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by Peter Moskos

December 2, 2011

In Defense of the Straight Baton

I think I'm fighting a lost cause here, but I still like the straight baton. Expandable batons are all the rage. But let me explain why I think the straight baton is better.

When I was a cop, I had a 29-inch straight baton (think big stick or small baseball bat). I also trained with the expandable baton, which most cops like more. Not me. Here's why (from least to most important):

1) The expandable baton is more expensive (not my problem, but somebody has to pay for it).

2) The expandable baton is less intimidating when extended. I know they try and sell it by talking about the intimidating effect of whipping it out. But that is no greater than simple taking the straight baton out of its belt-grommet. I also believe a straight baton has a air of authority -- not intimidation -- when holstered that then expandable baton lacks. I suspect, but do not know, that officers with expandable batons use them more. As the expression goes, "once you open that can of whup-ass, it's hard to put it back in the can."

3) The straight baton does not get in the way of anything (except, for some reason, climbing through a window) if worn properly, at the side. And it fits nicely in the space between car seat and door.

4) Yes, officers have to remember to take it with them. I never found that hard (but it can be an argument in favor of the expandable).

5) The straight baton has more stages of escalation (and deescalation). You can take it out, hold it flush with the arm, hold it in front, and so on. When you pull out the expandable, there's no middle ground. You can't "activate" the expandable without escalating the scene. You can access the straight baton and almost do it secret like. This is important. You can also put away the straight baton easily while it's a bit more of a show to holster up the expandable.

6) The straight baton has more uses defensively. It is better at parrying a blow.

7 and 8) The straight baton both looks better, in use, and is better. You strike two-handed with a straight baton. It is powerful. And you strike, generally, at the thigh. You strike one-handed with the expandable and you strike repeatedly in a downward motion. The head is too close. It will get hit. On video the expandable baton looks like Egyptian security repeatedly beating somebody in the head. It looks (and kind of is) brutal. Wack wack wack wack wack. And a cracked skull is not the goal.

With the straight baton you use it once and that is it. Threat is gone. In many ways the expandable is more about pain compliance, something best avoided both for tactical (it doesn't work that well) and PR (looks horrible) reasons. The straight baton better removes the threat. One good wack (I believe the technical term is "strike") in the leg and the person goes down. Game over. Time for coffee and paperwork.

I'd love to hear from those who disagree.


Marty the Cop said...

I have the PR24 which I can hold in front of me, in a ready position. I liked it for the reasons you stated. Just hard to twirl on a foot post.

PCM said...

I don't know much about the PR24.

But isn't the handle/thing sticking out more trouble than it's worth?

Anonymous said...

I've carried the PR24, a straight, albeit short, baton, and the ASP. I carry the ASP now and wouldn't change if I could. The straight baton looked nice stuck in the door where it always was when I needed it. The PR24 had so many moving parts in the silly techniques they taught that I would never be fully proficient with it. I remember something like the "Georgia take down" or "come along" that had so many steps to it that was silly to watch let alone try on an aggravated suspect. The ASP is there when you need it and isn't intimidating until it needs to be. The stick always looked menacing to me. Just my thoughts. Brett

Anonymous said...

The ASP is much easier if you are working plainclothes. It can be tossed in a pocket in your vest or pants. It's also much less cumbersome during a foot pursuit.
As for points 7 and 8: a strike is a strike. We're still being taught to strike the upper thigh with an ASP, just like with the straight baton.

SabotageGigante said...

Your mention of twirling, brings to mind a whole other aspect of this. As a civilian, I find casually intimidating (if the concept of casual intimidation makes sense). There is just something hostile about flicking around a weapon as if you can't wait to use it. I've just never been sure if this is intentional or an accident.

Kyle said...

A agree with quite a bit of what you say here. A new favorite with many officers in our department is the cam-stick. It looks quite a bit like a wooden boken.

Although I carry one, another disadvantage to the ASP is that thrusts are almost out of the question.

Nice website, by the way!

Cpl Corrion said...

Did you use the espantoon when you worked for the BPD? I remember reading that it was banned in the 1990s, because it was supposedly too intimidating to citizens when twirled. Later it was brought back because of its historical significance.

