• AKTI Knife Image 1
  • AKTI Knife Image 2
  • AKTI Knife Image 3

Federal Switchblade Act

PropelDownrangeAuto-TantoSerrated_30-000695_std16800bk_agency_1000x310
Switchblade (auto-open, automatic, switch) Knives

0898BKS-BThe only United States law regarding auto-open (automatic) knives is referred to as the Federal Switchblade Act.  The legislation was passed August 12, 1958 and incorporated into law in two sections.  The first section prohibits importation and interstate commerce and the second section prohibits automatics from being mailed through the U.S. Postal Service. There is no federal restriction on ownership, possession or carrying of a switchblade knife. There are some states that enacted laws regarding switchblades (see below). There is no Federal restriction on the sale of auto-open knives within the 50 states.

Exception (5) to Section 1244 below became law in 2009.  This exception was included to protect one-hand opening, or assisted opening, knives, from being incorrectly considered automatic knives (switchblades) or gravity knives. The exception language includes AKTI’s bias toward closure language enacted in several states.

U.S. Code Title 15 Commerce and Trade

Chapter 29 – Manufacture, Transportation, or Distribution of Switchblade Knives

Section 1241. Definitions

As used in this chapter – (a) The term “interstate commerce” means commerce between any State, Territory, possession of the United States, or the District of Columbia, and any place outside thereof. (b) The term “switchblade knife” means any knife having a blade which opens automatically –

(1) by hand pressure applied to a button or other device in the handle of the knife, or

(2) by operation of inertia, gravity, or both.

Section 1242. Introduction, manufacture for introduction, transportation or distribution in interstate commerce; penalty

Whoever knowingly introduces, or manufactures for introduction, into interstate commerce, or transports or distributes in interstate commerce, any switchblade knife, shall be fined not more than $2,000 or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.

Section 1243. Manufacture, sale, or possession within specific jurisdictions; penalty

Whoever, within any Territory or possession of the United States, within Indian country (as defined in section 1151 of title 18), or within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States (as defined in section 7 of title 18), manufactures, sells, or possesses any switchblade knife, shall be fined not more than $2,000 or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.

Section 1244. Exceptions

Sections 1242 and 1243 of this title shall not apply to –

(1) any common carrier or contract carrier, with respect to any switchblade knife shipped, transported, or delivered for shipment in interstate commerce in the ordinary course of business;

(2) the manufacture, sale, transportation, distribution, possession, or introduction into interstate commerce, of switchblade knives pursuant to contract with the Armed Forces;

(3) the Armed Forces or any member or employee thereof acting in the performance of his duty;

(4) the possession, and transportation upon his person, of any switchblade knife with a blade three inches or less in length by any individual who has only one arm; or

(5) a knife that contains a spring, detent, or other mechanism designed to create a bias toward closure of the blade and that requires exertion applied to the blade by hand, wrist or arm to overcome the bias toward closure to assist in opening the knife.

Section 1245.  Ballistic knives

(a) Prohibition and penalties for possession, manufacture, sale, or importation

Whoever in or affecting interstate commerce, within any Territory or possession of the United States, within Indian country (as defined in section 1151 of title 18), or within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States (as defined in section 7 of title 18), knowingly possesses, manufactures, sells, or imports a ballistic knife shall be fined as provided in title 18, or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.

(b) Prohibition and penalties for possession or use during commission of Federal crime of violence

Whoever possesses or uses a ballistic knife in the commission of a Federal crime of violence shall be fined as provided in title 18, or imprisoned not less than five years and not more than ten years, or both.

(c) Exceptions

The exceptions provided in paragraphs (1), (2), and (3) of section 1244 of this title with respect to switchblade knives shall apply to ballistic knives under subsection (a) of this section.

(d) “Ballistic knife” defined

As used in this section, the term “ballistic knife” means a knife with a detachable blade that is propelled by a spring-operated mechanism.

Plus:

U.S. Code Title 18 – Crimes and Criminal Procedure

Part 1 – Crimes Chapter 83 – Postal Service Section 1716. Injurious articles as nonmailable

(g) All knives having a blade which opens automatically

(1) by hand pressure applied to a button or other device in the handle of the knife, or

(2) by operation of inertia, gravity, or both, are nonmailable and shall not be deposited in or carried by the mails or delivered by any officer or employee of the Postal Service. Such knives may be conveyed in the mails, under such regulations as the Postal Service shall prescribe –

(1) to civilian or Armed Forces supply or procurement officers and employees of the Federal Government ordering, procuring, or purchasing such knives in connection with the activities of the Federal Government;

(2) to supply or procurement officers of the National Guard, the Air National Guard, or militia of a State ordering, procuring, or purchasing such knives in connection with the activities of such organizations;

(3) to supply or procurement officers or employees of any State, or any political subdivision of a State or Territory, ordering, procuring, or purchasing such knives in connection with the activities of such government; and

(4) to manufacturers of such knives or bona fide dealers therein in connection with any shipment made pursuant to an order from any person designated in paragraphs (1), (2), and (3).

The Postal Service may require, as a condition of conveying any such knife in the mails, that any person proposing to mail such knife explain in writing to the satisfaction of the Postal Service that the mailing of such knife will not be in violation of this section. (h) Any advertising, promotional, or sales matter which solicits or induces the mailing of anything declared nonmailable by this section is likewise nonmailable unless such matter contains wrapping or packaging instructions which are in accord with regulations promulgated by the Postal Service. (i)(1) Any ballistic knife shall be subject to the same restrictions and penalties provided under subsection (g) for knives described in the first sentence of that subsection. (2) As used in this subsection, the term “ballistic knife” means a knife with a detachable blade that is propelled by a spring-operated mechanism. (k) For purposes of this section, the term “State” includes a State of the United States, the District of Columbia, and any commonwealth, territory, or possession of the United States.

You can search all U.S. Code at the Office of Law Revision Counsel.

State Auto-Open Knife Laws

The following states do NOT prohibit auto-open (also referred to as automatic, switchblade or switch knife) for non-law enforcement citizens.  Check State Knife Laws for specific details on possession, carry, manufacturer or sale as some restrictions may apply in a specific state.  See the list below for blade length restrictions.    
  1. Alabama
  2. Alaska
  3. Arizona
  4. Arkansas
  5. California (maximum 2" blade length limitation)
  6. Connecticut (maximum 1-1/2" blade length limitation)
  7. Florida
  8. Georgia
  9. Idaho
  10. Indiana
  11. Iowa
  12. Kansas
  13. Kentucky (with weapons license)
  14. Maine (effective October 15, 2015)
  15. Massachusetts (maximum 1-1/2" blade length limitation)
  16. Mississippi
  17. Missouri
  18. Montana (maximum 1-1/2" blade length limitation)
  19. Nebraska
  20. Nevada (effective July 1, 2015 2" blade length limitation removed)
  21. New Hampshire
  22. North Carolina
  23. North Dakota (maximum 5" blade length limitation)
  24. Oklahoma (effective November 1, 2015)
  25. Oregon
  26. Rhode Island
  27. South Carolina
  28. South Dakota
  29. Tennessee
  30. Texas
  31. Utah
  32. Vermont (maximum 3" blade length limitation)
  33. West Virginia (with weapons license)
  34. Wisconsin (effective February, 2016)
  35. Wyoming
Check out FAQs Understanding Knife Laws For information on the Federal Switchblade Act, click here.