Updated: August 18, 2020

Virginia Knife Laws

VirginiaVirginia knife laws are long and quite wordy, making it almost impossible to determine what is legal and what is not legal when it comes to owning and carrying knives in the state of Virginia. This article summarizes the law in easy to understand language so anyone can tell what is legal and what is not.

What is Legal to Own

What is Illegal to Own

  • It is legal to own any type of knife in Virginia.

Restrictions on Carry

  • It is illegal to conceal carry a dirk
  • It is illegal to conceal carry a bowie knife
  • It is illegal to conceal carry a switchblade knife
  • It is illegal to conceal carry a machete
  • It is illegal to conceal carry a ballistic knife
  • It is illegal to conceal carry throwing stars or oriental darts
  • It is illegal to conceal carry any knife of a like kind to one of the above listed knives

What the Law States

The conceal carry law in Virginia states, in relevant part:

18.2-308.  Personal protection; carrying concealed weapons; when lawful to carry; penalty

A. If any person carries about his person, hidden from common observation……(ii) any dirk, bowie knife, switchblade knife, ballistic knife, machete, razor, slingshot, spring stick, metal knucks, or blackjack…..

Definitions of Various Knives

Virginia statute defines a ballistic knife as a knife with a detachable blade, which is propelled by a spring-operated mechanism. The statue does not define any other type of knife, and in 2000, the Supreme Court of Virginia, in Delcid v. Commonwealth, held that the determination of whether any knife fell within the meaning of a word used in the statute was for the jury, or in the case of a bench trial, the Judge. The court also ruled that the instrument that is carried concealed must be a weapon, carrying a non-weapon is not a violation of the statute. It stated that the purpose for which an instrument is carried should be considered in determining whether it is a weapon or a non-weapon.

Definition of the Phrase “of a like kind”

The phrase ‘of a like kind’ is used in the conceal carry statute to make it illegal to conceal carry any knife of a like kind to one of the knives listed in the statute. In an unpublished opinion in Kingrey v. Commonwealth, the Virginia Court of Appeals, in upholding Mr. Kingrey’s conviction for carrying a concealed weapon, found that Mr. Kingrey’s butterfly knife, when opened, closely resembled a dirk. The knife was therefore ‘of a like kind’ to a dirk, which is specifically listed in the statute as a knife that is illegal to conceal carry. In 2009, the Supreme Court of Virginia held, in Thompson v. Commonwealth, that in order to prove that a weapon is of a like kind to one of the listed weapons, the state must prove that it is substantially similar to the listed weapon.

Definition of Concealed

Virginia statute defines concealed as hidden from common observation. The Courts have interpreted the phrase “hidden from common observation” in several cases.

In 1995, in Main v. Commonwealth, the Virginia Supreme Court found that a weapon carried in a person’s back pocket, when he or she is carrying a duffle bag which covers the handle of the weapon, the only visible part, the weapon is concealed for the purposes of the conceal carry statute.
In 2000, in Clarke v. Commonwealth, the Court held that a weapon is hidden from common view when it is hidden from all except those with an unusual or exceptional opportunity to view it.  It found that a gun in the pocket on the back of the seat in which Mr. Clarke was sitting was concealed because it only became visible to the investigating officer only when he approached the front passenger seat close enough for him to peer down into the seat’s pocket compartment from directly above.

Also in 2000, in an unpublished opinion in Barley v. Commonwealth, the Virginia Appellate Court upheld Mr. Barley’s conviction for carrying a concealed weapon, finding that a weapon hidden beneath a jacket on the front passenger seat of the vehicle Mr. Barley was driving was concealed.

Definition of the phrase “About the Person”

The code that prohibits the conceal carry of certain weapons says in part, “If any person carries about his person, hidden from common observation…. any dirk, bowie knife, switchblade knife, ballistic knife, machete…”

The Supreme Court of Virginia weighed in on what “about the person” means in 1994, in Leith v. Commonwealth, when it found that a pistol located in a console beside where Mr. Leith was sitting, was concealed ‘about his person’ because it was within close proximity to Mr. Leith. The Court also held that whether a weapon was about the person or readily accessible, was for the jury, or the in the case of a bench trial, the Judge, to decide on a case-by-case basis. It further defined ‘readily accessible’ as available for ‘prompt and immediate use’.

Following the Leith decision, in 2000, in the case of Barley v. Commonwealth, the Virginia Appellate Court held that a readily movable windbreaker covering a weapon concealed the weapon, because the statute required only that the weapon be hidden from common observation, not that it be covered by something, which was difficult to move. It further found that accessibility of the weapon was the evil the statue sought to regulate, and the fact that the windbreaker was readily movable supported rather than weakened the defendant’s conviction.

In 2007, in Pruitt v. Commonwealth the Supreme Court of Virginia found that a weapon Mr. Pruitt carried concealed in the car’s center console was no longer ‘about his person’ once he exited the vehicle and shut the door. His conviction for carrying a concealed weapon was thus overturned. However, in 2010, in an unpublished opinion in Johnson v. Commonwealth, in upholding Mr. Johnson’s conviction, the Virginia Court of Appeals found that a weapon inside the vehicle in which Mr. Johnson was riding was concealed about his person, even though he was standing outside of the car when the weapon was discovered. It stated that since no one had returned to the vehicle since Mr. Johnson had exited it, that it was reasonable to assume that the weapon had been concealed in the vehicle while Mr. Johnson sat in close proximity to it.

In 2010, in Hunter v. Commonwealth, the Appellate Court in Virginia found that a gun locked in the glove compartment of a vehicle in which Mr. Hunter was a passenger, was not concealed about his person because he did not possess a key to the glove compartment.

Conclusion on Virginia Knife Law

It is legal to own any type of knife in Virginia.

It is illegal to conceal carry a dirk, bowie knife, switchblade, machete, ballistic knife, throwing starts or oriental darts, or any knife of a like kind.

It is legal to open carry any type of knife.


  • Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308 (2013)
  • Delcid v. Commonwealth, 526 S.E.2d 273 (2000)
  • Clarke v. Commonwealth, 527 S.E.2d 484 (2000 Va. App.)
  • Leith v. Commonwealth, 440 S.E.2d 152 (1994)
  • Barley v. Commonwealth, No. 0117-00-3, (2000 Va. App.)
  • Pruitt v. Commonwealth, 650 S.E.2d 684 (2007)
  •  Johnson v. Commonwealth, 2010 Va. App. LEXIS 475 (Dec. 14, 2010)
  • Main v. Commonwealth, 457 S.E.2d 400 (1995)
  • Barley v. Commonwealth, 2000 Va. App. LEXIS 765 (Ct. of Appeals Nov. 28, 2000).
  • Hunter v. Commonwealth, 690 S.E.2d 792 (2010 Va. App.)
  • Kingrey v. Commonwealth, No. 2202-97-2 (Ct. of Appeals July 13, 1999)
  • Thompson v. Commonwealth, 673 S.E.2d 469 (2009).
Peter Stec
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  • Comments

  • Kelli Kerr says:

    Do the laws address whether it is legal to do knife and axe throwing on your own property?

  • TM says:

    What if I conceal carried a decorative dagger? Meaning, the knife has no blade, no sharpness, can’t be used as a weapon in any manner? Just curious. I was thinking about getting a decorative knife as a deterrent against danger, since my little pen knife isn’t really visible in my pocket lol

  • Johnny says:

    Here, the actual law says that throwing stars of any kind, SWITCHBLADE, brass knuckles, and blackjack is illegal to possess OR have under your control (in your house or car).


  • Lucas says:

    could i carry a scimitar in a sheath on my belt in public?

    • Jason says:

      Lucas, in Virginia . . . yes you can. Put a shuriken with inch long blades in your pocket and you may as well be a hardened criminal. Strap two Ninjat? to your back like Deadpool instead and march around Virginia like a boss (because that is totally normal here . . . apparently)! Wonder if they would find the detachable Shuriken belt buckle (like in 80’s-era Ninja movies) to be considered “open-carry”? Probably not . . . unless you had your shirt tucked into your pants or it was short enough not to cover the buckle.

  • Layne Winstead says:

    So by the similar type logic I’m not allowed to have any knife in a pocket or covered in any way that isn’t tiny or non fixed blade?

  • Ryan says:

    Im 13 can i open carry a 4.5 inch fixed blade knife

  • Aaron says:

    In va a non violent felon that’s 13 years ago old that recently was charged with conceal weapon a fixed blade buck skinning knife total of 12 inches handle and blade and plain site only used as feild dressing animals deer ext and work purposes you thank charge will stick well #1 in in commonwealth in va pawn shop sold this to me so u would think they no what’s legal and what happens if u try to buy gun as felon automatically state police will charge you so under them terms you thank the police had right to charge me a class 6 felony


    Can I open carry a Rambo sheath knife openly from my belt?

    • Pearson Bennett says:

      Sir do you think many will open carry knives on Jan 13th when the gun owners show up?

    • Pete S. says:

      Hey Pearson;
      I think we’re all on the same team! We’ll see what happens in VA!

    • Tim A. says:

      When did the “switchblade” become legal to own or openly carry in Virginia ? I had no idea. Im still seeing laws that say its illegal. Just want to be sure because people still cant sell them here as far as I know. Not trying to repeat a question.

  • John Mills says:

    Most knives have a clip on the side to carry it inside your pocket. I assume that would be considered ‘concealed’?

    • I’m gonna go with YES on that since that is a question that is asked quite a bit with no definitive answer. The knife is definitely more concealed and than “open”, so I’d say carrying a knife inside your pocket with only the clip being visible, would be “concealed carry” – especially since there is usually a shirt, jacket or some other item of clothing that further covers the pocket with the clip to make the entire situation squarely “concealed”.
      Thanks for the question John,

    • W Thomas says:

      Lot of BS being pushed in this forum…

      Here are some facts for Virginia

      Under current law, it is legal to own and open-carry switchblades in Virginia, but it is illegal to conceal-carry certain knives including switchblades, bowie knives and dirks. Dirks are small daggers.

      Similar knife legislation has been approved in the Senate:

      Like HB 1432, Senate Bill 1347 would allow switchblades to be carried concealed. It passed the Senate last week on a vote of 23-16 with one abstention.

      SB 865 allows the transfer of dirks, switchblade and bowie knives from family members to a minor. The Senate approved the bill last week, 21-19.

  • Tany says:

    I’m getting fed up with all this legalise mumbo jumbo. Have asertained that it is legal to open carry any type of knife in Virginia as it is with guns. Also been informed that some states define open carry as having whatever fully visible. Other states are good to go if it’s just partially displayed. Anyone have a clue which category is Virginia is in??? Also see that brass knuckles can also be openly carried. Any suggestions as to how those could be carried openly without crossing the line into what could be considered brandishing them?

    • Jon says:

      I’ve known some people who got arrested on knife laws in Virginia. All fixed blades, some people had their knife partially covered (like a small portion) by their shirt or winter coat (while wearing the blade on their side belt) and still got arrested. I mean come on, no wonder people hate police.

      I personally wouldn’t open carry a fixed blade in Virginia, it can be too easy for police to very liberally interpret it as “concealed.” Brass knuckles I wouldn’t mess with either.

      You should consult a good attorney in Virginia and ask them what pocketknife you can legally carry. The code doesn’t mention pocketknives. Even then, the police could say your pocketknife resembles a dirk or bowie knife when opened. Never underestimate scummy police and statewide corruption in Virginia.

      Really, my advice, move to a better state, there are 49 of them.

  • @shr.ekyboi says:

    Hey quick question so lets say I am 15 years old and have a pocketknife with a blade of 3.5 inches. I use them in Boy scouts but I was just wondering if I was allowed to have them in public in case of emergency as long as i have them hanging closed from my belt, so its in plain view is that legal?

