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Colorado Knife Law

colorado state sealKnife laws in Colorado are tricky, luckily we are here to help. Below is a list of legal and illegal knives in Colorado written in plain English. We will also then give you more specific details with quotes from the law and case precedence.

Colorado Knife Laws in Brief

These knives are legal to own:

  • Dirks, daggers, push knives and stilettos are legal.
  • Bowie knives and other large blades are legal.
  • Disguised knives like belt knives, pen knives, cane knives, and lipstick knives are legal.
  • Balisong/butterfly knives are in a legal gray area.
  • Gravity knives and switchblades.

These knives are illegal to carry:

  • Ballistic knives

These knives are illegal to carry concealed:

  • Any knife with a blade over 3.5 inches in length

Knives that are Banned in Colorado

18-12-102. Possessing a dangerous or illegal weapon – affirmative defense

(1) As used in this section, the term “dangerous weapon” means a firearm silencer, machine gun, short shotgun, short rifle, or ballistic knife.

(2) As used in this section, the term “illegal weapon” means a blackjack, gas gun, metallic knuckles, gravity knife, or switchblade knife.

(3) A person who knowingly possesses a dangerous weapon commits a class 5 felony. Each subsequent violation of this subsection (3) by the same person shall be a class 4 felony.

(4) A person who knowingly possesses an illegal weapon commits a class 1 misdemeanor.

What the Colorado knife law states is that it is a crime to possess a dangerous or illegal weapon. A ballistic knife is a dangerous weapon and is a felony offense (1 or more years in jail).

 

What Colorado Law Says About Concealed Knives

18-12-105. Unlawfully carrying a concealed weapon – unlawful possession of weapons

(1) A person commits a class 2 misdemeanor if such person knowingly and unlawfully:

(a) Carries a knife concealed on or about his or her person;

“Knife” means any dagger, dirk, knife, or stiletto with a blade over three and one-half inches in length, or any other dangerous instrument capable of inflicting cutting, stabbing, or tearing wounds, but does not include a hunting or fishing knife carried for sports use. The issue that a knife is a hunting or fishing knife must be raised as an affirmative defense.

It is illegal to carry a knife other than a fishing or hunting knife that is greater than 3.5 inches concealed. Concealed means to be out of sight and close enough to be available for immediate use. It is not illegal to carry a concealed knife on your property. It is also not illegal to carry a concealed knife when you are driving if you are carrying the knife to protect yourself.

It is legal to carry concealed a push knife if it is less than 3.5 inches.

It is legal to carry concealed a push knife if it is less than 3.5 inches.

In the case A.P.E vs People in 2001, it was found that a knife that is less than 3.5 inches is not a weapon if the prosecution can not prove that the person intended on using it as a weapon. In the case, the defendant was found with a push knife that was less than 3.5 inches and the police charged him with unlawful carry of a concealed weapon. The prosecution could not prove that he intended to use it as a weapon and he was found not guilty of the charge.

Conclusion on Colorado Knife Law

In Colorado, you can own almost any knife as long as it is not a  ballistic knife.  All legal knives can be carried in the open. It is illegal to carry concealed a knife that is larger than 3.5 inches unless it is a fishing or hunting knife.  Any knife with a blade shorter than 3.5 inches can be carried openly or concealed.

This article is not exhaustive and there are city laws that also come into play. Check with your city before you consider doing anything.  For example, it is illegal to carry any knife concealed in Boulder County.

Note: this is not legal advice and I am not an attorney. Talk to a real attorney if you need legal advice. Post any question you have below and I’ll try to answer them to the best of my abilities. We are also trying to find an attorney in Colorado who is willing to do an interview.

*updated May 8, 2018

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Comments

  1. Assisted knives are legal however the mechanism in which you use to open the knife must be a part of the blade. A good example is a flipper assisted knife. An assited opening knife with a button is illegal.

  2. i am a minor and I wanted to know if it was legal to carry my regular pocket knife on me legally

  3. I own a beautiful Microtech OTF Halo and am moving to Colorado Springs. Certainly I can still own it as long as I don’t carry it outside my home, right?

