North Carolina Knife Laws

ncNorth Carolina knife laws are wordy and may be difficult for anyone without legal training to follow. This article describes both the statutes and Court decisions, or case law, concerning the ownership and carrying of knives in North Carolina, and puts it all in a language and order that makes it easy to read and follow.

What is Legal to Own

  • It is legal to own bowie knife
  • It is legal to own a dirk, dagger, or other stabbing knife
  • It is legal to own a switchblade
  • It is legal to own a gravity knife
  • It is legal to own a disguised knife, such as in a pen or lipstick

What is Illegal to Own

  • It is illegal to own any spring-loaded projectile knife
  • It is illegal to own a ballistic knife
  • It is illegal to own any weapon of similar character to a projectile or ballistic knife

What the Law States

§ 14-269. Carrying concealed weapons

(a) It shall be unlawful for any person willfully and intentionally to carry concealed about his person any bowie knife, dirk, dagger, slung shot, loaded cane, metallic knuckles, razor, shurikin, stun gun, or other deadly weapon of like kind, except when the person is on the person’s own premises….

Restrictions on Carry

  • It is illegal to conceal carry a bowie knife
  • It is illegal to conceal carry a dirk
  • It is illegal to conceal carry a dagger
  • It is illegal to conceal carry a butcher knife
  • It is legal to conceal carry a pocketknife
  • It is legal to open carry any legal knife
  • It is illegal to open or conceal carry any knife on a school campus, state property, or into a Courthouse
  • It is illegal to open or conceal carry any dangerous weapon at a parade, funeral procession, picket line, or demonstration upon any private health care facility

Definitions of Various Types of Knives

North Carolina statute defines a pocket knife as a small knife, made to carry in a pocket or purse, which has its cutting edge and point entirely enclosed by the handle, and that may not be opened by a throwing, explosive, or spring action.

A switchblade is defined by statute as a knife containing a blade that opens automatically by the release of a spring or a similar device.

Neither the statues of North Carolina, nor the case law, define any other type of knife.

Definition of a Dangerous Weapon

A dangerous weapon includes bowie knives, dirks, daggers, or any weapon of like kind, a switchblade, or any object capable of causing serious injury or death if used as a weapon.

Definition of Concealed

In order to be convicted of carrying a concealed weapon, one must have the intent to conceal it. In 1882, in State v. C. F. Gilbert, the Supreme Court of North Carolina found that Mr. Gilbert had not meant to conceal the weapon he was carrying in his front pocket, but was merely transporting it from one place of business to another, and was therefore not guilty of carrying a concealed weapon. In State v. Dixon, in 1894, the Court found that it did not matter what a persons’ intention in carrying a concealed weapon was, the only intention that mattered was whether the carrier intended to conceal the weapon. It then upheld Mr. Dixon’s conviction for carrying a concealed weapon, even though he carried it only for the lawful purpose of selling it. In this decision, the Court overruled prior case law, specifically State v. Harrison, where in 1885, it had found that Mr. Harrison could not be convicted of the concealed carry of a weapon that he carried only for the lawful purpose of trading it.

According to State v. McManus, a concealed weapon may either be concealed on the carriers’ person, or “about his person”, meaning that a weapon concealed within the reach and control of a defendant, is a concealed person for the purpose of North Carolina’s concealed carry statute. In State v. Gainey, the Court found that this means that a weapon hidden inside a vehicle may be a concealed weapon for the purpose of the conceal carry law. However, in the case of State v. Soles, the Court found that a gun concealed inside a backpack in Mr. Soles’ van, was not a concealed weapon under the statute, because the backpack was located in such as place as it could not be said that Mr. Soles had easy access to the gun.

Defenses to Conceal Carry Law

N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-269 provides a defense to the conceal carry law for weapons that are not a firearm; that you were engaged in, or on your way to or from an activity, in which the weapon is legitimately used, you used the weapon for that purpose, and you did not attempt to use the weapon for any illegal purpose. The statue does not describe any specific activities that a person must be engaged in when carrying a concealed weapon and the case law is silent on the issue. Commonly recognized activities where one would carry a knife, however, include hunting, fishing, trapping, and farming.

When the Open Carry of a Knife May Be Illegal

In 1843, in the case of State v. Huntley, the Supreme Court of North Carolina found that while a person may open carry any weapon, which is not illegal to own, for any lawful purpose, he or she may not do so in order to terrify or alarm the public. The Court held that though there is no statute prohibiting such carrying; it was a common law offense for which a person could be indicted.

Conclusion on North Carolina Knife Law

It is illegal to own a spring-loaded projectile knife, ballistic knife, or any similar weapon in North Carolina. However, “spring-loaded projectile knife” and “ballistic knife” are not defined by either statute or case law.

North Carolina allows for the open carry of any legal weapon, so long as you are not carrying it in order to terrify or alarm the public. It does not allow for the concealed carry of bowie knives, dirks, daggers, or butcher’s knives.