  • Patrick says:

    If I have several knives I want to take up to be sharpened, and I have a pick up truck, regular cab do I have to place the knives on my dashboard so they are not concealed? No trunk to lock them in. Could I put them in a box and put them in the bed of my truck where they wouldnt be readily accessible?

    Were talking like a buck124, Fallkniven Bowie like knife , and Fallkniven A2. Not exactly small, worn on hip everyday carries.

  • Patrick says:

    Have a simple buck 110. Is it legal to carry in a sheath on my belt with no shirt covering it?

  • Pam says:

    Can I carry a pocket knife with a blade less than 4 in the glovebox of my car? In my purse?

    • Ty French says:

      Yes, I am even allowed to carry a 3″ pocket knife to school.

    • Sean says:

      No, the commonwealth doesnt make any distinction as to size, specific knives and knives of like kind are prohibited from conceal carry, conceal carry is defined as hidden from common observation (thats inside a glove box) so any knife carried concealed would be illegal, not the knife but the carrying of it concealed is whats prohibited

      Youd have to carry your 4 knife openly

    • Jason says:

      Pam, you would need to be a little more specific with what you mean by “pocket knife”. Unfortunately, here in Virginia, the law is written ambiguously on purpose to make it difficult for citizens to confidently carry certain types or kinds of knives. In general, if it is a normal folding pocket knife (single edge blade–not a switchblade) then the answer to your question is yes. It would not matter if the blade was 7 inches long–it would still be legal to carry in the car or in your pocket or purse. The problem comes into play if police decide to try to claim that the pocket knife looks to them like it could be considered “of like kind” to other knife types that are illegal to conceal carry here in Virginia–like dirks, daggers, etc. Of course, that would all be decided upon later in the courts where you would get to make the case that a Buck 110 folding knife is not a dirk or what have you. TL;DR: normal folding pocket knives of any size are legal to conceal carry in Virginia.

  • gon says:

    i just want protection from loose pittbulls, they are crazy around this state and i dont want to waste time learning to use a gun when alls i want to do is walk my dogs and have something to defend them in case a rabid pittbull gets lose and goes after them. but it seems my state made it to where that decision would be hard to protect me and my dogs.

    • Hey I get it! I’m a knife guy, but for dog protection, I’d carry a pocket knife with a 3-inch blade AND some dog/pepper spray which works wonders!

    • Sean says:

      Waste time learning to use a gun?? That is never a waste of time

      Secondly if the dogs that attack you are suspected of being rabid, lethal force would be justified, and if you want to use a knife as lethal force against a rabid dog, you must be one of the top knife fighters on this side of the Mississippi bc I wouldnt want to go anywhere near a rabid dog, especially one thats attacking me

  • Ashley says:

    I have 2 knives that I want to open carry I believe they are Bowie knives is it ok to open carry as lovg as the blade is not 12

    • Jason says:

      Ashley, in Virginia it is okay to carry your Bowie knives open carry even if they are long enough to be considered short swords. But do not try to carry them concealed, even if the blade is only 1 inch long, because Bowie knives are considered illegal if concealed carried.

  • Gabriel says:

    Am i able to carry a bowie knife in Damascus VA that has a 10inch blade and a 5inch handle it has a seath and I wear it on my belt it has a gold and bone handle

    • Noah says:

      No its legal to as long as its not a 12 inch blade youre perfectly fine but some places like Walmart or such will kick you out

    • Sean says:

      Yes as long as the sheathed knife is carried openly, it cannot be carried concealed

  • Randy says:

    Is it considered concealed if you carry a automatic knife (switchblade) in a case on your belt ?

    • Bernie says:

      It’s illegal to carry it at all, openly or concealed.

    • John says:

      VA law states and as noted above switchblades are legal. As a matter of fact above states all knives are legal. There are stipulations on how they are carried, but if carried legally, all are legal.
      If I understand correctly, legal carry for pocket knives means the clip or any part of the knife has to be visible by anyone without obstruction to its line of sight. So, if I carried a pocket knife in my pocket with the clip showing its obvious its a knife, therefore it is open carried because its visible.

    • Dmitry says:

      The law changed in 2017, switchblades are fine; calm down everybody: https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?171+sum+SB1347

      2017 SESSION

      SB 1347 Switchblade knife; person may carry concealed, exception.
      Introduced by: Bryce E. Reeves (by request) | all patrons … notes | add to my profiles

      SUMMARY AS PASSED: (all summaries)
      Carrying a switchblade knife; exception. Authorizes any person to carry a switchblade knife concealed when such knife is carried for the purpose of engaging in a lawful profession or lawful recreational activity the performance of which is aided by the use of a switchblade knife. The bill removes switchblade knives from the list of weapons the selling, bartering, giving, or furnishing of which is a Class 4 misdemeanor. This bill is identical to HB 1432.

    • Jason says:

      Randy, that would be fine in Virginia as long as your shirt or jacket or backpack is not hanging down over the belt sheath. If your clothing or bag or purse is covering the sheath on your belt obstructing it from being viewed . . . then you are “concealing” a switchblade which will get you into illegal carry trouble.

  • j says:

    What about a pocket knife with a 3 inch folding blade (crkt m16-01ks) where the top is showing when placed in my pocket with the clip? The law states less than 3 inches but does that include 3 inch pocket knives?

    • Lots of grey areas in our laws. I’d say that INTENT has a lot to do with whether you get in trouble or not. Let that be at least a partial guide.

    • Ali says:

      Please reply – I am 16 turning 17 and I want a 3-inch pocket knife to carry. Is it legal or not? thanks

  • RK Taubert says:

    Hate to ask, but I surmise that sword canes would be illegal also?

    • Jacob Bruce Suppes says:

      I believe that qualifies as concealed carry.

    • Mrs. Palmer says:

      I use a cane. Sometimes 2. (Legit orthopedic necessity. ) Are any cane swords/knives legal in any form/type of concealment? Thank you!

