The UK has some of the most restrictive knife laws in the world. Among many other things, you cannot own any of the types of knives on this list.
But why? A knife is just a tool, so why are some banned? And what are the consequences if you have one in your home? Find out here.
What Is The Difference Between Possessing And Carrying?
Before we dive into the legalities of butterfly knives in the UK, we much first define the difference between carrying a knife on you and simply possessing one.
Carrying a knife on you means having it in your pocket or on your person in a public space. This may be on public transport or at a football game where there are knife-free zones. Regardless of the knife, if you plan to carry one you must have clearly harmless intent that would hold up in a place of law.
This is because more often than not when you are accused of carrying a knife for harmful intent, the evidence will be against you as you were, in fact, carrying a knife.
As for the idea of possessing a knife or any other object that may be deemed a weapon, this is a grey area. The idea is that when you possess a knife, it is for at home purposes such as being part of a collection or as a survival knife.
While you may be allowed to possess some knives, you may not be able to carry them on you. This is the case for a butterfly knife.
Selling, buying, and carrying knives
The maximum penalty for an adult carrying a knife is 4 years in prison and an unlimited fine.
You’ll get a prison sentence if you’re convicted of carrying a knife more than once.
Basic laws on knives
It’s illegal to:
- sell a knife to anyone under 18, unless it has a folding blade 3 inches long (7.62 cm) or less
- carry a knife in public without good reason, unless it has a folding blade with a cutting edge 3 inches long or less
- carry, buy or sell any type of banned knife
- use any knife in a threatening way (even a legal knife)
In Scotland, 16 to 18-year-olds are allowed to buy cutlery and kitchen knives.
Lock knives are not classed as folding knives and are illegal to carry in public without good reason. Lock knives:
- have blades that can be locked and refolded only by pressing a button
- can include multi-tool knives – tools that also contain other devices such as a screwdriver or can opener
What’s banned under current UK law
The sale of ‘zombie’ knives was made illegal two years ago following a campaign by the Express & Star and the West Midlands PCC David Jamieson.
Under current UK law, such blades must have a cutting edge as well as images or words suggesting they are used for violence.
But remove the imagery and words and the knives are legal to sell.
It is illegal to carry a knife in public ‘without good reason unless it has a folding blade with a cutting edge 3 inches long or less.
Examples of good reasons given by the Government include taking one for use at work, taking one to a gallery to be exhibited, taking it to be displayed in the art including theatre, and taking it for a demonstration on how to use it.
A spokesman said: “A court will decide if you’ve got a good reason to carry a knife or a weapon if you’re charged with carrying it illegally.”
The possession of ‘zombie’ knives will shortly be outlawed as part of the Home Office’s Serious Violence Strategy.
Banned knives and weapons
It is illegal to bring into the UK, sell, hire, lend or give anyone the following:
- butterfly knives (also known as ‘balisongs’) – a blade hidden inside a handle that splits in the middle
- disguised knives – a blade or sharp point hidden inside what looks like everyday objects such as a buckle, phone, brush or lipstick
- flick knives (also known as ‘switchblades’ or ‘automatic knives) – a blade hidden inside a handle that shoots out when a button is pressed
- gravity knives
- stealth knives – a knife or spike not made from metal (except when used at home, for food or a toy)
- zombie knives – a knife with a cutting edge, a serrated edge, and images or words suggesting it is used for violence
- swords, including samurai swords – a curved blade over 50cm (with some exceptions, such as antiques and swords made to traditional methods before 1954)
- sword-sticks – a hollow walking stick or cane containing a blade
- push daggers
- blowpipes (‘blow gun’)
- telescopic truncheons – extend automatically by pressing button or spring in the handle
- batons – straight, side-handled, or friction-lock truncheons
- hollow kubotans – a cylinder-shaped keychain holding spikes
- shurikens (also known as ‘shaken’, ‘death stars’ or `throwing stars`)
- kusari-gama – a sickle attached to a rope, cord or wire
- kyoketsu-shoge – a hook-knife attached to a rope, cord or wire
- kusari (or ‘manrikigusari’) – a weight attached to a rope, cord, wire
- hand or foot-claws
Legal reasons for carrying a knife or weapon
Examples of Legal reasons to carry a knife or weapon in public can include:
- taking knives you use at work too and from work
- taking it to a gallery or museum to be exhibited
- if it’ll be used for theatre, film, television, historical reenactment, or religious purposes, for example, the kirpan some Sikhs carry
- if it’ll be used in a demonstration or to teach someone how to use it
A court will decide if you’ve got a good reason to carry a knife or a weapon if you’re charged with carrying it illegally.
