Blackjacks and saps
Saps, Blackjacks and Slungshots: A History of Forgotten Weapons by Robert Escobar - Book - Read Online Summary Saps, Blackjacks and Slungshots: A History of Forgotten Weapons discovers and preserves the story of the most forgotten weapons from history for the first time in history.
These unique fighting tools were feared for centuries and embraced equally by the law and the lawless like nothing else had been or would be until firearms became commonly available.
They are best remembered, when at all, for being favored by real life muggers and fictional private detectives.
They were however also used by police, soldiers, sailors, spies, cowboys and duelists in various times and countries.
Encountered along the way is a cast of characters from the noble Abraham Lincoln to the ignoble Al Caponethe literary Shakespeare to the musical Frank Sinatra.
Despite all this, their tale remained untold until now.
Robert Escobar had never found a subject with less available information.
Looking to correct this, he searched everywhere imaginable for their fading footprints, including… pulp comics?
Saps, blackjacks and slungshots were rough tools used by tough people in tough times.
Those times and their dangers have passed but should be accurately remembered.
To do that, these strange weapons have to be as well.
What is a sap or a blackjack the two are inextricably linked?
The Concise Dictionary of Crime and Justice lives up to its name when it says, a small, concealable club-like weapon.
³ What on Earth is a please click for source />In The People v.
Williams California 1929 a court defined it as, A small mass of metal or stone fixed on a flexible handle, strap or the like, used as a weapon.
The existing literature, small though it is, provides a article source class on bluntness appropriately enough.
One example from before the U.
Civil War says, I never thought of going leather blackjacks and saps without a pistol in my pocket, a knife in my belt, and a blackjack handy.
Leather is the most often used material on the outside and lead the most often held on the inside but they can be made out of almost anything.
You can be armed with an effective weapon in minutes.
An English sailor in 1861 sensed there would be trouble long before his ship reached its destination, Cuba.
He used four bullets, some writing paper and rope to make a slungshot that he would later have to answer for at the Old Bailey Courthouse in London.
down blackjack crossword pair of brass knuckles, not necessarily made of brass by the way, is fashioned knife blackjack #4 a single piece of metal.
The benefit of a solid object being used for an impact weapon is obvious yet our subject is quite different.
This may help explain another oddity.
Technologically speaking there is no reason many of them could not have been invented in Babylon or the like millennia ago, yet they really thrived in the modern world.
Think of saps, blackjacks and slungshots as the wayward companions of brass knuckles and the billy club that abruptly disappeared from sight despite once being as common as they were infamous.
No book has apparently ever been written about them.
Even books that deal with the exact right times, people and professions sometimes omit them entirely.
Finally I dare say you would have trouble finding any subject with less readily available information online in any format not counting my own YouTube channel- Object History.
I guess I can understand that not everyone cares what exactly was used to hit someone over the head with in a bygone historical incident.
This however, is not fitting treatment for objects that were used from ancient times to the 21st century, most notably by generations of American policeman and gangsters.
There are still laws severely restricting their possession, much less use, in most of the United States.
Their European progenitors were used at least as early as the Middle Ages.
They and their forebears make appearances in works by Shakespeare, Cervantes, Charles Dickens, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Herman Melville, Ernest Hemingway, Hunter S.
Thompson, Stephen King, Cormac McCarthy and seemingly in every hard-boiled leather blackjacks and saps novel ever written.
One arguably appears on the cover of the first ever comic book as well as in the pages of countless others.
Even a superhero version of a fictional detective cannot escape a veritable rite of passage for that lot, getting blackjacked from behind.
Image property of DC Comics.
In real life Al Capone used his to knock the mayor of Chicago around in public.
American music legend Hank Williams gave them out as welcome presents to new bandmates.
Saps and jacks shorthand for everything except slungshots were mass produced for decades in the states by companies as well known as Smith and Wesson.
In fact leather blackjacks and saps adoption of these by stateside police would arguably be the first major break in terms of practice and equipment from the British model which had previously informed most aspects of the job.
¹¹ They were also made in a near endless variety of configurations.
