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Hawaii Knife Law

Knife laws in Hawaii can be a little tricky. This guide will teach you the knife law in an easy to understand manner. It will present excerpts of the law as well as case precedence.

What is Legal to Own

  • It is legal to own Bowie knives and other large knives.
  • It is legal to own throwing stars and throwing knives.
  • It is legal to own disguised knives like belt knives, lipstick knives, and push knives.
  • It is legal to own undetectable knives (knives that won’t set off metal detectors).
  • It is legal to own dirks, daggers, and stilettos.
  • It is illegal to own balisong knives (butterfly knives).
  • It is illegal to own switchblades

Only balisongs and switchblades are banned in Hawaii. Any other type of knife is legal.

Limits on Carry

  • The issue of concealed carry or open carry is not an issue in Hawaii.  If a knife is considered a “dangerous weapon” (dirk, dagger, blackjack, slug shot, billy, metal knuckles, pistol, or other deadly or dangerous weapon) it cannot be carried either concealed or openly.
  • There are no knives that can be carried one way (ie. concealed) but not the other way (openly).


What the Law Says

HRS § 134-51.  Deadly weapons; prohibitions; penalty.

(a) Any person, not authorized by law, who carries concealed upon the person’s self or within any vehicle used or occupied by the person or who is found armed with any dirk, dagger, blackjack, slug shot, billy, metal knuckles, pistol, or other deadly or dangerous weapon shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and may be immediately arrested without warrant by any sheriff, police officer, or other officer or person. Any weapon, above enumerated, upon conviction of the one carrying or possessing it under this section, shall be summarily destroyed by the chief of police or sheriff.

(b) Whoever knowingly possesses or intentionally uses or threatens to use a deadly or dangerous weapon while engaged in the commission of a crime shall be guilty of a class C felony.

Legislation and courts have stated that the law intends to only prohibit the conceal carry of items that are specifically listed, similar to those specifically listed, or were manufactured or modified to be weapons and only weapons.

The case of State vs. Giltner in 1975 defined “deadly or dangerous weapon” as “an instrument designed primarily as a weapon, or one which has been diverted from its normal use and prepared and modified for combat purposes.” In this case, a police officer found Giltner with a deep-sea dive knife who’s blade was 6.5 inches and arrested Giltner for carrying a deadly weapon. It was later decided that a deep-sea dive knife is not a deadly weapon.

The case State vs. Muliufi in 1982 further expanded upon the definition of “deadly or dangerous weapon” with “an instrument closely associated with criminal activity whose sole design and purpose is to inflict bodily injury or death upon another human being or is designed primarily as a weapon, or one which has been diverted from its normal use and prepared and modified for combat purposes.” In this case, the court ruled that nunchaku sticks  are not deadly weapons since they are used as training tools in the martial arts.

On top of this, the Judge’s opinion in State vs. Rackle in 1974 found that “a knife should not be considered a “deadly or dangerous weapon'” just because it is a knife. The manner in which it is used must be taken into account. The Judge also stated that, when “words of general description follow the enumeration of certain things, those words are restricted in their meaning to objects of like kind and character with those specified.” Therefore, if a knife does not fit within the dirk or dagger category, it can not be automatically classified as a dangerous weapon.

Because of these three cases, you can conceal carry any knife you wish as long as it is not a dirk or dagger or something similar to that. If the knife you conceal carry is something like a tactical knife or Bowie knife, it is not a dangerous weapon unless you use it in a way that makes it a dangerous weapon. For example, holding a Bowie knife at someone’s neck would make it a dangerous weapon.

Switchblade and Butterfly Knife Ban


HRS § 134-52.  Switchblade knives; prohibitions; penalty.

(a) Whoever knowingly manufactures, sells, transfers, possesses, or transports in the State any switchblade knife, being any knife having a blade which opens automatically (1) by hand pressure applied to a button or other device in the handle of the knife, or (2) by operation of inertia, gravity, or both, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.


HRS § 134-53.  Butterfly knives; prohibitions; penalty.

(a) Whoever knowingly manufactures, sells, transfers, possesses, or transports in the State any butterfly knife, being a knife having a blade encased in a split handle that manually unfolds with hand or wrist action with the assistance of inertia, gravity or both, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.


