The Shelby County Museum & Archives is lucky to have in its collection two great examples of trench knives, also known as “knuckle dusters.” Both dating from 1917 and made by the A.C.Co. (American Cutlery Company), they are on display in the Seales room at the museum. With a unique three-sided blade, the “knuckle duster” was used in close combat situations.
The guard was designed to protect the hand with small metal points around the outer edge, which provided the knife’s nickname “knuckle duster”. The knives were used to punch using the guard, strike with downward force using the blunt handle of the knife, and stabbing. The devastating blade penetrated an enemy and sped blood loss due to the three separate incisions created by one thrust. Medics and other medical personnel were unable to close the three incision wounds with clotting agents or surgery easily, and many soldiers died from excessive blood loss.