1.(American)a pocketknife with a blade that springs open at the press of a button
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switchblade (n.) [American]
A switchblade (also known as an automatic knife, pushbutton knife, ejector knife, switch, Sprenger, Springer, or, in most English speaking countries, flick knife) is a type of knife with a folding or sliding blade contained in the handle which is opened automatically by a spring when a button, lever, or switch on the handle or bolster is activated (often confused with a different type of knife, the spring-assist or assisted-opening knife). A manually operated safety device fitted to most switchblades prevents the blade from opening in the event the button is accidentally pressed. Most switchblade designs incorporate a locking blade, in which the blade is locked against closure when the spring extends the blade to the fully opened position. The blade is unlocked by manually operating a mechanism that unlocks the blade and allows it to be folded and locked in the closed position.
The switchblade or automatic knife is thought to have originated as a response to demands for a convenient pocket knife that could be opened with only one hand. With the advent of mass production, which enabled folding knives to be produced at lower cost, distribution of such knives became much more widespread, with some manufacturers turning out thousands of automatic knives annually. While not as popular as traditional pocket or folding knives, the switchblade enjoyed a devoted if modest continuing popularity as a general utility knife. With the advent of legislation restricting ownership or sale of such knives in the mid-20th century, the worldwide popularity of the automatic knife began to decline. Today most switchblades are largely produced by small knifemaking companies on a semi-custom basis for use by the military or for collectors in countries and states where it is legal to do so.
Switchblade knives date from the mid-18th century. The earliest known examples of spring-loaded blades were constructed by craftsmen in Europe, who developed an automatic folding spike bayonet for use on flintlock pistols and coach guns.
Examples of steel automatic folding knives from Sheffield England have crown markings that date to 1840. Cutlery makers such as Tillotson, A.Davey, Beever, Hobson, Ibbotson and others produced automatic-opening knives. Some have simple iron bolsters and wooden handles, while others feature ornate, embossed silver alloy bolsters and stag handles. English-made knives ofen incorporate a "pen release" instead of a central handle button, whereby the main spring activated larger blade is released by pressing down on the closed smaller pen blade. In France, 19th-century folding knives marked Châtellerault were available in both automatic and manually-opened versions in several sizes and lengths. Châtellerault switchblades have recognizable features such as "S" shaped cross guards, picklock type mechanisms and engraved decorative pearl and ivory handles. In Spain, Admiral D'Estaing is attributed with a type of folding naval dirk that doubled as an eating utensil. In closed (folded) position, the blade tip would extend beyond the handle to be used at the dining table. It could be spring activated to full length if needed as a side arm, by pressing a lever instead of a handle button,.
By 1850, at least one American company offered a .22 rimfire single-shot pistol equipped with a spring-operated knife. After the American Civil War (1865), knife production became industrialized. The oldest American made production automatic knife is the Korn Patent Knife, which used a rocking bolster release.
The advent of mass production methods enabled folding knives with multiple components to be produced in large numbers at lower cost. By 1890, U.S. knife sales of all types were on the increase, buoyed by catalog mail order sales as well as mass marketing campaigns utilizing advertisements in periodicals and newspapers. In consequence, knife began marketing new and much more affordable automatic knives to the general public. In Europe as well as the United States, automatic knife sales were never more than a fraction of sales generated by conventional folding knives, yet the type enjoyed consistent if modest sales from year to year.
In 1892, George Schrade, a toolmaker and machinist from New York developed and patented the first of several practical automatic knife designs. The following year, Schrade founded the New York Press Button Knife Company to manufacture his switchblade knife pattern, which had a unique release button mounted in the knife bolster. Schrade's company operated out of a small workshop in New York City and employed about a dozen workmen.
Swordmakers in Toledo, Spain developed a market in the 1920s for gold plated automatic leverlock knives with pearl handles and enamel inlaid blades. Italian knifemakers had their own style of knives including both pushbutton and leverlock styles, some bearing design characteristics similar to the early French Châtellerault knife. Prior to World War II, hand crafted automatic knives marked Campobasso or Frosolone were often called Flat Guards because of the two-piece top bolster design. Some Italian switchblades incorporated a bayonet-type blade equipped with a blade lock release activated by picking a lever at the hinge end, and were known as 'Picklocks'. These were later supplanted by newer designs which incorporated the blade lock release into a tilting bolster, which released a spearpoint or bayonet-style blade.
In the United States, commercial development of the switchblade knife was primarily dominated by the inventions of George Schrade and his New York Press Button Knife Company, though W.R. Case, Union Cutlery, Camillus Cutlery, and other U.S. knife manufacturers also marketed automatic knives of their own design. Most of Schrade's switchblade patterns were automatic versions of utilitarian jackknives and pocket knives, as well as smaller penknife models designed to appeal to women buyers. In 1903, Schrade sold his interest in the New York Press Button Knife Co. to the Walden Knife Co., and moved to Walden, New York, where he opened a new factory. There Schrade became the company's production superintendent, establishing a production line to manufacture several patterns of Schrade-designed switchblade knives, ranging from a large folding hunter to a small pocket knife. Walden Knife Co. would go on to sell thousands of copies of Schrade's original bolster button design.
The advertising campaigns of the day by Schrade and other automatic knife manufacturers focused on marketing to farmers, ranchers, hunters, or outdoorsmen who needed a compact pocket knife that could be quickly brought into action when needed. In rural areas of America these campaigns were partially successful, particularly with younger buyers, who aspired to own the most modern tools at a time when new labor-saving inventions were constantly appearing on the market. Most American-made switchblades made after 1900 were patterned after standard utilitarian pocketknives, though a few larger Bowie or Folding Hunter patterns were produced with blade shapes and lengths that could be considered useful as fighting knives. Most had flat or sabre-ground clip or spear-point blade profiles and single-sharpened edges. Blade lengths rarely exceeded five inches (12 cm). A few manufacturers introduced the double switchblade, featuring two blades that could be automatically opened and locked with the push of a button.
