“The man who carries a weapon intended to pound the skull of his adversary,” wrote Fred Rexer in 1978, “is probably a lot closer to the men in bearskin breech clouts than he would like to think.” Rexer was talking about the sap or blackjack, a rounded leather shell filled with lead powder, lead shot, or a molded weight, with or without a spring steel shank to increase the tool’s response on impact. While the sap is compact and simple in design, it is also remarkably powerful when used to strike a person.

That was more than 30 years ago and, despite Rexer’s hyperbole, there’s no doubt the sap or blackjack largely fell out of favor with citizens and law enforcement alike because it was deemed too effective. Where once many police officers’ uniform slacks incorporated a pocket just the right size to carry a sap, few citizens today have even heard of it (outside of novels featuring hard-boiled detectives). Those law enforcement supply companies that did produce saps no longer do, and many municipalities outlaw the possession and carry of blackjacks.

Foster Impact Devices

“Most of the companies, like Bucheimer, stopped producing saps in the mid seventies to early eighties,” explains Todd Foster of Foster Impact Devices. “I bought a cheap sap in an Army/Navy shop in 1996 and carried it for a few years before losing it. I really couldn’t find one I liked to replace it.” After much trial and error, he successfully reverse-engineered his own saps. Foster, who lives in High Point, North Carolina, has been a butcher for 18 years. Over the last two decades, he has been doing leatherwork part-time. Since 2004, he has been producing custom leather, machine-stitched saps for law enforcement, military personnel, and private collectors.

“All my saps are hand cut from bull hide for the most part,” Foster explains, “and hand finished and stitched on an old Tippmann sewing machine. The ‘load’ or ‘frame’ of the sap is solid cast lead (incorporating) a half-inch tempered steel flat spring.” The result is a superbly crafted, top-quality leather pocket club that exhibits the richness of custom leatherwork and a surprising heft in the palm. Foster’s soft shot-filled saps are all handmade in the United States and include his popular coin purse model. The coin purse sap is unique in that it is not a weapon until filled with change, which increases its weight significantly. The little coin purse strikes with authority and can give even the largest aggressor pause. Foster stresses that his products are a labor of love. “I make all my own molds for each model sap and cast the lead in house,” he says. “Saps can be made with or without the flat spring. Without seems to hit a lot harder.”

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