Whether you are an avid weapon collector and are interested in brass knuckles as a novelty item, or you are shopping for self-defense items, it's important to know what weapons you can and can't own in your area. While most countries have outlawed brass knuckles completely, the U.S. has left the matter to the discretion of the individual states, and oh, how they vary. Each state has a different idea of what they consider a weapon to be, different degrees of weapon law violation, and different penalties for those violations.
In order to help clear up the confusion, we've gathered information on legislation regarding brass knuckles for all fifty states and the District of Columbia. Find your state to see what rules and regulations exist. You may have seen brass knuckles for sale in an area that you know they are off limits. Confused? Sometimes, brass knuckles are sold as various fashion accessories, not weapons. While this may seem like a somewhat dubious way to get around legislation, some states allow metal knuckles to be sold as paperweights, belt buckles, jewelry, and other legal items - made strictly for novelty. Even Beyonce has been seen in some brass knuckle heeled boots. Some states, though, have caught up to this trend and they aren't buying it - and they aren't letting you either! Read your state's laws carefully to see if they include wording that bans knuckles in any form.
Before we delve right in, you should first familiarize with some legal terms. The government tends to like to make things as cloudy as possible, so some clarification can be very useful. While each state has their own exact definition for these terms, most of them get at the same idea. Here's a few terms that you will see a lot in state weapon laws, and whose meaning makes all the difference:
"Knuckles": First and foremost, it is important to note that you will not often get away on a technicality regarding the material your knuckles are made from. Many states use the term "metal knuckles" or "metallic knuckles", but many specifically list a variety of other materials they could be made of, including hard plastic, resin, and wood. Some say knuckles made of any hard material. If your state only says "metal knuckles" in their legislation, your plastic or wood knuckles may be okay, but you'll want to check with a legal expert to verify.
"Dangerous weapon" OR "Deadly weapon": Also referred to as illegal weapons, offensive weapons, or some variation thereof, these are the weapons that we care about. Every state has their own definition of what qualifies as this, but they all say pretty much the same thing - a deadly weapon is any object that could cause death or serious bodily injury. Not vague at all, right? Some states give a long list of weapons that fit into this category, but some leave it up to the prosecutor's discretion, and no state claims to have a comprehensive list. When it comes down to it, just about anything could cause serious bodily injury if used in the right way. Is a state going to make a law banning lamps? Probably not. If you used that lamp to beat someone over the head, causing them serious bodily injury or death, though, you are guaranteed to be charged for a violent crime involving a deadly weapon.
"Brandishing" OR "Exhibition": Some states don't just outlaw carrying a weapon, but they also outlaw brandishing or exhibiting it. What do they mean by this? For most states, it is illegal to show your weapon to one or more person in any way that they might view as threatening, angry, rude, or in any way unpleasant or careless. Basically, the law exists to prevent you from going out and threatening people with a weapon. However, even if you didn't have malicious intentions while displaying your weapon, you never know how other people are going to interpret it. If someone takes it the wrong way, you could be sued and possibly charged with unlawful display of a weapon. For some states this means a misdemeanor and a fine. For others, it means a felony and prison time. So, be smart, and remember that not everyone has the same sense of humor or outlook as you. Looking like a badass is rarely worth the legal consequences.
"Concealed": Every state also has its own definition of what a concealed weapon is. For some states, it means that your weapon is on your person and is completely hidden from sight. For others, a weapon is considered concealed if even part of it is hidden from view. Still others take carrying a concealed weapon to include having a weapon anywhere in close proximity to you. For instance, if you have a weapon locked away in the trunk of your car where you can't easily access it, you are probably not in violation of the law. If you have it in your glove compartment or resting anywhere out in the open in your car where you could get to it reasonably quickly, you would be charged with unlawful carrying. It all depends on how your state defines it. Also keep in mind that there are always exceptions to the rule. Concealed weapons permits are often invalid in certain areas, such as school zones, court houses, and airports. Be sure of what your local laws are before you carry a weapon.
