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Brass knuckles, also sometimes called knuckles, knucks, brass knucks, or knuckle dusters, are weapons used in hand-to-hand combat. “Brass” knuckles are pieces of metal, usually steel despite their name, shaped to fit around the knuckles. Designed to deliver the force of punches through a smaller and harder contact area, they result in greater tissue disruption and increased likelihood of fracturing the victim’s bones on impact. Also, the wielder of such a weapon may punch harder than normal, exacerbating damage even further, due to reduced anxiety about harming their own hands when striking.
Some early forms of brass knuckles were used in ancient Rome, India, Latin America and Japan and weapons of kobudo, a martial art from Okinawa, Japan.
Knuckle dusters were incorporated into the so-called Apache revolvers used by criminals in France in the early 1900s. During World War I and World War II, trench knives, blades with enlarged guards to be used as knuckle dusters, were used in hand-to-hand combat in trench raiding operations.
In most countries, the possession, let alone use, of brass knuckles is illegal. They are illegal in the United States in the states of New Jersey, Delaware, Washington, Oregon, Utah, Illinois, California, and Florida; in Canada, brass knuckles or any similar devices are listed as prohibited weapons, and possession of such weapon is a criminal offence under the Criminal Code of Canada. In France, however, purchase and possession of brass knuckles is legal for 16 year-olds with parental permission, and are freely sold to people of legal age. They are sold as self-defense weapons.
Recently, brass knuckles have been sold on the Internet and in regular shops where they are sold as paperweights. Brass knuckles can normally be purchased at flea markets, swap meets, and some sword and weapon shops. Due to a shady reputation they are often sold as in at least one case, affixed with a detachable screw allowing them to be sold as a belt buckle. Due to the questionable legality of brass knuckles, large, heavy rings are sometimes used to achieve a similar effect. Similar devices that are made of hardened plastic, rather than metal, exist. Some are marketed as “undetectable by airport metal detectors.”
Pairs of knuckles can be custom made to fit individual hands. Due to the generic factory shape and design, knuckles rarely fit the user perfectly. Imperfectly fitting brass knuckles can break the user’s fingers if a punch is thrown straight. Brass knuckles can also bruise the user’s own hands if not used properly.[original research?]
Common varieties include spiked knuckles, “maiden’s fingers,” “fat boys,” “wedding rings,” brass knuckles with various “imprintable” images on the knuckles (longhorn steer, lions, skulls, etc), and even “knuckle-knives.” Spiked knuckles in particular are among the most vicious variety of brass knuckles, as they not only can shatter bone into fragments but will shred tissue[original research?]. The length of the spikes varies from as small as a quarter of an inch to up to six inches. Shorter spikes emphasize the impact of the brass knuckle on bone, while longer blades are used solely to inflict soft-tissue damage.[original research?]