State Knife Carry Laws: Know Your Rights

The US is based upon federalism and, for that reason, laws are created at the federal, state, and municipal level. With regards to knife law, this makes things particularly tricky since a certain knife can be legal in one state and illegal in the next as well as legal in one county and illegal in the neighboring county. The infographic below highlights where certain knives are legal and illegal at the state level. This article goes on to explain some common misperceptions about knife law in the US.

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Did you know that ballistic knives are illegal in California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Washington? Ballistic knives are illegal on the federal level thanks to 15 USC § 1245 but federal law only applies when you are traveling between states, are on federal land (such as a federal park or in Washington D.C. or a DOD military base), or moving between countries.

These aren’t the only states buckling down on knife laws. Switchblades are also illegal in the following states: Alaska; Colorado; Delaware; Hawaii; Idaho; Illinois; Kansas; Louisiana; Maine; Michigan; Minnesota; Missouri; Montana; Nevada; New Jersey; New Mexico; New York; Pennsylvania; Tennessee, and Washington. On the federal level 15 USC § 1241-1244 makes switchblades illegal as well.

Almost all states allow knives to be openly carried and it is only Georgia who limits the open carry of pocket knives to 5 inches. Note that, besides this limitation, Georgia has really nice knife laws.

Furthermore, it is also illegal to carry concealed knives that are three inches or more in Colorado, Delaware, Florida and Rhode Island. In Kansas, Montana, Missouri and Tennessee, it is illegal to carry concealed knives that are four inches and above. Idaho, Kentucky and West Virginia are three states that requires licenses to carry knives that are three inches and above.

For more details on your state’s knife laws, check out KnifeUp’s knife law guide for all 50 states. KnifeUp also has great review articles on such things as the best survival knives, best pocket knives, and best machete.


  1. Anthony Amity

    Nothing in the Nevada revised Statutes says anything about blade length. It does however specifically prohibit the public carry of machetes.

  2. James Walker

    It’s legal to carry switch blades in WV? Does that include so called “automatic knives”? You can’t buy one unless you’re L.E. or military

    1. phil

      An automatic knife is the new fangeled term for a switchblade but the idea of switchblades is usually a stiletto and automatic being more tactical but they open and operate the same and share the same legal status

  3. JP

    The title should read “State Knife Carry Laws: Know Which of Your Rights Will Be Violated”.

  4. TheGriz

    What is considered a Ballistic Knife ? Be nice..Remember, there is no such thing as a stupid question…lol

    1. Vaughn Griffin

      A ballistic knife has a detachable blade that can be ejected from the handle like a projectile.

  5. Bob

    great maps but the little red blood splash at the bottom left takes away from its professional courtesy.

  6. StalkingZombies

    Thanks for the awesome graphic! I just have one small bone to pick. All types of automatic knives over 2 inches are illegal to sell or carry in California. This includes switchblades which can technically be possessed but not carried (I’m not lawyer. NOT legal advice.) I would suggest that if some of the maps pertain to carry and others to possession you should specifically state it on the map so the casual observer doesn’t get confused.

  7. Doug

    In Florida, if you have a CWP (Concealed Weapons Permit), you can carry anything-any weapon you can think of, is legal to carry concealed (except for fully automatic weapons). Even automatic knives.

  8. Devin Bebee

    Since early 2014 the state of Tennessee passed a law that allows you to carry any kind of blade no matter the type or length it literally states in the bill that you can carry a katana if you want. We are now allowed to carry balisong, butterfly, and switch blades and length doesn’t mattet anymore

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