At the low end of the market, Shrapleigh Hardware Company of St. Louis, Missouri manufactured thousands of switchblades under the trademark Diamond Edge for distribution to dealers across the United States and Canada. Most of these knives were novelty items, assembled at the lowest possible cost. Sold off display cards in countless hardware and general stores, many low-end Diamond Edge switchblades failed to last more than a few months in actual use. Other companies such as Imperial Knife and Remington Arms paid royalties to Schrade in order to produce automatic "contract knives" for rebranding and sale by large mail-order catalog retailers such as Sears, Roebuck & Co.
In 1904, in combination with his brothers Louis and William, George Schrade formed the Schrade Cutlery Co. in Walden, and began developing a new series of switchblades, which he patented in 1906-07. Schrade's new Safety Pushbutton Knives incorporated several design improvements over his earlier work, and featured a handle-mounted operating button with a sliding safety switch. A multi-blade operating button allowed the knife to operate with up to four automatic blades. In successive patents from 1906 through 1916 Schrade would steadily improve this design, which would later become known as the Presto series. With the Presto line, Schrade would largely dominate the automatic knife market in the United States for the next forty years. Schrade would go on to manufacture thousands of contract switchblade knives under several trademarks and brands, including E. Weck, Wade & Butcher, and Case XX, while other companies used Schrade's patent as the basis for their own switchblade patterns. Among these were pocket and folding hunter pattern switchblades bearing the name Keen Kutter, a trademark owned by E.C. Simmons Hardware Co. (later purchased by the Shrapleigh Hardware Co.).
Having earned a handsome return from his work, Schrade traveled to Europe in 1911, first to Sheffield, England, where he assisted Thomas Turner & Company in expediting a wartime order from the British Navy. He next moved to the knifemaking center of Solingen, Germany. Schrade was fully aware of Solingen's reputation for having the best cutlery steel in Europe, and he opened a factory to produce his safety pushbutton switchblade knife there, which would become known as the Springer. In 1915 or 1916 Schrade sold his Solingen holdings (some sources state they were seized by the German government) and returned to the United States. However, his German Springer would live on; Schrade's design and switchblades derived from it were manufactured by various craftsmen in Solingen for many years thereafter.
In 1918, Captain Rupert Hughes of the U.S. Army submitted a patent application for a specialized automatic-opening trench knife of his own design, the Hughes Trench Knife. This was a curious device consisting of a folding spring-loaded knife blade attached to a handle which fastened to the back of the hand and was secured by a leather strap, leaving the palm and fingers free for grasping other objects. Pressing a button on the handle automatically extended a knife blade into an open position and locked position, allowing the knife to be used as a stabbing weapon. The Hughes Trench Knife was evaluated as a potential military arm by a panel of U.S. Army officers from the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) in June 1918. Unfortunately, after testing the board found the Hughes design to be of no value, and it was never adopted. Hughes went on to patent his automatic trench knife in 1919, though Hughes appears to have been unsuccessful in persuading a knife manufacturing company to produce his design.
Upon returning to the United States, Schrade made a final improvement to his Presto series of switchblades, filing his patent application on June 6, 1916. The next year, Schrade licensed a new flylock switchblade design to the Challenge Cutlery Company, which he then joined. Under the trademark of Flylock Knife Co., Challenge made several patterns of the flylock switchblade, including a large 5-inch folding hunter model with hinged floating guard and a small pen knife model designed to appeal to women buyers. A Challenge Cutlery advertisement of the day depicted a female hand operating a fly-lock automatic pen knife, accompanied by a caption urging women to buy one for their sewing kit so as not to break a nail while attempting to open a normal pen knife. Schrade pursued his knifemaking interests at both Challenge and at Schrade, where his brother George now managed one of the company's factories.
From 1923-1951, the Union Cutlery Co. of Olean, New York produced a series of lever-operated switchblades designed for the mid and upper end of the market, featuring celluloid, stag, or jigged bone handles, a bolster-mounted pushbutton, all featuring the company's KA-BAR trademark on the blade tang. The line included the KA-BAR Grizzly, KA-BAR Baby Grizzly, and KA-BAR Model 6110 Lever Release knives. The largest model was KA-BAR Grizzly, a folding hunter pattern with a broad bowie-type clip point blade.
On September 21, 1926, George Schrade patented a new switchblade design, the Wire Jack. Unlike most switchblades, the Wire Jack was simple and inexpensive to manufacture in large quantities. The knife was made of two pieces of welded wire, a blade, a blade liner, and a rivet. The first model lacked protection for the fingers, and later a sheet-metal guard was added to the butt portion of the knife. As a low-cost knife, the Wire Jack was often distributed as part of an advertising campaign, and because of its low cost was popular with Boy Scouts. In 1928, after the death of Challenge Cutlery's owner, Charles F. Wiebusch, the company was dissolved, and Schrade was given some cutlery machinery in lieu of royalties owed him for the flylock switchblade. With this machinery and a few ex-Challenge employees he formed a second company, the Geo. Schrade Knife Company, primarily to manufacture his Presto series of switchblade knives. In 1937, Schrade came out with two more low-cost switchblade knives designed to appeal to youth, the Flying Jack and the Pull-Ball Knife. The Flying Jack had a sliding operating latch and could be produced with one or more automatically opening blades. The Pull-Ball opened by pulling a ball located on the butt end of the handle. Schrade would later manufacture alternative configurations to the ball operating handle, including dice, rings, eight balls, or different colors. Unfortunately, the Pull-Ball required two hands to open, removing much of the switchblade's utility as a one-handed knife. As the blade catch mechanism required a good deal of space within the handle, the knife's blade length was short relative to its handle length. Schrade manufactured many pull-ball knives for sale under other brands, including Remington, Case, and the "J.C.N. Co." (Jewelry Cutlery Novelty Company of North Attleboro, Massachusetts) Always looking for a new way to appeal to customers, Schrade continued to experiment with new forms of switchblade designs up to the time of his death in 1940.
