Massachusetts Knife Law – The Complete Guide (In Plain English) (2022)

If you carry a concealed weapon in Massachusetts, you need to be aware of your legal responsibilities under the state’s knife laws. And whether you rely on your knife for self-defense or hunting, the penalties you face could increase dramatically if you break any of the rules.

Massachusetts knife laws are found in one long-running sentence under section 10-part b. To most people, this law is difficult to understand when they read it for the first (or tenth) time. Below are answers to the most frequently asked questions about MA knife laws.

Does Massachusetts Have Statewide Preemption?

Massachusetts does not have statewide preemption, so different counties within the state can impose stricter knife laws. Therefore, you should always do your due diligence before carrying your knives across counties in Massachusetts to avoid trouble.

Legal Knives in Massachusetts

There is no ban on ownership of any knife in Massachusetts. This means that you can own any of the following knives:

  • Switchblades or automatic knives
  • Balisongs or butterfly knives
  • Throwing or star knives
  • Bowies and other hunting knives
  • Dirks, stilettos, push knives, daggers
  • Ballistic knives
  • Lipstick, cane, and other disguised knives

However, section 12 of Massachusetts law prohibits manufacturing or selling any instrument or weapon, including knives, switchblades with blades longer than 1.5 inches, klackers, kung fu sticks, and metal knuckles.

What does this mean?

It means that even though you can own any type of knife in the state, you cannot buy it from Massachusetts. Instead, you can order online and have the knives sent to your address or buy from a neighboring state.

Illegal Knives in Massachusetts

There are no restrictions as to which knives you can own in Massachusetts. Note that there is a difference between ownership and carrying knives:

Ownership means you can possess it as long as it is within your home or residential property. The rules significantly change when you walk out of your house carrying a knife in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts Knife Carry Laws

Massachusetts knife carry laws read as follows:

  • Under section 10, it is illegal to carry open or concealed upon a person, including their vehicle, any:
    • Stiletto
    • Dagger
    • Ballistic knives
    • Knives with detachable blades
    • Knives with locking blades that can be drawn at a locked position
    • Dirks
    • Switchblades or automatic knives with blades longer than 1.5 inches
    • Slingshot
    • Metallic knuckles (“brass knuckles”) or anything similar
    • Nunchaku
    • Blowgun
    • Blackjack
    • Throwing knives
    • Double-edged knives
    • Zoobows (Kungfu sticks connected with rope, wire, chain, or leather)
  • It is illegal to carry a loaded or unloaded firearm and any dangerous weapon (which includes prohibited knives listed above) in a courthouse, prison, government building, or school grounds, regardless of the level, without authorization from the board or school officer in charge on the grounds.
  • It is legal to carry pocket knives, multitools, and kitchen knives. However, these can still be viewed as dangerous and illegal weapons by the court if someone intends to harm or if another person fears or feels threatened by a knife that is legal to carry.
  • It is illegal to carry or possess a billy or other dangerous weapon when disturbing the peace or being arrested.

Unfortunately, the 400-word long clause does not provide specific definitions for terms like dangerous weapons or double-edged knives. Therefore, according to the law, it is right to assume that the knives listed under section 10 are the only illegal knives considered dangerous.

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However, there are cases where the court borrows its definitions. For example, in the case of Commonwealth vs. Smith, a double-edged knife is defined as a knife whose second blade has a sharp tip. This makes some bowie knives and clip point knives illegal.

Massachusetts Knife Length Laws

The only knife length limit in the state applies to automatic or switchblade knives.

According to the law, any switchblade or automatic knife with a blade longer than 1.5 inches is illegal. Otherwise, you can own and carry any legal knife regardless of blade length.

In Boston, it is illegal to carry upon a person or in your vehicle any knife with a blade longer than 2.5 inches.

The same applies to Salem, Somerville, New Bedford, Lawrence, and Revere, with exceptions to hunters during hunting activities in some counties.

Massachusetts Knife Laws by Demographic

Here’s what the law says about who can carry and own a knife in Massachusetts.

How Old do You Have to be to Carry a Knife in Massachusetts?