  4. Do the Colorado knife laws need to be updated? I really hate some of them

  5. What about a switchblade that technically a switchblade it doesn’t have a button it’s assisted opening yes but it has a clip but it has a “switch” on the side like a regular assisted opening knife but it looks like a switchblade

  6. Would it be legal to carry a “butterfly” knife with a 3.5 inch blade? I have a concealed carry permit but I guess I don’t fully understand what that covers. I mean knife is way less “dangerous” than the XDS .45 I carry. Anybody’s insight on this would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

  7. How legal would it be considered to carry (unconcealed) a full length sword within city limits with no intent on use other than possible self defense?

    1. Perfectly legal. However, some scared liberal may call the cops on you and they may try to tell you otherwise.

  8. is this kinf me considered hunting knife if I have it on my waist and visible it should be fine right ?

  9. Hi, I have an question regarding a utensil specifically a “Butter Knife” and the blade (cutting edge) is so DULL that I can run my hand firmly pressed over the blade portion several times and it will not even break the skin much less make a scratch. I use this Butter Knife to quietly chisel my frozen Gatorades (intentionally frozen) and from past experience I have learned the best way to drink my frozen drinks is to use a butter knife to quietly chisel the ice, because crushing the plastic bottle with my bare hands or banging the bottle on the floor, or a wall to help loosen the ice can become somewhat noisy in the process and bothersome to others and by chiseling with this dull butter knife it’s my way to be able to sip my frozen drinks and quietly coexist with others in the room.
    For the most part I have not had a problem with this knife and have even showed the butter knife to police officers manning security check points at airports and or courthouse’s and they have let me proceed with this knife because it was considered a utensil and not a weapon of any sort.
    Lately I have had 2 women at places of business who have made a BIG DEAL about this butter knife calling it a “weapon” and really going overboard to the point of calling the police and harassing me in the process….and I want to know where is the dividing line between a dull butter knife who’s blade is 4″ inches long and what is considered to be an illegal knife where the blade is longer than 3 & 1/2″ inches long?
    Any Advice?

    1. Lets do an experiment, take your dull butter knife and thrust/Jab it into your upper thigh. Did it penetrate your leg? Even your butter knife can be considered a dangerous weapon. You would not think a fork could hurt either. How about a pencil, pen, or high heel?

    2. i was once in a controlled scholastic environment where someone complained in the cafeteria that they wouldn’t give us steak knives, a friend of mine made a show of pocketing a butter knife after that and once we had exited the cafeteria forcibly inserted it 2.5 inches into a tree from a distance of 20 feet, tell me that isn’t a weapon tell me that wouldn’t be as effective or more effective against a flesh and blood human being then it was against that poor tree which hadn’t done anyone any harm.

  10. What’s the definition of switchblade? I heard button is illegal but spring loaded is legal?

    1. There are two kinds of spring loaded knives. The first is a switchblade which uses a button or lever on the handle to release the blade without physical contact with the blade itself. They can be owned inside your own house, but can’t be carried. The other is similar, but with an important difference. Automatic knives or spring assisted knives require you to physically push on the blade, typically from a thumb stub toward the top, to get it to open and are perfectly legal to carry. If you ask for an automatic or spring assisted knife at any sporting goods store they should give you the right kind. As long as you find one without the exterior release button, you should be good to go.

  11. Are throwing knives over 3 1/2″ blade legal to carry in unconcealed sheath?

    1. I believe that as long as you cant pull them out and use them really fast its ok

  12. Are bowie with back cuts legal there,we camp regularly out there and I have a big bowie just want to be legal in town on traveling down n around..

    1. As long as it’s openly carried. Check city lawd

  13. I am confused as to what “concealed” means. Would it be okay for me to stick a 5 inch folding knife in my pocket with the pocket clip attached to the outside? Or would that be interpreted as concealed?

    1. I asked this question to the Larimer County S.O. a couple months ago, part of the reply was:

      “With regard to your question of whether the visibility of a belt clip would matter, that might be a question for the Courts. Although one could argue that the clip denotes a knife, it most likely does not constitute plain view as the length of the blade is the focus of the question.

