I noticed a few comments during the Open Comment post were requesting some non-lethal talk, so I thought today would be time to discuss the telescopic baton commonly known as the ASP baton and some of its techniques of employment. While many of us are aware of the ASP collapsible baton, many don’t think to purchase or carry one. Some mistakenly believe they are only military and law enforcement purchasable. The ASP is seen everywhere in security and law enforcement, and for good reason. It is a reliable and effective weapon which can be employed for either non-lethal or lethal defense. Law enforcement policies prevent the ASP from being employed in its full capacity, but remember that civilians are under no such use-of-force policy.
I can’t say when it was that man first picked up a heavy stick and bashed a fellow man over the head with it, but I’m going to take a guess that it was probably before the act of writing and probably around the time man first began uttering words and insults. Let’s just say that we have a LONG history of bashing each other with sticks, clubs, maces, batons, and the like in both offensive and defensive use. It’s a gross motor movement and virtually anyone can use a club with little to no training and still manage to injure, incapacitate, or kill another. In medieval days it was common for peasantry to carry clubs for defense against thieves and highway-men. In Asia baton-like weapons in various forms had been employed for centuries in martial arts fighting styles. As late as WW I both sides employed trench clubs (truncheons) in war for times when the enemy was over running trenches and inside the fighting distance of the long bayonet of the times.
The ASP is an expandable steel baton made up of three sections. They come in various lengths from 16-31″ in length with the 21″ and 26″ versions being most common. The outside tip is a small solid steel knob shaped like a button, and it aids in extension by having the increased weight while also aiding in strikes. The handle has an interchangeable end-cap that can be changed from the standard base to numerous others such as a glass breaker, retention handle, mirror, or flashlight even. One variant incorporates OC Pepper Spray into the handle. They are carried collapsed and are opened by inertia when swung and the segments friction lock open. Newer models utilize a lever lock instead. The ‘ASP’ brand baton is made by Armament Systems and Procedures and many consider their product to be the best constructed and most reliable in use even though there are other just as good competitors. Their product is so widely adopted that many other expandable batons are referred to as ‘ASP’s as well.
In more modern times, criminals still use club-type weapons in assaults and robbery. The club is one of the simplest weapons to improvise and anything from a axe handle to a piece of pipe can be used for that purpose although knives are more common in criminal usage. Criminals rarely use legitimate batons such as the ASP or martial arts batons and likewise would not generally expect a regular civilian to be carrying one either. I would venture to think that a mugger would be extremely surprised and dissuaded if a victim seemed to have a 2 foot steel rod appear in their hand out of thin air. Any criminal still attempting to pursue a victim at that point shouldn’t be surprised to end up in a hospital with some broken bones.
The ASP provides excellent reach and can be a psychological deterrent to would-be aggressors. In typical law enforcement training, the emphasis is strictly on non-lethal strikes to major muscle groups such as the thigh, but the ASP can certainly be lethal in striking the head and can cause severe harm by breaking bones. As a civilian employing the ASP you must use proportionate force to your attacker or you may have some serious legal trouble. Of course, if met with a pistol and imminent threat of taking your life I’m fairly certain that a head strike would be justified instead of a thigh hit.
Employment of the ASP is as easy as swinging it forcefully. As simple as swinging the ASP is, training is necessary and highly recommended for any user. An untrained user could very easily kill or leave permanent injury on an attacker that opens you up to arrest or civil suits. If being attacked with a knife striking the hands and breaking fingers is certainly justified to stop the attack, so long as you stop striking when no longer under threat. Proportional use of force is key.
The image at right shows striking areas and is color coded by chance of causing severe injury and should be memorized any ASP user and striking anywhere ‘red’ should be avoided unless necessary. The mere act of extending the baton could create a psychological reaction on the attacker and they may very well end the confrontation for fear of being struck. Training batons are foam covered and can still create severe pain, especially when you are struck in the hands.
I’ve seen plenty of police brutality videos and can’t understand some of the officers mindsets. Striking someone for compliance repeatedly may instead make them fight for their life and to stop the attack by the officer. There’s a balance that must be found and you need to know when to step back and let them reassess their non-compliance, usually the prospect of another hit will make them think.
If under attack from someone who is very likely going to overpower you or who isn’t responding to ‘green’ zone strikes, the leg bones below the calf are a vulnerable area that can stop nearly any motivated attacker as long as you deliver a strong enough blow to potentially break the leg there. Striking that area is exceptionally hard to block or deflect unlike upper torso strikes and is extremely painful. An attacker that can no longer support themselves standing is not much of a threat at that point. Another strike that can quickly stop a large attacker is to strike downward into the clavicle (collar-bone) which will often render that arm useless to the attacker. The risk there is striking the head or neck or the strike being deflected by the attacker.