While we here at Security Wizard have done our best to compile a complete and accurate list, remember that we are not legal professionals, and do not claim to be experts in the law. To ensure that you are in compliance with the laws of your land, consult a local legal expert before purchasing your brass knuckles.
If you live in South Carolina or Georgia, the law is on your side. Not only is it legal to own brass knuckles, but it is also legal to carry them without a permit. That is, as long as you aren't carrying them with the intention of using them. In South Carolina, the law against carrying concealed weapons specifically excludes metal knuckles, unless you use them to commit or further a crime. So, unless you are planning on using your brass knuckles to hold up a liquor store, rob a Walmart, or put someone in the hospital, you're good to go. Georgia, on the other hand, only defines brass knuckles as a weapon when on school property or at school functions. Otherwise, "weapon" is a term reserved to guns and knives. So, as long as you aren't near a school or school function, you can carry your brass knuckles without repercussions. Remember, though, that these are just the general legislations for brass knuckles for the entire states of Georgia and South Caroline. Your town or county may have its own regulations. Before you purchase, you should check the legality with local authorities.
Find out more about obtaining a concealed weapons permit in your state: SC, GA
For those of you who live in one of these states, the law is unclear, and it is up to you what risks you are willing to take. None of these states specifically mention knuckles in their state's legislation, but that doesn't mean you couldn't still be charged. Most states define a weapon (or more specifically, a dangerous weapon or deadly weapon) as anything that has the potential to inflict serious bodily injury or death. Whether it was designed to be a weapon, or if that's just how you intend to use it, if something could cause some serious damage to someone by how you are using it, then it is considered a deadly weapon. Ultimately, though, it is up to a court of law to decide whether or not your knuckles qualifies as a weapon in these states. Here's what your state's laws say on the matter.
South Dakota is probably the most flexible of legislation in this category. Even if you have a dangerous weapon, the law doesn't say that it is illegal to conceal it, unless you conceal it with felonious intentions. In other words, if you are planning on using your brass knuckles to commit a felony (which we strongly discourage), you will be charged with a felony. Otherwise, it isn't illegal to carry them.
Arizona defines a deadly weapon as anything that was designed for lethal use, while Indiana defines it as something that is capable of causing serious bodily injury. Both laws are fairly vague, with no mention of brass knuckles. It's also worth noting that in Arizona, you don't need a concealed weapon permit if you are over 21 years old.
Louisiana might be more likely to consider brass knuckles a weapon under their concealed weapons law. They say that it is unlawful to carry "instrumentality customarily used or intended for probable use as a dangerous weapon". Violation of this law could result in up to a $500 fine and/or up to 6 months in jail. So, if you live in Louisiana and are worried that brass knuckles may be considered a weapon, just be sure that you are carrying a concealed weapons permit along with your knuckles.
Find out more about obtaining a concealed weapons permit in your state: SD, AZ, IN, LA
If you live in Idaho or Utah, you can own a deadly weapon, as long as you don't intend to assault anyone or commit a crime with it. Possession of such a device with criminal intent is a misdemeanor. It is also a misdemeanor to exhibit your weapon in an angry fashion. In other words, you can't threaten somebody with your brass knuckles.
As long as you have a concealed weapons permit, though, you can carry them on you concealed. Now, they don't specifically mention knuckles in their laws. Rather, they define a deadly weapon as something that is "readily capable of causing death or serious bodily injury." So, it would be up to a judge to decide whether your knuckles qualify as such.
Much like Idaho and Utah, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Wyoming don't specifically mention knuckles in their law either. All define deadly and dangerous weapons the same way: something capable of inflicting death or serious bodily harm. They also all punish the unlawful concealment of such a weapon as a misdemeanor. Owning brass knuckles is fine, but if you plan on carrying your brass knuckles on your person, you should check with a local attorney to see if you need to get a concealed weapons permit to do so.
