North Carolina Knife Laws

The Great Seal of the State O North CarolinaNorth Carolina knife laws are wordy and may be difficult for anyone without legal training to follow. This article describes both the statutes and Court decisions, or case law, concerning the ownership and carrying of knives in North Carolina, and puts it all in a language and order that makes it easy to read and follow.

What is Legal to Own

  • It is legal to own bowie knife
  • It is legal to own a dirk, dagger, or other stabbing knife
  • It is legal to own a switchblade
  • It is legal to own a gravity knife
  • It is legal to own a disguised knife, such as in a pen or lipstick

What is Illegal to Own

  • It is illegal to own any spring-loaded projectile knife
  • It is illegal to own a ballistic knife
  • It is illegal to own any weapon of similar character to a projectile or ballistic knife

What the Law States

§ 14-269. Carrying concealed weapons

(a) It shall be unlawful for any person willfully and intentionally to carry concealed about his person any bowie knife, dirk, dagger, slung shot, loaded cane, metallic knuckles, razor, shurikin, stun gun, or other deadly weapon of like kind, except when the person is on the person’s own premises….

Restrictions on Carry

  • It is illegal to conceal carry a bowie knife
  • It is illegal to conceal carry a dirk
  • It is illegal to conceal carry a dagger
  • It is illegal to conceal carry a butcher knife
  • It is legal to conceal carry a pocketknife
  • It is legal to open carry any legal knife
  • It is illegal to open or conceal carry any knife on a school campus, state property, or into a Courthouse
  • It is illegal to open or conceal carry any dangerous weapon at a parade, funeral procession, picket line, or demonstration upon any private health care facility

Definitions of Various Types of Knives

North Carolina statute defines a pocket knife as a small knife, made to carry in a pocket or purse, which has its cutting edge and point entirely enclosed by the handle, and that may not be opened by a throwing, explosive, or spring action.

A switchblade is defined by statute as a knife containing a blade that opens automatically by the release of a spring or a similar device.

Neither the statues of North Carolina, nor the case law, define any other type of knife.

Definition of a Dangerous Weapon

A dangerous weapon includes bowie knives, dirks, daggers, or any weapon of like kind, a switchblade, or any object capable of causing serious injury or death if used as a weapon.

Definition of Concealed

In order to be convicted of carrying a concealed weapon, one must have the intent to conceal it. In 1882, in State v. C. F. Gilbert, the Supreme Court of North Carolina found that Mr. Gilbert had not meant to conceal the weapon he was carrying in his front pocket, but was merely transporting it from one place of business to another, and was therefore not guilty of carrying a concealed weapon. In State v. Dixon, in 1894, the Court found that it did not matter what a persons’ intention in carrying a concealed weapon was, the only intention that mattered was whether the carrier intended to conceal the weapon. It then upheld Mr. Dixon’s conviction for carrying a concealed weapon, even though he carried it only for the lawful purpose of selling it. In this decision, the Court overruled prior case law, specifically State v. Harrison, where in 1885, it had found that Mr. Harrison could not be convicted of the concealed carry of a weapon that he carried only for the lawful purpose of trading it.

According to State v. McManus, a concealed weapon may either be concealed on the carriers’ person, or “about his person”, meaning that a weapon concealed within the reach and control of a defendant, is a concealed person for the purpose of North Carolina’s concealed carry statute. In State v. Gainey, the Court found that this means that a weapon hidden inside a vehicle may be a concealed weapon for the purpose of the conceal carry law. However, in the case of State v. Soles, the Court found that a gun concealed inside a backpack in Mr. Soles’ van, was not a concealed weapon under the statute, because the backpack was located in such as place as it could not be said that Mr. Soles had easy access to the gun.

Defenses to Conceal Carry Law

N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-269 provides a defense to the conceal carry law for weapons that are not a firearm; that you were engaged in, or on your way to or from an activity, in which the weapon is legitimately used, you used the weapon for that purpose, and you did not attempt to use the weapon for any illegal purpose. The statue does not describe any specific activities that a person must be engaged in when carrying a concealed weapon and the case law is silent on the issue. Commonly recognized activities where one would carry a knife, however, include hunting, fishing, trapping, and farming.

