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Why are gravity knives illegal

Written by:
Dr. Braide Honest
April 20, 2023
legal gravity knives

This blog enhances your understanding with articles like ‘Why Are Gravity Knives Illegal’, featuring exclusive content and in-depth reviews. The platform offers practical advice on a range of knife types, making it perfect for those interested in purchasing custom knives. It serves as a valuable resource for collectors, enthusiasts, and professionals, promoting involvement in the knife community and navigating the legal complexities of knife ownership.


Gravity KnivesWe are glad to have you once again on our blog; you can be sure of another interesting ride as usual. Today we shall be looking into another interesting subject matter on Gravity Knives. We shall be diving into some aspects of the law/legality of the gravity knife, and this is because we don’t want you to get into any trouble while you enjoy the use and benefits of your gravity knife.

To refresh our memories, we’ll answer the question of what a gravity knife is once more.

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Gravity knives are a type of folding knife that can be opened with a flick of the wrist. They are similar to switchblades, but they do not have a spring mechanism that automatically propels the blade. Instead, they rely on gravity or centrifugal force to deploy the blade. Gravity knives have been around since the 1930s when German paratroopers used them during World War II.

German Paratrooper Gravity Knives

Since then, they have become popular among various groups of people, such as tradespeople, hunters, and collectors. However, they have also been associated with crime and violence, and have been banned or restricted in many states and countries. In this blog post, we will explore the controversy over the definition and enforcement of gravity knife laws, the recent changes in some jurisdictions that have legalized or decriminalized gravity knives, and the implications for knife owners and users.

Legal issues on gravity knives

One of the main issues with gravity knife laws is the ambiguity and inconsistency of the definition of gravity knives. According to the Federal Switchblade Knife Act of 1958, a gravity knife is a knife with a blade that is released from the handle by the force of gravity. It’s also described as a knife requiring the application of centrifugal force, which when released, is locked by using a spring, lever, or button.   However, this definition is vague and subjective and can be applied to many common folding knives that are not intended to be gravity knives. For example, some courts and law enforcement agencies have used the “wrist flick test” to determine if a knife is a gravity knife. This test involves flicking the wrist while holding the knife to see if the blade opens. However, this test can vary depending on the skill and strength of the person performing it, the condition and design of the knife, and other factors. As a result, many people have been arrested or prosecuted for possessing ordinary knives that they needed for work or other legitimate purposes. A federal judge in New York ruled in 2019 that the state’s gravity knife law was unconstitutional because it was too vague and arbitrary. In contrast, some other states and countries have adopted more specific and objective definitions of gravity knives, such as requiring a certain blade length, shape, or mechanism.

Right after 1950, Gravity Knives and other small pocket knives became very common and popular amongst young gangsters. They were promoted generally and on the media as nice tools to have.

Lawmakers in the City of New York questioned these knives as they were also dangerous, this would subsequently result to the passage of a law to restrict and make the use of small knives and switchblades illegal in 1954

Sadly, in 1958 New York was not the only state to prohibit the use of these knives. A couple of states like Colorado included other small pocket knives in the banned categories by labeling them as gravity knives. 

Not long after many more states started reviewing small pocket knives as risky tools to be carried about and the notion that those who carry such knives about are likely criminals or gang members.

Between the years 2000 and 2012, thousands of citizens were arrested in New York and almost all of them were in possession of the knife for job-related purposes.

why are gravity knives illegal

Ohio State for instance is having a reconsideration of its laws. Gravity knives and Switchblades are still illegal in most states today.

The types of knives considered forbidden and places where they are prohibited vary from state to state and country to country. This makes it wise and necessary to check the state laws and the country you intend to travel to before deciding to buy a gravity knife or travel along with one.

The definitions of gravity knives vary between states in the United States

According to the American Knife and Tool Institute, federal laws in the United States do not prohibit the possession of gravity knives.
However, state laws may vary. Some states prohibit gravity knives, while others are more lenient. For example, the following states prohibit gravity knives: California, Delaware, Hawaii, Michigan, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. 

New York: Any knife that has a blade released from the handle or sheath by force of gravity or the application of centrifugal force, which, when released, can be locked in place.

California: A knife with a blade contained in the handle that opens its blade through the force of gravity.

Delaware: Any device that has a blade that can be released from its handle by centrifugal force or gravity alone.

Hawaii: A knife that has a blade that opens from the handle by the force of gravity or inertia.

Illinois: A knife with a blade that opens from the handle by the force of gravity, inertia, or both.

