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Exploring and Clarifying UK Knife Law

Every single day we get questions about UK knife law. Why? Because it’s confusing. It’s not straight forward. But, it is the law and people want to make sure they comply with it, which is great.

From these questions we wanted to give you as much information as possible in the simplest format possible. All the information in this post is correct as of posting (September 2015), but laws can and do change so please see the UK Government website for full details (links at the end).

Is this knife legal?

This is the most common question we get asked. It is also the wrong question.

There are a number of banned knife types such as:

flick knives (also called ‘switchblades’ or ‘automatic knives’) – where the blade is hidden inside the handle and shoots out when a button is pressed

butterfly knives – where the blade is hidden inside a handle that splits in two around it, like wings; the handles swing around the blade to open or close it

disguised knives, eg where the blade is hidden inside a belt buckle or fake mobile phone

gravity knives

sword-sticks

samurai swords (with some exceptions, including antiques and swords made to traditional methods before 1954)

hand or foot-claws

push daggers

See link below for a more detailed list.

(https://www.gov.uk/buying-carrying-knives)

However, when people ask the question ‘is my knife legal?’ they are actually asking about knife carry law. This is a different question all together.

EDC knives

Can I carry this knife?

This is the right question for most people. Obviously though, if the knife is included in the above list, you shouldn’t even own it. But, some people seem to assume that owning a locking knife or fixed blade is illegal. This isn’t the case. With these knives it is illegal to carry in a public place without reason. Good reason is an interesting point, and this is something left to police officer’s discretion. However, the government website does give examples of good reasons for you carrying one of these knives:

taking knives you use at work to and from work

taking knives to a gallery or museum to be exhibited

the knife is going to be used for theatre, film, television, historical reenactment or religious purposes, eg the kirpan some Sikhs carry

This essentially means you can own a locking knife or fixed blade knife, and use it at home or in the countryside. Therefore, you should be able to use your fixed blade for camping with no issues at all. But, if you were to then use your knife in a threatening way, you are now breaking the law. You can summarise this by saying: With locking knives, do not carry them in public without a very good reason, and even if you have a very good reason using it in a particular way will result in you breaking the law.

UK Friendly Carry ‘Legal’ Knives

A UK Friendly knife must be a folding knife that is both non-locking and has a cutting edge of less the 7.62cm (3 inches). These are knives that you can carry around with you in a public place. This doesn’t mean everywhere, as certain places such as government buildings and airports etc will have separate rules/laws which forbid the carrying of a knife. So if you are carrying a knife, no matter the size or reason you should always check if the place you are going has separate rules on knife carrying. Bascially don’t go taking your knife into places that you wouldn’t like other people to have them i.e. sports stadiums or even the pub.

Are you sure this knife is UK Friendly ‘Legal’ Carry?

This is another common question we get asked. The answer is yes if it falls into the above description of a UK Friendly Carry Knife then yes. The confusion comes in the array of knives available. Take for example the Boker Plus Tech-Tool 1 and the Spyderco Bug.

Spyderco Bug Boker Plus Tech-Tool 1

Both are UK Friendly Carry, both are very differently designed and look completely different. But, both 100% fall into ‘legal’ framework. Now take a look at the two folding knives below the Boker Plus Keycom and the Kershaw Shuffle II Blackwash. Both of which are smaller than the Lansky Madrock, but neither are UK Friendly Carry because they are locking.

Boker Plus Keycom Kershaw Shuffle II Blackwash

This is where the confusion lies. On our website we mark every UK Friendly Knife we can, other websites do not. Make sure that if you do want a knife you can carry legally, you don’t just look at size, you also look at whether it locks or not.

In order to stay constantly compliant with the law here are a few useful links:

https://www.gov.uk/buying-carrying-knives

https://www.askthe.police.uk/content/Q337.htm

 

Comments

42 thoughts on “Exploring and Clarifying UK Knife Law

  1. jeffrey aegis - 5:43 am 10/09/15

    man you tell us “On our website we mark every UK Friendly Knife we can,” but you don’t send us the link. it took me a while of looking, but here it is

    http://www.heinnie.com/knives-and-tools/folding-blade-knives/f/uk_friendly_carry/yes

  2. Mark jones - 7:02 am 10/09/15

    Good explination.