In the late 1930s the German Luftwaffe began training a Fallschirmjäger or paratroop force, and as part of this effort developed specialized equipment for the airborne soldier, including the Fallschirmjäger-Messer (paratrooper's knife), which used a gravity-operated mechanism to deploy its sliding spearpoint blade from the handle. The German paratrooper knife, which featured a marlinspike in addition to the cutting blade, was used to cut rigging and unknot lines, though it could be employed as a weapon in an emergency. In 1940 the U.S. Army in 1940 tasked the Geo. Schrade Knife Co. to produce a small single-edge switchblade for U.S. airborne troops, to be used similarly to the Fallschirmjäger-Messer. The knife was not intended primarily as a fighting knife, but rather as a utility tool, to enable a paratrooper to rapidly cut himself out of his lines and harness in the event he could not escape them after landing. The company's submission was approved by the U.S. Army Materiel Command in December 1940 as the Knife, Pocket, M2. The M2 had a 3.125-inch clip-point blade and featured a carrying bail. Except for the bail, the M2 was for all intents and purposes a copy of George Schrade's popular Presto safety-button civilian model. The M-2 was issued primarily to U.S. Army paratroopers during the war, though some knives appear to have been distributed to crews and members of the Office of Strategic Services. When issued to paratroopers, the M2 was normally carried in the dual-zippered knife pocket on the upper chest of the M42 jump uniform jacket. After the war, the M2 was manufactured by Schrade (now Schrade-Walden, Inc.) as the Parachutist's Snap Blade Knife (MIL-K-10043) under a postwar military contract. In addition, other companies such as the Colonial Knife Co. made civilian versions of the M2 after the war.
From the end of World War II until 1958, most U.S.-manufactured switchblades were manufactured by Schrade (now Schrade-Walden, Inc., a division of Imperial Knife Co., and the Colonial Knife Co. Schrade-Walden Inc. made knives under the Schrade-Walden and Edgemaster trademarks, while Colonial made a number of switchblade patterns during the 1950s under the trademark ShurSnap.
After 1945, American soldiers returning home from Europe brought along individually purchased examples of what would become known as the Italian stiletto switchblade. Consumer demand for more of these knives resulted in the importation of large numbers of side-opening and telescoping blade switchblades, primarily from Italy. These imported switchblades were frequently referred to as stilettos, since most incorporated a long, slender blade tapering to a needle-like point, together with a slim-profile handle and vestigial cross-guard reminiscent of the medieval weapon. The majority of these Italian stiletto switchblade knives used a now-iconic slender bayonet-style blade with a single sabre-ground edge and an opposing false edge. As with the medieval stiletto, the stiletto switchblade was designed primarily as an offensive weapon, optimized for thrusting rather than cutting (many imported stiletto switchblades had no sharpened cutting edge at all). These included knives which ranged in blade length from two to eighteen inches (50mm - 460mm); some were flimsy souvenir knives made for tourists, while others were made with solid materials and workmanship. Though undeniably limited in practical usefulness, the new stiletto switchblades were a revelation to buyers accustomed to the utilitarian nature of most U.S.-made automatic knives such as the Schrade Presto pocketknife.
In 1950, an article titled The Toy That Kills appeared in the Women's Home Companion, a widely read U.S. periodical of the day. The article sparked a storm of controversy and a nationwide campaign that would eventually result in state and federal laws criminalizing the importation, sale, and possession of automatic-opening knives. In the article, author Jack Harrison Pollack assured the reader that the growing switchblade "menace" could have deadly consequence "as any crook can tell you." Pollack, a former aide to Democratic Senator Harley M. Kilgore and a ghostwriter for then-Senator Harry S. Truman, had authored a series of magazine articles calling for new laws to address a variety of social ills. In The Toy That Kills, Pollack wrote that the switchblade was "Designed for violence, deadly as a revolver - that’s the switchblade, the 'toy' youngsters all over the country are taking up as a fad. Press the button on this new version of the pocketknife and the blade darts out like a snake’s tongue. Action against this killer should be taken now." To back up his charges, Pollack quoted an unnamed juvenile court judge as saying: "It’s only a short step from carrying a switchblade to gang warfare."
During the 1950s, established U.S. newspapers as well as the sensationalist tabloid press joined forces in promoting the image of a young delinquent with a stiletto switchblade or flick knife. While the press focused on the switchblade as a symbol of youthful evil intent, the American public's attention was attracted by lurid stories of urban youth gang warfare and the fact that many gangs were composed of disadvantaged youth and/or racial minorities. The obvious offensive nature of the stiletto switchblade combined with reports of knife fights, robberies, and stabbings by youth gangs and other criminal elements in urban areas of the United States generated continuing demands from newspaper editorial rooms and the public for new laws restricting the lawful possession and/or use of switchblade knives. In 1954, the state of New York passed the first law banning the sale or distribution of switchblade knives in hopes of reducing gang violence. That same year, Democratic Rep. James J. Delaney of New York authored the first bill submitted to the U.S. Congress banning the manufacture and sale of switchblades.
