I have seen people carrying knives being questioned by the police and their pocket knives getting confiscated. At the same time, I have successfully carried a Swiss Army Knife in my pocket almost every day without any issues.
People who are planning to get a Swiss Army Knife are probably thinking about the same question! is it legal to carry a Swiss Army Knife in your pocket?
A Swiss Army Knife having a non-locking blade with a blade length of less than 3 inches is usually legally allowed to be carried in the pocket in almost all countries. Such Swiss Army Knives are considered pocket knives and are viewed as tools rather than weapons.
Acceptable Size of Swiss Army Knife for Pocket Carry
Less than 3 inches knife blade means you are good if your SAK is 91mm or smaller. That would include 58mm, 65mm, 74mm, 84mm, 85mm, and 91mm.
However, there are a few exceptions. Some 85mm models do have a locking blade. All these belong to the Evolution series, e.g. Victorinox Evolution Grip S18. Avoid all ’85 S’ models.
Of course, I have avoided carrying my SAK in places where there are rules against carrying any sharp objects (aircraft cabins, theatres, etc.), but apart from that, nobody even cared (or noticed?) that I have been carrying a knife!!
So what about larger models? especially the 11mm and 130mm SAKs? These larger Swiss Army Knives with locking blades will be illegal to be carried openly in most countries. That doesn’t mean that you cannot keep it at home, or even carry it to your workplace if your job profile demands using such a knife.
Your Intention of Carrying a Knife matters
Apart from the size and the type of the knife (locking or non-locking), the other parameter that matters most in knife-legality-related issues is the intention of the carrier and the perception of the people around who may consider it as a threat.
Swiss Army Knives being so universally well-known make them appear less threatening and do not raise any instant alarm in the minds of the common people.
However, this does not mean that you will be able to carry SAK in your pocket wherever you go.
In most countries, the law usually talks about two categories, ‘weapons’ and ‘dangerous items’.
Based on how these categories are defined, and the model of the Swiss Army Knife, it may be categorized into one of them or neither of them.
In Switzerland, almost everyone usually carries a Swiss Army Knife, either on the keychain or in the pocket.
But since the laws vary a lot from country to country, and even from state to state within a country, no one rule applies to all Swiss Army Knives.
Is carrying a Swiss Army Knife Legal in the UK?
The UK has some of the strictest rules related to legal-carry knives, which are also followed quite diligently by the authorities and law enforcers.
In the UK, small non-locking pocket knives with a blade length up to 3 inches can be carried without a valid reason. This automatically includes all non-locking Swiss Army Knives, especially 91mm or smaller models.
Does it mean that carrying a larger Swiss Army Knife is illegal in the UK?
Not really! you will not be automatically convicted just for carrying a knife that exceeds the guidelines. It is not an offense and you will not be fined or arrested if your reason for doing so is valid enough for the law of the land.
However, you should have a good reason for carrying one with you, and more importantly, should be able to convince the police/authorities if the need arises (really, the laws are varied and can get quite complex sometimes). You can find more details here about the rules governing buying, selling, and carrying knives (not only SAKs but all types of knives).
Is carrying a Swiss Army Knife Legal in the US?
Each state has its own knife law in the US. Some are quite liberal, whereas some are more restrictive. However, if you follow some general guidelines while selecting the Swiss Army Knife model, you will be good to carry it along on the road.
In the US, in most of the states, people aged 21 years or above are allowed to carry Swiss Army Knives with blades shorter than 2.5 inches. This is in accordance with the law allowing adults to legally carry pocket knives, or utility knives, or multi-tools with blades shorter than 2.5 inches.
In some states, the age limit is 18 years. What if you are younger than that? In that case, it will be considered as concealing a dangerous weapon and will be dealt with accordingly, as per the laws governing dangerous items.
Apart from these general guidelines, there are state-specific guidelines depending on the length of the blade, and the state of the person carrying it. For example, larger Swiss Army Knives are allowed to be carried along, but not in a concealed manner. Also, some states consider it illegal to carry a SAK when in an inebriated state.
You can find a state-wise detailed guide of the rules governing knife carry in the US here. This will give a fair idea of which Swiss Army Knife model will be legal or illegal to carry in the US.
Is a Swiss Army Knife legal in Canada?
In Canada, it is legal to carry a Swiss Army Knife that looks and functions like a pocket knife. Canada has a long list of specific types of knives that are illegal to carry with you. However, a Swiss Army Knife is not (or does not appear to be) one of them.
Children are allowed to use a Swiss Army Knife as a tool under adult supervision.
However, the law also says that if the blade is less than 30cm and the item resembles an innocuous object but is designed to conceal a knife or blade, then it is prohibited. The Victorinox SwissCard might fall in this category.
Like everywhere else, the intent of the user is more important than the length of the blade. If you are caught with a concealed knife with you in a place where you do not require a knife to be used as a tool, it will be considered a violation of the law.
Is a Swiss Army Knife Legal in Australia?
Australian knife laws are tougher compared to most other countries. Most types of knives are classified as ‘prohibited weapons’ or ‘dangerous items’.
The law doesn’t define any knife size that is allowed or disallowed. It disallows carrying almost all types of knives without a reasonable and lawful excuse. You can find a list of the ‘prohibited weapons’ including knives here.
Though this list doesn’t specifically mention ‘Swiss Army Knife’, I am sure one of the different generic types mentioned would also include a SAK.
So what could be a reasonable and lawful excuse?
Self-defense cannot be a valid excuse for sure. But if you could provide a strong reason for carrying the knife, like, for work, sport, recreation, etc., or maybe you are a collector and the knife is to be used for display or exhibition purposes, you should be good.
The laws do vary a little from one state to another. For example, Queensland allows using a Swiss Army Knife for utility purposes.