 Conclusion to Hawaii Knife Law

You can own any knife you want as long as it is not a balisong or switchblade. You can open carry any knife. You can conceal carry any knife you want as long as it is not a dirk or dagger. There are no limits to the blade length of your concealed carry and you should be fine as long as you don’t use your knife in a dangerous and deadly way.

Note that this is not legal advice and I am not a lawyer. Talk to a lawyer in Hawaii if you need help. There might also be city knife laws as well.

If you have any questions, post it in the comment section below. I’ll try to answer it. We are also looking for an attorney to do a quick Hawaii knife law interview.

Peter Stec

Hey Knife Up gang!  I'm Pete and I'm just a small man in a small rural town who loves the outdoors as much as the other million internet users that cruise sites like every day.  The difference is that I like to share what I know, and research what I don't totally know, so that YOU can have all the info you need to feel confident and prepared for all things outdoors related! And, for those who care, I have 42 years of wilderness canoeing and bushcraft experience in Northern Ontario and spend most of my Summers covered in mosquitos and fish slime, but hey, it's a lifestyle choice eh?
Peter Stec


  1. I can’t agree with the assessment. The actual code says anybody found armed with a deadly or dangerous weapon is guilty. That indicates to me that you CAN’T open carry any knife. A Karambit for example is clearly intended for combat and open carrying that will get you arrested according to the text of the law.

    1. I have to agree with Jed’s comment. I am an attorney (Not licensed in HI), but my comments here do not constitute legal advice or a legal opinion. The language in the HI statute that the author, Peter, might be overlooking is “found armed with.” So, under the statute you can neither: 1) carry concealed on your person OR in a car that you are using or occupying; or 2) be “found armed with” (whatever THAT means): any of the listed weapons, including the broad and somewhat ambiguous “deadly or dangerous weapon.” The HI courts have obviously tried to give some functional, practical context to “deadly or dangerous weapons,” but I’d say any weapon that is not specifically prohibited and that is intended purely for self-defense (e.g., the Odin’s Eye, which really has no other functional purpose) falls into a gray area of legality (unless there is some HI case law out there in addition to the 3 cases cited by the author). Consequently, I would not be comfortable saying you can open carry ANY knife, which implies that the HI statute should be read as only prohibiting dirks or daggers (including dagger-like, double edged knives, etc.) if they are concealed carry. The language “found armed with” potentially opens up prosecution for any weapon (knife or other) specifically prohibited or that is found to be a “deadly or dangerous weapon, regardless of whether it is concealed or open carry. Yes, that does beg the question of why “concealed carry“ is specifically prohibited, which turns on whatever the true legal meaning is of “found armed with” (I could speculate, but I’ve already taken up too much space). What I have heard during many visits to HI is that LEOs (mostly the County Sheriff Dept’s) are not sympathetic to self defense arguments for licensing or possession of just about any weapon (getting a handgun license seems to be next to impossible on the Big Island), but multipurpose knives seem to have been clearly authorized by the HI courts. I’d say that HI weapons laws are in serious need of updating to reflect modern self-defense needs.

    2. It’s actually how you use the knife that makes it a deadly weapon. Not having it on you. As long as nobody said that you threatened them with it or can more importantly describe the blade color or shape (serration) you are just fine. You can actually carry a sword as long as you don’t do anything stupid

  2. Alright since switchblades and balisongs are illegal due to what they were made for
    and that during the cases of State vs. Rackle in 1974 the judge stated that “a knife should not be considered a “deadly or dangerous weapon’” “just because it is a knife. The manner in which it is used must be taken into account.” doesn’t that seem a little odd?

    A balisong is a knife same with a switchblade which is still a knife. Shouldn’t that law be removed due to the judge stating “a knife should not be considered a deadly or dangerous weapon just because it is a knife. The manner in which it is used must be taken into account.”

    My question is if a person is a knife collector that only collects knives as a hobby and not use the knives for anything to cause bodily injury or death so basically just only for collecting purposes and he or she would need a switchblade and a balisong to complete their collection would he or she be charged guilty for misdemeanor offence due to obtaining the balisong and switch blade for only collecting purposes ?

    I mean i understand that it is illegal to own but a knife is still a knife regardless if it is a balisong or a switchblade the only thing that makes the switchblade or balisong look bad are people who attempt to use the knife to cause bodily injury or death. But to face the truth any knife can be used to cause bodily injury or death regardless of the size of the blade.