Find out more about obtaining a concealed weapons permit in your state: ID, UT, OH, WI, WY
Some states put greater restrictions on dangerous or deadly weapons. Again, these states don't specifically define brass knuckles as a dangerous or deadly weapon; it would be up to a court to determine if your knuckles qualify as such. However, if your knuckles are determined to be a deadly weapon, you may face some harsher penalties and restrictions. In Iowa, for instance, it is a misdemeanor to carry a deadly weapon, whether it is concealed or not. That's not to say you can't own one and keep it in your home, but you can't carry it on your person. Michigan punishes the concealed carrying of a dangerous weapon with up to 5 years imprisonment or up to a $2,500 fine. They also define brass knuckles as a dangerous weapon when it is in the possession of a student at a school function, but don't name them when discussing the possession and carrying of dangerous weapons outside of the schoolyard. In Missouri, it is illegal to carry a weapon without a concealed weapons permit, and it is also illegal to exhibit it threateningly. To do either is a felony in the state of Missouri, so you will want to be sure to check with an attorney before carrying your knuckles.
Find out more about obtaining a concealed weapons permit in your state: IA, MI, MO
Alabama, Hawaii, Kentucky, North Carolina, Nebraska, and Oregon all have pretty clear regulations regarding brass knuckles. All of these states specifically mention metal knuckles in their laws, and all of them classify them as a dangerous or deadly weapon. Not to worry - it isn't illegal to own knuckles in any of these states, it just is illegal to carry them on you concealed. If you want to carry your brass knuckles around with you, you'll just need to make sure that you get a concealed weapons permit. Without one, carrying your brass knuckles is a misdemeanor.
The same goes for North Dakota and New Mexico. Someone who is unlawfully concealed carrying of metal knuckles is guilty of a misdemeanor. You also can't carry them in your vehicle in these states where they are readily accessible. If they are in close, accessible proximity to you, it qualifies as concealed carry. Montana and Mississippi punish illegal concealed carry with up to a $500 fine and/or up to 6 months in the county jail. Connecticut takes it a step further. Carrying brass knuckles on you at all is illegal, and punishable by up to a $500 fine or up to 3 years imprisonment. In Maryland, concealed carry is a misdemeanor, also punishable by up to 3 years in prison, and/or up to a $1,000 fine.
While we are sure that no state wants you to threaten people with your brass knuckles, some states specifically outlaw it. In Florida, it is a misdemeanor to both carry them on you concealed and to angrily exhibit them. Maine punishes the concealment or threatening display of brass knuckles with up to one year in county jail and up to a $2,000 fine.
These states punish the concealed carry of metal knuckles a little more harshly. In Virginia, if you get charged with the concealed carry of brass knuckles once, you are charged with a misdemeanor. However, if you are charged a second time, the charge is bumped up to a felony. The same goes for it's neighbor. In West Virginia, the first violation of the concealed weapons law is a misdemeanor, punished with up to $1,000 in fines and up to 12 months imprisonment in county jail. The second offense, though, is punished by up to 5 years spend in the state penitentiary and up to a $5,000 fine. Delaware skips the leniency on the first offense, and goes straight to charging you with a felony. You also have to have a special license to sell deadly weapons in Delaware. The takeaway: a concealed weapons permit is well worth the investment.
Find out more about obtaining a concealed weapons permit in your state: VA, WV, DE
If you are planning on setting up shop selling brass knuckles, doing so in New Hampshire or Massachusetts is strictly prohibited. In New Hampshire, selling metallic knuckles is a misdemeanor, as is carrying them. Massachusetts outlaws carrying knuckles of any kind, concealed or not, and doing so could result in up to 2 ½ years in jail. If you sell or manufacture knuckles of any kind in Massachusetts, you are looking at up to a $1,000 fine or up to 6 months imprisonment. It is also illegal to carry metal knuckles (concealed or unconcealed) in Oklahoma, and will result in a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a $250 fine and up to 30 days in jail.