Massachusetts: A knife with a blade that is released from the handle or sheath thereof by the force of gravity or the application of centrifugal force and, when released, is locked in place by means of a button, spring, lever, or other mechanisms.

Michigan: A knife with a blade that is released from the handle or sheath thereof by the force of gravity or the application of centrifugal force and when released, is locked in place by means of a button, spring, lever, or other mechanism.

New Jersey: A knife with a blade that is released from the handle or sheath thereof by the force of gravity or the application of centrifugal force, which, when released, is locked in place by means of a button, spring, lever, or other mechanisms.

Rhode Island: A knife with a blade that is released from the handle or sheath thereof by the force of gravity or the application of centrifugal force and, when released, is locked in place by means of a button, spring, lever, or other mechanisms.

Consequences for violating gravity knife laws differ across states. Carrying or possessing gravity knives in states where they are banned can result in criminal charges. If found with a gravity knife under circumstances suggesting unlawful intent, one may face enhanced penalties. In some states, possession or carrying is a misdemeanor, punishable by fines, imprisonment, or community service. However, in more serious cases, especially with aggravating factors, it could escalate to a felony, leading to more severe penalties. Prior convictions, especially for weapon offenses, can further elevate the severity of the penalties.

Legality of Gravity Knives in Different Countries

The legality of gravity knives varies globally, influenced by each country’s specific laws and regulations. Some countries have outright bans, considering these knives as weapons, while others regulate their use, possession, or carry based on certain criteria like blade length or locking mechanism. The legal status in each country depends on national laws, cultural context, and perceived safety concerns. It’s imperative to consult the legal framework of each specific country for accurate information on the legality of gravity knives.


In Canada, the Criminal Code regulates what types of knives can be legally carried. Section 90 of the code prohibits carrying “prohibited weapons”, which include: Knives that open automatically by gravity or centrifugal force or by hand pressure applied to a button, spring, or other device in or attached to the handle (i.e. switchblades). Therefore, gravity knives are illegal in Canada.


In Germany, gravity knives are legal but heavily restricted. They can only be carried by certain people, such as hunters, fishermen, or members of the military. It is also illegal to carry them in public places. Any kind of OTF knife is strictly banned. If traveling to Germany, do not go along with one, only with an official permit. It’s important to note that knife laws in Germany are complex and may be difficult to understand for non-lawyers. The German weapon laws were amended in 2003, and the new law has left knife enthusiasts worse off since some knife types are banned completely while others are restricted in size or blade length.


In France, the laws regarding knives are strict. Carrying certain types of knives, such as those with a locking blade or a blade length exceeding a reasonable size, is illegal without a valid reason. The use of knives for self-defense purposes is also prohibited.

However, the legality of gravity knives in France is a controversial issue. According to French law, gravity knives are not explicitly banned. However, the blade length of a gravity knife can affect its legality in some jurisdictions.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, gravity knives are classified as prohibited weapons and are strictly regulated. It is illegal to be in possession of any shape or bladed instruments in public places, including gravity knives, switchblades, butterfly knives, and flick knives. The maximum penalty for an adult carrying a knife or weapon illegally is either 4 years in prison, an unlimited fine, or both.

It’s important to note that knife laws in the UK are complex and may be difficult to understand for non-lawyers. The UK outright bans some knives, such as automatics, push daggers, gravity knives, and balisongs. There may be a few exceptions with good reasons or legal backing.


In Spain, the sale, import, and manufacture of gravity knives are prohibited. It is also illegal to carry a knife on school premises. The length of the blade is also regulated.  Forbidden knives are knives that are not recognizable. These are automated and semi-automated knives, folding knives over 4.3”/11cm in length, and flipper knives. Daggers are prohibited if they have a blade sharpened on both sides and Butterfly knives too.


In Poland a knife is considered a utility tool and not treated as a weapon, it’s not treated as a white weapon and therefore not subject to the Weapons and Ammunition Act of May 21, 1999. One can easily purchase and be in possession of a spring knife, butterfly knife, knife with a fixed button, and folding knife.

gravity knives illegal              

In response to the criticism and challenges of the gravity knife laws, some jurisdictions have recently changed their laws to legalize or decriminalize gravity knives. For example, in 2019, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill to remove gravity knives from the category of deadly weapons and allow their possession. This bill was passed unanimously by the state legislature, after seven years of lobbying by lawmakers and advocates. The governor cited a federal court decision that found the gravity knife law to be unconstitutionally vague and discriminatory. He also acknowledged the impact of the law on workers and artisans who use gravity knives for their jobs. Similarly, in 2017, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper signed a bill to repeal the ban on switchblades and gravity knives, after hearing testimony from knife enthusiasts and collectors. He said that the ban was outdated and unnecessary and that it did not enhance public safety. He also noted that the ban hurt Colorado’s reputation as a friendly state for outdoor recreation and tourism. These changes reflect a growing recognition that gravity knives are not inherently dangerous or criminal and that they have legitimate uses and benefits for many people.

gravity knife

Having highlighted some issues bordering on knife laws, especially with regards to the gravity knife, one would naturally want to know, how then can I make use of my gravity knife, and enjoy its many benefits without getting in the way of the law.

