Unreliable signals of weapon strength are considered to be problematic for signalling theory and reliable signals are predicted to be the dominant form of signalling among conspecifics in nature. Previous studies have shown that males of the Australian freshwater crayfish (Cherax dispar) routinely use unreliable signals of strength whereas females use reliable signals of weapon strength. In this study, we examined the performance benefits of increased weapon (chela) size for both males and females of C. dispar. In addition, we investigated the possibility of functional trade-offs in weapon size by assessing the relationship between chela size and maximum escape swimming performance. We found males possessed larger and stronger chelae than females and the variance in chela force was greater for males than females. By contrast, females possessed greater absolute and body length-specific escape swimming speeds than males. Swimming speed was also negatively correlated with chela size for males but not females, suggesting that a functional trade-off exists for males only. Decreases in swimming speed with increases in weapon size suggest there could be important fitness costs associated with larger chelae. Larger weaponry of males may then act as a handicap ensuring large chelae are reliable signals of quality.