a small pouch is created and filled with weight. The pouch could be filled with lead shot, sand, or anything that gives the sap some solid weight.

A short strap or length of leather extends out from the pouch, this is used as the handle. The blackjack is then swung and the extra, solid weight, in the end, makes it an effective impact tool. You can think of it as a really short belt strap with a weight on the end. A sap weapon is also as easy to conceal as a belt.

Why Carry a Sap?

Gun with chamber showing

Part of the appeal of the blackjack is that it is quite small, constructed to be fairly flat, and not particularly heavy, which makes it a logical choice for concealed carry because it easily fits in pockets.

They are also not overly complex weapons, unlike the design and construction of firearms.

Police officers carried them because when non-deadly force (the use of firearms) was desired, they were considered less lethal. However, this doesn’t mean a blackjack weapon is not lethal.

Also, unlike guns, saps don’t require a lot of training to use. There is no recoil, nor do they run out of ammunition. If a person can use a hammer, then they can pick up a sap and pretty much use it right away.

A sap may not look as intimidating as a handgun or a knife, but when an attacker has focus and is trained in its use, it can break bones and even cut open the skin at the moment of contact.

How Is A Blackjack Used?

Saps may not be as effective as a gun, but they are still a formidable impact weapon. It’s basically a hammer with a lead head that can be used over and over to strike a target or an attacker in a fight.

A good grip is needed with the fingers tightly wrapped around the handle and the weighted end pointed at the target or area of attack.

The head of a person was often the target because if you have ever been struck in the head then you know how quickly it can disorient you, sometimes dropping you to the ground and stopping a fight before it even begins.

But saps can be used to strike other areas of the body that can cause just as much – if not more – injury because impact tools are good at breaking stuff.

When a sap with shot, or a baton, is used to strike hard parts of the body (such as joints or the small bones in the hand), and the attacker has enough room to swing the jack, breaking bones can become a real possibility.

Can You Use A BlackJack Weapon In Self Defense?

Oddly, in most states in the U.S. a person can carry a gun but the sap is illegal and banned in many areas of the country, like California.

Even if it’s used in self-defense, you could get into trouble after the fact.

Look Up Local Weapons Laws

If you are wanting to carry something for self-defense, be sure to thoroughly educate yourself on the weapon laws – including gun laws – in your area, unless you want strikes on your record.

You don’t have to buy or even use one to get into trouble. Possession can be enough to be charged.


Are police the only ones that carried a blackjack weapon?

No, the police are not the only ones to have used these. People in the military, gang members cowboys, and all sorts of people from different walks of life have carried these weapons in one form or another.

Do police still use these weapons?

Many police agencies around the world still deploy these traditional weapons, especially when there is civil unrest in a city.

Were saps ever made of wood?

Yes. About half of the weapon and the handles could be made from a more solid material.

Wrap Up

I hope you enjoyed this brief rundown on a tool that has been used for both defense and offense by all sorts of people.

Thanks for reading and stay prepared!

Bryan Lynch

Bryan grew up in the Midwest and spent every waking moment outdoors. Learning how to hunt, fish, read the land, and be self-reliant was part of everyday life. Eventually, he combined his passions for the outdoors, emergency preparedness, and writing. His goal was to spread positive information about this field. In 2019, Bryan authored the book Swiss Army Knife Camping and Outdoor Survival Guide. His second book, Paracord Projects For Camping and Outdoor Survival, is scheduled to be released on March 2, 2021.