When the Open Carry of a Knife May Be Illegal

In 1843, in the case of State v. Huntley, the Supreme Court of North Carolina found that while a person may open carry any weapon, which is not illegal to own, for any lawful purpose, he or she may not do so in order to terrify or alarm the public. The Court held that though there is no statute prohibiting such carrying; it was a common law offense for which a person could be indicted.

Conclusion on North Carolina Knife Law

It is illegal to own a spring-loaded projectile knife, ballistic knife, or any similar weapon in North Carolina. However, “spring-loaded projectile knife” and “ballistic knife” are not defined by either statute or case law.

North Carolina allows for the open carry of any legal weapon, so long as you are not carrying it in order to terrify or alarm the public. It does not allow for the concealed carry of bowie knives, dirks, daggers, or butcher’s knives.

Sources

  • N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-269 (2013)
  • N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-269.6 (2013)
  • N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-277.2 (2013)
  • State v. C. F. Gilbert, 87 N.C. 527 (1882)
  • State v. McManus, 89 N.C. 555 (1883)
  • State v. Erwin, 91 N.C. 545 (1884)
  • State v. Gainey, 160 S.E.2d 685 (1968)
  • State v. Huntley, 3 Ired. Law 418 (1843)
  • State v. Dixon, 19 S.E. 364
  • State v. Soles, 662 S.E.2d 564 (2008 N.C. App.)
  • State v. Harrision, 93 N.C. 605 (1885)

Peter Stec
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Comments

  1. Okay, what about Balisong(butterfly knives)? No one ever mentions those. Are they illegal in NC? Are there restrictions?

  2. Can I carry a machete in car, as it’s for a plant nursery job?

  3. I’m 15 male can I open carry a k-bar or something along the same size

    1. A K-Bar is a clip-point fixed-blade knife that is typically considered a style of bowie knife, which in NC is legal to own and open carry, but not conceal carry. Now, K-Bars are generally considered as a “tool of war” that was purpose built for combat by the military. In the, “WHEN THE OPEN CARRY OF A KNIFE MAY BE ILLEGAL,” section above, it states, “In 1843, in the case of State v. Huntley, the Supreme Court of North Carolina found that while a person may open carry any weapon, which is not illegal to own, for any lawful purpose, he or she may not do so in order to terrify or alarm the public. The Court held that though there is no statute prohibiting such carrying; it was a common law offense for which a person could be indicted.”

      Now, if you openly carry a K-Bar knife, even though you may not have the intent to, “terrify or alarm the public,” you will certainly attract unwanted attention. All it would take is one person calling the police or 911 and reporting you for carrying a big scary knife to land you in hot water.

  4. Would it be legal to carry an ESEE Izula concealed in NC? Specs are below

    Overall Length:6.25″
    Blade Length:2.875″
    Cutting Edge:2.625″

    1. Concealed? Yes it would be illegal to carry concealed (unless you are going to or coming from camping, hunting, fishing activity) because it is a Dangerous Weapon. It’s in the law above. You can open carry it, all day long.

    1. I am 12 female is it ok for me to carry a pocket knife?

    2. Should be good to carry on your property; house backyard, house frontyard, house inside, apartment inside only. Not okay to carry beyond ones own property. You can own it but cannot travel with it because it is an automatic knife or like kind.

  5. I have a survival knife(Rambo style with unsharpened swedge) I like using for bushcraft and camping is it legal to open carry? I dont want to use it for everyday carry if its not legal so want to figure this out before I decide to get another knife.

    1. Yes. You can open carry as long as you’re not trying to scare people with it.

  6. Hello! I was hoping to get a larger knife to put in my purse for self defense in cities walking the streets alone. Is it a concealed carry if I just put it in my bag for self defense??

