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Kentucky Knife Laws

Kentucky Knife Laws

The knife law in Kentucky is pretty confusing. This article will give you a clearer idea of what is legal and illegal in everyday English. The article will discuss the law, important cases, and implications.

What is Legal to Own

  • It is legal to own ballistic knives.
  • It is legal to own balisong knives.
  • It is legal to own switchblades and other automatic knives.
  • It is legal to own dirks, daggers, stilettos, and other stabbing knives.
  • It is legal to own disguised knives like belt knives, lipstick knives, and cane knives.
  • It is legal to own undetectable knives (knives that will not set off metal detectors).
  • It is legal to own Bowie knives and other large knives.

There are no banned knife types in Kentucky.

What is Legal to Carry

  • It is legal to open carry any knife.
  • It is legal to conceal carry any ordinary pocket knife or hunting knife.
  • Anything besides a pocket or hunting knife can be considered a deadly weapon and was FORMERLY banned from concealed carry before an amendment to KRS 500.080 which now allows for concealed carry of deadly weapons as of June 27, 2019.  This is a “Constitutional Carry Statute”.  You can access it directly HERE.

What the Law Says

Concealed Carry

KRS 237.109 captioned Authorization to carry concealed deadly weapons without a license became effective as of June 27, 2019. It provides:

Persons age twenty-one (21) or older, and otherwise able to lawfully possess a firearm, may carry concealed firearms or other concealed deadly weapons without a license in the same locations as persons with valid licenses issued under KRS Authorization to carry concealed deadly weapons without a license.

(1) Persons age twenty-one (21) or older, and otherwise able to lawfully possess a firearm, may carry concealed firearms or other concealed deadly weapons without a license in the same locations as persons with valid licenses issued under KRS 237.110.

(2) Nothing in this section shall be construed to allow the carrying or possession of any deadly weapon where it is prohibited by federal law.

Effective: June 27, 2019 History: Created 2019 Ky. Acts ch. 10, sec. 1, effective June 27, 2019.

What is a Deadly Weapon?

According to KRS (Ky. Rev. Stat.) § 500.080 (2019)

“Deadly weapon” means any of the following:

(a) A weapon of mass destruction;
(b) Any weapon from which a shot, readily capable of producing death or other serious physical injury, may be discharged;
(c) Any knife other than an ordinary pocket knife or hunting knife;
(d) Billy, nightstick, or club;
(e) Blackjack or slapjack;
(f) Nunchaku karate sticks;
(g) Shuriken or death star; or
(h) Artificial knuckles made from metal, plastic, or other similar hard material;

So, just to cut to the chase (in case you haven’t figured it out from all this “legalese”, here’s the deal:

If you live in Kentucky, and you’re at least 21 years old, you can carry (concealed or otherwise) any knife – including deadly weapons.  You can also carry a deadly weapon if you possess a concealed weapon license.

If you are under the age of 21, you may carry any “ordinary” hunting or pocket knife.  The gray area here is the question of what knives do or do not fall into the category of ordinary hunting and pocket knives.

According to what we’ve found, it looks like there is no clear legal guidance as to what determines the characteristics of an “ordinary pocket knife” or a “hunting knife” in the state of Kentucky.  So, with that said, you would be SURE to stay within the boundaries of an “ordinary pocket knife” if you carried one of the thousands of knives available almost anywhere that generally fit the qualities of:

  • 3.0 – 3.5 inch blade
  • 4.0 inch handle
  • folding blade


Don’t Threaten Even with Fake Weapons!

The case of Kennedy v. Commonwealth in 1976 found that anything can be considered a deadly weapon if the person using it convinces the victim that the weapon is life-threatening. Therefore, threatening someone’s life with a trainer knife (a trainer is a knife that has no blade) is illegal if the person who you threatened actually believed that the trainer was deadly.

That’s NOT a “deadly weapon?”

The case of McCombs v. Commonwealth in 2006 found that a crowbar is not a weapon because the legislature intended for deadly weapons to be only things that are designed to be weapons and not things that also have a utility use.

However, the case of Stout v. Commonwealth found that a utility knife was a deadly weapon since it falls under the definition of a knife.


There is no restriction of knife ownership by minors. Restrictions regarding the carrying of concealed deadly weapons apply to anyone who’s younger than 21, but there are exceptions for a hunting or ordinary pocket knife.