    Most people’s confusion is due to sloppy uk customs.

    Imported knives are often confiscated by customs .

    They are normally classed as gravity knives or flick knives even though they are clearly not those type of knives.
    I have known many people lose knives to customs even though they fall into the 100% uk legal bracket , that is to say friction folders and slipjoint knives with blades under the 3″.

    The UK law even though fairly wide on its list of banned weapons is still a very grey area .

    Somthing as simple as well fitted pivot can end up having your knife confiscated as customs will flick the knife open after releasing the detent thus classing it as a “flick knife or gravity knife”.

    Once you have lost your knife you are given the opportunity to take it to court to reclaim your knife.
    Yep jokes on us again there as the costs to do so would be huge.

    Yes UK prices are higher by quite a bit and some models are not avalible over here but you don’t want to waste money stick to UK sales of knives.

  3. […] not UK legal to carry in public, we had to include this tool as it’s simply one of the best value for money multi-tools out […]

  4. […] also written a myth busting guide to UK Friendly Carry Knives […]

  5. Paul - 10:51 am 11/11/15

    Question
    What is the law on knives that are multi tools such as the Leatherman and Gruber. These I have noticed are carried by a lot of police officers , have blades over 3″ and they lock .

  6. Antony - 11:18 am 08/12/15

    PAUL – Leathermans with locking blades are not considered “pocket knives” as the blade is not readily foldable. Therefore, s139 of the Criminal Justice Act requires you to have “lawful authority” or a “reasonable excuse”. You need to have a good reason to have such a knife in a public place (your car is also a public place). Even a police officer might struggle to justify possessing a Leatherman but a carpet fitter or a park ranger may claim the need for a robust, safe, locking knife as their work requires them to cut/saw things… In reality, how often are you stopped & searched?!

  7. TCK - 12:32 pm 20/01/16

    Excellent information to be able to survive in an aggressive world gone completely mad!
    The difficulty is that good men and women are now suffering under quite extreme measures because of the evil perpetrated by a few evil people.
    Maybe the time has come to attempt to explain to the authorities that criminals or extremists do not buy their ******* from HH at prices associated with quality…they simply go to the kitchen utensils department at any department store.
    Thank you for this valuable information!

  8. James - 11:52 am 19/05/16

    Uk knife laws need redoing there are too many gray areas that lead to confusion

  9. Colin - 8:44 pm 21/08/16

    Comment hi I have just bought at lansky X9 knife will I have problems getting it into the UK colin

  10. Colin - 4:04 pm 23/08/16

    Hi I have just bought a lansky X9 knife I’ve never read the small print and it turns and tells me it has to come through customs I was a bit naive and not really thinking about it but can I get into trouble for this any information would be much appreciated thank you Colin.

  11. Heinnie Haynes Team - 11:17 am 25/08/16

    Hi Colin, that knife is legal to own. However customs are seizing flippers at the border, so there is a chance it may be seized. But you are perfectly entitled to own one of those.

  12. Brendan - 11:57 am 25/08/16

    What is your opinon please of the UK “zombie” knife ban?

  13. Heinnie Haynes Team - 4:29 pm 25/08/16

    Hi Brendan, we don’t really comment on new legislation. However, here is a link to the offical legislation – http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2016/803/pdfs/uksi_20160803_en.pdf it is essentially looking primarily at the wording and the incitment of violence. Hope that helps.

  14. Harry - 12:40 pm 05/09/16

    Am i within the law if i am carry my leagal carry knife but am under 18 and i am in a public place.

  15. Anthony - 2:20 pm 17/09/16

    Any idea why Gravity knives are banned? Looking at them on youtube and such they seem about the same as any other one handed opening lock knife, probably a weaker lock to thrusting if anything.
    If I knew someone who bought one before the ban and from what I can tell they’re legally grandfathered in, although cannot be sold or inherited/given,would it be legal to remove the blade and give just the shell/mechanism for the historic militaria value with no blade?
    From what I’m aware most ww2 and later german para models are designed to be opened up for cleaning/sharpening making the blade easy to remove.
    I’ve even heard of some people keeping the knife whole but removing the pin the lever pivots on to keep them in their collection disabled,is that the only way to be safe from the law?