    1. Hi Lindsey;
      I think just like you in terms of what I’d like to carry, but here’s the deal in a nutshell; Any weapon that you carry and no-one can see, is considered conceal carry. And, further to that, if you ever tell a police officer it’s for “self-defense” they won’t like that because it implies you may use it in a violent confrontation. A lot of us can “fudge” our way out of situations by saying we were heading out on a camping trip today or we just returned from a day on the lake fishing and we still have our “fishing” knife on us. It depends on the officer in many cases, but I’m just sayin’.
      cheers,
      Pete

    2. Yes. You can go with any normal sized pocket knife for your bag or purse.

  7. I can’t find exact information on fixed blades. I recently purchased a fixed blade with a leather sheath. The man who hand made it says the cutting edge is 4.8 inches and the overall length is 8.3 inches. My question is are fixed blades of that size legal to open carry?

  8. Hi. I have a three foot sword and was wondering if it was legal to carry openly obviously as it would be very difficult to conceal such a weapon.

    1. Hey Scott;
      That’s a fair question and it’s been asked many times before. My standard answer is this: I’m officially not “allowed” to give you personal advice on legal issues, but here’s what I would consider. I wouldn’t even bother with the issue of whether it’s legal or not. I’d be way more concerned about public opinion, because if someone is offended/scared/angry/shocked at you carrying a sword, they’ll call the cops and I guarantee you the cops will give you a hassle. They are allowed to make a judgement call as to whether or not they’ll confiscate the sword and charge you for stuff like disturbing the peace, public mischief, etc. which is totally unrelated to the issue of “legal-ness” of the sword itself. Intent will be another big issue as you explain yourself in front of a couple of officers. That’s just too big a hassle for me. I also own a 3 foot long Katana and I’ll never bring it into public for the reasons I’ve just outlined. Plus, I have no reason to want to carry it in public! It makes no sense logically.
      Thanks again for stopping by knifeup.
      cheers,
      Pete

    2. Wear it with a kilt and say you are an actor and that it is for a low budget film. Never had a problem with my sword when i have been asked and said that. I also did a few stupid videos and keep them on my phone to prove i do it.

  9. I am looking to purchase a Case 288 Quickfire knife but am not sure if is legal to carry it. Can anyone give me some advice.

    1. I believe it’s legal at the age of 8yo to carry a knife but you should double check and make sure.

  10. Okay for knives but what about Cane-Swords and regular Swords? I have always wanted a Japanese Samurai Sword as well as a Cane-Sword but wonder if they are legal to own? Also, what about Bayonets? I have always wanted a WW1 Bayonet but is it legal to own?

    1. A cane sword would likely be considered a concealed knife of some sort. All swords and bayonets are legal to own, as well as machetes.

    2. You can own anything u want as long as u keep it on ur property. And or if u just bought it for instance travel but it would be best not to get caught because it would probably cost u a lawyer to get this strait.

  11. I have a 18” machete behind my driver side front seat, is that illegal in anyway??

    1. It’s not a Bowie, dirk or dagger so it doesn’t violate law.

  12. I have an 11 inch pocket knife with a 4.7in blade. Is this legal to carry in my pocket in public? And can the clip show? NC laws say nothing about pocket knife length, so I am curious. Thanks.

    1. Does not sound much like a pocket knife.

      The legal definition of concealed is………not visible from any angle of view.

      Hope it helps.

    2. Gabe – Ordinary Pocket Knife. An Ordinary pocket knife is an ordinary pocket knife. Large Pocket knives are not ordinary pocket knives. Next may, a Representative I spoke back and forth with, Rep Kidwell, who will motion for clarification and include larger knives.

  13. I have a Cold Steel Walking Cane that has a 24″ cruciform SPIKE (tapered to a needle-sharp tip) enclosed in it’s cane/scabbard. A small button unlocks the thing and you pull it out of the scabbard.

    There are NO sharp ‘edges’ – only the needle-point tip. A strictly thrusting weapon.

    If I am taking a stroll with this and it’s securely locked in it’s scabbard, am I in legal trouble if caught?