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Conclusion to Kentucky Knife Law

So, what does this mean? It means that pocket knives and hunting knives will always be legal to carry concealed. If you want to stick on the right side of the law, only conceal carry a pocket or hunting knife. Other knives outside of those are probably deadly weapons since they are knives. If you conceal carry something like a plastic knife, it might not be illegal because of McCombs v. Commonwealth.

You can own any knife you would like in Kansas and you can open carry any knife.

Note that there is no client-attorney relationship here and this is not legal advice. Talk to a real attorney if you need legal help. There are also municipal laws that apply as well so it is in your best interest to research that.


  • Ky. Rev. Stat. § 500.080 (2019)

  • KRS 527.020.  Concealed Carry of a deadly weapon


  1. Thanks. I have always heard that I could not carry a knife that had an assist or own one. I don’t carry any knives other than the one that is attached to my Leatherman, but it’s good to know what I can and can not carry. Thanks for clarifying these issues in a way that makes sense.

  2. You have a big typo on this page-
    The bottom “conclusion” statement says:
    “Conclusion to Kansas Knife Law”

    This is the KENTUCKY page. 🙂

  3. Kennith: Assisted blades are covered as they are NOT switchblades. Though to be safe make sure it is a very untactical design. The leatherman should be fine as it is a multitool. They are so common that they wouldn’t want to go after you for them. They’d have a hell of a legal fight on their hands.

    Ben: Open carry is protected by the state constitution. You might get hassled in big cities, but it covers all weapons. Concealed carry permits are needed for any concealed weapons, but they cover ALL weapons. Knives, swords, guns, machineguns, saps, blackjacks, and anything else remotely dangerous. I want to talk to the guys in knife rights about getting our law clarified better.

  4. I own a Benchmade Auto Stryker 9100 SBT knife which was issued to me in the Army. Since I am still active-duty, I wonder if I am “legal” in carrying it on duty/at work. Can’t find any law here in KY which prohibits me carrying a auto-blade….any help?

    On the other hand, is this knife considered a “regular pocket knife”, or, because it is a spring-opened mechanism…is it a deadly weapon?


    • If it’s anything other than a pocket knife it is a deadly weapon while you can open carry it concealing it is a crime without a CCDW. It should be a crime but that’s a nother topic. There is nothing in the law that gives a pass or mentions active duty be exempt from the law. I suggest you get a permit.

    • You can own any knife in Kentucky. But you cannot conceal any knife that is not considered hunting and or pocket knife. (Pocket knife and hunting knife that is modified to be anything else Such as spring assisted or switch blade like.) Without a conceal and carry permit .

  5. OK I just got the word from Lexington Ky Police dept. That it is legal to carry swords into public areas. Further more they are to be treated the same as open carry for fire arms. So if your not allow to open carry or concealed carry a fire arm into a building the same applies to swords. The number I called d to verificate this was the Lexington police dept. Non emergency number 859-285-3600 this number is non emergency.

  6. Noticed a typo under “Conclusion to Kentucky Knife Law” where it says “You can own any knife you like in KANSAS…” where it should say Kentucky.
    Other than that this is great and very informational.

    • If you have to ask you’re not old enough….

      Ky has no age limit on carrying any weapon that is legal to carry without a license, which would include a hunting knife.

      The only age requirement is you must be 21 of older to get a Kentucky concealed carry license.

  7. KEY Words ” Open Carry” and “Concealed”. You can carry anything (knife wise), any length or style as long as you do not try to conceal or hide it. Gun conceal permits do not cover knives..only Guns. If you can’t have a gun (concealed or open carry) in the area at which you are attending.. such as public schools, Gov. restricted places or buildings, etc…. then don’t have a knife either to be on the safe or correct side of law.

    • In the state of KY the permit is a CCDW(Concealed Carry of a Deadly Weapon)

      As used in the Kentucky Penal Code, (See KRS 500.080.) “Deadly weapon” means any

      of the following:

      (a) A weapon of mass destruction;

      (b) Any weapon from which a shot, readily capable of producing death or other

      serious physical injury, may be discharged;

      (c) Any knife other than an ordinary pocket knife or hunting knife;

      (d) Billy, nightstick, or club;

      (e) Blackjack or slapjack;

      (f) Nunchaku karate sticks;

      (g) Shuriken or death star; or

      (h) Artificial knuckles made from metal, plastic, or other similar hard material;

    • Government can’t ban open carry in public buildings they can only prohibit conceale carry and it’s still not a crime. Now there is no law saying that government building can’t ban knifes so be careful.