• Be clear about the definition of a gravity knife in your location or intended travel destination

• Be sure that gravity knives are prohibited or not by law in your location.

• Your gravity knife should serve as a utility tool and not for any unlawful acts.

• Be sure if you require a legal permit in your location before possessing and making use of a gravity knife; if so secure such permits from the relevant authorities.

• Remain law-abiding

With every tool, instrument, or device that makes for ease of work and or other routine activities, certain precautions should be taken to prevent operational hazards, while maximizing the benefits thereof. This brings us to our next point of discussion.

gravity knives laws

Why is a gravity knife illegal?

Explore the controversial history and legal status of gravity knives. The video “Why Are Gravity Knives Illegal” delves into the reasons behind the fear and regulation of this distinct knife by lawmakers in various states. It discusses the impracticality of gravity knives, the contentious ‘wrist flick’ test used by law enforcement, and the broader definition of what constitutes a gravity knife. Note: The presenter is not a legal expert. This content serves purely for entertainment and education. Always consult local laws before carrying any knife.

Video credit: Chrispy Things [EDC]

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Safety tips for using gravity knives

Your fingers should not cross the blade whilst you open or close your gravity knife.

When not in use, ensure the blade is securely locked, using the lock button or lever provided.

When deploying the blade, do not point it towards yourself or anyone else. Make use of centrifugal force or gravity to open the blade. Whilst at this, do not flick it too fast or too hard.

Make sure you utilize your gravity knives only for the intended purpose, such as cutting, slicing, or piercing, Do not use them for prying, hammering, or throwing,

Keep your gravity knife clean and sharp. A dull or dirty blade can cause more injuries and damage than a sharp one. Use a sharpening stone or a honing rod to maintain the edge of your blade.

Always store your gravity knife properly when not in use. Use a sheath, a block, a rack, or a magnetic strip to keep your knife away from children, pets, and other hazards. Do not leave your knife in your pocket, in a sink, or on a surface where it can fall or be knocked over.

Video credit: Neeves Knives

FAQ`s on the Legality of a Gravity Knife

Navigate the complexities of gravity knife legislation with our FAQ corner. This section addresses common inquiries regarding the legal aspects of owning, carrying, and using a gravity knife. Note: This is not legal advice but a guide to assist in understanding the general legal landscape.

Are Gravity Knives Legal Federally?

The federal ban on gravity knives was lifted in 2019 with the repeal of the Federal Switchblade Act’s provisions concerning these knives. This change means that, at a federal level, gravity knives are no longer classified as illegal. However, state and local laws vary significantly, and some places may still impose restrictions or outright bans on owning, carrying, or using gravity knives. Always consult local laws and regulations to ensure compliance.

Do State Laws Differ on Gravity Knife Legality?

State laws on gravity knife legality vary considerably across the United States. While federal restrictions have eased, individual states maintain their own sets of regulations, with some allowing the possession and carrying of gravity knives while others impose strict bans or restrictions. The definition of what constitutes a gravity knife can also differ, affecting legality. Individuals must consult the specific laws and regulations of their state and any state they plan to visit to understand the legal status of gravity knives.

Where can I check if it’s legal to own or carry a gravity knife in my area?

To find more information on knife laws in your area, consult your local government’s official website or contact the local police department. Legal statutes and ordinances are often available online for public viewing. Additionally, consider reaching out to a local attorney specializing in weapons laws or consulting reputable legal resources and databases. Organizations dedicated to knife rights and advocacy may also provide up-to-date information and guidance on local knife laws.

Is a gravity knife considered the same as a switchblade in the eyes of the law?

In legal terms, gravity knives and switchblades are generally considered distinct types of knives. A gravity knife typically opens by the force of inertia or gravity, while a switchblade opens automatically with the press of a button or switch. However, the distinction and classification can vary significantly by jurisdiction. Some laws may group them together under prohibited or regulated items, while others treat them separately with different legal implications. It’s crucial to consult specific local laws to understand how these types of knives are defined and regulated in your area.