Is a Swiss Army Knife Legal in India?
In India, a knife or any type of blade longer than 9 inches and broader than 2 inches is illegal to be carried on the person, as it is considered ‘prohibited items’ under The Indian Arms Act 1959. Spring actuated knives and button actuated knives are also illegal to carry.
Since the rules do not mention the locking or folding nature of the knife, I guess most Swiss Army Knives would be legal, including the bigger ones.
However, it would be safer to restrict to something within 6 inches. And again, do note that the intent of the carrier would be more important than the size of the SAK. So be prepared with a solid reason if you do not want to be in legal trouble.
Where a Swiss Army Knife may be Banned?
Though a Swiss Army Knife is usually not considered a weapon and you are allowed to carry it in your pocket, there are locations where it will always be considered illegal (irrespective of the type of knife, or the size of the blade).
One example is in the aircraft cabin. After the events of 9/11, governments all over the world have tightened the security protocols in airports. As such, even the smallest keychain SAK is considered an illegal item inside the aircraft cabin. In fact, the aftermath of 9/11 is a significant event in the history of Victorinox as they lost a big chunk of their market which took them years to recover.
Do not miss this post if you want to know more about carrying Swiss Army Knives and other multi-tools in planes.
In some countries, you may not be able to visit an army base with a SAK, unless you yourself are a member of the army.
The organizers of any event may define their own rules on what is and is not acceptable. You may be prohibited to bring a SAK along with you while attending such events.
This applies to private as well as public events.
Authorized owners of properties like farmhouses, hotels, restaurants, etc. may also impose their own rules and regulations regarding carrying a SAK.
Apart from the above examples, there are many places where a Swiss Army Knife may not be allowed. Some examples are:
- Government Buildings
- Football and Cricket Stadiums
- Bars and Nightclubs
Of course, the above list is not exhaustive. But hopefully, it will give some idea and allow you to plan beforehand whether you should carry your SAK in your pocket. If there is a chance that you will be searched at the entrance, then there is also a chance that a Swiss Army Knife will not be allowed to be carried along.
The intent of using a Swiss Army Knife that is Illegal
The intent of the person carrying the knife can also make a perfectly legal Swiss Army Knife illegal in the eyes of law. For example, even a small SAK well within the guidelines of the law may be considered illegal if it is used in a dangerous way to threaten someone, or worse, to commit a crime.
Some countries/states may also consider it illegal to carry a Swiss Army Knife by people who:
- have some kind of mental illness
- are convicted of felonies
- are under a domestic violence restraining order
- are fugitives
- have a history of previous crimes
Legally Valid Reasons for Carrying a Swiss Army Knife
There are some valid reasons for carrying a Swiss Army Knife with you even if the law does not normally allow you to do so. These reasons are perfectly acceptable in a court of law. Some of these reasons include:
- Carrying a SAK to and from your workplace where your job profile justifies using a knife
- Carrying a SAK for recreational purposes like scouting, bush crafting, fishing, etc.
- Carrying a SAK to be used for theatre, movies, television, etc.
- Carrying a SAK to a museum or gallery where it is to be exhibited
Note that carrying a SAK for self-defense may not be considered a valid reason under the eyes of the law in most countries.
What if caught carrying a SAK illegally?
If you are caught carrying a Swiss Army Knife illegally, then the seriousness of the crime will decide the outcome. In most cases, expect one of the following:
- It will be totally ignored (happens in malls, multiplexes, etc.)
- You will be let off with a warning and a reminder not to use it or take it out of your pocket (this usually happens at public gatherings, small parties, tourist places, etc.)
- You will not be allowed to enter, or you will have to surrender it to the security and again collect it from them later on while leaving the place (happens in theatres, nightclubs, museums, etc.)
- It will be confiscated (happens in high-security places, like during airport security checks)
In most cases, if the blade length or type makes it illegal to carry, you can provide a valid reason (discussed above) to justify your intention. In case you are charged with illegal possession, a court will decide the validity of your justifications.
In rare cases, a heavy fine may be imposed along with any of the above. In worst cases, there can be a prison sentence. But this is usually when there is proper evidence that the knife has been used to threaten someone or commit a serious crime.
The knife laws are vague in most countries and do not specifically allow or prohibit by mentioning the actual make or model of the knives. Whereas some countries restrict carrying knives in public, there are exceptions made in such rules for hunting knives, pocket knives, and knives used for work-related purposes depending upon the laws of a given jurisdiction.
As such, Swiss Army Knives do fall in these exceptions as most SAKs (barring those bigger ones) are just multi-purpose pocket tools that also have a small knife.
To be on the safe side, avoid carrying a SAK with a lock-blade in the open, or carrying any kind of SAK in locations where knives are not allowed, like schools, govt. buildings etc.
I lost a Victorinox Classic SAK to the TSA during the airport security check. I had totally forgotten that the Classic was attached to my keyring.
Otherwise, I could have removed it beforehand and put it in my checked luggage.
Yes, you can carry any SAK in the checked luggage (no questions asked).
I was also questioned once by the security staff about my keychain SAK (again the Victorinox Classic) while visiting the Eiffel Tower in Paris. I just told them I always carry it for emergencies. I was almost mentally prepared to lose it, but luckily the security staff allowed me to carry it along.
The appearance of a knife plays a big role in public perception. Most people look at a SAK as a tool and not as a knife, and hence do not feel threatened by it. However, a similar size knife with a tactical design and color might raise alarms among the common people, especially in a crowded public place.
In places like Govt. buildings, schools, etc., avoid carrying your pocket SAK as the security might be tighter.
In malls, theatres, multiplexes, etc., keychain SAKs are usually ignored by security. I always carry one and was never stopped. Just apply your common sense, and you will be okay.