  16. Ian - 8:10 am 10/12/16

    I am housebound and I live alone. I collect very large numbers of European swords, Japanese swords, combat knives and tactical / practical / survival machettes. They never leave my home, as you can imagine. I take it that I require no license for my collection, at any size? To the best of my knowledge, there is no such thing as requiring such a thing, but people I’ve spoken with, in the past, have all asked if I have a license…and, that doesn’t make a lot of sense. As far as I know, no such thing is needed. Can you help?

  17. Ian - 8:14 am 10/12/16

    I am housebound and I live alone. I collect very large numbers of European swords, Japanese swords, combat knives and tactical / practical / survival machettes. They never leave my home, as you can imagine. I take it that I require no license for my collection, at any size? To the best of my knowledge, there is no such thing as requiring such a thing, but people I’ve spoken with, in the past, have all asked if I have a license…and, that doesn’t make a lot of sense. As far as I know, no such thing is needed. Can you help? I don’t want to be on the wrong side of published law.

  18. Pat - 1:58 pm 23/12/16

    Are there any additional restrictions on under 18’s or under 16’s carrying ‘legal’ knives?

  19. Andy Parker - 12:32 am 11/02/17

    This is addressed to Ian..

    No, there is no license relating to the owning of knives, swords etc However, please see Heinnies earlier description of bladed items that are illegal to own regardless – such as certain sword types.

  20. Jonny M - 10:39 am 11/02/17

    Ian,
    Rest assured you do not need a licence for your collection, some people who do not understand our hobby think that we should have a licence, but I can categorically state we do not.

    Enjoy your hobby, and take the “pub expert” type of legal advice with a pinch of salt.

  21. Robert Carmack - 2:28 am 09/03/17

    Glad we don’t have such restrictive laws here in the US

  22. Stuart Williams - 8:20 am 13/03/17

    I’m about to move back to the UK from Australia can I bring my folding Knife collection In my baggage ( suit case ) or do I need to get some kind of permit. I am a English national

  23. Simon - 12:18 pm 21/03/17

    I’ve got used to using my surge at work.

    I’m in Scotland and live in the country and am looking for a good tool for EDC. With the knifeless rebar, wouldn’t the locking awl and saw blade be counted as locking blades?

  24. Bob - 2:09 am 28/03/17

    I see several places where they talk about a flipper knife or a flipper back knife… are these legal in the UK?

  25. Mark woolley - 11:10 am 16/06/17

    Are the victorinox huntsman knife legal carry?

  26. Heinnie Haynes Team - 10:14 am 20/07/17

    yes

  27. Theo Marsh - 12:09 pm 25/08/17

    how about a slip joint knife with multiple blades on one body ie a stockman style blade?

  28. David - 5:07 am 21/09/17

    UK knife law is a complete and utter joke however the main reason people get hung on lock knives is they give convoluted reasons for having them in their possession. “Protecting my fingers when I cut up my sandwiches” is often good enough, if they ask where the sandwiches are, politely but sarcastically offer to stick your fingers down your throat so they can see them. That or just have your friends know that if the police ever ask about a knife; it was on loan to them and you were transporting it home. The law is so stupid it only lands honest citizens in court. Take the knives off hooligans, they’ll use pens, take pens off them, they’ll use coins in their socks, take large amounts of change off them, they’ll make a newspaper into the lethal “Millwall brick”.

    Lock knives which ironically are much safer than the UK carry legal spring lock Swiss army type knives; which I learned at the age five when my first knife, bought for me by my father close to twenty years ago snapped shut on my index finger. Needless to say I still have the scar, running curved along the joint and down to the nail. I had been taught well in knife safety and it was a failing of the knife that causes the injury. My Dad got me a lock knife within a week.