It’s vital to remember that no one wants to be struck, and will naturally go into the defensive posture using the arms to deflect or grab at the baton. For that reason, striking the thigh is preferable as it is difficult to block and can be struck with great force with little chance of permanent injury. People can withstand a lot of muscle trauma when adrenaline is flowing full force or drug use is involved so if a strike to the thigh doesn’t get a reaction, immediately transition to the yellow areas or bone/joint strikes as those are more disabling and difficult to withstand.
The ASP is also usable as a pain compliance tool much like a larger kubotan (persuader) while collapsed as well as extended. I remember a training scenario where I was the attacker and was to choke my victim instructor. When I grabbed the throat, he reached up inside with both hands and locked my wrist with the ASP using his thumbs and just leaned forward holding my wrist and pressing the ASP down into it. It hurt like hell and brought me to my knees against my will. I wanted to continue attacking but with my right wrist trapped in agony and my instructor in the dominant position there wasn’t a lot left for me to do.
The ASP while closed can still be used to strike pressure points. A closed ASP can be employed in a hammer striking motion using the base to strike with if you keep your thumb over the tip to prevent extension until the attacker is pushed back enough for extension. Adding a tactical type flashlight at night and employing both in hammer strike cycles is great for disorienting and overwhelming an attacker. I was looking for some good videos to show some techniques and came across the one below which talks about ground fighting with the ASP which is often overlooked in training. Another excellent video is at this link, but embedding is disabled unfortunatly. I urge you to check it out because the control techniques there are effective and not as widely trained.
In military use, the ASP can be used in many other tasks. It can be used to break glass and clear windows. If I need to boost a buddy up onto a roof top I can hold it by the ends so he can step up and then lift, or I can extend it and place the tip on something secure while holding the other end to create a step. I routinely handled insurgent prisoners and knew if one got seriously unruly I had the option to control them without going hands on or lethal. In many countries overseas where police routinely employ batons against citizens they have the fear of being struck and will comply readily to prevent a beating (not that we would unless necessary) so its psychological effect is greater there.
If you wish to use an ASP baton, you must check local laws to verify they are legal in your area. Another consideration is that you may need a concealed weapons permit depending on your style of carry and local laws. I’m no lawyer so use due diligence on your end to stay within the law. Being a potentially lethal weapon, many of the same principles of employing a firearm also apply to employing the ASP. Use proportionate force, and stop when the threat stops. If you decide to purchase an expandable baton, make sure to purchase a quality one. I’ve seen and purchased cheap $10 knock-off’s at flea markets and they will not stand up to a real fight. Get one made of quality steel. The actual ASP brand is only slightly expensive at around $80 but worth it. Do get training! If you end up in court and show that you’ve had proper training, it shows that you’re not some thug and lends credit to your proper use of the weapon. Just like in firearms. Eskrima martial arts techniques can be used with the ASP and there are practical lessons to be learned from that style.
Carrying an ASP has some advantages you may not have considered. You can carry an ASP in many places where you can’t carry a firearm. They don’t have to be declared in checked luggage or have as many restrictions when going into foreign territory as firearms. They don’t garner the reaction that a firearm does if seen by others. They may be completely ignored by people who don’t recognize what it is. For instance, I have an ASP stowed upright between my driver-side seat and shifter in plain view from outside, and have had my car searched by military base security for random security inspections multiple times and I don’t think it’s been recognized once. I carry a 21″ model and have a horizontal holster which can ride on my back, side, or front that cost me less than $10. It practically disappears on my back when covered by a shirt, and the draw looks like reaching for a wallet. Without a holster, it isn’t hard to conceal with the appendix carry in the front of your pants angled with the thigh toward the groin but that has the potential for slipping or falling out so I don’t recommend it without a holster of some sort. Maintaining the baton is simple, just apply a little CLP to the shaft every once in a while.
Overall, the ASP and similar products are great and effective weapons. They are a versatile weapon which doesn’t add a lot of weight to kit for those of us serving and it provides extra options in the situations we can encounter. For civilians they can provide an alternative to firearms. I know some who refuse to own firearms because they fear the children may find them and become accidentally shot, and there is no risk of that in owning an ASP for defense. I personally deployed mine on two occasions and both times the aggressors decided I wasn’t the guy they wanted to screw with anymore. I had a firearm available in the first instance but the situation was resolved with the simple presentation of the ASP instead. They work, they are effective, and they have been relied on by law enforcement professionals for good reason. Go quality, know your laws, and use proportionate force if ever necessary.