Find out more about obtaining a concealed weapons permit in your state: NH, MA, OK
Okay, these are some states where owning brass knuckles is illegal. In Colorado and New York brass knuckles are classified as illegal weapons, and possession of them is a misdemeanor. In Washington D.C., possession of knuckles can result in up to 1 year imprisonment or up to a $1,000 fine. Rhode Island punishes possession with up to a $3,000 fine and up to 1 year in jail. In New Jersey, possession of metal knuckles is considered a crime in the fourth degree, punishable by up to 18 months in prison.
Vermont's law takes a slightly different spin. In Vermont, the law only specifies that it is illegal to possess metal knuckles with the intention of using them against another person. This suggests that it is legal to own them as long as you aren't planning on going out and beating the crap out of someone with them (see where the fashion accessories loophole sneaks in?) If you get caught with them in your possession in Vermont, though, it is up to you to prove that you did not have the intent of using them. If you fail, you can face up to 5 years imprisonment, and up to a $1,000 fine. So, if you live in one of these states, beware that being caught with knuckles in your possession could result in some hefty consequences.
Find out more about obtaining a concealed weapons permit in your state: CO, NY, DC, RI, NJ, VT
Some state legislatures have taken a very strong stand against brass knuckles. Each of these legislatures have defined metal knuckles as dangerous weapons, and aren't afraid to prosecute for violations of the law.
In Nevada, if you get caught more than once, the second offense qualifies as a felony. It is also illegal to brandish your knuckles in any way that could be perceived as threatening or angry in Nevada. In California, you are at the prosecutor's mercy when it comes to being charged. While in most cases violation of the law will result in a misdemeanor, depending on the circumstances, you could be charged with a felony - even on the first offense.
Find out more about obtaining a concealed weapons permit in your state: PA, MN, IL, TN, WA, TX, AK, KS, NV, AR, CA
As you can see, weapon legislation varies greatly from state to state. It is always important to stay informed regarding the laws in your area, to avoid a harsh penalty for a crime you didn't know you were committing. Remember, that just as the laws are vastly different state-to-state, they can also be vastly different city-to-city. Some cities, towns, and counties have their own laws regarding brass knuckles.
For instance, while New York State places some restrictions on brass knuckles, New York City has much harsher restrictions, resulting in much harsher penalties. Be sure to check up on your town's regulations before purchasing.
Also be aware that the information provided above is only relevant to people without a criminal background. It is not legal in any state for someone with a felony to own or carry a deadly weapon, and the punishment for violating is much more severe than the typical penalties we've mentioned. Many states also ban people with other criminal histories, such as domestic violence charges, from owning a weapon.
There are also many exceptions to the laws, such as carrying weapons in school zones or on government property. If you have any doubt about the legality of brass knuckles in your area, please consult a local legal expert.
Make no mistake, brass knuckles are not for your average bar fight. Fist-load weapons create exponentially more damage than skin on skin contact. By increasing the mass of the hand, the force it can deliver skyrockets as well. This force is concentrated through minimized contact points leading to tears in the skin as well as bone fractures.
Because a fist and a face are deformable objects, energy will be lost during contact. If the surface you are hitting is harder than your hand, the energy will be transferred back to you. "Knucks" create a barrier for the knuckles and fist of the wearer, minimizing pain and injury.
Since they are an object with low deformability, more force will be directed at the target. Sounds great, right? Not so fast. When used in the wrong way, for example a straight on punch, they will actually cause less damage to the opponent, and more to you. The palm grip is an important design aspect of this popular weapon. It prevents your fingers from absorbing this impact and sends it to a larger, softer object - your palm.
The idea of creating a hard contact point is used by unscrupulous boxers to win fights. They will put lead in their gloves or wrap their hands with Plaster of Paris in order to apply more force. When looking at the designs of different pairs of brass knuckles, a pair with rounded outer rings will create more severe damage than one with a flat surface. Before you whip out those knuckledusters, keep in mind both the liability issues you face as well as the harm you could do to yourself and others.