If gravity knives are banned in my state, are there any exceptions to the rule?

In some states where gravity knives are banned, exceptions may exist for certain individuals or circumstances. Common exemptions might include military personnel, law enforcement officers, or individuals who require the knife for work-related purposes and have obtained the necessary permits. Additionally, some laws might allow the possession of gravity knives under specific conditions, such as for collection or display purposes.

Does the Blade Length of a Gravity Knife Affect its Legality?

In some jurisdictions, the blade length of a gravity knife can affect its legality. Certain areas have specific regulations that define illegal knives based on blade length, regardless of the opening mechanism. Therefore, even if gravity knives are legal in a region, those exceeding the specified blade length might still be prohibited.

Are Antique or Collector’s Gravity Knives Legal?

The legality of antique or collector’s gravity knives depends on the jurisdiction. Some areas may provide exemptions for antique or collectible knives, including gravity knives, especially if they are not intended for carry or everyday use. However, in other places, the same restrictions applied to standard gravity knives may also apply to antique versions. Collectors should verify local laws and regulations to understand the specific legal status of antique or collector’s gravity knives in their area.


Gravity knives are a type of folding knife that can be opened with a flick of the wrist. They have a long and controversial history, as they have been banned or restricted in many states and countries due to their association with crime and violence. However, they have also been legalized or decriminalized in some jurisdictions, as they have been recognized as useful and versatile tools for various purposes. Gravity knife owners and users should be aware of the local laws and regulations regarding gravity knives and other types of knives, as they can vary widely and change over time. They should also exercise caution and responsibility when using gravity knives, as they can be dangerous if not handled properly or safely. Gravity knives are not for everyone, but they can be a great addition to your knife collection if you know how to use them correctly. What do you think about gravity knives?

If you own a gravity knife or would like to own one, we welcome you to share your experience and thoughts about gravity knives, in the comment section of this blog post.

To learn more and enrich your knowledge about gravity knives and a host of other knives we welcome you to our Knife Blog. And to buy the best set of knives at the most reasonable prices we invite you to Our Exceptional World of Noblie Custom Knives. 

Author: Braide Honest | Connect with me on LinkedIn


American Knife and Tool Institute

Penal Law Section 265.00(5).

US Federal Law 18 U.S.C. § 1716.

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  • BladeLawyer101

    Really insightful article on the legalities surrounding gravity knives. I’ve always wondered why they faced such strict regulations compared to other types of folding knives. The history and politics behind it are truly intriguing. Does anyone know if there are movements or petitions to re-evaluate these laws?

  • Jasmine Thompson

    Hi Dear! What is the most forbidden knife? Which knife is considered the most prohibited or restricted in many jurisdictions around the world?


    The concept of a “most forbidden” knife can be somewhat subjective, as knife laws vary significantly across countries and even within regions of those countries. However, based on widespread restrictions and regulations, a few types of knives often face prohibitions or stringent controls:

    Switchblades/Automatic Knives: These are knives that open automatically at the press of a button or mechanism. Many jurisdictions around the world ban or heavily regulate the possession, sale, or carry of switchblades due to concerns about their rapid deployment.

    Balisong/Butterfly Knives: These are folding pocket knives with two handles that counter-rotate around the tang. When closed, the blade is concealed within grooves in the handles. Due to their flashy opening technique and potential for rapid deployment, many places prohibit or restrict them.

    Gravity Knives: As previously mentioned, gravity knives have faced prohibitions in many jurisdictions, mainly due to concerns similar to those regarding switchblades.

    Push Daggers: These knives have a T-shaped design, where the blade comes out perpendicular from the handle and is held by the fist. They’re designed primarily for stabbing and are restricted in many places.

    Concealed/Disguised Knives: These are knives hidden within everyday objects such as pens, belts, or canes. Their concealed nature often leads to their prohibition in many jurisdictions because they can be carried without detection.

    Dirks and Daggers: These are typically double-edged stabbing tools. Some places, especially within the United States, have restrictions on carrying fixed-blade knives like dirks and daggers concealed on one’s person.

    It’s essential to note that cultural perceptions, historical incidents, and regional concerns can influence the legal status of various knife types. For instance, in the UK, there’s a particular concern about knives used in violent crimes, leading to stricter knife carry laws in general.

    Always consult local laws and regulations if you are considering owning or carrying a knife, especially when traveling. Even within countries, laws can differ significantly from one region to another.

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