  • N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-269 (2013)
  • N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-269.6 (2013)
  • N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-277.2 (2013)
  • State v. C. F. Gilbert, 87 N.C. 527 (1882)
  • State v. McManus, 89 N.C. 555 (1883)
  • State v. Erwin, 91 N.C. 545 (1884)
  • State v. Gainey, 160 S.E.2d 685 (1968)
  • State v. Huntley, 3 Ired. Law 418 (1843)
  • State v. Dixon, 19 S.E. 364
  • State v. Soles, 662 S.E.2d 564 (2008 N.C. App.)
  • State v. Harrision, 93 N.C. 605 (1885)
  • Karl

    Pocket Knife 4.5 inches total length when folded

    North Carolina Case Law:
    – “Carrying concealed weapons in reasonable apprehension of
    deadly assaults is not justification of a violation of the
    statutory offense, but in aggravation thereof, and may be
    considered by the trial judge in imposing the sentence…”
    – “A person acting in ignorance of the law in good faith and
    upon advice of the clerk of the court or of an attorney,
    but in violation of this section, is not excused.” (1907)
    – “Knife about 4-1/2 inches in overall length which, when
    folded, was clearly designed for carrying in a pocket or
    purse, was an ‘ordinary pocketknife’ as defined by this
    section.” (1989)

    • Robin Carle

      I have a question as to the laws pertaining to the open-carry guidelines. Does this mean that a knife of less than 4.5 inches may be in a vehicle, or closed and carried in plain sight, in order to possibly cut steak or a food when cutlery is not provided for the purpose? The knife in question has a handle made for ease of grip by someone with disabilities, instead of trying to hold an all-purpose knife and suffering hand cramps. Such utensils are used extensively in eating meals with the most ease.

  • Skip Fanning

    “It is illegal to open or conceal carry any knife on a school campus, STATE PROPERTY, or into A COURTHOUSE,
    It is illegal to open or conceal carry any dangerous weapon at a PARADE, FUNERAL PROCESSION, picket line, or demonstration upon any private health care facility” ……….?
    So every time a pipe band, reenactor, historical actor, or properly outfitted Scot shows up with a sword, dirk, knife, Sgian-dubh, and/or a pointy fork, they are in violation of the law? OUCH!

    • Arley Brooks

      Yes it is illegal to carry the stabbies or the shooty weapons on campus or in a court house it is also illegal to have it at a parade funeral (Unless your one of the guys who fire rifles into the air) But if you are there for a demonstration and this has been approved your good to go. :)

  • Noah Vaile

    Is there a specified limit to length of blade for folding knives?

    Does a pocket or belt clip cover for open carry?

    My reading of the law indicated that push-button knives are illegal for civilian carry. Did I read wrong, misinterpret or has the law been changed to cover push button/switchblades?

    How is “opens by spring action” different from “open by release of a spring” and how can one tell?

  • Michael Tyhanic

    All I’d like to know is:
    1. What is the maximum length for a blade in a folding pocket knife?
    2. What restrictions are we under when carrying a 6″ blade that is a folding knife?
    3. Can a person carry a switchblade (out-the-front)?
    4. Do I need any special ‘permit’ for any knife mentioned?
    Thank you for your time.

    • Myron Rayvis

      What is the maximum blade length of a switch blade and can you carry it in your pocket in north Carolina?

  • Thorne

    What is the law about OTF automatic knives? Does that count as a “Spring loaded knife”? I have an automatic OTF I bought at my local mall. So I figured “If I can but it at the store, it must be okay otherwise they wouldnt sell it”

    • WBourgeois

      I don’t believe so… above it states that ANY kind of knife can be obtained/owned legally w/t the exception of any kind of ‘spring-loaded projectile’ knife, ballistic knife or any weapon resembling such. However, it appears that as a rule of thumb, no kind of knife can be carried concealed, w/t the exception of a standard pocket knife. OTF automatic knives fall under the category of a switchblade which are legal in NC. But I were you, don’t conceal it…

  • adam

    so what about carrying a switchblade concealed im still confused on that one?

    • Christopher Rhodes

      Switchblades are illegal to carry, basically. Even assisted opening blades can be problematic depending on the officer.

  • Arley Brooks

    Are wrist blades illegal? Also does a dagger count as concealed if I have it brandished and visible.

    • Christopher Rhodes

      In NC most police will cite “terror to the public” and make you put it in an inaccessible place. If you are brandishing it they will most likely arrest you.

  • Rhett Barlow

    What is your input on Balisongs/ Butterfly Knives, seeing as they were not mentioned at all?

    • Anthony Strausser (InvertedGho

      Last I checked, Balisongs/Butterfly Knives are classified as a type of “Gravity Knife”, as the force of gravity or some other kinetic force is required to open it. And since “Gravity Knives” are legal to carry, these should also be legal. You may still want to do a bit of research, as certain states don’t allow them, or have special rules pertaining to them specificaly if you go out of state with it.

    • byoungmoneyyo

      How do you even check those laws though? I was going to get a butterfly knife and I may carry it in my pocket if I go out late at night or something like that. I’m not looking to hurt anyone I’ve just always wanted a buttefly knife but would want to carry it on my person just in case. My city is pretty sketchy.

  • Arley Brooks

    Can you carry a knife or defensive weapon to school at all. Because I wear a Katana everywhere I go.

  • Arley Brooks

    Are butterfly knives legal? Also since when are switchblades legal???

  • Kris A.

    What about karambit knives? Legal to carry? Legal to own? Karambit knives are curved blade like a talon FYI.

    • Darren

      i used to carry mine but it wasnt fixed blade, its more like a pocket knife and i bought it here in a store in nc. since the law desnt say anything about it it should be techically “legal” to carry but i think that truthfully they dont want and fixed bladed knives, at least not greater than a ceartain length to be concealed.

  • Jon Hayes

    This is crazy. I walk with a limp and was thinking of getting one of those canes that concealed a sword. Guess I will just get a handgun instead.

    • chucky evans

      5th bullet point: It is legal to own a disguised knife, such as in a pen or lipstick. You’re good.

  • zach

    Ok so I am confused I just want to know if I could carry a “batman” knife (the ones that look like batarangs) because im a HUGE knife person and I got one and I wantes to carrt it I just wasnt sure

  • Eric Franklin Shook

    Simple question, can I carry a Mora 511?

  • Darren Kennedy

    Is it illegal to carry a Sgian Dubh (Scottish Knife) as part of wearing the national costume of Scotland and what other states use the same laws?