Knife and Self Defense: Legality & Legitimacy

Knife And Self Defense: Legality & Legitimacy

Table of Contents

You will have come across many advertisements marketing combat knives as a romanticized weapon ideal for self-defense.

However, carrying a knife for protection is a double-edged blade that’s only going to cut you.

One, you will end up paying too much for a simple blade, and second, you are likely to get sued.

Here in this article, we talk about the legal implications of carrying knives for self-defense.

Can You Pull a Knife in Self-defense?

Leg Pocket Knife

As macho as that idea sounds, you cannot pull a knife in self-defense.

If you do so, you take away your own defense and give the prosecution the ammo they need to paint you as the villain.

There are many nitty-gritty details that govern the use of a knife as a protective tool rather than a weapon.

Before we dive into the legal implications, let us first understand what makes a knife a weapon, and when can that go against you in court.

When Does Knife Become a Weapon

Essentially, a knife is a tool just like a hammer is.

You use one as a kitchen aid while the other to drive nails into surfaces.

Each tool has its own purpose, which is why you can’t drive nails with a knife, and you can’t chop vegetables using a hammer.

However, a knife can easily turn into a weapon based on the way it is marketed.

Manufacturers often make slight modifications to tools to turn them into potential weapons.

A dagger, for example, features a double-edged blade.

Just that one modification effectively takes away its primary function and turns it into a weapon even though the structure is more or less similar.

Holding Dagger

In the market, you will find many such variations being sold under the title ‘knives for self-defense.’

However, in the process of marketing, manufacturers label their products using terms like tactical, combat, commando, or warrior knives.

By doing so, they try to give each knife unique characteristic so they can charge a higher price for it.

While you end up paying more than the product is worth, you also effectively lose your chance of self-defense in court.

The prosecution can effortlessly turn the tables in you by presenting a few arguments.

  • Your self-defense weapon isn’t actually for protection
  • It is a potentially lethal fighting weapon.

Just with these two arguments, they can raise suspicion as to your intent on why were you carrying a combat or warrior knife in the first place when clearly its intended use is not self-defense but is, in fact, a ‘fighting weapon.’

Before you decide to equip yourself with a knife, make sure you first read up on your state’s laws regarding its use.

Some states have very specific regulations, while others have a broader definition regarding the usage of knives for self-defense.

Which Type of Knife Is Best For Self-defense?

Opinel No. 6

There are no hard and fast rules as to which knife is best for self-defense.

However, the one thing you can do is avoid fixed blades purposefully marketed as combat weapons.

A fixed blade is viewed quite differently as compared to a foldable one.

Safest Option – Opinel #6

The Opinel #6 features a small three-inch blade that is razor-sharp.

You can use it to open boxes and even cut fruit, but as long as you maintain the cutting edge blade, you can also use it for protection in times of imminent danger.

Since Opinel #6 isn’t a combat weapon but a handy tool, you can effortlessly prove your innocence in the court of law.


The KA-BAR-TDI is the ideal blade for self-defense.

It is a 2.5 inch fixed blade that is meant to provide you an opportunity to defend yourself without it proving deadly to the opponent.

It is, however, angled at a position so it can provide more power to the blade.

What makes it one of the most effective knives for self-defense is the fact that it was created for it.

An ex-con and founder of tactical defense institute, carefully crafted the knife to ensure it works best only as a protective device.

KA-BAR Jarsoz


The KA-BAR Jarsoz is your next best bet as serving as the perfect self-defense knife and yet not be considered a weapon.

It is an elegant knife with a sturdy 3.5-inch AUS-8 steel blade.

It gives you significant cutting depth provided you are well-trained and are able to use the Jarsoz as needed.

Because it looks and provides more or less the same functionality as a small pocket knife, there are higher chances of you being able to get away with using a KA-BAR Jarsoz.

Spyderco Delica 4

The Spyderco Delica 4 is a foldable blade and is a particular favorite among law enforcement agencies.

Its blade is just slightly shorter than 3 inches, which makes it legal to carry in many states.

It is incredibly easy to use, and its design allows for quick unlocking, making it ideal for emergencies.

If it weren’t for its small blade, the Delica 4 could easily be considered an assault weapon.

However, thanks to its size, it not only makes for an elegant pocket blade but also your best bet against potential threats.

The legality of Knives Used for Self-defense

Knife in Hands

In the eyes of the law, a gun and a knife are both considered lethal weapons and follow pretty much the same laws and regulations governing their use.

This may sound disheartening for those who prefer knives because guns make them uncomfortable.

However, according to the legal system, they both kill, and there are certain rules regarding when their use is justified.

In United States legislation, life weighs more than property does.