Many U.S. congressmen viewed the controversy as an opportunity to capitalize on constant negative accounts of the switchblade knife and its connection to violence and youth gangs. This coverage included not only magazine articles but also highly popular films of the day including Rebel Without a Cause (1955), Crime in the Streets (1956), 12 Angry Men (1957), The Delinquents (1957), High School Confidential (1958), and the Broadway musical West Side Story. Hollywood's fixation on the switchblade as the sadomasochistic symbol of youth violence, sex, and delinquency resulted in renewed demands from the public and Congress to control the sale and possession of such knives. State laws restricting or criminalizing switchblade possession and use were adopted by an increasing number of state legislatures. In 1957, Senator Estes Kefauver of Tennessee attempted unsuccessfully to pass a law restricting the importation and possession of switchblade knives. Opposition to the bill from the U.S. knifemaking industry was muted, with the exception of the Colonial Knife Co. and Schrade-Walden Inc., which were still manufacturing small quantities of pocket switchblades for the U.S. market. Some in the industry even supported the legislation, hoping to gain market share at the expense of Colonial and Schrade. However, the legislation failed to receive expected support from the U.S. Departments of Commerce and Justice, which considered the legislation unenforceable and an unwarranted intrusion into lawful sales in interstate commerce.
While Kefauver's bill failed, a new U.S. Senate bill prohibiting the importation or possession of switchblade knives in interstate commerce was introduced the following year by Democratic Senator Peter F. Mack, Jr. of Illinois in an attempt to reduce gang violence in Chicago and other urban centers in the state. With youth violence and delinquency aggravated by the severe economic recession, Mack's bill was enacted by Congress and signed into law as the Switchblade Knife Act of 1958. This U.S. federal law was closely followed by the UK Restriction of Offensive Weapons Act of 1959 and the inclusion of new-production automatic knives in the 1959 Criminal Code, Revised Statutes (Canada) as prohibited weapons banned from importation, sale or possession within that country. These laws did not distinguish between utility blade and stiletto or offensive switchblades, instead banning all switchblade knives as a category, including utility and general-purpose automatic knives not generally used by criminals. Curiously, the sale and possession of stilettos and other offensive knives using fixed or locked folding blades remained legal in most jurisdictions. As an anti-violence measure, the legislation clearly failed in the United States, as youth street gangs increasingly turned from bats and knives to handguns and rifles to settle their disputes over territory as well as income from prostitution, extortion, and illicit drug sales.
By the 1960s, new production of switchblades in the United States was largely limited to military contract paratrooper knives. In Italy, switchblades known among collectors as "Transitionals" were made with a mix of modern parts and leftover old style parts. Around this time, the "Picklock" design was largely replaced by the tilting bolster ending the "Golden Age" of hand-crafted Italian switchblades.
In the 1980s, automatic knife imports to the U.S. briefly resumed with the concept of kit knives, allowing the user to assemble a working switchblade from a parts kit with the addition of a mainspring or other key part (often sold separately). Since no law prohibited importation of switchblade parts or unassembled kits, all risk of prosecution was assumed by the assembling purchaser, not the importer. This loophole was eventually closed by new federal regulations.
In Britain, the folding type of switchblade is commonly referred to as a flick knife. This type of knife has a simple opening mechanism: running parallel with the spine and fixed at the butt is a tapering steel bar, which is depressed by the blunt part of the blade (ricasso) when it is closed. A pin locates in an indentation on the ricasso and keeps the knife closed. Pushing the button lifts the pin and allows the blade to flick out. The blade automatically locks in the open position, because another pin on the back of the blade engages with a hole on the spine of the knife. Pushing down on the guard lifts the spine and releases the blade so it can be closed.
Knives with an automated opening system are heavily restricted under UK law; although they can legally be owned, it is illegal to manufacture, sell, hire, give, lend, or import such knives. This definition would nominally restrict lawful ownership to 'grandfathered' automatic knives already in possession by their owner prior to the enactment of the applicable law. Even when such a knife is legally owned, carrying it in public without good reason or lawful authority is also illegal under current UK laws.
While switchblades remain illegal in U.S. interstate commerce since 1958 under the Switchblade Knife Act (15 U.S.C. §§1241-1245), Amendment 1447 to 15 U.S.C. §1244, signed into law as part of the FY2010 Homeland Security Appropriations Bill on October 28, 2009 provides that the Act shall not apply to spring-assist or assisted-opening knives (i.e. knives with closure-biased springs that require physical force applied to the blade to assist in opening the knife). While functionally similar, the two designs share slight but important differences. A switchblade opens its blade from the handle automatically with the press of a button, lever, or switch that is remotely mounted in the knife handle or bolster. In contrast, a spring-assist design uses a lever or switch mounted on the blade or connected via a direct mechanical linkage. Manual pressure on this lever overcomes spring pressure designed to keep the blade closed, which in turn causes the blade to partially emerge from the handle. At this point an internal torsion spring takes over, rapidly forcing the blade into an open and locked position.
Today there are still a number of knife companies and custom makers who build high-quality automatic knives for the military, emergency personnel, and knife collectors. Some famous automatic knife manufacturers include Microtech Knives, Benchmade, Severtech, Gerber Legendary Blades, Mikov, Pro-Tech Knives, Dalton, Boker/Magnum, Spyderco, Kershaw Knives, and Piranha. Few manufacturers still produce the classic Italian style stiletto switchblade, except in Italy. Automatic knife manufacture in Italy consists predominantly as a cottage industry of family-oriented businesses. These include Frank Beltrame and AGA Campolin, who have been making automatic knives for more than half a century.
