Are Trench Knives legal? – 3 Factors You Should Be Aware of

They look cool, but are trench knives legal, or will you face the law if you own one?

The trench knife is legal in many states across the United States, including Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, South Carolina, and Texas, to name a few. Other states like Colorado have rules against the trench knife because authorities consider it a lethal weapon for criminal activities. Whether the trench knife is legal depends entirely on where you live and the knife laws in that specific place.

Prohibition against trench knives has to do with three factors: the state laws, the design of the knife, and the blade length. Continue reading to learn why these elements would make a knife illegal in many different areas.

What Is a Trench Knife?

The trench knife is a combat knife that consists of a knuckle duster handle and a triangular, double-edged fixed blade, making the knife a suitable weapon for stabbing. 

This knife originated in the First World War when soldiers used it for hand-to-hand combat in closed spaces and trench fights. Military men used the pointy blade for stabbing and the pommel for punching directly at the skull of enemies to create serious bodily injury. Other types of trench knives had hand guards that could fold to reveal another surface for striking.

The original trench knife blade was flimsy and it only worked for stabbing. Later versions made it better. Armed forces received an improved M3 trench knife in March 1943, during World War II. Then, the M1918 trench knife had a proper brass knuckle and dual-sided blade for slashing and thrusting. Another version came later with more durable steel less likely to break after striking soldiers.

Nowadays, the trench knife has brass knuckle handles that offer a firm grip and hand protection. There’s really no practical use for this knife other than for collection purposes.

Is It Legal to Own or Carry a Trench Knife?

Owning and carrying a trench knife may be legal if you’re in a state that doesn’t have any rules against it, like Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, or Texas, among others. If you want to know if your state allows trench knives, you must consider three things: the state law, the knife design, and the blade size.

  • Trench Knife Laws. Each state or country may have specific rules that ban daggers, throwing knives, swords, trench knives, etc. The reason behind this prohibition is that the law considers these knives as dangerous weapons.
  • Trench Knife Designs. The trench knife, also called a knuckle knife, consists of a spear-point blade with two sharpened edges and a brass knuckle handle. Double-edged blades and brass knuckles are both illegal due to how dangerous they can be. 
  • Trench Knife Sizes (Based on Blade Length). Some places allow you to carry a knife with limited blade size. In Tennessee, for instance, you can’t carry any knife with a blade length longer than 4 inches.

Learn more: How to Measure a Knife Length?

These are some of the main reasons why many states banned trench knife models. There are other factors to consider regarding the trench knife legality, which I’ll talk about next.

The Law in the United States Against Knives

The only federal law against knives is the Switchblade Act, which bans the sale of automatic knives over state lines. This law also prohibits shipping balisongs, gravity, and automatic knives using the U.S. Post Office service. However, the Switchblade Act doesn’t mention anything about the trench knife.

It’s up to each state or county to allow or ban trench knives. For example, states like Georgia allow ownership and carrying of trench knives, while places like Washington have rules against any knife that could be a weapon.

The Design of the Knife: Dagger Edge

The design of a trench knife is similar to a double-edged dagger, which many places consider a weapon for stabbing and slashing. Knives considered as cutting or thrusting weapons are illegal to possess or carry, allowing only home use in most cases. A clear example of a usually banned knife is the Bowie knife, which you can carry only with a permit in many places. Folding knife variations are also illegal unless the blades are short.

Banning of Trench Knife in Countries

Allowing ownership or possession of a trench knife varies between countries, with places like Canada banning it and the United States making them illegal knives in some states only. Check the law of your own country and seek legal advice to comply with the law if you want to buy a trench knife. Here are some of the countries that ban or put restrictions on trench knives.

List of countries where trench knives are illegal:

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Bosnia
  • Canada
  • China
  • Croatia
  • Cyprus
  • Finland
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Israel
  • Ireland
  • Malaysia 
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Russia
  • Spain
  • Turkey
  • Singapore
  • United States (Partially)

Why Was the Trench Knife Banned?

The trench knife is illegal because the length of the blade and the brass or metal knuckles have limitations or are straight-out banned in some regions, states, or countries. A brass knuckle is illegal in many places due to the belief that it’s a weapon used for criminal activities.

List of States in USA Where Trench Knife Is Legal

  • Alabama
  • Arizona 
  • Connecticut (Only at home)
  • Delaware (With permit)
  • Florida (With permit)
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Indiana
  • Kentucky (With permit)
  • Louisiana (With permit)
  • Maryland (With permit)
  • Mississippi (With permit)
  • Montana (With permit)
  • Nebraska (With permit)
  • New Jersey (With permit)
  • New Mexico (Only at home)
  • Ohio (With permit)
  • Oklahoma (With permit)
  • Oregon (With permit)
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Texas
  • Utah (With permit)
  • West Virginia (With permit)
  • Wisconsin (Only at home)
  • Wyoming (With permit)

List of States in the USA Where Trench Knife Is Illegal

  • Alaska
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Illinois
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • Tennessee
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Washington

Are Trench Knives Legal in Canada?

Trench knives are illegal in Canada because they have brass knuckle handles, which the Canadian legislation prohibits.

Are Trench Knives Legal in Australia?

Trench knife is a prohibited weapon in Australia. The Australian legislation bans devices that use a single or multi-edged blade fitted with a handle that people could use on the knuckles to protect the knuckles and increase the impact of a punch or blow.

Is Trench Knife Legal in the UK?

The trench knife is illegal in the UK. Carrying, buying, or selling one is a crime.

Can You Carry a Trench Knife in Texas?

A trench knife with a blade equal to or less than 5.5 inches are legal under Texas law. Trench knives with blades longer than 5.5 inches are illegal to carry in restricted areas like courthouses, police stations, government facilities, schools, hospitals, amusement parks, sporting events, or churches. Carrying a trench knife into restricted locations is a Class C misdemeanor, and it turns to a third-degree felony on school grounds.

Are Trench Knives Good for Self Defense?

The trench knife is good for self-defense because it can stab and incapacitate targets. Use the blade for stabbing, and the brass knuckle for knocking down.

Brian Casey
About Brian M. Casey

As a food lover, Brian M. Casey developed a fascination for cooking at an early age. He soon realized that not only the ingredients matter but also the knives and the accessories used to turn those ingredients into a delicious dish. This way, Brian began his journey on the magnificent world of kitchen knives, outdoor knives, knife accessories, and much more. After years of experience with many ups and downs, Brian now wants to share everything he’s learned during his journey as an avid knife collector, a well-seasoned knife maker, and an all-around knives enthusiast.

5 thoughts on “Are Trench Knives legal? – 3 Factors You Should Be Aware of”

  1. Great article, thanks! As a collector I was bummed to see my state on the no-list. Anyway, just some bonus info to share- that the original WW1 trench knife was effective in fights & silent night trench raids, but that soldiers also used it as a utility blade (opening crates), levering it and snapping the blade. Plus the brass handles were expensive- just a couple reason to move away from dagger style and go Bowie or ‘hunter’ styled designs (upturned point & a false edge), thereafter.

  2. Could/Would a presumed original 1918 LF&C trench knife be covered under memorabilia/collectors item exceptions in a state where it would be banned ?

    • Federally, antique weapons like a 1918 trench knife are generally not restricted, but states vary in their approach. Some states may exempt antique weapons from certain bans, categorizing them as collectors’ items, while others have stringent laws on knife possession, regardless of the item’s age. It’s essential to check the specific state and local regulations where you reside or intend to possess the knife. In states with weapon bans, the knife’s status as an antique and its intended use as a collectible might provide an exemption, but this is not guaranteed.


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