You cannot attack a retreating robber. In the eyes of the law, you are no longer in danger if a robber has collected whatever property they were seeking and is now making a run for their life.

If you want to protect your asset, then you need to decide in the very beginning and not in the middle, or the end of the crisis.

You cannot stick out your knife to scare the thief.

They are here with a purpose and are usually not afraid to use whatever weapon they have to get to what they are looking for.

However, if you bring out your weapon without the intent to provoke them, you could very well have stepped into a life and death situation.

Looking at the weapon, the criminal could decide to shoot you and take your belongings before you have the chance to defend yourself.

If you do decide to wield your weapon, then you may very well be looking at a court case, especially with knives.

The area of legality governing their legitimacy as a self-defense tool is mostly gray.

Without proper guidelines on when you can and cannot use a knife and what kind of knife is used for protection, it can be a major problem.

Knife Self Defense

Understand that self-defense is a grossly misused plea in court.

An armed robber can plead self-defense after having shot a man.

The statement can effortlessly back his claim that it was done to protect himself that the victim had a weapon.

To avoid misuse of the plea, the court disregards such statements and puts more emphasis on facts and evidence.

However, you are not bound to have eyewitnesses in cases of robberies and thefts.

Using a knife in a situation where your life is not evidently in danger can turn the tables on you and land you in jail.

So can using and carrying a ‘fighting knife’ with a blade longer than 3 inches.

In order for your actions to be considered within the legal term self-defense, they must fall within the legal standards and boundaries.

If it’s illegal to carry a particular type of knife, then you can’t plead self-defense, nor can you justify attacking a retreating robber.

Force or bodily harm is only justified in a situation where the intent was clearly to prevent the same from happening to you.

Here you admit to committing the crime but twist the moral reasoning behind it to justify your actions as preventive measures.

How to Use Your Knife for Self-defense?

Holding Knife

A knife is as effective a self-defense tool as the expertise of the one wielding it.

If you don’t know how to use knives for self-defense, do yourself a favor and do not try and use one.

You may end up getting killed as the chances are the attacker probably knows how to use a weapon.

Be in good shape at all times. To use a knife, you need to quick and must have enough strength to be able to stick the blade in your opponent.

You need to swiftly attack so that you can defend yourself and your property.

For that, you must take training so not only are you dependent upon your weapon of choice but also know how to avoid any counter-attack.

Do not attack any critical area. And stick to hands and legs if you can.

The idea is to disarm the attacker, so they don’t have the weapon to harm you.

When you decide to carry a weapon of any sort, you need first to acquaint yourself with the anatomy of the person.

Be mentally ready to hurt someone.

While many falls for the romanticized vision of one protecting oneself and others with a knife, rarely one or two can actually do so in times of need.  

When you decide to carry a self-defense tool, you must also make a conscious decision to use it when faced with imminent danger.

A moment of hesitation can cost you or your loved ones their life, and that is not what you want.

Are Throwing Knives for Self-defense Legal? 

Man Throwing Knives

As mentioned earlier, the use of knives as a self-defense weapon is a controversial topic.

The laws vary state by state. However, a blade smaller than 3 inches is considered a legal carrying weapon.

Some states, like Texas, allow adults to carry blades of up to 5.5 inches as long as they aren’t concealed.

As far as throwing weapons are concerned, most states allow adults to carry pocket throwing knives with only a few exceptions.

In Virginia, carrying any knife other than a pocket knife is a criminal act.

In Maryland, Kansas and Indiana carrying ballistic knives and throwing stars are illegal.

Even though no mention of throwing knives has been made, since they fall under the same category, it is best not to risk it.

However, there are a few liberal states. In Ohio, South Carolina, and South Dakota, you are allowed to carry all sorts of knives.

Some states like North Dakota, Texas, and Montana require blades longer than 4-5 inches to be kept in plain sight.

There are even states like Nebraska and Utah, where carrying knives for self-defense is okay for everyone except for ex-convicts.

Whether or not it is legal for you to wield them largely depends upon the situation you use them in.

Throwing knives are more of an advanced weapon not because they do more harm but because they are more technical.

You cannot effectively use them unless you’ve had proper training.  

So do not carry one unless you can ensure efficient use of the weapon. You may end up hurting an innocent person otherwise.

In What Instances is a Knife Not a Viable Self-defense Tool?

Knife Stabbing

Knives for self-defense are not viable in multiple situations, and not just because you could possibly get sued but also because you may get yourself killed.

Before you attempt to defend yourself, you need first to determine the extent of danger you currently face.

Consider these few points and outline for yourself and a guide as to when you can or can’t use your self-defense weapon of choice.

