Montana Knife Law – The Complete Guide (In Plain English)

Last updated on October 21st, 2023 at 01:19 am

This article was created to be a brief synopsis of the law according to my understanding and is not legal advice. Knifeade is not a legal service provider. Using this site does not create a client/lawyer relationship. Because knife laws can be interpreted differently by different people and entities it is recommended that you consult legal counsel for specific information and guidance.

Montana is a magnificent state for knife enthusiasts with its liberal knife laws. Whether it’s the scenic beauty or the blade-friendly laws, the Treasure State is indeed a treasure for many.

Now, diving into knives… before you procure one, it’s prudent to be acquainted with the state’s knife laws to ensure compliance and dodge any potential legal repercussions.

In this article, we delve into Montana Knife Law intricacies — from the types of knives you can legally own, age restrictions, carrying them in public places or prohibited areas, to defenses against violations and preemption laws concerning local ordinances.

Our Top Rated “50-State-Legal” Knives

*These knives are listed based on their broad legality across states, but always consult your local laws before making a purchase.

Does Montana Have a Statewide Preemption for Knife Laws?

Montana is among the states with a statewide preemption for knife laws, ensuring uniform knife laws across the state. The enactment of Knife Law Preemption prohibits local authorities from enforcing knife ordinances more restrictive than state law.

Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that local governments can impose restrictions on knife possession on properties they lease or own. This minor variation doesn’t undermine the statewide preemption but calls for awareness among knife carriers.

Always verify any additional municipal rules or regulations. For instance, a city or county might have restrictive rules about carrying knives in certain public spaces, even though Montana’s state law doesn’t specify these restrictions.

Types of Knives Allowed in Montana

Folding Pocket Knives

Folding pocket knives are legal to own and carry in Montana. They are compact, with a blade that folds into the handle, facilitating ease of storage and transport. Examples include traditional slip joint folders, lockback folders, frame lock folders, liner locks, and tactical folding knives.

Fixed Blade Knives

Fixed-blade knives are also legal in Montana. Unlike folding pocket knives, these have a fixed blade with either a full tang or partial tang construction. Common fixed-blade knives include hunting and survival knives, as well as kitchen cutlery like chef’s knives and butcher’s cleavers.

Automatic Knives

The ban on automatic knives or switchblades was lifted on April 3, 2019, though initially, the blade length was restricted to one and a half inches. The laws now permit the possession and use of automatic knives, promoting their safe use among the populace​2​.

Age Restrictions for Knife Ownership in Montana

Montana law doesn’t expressly stipulate age restrictions for knife ownership. However, unlawful possession of any weapon on school premises by individuals, including minors, is considered a crime. It’s advisable to consult local legal advice before allowing individuals under 18 to own or carry knives without supervision.

Carrying Knives in Public Places in Montana

Carrying a knife in public places within Montana is governed by law. Understanding these laws is crucial to avoid criminal charges and fines.

Concealed Carry Laws

Previously, it was illegal to carry a concealed blade longer than 4 inches. However, amendments allow concealed carry of knives, especially for self-defense in outdoor activities like ranching, farming, hiking, hunting, fishing, trapping, backpacking, and similar activities​2​.

Prohibited Areas for Carrying Knives in Montana

Carrying a knife in certain areas can lead to criminal charges and fines. It’s critical to know where you’re permitted to carry a knife and where you’re not.

Schools and Educational Facilities

It’s illegal for anyone other than school security personnel or law enforcement officers to possess any weapon on school grounds or at educational facilities​2​.

Government Buildings and Facilities

Local governments in Montana can restrict knife possession on government-leased or owned properties. However, other restrictions on knife ownership, use, or sale are prohibited by the state’s preemption laws​2​.

Penalties for Violating Knife Laws in Montana

Violating Montana’s knife laws, especially using a knife unlawfully, can attract penalties depending on the offense’s severity and any prior similar offenses.

Defenses to Knife Law Violations in Montana

Defenses against violations of Montana’s knife laws could include ignorance of the law or a mistake of fact, although these are not guaranteed. Self-defense could serve as a valid defense, especially in the face of legitimate threats.

FAQs in Relation to Montana Knife Law

How big of a knife can you carry in Montana?

Montana state law does not specify blade length restrictions for carrying knives. However, local ordinances may have their own regulations, always verify with local authorities before carrying a large knife in public.

Can you carry a fixed-blade knife in Montana?

Yes, you can carry a fixed-blade knife in Montana, provided it’s not used in an unlawful manner. Avoid carrying any knife in prohibited areas like schools, government buildings, and airports.

Are OTF knives legal in Montana?

Yes, OTF (out-the-front) knives are legal in Montana. However, using any knife, including an OTF knife, in a threatening or harmful manner can lead to criminal charges.

Montana State Knife Law References

Official Sources of Montana’s Knife Laws

  • Montana Code Annotated 2021, specifically Title 45, Chapter 8, Part 3, which discusses offenses against public order and weapons possession, including in school buildings.
  • List of Relevant Knife Laws:
    • MCA 45-8-361: Prohibits blades or knives 4 inches or longer at schools.
    • MCA 45-8-316: Carrying knives of 4 inches or longer concealed is illegal.
    • MCA 45-2-101: Any weapons that can cause severe body damage or death are illegal.

Significant Court Cases

Case TitleSummary
State v. Gene MeredithThis 2010 case involved a knife that was approximately twelve inches long.
Schulz v. JTL d/b/a Knife-RiverIn this 2018 case, Knife-River’s actions were deemed reasonable under the circumstances, following Schulz’s termination due to insubordinate behavior.

Timeline of Major Changes in Montana’s Knife Law History

  • 1943: The law expanded to prohibit concealing any dagger or dagger-like object.
  • 1945: The term “pointed and dangerous weapon” was added, covering items such as daggers, dirks, stilettos, and razors.
  • 2017: Montana amended its knife laws effective October 1, removing certain types of knives from the definition of concealed weapon. Additionally, H.B. 251 became law in April, amending 45-8-315 and 45-8-316, and removing non-firearm weapons from 45-8-316. The definition of “concealed weapon” in 45-8-315 was changed to mean a concealed firearm.
  • 2019: On January 31, the Montana Switchblade Ban Repeal and Knife Law Preemption Bill (HB 115) passed in the state House of Representatives, making key changes to state knife laws.

For more in-depth information, you may refer to the Montana Code Annotated 2021, and the listed websites which provide a comprehensive overview of the state’s knife laws.


Understanding Montana’s knife laws is crucial for anyone who owns or wishes to carry a knife within the state. Abiding by state and local knife law regulations ensures a trouble-free experience for knife enthusiasts.

For any further queries regarding knife laws in Montana, consulting with an attorney familiar with local ordinances is always a good practice.

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