Legal Issues – Owning and Carrying a Combat Knife


If you have ever thought about buying a survival/combat knife, you may have wondered about the legalities of ownership. Questions that may come to mind may be. “What is the legal length I am allowed to carry?” This is only one question of many a prospective knife owner may ask.  Laws concerning the allowable knives allowed vary in the United States and across the globe.

Each State has its own specific knife laws and the infographic below provided courtesy of shows how the laws differ on the three most popular types of knifes. Keep in mind that you should still do your own research on your local state to ensure that you are compliant with your local laws. To see a more detailed description of the knife laws in your State, visit

As an example, For this article, let’s take a look at the laws put in place in the state of North Carolina.  The laws in this state may be similar to those in other states and it’s best to keep in mind there are federal laws which pertain to knives and legal ramifications.

In North Carolina there are some basic guidelines which pertain to knives which are allowed to be carried openly or concealed. To be begin, knives allowed to be carried in purses or pockets are your basic penknife.  What this means is a knife which is used primarily as a handy tool can be legally carried as long as the blade length falls within the legal limits..  These knives are not necessarily considered tools used for combat/survival. Here is a sample of an allowable knife. Penknife link.

While a penknife may be carried legally without legal ramifications, it’s important to know what knives are not allowed to be carried either openly or concealed. It’s also best to use basic common sense when looking at what knives you are allowed to carry. Obviously or not, knives like daggers, switchblades and Bowie knives are not allowed to be carried or concealed in public, however it is legal to own these. The law states you are only allowed to have them on your own private property or residence. Knives fall into the same category as guns when it comes to allowable concealment. Officers of the law and other person’s such as soldiers are allowed to conceal and carry knives and firearms, however must have the appropriate permits to own and carry.   These are not considered survival/combat tools but rather knives and firearms used in the line of duty. For these, permits must be filed with the appropriate clerks of the state government offices.

As far as knives designed for combat/survival which are commonly sheathed with a fixed blade, depending on the state it’s best to check the local laws. In some states it is legal to openly carry a fixed blade knife as long as it is NOT concealed.  This applies to not only the blade but the handle as well. It’s also important to take note of the legal blade lengths allowed. Most states do not allow knives longer than 3 ½ to 4 inches in length when it comes to pocket knives. Again, check with local laws if you are in doubt. If you are in question as to whether you are legally allowed to carry your knife it’s best to be safe and to ask then  just assume. Many people with good faith intentions have been found guilty of misdemeanors when unknowingly carrying illegal knives and firearms. It is equally important to note that selling any type of knives to minors (under the age of 18) is strictly prohibited.  This could get you into some serious hot water!

There is a lot of information out there that can help you understand the legalities of carrying knives.  Survival knives and combat knives are commonly used in the outdoors.  They can be used to hammer tent stakes in the ground, cut rope, fillet fish and a multitude of other uses.  In the outdoors on a hunting  or fishing trip the laws will apply to that particular area and may fall under the rules set forth by the fishing and gaming authorities.

Hopefully, this article can help you to begin to understand the legal ramifications involved when purchasing, carrying and owning survival/combat knives. Although this list of states within the United Stares is a bit dated, it can give you an idea of what is allowed when carrying certain knives. Take a look here for more information,  For more information on the legal aspects of knives, penalties and basic info check out this link.

To get information via online forums be sure to join the discussions here.

This blog focuses primarily on the laws set place in the United States,  for information on laws abroad in the United Kingdom consider checking this basic post on laws in this country.

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