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Exploring and Clarifying UK Knife Law

Exploring and Clarifying UK Knife Law

Posted by HH on 8th Sep 2015

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


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.


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.

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

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.

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.

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:

Why not check out our other great blogs For Gear Recommendations And Outdoor Survival Tips