Massachusetts has a blanket ban on carrying knives (those listed in section 10,b) and any other dangerous weapons regardless of age.

The only knives legal to carry in Massachusetts are:

  • Pocket knives
  • Multitools or Swiss blades
  • Kitchen knives

Even so, you have to prove that you do not have the intent to harm or behave in a threatening manner to fellow citizens.

How Old do You Have to be to Buy a Knife in Massachusetts?

Section 12 of the Massachusetts law states that it is illegal to manufacture, cause to be manufactured, sell or expose for sale any of the knives listed in section 10,b.

In simple terms, nobody can buy or sell any of the above-listed knives in Massachusetts.

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However, this law does not apply across all counties.

For example, in Boston, knife retailers (excluding department and hardware stores) must have a special city license allowing them to sell knives.

Additionally, minors under 18 years cannot buy knives with blades longer than two inches.

Finally, in Cambridge, giving or loaning any person under 18 years a lock-back knife is illegal.

Can a Felon Carry a Knife in Massachusetts?

According to the law, convicted felons are not allowed to carry any knives or dangerous weapons, as mentioned or not in section 10,b. The consequence of this offense is a jail term of five years.

In addition, if you are a first-time offender found guilty of carrying any illegal knives, you will pay a fine of $50 or be imprisoned for two and a half years.

Massachusetts Concealed Carry Knife Laws

You can own any knife you want in Massachusetts, but there is a limit on which knives you can carry and how you can carry them.

Can You Open Carry a Knife in Massachusetts?

According to the law, you cannot open carry any knife listed in section 10,b (dirks, daggers, stilettos, switchblades with 1.5-inch blades, nunchaku, metal knuckles, etc.) It is also illegal to carry any knife or dangerous weapons on school grounds, federal buildings, courthouses, and in your car.

You can carry kitchen knives, multitools, and pocket knives as long as you are not disturbing the peace and without the intention to cause harm or threaten lives.

Can You Conceal Carry a Knife in Massachusetts?

There is no specific law saying you cannot conceal carry a knife. What you should know is that a wide variety of knives, listed under section 10,b that are illegal to carry upon a person or in their vehicle.

Additionally, if you are found with an illegal knife open or concealed carried, disturbing the peace, or during arrest, you will be charged with a crime. Therefore, it is safe to assume that open or concealed carry of knives is illegal in Massachusetts.

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Conclusion

At the end of the day, understanding Massachusetts’ knife laws doesn’t seem overly complicated. With that being said, I’m just a normal dude, and working my way through all of the legal jargon was a grind.

So, while I did my best, always check your state website for the most up-to-date information!

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FAQs

Can you legally carry a knife in MA? ›

-Dirks, daggers, stilettos, and push knives are legal to own. -Knives with brass knuckles are legal to own. -Disguised knives like penknives, comb knives, and belt knives are legal to own. -Large knives like Bowie knives are legal to own.

How big of a knife can you carry in Massachusetts? ›

Boston, MA: It is illegal to carry on your person or in a vehicle any knife with a blade longer than 2.5-inches unless it is to be used on a job “which customarily involves the carrying or use of any type of knife.” A special city license is required by most knife retailers (only department and hardware stores exempted ...

Can I carry a pocket knife in Massachusetts? ›

A Massachusetts resident can own, and carry on their private property or in their home (if renting), any sort of bladed implement, from pocket knives and switchblades to Bowie knives, swords, sword canes, throwing stars (known as “shuriken” in Massachusetts law), machetes, daggers, disguised knives, and so forth.

What is the maximum length of a knife you can carry? ›

A. In the State of California, there is no maximum length for knives in general. However, the maximum legal length for a switchblade knife is 2 inches. Additionally, it is illegal to carry daggers or dirks concealed, and also illegal to carry many types of knives which are designed for concealment.

Can you carry a gun in your car in Massachusetts? ›

Handguns: Under an LTC, the holder is allowed to transport a loaded or unloaded handgun on his person or in a motor vehicle if the handgun is under his direct control. If the handgun is not under his direct control or is left unattended, it must be unloaded and in a locked case, locked trunk, or other secure container.