Considering they are just, small concealable club-like weapons, the tremendous diversity of design speaks to how widespread they once were.
They are all but entirely forgotten now though, even among the professions, legitimate and otherwise, that once broke them out whenever things tended towards the violent.
This detective was not destined for fame like the caped crusader but certainly for a similar sapping.
Partly this is because they have always been easily overlooked.
Impact weapons have never held the allure of the blade or the gun in the Western imagination.
Also, all three are discreet weapons by design; kept hidden in clothing until danger beckoned.
Saps and jacks remain half hidden even when openly brandished.
It was the mark of an expert that the unfortunate victim never saw the tool used.
Finally, those familiar with them were so as part of subcultures.
So while the cop, gangster, sailor, hobo, bouncer and saloon keeper knew all too well what these were, and what they were called, many others did not.
Speaking of what they were called, that is the proverbial kettle of fish.
That is not beat poetry; it is a list of names associated with our subject s at various times and places.
Perhaps because they thrived outside of polite society, their names are colorful, sometimes comical, and never really used consistently.
The distinction between noun and verb is not a big matter of concern either.
You can sap someone with a blackjack, blackjack someone with a sap, shanghai someone with a cosh, cosh someone with a priest, be sandbagged by a sandman, jacked by a city football atlantic blackjacks arena dick or jacked out by a blackjack artist.
Given all that know that our rules are always loose and often broken.
Is a sap a kind of blackjack or is a blackjack a kind of sap?
Does sap mean a club made from the branch of a tree, wizard of odds blackjack bag filled with pennies or a specific leather implement with a flat steel shaft and lead striking weight?
The answer depends on the year, who you ask ed ; and what country or part of a country you occupy when asking.
It should therefore be no surprise that the remaining breadcrumbs left along their trail throughout recorded history are as scattered as they are easily missed.
The other fascinating aspect encountered when following this trail is of course the people who wielded these.
How could folks who used lingo leather blackjacks and saps the above fail to be interesting?
These were real life characters leather blackjacks and saps nicknames like Sparky a.
Despite their current lack of cultural clout, saps and jacks still hold their allure for those that pick one up.
The reaction from friends when I hand them one is invariably similar.
They stare at it in their hand, examine the leatherwork, test the weight, slap their thigh or hand tentatively and then give an admiring chuckle or nod of the head.
A handful of artisans still make high quality reproductions of the classic models.
Slungshots meanwhile are enjoying a very improbable, modest comeback thanks to their own unique appeal.
Keychains made of paracord encasing a round weight are leather blackjacks and saps increasingly common.
Their association with the past is entirely severed though as slungshots faded from common use and memory long before even saps and jacks did.
They may now only be a historical curiosity but they are also curiously historical, and that history is worth remembering, and enjoying.
This is a tale never told, of a few related things; the sap, the blackjack and the slungshot.
A certain group of weapons which are short, easily concealed on the person and so weighted as to constitute effective and silent means of attack.
California words, phrases, and maxims as defined in the cases and codes.
¹² A Few Definitions.
Load- the weight that delivers the impact in our weapons.
Loading- Adding weight to the striking portion of a weapon by inserting a denser substance.
All the classic flat saps and blackjacks are loaded with lead where blackjack strategy down counts.
Hence the saying, lead in the head.
Sap An antique, frontier style fold over sap.
Yes, that is a weapon.
One of the classic old fashioned sap outlines is this teardrop sliced down the middle shape.
Note that the stitching does not go around the entire weapon.
An umbrella term for all of the weapons in our survey.
Originally a small club made from a tree- as in a sapling.
A weighted sack used as a weapon just think sap-sack.
Note the braided leather across the entire weapon.
Intentional or not, this made cuts a secondary result of a strike.
Eventually it will specifically apply to an important late 19th century American invention pictured herea cylindrical shaped jack that has a coil spring body and bullet shaped striking head.
We will refer to this as the read article blackjack.
blackjack apprentice Vintage slungshot with a long leather loop for a handle instead of a rope.
