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

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.

Pennsylvania has recently had major changes to its knife laws. Thanks to new legislation, automatic knives are now legal to own and knife laws are not nearly as strict as they once were.

As a knife owner, it is crucial to stay on the cutting edge of development within the space so this guide will summarize everything you need to know about Pennsylvania knife laws.

Does Pennsylvania Have Statewide Preemption Laws Knife Laws?

There is no statewide preemption law in Pennsylvania. This means different counties within the state can have different knife restrictions. Philadelphia for example is extremely strict and does not allow anyone to carry a knife on public property.

You should talk with local law enforcement or research the specific knife laws of any county you plan on visiting to ensure a fun trip with no surprises.

What Knives Are Legal to Own In Pennsylvania?

The knives listed below are legal to own:

  • Pocket Knife
  • Bowie Knife
  • Butterfly or Balisong Knife
  • Penknife
  • Concealed Knife
  • Any kind of Hunting Knife
  • Automatic Knife (for lawful purposes)

Curio Exception

There is something in Pennsylvania called the Curio Exception. “Curio” is an explanation for why any good law-abiding citizen would own an “offensive weapon” that has the potential to seriously injure someone.

The “offensive weapons” they are talking about here are: daggers, razors, and knives whose blades are exposed in an automatic way or they can hurt someone with no “lawful purpose”- that antique sword hanging on your mantle or that cool OTF knife is what they are referring to.

The Curio Exception is giving knife owners the benefit of the doubt because the likelihood of these weapons being used unlawfully is slim.

The good news is the Curio Exception means you can pretty much own any knife you want, but you better have a good reason for owning it. Some of these reasons include theatrical purposes, for display, or something very similar.

If you don’t have a good reason for owning one of these knives, you might get in a lot of trouble with the possibility of being arrested and charged. Although the chances are quite slim unless you’re carrying it around with you to show it off.

Restricted Knives In Pennsylvania

The verbiage that restricts knives in Pennsylvania is short but covers a ton of different knives.

In Pennsylvania, you cannot carry any knife that is operated by a spring mechanism, button, lever, or switch on the handle with exposed blades. In short, switchblades or most types of automatic knives are restricted.

Knife Carry Laws In Pennsylvania

To avoid getting in trouble with law enforcement, it is important for you to understand which knives you can carry, which ones you can’t, and where you can carry them.

Here are a few of the laws unique to the state that you’ll want to stick to:

  • It is illegal to carry an automatic knife
  • It is illegal to carry any knife on school grounds
  • It is illegal to carry any knife on courthouse grounds
  • It is illegal to carry any knife that falls under the “Prohibited Offensive Weapons”
    • “Offensive weapons” refers to any dagger, razor, or knife if the blade is exposed in an automatic way. You may not carry any knife with the intention to harm or for any unlawful purpose.
  • It is legal to carry any hunting knife
  • It is legal to carry any knife that has a lawful purpose

Pennsylvania law requires knife owners to recognize “common lawful purpose” when handling knives.

For example, it is completely legal to have, own, and use a kitchen knife for cutting up vegetables in your home. But if you were to take that kitchen knife to a soccer game or a museum, you might get into some trouble and have some explaining to do.

A “common lawful purpose” isn’t a unique or rare reason for carrying, but a common everyday purpose that is lawful.

If you need to transport a knife that falls under the “Curio Exception”, it needs to be secured in a carrying case or something similar and it cannot be within reach while driving. This applies anytime the knife is in a public place. Unless you are taking your antique sword to a knife show or something similar, just keep it at home folks.

The penalty for violating carrying knife laws in Pennsylvania will be fined a minimum of $300 and imprisonment for a minimum of 90 days.

Knife Length Laws In Pennsylvania

The state does not currently restrict knives over a certain length. However, if you have a longer knife you’re worried about, make sure you check your county laws.

So you should be fine to carry a 12″ bowie knife (if you have a reason) but be sure to keep that 3″ blade knife with assisted opening at home on display!

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Knife Laws

If you plan on taking a vacation to visit the Liberty Bell and eat some famous cheesesteaks, you will want to leave your knives home. Philadelphia is one of the cities with the strictest knife laws in Pennsylvania.

It is so restrictive in fact that no one is allowed to carry any sort of knife on public streets or public property at any time. The only exception to this is law enforcement and emergency personnel.

Ironically, if you wanted to visit the place where the Declaration of Independence was written and signed or where the United States Constitution was signed, you would not be allowed to carry even a pocket knife. Strange, isn’t it?

How Old Do You Have To Be To Buy or Carry A Knife In Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania does not allow you to sell or transfer any “deadly weapon” to anyone under the age of 18. Pennsylvania law says a knife “designed as a weapon and capable of producing death or serious bodily injury” is considered a deadly weapon.

I’m not sure if this includes pocket knives, so check your local laws to be sure before gifting your nephew with a shiny new toy. Better safe than sorry!

Can You Conceal Carry A Knife In Pennsylvania?

It is legal to conceal and carry any knife and any nonautomatic open knife, as long as it has a lawful purpose.

Can A Felon Own And Carry A Knife In Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania has no laws against people with felonies or warrants owning knives, but they are not permitted to carry knives in public places.

Remember, local municipalities can have different ordinances regarding the same so ensure you consult your lawyer or parole officer for more information.

Can You Open Carry A Sword In Pennsylvania?

In Pennsylvania, swords fall under the “Curio Exception”. This allows you to own a sword for use or display, assuming you have a valid reason. You would not be allowed to carry a sword in a public place unless you were taking it to a sword show or something similar. If you do take your sword to any public place make sure it is secure in a carrying case of some sort.


At the end of the day, understanding Pennsylvania knife laws doesn’t seem overly complicated, which probably means that I understood about half of it.

If you are on the edge of what is considered legal you’ll want to call your local offices and asks some very specific questions. If, however, you are a normal person looking to carry a regular pocket knife for daily use you shouldn’t expect much trouble.

Hopefully, I was able to save you from digging through the legalese to learn more about Pennsylvania’s knife laws as it was a bit of a grind!

Just remember that, while I did my best, always keep your eye out for updates and new information from your county or state!

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