Can I carry pepper spray in MA? ›

MGL c. 140, § 122C People over 18 can have pepper spray, mace or other "self defense spray" without an FID card.

Can you open carry in Mass? ›

Is Open Carry Legal In Massachusetts? Yes, open carry in Massachusetts is legal with a Class B License to Carry issued for this purpose. However, you cannot open carry in all locations of the state. Massachusetts does not preempt gun laws, so you must be aware of local regulations for open carry.

Are Flipper knives legal? ›

Automatic—Switchblades are illegal to own in all 50 states, unless you are military or law enforcement.

What's a dirk knife? ›

A dirk or dagger is a knife or other instrument with or without a handguard that is capable of ready use as a stabbing weapon that may inflict great bodily injury or death. Most pocketknives and folding knives are not considered to be dirks or daggers unless the blade of the knife is exposed and locked into position.

What kind of knives are illegal in Massachusetts? ›

Restricted Knives:

Stilettos, daggers, double-edged knives, ballistic knives, automatic knives with a blade longer than one and one half (1 ½) inches, and any device which enables a knife with a locking blade to be drawn at a locked position. These items are also referred to as per se “dangerous weapons.”

Are serrated blades illegal? ›

In California, switchblades with blades of two inches or longer are illegal.

Are brass knuckles illegal in Massachusetts? ›

Brass knuckles are illegal in Massachusetts. This includes possession, sale, and manufacture of brass knuckles. Failure to adhere to this law will lead to a fine between $50 and $1000 or up to six months of imprisonment.

What size pocket knife is legal to carry on a plane? ›

The TSA provides a list of constraints (must haves) and restraints (must not haves) for allowed edged blades: no more than 2.36 inches in length, 0.5 inches in width, with no blade lock and devoid of a molded handle. Those eased restrictions still have many in the EDC community scratching their collective heads.

At what point does a knife become a sword? ›

Knives are generally 6” or less, while sword lengths usually measure a foot or more. While there is no established cut-off between a knife vs. a sword as far as length, the longer the blade gets, the more useful it becomes as a fighting weapon.

Are serrated knives better? ›

In general the serrated edge will be superior when slicing through thick, tough and more fibrous materials. Serrated edges tend to “grab” or grip the surface of what you're cutting easily.

Can I own a 15 round magazine in Massachusetts? ›

Massachusetts's Magazine Capacity Restriction

There is a magazine restriction of 10 rounds in Massachusetts. Magazines that hold more than 10 rounds are grandfathered in, as long as they were owned before 09/13/1994, and the owner has a LTC-A.

Can you bring a gun into a bar in Massachusetts? ›

Can you carry a firearm in bars and restaurants that serve alcohol in Massachusetts? Yes, there is no statute making it illegal to concealed carry with a MA LTC, unless posted.

Can you own an AR 15 rifle in Massachusetts? ›

Massachusetts law prohibits sale and possession of Assault Weapons.

Can I shoot a pellet gun in my backyard in MA? ›

Under Massachusetts state law, it's illegal to discharge a firearm, rifle, or shotgun within 500 feet of a residence without the building owner or legal occupant's consent. But no such law exists for air rifles, although it is illegal in Massachusetts to shoot an air rifle in or across any public streetway.

Can you inherit guns in Massachusetts? ›

For more information see the MA Public Safety Portal FAQ. Inheritance: In the case of firearms inherited upon the death of the owner, heirs must obtain a firearms license or legally dispose of their firearms through transfer, sale or other legal means. For more information, see state law here.

Can I own a Taser in Massachusetts? ›

It's now legal in Massachusetts to buy, use, or carry a Taser or other type of stun gun, but you'll need a firearms license.

Are hollow points legal in MA? ›

As several readers have correctly noted, hollow point bullets are not illegal, provided you have the proper license for them. The charges in this case are for not being properly licensed to possess the ammo.

Which US state has the toughest gun laws? ›

California has the strictest gun laws in the country.

