Using a Baton for Self-Defense: What You Need to Know
Gone are the days of the billy club-toting copper, walking the street beat while twirling his wooden nightstick. Nevertheless, the baton is still very much in use by police, military, and security personnel. And why not? A stick of any kind, especially a swift, metal stick, is about the easiest thing for anyone, even with no training whatsoever, to swing and wield for a variety of purposes.
Batons and sticks are generally legal to own, except in California where they are not legal for civilians to carry. Checking the laws in your state for baton use and carry is always a good idea and your primary order of business. If you are allowed to carry a baton, or you’d simply like to keep one in your home as a less-than-lethal self-defense alternative, here are a few more important aspects to keep in mind.
Retaining the Baton
One of the central issues surrounding the use of a baton for self-defense is retention. Like I stated earlier, a stick of any kind is about the most natural weapon for any human being—or any primate for that matter—to wield as a weapon. It’s much easier to use than a knife, a gun, or a pair of nunchucks. Give a child with no training a stick, and he can hurt someone with it. That being said, it’s also just as easy to get the stick or baton taken from you and then used against you.
One advancement in baton technology that helps with regard to retention is the advent of expandable batons. A steel baton that expands and detracts requires that the tip of the baton be much smaller than the grip, and of course, a smaller diameter is much harder to grab and hold onto than a wider one. So, using an expandable baton, like this ASP baton, is a great choice. Your opponent would have to literally get a hold of the grip where your hand is to have a good chance of stealing the weapon.
Nevertheless, no matter what sort of baton or nightstick you’re using, from the expandable to the billy club, you absolutely must keep retention in mind. Use your free hand to keep individuals away from the grip. The moment you feel an opponent get a hold of the other end of your baton, use a defensive escape maneuver, such as quick, hard, small circles to break the grip. Place both hands on the weapon, and create a fast, hard whirlwind with the baton, and then pull back to your guard position the moment it’s free. This swift circling motion should be sufficient to break a hard grip.
Using the Baton for Self-Defense
Less-than-Lethal: For Pain
In the military police or riot police, we train to use police batons for crowd control purposes. We aim never to injure and certainly not to kill; so we use the threat of pain to induce control. A civilian who needs to wield the baton for self-defense may also want to simply use pain or the threat of pain to defend him or herself. When using a baton to induce pain, aim for the meaty part of the thighs or arms. Give hard, full swings and swing all the way through, back and forth. Remember, this a less-than-lethal defensive technique, so NEVER swing toward the face or head, unless you are willing to seriously injure or kill.
Less-than-Lethal: For Immobilization
In certain defensive situations, like that of an intoxicated assailant or someone much bigger than you, pain or the threat of pain may not be enough of a deterrent. Instead, you may need to immobilize the attacker. Immobilization techniques are not to be used as a crowd control technique, but rather only for non-lethal self-defense.
In these cases, you’ll want to aim for bones. Swing hard, and again swing all the way through. A strong crack of metal or wood against a bone can easily break the bone; but make sure to go for areas that don’t have a lot of meat or muscle protecting it, which is why the knee, shin, elbow, or hands are great options. Again, this is for non-lethal purposes—meaning you do not feel your life is being threatened, but rather you must just stop or escape an assault. You DO NOT want to permanently injure or maim the individual; so stay away from soft targets, like the groin, neck, or anywhere on the head.
For Lethal Purposes
A baton is almost always to be used as a less-than-lethal weapon. For police, military, and security, if lethal means are necessary for the preservation of life, we would always resort to our firearms. If there are extenuating circumstances in a life-or-death situation, such as we cannot get to our firearm, or our lethal weapons are malfunctioning, we may have no choice but to use the baton as a lethal device.
In cases like this, we would strike hard and fast toward the head: aim for the temple, the nose, the eye, or the back of the head where the spine meets the base of the skull. These areas are most likely to create stopping power, without consideration for what happens to the attacker. But remember, if you use the baton, or any weapon for that matter, in a potentially lethal manner, you better have good reason—you better be able to clearly articulate and justify that you perceived a threat to life and had no other reasonable means of stopping the attack.
Again, know your laws as well as your abilities to effectively and safely use your baton. Use it responsibly, and carry it legally. For more information on non-lethal self-defense weapons, check out my articles on pepper spray tips, stun gun tips, or how to choose a self-defense flashlight. Good luck and stay safe!
Frequently Asked Questions
California is the only state where expandable batons are illegal to both own and carry. In Massachusetts, New York, and Washington D.C. batons are illegal to carry, but legal to own for home use. There are no federal laws against carrying expandable batons.
Yes, you can legally carry a collapsible batons in most states. California is the only state where expandable batons are illegal to both own and carry. In Massachusetts, New York, and Washington D.C. batons are legal to own at home but illegal to carry outside, open or concealed.
FEATURED IMAGE: Spc. Kevin Valencia dodges a baton strike by Staff Sgt. Brooke Parras during civil disturbance training July 16 at Camp San Luis Obispo, Calif. The Soldiers are members of the 40th Military Police Company, 185th Military Police Battalion, 49th Military Police Brigade, California Army National Guard. The 185th sponsored the training. . (US Army photo/SPC EDDIE SIGUENZA)