  • Kelly says:

    This article needs to be updated. 18.2-311 makes switchblade, dirk, etc. ownership illegal. It says that selling, bartering, offering for trade are illegal and then goes on to say that mere possession is evidence of intent to sell, barter or offer for trade. It’s bogus law and it needs to fixed, but as it is now, this page incorrectly states the law.

  • Jon says:

    Double action otf knives are illegal to sell or have in your possession in Virginia

  • John says:

    I appreciate the comments posted by John Bradley, ESQ, but don’t know if that answers my question below, sorry for being a bug about this but my legal expertise is basically nil except for the UCMJ which I was pretty good at years ago when I had the collateral duty as a Legal Yeoman when I was in the Navy and unfortunately there isn’t a civilian version of the Article 134 catch-all article that covers this that I know of.

    I’ve recently bought some knives, mostly the Ka-Bar/Bowie variety, and would like to have them sharpened professionally and this involves transportation. I have no intent of ever carrying these things, only collecting and locking away. My closest professional sharpener is about 30 miles away in the Virginia Beach area and I live around Fort Eustis in Newport News.

    I’m no legal scholar and don’t pretend to be one here or anywhere else but I would appreciate any useful advice on how I should do this. I don’t intend to be pulled over but just in case, if the officer asks if I have any weapons do I say “no sir/ma’am” or do I say “I have no guns but I do have some knives in the trunk that I’m having/had sharpened” or something to that effect.

    I never thought this would be an issue until I started seeing questions about various states’ legalities about knives on Amazon. I’ve always heard that switchblades and the sort have always been illegal because of the ease of concealing but larger knives I’ve never heard anything about other than shipboard policies when I was in the Navy which was basically boatswainmates and storekeepers could have knives that were no longer than three inches and not locking but everyone else didn’t need one (including multi-tools), but this policy varied from ship to ship to where everyone who wanted a to carry a knife could but had to follow the length and locking feature mentioned earlier.

    • erik says:

      Is an auto knife in my back pocket with the op exposed and the clip external on the back pocket considered concealed?

    • James Hanks says:

      Shall not be infringed. The only law pertaining to arms you’ll ever need to memorize. (yes, that includes all knives of EVERY KIND and EVERY LENGTH)

    • Rob says:

      In Virginia, carrying any weapon in your trunk doesn’t fall under the concealed concern, because it’s not readily accessible for use. You can carry anything in your trunk that is legal for you to own in the first place. I know this is a year old so this guy doesn’t care anymore, but somebody might.

    • Jason says:

      The correct answer to your question, and the way any lawyer will advise you is to never ever answer police questions. If a cop asks if you have any weapons, you just say I do not answer any questions, refer them to your lawyer.

  • cole says:

    is it legal for a minor to open carry a knife in virginia ?

  • Bill the Pill says:

    What about a 1918 Trench Knife? Would that pose a problem?

  • J says:

    If it’s in your backpack it probably isn’t “easily and readily accessible” but it is technically concealed and one could argue you could access it pretty quickly so I would think it falls within a grey area. Chances are pretty good law enforcement isn’t going to jam you up with a charge if you are camping and it makes it all the more reasonable that you are not carrying it as a weapon but as a tool. I would just open carry it and avoid chancing it.

    • B says:

      Good question J for my buck knife. I go camping with it’s blade is about 4 inches long hilt about 3 inches long so to big and once I leave my truck it’s on my hip but traveling from home to parking lot it’s in my hiking bag in the back of my truck. Guess they need to have it like Alaska that if you get pulled over and have a weapon in the vehicle/on you it’s your job that the first thing you do is to let them know it’s there

  • Steve says:

    I’m going camping and recently bought a
    ka-bar that has a 9 inch blade and is 14 inches in total. but I don’t want to carry it on my belt all the time. so if put it in my backpack is it therefore considered concealed carry. Will I get in any legal trouble if I do this. I live in Virginia

  • Cris says:

    I thought there was a 3 blade limit making a knife w/ a 3 blade or less ok to carry.

  • Joyce says:

    Are there age restrictions to purchase a knife?

  • Dylan says:

    is it legal to have a multi-tool in my pocket that has 2.73 inch blade? its from leatherman. Called the SIGNAL leatherman multi-tool. i am 16 years old and wanting to know if a kid like me can have one on my person for the tools/features that this multi-tool has to offer.

  • Zachery Taylor says:

    So in definition what is a switchblade? Cause some knifes have a spring assistance when open with the thumb stud? In New York those are prohibited So and considered a gravity or switchblade?

  • Chris says:

    What about age of conceal carrying and is it legal to conceal carry a Gambit?

  • John says:

    With pitbulls running rampant, is it legal to carry a samurai sword on your back to protect against a pitbull attack? I will never own a gun.

  • Max says:

    A 10 year old could carry a balisong concealed. The law does not state balisongs/ butterfly knives as being illegal to carry concealed.

  • William says:

    Would it be legal to carry a sword straped to your back? Like a katana for example? So long as it can be observed and seen?

  • John Greenfield says:

    I would love a definition of open carry is that considered like a knife clipped inside the pocket with some of the handle visible, or belt mounted in sheath .

  • AE Norman says:

    @knifeup you may want to review section 18.2-311 of the Code of Virginia.

  • Ronan says:

    This is misleading information.

    If you are in possession of a blackjack, brass or metal knucks, throwing star, switchblade knife or ballistic knife, you will be charged with a Class 4 misdemeanor, even if it’s not concealed.

    If you are conceal carrying any of the above, you will be charged a Class 1 misdemeanor.

    This is taken from the official Virginia Code of Law; you can read it for yourself.



  • Kelly says:

    So no “pocket knives”?

  • Caleb says:

    im am 13 years old and i was wondering if it is legal for me to conceal carry an acisted opening knife.

  • Frank Bridge says:

    I disagree with your statement on the page that it is legal to own any type of knife in Virginia. Here’s the statute:

    18.2-311. Prohibiting the selling or having in possession blackjacks, etc.