  14. I just wanted to make a statement based on comments ive read. There are lots of comments and questions about blade length. In NC there is no officially stated blade length that is legal / illegal. its rather vague. Its left vague so LEO can use their own judgement as to whether to charge a person or not. Guilty or not, the courtroom staff still gets paid every time a person stands before the judge. Use good judgement. if the folding knife is 8 inches closed and 15 inches opened.. logically it shouldnt be concealed… you’re asking for a charge. any normal pocket knife, spring assist or not, carried in a normal manner is not going get you in trouble unless you act threatening with it. In Cary, NC, spring assist knives are against local laws/ordinance, but they dont enforce it unless you make them. spring assist are so common these days that its hard to uphold the ordinance… especially when the LEO’s themselves are all toting them.

    1. I WAS ARRESTED AND SET FREE FROM THE MAGISTRATE, BUT I AM STILL BEING CHARGED BY G4S SECURITY FOR HAVING A 2 & HALF INCH POCKET KNIFE CLIPPED IN THE INSIDE OF MY POCKET. ( M-CARRYING CONCEALED WEAPON )
      GIVE ME A CALL, I HAVE QUESTIONS TO ASK ABOUT THE CHARGE. 704-584-8562

  15. I have a pocket knife with spring assistance where the blade comes out the side like a regular folding knife than straight out like a switch blade. Would this knife be legal to carry in a sheath side holster or carried in a pocket with clip showing?Masters Collection Spring Assisted Folding Knife
    7.75″ Overall Length – Rainbow Finish
    3.25″ Stainless Steel Blade – Very Sharp
    3mm Blade Thickness
    4.5″ Titanium Coated Handle – Flower Pattern
    Belt Clip
    Liner Locking System

    1. this depends. it is legal to carry a mil-spec ka-bar. but if the the swedge (false edged area of spine) is sharpened then some officers could try to claim its double edged and then cause you a court drama.

    2. Use some common sense. Yes it is legal to carry and yes they may try to take you to court and find you guilty of a dirk etc etc etc. What is going to happen is you are going to be detained you are going to go to court and you are going to pay a lawyer a lot of money to uphold the right! Is that what you want to do?

    3. Yes.

      The legal definition of concealed is,……….not visible from any angle of view.

      Any legal knife is legal to carry open

  16. Police in Wrightsville Beach, NC, told my friend James, that is open carry Firearm is technically concealed because it is holstered and that a holster or sheath covering even one in h of a firearm, constitutes concealed carry. So with Knives, exercise caution as to how they are holstered, sheathed, clipped…. at least in Wrightsville Beach anyway .

    1. The officer either is ignorant of the N.C. Constitution and laws regarding open carry of firearms, or was outright lying to your friend. A holstered weapon that is not covered by clothing or accessories is perfectly legal. If your friend carries the firearm in his hand, which seems what the officer was suggesting, that is brandishing and is illegal.

      I am not a lawyer but I imagine Wrightsville Beach PD views on firearms reflects that of the political leaning of the residents.

    2. That officer clearly was a moron i know i live in wilmington and know my gun laws extremely well and have a
      N.C ccw.

    3. Sounds to me that cop was screwing with your friend, tell the cop to charge you then sue his butt for violation of your 2nd amendment rights. (Yes knives and swords are part of the 2nd amendment)

  17. IN 1960 I WAS CHARGED WITH CARRYING A CONCEALED WEAPON (A KNIFE) BECAUSE THE OFFICER SAID IT WAS OVER 5.5 INCHES IN LENGTH. IT WAS 7″ OVER ALL. NOW 59 YEARS LATER NOWHERE DOES MY ARREST SAY IT WAS A KNIFE. THE COURT ASSUMES IT WAS A GUN. EVERYONE INVOLVED IS DEAD. I WANT A GUN PERMIT. MY ATTORNEY CAN’T FIND OUT FROM THE COURT WHAT THE WEAPON WAS. ALL RECORDS ARE GONE, TO OLD.
    ANY ADVISE. MY ATTORNEY WANTS MORE MONEY. PAID $1,100.00 SO FAR.