Can a felon restore gun rights in Massachusetts? ›

If the felony results from an old criminal record, one option to restore gun rights is to overturn the conviction or seal it so that it restores a person's full constitutional rights. A convicted felon may also petition the Firearms Licensing Review Board.

What is a Scottish dirk? ›

The Scottish dirk (also "Highland dirk", Scottish Gaelic: Biodag), as a symbolic traditional and ceremonial weapon of the Highland Cathairean (cateran or warrior), is worn by officers, pipers and drummers of Scottish Highland regiments.

Is a spring assisted knife considered a switchblade? ›

The difference is important legally; because the blade does not open simply "by the push of a button or by force of gravity" the assisted-opening knife is typically not considered a switchblade, and may escape the restrictions applying to those in many places.

Are thumb stud knives legal? ›

A spring assisted knife is legal in California as long as it “opens with one hand utilizing thumb pressure applied solely to the blade of the knife or a thumb stud attached to the blade, provided that the knife has a detent or other mechanism that provides resistance that must be overcome in opening the blade, or that ...

What is a Scottish knife called? ›

Often spelled Skean Dhu, a Sgian Dubh is a traditional Scottish, single-edged knife which is worn as part of a highland wear outfit. The words Sgian Dubh directly translated from Gaelic means black (dubh) dagger (sgian).

What is the ballistic knife? ›

A ballistic knife is a knife with a detachable blade that can be ejected to a distance of several meters/yards by pressing a trigger or operating a lever or switch on the handle.

Is a machete a dirk or dagger? ›

California's knife laws prohibit these weapons from being concealed on a person's body or in a briefcase, handbag, backpack, or any other similar container. Examples of dirks and daggers include hunting and survival type knives, machetes, khukuris, short swords, and other fixed-blade knives.

Is a pocket knife illegal? ›

It is illegal to carry any sharply pointed or bladed article in a public place (with the exception of a folding pocket knife, which has a blade that is less than 7.62cm or 3 inches). A lock knife is NOT a folding pocketknife and therefore it is illegal to carry these knives regardless of the length of the blade.

What is considered an automatic knife? ›

A switchblade (aka switch knife, automatic knife, pushbutton knife, ejector knife, flick knife, flick blade, or spring knife (Sprenger, Springer) is a type of knife with a sliding or pivoting blade contained in the handle which is extended automatically by a spring when a button, lever, or switch on the handle or ...

Are button lock knives legal? ›

Switchblades of less than 2 inches are legal to carry in California, as long as they are not concealed. However, they are illegal when the blade is 2 inches or longer. These knives are also known as 'pushbutton knives' 'and ejector knives'.

Why are butterfly knives illegal? ›

Under California Penal Code 21510 PC, butterfly knives are classified as a form of switchblade. Carrying, possessing in public, selling, or otherwise transferring a butterfly knife is illegal under this legislation.

Are Bowie knives illegal? ›

Bowie knives are 100 percent legal. Unlike other states, there is no law limiting the length of bowie knife you have carry. Dagger: This is any knife that has sharp edges on both sides and has a piercing point. These are something you might see in a horror movie or an early 20th century military collection.

Is it a war crime to use a bayonet? ›

Though many claim that the triangular bayonet was outlawed in the Geneva Convention in 1949, this is actually not the case. The Geneva Convention set many of the rules of war, and in response to bayonets it prohibits “bayonets with a serrated edge” (International Committee of the Red Cross).

Are switchblades illegal in MA? ›

Limits on Carry

It is illegal to carry, open or concealed, switchblades, dirks, daggers, stilettos, ballistic knife, double edge knives, and knuckle knives. It is illegal to carry anything that is perceived as dangerous while disturbing the peace or being arrested.

Are throwing stars illegal in Massachusetts? ›

Under Section 10(6)(b) of the Massachusetts General Laws, many dangerous weapons such as switchblades, kung-fu sticks, metal knuckles, blowguns, blackjacks, and even ninja throwing stars are prohibited.

