Are Folding Pocket Knives Legal? Here’s What You Need to Know

Owning a folding knife or any other outdoor knife, for that matter, is more complicated than most people realize. Unlike kitchen knives that you can stroll into the nearest supermarket and pick as many as you want, folding knives require a little more than that.

One thing that new knife owners usually realize the first time they walk into a knife shop is that folding knives are classified as weapons, and this means there are certain rules and regulations that they have to adhere to in order to carry the knives around with them.

Depending on your location, you have to be aware of the rules and regulations that govern the use and carrying of folding knives. If you have been thinking of getting a folding knife for yourself anytime soon, then you are in the right place. Stick with me to the end to learn a thing or two about knife laws to stop yourself from ever getting into trouble.

What Makes a Folding Knife Illegal?

Not all parts of a folding knife make it be considered a weapon; there are certain parts that include the blade, mostly that have to be kept at certain dimensions before strict rules are imposed on it. This also extends to the design of the blade, the handle, and the opening mechanism. The following are some of the parts that qualify a folding knife as an illegal weapon.

Opening Mechanism

It is assumed by all law enforcement that any folding knife that can be opened too fast is considered a weapon, and that gets classified as illegal. There are about three main types of opening mechanisms for folding knives: It can either be manual, assisted, or automatic.

A manual folding knife requires some effort from the user, and most times, you may need to use both hands for pivoting. They come with a thumb stud to provide some points for the thumb to get hold of. This means it will take you some extra seconds to open this type of knife, and that reduces the risk of the owner jumping into action with it, so the rules that regulate manual folding knives are less stringent.

Assisted opening folding knives are a breed between manual and automatic. You have to start opening the blade manually halfway through before the automatic function kicks in and fully extends the blade to its maximum length. It is faster compared to a manual folding knife, and this makes it more dangerous and illegal.

Automatic folding knives are equipped with a button that kicks the blade open in the blink of an eye. They are classed as dangerous weapons as they can be used to ambush people in attacks, and for this reason, they are illegal in almost every single country on the planet. The only people who are allowed to wield these types of knives are military personnel and law enforcement, but that is also limited to duty hours.

Blade Length

The length of the blade you are using determines how the folding knife is classified. It goes without saying that longer blades pose a bigger threat than smaller ones as they can do more damage if they are used in an attack. Traditionally, folding knives never have huge blades; they come with short blades that can comfortably fit into the handle when not in use.

However, not all knives are made the same. You will come across some folding knives that are slightly bigger, and when you consider how easy it is to conceal them, then you have in your hands a dangerous weapon that can be well hidden and carried anywhere without being detected.

The general consensus on the length of blades is that they should not be anything bigger than 12-inches. Anything longer than that is a deadly weapon, and law enforcement has every right to confiscate that type of folding knife if you happen to have it with you.

Blade Design

Another great concern for law enforcement as far as folding knives are concerned is the nature of the blade. Is it serrated, or is it plain? Knives with serrations are sturdier and more dangerous when used for self-defense as they are sharper and they are able to maintain their edge for much longer. They also inflict more damage as they are able to rip through tendons and other tough materials.

Therefore, you are most likely to run into trouble with the law if you carry around a serrated blade more than you would if you were caught with a folding knife that has a regular blade. The blade point on serrated blades is also extremely sharp and ideal for stabbing movements, another reason why it is classified as a weapon.

The Purpose

Your intent as the knife owner will also play a role in determining whether the knife you are carrying is dangerous or not. For instance, carrying a folding knife when going camping or hunting can be an excuse since you will be spending more time in the wild, where the chance of running into other people may be hard.

However, carrying a folding knife to a demonstration full of people where the chances of things turning violent are high, then the intent of carrying that knife changes based on that context. It will be assumed that you have premeditated intentions of harming people. This is the reason why knives are never allowed into most cities. You have to provide a valid reason for carrying one if you don’t want to run into problems with the law.

Therefore, always be clear on your intention every time you walk into a new town while carrying any type of folding knife. Ensure you register it with the relevant authority well in advance and get a temporary permit, for instance, that will allow you to keep your knife with you without causing problems for yourself. Always check with the laws of the country you are traveling to know whether you can carry the knife or not.