      KRS 65.870 actually make it illegal for anyone to make new gun laws but for the congress. So if you city hall post a sign that says no loaded guns they messed up Bc they made a knew gun law are are not allowed.

    • Sorry, Gary, but we’re talking about Kentucky here, and Kentucky does not have any permit for concealed carry of guns, just like Kentucky doesn’t have any laws about concealed carry of guns. The law is about Concealed Carry of Deadly Weapons. The article included a quote of the part of the law where it defines what is and isn’t covered. The Ky CCDW permit covers guns, knives, brass knuckles, throwing stars, nunchucks, clubs, blackjacks, etc., as listed in the law.

      Now when you get to talking about carry in restricted areas things can get a little more complicated. In areas where the government prohibits carry by law or regulation, that ban almost always says “weapons” not “guns” or “firearms” — even if the picture on the sign might show a picture of a gun. In THOSE areas, carrying a knife would be banned and that ban has the law to back it up.

      On the other hand, in Kentucky most (but not all) privately owned places that are generally open to the public CAN ban weapons but unlike some states Kentucky has no specific sign that is required, so whatever sign the place posts means whatever it actually says. If it says No Firearms, then that’s what it means. If it says No Weapons, then that includes knives (other than an ordinary pocket knife or hunting knife, which are legally defined as NOT weapons),

      But in non-government places it really doesn’t matter what the sign says or even if they have a sign at all — for two reasons [1} all they can do is tell you to leave and the only penalty is that you are trespassing if you refuse to leave or if you return still carrying whatever they told you was prohibited; [2] the owner or operator can ALWAYS tell you to leave for nearly any reason and if you refuse it is still trespassing. So there really isn’t any difference. If you are carrying something that the people in charge don’t like, they can make you leave regardless of whether you’re carrying a gun, a knife, or a cup of coffee.

    • In Kentucky our permit to carry are CDWL which is what you go and get to be able to conceal carry a pistol here but it is a Concealed Deadly Weapons License so it allows us to carry any deadly weapon concealed. Any knife, dagger, double edged, etc..

  8. So, open carry would be in plain sight and sheathed if possible, right? I’m planning on buying a Karambit, but it’s longer than allowed for concealed, so I need to know.

    • Yes you can have any deadly weapon you want including all the ones on the list just make sure you don’t consea them unless you have a CCDW license.

      There is no law that keeps a person from owning deadly weapons but only make it illegal to conceal them.

    • I wish I knew for sure. Sheathed should be perfect one would assume but how would someone tell a sheathed knife from a sheathed flashlight? I wonder if clipped to inside of pants pocket would suffice? Top of knife would be visible. I own several automatic knives. I carry this way hopefully not at my own personal peril

  9. I own 2 karambits for self defense cause there’s a lot of violent activity where I am and I carry one on the back of my belt with a jacket over it or shirt whatever now I know that’s illegal would it make it legal if I kept it in front on my clothing or is it just illegal overall I’d really like to know in case i come in contact with the law I also forgot I’m near Lexington KY

  10. If you carry a switch blade in a sheath.Is it considered conciled. It seem like it would seem the same as having it in your pocket.but I’m unsure.

  11. You can own any knife you would like in Kansas and you can open carry any knife.

    Needs to be changed to kentucky. You have Kansas above in the article.

  12. I had a knife on school property which everyone does but I got in trouble because I was sitting with my friend who cut the bus seat and they said my knife which was 4′ foldinh knife was not a pocket knife.

  13. What would be legally defined as “open carry”? In a sheath or pouch, on the pocket clip, clipped on the outside of the pocket or maybe on belt?

  14. Can I carry a (fifteen inch Bowie knife on my belt loop in my in its holester technally I look at it as a hunting knife and it wouldn’t be ready to cause harm if it’s in its holester and people could also see it anyone please tell me if I can carry my knife

  15. Would clipping an automatic knife in your pocket be considered open or concealed carry? It makes part of the knife visible.