What is a blackjack weapon? ›

A blackjack weapon or sap refers to a group of weapons that are short, concealable, and weighted (usually filled with lead powder, molded lead clay, or lead shot) to constitute an effective bludgeoning device. The terminology used to refer to these weapons can be very imprecise depending on the period.

Can you carry a fixed blade in Massachusetts? ›

Blade Drawn at Open and Locked Position

Massachusetts prohibits the carry of any device which allows a knife with a locking blade to be drawn at the locked position.

Is a pocket knife illegal? ›

It is illegal to carry any sharply pointed or bladed article in a public place (with the exception of a folding pocket knife, which has a blade that is less than 7.62cm or 3 inches). A lock knife is NOT a folding pocketknife and therefore it is illegal to carry these knives regardless of the length of the blade.

Are brass knuckles illegal in Massachusetts? ›

Brass knuckles are illegal in Massachusetts. This includes possession, sale, and manufacture of brass knuckles. Failure to adhere to this law will lead to a fine between $50 and $1000 or up to six months of imprisonment.

What's a dirk knife? ›

A dirk or dagger is a knife or other instrument with or without a handguard that is capable of ready use as a stabbing weapon that may inflict great bodily injury or death. Most pocketknives and folding knives are not considered to be dirks or daggers unless the blade of the knife is exposed and locked into position.

Are throwing stars illegal in Massachusetts? ›

Under Section 10(6)(b) of the Massachusetts General Laws, many dangerous weapons such as switchblades, kung-fu sticks, metal knuckles, blowguns, blackjacks, and even ninja throwing stars are prohibited.

Are Flipper knives legal? ›

Automatic—Switchblades are illegal to own in all 50 states, unless you are military or law enforcement.

Are button lock knives legal? ›

Switchblades of less than 2 inches are legal to carry in California, as long as they are not concealed. However, they are illegal when the blade is 2 inches or longer. These knives are also known as 'pushbutton knives' 'and ejector knives'.

Why are butterfly knives illegal? ›

Under California Penal Code 21510 PC, butterfly knives are classified as a form of switchblade. Carrying, possessing in public, selling, or otherwise transferring a butterfly knife is illegal under this legislation.

What happens if you get caught with a knife? ›

It is illegal - they could ruin your life if you are caught, even if you never use the weapon. You could go to jail for up to four years if you're found in possession of a knife or five years for a gun, even if you're carrying it for someone else. In the worst case scenario, you could get life imprisonment for murder.

What are the holes in a knife blade for? ›

Holes on the knife are a special feature, which serves various benefits, including minimizing cutting friction, making knives less weighty, ease in storage, anti-stickiness, brand recognition, ease in opening a knife, and beautifying the knife.

Are switchblades illegal in MA? ›

Limits on Carry

It is illegal to carry, open or concealed, switchblades, dirks, daggers, stilettos, ballistic knife, double edge knives, and knuckle knives. It is illegal to carry anything that is perceived as dangerous while disturbing the peace or being arrested.

Is it legal to build an ar15 in Massachusetts? ›

No. The fact that that a weapon has been labeled “state compliant” or “Massachusetts compliant” by the manufacturer does not make the gun legal to purchase and own in Massachusetts.

What is a blackjack weapon? ›

A blackjack weapon or sap refers to a group of weapons that are short, concealable, and weighted (usually filled with lead powder, molded lead clay, or lead shot) to constitute an effective bludgeoning device. The terminology used to refer to these weapons can be very imprecise depending on the period.

What is a Scottish knife called? ›

Often spelled Skean Dhu, a Sgian Dubh is a traditional Scottish, single-edged knife which is worn as part of a highland wear outfit. The words Sgian Dubh directly translated from Gaelic means black (dubh) dagger (sgian).

What is the ballistic knife? ›

A ballistic knife is a knife with a detachable blade that can be ejected to a distance of several meters/yards by pressing a trigger or operating a lever or switch on the handle.

At what point does a knife become a sword? ›

Knives are generally 6” or less, while sword lengths usually measure a foot or more. While there is no established cut-off between a knife vs. a sword as far as length, the longer the blade gets, the more useful it becomes as a fighting weapon.

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