    I’m not against owning knives I actually own a Coldsteel Tanto Large pocket knife which i use as a tool around my house other than that I just find that law really retarded.

  3. Do you know if assisted opening knives are categorized as switch blades in Hawaii?

    1. Switchblade knives have a very specific definition under Hawaii law.

      §134-52 Switchblade knives; prohibitions; penalty.
      (a) Whoever knowingly manufactures, sells, transfers, possesses, or transports in the State any switchblade knife, being any knife having a blade which opens automatically
      (1) by hand pressure applied to a button or other device in the handle of the knife, or
      (2) by operation of inertia, gravity, or both,
      shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.
      (b) Whoever knowingly possesses or intentionally uses or threatens to use a switchblade knife while engaged in the commission of a crime shall be guilty of a class C felony.

      I have a knife that has a hook on the side of the blade that causes the blade to open very quickly as it is pulled out of the pocket by the hook getting caught on the pocket as it is pulled out. There is no button on the handle to be pushed, and gravity or inertia can not open it, so it is not considered a switchblade under the law.

    2. No they are not because it is assisted by a hand motion not a button or gravity. The spring only becomes active when you first apply your own force to it that is the difference

  4. Aloha, I am a wheelchair bound. It’s hard for me to use my fingers. Is there any possibility of getting a permit for a spring assistanced knife?
    It’s hard to shooting a gun and I have been attacked and I will not be a victim again.
    Short of a 15″ Bowie what my options?
    Mahalo for your time and consideration.

    1. Hi Doc!
      Your situation is unique. I’d ask your question to the local police (at the station) AND consult a lawyer. It’s hard to believe anyone would deny you the right to protect yourself if you’re in a wheelchair. My own opinion would be to carry mace (dog spray or bear spray which work wonders!) and a stun gun. I also would not put up with being a second time victim.
      Just my thoughts! Good luck

    2. Spring assisted knives are a great alternative. Can be adjusted for most any grip strength and opens quickly. They have most size blades in this category

  5. Dirks & Daggers are double-edged weapons, intended as such. I’m looking for a Karambit ring type neck knife with a straight spine drop point, 3″ blade in 420HC or better, for modified AkiJustsu defense tactics from a wheel chair. My technique is Irimi, (I can’t stand and execute Tenken) by sucking the perp close and using the left hand lightly to turn them and present the carotid at left neck, or via versa, as the perp demos handedness. Any suggestions. As quick access pockets are not available on front of pants/shorts, I need a neck knife useful for dining, letter opening, cleaning of nails etc.

    I have a SOG Gambit, blade is clawed somewhat and difficult to sharpen, I like the ring for a neck knife as I prefer the Marine-style slash technique and the little (Chinese: sticky) finger has an advantage for retention and manipulation. The ring makes a nice protrusion for hammer fist to the temple also.

    Due to an antibiotic that ate my biceps, and severe osteo right shoulder, moderate osteo left, I can raise my right hand to my eye level (no more bullseye shooting for me!)and must use my Lt, support hand to get pistols to eye level with extension.

    3″ straight spine blades remove arguments of “weaponry”, etc. I’ve had double edged boot knives etc, never found them particularly useful. I prefer the knives I use daily and that are multi-purpose. I basically have osteoarthritis in all major joints except Rt elbow and wrist. While waiting for ParaTransit, I sometimes sit alone for an hour or more and realize I may appear as a vulnerable target to a lowlife.

  6. I wanted to start selling knives, do I need a special license? What do I need to do?

    1. Well, we know you can’t make/sell switchblades or gravity knives according to Hawaii state statues (H.R.S. § 134-52), but otherwise, you can contact your state government offices to obtain a license (not sure of the specifics in Hawaii). I can’t find any law that says it’s illegal to make/sell a knife that does not fit the category of “restricted weapon” or illegal weapon.