Automatic knives have been produced in the following countries: Argentina, China, Czech Republic, England, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Korea, Pakistan, Poland, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan and U.S.A..
In Austria, switchblades are legal to possess, import and carry regardless of length, as long as they are not designed or intended to be "weapons that by their very nature are intended to reduce or eliminate the defensive ability of a person through direct impact" or "used to commit a crime in Austria." In practice, this language means that an automatic knife is legal to possess in Austria as long as it is not specifically designed for use against people as an offensive weapon (for example, a knife with a dagger or stiletto-type blade) or is used to commit a crime. In Austria no knife may be taken into a public building or school, nor may it be carried while at a public event such as a sports game or concert without permission of the event host.
In Australia, switchblades are banned by the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations as a Prohibited Import. Australian customs refer to the automatic knife or switchblade as a flick knife. Australian law defines a flick knife as a knife that has a blade which opens automatically by gravity or centrifugal force or by any pressure applied to a button, spring or device in or attached to the handle of the knife, a definition that would cover not only switchblades and automatic-opening knives but also gravity knives and balisongs.
At a state and local level, most jurisdictions declare flick knives to be prohibited weapons in their respective acts, codes and regulations. Persons residing in states that do not have specific weapons legislation covering switchblades (e.g., Tasmania) are still covered by Federal Customs legislation, but in conditions where the state has no legislation against such items, an exemption may be applied for and received if approved by the chief supervisory officer of the police service in that state.
Some states which have specific legislation against switchblades allow individuals to apply for an exemption from this legislation if they have a legitimate reason. For example, in the state of Victoria, a member of a bona fide knife-collectors' association, who is not a prohibited person (per the Firearms Act 1996), and meets other guidelines and conditions may apply to the Chief Commissioner of Police for a Prohibited Weapons Exemption to possess, carry, or otherwise own such a knife. This exemption may then, in turn, be used to apply to the Australian Customs Service for an import permit.
Article 3, §1 of the 2006 Weapons Act lists the switchblade or automatic knife (couteaux à cran d’arrêt et à lame jaillissante) as a prohibited weapon. Even ordinary folding knives without a locking blade may not be considered legal to carry under laws giving police and local jurisdictions wide authority to prohibit such knives if the owner cannot establish sufficient legal reason for its possession.
Switchblades are illegal to sell, buy, trade, carry or otherwise possess. Part III of the criminal code first defines such knives as prohibited weapons (armes défendues). The Canadian Criminal Code defines the switchblade:
"A knife that has a blade that opens automatically by gravity or centrifugal force or by hand pressure applied to a button, spring or other device in or attached to the handle of the knife." (sec. (84)(1)(b))
Different subsections of the code describe possession offences and penalties. Belt-buckle daggers, push-daggers, finger-ring blades and innocuously concealed blades (e.g. knife-combs) are also Prohibited Weapons in Canada under SOR/98-462 Part 3.
In Finland switchblade or automatic knives are legal to purchase or possess. Switchblades that have the appearance of a dagger or stiletto are prohibited from carry in a public place as dangerous weapons. The law requires that switchblades be cased and secured while being transported.
French law defines switchblades as dangerous weapons, which may not be carried on one's person. If carried in a vehicle, such knives must be placed in a secure, locked compartment not accessible to the vehicle occupants. In addition, French law provides that authorities may classify any knife as a prohibited item depending upon circumstances and the discretion of the police or judicial authorities.
All large side-opening switchblade knives (blade longer than 8.5 cm), OTF switchblades, balisongs or butterfly knives, and gravity knives are illegal to own, import or export under German law. Side-opening switchblade knives with single-edged blades not longer than 8.5 cm and incorporating a continuous spine are legal to own. Legal switchblades may be carried openly on one's person, but may not be carried concealed. Local laws or regulations may still prohibit the carrying of otherwise legal automatic or switchblade knives, particularly in certain areas (airport, train/bus station, bars and clubs, etc.)
According to decree 175/2003. (X. 28.) of the Hungarian government a közbiztonságra különösen veszélyes eszközökről (about the instruments particularly hazardous to public safety), it is prohibited to possess a switchblade in public places or private places open to the public – that includes the inside of vehicles present there – and on public transport vehicles, except for filmmaking and theatrical performances. Members of the Hungarian Army, law enforcement, national security agencies and armed forces stationed in Hungary are let off from this limitation together with those who are authorised to carry such instruments by legislation. Sale of a switchblade is authorised only to the persons and organizations above. Customs clearance of switchblades may not be performed for private individuals such as tourists.
According to Cap 217 《Dangerous Goods Ordinance》, Laws of Hong Kong, any person who has possession of any prohibited items (including Gravity Knife and Flick Knife) commits an offence.
In Italy, the switchblade or automatic opening knife (coltello a scatto) is generally defined as a arma bianca (offensive weapon) rather than a tool, and may not be transported outside of one's property nor carried on the person, either concealed or unconcealed, nor may it be carried in a motor vehicle where the knife may be accessed by driver or passengers. The Italian Ministry of Interior has warned that switchblade knives will be considered offensive weapons in their own right.
In Japan any switchblade over 5.6 centimetres (2.2 in) in blade length requires permission from the prefectural public safety commission in order to possess.
According to Lithuanian law it is illegal to carry or possess a switchblade if it meets one of the following criteria: the blade is longer than 8.5 cm; the width in the middle of the blade is less than 14% of its total length; the blade is double sided.
The Customs Import Prohibition Order 2008 prohibits the importation of "any knife having a blade that opens automatically by hand pressure applied to a button, spring or other device in or attached to the handle of the knife (sometimes known as a "flick-knife" or "flick gun")". The Summary Offenses Act 1981 and the Crimes Act 1961 section 202A(4)(a) make it an offense to possess any weapon in a public place without reasonable excuse.