A weight, usually hard loaded, tied to the end of a rope or similar material which swings freely.
The end was often a sling, presumably indicating a common linguistic link between it, the ancient sling and the slingshot.
Cosh British term for a club or sap.
A cosh carrier or cosh boy was a thug or a pimp.
¹³ Victorian Era English fruit cosh.
Funny to say, painful to be hit blackjack zero />Besides these there are various other entertaining terms and important derivations but they are best encountered in the story.
Also, know that we will use our terms consistently while still honoring the deliciously sloppy usages of the past.
Just go with the flow and it will all make sense by the end.
As with sapping being an acceptable verb, we will just layer these quirks in.
A full accounting of the name game can be found in Appendix A.
Just be warned that because of the lovely loose lingo it is very see more to know what particular tool someone meant in historical accounts.
I have worked mightily to be correct in my assumptions.
Case in point- if you read that a man in a London pub during the Renaissance knocked someone out with a leather blackjack, that actually means the mug that was holding his beer.
Duality- When there is a solid shaft, it is a flexible one.
This theoretically provides protection to the recipient of the blow as the weapon will flex away from the target upon impact.
Just to keep things interesting though, it can also be a force multiplier maximizing the destructive capabilities but more on this contradiction later.
Construction- You would be hard pressed to find analogous weapons in world history.
Features that make that so are.
A container that is a weapon instead of something that holds one e.
Focusing on heft for a moment, you may imagine that being cudgels of a kind these are heavy despite their small stature.
The Bucheimer Corporation was probably the major producer of saps and modern blackjacks in the 20th century.
A magnified look at the well-worn seams of an antique sap.
Note the two halves top and bottom coming together.
Despite all of the above, reputation might be what truly sets these apart.
Saps, jacks and slungshots were so associated with criminal activity that to this day in New York State someone simply possessing one is guilty of the same level of offense as someone else carrying a gun with, Armor piercing ammunition with intent to use the same unlawfully against another.
Saps managed to keep their nefarious underworld association despite being so often employed in the pursuit of law and order.
How were they used?
In short, with more sophistication than understood by most.
An un-codified set of techniques developed around them, passed from cop to cop and criminal to criminal for generations.
She used her knowledge as a nurse to school her toughs in proper sap targeting and her skills as a seamstress to construct them.
Their unique construction led to unique applications, and nasty tricks.
Fret not for much of that will come to light in our main narrative.
How effective were they?
Many users swore by them, a few others at them.
The first shows saps at their most fearsome.
This impact is normally so quick and violent two things happen immediately.
First, a large wound would immediately open and blood would start flowing freely, second the dope boy went straight to the ground.
I guess the slapjack really did three things because the next thing that happened would be everyone else ran in every direction they could.
Williams, a retired laborer 75 years of age, was living alone in his cabin in Nampa.
Talley testified as follows: Q.
Did you state to Mr.
McKenna why you wanted to use the car?
To take Hicks and those two boys over, and they said they was going to try to get the money from Mr.
One of them grabbed Williams, another started beating him about the head with a blackjack and the third one began searching his pockets.
Williams succeeded in breaking loose, stepped into his bedroom and secured his gun.
He shot all three of his assailants.
Downard and Darbin were fatally wounded but Hicks recovered although he lost the sight of one eye.
Chapter 2: From the Sand, From the Land A man was hanged lately at San Francisco, according to the Philadelphia Medical Reporter, for murder of a peculiarly dangerous, and for a long time mysterious, nature.
This is a sand-club, formed by filling an eel-skin with sand.
When this instrument was first brought into use, the authorities were greatly puzzled by deaths, apparently from violence, yet no marks could be found on the outside of the body.
The London Medical Record, 1873¹ A pair of strange weapons unlike any other in this image are seen lying on the floor right during a training session in an image from a 1570 treatise on European martial arts.
The Sand Just as each family is a union of two sides, so it is with our weapons family tree.
When it comes to our two, one was based on land, the other on the sea.
Sand has been around for, well a very long time.
Unlike iron or wood, it takes no processing of any kind to be weapon ready.
