Brass Knuckles Tattoo Meaning, Designs & Ideas

If you are a fan of weapons, especially weapons that are used for close combat such a knives and swords, then you probably happen to know a bit about the infamous ‘brass knuckles. ‘Brass monkeys’, ‘knuckle dusters’, ‘an English punch’; these are all names and terms given to the classic weapon, the brass knuckles.

During the American Civil War, from the time period of 1861-1865, the brass knuckles were a weapon that soldiers would use as an aid for self-defense purposes. If in the circumstance of close-range combat, which much of the civil war took place, the soldier would strap these knuckles to their own, when they punched the target, a simple blast could result in devastating effects.

Brass knuckles were made from basically whatever material the soldier had at hand. This often resulted in soldiers carving molds of wood to place on top of the knuckles. With these molds, soldiers could punch for instance somebody right on the hard part of the head causing no harm to themselves.

Normally if one did this without brass knuckles on, they would have a very high chance of breaking their own hand. With the brass knuckles however, the molded knuckles are placed over top the actual knuckles themselves creating a sort of shield for the knuckles. A punch with these knuckles could be very dangerous. Because of this, brass knuckles are illegal and banned in many countries around the world.

For hundreds of years, brass knuckles have been used as a mean of self-defense, have took many shapes. The harder but lightest material is the best for brass knuckles. The brass knuckles have become such a controversial topic in the weapon world as the legality issues and what not, that they have become a symbol of their own. The dangerous brass knuckle image is a provocative and well sought after idea for a tattoo. Below are examples of the brass knuckle tattoo designs, placement, and symbolisms.

Love Thy Neighbor

‘Love Thy Neighbor’ is a phrase that is most commonly seen accompanying the brass knuckle tattoo. The brass knuckle image also comes in a sort of set of different weapons, all these weapons can be associated with this image. Examples would be a straight razor tattoo, a switchblade, even a baseball bat. This phrase indicates that although you should love your neighbor and be good to one another, you must not let them forget what you are capable of.

In a way this is another way of saying ‘keep your friends close, your enemies closer’. The brass knuckles with a baseball bat and straight razor all next to each other with ‘Love Thy Neighbor’ written on a banner displayed in front of the weapons is a popular concept.

This graphic not only looks cool, but it can be placed in many different places. Since the graphic is more on the bigger side, choosing a spot where you have plenty of room for is best. The upper arm and even the upper leg/thigh area is a great place. Others have been seen sporting this tattoo and phrasing on their chest. Adding color is optional, having blood droplets dripping from the weapons in a red ink would give the graphic more of a lively feel, however.

Rose Knuckles

If having the image of just the brass knuckles is not enough and you would like to add other images and graphics along with it, a subtle image of a rose protruding from the bottom half of the device is a good start. This gives the brass knuckles tattoo a little more class and does not make it as straight up violent looking as some people may perceive it to be. Adding an image such as a flower of some sort kind of evens out the look of the tattoo and it can also hold onto its true toughness.

A flower and brass knuckles can symbolize that you are a delicate and whole-hearted person until you are done wrong, then that is when the hands start flying. This concept could also help set-up and transition the tattoo into a sleeve of some sort or even just help add onto the tattoos that may be around this one. This tattoo looks great in the classic black ink but adding color to this piece makes it go a long way.

Knuckle Up


Having designs within the frame of the brass knuckles is another option. Sometimes, brass knuckles themselves are modified for a more effective punch. Brass knuckles with spikes at the tip of the knuckles are one way to go about this. With small liberty spikes protruding from the frame of the knuckles, it really is a showstopper. Tattoos with this idea kept in mind are a different take on the brass knuckle tattoo itself. This tattoo has a way of saying ‘back off’.


Hearts are another great way of adding to the frame of the brass knuckles. Instead of having the circular hole shape that is used to place the fingers inside, making those rounded holes off into a shape of hearts is another cool concept. Although this design being used in real life brass knuckles would defeat the purpose of the weapon, it still looks neat as a graphic, especially when tattooed. This is almost like you are sending out a ‘punch of love’.


L-O-V-E spells out ‘love’ of course, this is also another idea to put in the holes of the knuckles. The counterpart of ‘love’ is ‘hate’ which is also another four-letter word that fits in well with the brass knuckle concept. If you are a fan of hand tattoos, having one hand tattooed as brass knuckles with the word ‘love’ in one and on the other hand a pair of brass knuckles with ‘hate’ on the inside could make for a neat tattoo idea. This could be particularly true if you have tattoo sleeves, the brass knuckles are a good topper to many pieces.

If you have any questions or would like a recommendation for a tattoo artist, please reach out to us.

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