Best Expandable Baton for Self Defense

by Tommy Grant

As a self-defense tool, an expandable baton is an excellent option due to its compact size, ease of use, and effectiveness in defending oneself against an attacker. But, there are a lot of options to consider when it comes to expanding batons: material durability, length, handle type, etc. This is where we come in.

We’ve researched the best batons, put them to the test, and now the results are in: the overall best, a beginner option, and an upgrade option. If you want a self-defense weapon for a confrontation, one of our picks will extend you the advantage.

Contents (Jump to a Section)

The Best Expandable Baton

Cold Steel 26

Strong, Long, and Quality Made

An intimidating value for a quality-made beat stick that will handle any punishment.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

Cold Steel should be a name you recognize from knives along with plenty of other self-defense weapon options. They take good designs and mass produce them to drive costs down. You’ll always find their knives towards the low end of your price expectations even with specialty steel. You would think that this means poor quality too- but it doesn’t.

They have managed to walk that fine line between mass production price and quality precision tolerances to get us to the sweet spot of affordable, quality gear and the 26″ baton is no exception. Our testing found it to be extremely durable with a smooth and easy action.

Here is how it measures up:

  • Steel handle and extension
  • 10″ closed
  • 26″ expanded
  • 1.21 pounds

With a great price and good quality, it’s easy to see why the Cold Steel 26 is the best.

PS Expandable Baton

Beginner Baton

PS Expandable Baton

Compact, Durable, and Inexpensive

An inexpensive solution that doesn’t slip or falter when you are relying on it.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

PSA is known for its inexpensive military and law enforcement accessories, and its expandable baton is the perfect baton for the beginner. There is no need to drop hundreds of dollars on a baton if you are using it infrequently or stashing it away, so save the money and get the practical pick.

The expandable baton opens smoothly enough and is easy to use and stow away in its included sheath.

Here is how the budget option measures up:

  • Steel handle and extension
  • 9″ closed
  • 26″ expanded
  • 1.35 pounds

If you are looking for an inexpensive solution that will get you going, the PSA Expandable Baton is what you need.

ASP Friction Airweight Baton

Upgrade Expandable Baton

ASP Friction Airweight

Durable, Lightweight, with Exceptional Quality

The best baton on the market is a fine-tuned masterpiece from the leading brand.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

ASP (Armament Systems and Procedures) is a well-known supplier of restraints (handcuffs) but is the premier brand when it comes to batons. They offer a wide range of baton models, and each comes in several length options. Their most popular model is the quick-deploying Friction, and it’s easy to see why.

Out of the Friction models, we settled on the 26″ Airweight, which weighs half as much as the heavier 26″ but is equally strong. Flick deployment and a silky smooth action make it dependable and intimidating. We’ll go over our length selection in the What to Look For section, but it offers excellent reach and mechanical advantage.

Here are the full details:

  • Steel 4140 handle and tip, 7075 T6 aluminum middle shaft
  • 9.5″ closed
  • 26″ expanded
  • 11.2 ounces

If you are looking for the best of the best, get the ASP Friction Airweight Baton.

Everything We Recommend

PS Expandable Baton

PS Expanding Baton

An inexpensive solution that doesn’t slip or falter when you are relying on it.

Where to Buy

$18* at PSA

*at time of reviewing

The Batons We Compared

Our research narrowed the field down to several types and brands and types of batons that we compared: ASP, Cold Steel, Smith & Wesson, Rothco, UZI, and more.

You can see our full list of review criteria below in the What to Look For section, with an explanation for each.

We considered a wide range of batons, as long as they were collapsible or extendable. There were plenty of sizes, from keychain 12″ models all the way to over 30″. We quickly dismissed the expanding ‘pocket staff’ you may have seen in ads due to practical durability concerns.

We’re always looking for new and better gear, so if you have an expanding baton that you swear by, let us know in the comments. We review most of our tested gear annually so we can try to get it in the next roundup round and see if it will beat out our top picks.

Expandable batons are legal to carry in most states, with these exceptions:

  • California: expandable batons are illegal to own and carry.
  • Massachusetts: batons are legal to own but illegal to carry open or concealed.
  • New York: batons are legal to own but illegal to carry open or concealed.
  • Washington: batons are legal to own but illegal to carry open or concealed.
  • Washington D.C.: batons are legal to own but illegal to carry open or concealed.
Where Expanding Batons are Illegal in the US

Using a baton on an unarmed person could get you in some legal trouble as well since it is considered a weapon, even if it is for self-defense. Know your local laws and stand-your-ground rules to be best prepared for home and self-defense.

What to Look For

The best expandable batons have several important features to look for:

  1. Value
  2. Material Durability
  3. Length
  4. Handle Type
  5. Weight

When you get the right blend of these, you can find a retractable baton that you can rely on for self-defense and critical situations. Below, we break down what each of these features means for the batons that truly set themselves apart.