    I’ve grown up around knives and always seen them as tools. Unlike a gun they have literally hundreds of uses. […] I carry a lock knife with me almost every time I leave the house, exceptions being on when I enter the city centre, or go out for the night. If I got in a attacked would I consider using it? Nope. Why? Firstly […] it’s designed as a tool. […] Comparing a tool knife and a [military-style] knife is like comparing a hatchet to a battleaxe, or a claw hammer to a war hammer. The police need appropriate education on the different types of knives and when to and when not to make an arrest based on the type of knife, rather than whether it can lock or not, I mean I can make a locking knife out of the legal ones and a bit of duct tape, but officers don’t know that; they’re told all lock knives are bad, just like the highly radical feminist view that all men, possessing a certain appendage are rapists by default. Not all lock knives are ‘more deadly’ by default and not all spring lock folders are necessarily safe, even if they meet legal requirement; throw in a hand guard, a strong spring and a very sharp point and you have an excellent “legal carry” [but visually unattractive] knife.

    Case in point I was told an Opinel I used in restaurants (very common, often expected in France; especially rural areas), which got me some very odd looks from patrons and staff alike when I took it out to eat since I couldn’t stand the grating ceramic crescendo that you get when trying to eat med rare steak with a blunt serrated knife was in fact illegal because it had a locking mechanism; that is to say you need two hands to get the blade out then you need to twist a piece of metal so you don’t get known as “stubby” or “four fingers”.

    The police used to protect citizens because a measure of common sense was once expected from them when laying down the law. Now they are told to enforce the law no matter what their common sense is telling them. If a knife looks like a tool and acts like a tool and the person carrying it is not suspected of any criminal or menacing behaviour then the knife is a tool, whether it locks or is fixed blade. If a knife looks like a weapon, is designed like a weapon and is being carried by someone with a history of violence, has been reported for violent or menacing behaviour or is simply carrying a knife such as one of the spring loaded fast open (UK legal) knives or a dagger with no good reason or explaination then hit them with the law.

    Since when did the police move from protecting us to herding us like cattle. I heard it said that living in the UK is like being a toddler in nursery school.

  29. David - 5:44 pm 21/03/18

    Does anyone know the legal view on saw blades that lock. I know some items, like the Gerber MP600 (which I own) and the Letherman Rebar EDC (I believe the rebar EDC also locks) don’t have straight knife blades, they do have saw blades that can lock .

    Are these exempt from the good reason clause because they are not knife like blades? Knowing our legal authorities, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they viewed them as locking blades.

    Without advising me to consult the local constabulary, does anyone have knowledge of this or instances where this has come under legal scrutiny?

    Thanks all.

    Dave

  30. Paul - 12:06 pm 24/06/18

    Hi i about 25 years ago had police take switchblades and blank firer from my home than after court case they were returned as the police took the weapons frm my home even the otf knife and stilleto.my understanding is even if u own gravity flick out the front knives in uk its not illegal in ur home however as soon as u leave the house with any of these items then it becomes illgal

  31. Jay - 12:00 pm 26/07/18

    Oh my god, I’m totally confused now. I came here to buy an opinel trekking knife for wild camping as it had been recommended…. but its got a lockable blade, so is having a lockable blade knife with a blade less than three inches legal or not legal if I’m carrying it for the purpose its intended (such as shaving wood for tinder)? I would appreciate some help before I make a purchase, as I’ve never been in trouble with the law, and I certainly don’t want to start now.

  32. Heinnie Haynes Team - 2:24 pm 07/08/18

    Hi @Jay – have another read through the blog :o)

  33. Ade Brooks - 1:11 pm 18/08/18

    I’ve been told you can carry a fixed blade knife eg a buck knife in the countryside ..
    Is this correct or as I assume a load of rubbish

  34. Newt182 - 4:57 pm 02/10/18

    Ade – you would need to have a good reason to carry a fixed blade in the countryside. For example, you might be using it to cut wood for a fire, or to gut fish to eat. The good reason is just common sense. Put yourself in the shoes of the police when they are making a risk assessment on whether they think you will be up to no good with the knife and if they would think a court might agree with them and they will get a successful prosecution. You need to be able to prove you expected you might encounter a situation where that knife is needed.

  35. Bob - 2:02 pm 07/10/18

    Ade,
    Let’s put it simply…
    Folding, non-locking knife, blade length under 3″: The onus is on the police to show that you have it for an unlawful purpose (the presumption being that you have it lawfully).
    Anything else: The onus is on you to show that you have it for a lawful purpose (the presumption being that you have it unlawfully).
    Therefore, carrying your buck-knife in the countryside won’t be a problem so long as you have a genuine and believable reason to do so.