  16. Because a hunting knife is a broad tderm you basically have to prove your knife in question is being carried for the purpose of it as a hunting knife a karambit while was originally meant as a fighting knife is easily a good gutting knife because of the received blade but it may also be used as a weapon I carry one in my coat(a folding karambit) I am barely within my lawfully rights but in them still as long as the knife has a hunting purpose and function that allows it to be concealed legally however if it’s sole purpose is a weapon meaning a sword for instance or a large blade that has no practical hunting application then no matter the size or type can’t be concealed when carry however if there is say a pocket clip on said knife that has no other purposes other than a weapon than you will be in the gray zone as some parts of KY consider that open carry as it lets the people around know you have a sharp object there but it is also in other parts a concealment check your local laws to see I live and work in Ashland and have spoken to both officers and the da so I have gotten proper clearance and approval no permit needed

  17. Also bowie knifes do count as a hunting knife as I use one for deer keep it under a foot as a precaution as after that it loses logic basis as a hunting knife

  18. Can someone tell me if the flagrant havoc is illegal for a minor or carry like a belt knife? Would it be considered a deadly weapon to conceal it?

  19. I have carried a machete around town and into stores before. I even talked to a cop who told me we can carry whatever as long as it can be seen. I mainly carry one of my bowies though.

  20. have to be the guy who asks, but what about a sword? are they legal. I mean it be really be hard to conceal one. so Could i open carry one?

  21. Halfway through “Conclusion…” the article switches to talking about KANSAS. I didn’t double check the references, but in Kentucky the abbreviation is normally KRS (Kentucky Revised Statute) or KAR (Kentucky Administrative Regulation); I have never seen the abbreviation KAS used for any Kentucky law or regulation.

    Two things not mentioned:
    1) Concealed Carry of a knife other than a hunting knife or ordinary pocket knife IS LEGAL in Kentucky with a concealed carry permit (yes, Kentucky concealed carry permits cover all “Deadly Weapons”)
    2) Kentucky honors all other state concealed carry permits (even states that do not honor Ky permits).

  22. Yes so I carry a 7 inch trench knife(knuckles) as the handle with me because I walk back and forth to work and I carry open carry on the side of my bag is it illegal to carry it I read somewhere that it doesn’t matter about the handle is this true

    • Hey Wes;
      Thanks for the question; My advice is not official so I’d suggest contacting legal counsel in the state of Kentucky. However, unofficially I can say that Kentucky’s definition of “deadly weapon” includes metal knuckles which would be illegal to carry concealed. However, as per the quote below (from Knifeup.com), you may be walking a bit close to the edge of the law by carrying even a visible metal knuckle;
      However, you could get into trouble if you carry (concealed or open) anything that a judge or “normal citizen” would deem to fall outside of the category of “hunting knife” or “pocket knife”.

  23. My question is about pocket clips on knives in Kentucky.
    If a knife has a pocket clip, and the clip is visible outside the pocket, is that considered “open carry.”

    • IANAL, but that would be concealed carry just like a Kel-Tec P3AT pistol with a pocket or belt clip installed is a concealed weapon UNLESS the weapon is in the open.

      This of course assumes you are it wearing transparent pants.

  24. So, would it be legal for one to open carry a “knife” that would be much larger than any modern hunting or pocket knife if it were on your hip, say, in a scabbard or sheath?

    • I just came into possession of a gerber8971219A. It is an extremely small possibly 2.5 inches when folded and contains a utility razorblade. I use this tool on numerous occasions during the day. I guess what I’m asking is if I am a felon in Kentucky can I legally go to jail for carrying this tool in my pocket? What if I clip it to my belt and my shirt falls over it, can I go to prison for concealed? What are Kentucky the options for a felon in Kentucky who just wants a tool handy when it’s needed and not a prison sentence?

    • You can open carry a sword.
      You may call it a sword.
      You may open carry any deadly weapon.
      People will ask you about your sword.. It’s a sword.

  25. I want to purchase a short samurai sword from an auction that was used in a movie from a long time ago. Is it legal for me to import and own such sword in the state of Kentucky?

    • Gun laws regarding concealed carry of firearms have changed in Kentucky, you need to update the information on your site… It is incorrect.

    • Hi April;
      While I’m not “allowed” to give you official legal advice online, I can give you my opinion. My “opinion” is that it’s any knife that is smaller than a full-sized kitchen knife and has a belly on the blade (opposite of a switchblade dagger) and you could buy it at an outdoors store. That opinion doesn’t matter NEARLY as much as the opinion of the police officer with whom you may be having an issue. You see, ultimately there’s a lot of ambiguity in this area and different cops will have different ideas. It often depends on what you look like, how to talk/act with him, where you are and what it appears that you’re doing. Just to be safe, get an actual hunting knife from Pro Bass Shops or something and wear it when you’re in the forest. Hey, that’s my opinion!
      Thanks for your question,

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