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Weighted-knuckle gloves, also called sap gloves, are a type of weapon used in hand to hand combat. They consist of a pair of ordinary looking gloves usually made of leather or a synthetic material, with powdered lead or steel sewn into a special pouch covering the knuckles, and often the backs of the fingers and the back of the hand. In some designs, this distinctive feature is obvious, while in others it is almost completely indistinguishable from an ordinary glove, allowing the gloves to be worn in plain sight without suspicion.
They are primarily used by security guards, and by bouncers and other security professionals where physical combat is expected.
The purpose of these gloves in combat is both offensive and defensive. Offensively, the weight of the metal powder adds mass and therefore kinetic energy to punches, back-hands and other hand strikes. The weighting also distributes the impact in a manner similar to a blackjack, transferring concussive force in the case of a head-strike to cause a knockout. This is the opposite of brass knuckles, which are designed to concentrate the force of a blow in a smaller area to cause more tissue damage.
However, the primary aim of the gloves is to protect the user from injury. Normally, punches with the unprotected hand against an opponent’s head or face will painfully injure the hand in the process, and strikes to the mouth can often result in severe lacerations and possible infection from the opponent’s teeth. The layer of powdered metal serves to protect the hand against these injuries, without compromising the effectiveness of the strike. Properly executed, a person wearing weighted knuckle gloves can even punch glass or concrete without injury or even pain.
The gloves also protect the hand from blows inflicted by the opponent, allowing the user to block minor strikes from blunt weapons such as sticks. This is especially important in maintaining one’s grip on the opponent should they try to dislodge the grip using strikes to the back of the hand. Some designs include a Kevlar lining to add further protection against lacerations.
Unlike brass knuckles, weighted knuckle gloves are legal in most areas, as they are generally considered “less-lethal weapons", due to their defensive nature. In some jurisdictions, including Australia, they may be restricted under more general "dangerous weapons" laws.
In the United States, weighted knuckle gloves are illegal in the states of Massachusetts and California. In New York, sap gloves are not specifically denominated as unlawful weapons by state law. However, they may be unlawful to possess with intent to use them unlawfully against another.
In the United Kingdom, weighted knuckle gloves are legal to buy, sell and own. However possession in a public place without a reasonable excuse or lawful authority is illegal.