      By statute, if the blade is 3.5 inches or less it’s considered a pocket knife and is not considered “Unlawfully carrying a concealed weapon”. Knife blades greater than 3.5 inches should be in plain view, displayed in a sheath.”

      Since the length of the blade is what determines it to be legally concealed or not, the presence of the clip denotes the presence of a knife. So if the knife (ie: the blade) cannot be seen (hidden from plain view), then it is considered concealed.

      This is just my take on it, based off the email reply from the sheriff’s office.

    2. Okay thank you. I will send an email to my local sheriff to see what they think just to verify.

    3. But carrying a knife in a sheath conceals the blade which, by this definition, essentially means it is concealed. Furthermore, carrying any folding knife in a sheath conceals the blade within the knife as well as within the sheath. Going by this definition there is no possible way to carry a folding knife with a blade over 3.5″ without it being considered “concealed”.

    4. “Concealed” means covered by clothing. If you strap a 4″ knife (bare or in a sheath) to your forearm and wear a short sleeve shirt, the knife is not concealed. If you wear a long sleeved shirt, the knife would be concealed. With a pistol, if you strap the holster to your pants belt, it is not concealed. If you put on a coat that covers the pistol, it is now concealed.

    1. Yep. Just follow the 3.5 inch rule for concealing

  14. I don’t know why switchblades are illegal its a knife that is spring loaded and a regular knife is hour hand opening it, isn’t the same thing

  15. So, it’s legal for balisongs to be owned, but not gravity knives? A balisong IS a gravity knife. Someone mind clearing that up for me? I’m not looking to buy one, not at all, I already own one trainer and have a comb trainer and the BaliYo pen coming in the mail.

    1. I don’t think the law is very clear. A knife has to lock open to be considered a gravity knife, at least in Colorado. Many butterfly knives have latches that lock them in the open position, but in most cases they can be removed. Your hand is really the locking mechanism.

      I think in the 1950s when the knife laws were made they had more in mind something like a switchblade with one handle that could be quickly flung open with one hand, but that’s really true of most folding knives if you practice opening them enough. Butterfly knives weren’t even made in the US until the early 80’s and I think it’s just too obscure and recent of an issue for the law to have really developed.

      There’s also the issue that a person has to intend on using a knife as a weapon for it to be considered one, and many people own butterfly knives for the sole reason of learning tricks with them. If you were taking it on say a camping trip or to a friend’s house, I don’t really see how that’s really different from a chef carrying his knives home from work.

      Ultimately I think whether a police officer would charge you and a court would convict you for having a questionably legal knife or let you off the hook would have more to do with the situation he or she caught you with it in than the nature of the knife itself.

  16. so its illegal to carry a stilettos (aka) a switchblade but its ok to own them ? can some tell a little about this i live in az but ill be in colorado for a week and i want to know if i can have my stiletto

    1. Might be too late but I’ll reply anyways – You cannot carry a switchblade with you in CO. Of course, I don’t know how much the local law enforcement cares.

    2. Just for future reference, LEO’s in Colorado don’t actively look for that kind of stuff, but being pulled over/stopped at a mall or some such would certainly result in at least the confiscation of the knife. Depending on the day/season/time, you could be let off due to being out of State, but more often than not, that’s just added motivation for some of them.

      I would recommend that while in Colorado, particularly in Colorado Springs or Denver, to make do with an A/O or other pocket knife. Don’t chance your Stiletto~

  17. I have a Gerber lever lock knife which I purchased about 10 years back. I also got my son one. He does serious mountain climbing and thought a one handed openining knife might help when your 500+ ft. above the ground. Are these legal in Colorado (Latimer County in particular)? The use the thumb to swing the blade. I have arthritis and it makes it easy to open. Currently I use it at home but a few times I’ve forgotten to take it out of my pocket and went in public. Is this currently legal to carry (3″ blade)? Wayne

    1. yep that is fine to carry from my understanding.

  18. Here’s a perspective I’ve yet to hear… I’m a sushi chef in a small town and prefer pedestrian travel. I often carry a fistful of knives well over 9 inches in length in various carrying types. Can these be considered weapons? Also, If something awful were to happen, can I legally defend a life with them?

