California Knife Law

california state sealCalifornia has very friendly knife laws. Unlike other states who’s knife law is out of date, California’s is modern and up-to-date. This article will talk about what is legal, illegal, and in the gray area concerning knives in California.

Legal Knives in California

  • Bowie knives are legal.
  • Large knives are legal (no restrictions in size).
  • Carrying knives in the open is legal in California.
  • Carrying knives concealed is legal in California for most knives.

Illegal Knives under California Knife Law

  • Misleading knives are illegal. These include: cane knives (and shobi-zues), lipstick knives, belt knives, pen knives, air gauge knives, and pen knives.
  • All undetectable knives are illegal. These include knives that won’t set off metal detectors.
  • Dirks, daggers, and stilettos are illegal.
  • Ballistic knives are illegal.

What the law is trying to get at are knives usually used by criminals to commit crimes. These are knives that don’t look like knives or don’t have a use as a tool. For example, you can’t do much with a dagger besides stab things.

Legality of Balisong Knives and Swithblades

21510. Every person who does any of the following with a switchblade knife having a blade two or more inches in length is guilty of a misdemeanor: (a) Possesses the knife in the passenger’s or driver’s area of any motor vehicle in any public place or place open to the public. (b) Carries the knife upon the person. (c) Sells, offers for sale, exposes for sale, loans, transfers, or gives the knife to any other person.

It is legal to own, sell, buy, and transport a switchblade as long as it is less than 2 inches. The state of California has ruled that a Balisong knife is a switchblade because of how easily it can be opened. However, you can still buy Balisong knives that are over 2 inches if you do not carry it in the driver or passenger seat or on you. Simply put, if you buy Balisongs to collect and leave it at home, it is 100% OK.

Conclusion on California Knife Law

If you are in California you can buy, own, transport, and carry any knife you want as long as it is not a forbidden knife. You can also collect Balisongs without worry.

Note that this is not legal advice and there is no client-attorney relationship.  You should talk to a California lawyer if you want a real legal opinion. If you have a question, leave it in the comment below. Some cities and municipals might have their own knife laws so check with your city. We are also looking for an attorney to do a quick interview about California knife laws.


  1. I would like to know if I can carry a 7 inch T-bar marine knife carrying on on my side when I’m riding my motorcycle is that legally in California -city of inland empire and if it is with cities in the surrounding areas have a problem with it and can I get a permit to carry it

  2. I have a 3 inch non-auto or assisted knife. Can I carry it around town in my pocket?

  3. I want to buy a. Balisong knife (Butterfly knife) and its the blade is 5 inches. Im not planing on carrying around with me but i want to make sure its legal to have one.

  4. I have a balisong butterfly knife it’s more than 2 inches long and I live in ca. Can I sell it out of state shipping via ups/FedEx

  5. I own a folding, single edged, 6 inch blade Cold Steel Ti-Lite. The blade is long and thin like a stiletto, but as it’s single edged and folding, is it still legally a prohibited weapon to carry concealed/at all? under state law? Thank you…

  6. So this site says you can have a fixed blade out in the open of any size no restrictions but you can only have a switch blade no longer than 2 inches??

  7. FYI: per 626.10 CA Penal Code, regarding school grounds (kindergarten through 12th grade): any lock blades are illegal; and the same for any non locking folder (ie slip joint) with a blade longer than 2 1/2″.

    Exceptions are staff & emergency personnel in course of duty.

    This is either a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the individual circumstances of each case.

  8. For those of you wondering about open carrying your fixed blade knife. I live in Riverside county (one of the stricter counties) and for my EDC i go out with no less than my SOG SEAL Pup, my SOG Trident, a small 2 inch Winchester pocket knife, and a SOG Snarl. I carry the SEAL Pup on my belt out in the open and the rest of the knives I carry concealed about my person. Been stopped many times (for the Pup) and been asked to remove all of my weapons. Not one of those knives is illegal to carry in CA and i am always let go once the officer makes sure all of the blades are legal. When you open carry a fixed blade remember these 3 things:

    1. It has to be recognizable as a knife (cant be disguised)

    2. It must be in a sheath of some sort

    3. The full length of the knife must be visible (your shirt cant be pulled down over the handle i tuck my shirt in behind it)

    Also to save yourself some trouble print up a copy of the laws that apply to your carry and keep it on your person. That way if the officer in question is “confused” about your legal right to carry a knife, you can provide proof to set him straight.

    1. This is some good info. Does anyone know a website that has the laws pertaining to knives available to print?

    2. Again, what about LA County, or all of the other cities?

    3. Pretty sure it’s just the city of L.A. When I go down to SoCal, I use a rule of thumb to not carry something that will instantly scare liberals. Living in Sacramento County, I can go around with a neck knife around my neck, but I wouldn’t dare try that when I go to L.A. Hope this helps.

    4. You carry tpnmany knifes with you thats why they stop you

  9. I have a Swiss Army knife which I carry in my purse for self protection. I would carry it, folded, in my hand in places where I might perceive possible danger. I live in CA. Legal? I would have no hesitation in stabbing someone who attacked me.

    1. If you want self protection a Swiss Army knife isn’t the way to go

    2. But what if she suddenly is approached by a masked stranger that says he’ll kill her if she doesn’t remove the cork from his bottle of wine? A lock blade isn’t going to save her then!

    3. 1. does the blade lock? swiss blades usually don’t but yours may
      2. how long is the blade? Knife laws are dependent on blade length

    4. I dont recommend using a knife for defense in cali.

  10. I have a credit card sized multi tool knife. Is it legal to carry it in my pocket? The blade sheaths in the tool discretely, but it has other tools on it. (compass, bottle opener, tweezers, etc.)

  11. I am interested in shipping letter openers that are concealed in a pen to California. (It’s a usable pen and you can also remove an end to reveal the letter opener). Would this fall under the hidden weapon category? Thank you!

  12. who wrote this? WHO’S is misused; should be whose. What’s a Swithblade? Pen knives are so super important they’re named twice.

    1. A switchblade is any mind of knife woth a switch on the blade itself so.when younpush it down the blade comes out

  13. could i carry a balisong knife in public with me if it is in a backpack?

    1. This depends on where you are, generally NO
      You can if you are going directly to yours or a friend’s motor vehicle or privately owned boat, at which point it is ‘ok.’
      I’d avoid it though if you can.

  14. So I recently bought a fixed blade thats 5.05 inches can i carry it openly?

    1. Yes. No restriction on size. It says in the beginning paragraph of the article.

  15. If i have a bottle opener that looks like a balisong
    knife when its closed can i carry it on my belt in a holster in california?

    1. It doesn’t have a blade, so long as you do your part in letting Law Enforcement Officers know this in any situation involving them, you should be fine. Just don’t try to threaten people with it and you’ll be OK.

    2. conceal it, it isnt a knife. its as good as a toy or regular bottle opener

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