SUMMERVILLE, S.C. (AP) _ Ray Nash Jr. considers himself a no-nonsense police chief, yet he wouldn't dream of going to work without slipping a pair of nunchakus into his belt.

''When I first arrived in this town 18 months ago I was afraid people would see my 'chuks' and wonder 'who is this idiot?','' Nash said.

Now, however, each of the 33 officers on the town police force carries a set of ''police chuks,'' a modified version of the martial arts weapons often seen in grade-B karate movies.

The switch from nightsticks to nunchakus is one example of how police officers around the country are experimenting with alternative weapons to defend themselves against better-armed criminals.

''There was some resistance at first, but once our officers saw the weapon's capabilities they were soon converted,'' Nash said. ''It's those darn kung fu movies that have given chuks a bad reputation. Actually, they are a far superior second-level weapon for a police officer than the traditonal nightstick.''

He held up his nunchakus, a pair of 14-inch rosewood sticks attached by a short cord.

''With a nightstick or slapjack all you can do is prod or hit somebody,'' he said. ''But with these chuks I can clamp them on your wrist or ankle and generate excruciating pain with a minimum of permanent damage. Used in this manner, they are excellent as a 'come-along' device and give an officer an option to simply hitting an unruly suspect who refuses to comply with a verbal command.''

Then, demonstrating the weapon's versatility, he grabbed the end of one stick and whirled the other piece of wood in a blurry arc.

''The chuks can go from 14 to 28 inches in length in a flash and even strike around corners,'' said Nash. ''I can strike you a disabling blow to the knee, wrist or elbow. We teach our officers to always strike below the shoulder, but, if need be, chuks can be used as an instrument of deadly force.

''Our female police officers really like them because you don't have to be tremendously strong to get a lot of leverage with them,'' he added.

''Also,'' he said, ''in addition to being versatile, they're cheap - only about $3 a pair. Their only drawback is that they are harder to control than a nightstick or a side-handle baton. But we don't allow our officers to carry them unless they've passed a rigorous training course.''

Nash said he learned how to use nunchakus in 1982.

''I was taught by Joe Hess, who is recognized as the man who has made police chuks popular in this country,,'' he said.

Hess, contacted at the University of North Florida law enforcement institute, said he has introduced the martial arts weapons to officers from more than 300 police agencies across the country and several other nations.

''I learned about them when I got interested in karate, years ago,'' he said. ''At the time I was a member of the police force in Wildwood, N.J. In 1969, we became the first police department in the country to carry chuks.''

Hess said one advantage of chuks is that police officers can carry them anywhere.

''If a police officer goes into a restaurant he probably won't bring in his nightstick or side-handle baton,'' he said. ''But the chuks fit into your belt and can go anywhere comfortably.''