8 UK-Legal Pocket Knives
There’s nothing like living in the great United States of America, but sometimes you simply have to get out to see the world. Unfortunately, not all of your knives can make the trip with you.
If you’re traveling to the United Kingdom (or live there), your knives will be heavily regulated and subject to confiscation if they don’t meet stringent requirements (and sometimes if they do).
Despite bin campaigns, increasing regulations on knife purchases, and a general demonization of all bladed tools, knives, and gun crime saw a significant spike last year. That means knives will be under even more scrutiny.
You can still carry knives in the United Kingdom under very specific circumstances.
The UK Knife Laws
“It is illegal to carry a knife in public without good reason – unless it’s a knife with a folding blade 3 inches long (7.62cm) or less.”
It seems like it is, therefore, legal to carry a larger knife or even a fixed blade as long as it’s for “good reason” but I wouldn’t push my luck.
All locking knives are banned, including those in multitools (RIP Victorinox SwissChamp).
There’s also a host of banned knives and weapons in the books, such as butterfly knives, flick knives, gravity knives, disguised knives, zombie knives (even those that fall under the regular regulations!), and more.
With that in mind, here are eight UK-legal knives.*
*It’s very possible these knives will still be taken away so exercise caution no matter what.
1. Spyderco UK Penknife
Let’s start with the quintessential UK knife: the Spyderco UK Penknife. This knife typically tops all of these UK-legal lists because Spyderco designed this knife specifically with those laws in mind.
The UK Penknife uses quality materials with a 2.93-inch CTS BD1 steel blade and an FRN handle. It weighs only 1.7 ounces and represents the best a typical US-made Spyderco has to offer.
Oh, and like all of these knives, the UK Penknife is a slip joint except this one has a notched joint.
2. Cold Steel Lucky One
Cold Steel is best known for its humungous knives with some of the most “threatening features,” like flippers, dagger blades, serrations, and everything else the “common” person might be intimidated by.
But they do offer a thin single-bladed slip joint folder that’s OK to carry in the UK called the Lucky One.
The sub-3-inch blade uses premium S35VN steel and lightweight carbon fiber scales. It may be the only knife Cold Steel offers that’s UK-friendly.
3. Fallkniven LTC
I am a sucker for Fallkniven knives because of the truly amazing craftsmanship and thoughtful designs. The Fallkniven LTC is a nice pen knife that conforms to the laws of most countries, including the UK.
Standing for Legal to Carry, the LTC comes with a 2.3-inch blade made from its famous laminated powder steel 3G and an aluminum handle.
It also comes in a variety of colors, which always helps. Believe it or not, people find knives in colors other than black less intimidating. The one featured up top is Midnight Blue.
4. Spyderco Roadie
The second of several Spyderco knives on this list is the Roadie. You may have to avert your eyes on this one because it’s what many would classify as ugly (not I, of course, but you know who you are).
Sure, the Roadie looks like an actual Dodo ( even more so than the Spyderco Dodo), but it does its job and it does it well.
The Roadie was originally designed to comply with nearly changed TSA regulations that would allow small knives on planes again before it was sadly walked back.
t has a roughly 2-inch blade made from N690Co steel and an FRN handle.
The ergonomics are pretty impressive for being such a small knife. This Italian-made Spyderco is only an ounce and even received the coveted perfect score from Everyday Commentary.
5. Kershaw Gadsden
The Gadsden is Kershaw’s attempt at a good classic slip joint. This model features two blades with a maximum length of 2.75 inches when open. It opens with a nail nick and looks pretty unassuming.
6. CRKT Art Deco
The CRKT Art Deco is inspired by the obelisk, which it looks like when opened.
The knife has the same blade length and steel as the Quill but with a groove to open the knife spanning the length of the blade. It also has G10 handle scales for an even lighter weight of less than an ounce.
7. Victorinox Spartan Swiss Army Knife
There is no more iconic knife that elicits a sense of calm than the Victorinox Swiss Army Knife.
Victorinox has a ton of knives that fall under the UK knife laws but you do have to be wary about some of the models with longer locking blades.