All it was ever waiting for was a container and a person using said container in a fight.
That act created the weaponized sandbag or sand-club.
Sand has been used for various purposes throughout history and most of the time it was naturally held in a bag of some kind so the potential has existed for millennia.
It was a ballast in ships that were on the way to pick up cargo, the sand being simply dumped out after serving its purpose.
Small bags of it were used to cover cracks in porous wooden buildings, and wizard of odds variants list truly goes on.
² We can even say it was used in war as early as 332 BCE when Alexander the Great laid siege to the Phoenician city of Tyre.
Various sources agree the earliest notable sand-clubs were long, slender and attached to staves.
Depictions show it bulging towards the hitting end.
The outline is similar to a baseball bat and that is telling.
Sand is not as dense as lead or steel so the long container allowed plenty of it to be packed inside.
A sturdy sack of leather blackjacks and saps is fight ready and can be easily carried.
If you can fill a bag with sand and tie a knot or two if using a hose-like containerthen you are qualified to make a sand-club; no carpentry or metalworking skills needed.
As to, Why did someone think to connect a sandbag to a pole?
Regardless, a long sack sans pole can be handle and striking head all in one.
When being swung the stuffing naturally shifts up to deliver maximum impact.
When at rest it conforms to a more uniform distribution if the shape and packing allows it.
As such it could be kept pooled in a pocket, stuffed along your arm inside a sleeve a common sap hiding place for centuries or folded up in a shirt.
A shapeshifting impact weapon!
A traditional cudgel or anything similar cannot be easily assembled or, just as important, disassembled.
Carrying a suitable sack while empty meant you were unarmed in the eyes of the law but could be ready to spring your ambush with a little prep time.
You could also go from loaded weapon to innocuous sack easily enough by emptying the sand after use.
The canvass bag could stay with its owner, to be filled another day, making it much harder to be caught red handed.
There are more reasons why the simple sandbag should be remembered, even appreciated within the study of weapons.
This is not the only documented instance of this and the ability here outstrips that of saps, jacks, slungshots and all their variations.
Some click to see more with a soft load, especially the beavertail e.
The particular soft load of the sandbag maximizes this trait.
In the eastern martial arts such as kung fu and karate, this is described as internal energy.
An internal strike is designed to deliver penetrating impact to the organs underneath the skin and muscle.
A 1998 book on the classic internal Chinese martial arts even compared their open handed strikes to a sap.
It might also be the only easily adjustable impact weapon known to man.
Billy club, morning star, nunchaku, etc.
Short of a workshop project, there is no altering their mass and therefore impact.
Not so with the sand-club.
For one thing if you want to up its destructive capabilities you can treat it like instant soup.
Wet sand weighs more and wielders of this strange soft sap have long known this.
In Chapter 1 I vowed you could be standing in the middle of a field with nothing but your clothes hi lo 13 blackjack arm yourself with a sap in short order.
Turning your socks, or wrapped up shirt, into an impromptu sand-club more like dirt but still is the answer.
One writer of a truly no holds barred self-defense guide even recommends a way to add liquid to this ad hoc sandbag for extra power when no water source is available except for, well, oneself.
So, looking to get that thought out of our heads, a sailor in 1959 used a rubber glove filled with sand to knock his superior so insensible that he woke up, In a dizzy condition in his bunk hours later.
The birth of the sand-club is a true mystery but its roots run deep.
References, whether leather blackjacks and saps or later, are rare.
Just as bad, specimens are almost non-existent.
A beautiful baleen cosh see Chapter 3 is worth holding on to for the long haul as the many up for auction today can attest.
A Native American slungshot war club is not only beautiful but durable so we have extant examples of them as well.
The poor sand-club loses here also since most would simply disintegrate over time.
There may not be much to go on but.
BlackJack and Slapjack Self Defence Weapons
A club or sap, a leather-covered hand weapon, designed to hit or knock you out.. also commonly known as billies, billy clubs, billie jacks, blackjacks, convoys,. hard-leather saps reminiscent of ones carried by the tough-talking detectives in ...
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