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Knife Law: Are Switchblades Illegal?

Experts project that the global knife market will reach a value of almost $3,000 million by 2027. Knives are growing in popularity, becoming more commonplace as tools, weapons for self-defense, and even collector’s curios. Some of the most intricately designed knives are switchblades and automatic blades. These knives have applications for collectors, hobbyists, sports enthusiasts, and anyone looking for a tool for self-defense. If you’re a knife lover, and you want to invest in a well-crafted automatic knife, you’re probably wondering, “Are switchblades illegal?”

These knives are some of the more controversial blades available, with varying levels of legality across the United States. If you’re confused by your state’s knife laws, you’re not alone! Knife legislature is both confusing and ever-changing. In this article we’ll discuss the legality of different kinds of knives across the United States, so read on to learn more!

The Different Kinds of Knives

Knife enthusiasts will already be familiar with many different kinds of knives. However, it’s important to recognize the specific distinctions between fixed, folding, and switchblade knives because carry and conceal laws vary based on these three types. 

Fixed Blade

A fixed blade knife is a knife that has no moving parts. The blade does not fold or slide. You can cover the blade by placing it in a sheath.

Fixed blades are often very strong because the metal of the blade runs down the length of the handle and creates a spine of stability through the knife. 

Bowie knives and daggers are considered fixed blades, as all these knives are entirely immobile. However, due to their nature as weapons, these blades will sometimes have different carry restrictions. 

Folding Blade

Folding blades are so named because the blade folds into the handle for storage. A great example is a simple pocket knife.

To open a pocket knife, you must manually pull the blade out, and push it back inside to close it. The blade is mobile, but not automatic. 

Switchblade

The Federal Switchblade Act of 1958 defined switchblades as any knife that has a blade that opens automatically. The act prohibits the importation and interstate commerce of all types of switchblades. 

However, the Federal Switchblade Act has no restriction on purchasing or carrying switchblade knives. These regulations vary state by state or even county by county. 

Gravity blades have a button or trigger that unlocks the blade so gravity can pull the blade from the handle. Other switchblades have a trigger or button in the handle that springs the blade out. These are known as OTF knives, where the blade is sprung “out the front.” 

Knife enthusiasts use them either in trade work or carry them as tools for self-defense. Knife collectors also keep them as curios, because many switchblades feature beautiful craftsmanship and ingenuity. 

You can read more about different styles of OTF knives in this article

Knife Laws

Knife laws have three different categories: ownership law, carry law, and conceal law. Each of these laws varies depending on the state and the type of knife. 

  • Ownership law is the basic regulation of whether or not it’s legal to own a type of knife
  • Carry law is the regulation of whether or not it’s legal to carry a knife on your person outside of the house 
  • Conceal law is the regulation of whether or not you can conceal a knife on your person outside of the house

Where Are Switchblades Illegal? 

Regardless of the state, all knives are prohibited in schools, courts, federal buildings, and other state and local government buildings. Also, it is illegal to carry knives at airports and on planes.

The remaining restrictions vary state by state. Some states still define knives as a deadly weapon, and generally, these states have stricter regulations. Other states made explicit commitments to defending the right to bear arms and allow you to carry and conceal more types of knives.

Let’s get into the nitty-gritty.

Full Legality

The following states allow ownership, carry, and concealment of all knives including switchblades. 

It’s important to note that these states still prohibit possession with intent to injure. This means that you can only possess a knife or switchblade to use it as a tool or for self-defense. Possession of a knife with intent to injure another person or to commit a crime is always illegal. 

  • Alabama
  • Arizona (ages 21+ only)
  • Arkansas 
  • Florida 
  • Idaho (ages 18+ only)
  • Illinois
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky 
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Michigan
  • Missouri 
  • Montana 
  • New Hampshire
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota 
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah 
  • Vermont
  • West Virginia (ages 21+ only)
  • Wisconson
  • Wyoming (ages 21+ only)

Some of the other states have more complicated carry laws dependent on the kind of knife as well as its size. 

Alaska

In Alaska, anyone over 21 can carry and conceal common types of knives like pocket knives and utility knives. While it is legal to own and carry a switchblade, it is illegal to conceal one.  

California 

California allows you to carry folding knives and fixed blades. However, covering a weapon is illegal. You can own a switchblade of any length, but it is illegal to carry one with a blade over 2 inches.  

Colorado 

Colorado permits possessing, carrying, and concealing knives of any type except for ballistic knives. However, the knives must be shorter than 3.5 inches.   

Connecticut 

Connecticut allows ownership of switchblades and other knives. However, it is unlawful to carry an automatic or switchblade knife longer than 1.5 inches, or any other knife with a blade over 4 inches. 

Delaware

Delaware considers all knives except pocket knives deadly weapons. Folding knives with blades shorter than 3 inches are legal to carry, but switchblades are illegal unless you have an explicit license to carry them. 

Georgia 

In Georgia, you’re permitted to own any knife shorter than 12 inches. You’ll need a valid license to carry or conceal a knife, however.  