  19. I just want to make sure that it is legal for persons at the age of 18 may open carry a knife. Is this correct?

  20. Yes, Charles. There are a few switchblade manufacturers that deal at a lower cost to active military.

  21. May question is if I am military am I allowed to carry automatic knife?

  22. So does this law apply to swords or not? Law enforcement I asked was not too clear. Does anyone have definite proof one way or another?

  23. Are there age limits for possessing knives? My son is 15 and we bought him a machete… Is he legal?

  24. Just get a machete, put it in a sheath and clip to your belt. That’s all the “Deterrent” you need! lol

  25. I have a 10 inch (blade) bowie knife that I wish to carry, in a sheath next to my leg. I’m 18 and I’m curious to know how that would work, it would be just for self defense and to deter threats, I’m a small guy and I need a way to effectively defend myself.

  26. Neil C. – you are totally incorrect friend. You are confusing part of the law and then using that part incorrectly – hoping you can get away with something. ANY SIZE SWITCHBLADE – GRAVITY ASSIST – OR BALLISTIC KNIFE IS ILLEGAL. Don’t confuse knife blade lengths as being the only thing that matters. Read the law and read it again so you don’tend up in jail, and so you don’t spread bad information to others.

  27. The amount of incorrect information here is staggering! Believe these back-alley lawyers at your own peril. The information that I just got from the Douglas County Sheriff’s Department is as follows: In Colorado, a switchblade, gravity knife or ballistic knife of ANY LENGTH is still an illegal knife. This is based upon knife “type” and not blade length. It is illegal to conceal ANY knife with a blade longer than 3.5″ but perfectly legal to carry any folding or fixed blade utility, hunting, fishing or Bowie knife OPENLY on your belt. In cold weather, if your coat covers your knife, you are technically breaking the law, and you are at the mercy and discretion of any law enforcement officer, so be careful!

    1. Right you are I was told by a police officer that you could even open carry a sword length weapon as long as it does not leave the sheath in a threatening way. He told me of a man that once a year protests this fact by wearing a claymore on his back. The officer went on to say that there have been times that this man has needed a police escort to allow his peaceful protest without major molestation. (I know this comment will probably cause quite a bit of immature replies so let me clear the air molestation also means “to annoy”) Also as long as you intend to use a large hunting knife to guard yourself from animal attack and or for use in camping(i.e chopping wood) then you can use fixed blade knifes that can even be as big as machetes. Granted the knifes DEFINITELY NEED to be OPEN CARRY.

  28. Air Force Reserve here, Just bought the Benchmade Infidel (3.91″ Blade length) Am I reading correctly that only in uniform I can carry this blade? Would the Police really make that big of a fuss about it? One team One fight..

    Colorado State law Exemptions:

    5-8-25 Exemptions From Chapter.

    Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to forbid United States marshals, sheriffs, constables and their deputies; any regular or ex-officio police officer; any other peace officers; or members of the United States Armed Forces, Colorado National Guard, or Reserve Officer Training Corps from having in their possession, displaying, concealing, or discharging such weapons as are necessary in the authorized and proper performance of their official duties.

    (Ordinance No. 5462 (1992))

    Direct Link:
    http://www.colocode.com/boulder2/chapter5-8.htm#main

  29. Lee, those (like a S&S tactical folder) knives are legal. There is no button or mechanism in the handle, the lever is on the blade.

  30. Sooo that means i can carry my 4.5″ karambit knife around as long as its hanging from my belt in plain sight yes?

  31. So these flipper knives as I read the code are illegal? The kind that are not spring assisted, but have a lever on the back of the knife you push down to open it up with.

  32. Hey so I was wondering. A lot if states have seperate laws banning throwing knives. What is Colorado’s position on shorter than 3.5 inch blade throwing knives.