    2. My honor student collegiate athlete daughter was detained by TSA in Honolulu and is charged with misdemeanor for a self defense cat key chain. I’m hearing from many Honolulu lawyers that a lot of good kids are being arrested or charged for this. My daughter had been stalked and followed , I gave her this item ,had no idea that t was illegal. TSA in other states just take the item or have person put it in their checked bag. Why is TSA in Hawaii making criminals out of good kids for this self defense item? Why is Hawaii sheriff Dept supporting this? Yet she could have carried a concealed knife with no problem.. I need to find others who have been charged with this in Hawaii
      Please contact me if you have had similar experience or know anyone who can help us

  7. thinking about getting a Odin’s Eye from AG Russell for my’a very small,a little less than 1 3/4 inch long,double edged ,less than an ounce,that clips to a purse.not a dagger ,for slashing self defense.fits on a finger .Wondering if it’s legal.Mahalo

    1. Thanks for the question Patrick;
      To me, it appears to be quite legal. Just balisongs and switchblades are illegal and you can’t conceal a dagger. Odin’s Eye is a tiny piece of “almost” jewelry which no one will even know you have until someone tries to attack you! I highly doubt it would fall into the category of dagger, and it would be a tough job for a prosecuting attorney to prove you were trying to kill someone since Odin’s Eye is not a stabbing knife, and it would be the absolute last knife you would ever use if you want to actually stab or kill anyone. Keep in mind that’s my opinion and only a legal professional in the state of Hawaii and give you an “official” answer since I’m not a lawyer (that’s my usual disclaimer!).

  8. Could I own and practice with a real Katsurigama in Hawaii?

    1. Most states have their definition of “dangerous weapons” and though I didn’t read about the Kusarigama specifically in Hawaii’s statues, if you were found with one anywhere near the public, you could possibly be charged for possession of an implement whose purpose is non-utilitarian (hunting, pocket knife, etc.) and whose only purpose is to kill people. Police officers are not big fans of things that are manufactured only to hurt or kill humans, so I’d be careful where I show that. Those are just my thoughts, but as usual, don’t take my word for it. Only licensed legal counsel in the state of Hawaii could answer that for sure! Thanks for the question.

  9. assisted opening knives i believe are legal,since its not an automatic and has to be manually opened,if it wasnt then any knives with stubs on the back or finger studs for flippers would be illegal as they are all ways of assisting you to open the blade,every type of blade should be legal IMO and the reasons behind the ballisong and switchblades being illegal here is because people didnt know how to handle them correctly and the hospitals were tired of treating all noobs for injuries…legalize it because it limits those of us who collect knives and are not drugged up maniacs looking to stab people..

  10. I’m new to all this but I’m still wondering is a kunai knife legal or illegal? HELP ME!

    1. Legally, you can OWN throwing knives. To carry them, you can open carry them, but since they can be classified as daggers, they would be illegal to conceal carry them

  11. So what if I were to get a trainer balisong knife? Is that still considered an illegal knife because of the inertia/gravitational opening?

    1. I don’t think so because it does on have a blade.

  12. I am trying to find out what distinguishes a double-edged diver’s knife from a dirk or dagger, having had a Kershaw amphibian diver’s knife confiscated by the Hawaii sheriff’s dept. and been charged with “carrying a deadly weapon”. It was in my computer case.

  13. There is no limit on blade length? So a Katana is OK over a balisong???? A buck knife is more legal? Retarded…

  14. I am unclear if an assisted assist blade (pocket knife) falls into the category of bail songs or switchblades. I believe it is a different kind of mechanism not covered by the statutes set forth in the law, but would appreciate any clarification you might be able to give? Mahalo in advance!

  15. Hi,
    Can I open my folding knife’s bland and use it in public to cut something?

    (virtually any type of edged items,we cannot carry in Japan.)

  16. Thanks for the information. I interpret your comments as “yes”, to my question, but I will ask it anyway: Do you believe carrying three S&W Bullseye throwing knives simultaneously on my belt is legal?

  17. Thorough, concise, well-documented article. Just what I was looking for. No more. No less. Mahalo!

  18. I believe you are incorrect in your interpretation of HRS 134.51 insofar as you state you can carry any knife as long as it is not a concealed dirk or dagger. The law states specifically that anyone who carries concealed a dirk or dagger is guilty of a misdemeanor, but also states “..or who is found armed with any dirk, dagger…” is also guilty of a misdemeanor. Since it specifically mentioned both concealed carry and “armed” I posit that any carry of the specifically mentioned knives is illegal.

  19. Does Hilo have any different local statues. Also any laws on pocket sticks,yawara,kubatom?

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