Value: Cost vs. Benefit

The amount of money you spend on something like a baton shouldn’t blow out your entire budget. There are some great but high-priced batons out there that may not be a great choice if you aren’t keeping them close. Follow your budget and get what makes the most sense for you.

You never want to spend too much money on one thing when it comes to weapons. It’s better to diversify your self-defense gear to make sure you are covered for a wide range of scenarios.

Material Durability

Traditional non-extending batons are typically made of wood or PVC, but that’s not going to fly when you need strength, especially at expansion joints.

We encountered steel and aluminum in our testing, and the full aluminum couldn’t keep up. That doesn’t completely narrow it down, as ‘steel’ is a very broad term for various carbon content in iron (with or without other metals added)- as the knife collectors out there know all too well. There are also various treatments and coatings different grade steels can get before they’re put into service on an expandable baton.


Many extending baton users with lengths under 21″ will try to swap theirs in for longer batons. 21″ to 26″ is not only the consensus best length for those who use them every day, but it makes sense mechanically as well.

When you get a longer baton, you aren’t just getting reach but you’re getting mechanical advantage as well. Whether you are swinging with your shoulder, elbow, or wrist- the velocity is magnified to the tip of the baton where you are attempting to make a point impact with the assailant.

If the baton is too long, it becomes useless in tight spaces, clumsier to maneuver, and harder to aim. If the baton is too short, you lose leverage from the swing and become similarly effective as a strike from your hand or traditional baton.

Handle Type

With the small profile of expanding batons, the handle is important for grip as you are swinging it. You want to maintain control of the baton as you strike and as you deploy the extension- whether it is a push button or kinetic.

Handles will either come knurled or with grippy foam. Knurled can be more durable, but the foam provides better grip in poor weather so there are benefits to both. If you get a model with a foam grip, you will want to take care of it more proactively to prevent the foam from deteriorating. Rubber grip models are also available and hit a sweet middle ground between foam and a knurled grip.


Baseball kinematics can teach us a bit about how weight affects a baton. With the mechanical advantage of the swing, weight balance is important as it affects the control you have as well as the impact force.

For survival kits, we’re always looking to reduce weight. A traditional extendable baton easily weighs over a pound for durability, balance, and impact. But our upgrade pick lightens the center of the baton with aluminum, which makes it much better for kits without compromising those key factors.

What Expandable Batons Do Police Use?

Most US military and law enforcement personnel use ASP batons, which come in a range of sizes and are well-known for their durability.

In a few states, they have restrictions on their sale and require additional documentation to prove your affiliation with law enforcement, military, or security sectors.

The most popular model is the ASP Friction, with a variety of lengths, a few weight options, a steel button deployment, and a cam lockout. They run about $180 but GSA and other government agencies negotiate bulk pricing.

Who Needs a Baton?

Batons are a standard issue for most law enforcement and security personnel. Many military members also rotate through security details where they can be issued a baton, even if they are not Security Forces or MPs by trade.

Expanding batons are excellent collapsible weapon options for anyone looking for a compact non-lethal solution.

While we don’t explicitly recommend them for any of our major kits, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have a place in yours. Plenty of preppers stow expanding batons in their:

Expanding batons are lightweight, compact, and much more effective than improvised weapons. When it’s inappropriate to step up to lethal force, a baton can keep you safe and ‘legal’ at the same time.

How We Review Products: We research thoroughly before selecting the best products to review. We consult experts in the field for a better understanding of what makes the gear great. Hours on end are spent field testing gear in stressful conditions. We assign performance criteria and impartially rate each tested item. After our review process, some of the items reviewed end up in our giveaways.

Sources and References

All of our experience and the testing we do to determine the best expandable baton is useless without listing our research sources and references. We leaned on these for the book knowledge that we paired with our hands-on testing and practical survival experience:

Armstrong, E. (2005). Distinctive Patterned Injuries Caused by an Expandable Baton. The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology. Volume 26. Issue 2. Pages 186-188. (Source)

Gervais, P., et al. (1998). Comparative analysis between police batons. Forensic Science International. Volume 91. Issue 1. Pages 7-17. (Source)

Button, P. (2001). Less-Lethal Force Technology. US DOJ Office of Justice Programs. (Source)

The Final Word

Expanding batons aren’t extremely versatile, but they can get the job done with a very low profile. Their lightweight and small length make them stashable in a variety of kits for self-defense.

Here are a few other reads our subscribers have also found helpful:

We presented quite a lot of information, but as always: if you have any questions let us know and we would be happy to help. Our research and testing found the Cold Steel 26 Expanding Baton to be the best option given its value, materials, design, padding, and durability.

Keep exploring, stay prepared, and be safe.

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The Best Expandable Baton

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