    If any person sells or barters, or exhibits for sale or for barter, or gives or furnishes, or causes to be sold, bartered, given or furnished, or has in his possession, or under his control, with the intent of selling, bartering, giving or furnishing, any blackjack, brass or metal knucks, any disc of whatever configuration having at least two points or pointed blades which is designed to be thrown or propelled and which may be known as a throwing star or oriental dart, switchblade knife, ballistic knife as defined in 18.2-307.1, or like weapons, such person is guilty of a Class 4 misdemeanor. The having in one’s possession of any such weapon shall be prima facie evidence, except in the case of a conservator of the peace, of his intent to sell, barter, give or furnish the same.

    So as I read this, it is illegal to sell, or intend to sell a switchblade knife. The mere act of possessing one is prima facie evidence that a person intends to sell it, i.e., a crime. Furthermore, there was an unsuccessful bill in last year’s legislature to legalize the possession of switchblade knives by removing the words “switchblade knife” from the aforementioned statute. The bill passed both houses, but the Governor vetoed it. So any possession of a switchblade knife in Virginia remains illegal.

  • Justin says:

    What age do you have to be in order to conceal carry a balisong?

  • Joe says:

    What about karambits?

  • Miles Fowler says:

    This article seems to imply that it is legal to carry a concealed knife if it is not one of the proscribed types and does not resemble any of them. The article does not address the issue of length, however. I have been confused by what I have read about the legally limited length of a concealed fix-bladed knife. Is it legal at 3 inches or 3 1/4 inches?

  • chadwick Oliver boswell says:

    Is a microtech spring assist knife considered a switch blade?

  • Aaron P says:

    What are the rules for buying knives online?

  • Corey John says:

    So would a benchmade socp dagger be considered “of a like kind” to a dirk, as they are both double edged from what I can tell?

  • Leo says:

    Pretty much, yes. There seems to be no age restrictions as long as it’s completely visible to the naked eye.

  • Nick says:

    Yeah, VA Knife laws are very lax, considering that you can buy one at any age.

  • christian says:

    im 15 and i want to know can i carry my bowie knife

  • Darren J. Moore says:

    I live in Northern Virginia and I am outdoors a lot. Is it legal for me to open carry a hunting knife with a Blade Length: 4-3/4″ inches long when I am out in the woods?

    It is a BO02BA351H: Boker Arbolito Hunter

    Here are the knife specs :


    Blade Length: 4-3/4″
    Overall Length: 9-5/8″
    Blade Material: N695 Stainless Steel
    Handle Material: Stag
    Sheath: High-Grade Brown Leather
    Weight: 7.8 oz.
    Made in Germany

  • BB says:

    SO can I conceal carry a Benchmade 42

  • Oscar says:

    What is the longest blade length you can conceal carry and at what age can you open carry or conceal carry a knife?

  • Rick says:

    Switchblade is nebulous. Does that count as out the side, like a tradional switchblade, or stiletto (out the front) and any knife with a switch (button) open.

  • Tim Robinson says:

    So let me get this straight. Open carry means as long as I carry it using the pocket clip so the clip is showing at all times that is considered open carry in VA and I can legally carry it like that in VA. Am I understanding this correctly?

  • vafish says:

    You need to update this page. Switchblades cannot be legally owned in Virginia.

    18.2-311. Prohibiting the selling or having in possession blackjacks, etc.

    If any person sells or barters, or exhibits for sale or for barter, or gives or furnishes, or causes to be sold, bartered, given or furnished, or has in his possession, or under his control, with the intent of selling, bartering, giving or furnishing, any blackjack, brass or metal knucks, any disc of whatever configuration having at least two points or pointed blades which is designed to be thrown or propelled and which may be known as a throwing star or oriental dart, switchblade knife, ballistic knife as defined in 18.2-307.1, or like weapons, such person is guilty of a Class 4 misdemeanor. The having in one’s possession of any such weapon shall be prima facie evidence, except in the case of a conservator of the peace, of his intent to sell, barter, give or furnish the same.


  • MilesF says:

    Appellate Court in Virginia and Virginia Court of Appeals appear to be the same thing(?). Cases can be appealed to the Virginia Supreme Court. It is interesting that the article suggests the contradiction between the 2007 Johnson and 2010 Hunter decisions has not been settled by the state Supreme Court.

  • Rowan Warren says:

    Can a 11 year old carry a knife?

  • John says:

    I dont understand

  • Logan Smith says:

    Is having the pocket clip out and exposed open carry?

  • John Roberts says:

    You make no distinction between a fixed knife and a folding knife. Are all Bowie folding knives legal? Or are folding knives not considered Bowie knives? It seems folding knives aren’t part of the state law ?

  • Walker says:

    Yes it is perfectly legal

  • Matthew says:

    I’m not sure if a Karambit is like kind with with any of the knives listed above. Anyone have insight? The blade on a Karambit is usually shorter than 3 inches.

  • Arioch says:

    i can’t quite understand the Hunter case, what were his soecific actions incriminated to him? Am I right, he hiked a taxi, and because the driver had a gun the passenger could get locked?

    Then i wonder, if any trial interpreted the “carry” term. boxes in moving cars are more or less “carry” but Leith’s office concole? Aren’t rifles required to be keot in a safe lockbox? Then is it not a “concealed carry” with such precedents ?

    Last thing, this article seems to miss an important concept, to gather together from many fragmented acts and trials: when a knife is a tool and when a knife is the weapon, where lies a legal watershed. While “It stated that the purpose for which an instrument is carried should be considered in determining whether it is a weapon or a non-weapon.” there should be a history of some precedents…

  • Phil Miller says:

    It is illegal to carry all the mentioned knives but it is also illegal for authorities to search you without a warrant. You’re better off alive than dead in case you need protection.

  • Anthony says:

    Are throwing knifes alowed to be concile carried or do the fall under oriental darts and throwing stars? I would like to know so i stay legal.