Knives, including switchblades, although regarded as dangerous tools, are not considered weapons under Polish law, except for blades hidden in umbrellas, canes, etc. It is legal to sell, buy, trade and possess a switchblade, and Polish law does not prohibit carrying a knife in a public place. However, certain prohibitions may apply during mass events.
Switchblades may not be brought into Singapore without first obtaining approval from the arms and explosives branch and not permitted to own, possess or carry without a license. It may not be also listed or sold in auctions in Singapore.
Switchblades are specifically prohibited under Slovenian law.
Manufacture, importation, trade, use and possession of switchblade knives are prohibited in Spain
Knives whose blade can be opened with an automatic mechanism that can be operated with one hand are illegal to acquire (except with a special permit) in Switzerland under the Federal Weapons Act. Butterfly knives, throwing knives and daggers with a symmetrical blade are banned likewise. Violations are punishable with imprisonment of up to three years or a fiscal penalty, as provided for by article 33 of the same act.
On 12 May 1959, Parliament passed the Restriction of Offensive Weapons Act 1959. The law came in response to their perceived use by juvenile delinquents and gangs and associated media coverage, as well as by the 1958 passage of the Switchblade Knife Act in the United States. Indeed, much of the language in the Restriction of Offensive Weapons Act 1959 appears to be taken directly from the American law.
The Restriction of Offensive Weapons Act 1959, which took effect 13 June 1959, specifies that anyone who "manufactures, sells or hires or offers for sale or hire, or exposes or has in his possession for the purpose of sale or hire or lends or gives to any other person" an automatic-opening knife (flick knife) or gravity knife in England, Wales and Scotland is illegal. Importation of such knives into the United Kingdom after 13 June 1959 is prohibited. Under a strict interpretation of the Act, it is not illegal to possess an automatic-opening or gravity knife made before 13 June 1959 as long as it is held by the original owner within the home or other private place and is not transferred to any other person. As the penalty provisions of the Act apply to the prior owner of the knife, and not to the inheritor or subsequent purchaser, it is possible that a person living in the U.K. could acquire a automatic-opening or gravity knife made after 13 June 1959 and keep it at home or on other private property without penalty to the new owner, though a zealous prosecutor might attempt to level a charge of abetting or facilitating an offence by the knife's former owner as a consequence of acquiring the knife in a prohibited post-1959 transaction. Furthermore, in the UK it is customary for the Metropolitan Police, not a barrister to be consulted as legal experts on a question of whether a given knife is to be considered illegal under existing under UK knife laws, and this has resulted in a tendency to interpret any bladed object of questionable status as falling within the definition of a prohibited knife.
The Restriction of Offensive Weapons Act 1959 states:
Additionally, subsequent legislation such as the Criminal Justice Act 1988 prohibits the carrying of a locking knife or a knife with a blade longer than 3 inches (76mm) in a public place, a law which would apply to many switchblades as well. In Scotland, the law on carrying prohibited types of knives in a public place is codifed in the section on Offensive Weapons in the Scotland Criminal Justice Act 1988.
The Switchblade Knife Act, (Pub.L. 85-623, 72 Stat. 562, enacted on August 12, 1958, and codified in 15 U.S.C. §§ 1241–1245), prohibits the manufacture, importation, distribution, transportation, and sale of switchblade knives in commercial transactions substantially affecting interstate commerce between any state, territory, possession of the United States, or the District of Columbia, and any place outside that state, territory, U.S. possession, or the District of Columbia. The Act also prohibits possession of such knives on federal or Indian lands or on lands subject to federal jurisdiction. It does not prohibit the ownership or carrying of automatic knives or switchblades inside a state while not on federal property, nor does it prohibit the acquisition or disposition of such knives in an intrastate transaction or an interstate transaction that is noncommercial and/or does not substantially affect interstate comerce (as defined by recent decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court).
U.S. Code Title 15, Sect. 1241 defines switchblade knives as any knives which open "1) by hand pressure applied to a button or other device in the handle of the knife, or any knife having a blade which opens automatically; (2) by operation of inertia, gravity, or both." The Act also prohibits the manufacture, sale, or possession of switchblade knives on any Federal lands, Indian reservations, military bases, and Federal maritime or territorial jurisdictions including the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and other territories. The act was amended in 1986 to also prohibit the importation, sale, manufacture, or possession of ballistic knives in interstate commerce.
(g) All knives having a blade which opens automatically: (1) by hand pressure applied to a button or other device in the handle of the knife, or (2) by operation of inertia, gravity, or both, are nonmailable and shall not be deposited in or carried by the mails or delivered by any officer or employee of the Postal Service. Such knives may be conveyed in the mails, under such regulations as the Postal Service shall prescribe —
(1) to civilian or Armed Forces supply or procurement officers and employees of the Federal Government ordering, procuring, or purchasing such knives in connection with the activities of the Federal Government; (2) to supply or procurement officers of the National Guard, the Air National guard, or militia of a state, territory or the District of Columbia ordering, procuring, or purchasing such knives in the connection with the activities of such organization; (3) to supply or procurement officers or employees of the municipal government of the District of Columbia or the government of any State or Territory, or any county, city or other political subdivision of a State or Territory; procuring or purchasing such knives in connection with the activities of such government. (4) to manufacturers of such knives or bona fide dealers therein in connection with any shipment made pursuant of an order from any person designated in paragraphs (1), (2), and (3).