    1. i was wrongly accused of 2 weapons charges in the 90’s that i was unable to fight it court, and now i can get permits and pass checks. it shouldnt affect your process of obtaining a firearm unless you have DUI or other charges in the more recent past. it was only 6-8 years before i was clear to buy guns.

    2. Get the attorney to do a record expungement then you should have no more worries.

  18. I do have a story that may help someone. After a traffic stop, I had a trooper ask me if I had any concealed weapons. I said no, just a pocket knife. He asked me to show it to him, and I did. He instantly recoiled and said “that ain’t no pocket knife!”. It was an old timer brand large linerlock. Schrade called it a Mustang.
    Anyways, the cop was cool mainly because I had been obviously fishing, with my gear strowed about me.
    We started a friendly dialogue about legal knives.
    What he told me was, if the sales nomenclature from the manufacturer said “pocket knife” you typically are ok.
    If not, and the manufacturer supplies a sheath, you need to” exercise caution” his words.
    Also, most manufacturers of large knives with clips, state them as “belt clips”, not pocket clips. Again exercise caution.
    Nice officer who understood wording jargon.

    1. If the knife as a clip on it and you got it stick in your pocket and the clip is showing , than it is not a concealed weapon and usually one with a clip you can see the top part of the knife sticking your pocket anyways. You just can’t have a switch blade that will open automatic, it is illegal, so is two edged knives that are sharp on both sides or anything that shoots straight out like those switch blades, all illegal, just use common sense if you got any, read the law, not what everyone thinks on it, got what people think all over the internet, pull up your state law and code and read it, than some cities put in their own little law on that also and change it.

  19. NC Law should be amended. If you have a CCW permit, that should cover knives, as well. Not everyone has 500 bucks to drop on a a gun, but everyone has a right to self defense.

    1. Pretty much. Unfortunately it seems knives don’t have the passionate backing/outrage that follows firearms. So, we barely have a right to defend yourself/carry a knife when its relatively simple to do so with a gun.

  20. Regarding the blade length of 3.5 inches, does that mean the sharpened part or the entire blade piece? I have a folding knife with a total blade length of 4″ but the sharp part is about 3.5″ .

    1. Hey James;
      The safe answer would be, of course, the ENTIRE length from tip to handle, including the ricasso or bolster (which is the unsharpened part of the blade right next to the handle itself). I’m not sure the law is so specific to deal with that difference, but ultimately you’d probably want to ask an attorney in North Carolina if it matters that much to your situation.
      thanks for asking,
      J.

  21. What about sword? I have a Roman short sword. Could i carry that on my waist?

  22. What about fixed blade throwing knives? I assume they are legal for open or concealed carry, so long as the blade length meets the requirements of a legally concealable knife

    1. throwing knives, stars and throwing “hawks” are all illegal to carry. in NC you are allowed to shoot bullets and arrows, but not throw sharp pieces of metal by hand.

  23. Is a karambit “FOLDER” (Rescue Knife – Yellow Handle) with a typical 3 +/- inch blade legal to carry semi concealed with clip and ring showing / exposed legal in N. Carolina ?

    Add’l : tip of blade is blunted, cutting edge serrated and small 1/4 ” straight edge by serration. Is equipped with glass breaker tip as well. Primary purpose is rescue / survival but can be misconstrued as an actual Karambit Folder Combat Knife, I suppose ..

  24. Makes sense but how can one carry say a stiletto open carry? Can one attach a pocket clip to it and it be called as being seen?

  25. My brother bought my son a Mosey Oak gut cutting knife . Has a 4 inch blade ,is it illegal to carry in his vehicle for protection ? Please respond ASAP . I am a concerned Mother….

  26. Is it legal to open carry a dagger in public, also does it require a permit for NC

  27. are t handled push knives legal or illegal and or are there any restrictions…?????? thanx

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