The extent of Fear of Harm

As mentioned earlier, the court always values life over property.

If your attack becomes life-threatening to a thief, then regardless of the value of the property in danger, you will be jailed.

Before you attack, first assess the situation calmly. Do not make the first move unless you deem absolutely necessary.

What Are the Chances of Imperfect Self-Defense?

The second essential consideration before using a knife is whether you are in a position to make an effective attack or not?

If not, then back away and do not attempt it.

A poor decision on your part can lead to aggravated assault, and if you are at an inconvenient position, you may find yourself indisposed at the spot.

Will My Response Be Proportionate?

The third is more to build your case in the courtroom.

Be ready to defend yourself thoroughly against the prosecutor’s arguments as well as present your case perfectly.

You can’t get away with vague statements, so make a note of whatever can work in your favor before you act.

Best to Follow All Rules

Knife In Sheath

While carrying a knife may be something you have dreamed of ever since you were a child, make sure to follow all safety rules and regulations.

First and foremost, get essential training to be able to utilize the weapon to its maximum capability.

Secondly, you must check state laws before the purchase of the equipment.

It may be legal for you to carry a knife, but you may need to keep it in plain sight.

This also holds true for when you are traveling. What could be okay in your city may not be so in your destination.

Do not attack where there is not a threat to your life.

When you make the first move, it not only endangers your life but also takes away your chance of a self-defense plea.

It is always better to carry non-lethal weapons that can get you the protection you need without putting your life in danger.

Knives Vs. Guns – Which is the Practical Self Defense Weapon?

Many people argue against the purchase of a gun as a self-defense weapon.

But let’s be honest. It is your best shot at walking out of a life-threatening situation alive.

If you are going to rely on a knife for self-defense, then you better be mentally prepared to exert strength in close combat.

You will not only be fighting a man one on one, but you may be fighting a man with a gun.

All he has to do is pull the trigger to cause harm when you, on the other hand, will not only have to put in more effort but will also not see desired results as quickly as you may need.

Let’s talk about it from a more practical point of view. You are alone and walking home at night.

Man with Knife Self Defense

You see a man following you, and before you realize it, he has a loaded gun pinned to your back.

At a time like this, your knife is probably the most useless weapon.

You are too close to be able to make a sudden movement or rummage for your knife in your pocket or purse. You move, he shoots.

However, if you had a licensed gun, you could pull it out and shoot faster than you could bring out your knife and slice the man wielding the gun.

In such a situation, many would recommend you carry both for optimal protection.

However, that still doesn’t take away the fact that you not only need essential training on how to use a knife.

The weapon is pretty ineffective against a man with a gun.

If self-defense is what you want to carry the knife for, then you might as well earn a black belt before you purchase one.

Nothing short of Bruce Lee level martial arts is going to save you from a bullet if all you have is a blade.

Especially since many states place stipulations on the size of the blade you can carry.

If all you are allowed is a 2.9 inch or smaller blade, then how are you going to ward off criminals effectively?

Since, in the eyes of the court, a gun and blade are both lethal weapons, why not carry one that can actually defend you and not one that may put you into even more danger because of aggravated assault and your inability to defend yourself.


Holding For Knife In Sheath

We aren’t commandos or highly trained military officials.

They consider a knife to be an appropriate self-defense tool because they have adequate training and experience to be able to use it.

They are also well aware of human anatomy and know where to slice not to damage any essential organ.

Not everyone, however, is equipped with enough knowledge or training to be able to make decisions in a dangerous situation and may end up getting hurt.

However, you can still carry a knife for your peace of mind if that’s what you seek.

While carrying knives for self-defense isn’t necessarily illegal, the laws governing their use are definitely vague.

When it comes to legal matters, it is best to be thorough and do your research prior to purchasing a weapon that can land you in jail.

You wouldn’t want to become an ex-convict for something as paltry as carrying the wrong kind of weapon.

If you really desperately want one, then go for safer options.

Do not purchase fancy-looking blades that are marketed as lethal weapons.

If you are arrested with one on you, then your chances of walking out of the courtroom, a free man are incredibly slim.

If there are no clear rules regarding the use of knives for self-defense in your state, then consult a legal expert before making a purchase.

You can even obtain a general idea based on laws concerning similar weapons.

If throwing stars are illegal in your state, then so are throwing knives even if it doesn’t clearly state so.

It is always better to be safe than sorry, so we suggest you only carry a pocket knife or a self-defense blade like the KA-BAR-TDI.

Do not use the weapon unless absolutely necessary.

The use of knives for self-defense can never be justified by first assault, so wait and try and initiate retreat and not lethal force.


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