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. Would like to see a knife recommendation, direct and to the point, that is legal in all or most states when openly carried. – @19thWheel

  2. I love your site, and I love the idea of this graphic! But there seem to be a lot of errors 🙁

    Switchblades are illegal in Idaho? Not even your Idaho page claims that.

    And the 3″ concealed carry limit in Washington? Nope, not under state law (of course, I consider a “pocket knife” to be a folder…you may not. A small neck knife under your shirt might conceivably be considered a concealed “dirk” or “dagger” since neither of those terms are defined in the law.)

    A survey I did recently shows switchblades to be completely illegal in AK, CO, HI, IL, LA, ME, MI, MN, NJ, NM, NY, OK, PA, TN, VI, WA, WI.

    Still cleaning up the spreadsheet, but drop me an email and I’ll show you what I have.

  3. This post is a mess. Spot checking the infographic shows that it has some glaring errors (examples: there is no restriction on pocket knife size in Ky, much less a required license for over 3″, and it’s legal to carry a knife larger than 3″ in Mi as long as it’s not used in the commission of a crime), which can be fact checked by using the excellent reviews of state laws on your own site. On top of that, the post even contradicts the infographic claiming that it’s illegal to conceal carry a >3″ blade in TN! The infographic gets this one right by stating that the limit is 4″ (well, “with the intent to go armed,” but close enough).

    Your site usually has great, accurate information, but this one is just complete rubbish.

  4. Illinois law can be confusing; the short version is that switchblades and ballistic knives are indeed banned, but the carry of other knives is just about unregulated. The relevant statute is here:

    (720 ILCS 5/24-1) (from Ch. 38, par. 24-1)
    Sec. 24-1. Unlawful Use of Weapons.
    (a) A person commits the offense of unlawful use of weapons when he knowingly:
    (1) Sells, manufactures, purchases, possesses or

    carries any bludgeon, black-jack, slung-shot, sand-club, sand-bag, metal knuckles or other knuckle weapon regardless of its composition, throwing star, or any knife, commonly referred to as a switchblade knife, which has a blade that opens automatically by hand pressure applied to a button, spring or other device in the handle of the knife, or a ballistic knife, which is a device that propels a knifelike blade as a projectile by means of a coil spring, elastic material or compressed gas; or
    (2) Carries or possesses with intent to use the same unlawfully against another, a dagger, dirk, billy, dangerous knife, razor, stiletto, broken bottle or other piece of glass, stun gun or taser or any other dangerous or deadly weapon or instrument of like character; or . . . .

    Hope the bolding HTML worked . . . if it did, notice the bold sections. Yes, switchblades are prohibited, even possession. However, they are also clearly defined, and it’s worth noticing that the definition clearly excludes “assisted-opening” knives that use torsion bars or springs to assist with opening the knife when the user pushes a thumb stud,hole, disk, or “flipper” on the blade rather than the handle.

    The second part is a little bit murkier. There’s no 3″ limit anywhere in Illinois law; many police officers cite one when asked, but I’ve never met one who could remember the source. It seems to get passed down as lore. There *is* a prohibition on carry of any “dangerous knife,” but *only* “with intent unlawfully to harm another.” In practice, this is a tack-on charge that gets added to people who get caught actually doing or threatening harm to someone while carrying just about anything with a sharpish edge or a pointy end.
    That doesn’t mean that you couldn’t be questioned or arrested by a police officer simply for carrying your knife, but it’s nowhere in the law and you should be acquitted (but all standard disclaimers apply and I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice.)

    I currently carry an assisted-opening folder with about a four-inch blade. I have carried a Camillus CUDA Maxx with a 5.5-inch blade as well as various smaller sheath knives and neck knives. It’s probably best to keep privilege in mind, as I’m an obviously-adult, clean-cut white male in a rural and small-urban area. But the law is on your side if you’ve got a knife in your pocket in Illinois and you aren’t threatening or hurting anyone.

    Chicago has its own rules, of course, because Chicago. They have a prohibition on knives with blades over 2.5″ for carry (for adults–anyone under 19 is limited to 2″ because Chicago.)
    No person shall carry concealed on or about his person a pistol, revolver, derringer or other firearm or dagger, dirk, stiletto, bowie knife, commando knife, any blade of which is released by a spring mechanism, including knives known as “switch-blades” or any other type or kind of knife, any blade of which is more than two and one-half inches in length, ordinary razor or other dangerous weapon except that no person 18 years of age or under shall carry concealed on or about his person, any knife, the blade of which is two inches in length or longer.

    Municipal Code of the City of Chicago 8-24-020 Carrying dangerous weapons.

  5. Having ‘permit required’ for 3 and over for Kentucky is flatly wrong. There is zero legal consideration for length in the Kentucky statutes. Unless you know something I don’t… I’d prefer something concrete like that vs the exceedingly arbitrary and subjective ‘ordinary pocket or hunting knife’ BS that is currently on the books.

  6. FYI, automatic knives are “sorta” legal in NY state, so long as you have a valid hunting/fishing license.

  7. I would be very careful about publishing your infographic- In Massachusetts the laws wording is a bit vague- you either cannot have ballistic knives and switchblades over 1.5 inches or they are completely illegal depending on how you read it. In Boston and a bunch of other communities there is a 2.5 inch limit on all knives- including simple pocket knives. IANAL, so take everything I say with that in mind.

  8. Your information on Pennsylvania is wrong. The only restriction on knives, at a state level, is the prohibition of switchblades (18 Pa.C.S.A. § 908: Prohibited Offensive Weapons)

    “A person commits a misdemeanor of the first degree if, except as authorized by law, he makes repairs, sells, or otherwise deals in, uses, or possesses any offensive weapon. […] As used in this section, the following words and phrases shall have the meanings given to them in this subsection: […] “Offensive weapons.” Any […] dagger, knife, razor or cutting instrument, the blade of which is exposed in an automatic way by switch, push-button, spring mechanism, or otherwise”

  9. Concealed knives in Nebraska are limited to 3.5″. Unless you are involved in a crime, then there’s a State Supreme Court case which says any concealed knife of any length can be considered a concealed weapon.

    Your web site has it right, the chart has it wrong.

  10. There’s a heck of a lot of variation within states. Knife laws aren’t uniform and typically don’t have the state-level preemption issues associated with municipal gun control laws.

    One addendum to Chris’s comment – I can’t speak for other states, but I lived in MN. Switchblades aren’t COMPLETELY illegal. You can’t carry them, but you can collect them or keep them as “curios.”

  11. I see the map showing it Illegal to carry concealed pocket knives more than 3 inches in NV. I have reviewed the laws and comments on your Nevada page, and can’t find any reference to 3 inches anywhere. What am I missing?

  12. Your chart lists Michigan as one of the states where it is illegal to carry a pocket knife three inches or longer. The law clearly states the following:

    MCL 750.226: Michigan law specifies that a person, with intent to use the knife unlawfully against another, shall not go armed with a knife having a blade over 3 inches in length.

    So the law only bans them if you plan on using it unlawfully.

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