PCM said...

I was there for the brief revival of the espantoon. I really wanted to carry (and have) one. Alas, I cracked my knee one too many times while practicing and decided that my personal safety was more important than my love of history.

Anonymous said...

We use the expandable in the Navy and I have found the rear jab quite effective. While I do not think there is an actual "forward jab" I have knock someone clean off their feet with a middle strike.

As far as the thigh strike goes I shattered a 3in diameter wooden rod with 1 strike.

I don't know about LE but the Navy is training in a "low profile" deployment. I also think the opposite Security Force snapping that baton was a lot more intimidating than the guy with the "boat oar"

PCM said...

Interesting comment. Thanks.

4A12 said...

I have carried both the PR-24 and the ASP. My department actually issued both. The PR-24 was your go to strike weapon and the ASP was on your belt as a back up in case you ran out of your car and didnt have time to grab your PR-24. I eventually replaced both with an expandable PR-24. I completely agree with the authors points about a staight baton over an ASP. For those of us that have actually had to use them not just wear them to intimidate someone, there are countless instances of an ASP just bouncing of a suspect and doing nothing. If you get struck with a PR-24 or straight stick you are going to feel it as long as applied correctly (Power strokes). On the flip side he ASP makes a good paper weight! Actually I did get two suspects to comply by the sound of me deploying it. It's a new fad that puts officers at risk. It's like a TV dinner, compact and expedient but not neccessairly good for your health. Please feel free to post any succesful uses with the ASP to educate us to the contrary.


Punkasskid1976 said...

If a mugger comes at you with a baton at least here in Virginia, you are justified to shoot to kill. Why then is a baton in the hands of a "peace" officer a "less than lethal alternative" I don't wanna hear any bullshit about "training" I studied BJJ for 2.5 years and Ive been fighting all my life with bats and knives and the occasional brandishing of a firearm (in self defense of course). I'm sick of police being given special legal protections they shouldn't need and don't deserve (ie simple assault on a LEO being a felony vs a civilian assault is misdemeanor) Yall need to get your shit together and man the fuck up.

Aj Keeton said...

Why must it come down to the good old man up comment? Assaulting an officer is Assaulting someone who is authorized and empowered by the state to enforce the laws and keep the peace. So Assaulting one shows blatant disregard for the law. And as for the weapons? Unfortunately we aren't the combat experts as so many civilians think. Most of our technique comes down to trial and error in the field. Funding just isn't there to provide extensive training on subject control, though that is the majority of what we do. I believe in my academy we only trained actual subject control for about 2 weeks of the 9 months I was there. We boxed every week, but you can't exactly punch every suspect in the face for non compliance can you? We don't train for years and years and become Kung fu masters. Our repertoire comes down to what works when we need it. So if a straight baton strike to the common perennial will stop an aggressive subject and allow me to subdue him im going to use it, as it'd much safer than me trying to go hands on. Comments like yours go right through me. Though I mean no offense. The bottom line is we don't get time between our crazy long shifts and mountains of paper work to be able to become crazy good fighters. We have to learn to win every time though. Because that's what we're paid to do. Win. Losing is not an option. Losing can Mean your life.

Ork Sean said...

The reason using a baton as an officer is less-lethal is because we are trained never to strike the face, groin, neck, head, heart. In my department, if you strike the head/neck region it tilts into the deadly force continuum. If a regular person come swinging at bat at you, you have no idea where they're going to hit or what they're intentions are. The reason police use a baton or any tool is to effect the arrest. The reason anyone else comes at you with a baton/pole/bat/etc is unknown but never good. So easy there PunkAsskid1976, stay in you lane.

That said, I prefer my old wooden stick. I work in a big city in CA that issues is the old wood batons. I walk a footbeat a lot and twirl as I go. I've never had a citizen say anything negative about it, it fact several have made positive comments about loving to see a cop on the beat, looking old school, etc. if I take someone on the first thing I do is re-ring it before beginning the take on. I do leave it in the car for things like building searches (whacking things while trying to be quiet). I don't like the idea of swinging a baton in a narrow hallway anyway, if I have to I'll just go hands in.

At the end of the day it's all preference anyway.