Are Brass Knuckles Legal?

A man brandishes a set of brass knuckles toward camera

Brass knuckles are, without question, easily transported self-defense implements that carry a serious punch, but are they actually legal?

A worn, roughly cast set of antique brass knuckles in dramatic lightingHISTORY
Given their simplicity of design, it probably isn’t surprising that brass knuckles—in some form or fashion—have existed all over the world for centuries.

Since at least the 12th century, brass knuckle-style fist enhancements have been used in India.

It was common during the Civil War for soldiers to use brass knuckles fashioned from brass, lead, cast iron, or wood. On those occasions when brass knuckles couldn’t be purchased, soldiers would often create them on their own—either carving them from wood, or casting them from melted lead in molds made from earth.

A brass knuckle knife with a brass knuckle handle with a blade extended from itThe US Army, during World War I, actually issued two different trench knives with brass knuckles incorporated in the handle. And, by World War II, brass knuckles and “knuckle knives” were enthusiastically in use by both British and American soldiers.

Modern-day brass knuckles haven’t seen many revolutionary design changes—and the most important factor regarding brass knuckles these days is whether they’re legal in your jurisdiction.

There’s a reason brass knuckles aren’t legal everywhere. They are designed to inflict damage and punishment on an opponent. And, they’re also designed to protect a striker’s hands from damage when punching.

An older woman demonstrates the impact of a brass knuckled fist against her flat handThe metal frame of brass knuckles radically increases the potential force of a blow. Also, it distributes the force along the full surface of the brass knuckles. This inflicts increased damage across the striking surface, not just the point of impact.

This sort of punch can break bones, cause severe lacerations, and can without question render someone unconscious. The violent force of brass knuckles can lead to serious injury, even death in some cases.

That’s why some states have chosen to ban brass knuckles altogether, or to require a permit for their possession. Are brass knuckles legal in your area? Let’s check the list.

The legality of brass knuckles is largely regulated at the state level. And, there are three categories that the states fall into when it comes to the level of brass knuckle regulation. Legal, legal with permit, and illegal.

A nice polished set of modern brass knucklesThere are 29 states where brass knuckles are legal (12 legal without permit, 17 legal with a permit). There are 21 states where brass knuckles are illegal.

States where brass knuckles are LEGAL:
Arizona, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Montana, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Wyoming

States where brass knuckles are LEGAL WITH A PERMIT. It’s important to remember that just because brass knuckles are legal with permit, that permit may have criteria attached to it such as how to legally carry, or where you can legally carry brass knuckles:
Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin

Here is a list of states where brass knuckles are ILLEGAL:
Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington

A man demonstrates full extension of a punch while wearing brass knucklesBrass knuckles, in a self-defense incident, can certainly be a game changer. Low-tech, but easily transported, concealed, and deployed. But do your due diligence and check out the laws in your area before making the decision to carry brass knuckles.

Lastly, it might interest you to know that wherever and whenever brass knuckles are legal, Firearms Legal Protection members are covered for their use in the defense of themselves, or others.

Firearms Legal Protection provides uncapped legal defense for members who use a firearm (or any legal weapon) in self-defense or the defense of others. Unfortunately, when people use a weapon in self-defense they could be arrested, jailed, or face extensive legal costs. Firearms Legal Protection provides members with peace of mind in these difficult situations by covering all attorney fees and providing other benefits, including bail bond protection and incident scene clean-up. Firearms Legal Protection operates a 24-hour attorney-answered emergency hotline for members. All Firearms Legal Protection members receive legal protection against Red Flag laws, and are provided access to webinars, product discounts, and more. Protect yourself. We’ll Protect you.

The information given on this website is not legal advice. The information that may be posted in any format on this website is of a general nature and should not be construed in a person’s own situation as legal advice. If you so desire legal advice, please consult an attorney in a one-on-one setting to get legal advice that pertains to your unique circumstance.