Are Butterfly Knives Illegal in California?

Picture this: You’ve just discovered the world of butterfly knives, also known as balisongs, and you’re immediately captivated by their unique design and intricate flipping tricks. 

But before you decide to buy one and start practicing your skills, you need to know whether butterfly knives are legal in your state. 

In this guide, we’ll focus on California and uncover the legalities surrounding butterfly knives.

Understanding Butterfly Knives

Butterfly knives, also known as balisongs or fan knives, have a unique construction with two handles that rotate around the tang of the blade. 

When closed, the handles cover the blade, making it safe to carry. The knife’s design allows for a variety of flipping tricks and manipulations, which has made it popular among knife enthusiasts.

California’s Knife Laws: An Overview

California has a complex set of knife laws that regulate various aspects of knife possession, use, and sale. These laws are aimed at ensuring public safety and preventing the use of dangerous weapons for criminal activities.

Are Butterfly Knives Illegal in California?

Yes, butterfly knives are illegal in California. According to California Penal Code Section 21510, it is unlawful for any person to possess, carry, or sell any butterfly knife

The law defines a butterfly knife as a knife with a blade that is “hidden within its handle” and that can be “opened by gravity or centrifugal force.”

Exceptions to the Rule

There are a few exceptions to the butterfly knife ban in California. These exceptions apply to specific individuals or situations, such as:

  1. Law enforcement officers or military personnel who are authorized to carry and use butterfly knives as part of their official duties.
  2. Persons who possess butterfly knives as part of a historical, cultural, or artistic display, provided that the knives are secured and not used for illegal purposes.

Consequences of Possessing an Illegal Butterfly Knife

Possessing an illegal butterfly knife in California can result in severe penalties, including imprisonment, fines, or both. 

The specific penalties depend on the circumstances of the offense, such as the offender’s criminal history and whether the knife was used to commit a crime.

Is Butterfly Knives Illegal In Nc

Alternatives to Butterfly Knives

If you’re interested in flipping and knife tricks but don’t want to break the law, consider these legal alternatives:

Balisong trainers: These are non-sharpened, blunt versions of butterfly knives designed specifically for practicing tricks without the risk of injury or legal trouble.

Folding knives: Many folding knives, like pocket knives or tactical folding knives, are legal in California and can still be used for everyday tasks.

Traveling with Knives in California

When traveling within California, it’s essential to know the specific knife laws for each city or county you’ll visit, as some jurisdictions have additional restrictions on knife possession and carry.

Safety Tips for Using Butterfly Knives

Whether you’re using a balisong trainer or another type of legal knife, it’s essential to practice safety first:

  1. Always handle knives with care and respect, even if they’re trainers or folding knives.
  2. Practice in a well-lit, clutter-free area to minimize the risk of accidents.
  3. Start with basic tricks and techniques before progressing to more advanced moves.
  4. Use protective gear, such as gloves and safety glasses, to minimize the risk of injury.
  5. Never attempt knife tricks while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.


1. Can I carry a butterfly knife if the blade is shorter than 2 inches?

No, butterfly knives are illegal in California regardless of the blade length. The law specifically prohibits possession, carry, and sale of any butterfly knife.

2. Are there any places in California where butterfly knives are legal?

No, butterfly knives are illegal throughout the state of California. However, some exceptions exist for specific individuals or situations, as mentioned earlier in the article.

3. Can I order a butterfly knife online and have it shipped to California?

No, it is illegal to sell or ship butterfly knives to California. Online retailers are required to comply with state laws and should not sell or ship these items to residents of California.

Final Verdict

Butterfly knives are illegal in California due to their potential for harm and their association with criminal activities. The law prohibits the possession, carry, and sale of these knives, with few exceptions. 

If you’re interested in knife flipping and tricks, consider using legal alternatives like balisong trainers or folding knives. Always remember to practice safety and stay informed about local knife laws when traveling within the state.

I'm Justin, co-founder of AllofKitchen and your knife and steel specialist. My extensive experience ensures accurate and hands-on advice on every topic. Turn to me for insights on selecting the best knife or maintaining your steel tools to perfection. Knives aren't just tools; they're an extension of the chef, and I'm here to guide you to the perfect fit.

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