Hawaii 

Hawaii allows for open carry of most knives except switchblades. Dirks, metal knuckles, and daggers are also illegal. 

Indiana 

Indiana allows ownership, carry, and concealment of all knives. The few exceptions are throwing stars and ballistic knives, which are illegal. 

Iowa

Iowa allows ownership and carry of most knives, but restricts concealment. It is illegal to conceal daggers, stilettos, switchblades, and knives over 5 inches. 

Louisianna

Louisiana allows ownership, carry, and concealment of all knives except automatic and switchblades. It is legal to own and carry a switchblade or other automatic knife, as long as you don’t conceal it. 

Massachusetts

Massachusetts prohibits carry and concealment of any automatic switchblade. Fixed blades cannot be carried or concealed if they’re longer than 1.5 inches. 

Minnesota

Minnesota prohibits ownership of any switchblade or automatic knife. You can own folding or fixed blades but it is illegal to carry or conceal them.

Mississippi 

Mississippi allows ownership, carry, and concealment of all knives including switchblades. However, it is illegal to carry or conceal knives with blades longer than 4 inches. 

Nebraska 

Nebraska allows you to own and carry any type of knife including a switchblade. Blades longer than 3.5 inches cannot be concealed, and convicted felons cannot possess knives. 

Nevada

Nevada allows anyone to own and carry knives in public. A permit is required to conceal blades longer than 3 inches.

New Jersey

New Jersey prohibits ownership and carrying of all gravity knives and switchblades. It is legal to have a knife in your home, but carrying a knife or using it for self-defense outside the home is illegal. 

New Mexico

In New Mexico, it is legal to own, carry, and conceal fixed and folding knives. However, concealed carry of butcher, dirk, bowie, and switchblades is illegal.

New York

New York outlaws the possession of blades that are designed to be used as weapons. It’s legal to own a dagger, hunting knife, dirk, or stiletto. However, ballistic knives, throwing stars, cane swords, and switchblades are illegal.

North Carolina

It’s illegal to conceal knives outside the home except for pocket knives. Possession of all other types of knives is illegal. 

North Dakota 

North Dakota classifies all knives as dangerous weapons. Possession of a knife is illegal without a weapons license. 

Pennsylvania 

Pennsylvania may not own or carry automatic blades. There is one exception, where automatic blades may be kept by collectors as curios. 

Rhode Island

It is legal to open carry any type of knife. However, you cannot conceal a knife with a blade longer than 3 inches. 

Virginia  

Virginia allows open carry and concealing of most knives. It is still illegal to conceal dirks, ballistic knives, switchblades, throwing stars, or similar weapons. 

Washington

Washington prohibits ownership of all switchblades and automatic knives. The only exceptions are military and law enforcement personnel, and medical and fire departments. 

Find the Perfect Knife

Now you know the answer to the age-old question, “Are switchblades illegal in my state?” Most states allow you to own a knife, even if you can’t carry or conceal it. If you’re interested in trying one of these well-crafted pieces of human ingenuity, look no further than TacKnives.

TacKnives has all kinds and sizes of switchblades and automatic knives, so you’re almost guaranteed to find one that’s legal in your state. Browse our store to learn more about us and our dedication to the craft of knife making! 

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(8) Automatic Knife Laws & Assisted Knife Laws.

The Switchblade Act, (Pub.L. 85-623, 72 Stat. 562, enacted on August 12, 1958, and codified in 15 U.S.C. § 1241–1245), as may be amended, (the “Act”) prohibits shipment of automatic knives across state lines, with the following exceptions:

(a) to civilian or Armed Forces supply or procurement officers and employees of the Federal Government ordering, procuring, or purchasing such knives in connection with the activities of the Federal Government;

(b) to supply or procurement officers of the National Guard, the Air National Guard, or militia of a state, territory or the District of Columbia ordering, procuring, or purchasing such knives in the connection with the activities of such organization;

(c) to supply or procurement officers or employees of the municipal government of the District of Columbia or the government of any State or Territory, or any county, city or other political subdivision of a State or Territory;

(d) to manufacturers of such knives or bona fide dealers therein in connection with any shipment made pursuant of an order from any person designated in paragraphs (a), (b), and (c).

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Sections 1242 and 1243 of the Act shall not apply to:

(e) any common carrier or contract carrier, with respect to any switchblade knife shipped, transported, or delivered for shipment in interstate commerce in the ordinary course of business;

(f) the manufacture, sale, transportation, distribution, possession, or introduction into interstate commerce, of switchblade knives pursuant to contract with the Armed Forces.

(g) the Armed Forces or any member or employee thereof acting in the performance of his duty;

(h) the possession, and transportation upon his person, of any switchblade knife with a blade three inches or less in length by any individual who has only one arm; or

(i) a knife that contains a spring, detent, or other mechanism designed to create a bias toward closure of the blade and that requires exertion applied to the blade by hand wrist, or arm to overcome the bias toward closure to assist in opening the knife.

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