  33. It’s legal to open carry any legal knife, anywhere. It’s frowned upon heavily in the cities, but legal none the less. State law superceeds any local law always. Pocket knives are generally accepted even in cities as long as you keep the blade under 3.5. I’ve carried up to 4.25 though and the cops never cared. I currently carry a 3.75 inch Gerber thumb action in my right pocket, or a 4.5 inch fixed blade MTech sheathed and open on my right hip belt. I get some hassle sometimes but never any trouble. Don’t be an idiot tho. Carrying a sword around is too much. In fact I am certain any type of sword, of any length is illegal to carry. Open or closed carry. I’ve been in CO most of my life. And been harrassed by the police enough to know. Back when I was a teen the law was 3.75 and not 3.5. I wonder when it changed?

    I wonder too what the definition of ballistic knife is exactly. Does that mean Tanto?

    Assisted Opening knives(aka auto folders), are in a legal grey area. Although the law pretty much classifies them as Switchblades. I’ve read some case law from all over. For the first 10 or so years they existed, auto folders were for military and police personnel only. I had to get one on EBay. Now they are everywhere. It’s hard to say something is illegal when it’s readily available for purchase at any store that sells knives. They really aren’t a threat. Switchblades are illegal because you could easily conceal it, walk right up next to your victim and stab them without all the commotion and stabbing motion. Just put the end to their body and open it. Auto folders are essentially no more dangerous then thumb action knives. Again, keep the blade legal and you should be fine.

    Gravity knives are not thumb action knives. Unless your blade is so loose it opens by itself, in which case you’re going to get stabbed in the leg soon. Just to clarify that. Gravity knives open by gravity or inertia(like a throwing or thrusting motion, i.e. a knife that opened out of your sleeve when your release it by a trigger or inertia you exert through motion. You’ve all seen them in the movies.)

  34. It is legal to open carry a sword in Colorado.so you can carry ur 22 inch blade openly.

  35. In studying cases from a number of States, it seems that juries and the law are harder on people who use knives than guns in claimed self-defense situation.

    I have CCW to carry a concealed pistol in Colorado, but if I carry a knife with a greater than 3 1/2 inch blade I am likely illegal.

    A box cutter, the kind with the replaceable single edge razor blades is apparently legal to carry as it is lees the 3 1/2
    inches blade wise and it is not a gravity knife or switchblade.

    Most any lock back folder can be opened like a gravity knife so this term is not well defined legally.

  36. What is the legal definition of concealed? My knife has a clip that I attach to the inside of my front pants pocket. The top 1/2-3/4 in of it is showing. Does the law state that 100% of the knife has to be visible or is it a lower percentage?

  37. Hi. Is the 3.5″ overall length? Or just the length of the blade? If it is the blade length, do you start your measurement from the guard or handle if folding, or do you start from the beginning of the blade’s edge/cutting area? Thanks so much!

  38. I want to carry a Bowie knife on my belt… its got a 11 inch blade and i was wondering if there are any restrictions on knife length when attached to a belt

  39. I own several Chinese broadswords and a 34″ Jian: steel spring sword that is not sharpened on the cutting edges, but could be used to impale Is it legal to practice/carry these in on public property in Denver?

  40. Is an out-the-front knife illegal? I thought I read that if the opening mechanism is part of the blade, then it is not considered a switchblade…

  41. Not totally CORRECt any blade less than 3.5 Inch is NOT a knife. It si the Blade Lentgh NOT the Total langth that matters Even a switchblade is NOT a prohibited carry conceale item IF its blade is less than 3.5 inch

  42. Im sorry but your comment about carrying a 22 inch sword made me laugh. Im sorry grasshopper but you have not reached sword mastery yet.

  43. Since ANY “Knife” with a blade less than 3.5 inch “IS NOT A KNIFE” according to 2013 Current Colorado law then you can legaly carry any knifefolding or not whether or not a switchblade or assisted spring opening or out the front spring type or not and “ITS NOT A KNIFE”!!Perfectly Legal to Csaarry concealed.. Check your RULER before carrying to be lawful.

  44. Concealed carry permits are only for guns in Colorado. Also, a 22″ sword is not very mobile. You are better off with a 3.5″ knife.

  45. Question, I’m a small person and git targeted because of it. I own a 22 inch short sword that I want to carry as a deterrent for said problem. Can I git a license to carry it? Thanks.

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