  • Nick says:

    what if its a balisong trainer and its in a case on the side of my belt

  • Hayden says:

    Dictates that all of the above knives are illegal to own.

  • Sam from VA says:

    Might want to take a look at 18.2-311:

    Prohibiting the selling or having in possession blackjacks, etc

    If any person sells or barters, or exhibits for sale or for barter, or gives or furnishes, or causes to be sold, bartered, given or furnished, or has in his possession, or under his control, with the intent of selling, bartering, giving or furnishing, any blackjack, brass or metal knucks, any disc of whatever configuration having at least two points or pointed blades which is designed to be thrown or propelled and which may be known as a throwing star or oriental dart, switchblade knife, ballistic knife as defined in 18.2-307.1, or like weapons, such person is guilty of a Class 4 misdemeanor. The having in ones possession of any such weapon shall be prima facie evidence, except in the case of a conservator of the peace, of his intent to sell, barter, give or furnish the same.

  • Jordan Foster says:

    Can you carry a fixed blade on your belt and have it tucked in your back pocket ?

  • Patrick says:

    What about Scout Carry? I have a concealed Gun Permit and I want to carry my knife across the lower of my back. You can see it if your facing my back, but not necessarily from the front.

  • Kim Youngblood says:

    The one singular reason why I prefer the old VA concealed /weapon/ permits that I started getting in 1975 to the new (since 1995?) concealed /handgun/ permits. O’course, the newer versions are better in every other way. 😉

  • Rebbecca says:

    Is a throwing knife considered of a like kind to a throwing star or oriental darts?

  • Hunter says:

    Thanks for the information it is very useful

  • john wayne says:

    This page is misleading.

    Virginia code 18.2-308: it’s illegal to conceal carry a dirk. A dirk (dagger) has been shown in court to be almost any kind of camp knife with a fixed blade. “Conceal” includes partially hidden by an untucked shirt, or within a backpack, or in a glovebox, of in a camouflaged scabbard or sheath.
    Virginia code 18.2-311 clearly states that while it is legal to own a switchblade, possession of a switchblade is prema facia assumed to be the intent to sell, which is illegal. In other words, you can’t open carry it.

  • xerxes r says:

    where would a pocket cleaver be in these statutes?
    planning on carrying a fixed blade cleaver in a kydex sheath tracker style. would this be legal?

  • jacob Mitchell says:

    That is a automatic so that will be illegal

  • kaisers0s3 says:

    okay…..so which knife IS legal to just throw in my backpack and conceal and carry? I don’t have a gun at this time and i was wondering. I want to protect myself from ISIS if i can.

  • Josh says:

    So could I carry a boot knife on my belt under my shirt?

  • Devin says:

    What about Kerambit Knives? Are they legal for concealed and open carry?

  • Grady says:

    Hey i am a HUGE CS:GO fan and i am going to buy a Karambit… and im not sure if its legal to open carry or not?

  • Nick says:

    what would a karambit be classified as?

  • Mike says:

    And here’s why… While it’s legal to OWN a switchblade in VA, it’s illegal to SELL one, and the law makes carrying a switchblade prima facie evidence (basically meaning it is considered automatic proof) of intent to sell… http://law.lis.virginia.gov/vacode/18.2-311/

  • Mike says:

    Do not carry a Microtech auto knife in VA, concealed or open… The cops WILL take it, and arguing about the law will not help you

  • Kenny says:

    Is this open carry or concealed?

    • jean says:

      hello kenny you can use this knife as a carry knife as it comes with and excellent design on the other hand it can also be alternatively used as a concealed blade due to its efficiency

  • Kenny says:

    So I wanna be able to carry a switchblade and I wanna know if the knife itself has to be on the outside of my pocket ?! Or if I can carry it like in the video they show but look up the vid the knife is called a microtech Jedi if anyone can help pls do thanks

    • litework says:

      Virginia laws are very gray. It is illegal to sell or exhibit for sale a switchblade knife in Virginia. If you have a switchblade knife on you, police can assume, until proven otherwise, that you are carrying it to sell it. This is a class 4 misdemeanor. You can be arrested and charged because the carrying of the switchblade is prima facie evidence of intent to sell.
      Source: Virginia Code 18.2-311.

    • N.C.B. says:

      It is unwise to carry a switchblade knife. In Virginia, it is illegal to sell or barter a switchblade knife. The interesting thing…a police officer can arrest you for attempting to sell or barter a switchblade knife simply because you posses it. Simple possession is proof of intent to sell. The burden of proof would be on you – in court.

    • Quin says:

      The automatic otf microtech is legal to carry as long as the pocket clip is exposed at all times. You can’t have clothing covering it. Just be careful with cops out here, some will say its a like kind,others might know a little about knives. USE the pocket clip in your front pocket.

    • ChristCrusader says:

      At the moment, it’s outrageous that it appears that having a switchblade knife in one’s possession is prima facie of the intent to sell the knife, and selling the knife is illegal.
      18.2-311. Prohibiting the selling or having in possession blackjacks, etc.
      If any person sells or barters, or exhibits for sale or for barter, or gives or furnishes, or causes to be sold, bartered, given or furnished, or has in his possession, or under his control, with the intent of selling, bartering, giving or furnishing, any blackjack, brass or metal knucks, any disc of whatever configuration having at least two points or pointed blades which is designed to be thrown or propelled and which may be known as a throwing star or oriental dart, switchblade knife, ballistic knife as defined in 18.2-307.1, or like weapons, such person is guilty of a Class 4 misdemeanor. The having in one’s possession of any such weapon shall be prima facie evidence, except in the case of a conservator of the peace, of his intent to sell, barter, give or furnish the same.

    • Liam says:

      I’m pretty sure if it has a clip you only need that to show as its part of the knife.

    • Matthew says:

      I hear you. Dumb question, how do you open a knife? On your belt, what happens if your shirt covers it accidently? Just curious.

    • Matthew S says:

      As long as it has a pocket clip and the clip is exposed you should be good. It is considered open carried at that point, thats what my local sheriffs office says.

