With their dramatic curved blade mimicking a tiger’s claw, karambits are one of the most recognizable knife designs. Their lethal looks and martial arts connections have garnered them a fearful reputation. This leads many in California to wonder – are karambits legal to own and carry in the state? If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Yes, karambits are generally legal to own under California law, but certain restrictions apply to carrying them in public. In this comprehensive article, we’ll provide full details on karambit legality in California, including ownership, concealed/open carry, exceptions, relevant statutes, and comparisons to federal law.

By the end, you’ll have a clear understanding of what is and isn’t allowed for karambits in CA. Let’s unsheathe this complex topic section-by-section.

Karambit Ownership Laws in California

When it comes to karambit ownership, California has relatively lax restrictions compared to some other states. While there are no specific state laws that ban or regulate the possession of karambits, there are certain federal categories and exceptions that individuals should be aware of.

No State Restrictions on Karambit Ownership

Unlike some states that have outright bans on certain types of knives, California does not have any specific laws that target karambits. This means that residents of California are generally free to own and possess karambits without running afoul of state regulations.

Restrictions Based on Federal Categories

While California may not have state-specific laws regarding karambits, it’s important to note that these knives can fall under specific federal categories that govern their possession. For example, karambits with blades that exceed a certain length may be categorized as “dirks or daggers,” which are prohibited by federal law.

It is always a good idea to familiarize yourself with federal knife laws and regulations to ensure that you are in compliance. The U.S. Code, specifically Title 15, Chapter 29, and Title 18, Chapter 44, contains relevant information regarding the possession and transportation of knives.

Exceptions for Prohibited Persons

While karambits may be legal for most individuals to own in California, it is important to note that there are exceptions for certain prohibited persons. These individuals include convicted felons, individuals with restraining orders, and those with a history of domestic violence.

If you fall within one of these categories, it is crucial to understand that the possession of a karambit or any other type of weapon may be illegal and could result in serious legal consequences. It is always best to consult with a legal professional if you have any concerns or questions regarding your eligibility to possess a karambit.

For more information on knife laws in California, you can visit the official website of the California Legislative Information at https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displayText.xhtml?division=10.&chapter=1.&part=4.&lawCode=PEN.

Concealed and Open Carry Regulations

When it comes to carrying karambits in California, it’s important to be aware of the state’s laws and regulations. California has specific rules regarding the concealed and open carry of knives, including karambits.

Concealed Carry Prohibited Without Permit

California law prohibits the concealed carry of any knife, including karambits, without a valid concealed carry permit. This means that individuals cannot carry a karambit in a concealed manner on their person without the proper documentation. Violating this law can result in legal consequences.

It’s important to note that obtaining a concealed carry permit in California can be a lengthy and rigorous process. Applicants must meet certain requirements and demonstrate a justifiable reason for needing to carry a concealed knife.

This is typically reserved for individuals who can prove a legitimate need for self-defense.

Open Carry Restrictions Based on Blade Length

While concealed carry is generally prohibited without a permit, California does allow for the open carry of certain knives, including karambits. However, there are restrictions based on the length of the blade.

According to California law, knives with a blade length of 2.5 inches or less can be openly carried without any restrictions. This means that individuals can legally carry a karambit with a blade length of 2.5 inches or less in plain sight without the need for a concealed carry permit.

For knives with a blade length exceeding 2.5 inches, open carry is still allowed, but there are additional regulations. These regulations vary depending on the specific location, such as schools, government buildings, and public transportation.

It’s important to familiarize oneself with these regulations to avoid any legal issues.

Transporting Karambits Safely

When transporting a karambit in California, it’s important to do so safely and legally. If the blade length exceeds 2.5 inches, it should be securely stored in a locked container or the trunk of a vehicle. This ensures that the knife is not easily accessible to the driver or passengers.

It’s also important to keep in mind that while a karambit may be legal to possess and transport in California, there may be additional restrictions in certain cities or counties. Checking with local law enforcement or legal resources can provide more specific information on any local ordinances that may apply.

For more detailed information on California’s knife laws and regulations, it’s recommended to visit the official website of the California Legislative Information, which provides up-to-date and accurate information on the state’s laws.

Relevant California Penal Code Sections

PC 16220 – Dirks, Daggers, Kris Definition

California Penal Code Section 16220 defines various types of knives, including dirks, daggers, and kris. A karambit is a type of knife that typically features a curved blade and a finger ring at the end of its handle.

While karambits are not explicitly mentioned in this section, they may fall under the definition of a dirk or dagger depending on their characteristics.

PC 21310 – Exceptions for Collectors

California Penal Code Section 21310 provides exceptions for collectors of knives. It states that certain individuals, such as those who possess knives solely for use in historical reenactments or for display purposes, may be exempt from certain knife laws.

However, it’s important to note that these exceptions may not apply to karambits specifically. It is advisable to consult with legal professionals or authorities to determine the legality of owning and carrying a karambit in California.

PC 21510 – Switchblades Ban

California Penal Code Section 21510 prohibits the possession and sale of switchblade knives. Switchblades are defined as knives with blades that are automatically released by a spring mechanism. While karambits do not typically fall under the category of switchblades, it’s essential to understand that any knife with an automatic opening mechanism may be subject to legal restrictions in California.

It’s worth mentioning that laws regarding knives can vary and may be subject to interpretation. It’s always a good idea to stay informed about the current legislation and consult with legal professionals for accurate and up-to-date information.

Comparison of State vs. Federal Karambit Laws

State Law Primary Within California

Karambits, a type of knife with a curved blade resembling a tiger’s claw, have gained popularity among knife enthusiasts and martial arts practitioners. However, the legality of owning and carrying a karambit knife varies from state to state within the United States.

In California, the possession and use of karambits are subject to specific regulations.

Under California law, karambits fall under the category of “dirk” or “dagger” and are considered illegal to openly carry in public places. It is important to note that California knife laws can be complex and vary depending on factors such as blade length and intended use.

It is always advisable to consult the specific laws and regulations of the state or seek legal advice to ensure compliance.

Federal Restrictions on Interstate Transport

In addition to state laws, there are also federal regulations that govern the transportation of knives, including karambits, across state lines. The Federal Switchblade Act, for example, prohibits the interstate transport of automatic knives, which can include certain types of karambits.

It is crucial to understand that while a karambit knife might be legal in one state, it could become illegal if transported across state lines. This means that if you plan to travel with a karambit, it is essential to be aware of both state and federal laws that apply to the specific type of knife.

Air Travel with Karambits

For those who wish to travel by air with a karambit, it is important to understand the regulations set by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). The TSA has strict guidelines regarding the types of knives that can be carried in carry-on luggage or checked baggage.

According to the TSA, karambits are generally not allowed in carry-on bags but can be packed in checked baggage as long as they are properly secured. However, it is recommended to check with the airline and TSA guidelines before traveling to ensure compliance with their specific regulations.


In summary, while certain rules apply, karambits can be legally owned and used in California if transported and carried properly. Key factors include blade length, permit status, and federal transport laws. Responsible owners must educate themselves on state penal codes and municipal differences. We’ve outlined the key regulations, but check your local laws for specifics.

I hope this comprehensive guide has clarified the legal landscape for karambits in California. Please let me know if you have any other martial arts weapon law questions!

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