How Do the Laws of Different Countries Regulate the Legality of Folding Knives?

You have booked a camping trip to another country, and you have packed all your best knives to see you through the trip. However, the moment you land, you are immediately summoned by law enforcement for questioning in regards to your cargo.

The unfortunate thing about the law is that ignorance is never a defense. You have to be fully aware of all the laws regarding knives before planning any trip. Some notable countries with some strictly folding knife laws include the following.

United Kingdom

It is illegal to carry any folding knife with an automatic opening mechanism. This law extends beyond carrying the knife to encompass even the knife manufacturer. Any knife blade that can open quickly by the use of a button or spring mechanism will land you in serious trouble if caught carrying it around your person in public in the whole of the United Kingdom. The law also extends to shops and any wholesale knife distributor who is caught selling or supplying the knife to any person below the age of 18. There are steep penalties attached to these offenses, and you should be careful when walking around with any type of folding knife.


Folding knives and other tactical outdoor knives are usually referred to as Armas Blancas, and there are strict laws that govern how these knives are used in public. The law in Spain prohibits the manufacture, sale, distribution, and ownership of any type of folding knife that has already been classified as a weapon.

However, you are free to own these knives if you plan to have them in your collection for display purposes in well-protected areas of your house. You can also buy other kinds of doling knives as long as they are not part of the prohibited list. It is also illegal to distribute and sell folding knives to minors. It is also prohibited to carry or display any type of knife in public, especially in recreational spaces like restaurants, buses, and schools.


The laws on folding knives are a little loose in Russia as most knives are classified as tools rather than weapons. It only takes huge blades that are designed for tactical purposes to be regarded as weapons, and that will require a permit for you to carry them in public. Most of these tactical folding knives are usually carried by military personnel and certain police officers, and any civilian found in possession of them will have a case to answer in the long run.

What you need to know about knife laws in Russia is that the interpretation of whether the knife is illegal or not lies solely with the opinion of a certified expert who may be dealing with your case at that given moment. Breaking any law will attract a fine of between 500 – 2000 rubles, which is about $7 – $30.


Japan is home to some of the best-known knives, like the Tanto knife, which has a very unique design. Japan is also home to the samurai, and most of the blades in circulation today borrow heavily from Japanese culture. The laws that regulate blades in Japan are very strict, and no one is allowed to carry any concealed knife that is bigger than 5.9 inches long. You require express permission from the relevant authorities to pull this off. However, breaking these laws is considered a petty crime, and rarely will the offender serve any jail term. Instead, you may be hit with monetary fines that may reach up to 300,000 yen.

What Kind of Knives Are Illegal?

As we mentioned earlier, not all knives are made equal, and each place on earth has different laws that govern how people use their knives. So, what type of folding knives are banned in most places around the world. They include the following.

  • Switchblades: Switchblades are without doubt one of the most dangerous folding knives around due to their design. They have an automatic opening mechanism, and this means opening them is pretty fast, which makes them an ideal weapon for ambushing someone. The blades are also pretty long and can inflict severe damage when used in any kind of attack.
  • Daggers: Double-edged daggers are another set of knives that are classified as illegal in almost every part of the world. They are mostly used by criminals to attack people, and a lot of harm has been caused in their name. When shopping for a knife, try as much as you can to avoid double-edged daggers as that will cause you problems every time you try to use them in public.
  • Pen Knives: Pen knives are a little different from daggers and switchblades as they are smaller and are used for smaller tasks around the house. However, what makes them dangerous is their size. They are small enough to be concealed in any part of the body, and this makes detection hard. In the wrong hands, pens and knives can cause a lot of harm to the victims involved.
  • Ballistic Knives: These are the most bizarre knives around as they have blades that can be ejected to a distance of several meters. They have a trigger which, when pressed, forces the blade to shoot forwards, making it a very dangerous weapon to have around other people.


Knowing the laws that govern knives will save you a lot of pain anytime you go outdoors with them. Make it a habit to familiarise yourself with as many laws as you can even before purchasing any type of knife.

Shieldon Knife is a professional custom pocket knife manufacturer that owns a factory and designers. Check out our blogs for tips and tricks around outdoor knives and multi-tools! Or contact us if you need help with sourcing hinges.

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