  • Stephen says:

    So technically speaking a 10-year-old could open carry a Balisong? I’m 15 by the way, just curious

    • Elijah` says:

      Are you Stephen Martin?

    • Paul says:

      It varies from county to county, however most require you to be sixteen or older to carry any knife with a blade over three inches.

    • anonymous says:

      yeah… im only 14 and my little bro has like 8 krambits… i dont trust him the way he looks at me…

    • Tori says:

      yes. has to stay visible the entire time you’re out though.

    • ChristCrusader says:

      This is one aspect of knife law that this site is lacking – the additional restrictions related to age that Virginia has.

    • ChristCrusader says:

      The info above cites a case that ruled a butterfly knife to be a dirk. Relative to minors, the question to the minor would be, how’d you get that knife, i.e., what adult provided it to you; which would put said adult into legal trouble, as the law reads at the moment:
      18.2-309. Furnishing certain weapons to minors; penalty.
      A. If any person sells, barters, gives or furnishes, or causes to be sold, bartered, given or furnished, to any minor a dirk, switchblade knife or bowie knife, having good cause to believe him to be a minor, such person shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.

    • Matt T. says:

      Yes, a child is legally allowed to carry the allowed knives in VA.. I would not carry the knife you have described above for the purpose of no real reason to carry it other than playing with it.

    • Remi P. says:

      Cool, that means that I(13), can open carry my Skyridge(Gerber switchblade)!

    • Joshua says:

      yes there is no restrictions on balisongs in Virginia. Woo Hoo!

  • Dan says:

    So in other words you are at the mercy of the policeman who pulls you over, I use to carry my gun on the dash of the car & a polieman trold me he would have a good time taking me to jail over that , I thought Va was an OPEN carry state but if they want to bust you they will

  • Anti Everything says:

    This is very interesting. It is very sad to read the court cases and realize we are at the mercy of a defacto court system with ignorant and or simply criminal judges and prosecutors, defense attorneys and all others ‘members of the bar’. When a thing is “legal” then it should be LEGAL.

  • Kenny says:

    can i own any type of sword in Virginia?

    • David Thomas Adams says:

      As the law states a knife is any bladed instrument capable of inflicting grievous bodily harm by cutting it stabbing. That encompasses swords as well.

  • Beazld says:

    Does having a concealed carry permit allow a person to carry a switchblade in VA?

    • Geoffrey Heine says:

      Since about 1995 when VA decided to switch to a ‘Shall Issue’ state, the only permit accessible is a ‘CHP’ which is for Concealed Handgun Permit. It is illegal to conceal any knife regardless of having a concealed carry permit.

    • Matt says:

      It is not illegal to conceal ANY knife. Only those listed in 18.2-308. Correct about the permit though. It is a concealed handgun permit, not a concealed weapon permit.

    • Henry W Braswell says:

      No, it does not. A Concealed Carry Permit applies only to firearms.

  • Ramon says:

    It is actually illegal to have a switchblade because my grandpaw had a store in Virginia and he had all kinds of knifes and he had to stop selling switchblades

    • Cinicus says:

      It is illegal to sell switchblades as far as I am aware, but not illegal to own them. Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe that is how it is.

  • Alex Capel says:

    What about minors, can they open carry knives, swords, etc?

  • John Bradley says:

    This article gets most everything wrong.

    Firstly, unpublished opinions are meaningless. You cannot base a legal argument upon them, and until very recently it was malpractice to even mention them to a court.

    Second, under “{O]f a like kind”, the Supreme Court of Virginia (the final authority on the interpretation of Virginia law) in Thompson v. Commonwealth (Thompson v. Com., 673 S.E.2d 469, 277 Va. 280 (Va., 2009)) concluded that a “butterfly knife” of balisong was NOT a “weapon of like kind” to any of the weapons listed, and as such, there exists no prohibition against carrying one concealed. So ignore everything that was said about Kingrey.

    Additionally, in contrast to Delcid cited in “Definitions of Various Kinds of Knives”, the court in Thompson rejected the concept that the intent for which a knife is carried has any bearing on whether or not the statute is violated. They specifically invite the legislature to craft a statute which incorporates intent, but the legislature has never done so.

    As such, the current, controlling law in Virginia is that, to convict someone of carrying a knife concealed about one’s person, the Commonwealth must prove the following:

    1) That it is one of the weapons described by the statute (“dirk, bowie knife, switchblade knife,…” etc.).


    1) That it is, by design and function, a weapon. The simple fact that an object (knife or otherwise) can be used as a weapon is insufficient.

    2) That it is a weapon “of like kind” to one of the enumerated weapons. After analysis, the court conclude that to be “of like kind”, a weapon must possess ALL the characteristics of the prohibited weapon. Functionally, that means that it must be a dirk, bowie knife or switchblade, even if it is named something different.

    Finally, what is prohibited by 18.2-311 is possession with the intent to sell or distribute. It does not that mere possession shal be “prima facie evidence” of that intent, but that is not sufficient to convict (and frankly, makes a great argument for this statute being unconstitutional on its face).

    I am a lawyer, licensed in Virginia, so I do know what I’m talking about. However, laws do change all the time, and, while this has been the state of the law for the last five years, it could change with a new court case or in the current legislative year. In addition, police officers, lawyers (prosecution and defense) and judges have all been known to be mistaken about the law from time to time. Which is to say, being within the law doesn’t always make you “safe”. I myself have been arrested (charges dropped), and I have represented clients who were arrested (and convicted, though it was overturned) for possessing and carrying knives which were not illegal. Knives make cops nervous, and making cops nervous, while not illegal, is unlikely to brighten your day.

    • Anti Everything says:

      I wish I had read this before leaving any comment. This was informative, thanks.
      I would add something to your description of yourself and what you do: You are an ‘attorney’ there are not lawyers in this country since there is no ‘law’, which brings me to my second point; there is no law/laws in this country – since we are under the jurisdiction of the sea (maritime/admiralty), and most living human being consent to be a legal fiction (unknowingly) therefore are subject to statutes, code, regulation, etc of the corporate fiction known as a legal fiction or ‘person’.