I recommend the Victorinox Spartan. It is a direct relative of the original Officer’s Knife and has two blades, a reamer with a sewing awl, can opener, bottle opener, screwdrivers, a corkscrew, toothpick, and tweezers. It’ll do the job.
8. SOG Terminus
This is the newest knife on the list. SOG is best known for more tactical designs but just dipped its toe into the slip joint market with the Terminus and Centi I.
The Terminus seems like a winner because of its overall design and solid slip joint mechanism. The 3-inch blade is made with CTS BD1 stainless steel and the handle is G10.
It comes in an all-black version, but if you’re traveling to the UK, you’d probably be better served to carry the less “intimidating” brown-handled version.
What is an offensive weapon?
An offensive weapon is any object that has been made or adapted to cause injury.
- Weapons built for the sole purpose of hurting people, like a knife or gun;
- Something adapted to cause injury, like a sharpened snooker cue;
- An object not designed to hurt anyone, but you’re carrying it round intending to cause injury, like nail scissors.
In defining what counts as a weapon, your intention (whether you meant to hurt someone) could be taken into account – depending on what you’re carrying.
Knife crime is crime involving a knife. It’s a crime to threaten someone with a knife or carry a knife as a weapon in a robbery or burglary.
Police can search you if they think you’re carrying a knife. Some knives are offensive weapons and are banned in public places.
What counts as knife crime
Knife crime includes:
- carrying a knife or trying to buy one if you’re under 18
- threatening someone with a knife
- carrying a knife that’s banned
- a murder where the victim was stabbed with a knife
- a robbery or burglary where a thief carried a knife as a weapon
An offensive weapon is:
- an article designed to cause injury to another person
- an article carried with the intention of causing injury to another person
Injuries from knives can be serious and potentially deadly. A knife is engineered to cut, and knives can inflict deep lacerations and puncture wounds. Internal and external bleeding, punctured organs, and severed muscle tissue are some of the common injuries associated with knife wounds.
Knives and Your Legal Rights
There are state and federal laws about knives that people must understand and follow. If you’re charged with possession of a knife, or the victim of a knife-related crime, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible to discuss your legal options. Some of the legal factors that an attorney can review with you include:
- What it means to be charged with violating your state’s knife law, including elements of the crime, potential defenses, and the length of any possible criminal sentence.
- The types of knives your state permits, and any restrictions or limitations on the type of knife you can own and/or carry.
- If you or your loved ones are victims of knife violence, whether you can recover damages from the assailants and their employers.
Knives and Knife Safety Tips
- Follow your state’s knife laws. Even if a knife or knives are not prohibited, you must still use extreme care when handling and storing them.
- If you’re outside your home state, check the applicable local and state regulations governing the possession, ownership and transportation of knives.
- Like any dangerous weapon, knives have the potential to hurt others. If someone is hurt, or property is damaged while you are using a knife, you could be held liable in a civil lawsuit and/or face charges in a criminal court.
- Make sure that you get safety training before using a knife.
- Never let children play with or near knives.
- Never use a knife while under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.
Penalties for knife crime
The law on knives says:
- it is illegal for anyone, including a shop, to sell a knife of any kind (including cutlery and kitchen knives) to anyone under the age of 18
- if you’re under 18, it’s illegal to buy most types of knives
- anyone over 10 can be charged and taken to court if they’re caught with an illegal knife – even if it’s the first time they’ve been stopped by the police
- if you’re caught carrying a knife, you could receive a community sentence, a fine or imprisoned
- you could be searched at any time if a police officer thinks you may be carrying a knife
- even if you’re carrying a knife that you’re legally allowed to (like a penknife with a blade that’s shorter than three inches), it becomes illegal if you use it as a weapon to threaten or harm anyone
The maximum sentence for carrying a knife illegally is four years in prison and an unlimited fine. If you injure someone or use a knife to commit a crime, the penalties could increase.
How can I find out if the knife I have is legal to own?
You can contact your local police station to check if a knife or weapon is illegal.
Where can I find a list of banned knives and weapons?
On the .gov website, there is a comprehensive list of weapons and knives that are banned in the UK.
Live in the UK – how do you feel about the UK knife laws? Do you find the impact you on a day-to-day basis more than they’ve proven to impact me?
Do you buy non-UK-friendly folders and just use them on private property or do you steer clear of them completely?
And if you’re not in the UK – do you have weird (impractical) knife laws in your country/state?