15 U.S.C. § 1244 provides that the federal Switchblade Knife Act does not apply to: 1) any common carrier or contract carrier, with respect to any switchblade knife shipped, transported, or delivered for shipment in interstate commerce in the ordinary course of business; 2) the manufacture, sale, transportation, distribution, possession, or introduction into interstate commerce of switchblade knives pursuant to contract with the Armed Forces; 3) to the Armed Forces or any member or employee thereof acting in the performance of his duty; 4) the possession and transportation upon his person of any switchblade knife with a blade three inches or less in length by any individual who has only one arm, and 5) a knife "that contains a spring, detent, or other mechanism designed to create a bias toward closure of the blade and that requires exertion applied to the blade by hand, wrist, or arm to overcome the bias toward closure to assist in opening the knife."
In addition to U.S. federal law, each individual state has laws restricting or prohibiting certain weapons, often designated as deadly weapons or prohibited weapons. Some states prohibit or severely restrict automatic knives or switchblades as deadly or prohibited weapons, occasionally inserting exceptions to enforcement for short-bladed knives, while others such as New Hampshire and Arizona have no restrictions on sale, ownership, or possession. The definition of an automatic knife as a prohibited or deadly weapon may depend on the knife's blade style, i.e. blades patterned after knives designed solely for stabbing or thrusting, such as the dirk, dagger, poignard, stiletto, etc. are typically classed as deadly or prohibited weapons. A few states grant individual police officers discretion to determine whether any object with potential offensive capability (screwdriver, broken bottle, etc.) is a deadly weapon. Some states allow switchblades to be carried on the person if part or all of the knife is visible; others prohibit the knife from being carried on the person regardless of whether it is concealed or not. Finally, county, city, or other local laws may impose additional penalites for possessing or carrying a switchblade or automatic-opening knife, whether carried concealed or carried openly.
|Alabama||Legal - State Code: Section 13A-11||Limited - Illegal if carried concealed or outside of one's own property without good reason.|
|Alaska||Illegal - State Code: Article 2, Section 11.61.200||Illegal - State Code: Article 2, Section 11.61.200|
|Arizona||Legal - S.B. 1108 Changes to Arizona Code: 13-3102, 13-3105, and 13-3112||Legal - S.B. 1108 Changes to Arizona Code: 13-3102, 13-3105, and 13-3112|
|Arkansas||Legal - State Code: 5-73-120||Limited - Illegal to carry on one's person or in a vehicle when purpose is to use switchblade against another. Legal to carry in vehicle or on one's person when upon a journey, except when journey involves air travel through commercial airport security or when carrying switchblade into a business that sells alcoholic beverages.State Code: 5-73-120|
|California||Legal - Allowed if blade is under 2 inches - State Code: California Penal Code 653k||Limited - Allowed only if blade is under 2 inches - State Code: California Penal Code 12020|
|Colorado||Illegal - State Code: Criminal Code Section 18-12-101||Illegal - State Code: Criminal Code Section 18-12-101|
|Connecticut||Legal - possession in vehicle restricted State Code: Sec. 53-206''||Limited - Illegal unless carried by person with a valid hunting, fishing, or trapping license while actively hunting, fishing or trapping; when moving one's possessions; when being transported for repair; when being used in an authorized historic reenactment; or if the blade of the switchblade is under 1.5 inches - Knives Defined As Dangerous Weapons|
|Delaware||Illegal - State Code: Crimes & Criminal Procedure - Chapter 11 Section 222||Illegal - State Code: Chapter 11 Section 222|
|Florida||Legal - State Code: 790.001||Limited - switchblades with thrusting blades (stiletto, dirk, etc.) not classifiable as common pocketknives may be carried concealed only with concealed carry permit State Code: 790.001|
|Georgia||Legal - State Code: 16-11-126||Limited - legal if carried if carried openly, or if carried concealed with a "Weapons Carry License" State Code: 16-11-126|
|Hawaii||Illegal - State Code: §134-51||Illegal - State Code: §134-51|
|Idaho||Legal - State Code: 18-3302||Limited - Concealed carry allowed if not otherwise prohibited by local ordinance, but prohibited if possessor is intoxicated, exhibits an 'intent to assault another', or exhibits any deadly or dangerous weapon in a rude, angry or threatening manner - State Code: 18-3302|
|Illinois||Illegal - State Code: Criminal Code 720 ILCS 5/24-1||Illegal - State Code:720 ILCS 5/24-1|
|Indiana||Illegal - State Code: IC 35-47-5-2 Sec.2.(2)||Illegal - State Code: IC 35-47-5-2 Sec.2.(2)|
|Iowa||Legal - State Code: Crime Control and Criminal Acts - Definitions. 702.7||Limited - illegal if carried concealed - State Code: 724.4|
|Kansas||Illegal - State Code: Article 42. Crimes Against the Public Safety Weapons Control. Section 21-4201||Illegal - State Code: Section 21-4201|
|Kentucky||Legal - State Code: 500.080 Definitions for Kentucky Penal CodeState Code: 527.020||Limited - concealed carry, even on one's own property, allowed only with "concealed deadly weapons permit" - State Code: 527.020|
|Louisiana||Illegal - State Code: Louisiana - R.S. 14:95||Illegal - State Code: Louisiana - R.S. 14:95|