    • AFMissilier says:

      I’ve found that Virginia statutes place “intent” and “cause” largely in the hands of the judge. To hide this fact, the jury is included only because the jury is responsible for deciding on the evidence. In my experience, a courtroom is actually more a “throne” room. The judge not only directs traffic, but forces his personal decision of guilt, or innocence, into the trial. I have witnessed two judges, both elected officials, that made campaign promises that directly affected their application of the law, counter to the actual intent. In one case, the jury asked a very “specific” question of the judge. The judge very quickly told the jury that they did not need to know that information. In my opinion, the judge’s response was that of a man that had already decided the verdict; and, he was prepared to do everything to make his decision the only decision. That is not justice. That is an agenda. An agenda has no place in the courtroom. Agendas are for “kangaroo courts”. Facts presented in evidence are the only considerations placed before the jury. In this case, where there was no definitive evidence, only non-expert assertions based on hearsay, there was an obvious agreement between the judge, prosecutor, and public defender on the “testimony” that was presented. The defendant never received justice. I knew what the verdict would be before the first witness testified. I watched it progress quickly and steadily towards that verdict. The public defender retained her reputation even as her defense of her client would embarrass most lawyers. The second judge’s courtroom was certainly no better. In both cases, the outcome added to that judge’s campaign promises.
      One last opinion. Law enforcement, under this judge/jury concept, has no responsibility to prove cause or provide definitive evidence. Virginia’s legal system is badly broken. It makes being a lawyer difficult at best. And, the defendant’s verdict suspect. Note that it is common for judges in Virginia to be invested in the commercial prisons used in the State. I find this to be a violation of ethics and evidence of judicial corruption.

    • Chris N Hannah Millican says:

      Can I open carry my bowie knife in norfolk my husband bought me one and I know you can in the state of virgina but norfolk specifically

  • Bryan McConnell says:

    The knife laws are obscure even when someone simplifies. I have a conceal carry permit to carry a firearm but I cannot conceal a fixed blade or switchblade knife? As I understand it, that’s the way it is. Laws should not be baffling to citizens because we have to follow them without the burden of having an attorney explain it to us. If one “open carries” a switchblade, he is perfectly within the law?

  • MrSatyre says:

    Anyone know how this law views knives such as the Gerber Uppercut? It has a 2″ fixed blade but has a handle perpendicular to the blade. I guess you would call it a punch-style knife, for lack of a better term.

  • Mad Virginia Guy says:

    And there is no “wiggle room unless you are a “conservator of the peace.”

    Collectirs get no relief.

  • Mad Virginia Guy says:

    Better check again.
    Yo missed a very important part of the law.

    18.2-311. Prohibiting the selling or having in possession blackjacks, etc.

    If any person sells or barters, or exhibits for sale or for barter, or gives or furnishes, or causes to be sold, bartered, given or furnished, or has in his possession, or under his control, with the intent of selling, bartering, giving or furnishing, any blackjack, brass or metal knucks, any disc of whatever configuration having at least two points or pointed blades which is designed to be thrown or propelled and which may be known as a throwing star or oriental dart, switchblade knife, ballistic knife as defined in 18.2-307.1, or like weapons, such person is guilty of a Class 4 misdemeanor. The having in one’s possession of any such weapon shall be prima facie evidence, except in the case of a conservator of the peace, of his intent to sell, barter, give or furnish the same.

    (Code 1950, 18.1-271; 1960, c. 358; 1975, cc. 14, 15; 1985, c. 394; 1988, c. 359; 2013, c. 746.)

    • Anti Everything says:

      Are you saying we can own a black jack if is out intent to simply own it and keep it in our possession?

  • Leslie Humphreys says:

    I think this law is completely unfair in some cases. Like my story for example I now have a Concealed weapon charge on my record which has ruined my life for a Myrtle Beach souvenir (sparkly switch blade knife) I was teenage girl that had no idea that knives were illegal in VA. While being at Myrtle Beach on vacation one of the store clerks at Wings in S.C. was selling these sparkly Myrtle Beach switch blades for 1.99 with any purchase so I bought one. Well that winter I was with a girl from school that was allegedly stealing a shirt and the cop ask if he could search me to just to be sure. Since I knew I don’t steal I agreed for him to search my bag. Well to my surprised he pulls out the souvenir from a zipper on the inside of my purse and said don’t you know this is illegal? And I said no its been in that zipper since I left Myrtle Beach. I had forgotten even purchasing it that summer. To make a long story short I now have a Concealed weapon charge which has prevented me from working in a hospital, bank, retails and every other decent job that my town had to offer. It’s very devastating that after 13 year, $895 in fines, 3 days in jail, $150 to file a petition for expungement and no job I feel like I’ve suffered enough for a $1.99 souvenir that I purchased on vacation 13 years ago. Justice needs to be served because I was misjudge and use as a example. I had never been in any trouble before and didn’t think I’d need a lawyer but I was fooled.

  • mike says:

    ok so does this mean I can conceal carry a hunting knife with a 6 inch fixed blade? ?

    • Alex says:

      No it’s needs to be open carry, when they say Bowie knife they pretty much mean any form of hunting knife needs to be carried openly. If your not 100% sure it’s always best to ask local police that way there’s no miss understandings, plus they can explain in better detail. Hope this helps.

  • skidmark says:

    18.2-311 does allow some wiggle room for a bone fide collector. It is up to you to convince the judge/jury that you are in fact a collector instead of just someone with a switchblade etc. or two in the sock drawer.

    stay safe.

  • Misinformed says:

    There’s some missing information in this article. Pursuant to 18.2-311 of the Code of Virginia, possession of switchblades, blackjacks, metal knuckles, throwing stars, and ballistic knives is a class 4 misdemeanor.

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