Valentine Skull-Crackers and Killer Pens

Do you ever find out about something and realize that everyone else has known about it for years? I hate that. This week, as I was watching a medical drama (I’m a sucker for a found foot, larvae under the toenails, and all kinds of crazy that show up under ultra violet light), a character wielded a ‘sap’. It made me sit up straight. The characters talked about it like everyone must know someone who owns one. Writers are curious. I needed to know more.


Saps are impact weapons made from lead-filled leather, somewhere around six inches long. They used to be carried routinely by police, but now less so. They can crack a skull, break bones, and damage organs. You wanted to know that, right?

I had trouble believing such a small weapon could cause such damage, so I turned to YouTube. Thus began my descent into the nether world of personal weaponry. I know weapons aren’t funny, and I’m very much pro gun control, but I must admit I laughed. A lot. I don’t know why. It was often inappropriate.

This video explains what a sap is. It also offers some pretty Valentine-themed choices with embossed hearts:

This one, showing some classic sap moves, is somehow reminiscent of Napoleon Dynamite. Unfortunately, it was not embeddable, but I promise it’s worth it, if you want to see in which direction you should wave your sap.

The same guy demonstrates some serious coconut destruction with a different sap in this video:

Apparently it’s illegal to carry a sap in most US states. Wait. Does that mean they’re more dangerous than guns?

I moved on from saps to something that kept me busy for at least an hour: tactical pens, made by companies like Uzi and Smith and Wesson.

uzi  schrade smith and wesson

These pens come with optional ends: a glass breaker or a DNA collector (a crown-shaped gouger). I looked at these for so long that I started to want one. The most enjoyable part of looking at these on Amazon was the user reviews:

The point would deliver a very painful jab even though it’s not “sharp.” It makes a nice intermediate stage between pulling a tactical knife and the use of pepper spray, both of which I also carry. (Smith and Wesson Military and Police Tactical Pen: Black)

This is something every Girl or Lady should have handy and know how to use. The pen looks too girly to be tactical, but what you have here is a stout little impact weapon that can be carried pretty much everywhere, especially on planes or other areas where even a small folding knife is a no-go.(Schrade Tactical Pen: Pink With Hearts)

If placed in luggage, clipped to an envelope, it will slip though x-ray security scans. I take mine through security every day, so I have some way to defend myself on the subway before arriving at my locked-down office that uses x-ray and metal detector. No need for it once inside. (KZ Zombie Pen-Etrator Tactical Pen: Blue)

There is a wealth of quirky character ideas to be mined in Amazon reviews.

I guess this means that the pen really could be mightier than the sword, so long as you had the lid off, and your attacker was very close and unarmed. And maybe not looking. He or she THINKS you’re going to sign a check, but you’re about to inflict six inches of aircraft-grade grade aluminium. This is another good reason not to write with a blunt pencil.

This sub-culture of personal weaponry was at once repugnant and irresistible. I couldn’t stop! And actually I think I want to buy a tactical pen. The middle schoolers I teach would probably be impressed. And perfectly behaved. “Just let me get out my pen …” I didn’t know it, but maybe I really do need one. I’m feeling kind of under-weaponed.

I had to shut myself down last night after I spent another hour looking up easy homemade weapons. I live in one of the safest cities in the world, but if I were in the movies, I’d definitely want to make one of these, so long as I had some old planks hidden under the porch.

It’s difficult to explain why I found so many of these videos and comments funny. I’m telling you, I chuckled out loud. Often. I think it just seemed so unreal to me to be so worried about safety that I found it difficult to relate to or take seriously. What’s happened to the world? I know personal safety is a serious matter and that physical assault is no joke, but it’s hard for me to imagine living as fearfully as some of the people in these videos. As a writer, I find them very interesting. Are they really afraid of being attacked everywhere they go? Do they perhaps wish their lives were more like an action movie? Were they affected by something that happened to someone else?

I love to watch adventures and thrillers. Adore Jason Bourne. Envy Scarlett Johannson in The Avengers. I could never write it though. I grew up with guns, but I really don’t know how to write a scene with fighting or guns or other weapons. Yes, I fantasise about being caught up in some dangerous (but ultimately happily-ending) shenanigans, but, in reality, I fear I wouldn’t go into fight or flight so much as flee or pee.

Maybe I could manage a fight scene with spoons.