|Maine||Illegal - State Code: Maine - Chapter. 43 17-A Section 1055||Illegal - State Code: Maine - Chapter. 43 17-A Section 1055|
|Maryland||Legal - State Code:§ 4-105||Limited - illegal if carried concealed State Code: § 4-101 (a).(5).(ii) -- definition § 4-101 (c).(1-2)|
|Massachusetts||Legal - Mass. Gen. Law Ch. 269 § 10||Limited - Legal if length of blade does not exceed 1.5", illegal otherwise - Mass. Gen. Law Ch. 269 § 10|
|Michigan||Illegal - State Code: 750.226a.||Illegal - State Code: 750.226a.|
|Minnesota||Limited - Illegal unless allowed under exceptions made for collectors and/or possession as curios or antiques -||Illegal - State Code: Section 609.66 Subdivision 1|
|Mississippi||Legal - State Code: Crimes Section § 97-37-1||Limited - Illegal if carried concealed or when intoxicated - State Code: Crimes Section § 97-37-1|
|Missouri||Illegal - with exceptions made for collectors and/or possession as curios or antiques - State Code: Chapter 571, Weapons Offenses 571.020.1.(7)||Illegal - State Code: Chapter 571, Weapons Offenses 571.020.1.(7)|
|Montana||Limited - Illegal, unless part of registered collection- State Code: 45-8-331||Limited - Illegal, unless part of registered collection-State Code: 45-8-331|
|Nebraska||Legal - State Code: Crimes and Punishments. 28-1201||Limited - Illegal if carried concealed - State Code: Crimes and Punishments. 28-1201|
|Nevada||Legal - with permit - State Code: NRS 202.355||Illegal - State Code: NRS 202.355|
|New Hampshire||Legal - HB 1665-FN (2010)||Legal - HB 1665-FN (2010)|
|New Jersey||Illegal - State Code: Code of Criminal Justice - 2C:39-3||Illegal - State Code: Code of Criminal Justice
|New Mexico||Illegal - State Code: Criminal Offenses - 30-1-12||Illegal - State Code: Criminal Offenses - 30-1-12|
|New York||Legal-State Code: Penal Law Section 265.01, 265.20(6)||Very Limited - Possession is only legal for use while hunting, trapping or fishing if possessor is carrying a valid state license for hunting, trapping or fishing - State Code: Penal Law Section 265.01, 265.20(6)|
|North Carolina||Legal except when carried on school grounds NC General Statutes Subchapter IX, Article 35, §14-269.2; NC General Statutes Subchapter IX, Article 35, §14-269||Legal - Allowed if blade not a "dirk or dagger"; illegal if carried on school grounds - NC General Statutes Subchapter IX, Article 35, §14-269.2; NC General Statutes Subchapter IX, Article 35, §14-269|
|North Dakota||Legal - State Code: Criminal Code - Weapons - 62.1-04-02||Legal - Concealed carry permitted only with dangerous weapons permit - State Code: Criminal Code - Weapons - 62.1-04-02|
|Ohio||Legal - Illegal if possession is for purposes of sale or transfer to others State Code: § 2923.12 State Code: § 2923.20||Limited - Legal to carry concealed unless switchblade meets the definition of deadly weapon (any instrument, device, or thing capable of inflicting death, and designed or specially adapted for use as a weapon, or possessed, carried, or used as a weapon) - State Code § 2923.11State Code: § 2923.12 State Code: § 2923.20|
|Oklahoma||Legal - State Code: §21-1272.||Illegal - State Code: §21-1272.|
|Oregon||Legal - State Code: 166.240||Limited - Illegal if carried concealed State Code: 166.240|
|Pennsylvania||Legal - [State Code: Pa. C.S.A. 18.908]||Limited-bona-fide collectors and military/police use only [State Code: Pa. C.S.A. 18.908]|
|Puerto Rico||Illegal - Title 15, Ch. 29, Sec. 1243 United States Code||Illegal - Title 15, Ch. 29, Sec. 1243 United States Code|
|Rhode Island||Limited - Legal to possess unless blade is a "dagger, dirk, or stiletto" State Code: 11-47-42||Limited - legal to carry concealed unless blade is a dagger, dirk, or stiletto or concealed while containing a blade length of over 3 inches State Code: 11-47-42|
|South Carolina||Legal - State Code: 16-23-460||Legal - State Code: 16-23-460|
|South Dakota||Legal - State Code: 22-14-19||Legal - State Code: 22-14-19|
|Tennessee||Legal - State Code: 39-17-1302 (c) (1)||Limited -Illegal except for bona-fide collectors and/or possession as curios or antiques- State Code: 39-17-1302|
|Texas||Legal-State Code: Health, Safety & Morals - 46.02||Limited- - Illegal except for bona-fide collectors and/or possession as curios or antiques-State Code: Health, Safety & Morals - 46.02|
|U.S. Virgin Islands||Illegal - Title 14 Chapter 119 § 2251 V.I.C.||Illegal - Title 14 Chapter 119 § 2251 V.I.C.|
|Utah||Legal - State Code: Offenses Against Public Health and Safety - 76-10-504||Limited - Allowed if not concealed; concealed carry allowed with permit or license - State Code: Offenses Against Public Health and Safety - 76-10-504|
|Vermont||Illegal - State Code: Ch. 85 Weapons - T.13-4003||Illegal - State Code: Ch. 85 Weapons - T.13-4003|
|Virginia||Illegal - Illegal if for sale, and simple possession is considered prima facie evidence of intent to sell State Code: 18.2-311||Illegal - State Code: 18.2-308|
|Washington||Illegal - State Code: RCW 9.41.250||Illegal - State Code: RCW 9.41.250|
|West Virginia||Legal - State Code: §61-7-2||Limited - Illegal if carried concealed; concealed carry allowed with special permit or license - State Code: §61-7-2|
|Wisconsin||Illegal - State Code: 941.24||Illegal - State Code: 941.24|
|Wyoming||Legal - State Code: Statutes 6-8-104||Limited - Illegal if carried concealed -State Code: Statutes 6-8-104|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Switchblade|
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