  36. Adrian Cordrey - 7:20 pm 22/10/18

    Hi could you tell me the definition of a live blade please as an expert in these matters i would appreciate your stand on it

  37. carl cameron - 4:20 pm 08/11/18

    Cutting Edge or Blade length: My personalised Laguiole has a cutting edge 3 inches but the recasso takes the blade length over 3″ . it does not lock . the law states cutting edge but this is commonly mistaken for blade length

  38. Jon - 10:14 pm 14/12/18

    Just out of interest.
    Is a cut throat open razor legal carry on the uk.
    The blade is less than 3″ and it folds.

  39. Brian Stahl - 3:36 am 01/02/19

    I feel very badly for the honest law abiding citizens of the UK. Your government has gone down the perilous road currently followed by so many Western nations and, it seems to me, from this side of the Atlantic, it may have even surged to the front of the pack. It’s a road that extends beyond carry laws, but the futility and overarching scope of this particular law is a perfect reflection of the larger picture.

    As as been noted, the law makes no sense when it comes to a key componenet, the capacity to lock the blade. This is a safety feature, intended to protect the user, not an enhancement to make the knife more dangerous to others. If I was carrying a knife with malicious intent, the length of the blade might mitigate the amount of harm I could cause (of course in the hands of an even semi-skilled wielder a razor sharp 2.9 inch blade can be lethal – ask the tragic victims of box-cutter wielders on 9/11) However, the extent to which a locked blade is potentially more lethal than one that doesn’t lock is not worth measuring. The Lansky “UK Friendly” knife which I own and have carried with me in London doesn’t lock but for the purpose of keeping the user safe and enhancing lethality, it might as well. The Lansky blade is not going to rapidly snap shut on anyone’s fingers if misused. A law that relies so heavily on differences without distinction is a poor law and it’s no wonder there is confusion among knife owners.

    Typically laws of prohibition fall with greater weight on honest, law abiding citizens than on career or even novice criminals. Too many self-righteous, and ignorant public officials are pushing “solutions” that solve nothing, but allow them to a) Defer to emotion rather than facts and b) Avoid the much more difficult and politically thorny solutions that might actually work.

    It doesn’t appear that there is much chance for reform of this foolish law as the government seems to be toughening restrictions, not contemplating dialing it back. Two government “messages” struck me as perfect representations of the problematic mindset that is imposing these restrictions on personal freedoms: One was printed on a poster I saw plastered on a weapons collection container that read “Only cowards carry,” and the other was a statement made by the Mayor of London: “No excuses. There is never a reason to carry a knife.” I imagine it came as a bit of surprise to the knife collectors , tradesmen, and regular customers of Heinnie Haynes to learn that their government considered them cowards and the Mayor of London had chosen to not only impose his prejudice about a tool on his citizenry, but to unilaterally amend the law to eliminate any possibly legitimate reason for carrying a knife.

  40. Gio - 4:35 pm 06/02/19

    I’m on my mid 30’s and I carry a lock blade in London.
    My personal choice was the Spyderco Lil’ Native with G10 scales and a S30V blade of 2.5 inches +-.
    Never ever been stopped by the police. I usually don’t take my knife out. But there has been occasions of using it in parks to cut fruits and food in general.
    I also had a bad cut on my right index finger and will never use a unlock-able blade ever again.

  41. Nick Manning-James - 8:56 pm 18/03/19

    Comment From reading these posts I realise that as a lock knife user I may have been breaking the law. When I was a HGV Driver I always carried a knife, to cut rope, cut through packaging when making deliveries ect. Also I am into fishing, kayaking and other outdoor pursuits and carry a knife (lock) to use as a tool. I am in my sixties live in a semi rural area and not part of a gang looking to stab someone who is in the wrong postcode area – but arguably could have broken the law. The law is an ass…..

  42. Aidan - 7:03 pm 24/03/19

    Are spring assisted knives uk leagal or do they fall under the switchblade category

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