U.S. Regulations on Cold Weapon Transportation

us regulations on cold weapon transportation

Many travelers ask themselves whether it’s legal to take knives and other cold weapons on planes traveling to or from the U.S.

Taking these objects abroad can be useful: if you’re planning to spend time outdoors during your holiday, for example, a pocket knife will be essential to cut a fishing line or slice food, but also to cut packages open.

It’s true that the U.S. government — like most countries around the world — has implemented progressively more rigorous passenger and customs checks in their airports to ensure safer travel. Fortunately, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) gives precise instructions on what can and cannot be taken on a plane.

Knives, blades, and sharp objects are not illegal but are considered prohibited items. This means that they can be flown into and across the country but only as checked luggage.

Securing cold weapons in the checked luggage should be considered a priority for all travelers, just like ensuring to apply for the right ESTA visa waiver or U.S. visa and carrying ID to the airport.

Are Knives Allowed on a Plane in the U.S.?

For most passengers who are not familiar with TSA regulations, it may be confusing to distinguish between what’s considered a cold weapon and what’s not. You may be asking yourself questions like:

  • Are BB guns allowed on planes?
  • Are small pocket knives allowed on airplanes?
  • What tools are considered cold weapons?

The TSA is pretty clear on the subject of knives and other cold weapons. In the great majority of cases, knives cannot be transported in your carry-on bag. This means that you will probably not be able to take your knives with you on the plane, including swiss knives and small pocket knives.

However, these weapons can be boarded in your checked luggage. This is not only true for knives but also for other cold weapons, blades, and toy guns such as:

  • Axes and hatches
  • Billy clubs
  • Blackjacks and slapjacks
  • Bows and arrows
  • Brass knuckles
  • Cap guns
  • Crowbars
  • Toy swords
  • Hammers
  • Kirpans
  • Kubatons
  • Mallets
  • Meat cleavers
  • Nail guns

BB guns may be accepted inside checked luggage. Laws and regulations on the matter (and on traveling with firearms) vary by local, state, and international government as well as your airline guidelines.

Blunk butter knives and plastic knives can be taken on the plane in the carry-on luggage.

How to Pack a Knife in Checked Baggage in the U.S.

All sharp objects must be packed safely before being transported. They should be sheathed or securely wrapped to prevent injury to baggage handlers and inspectors. Knives and other sharp objects that are packed incorrectly may be confiscated upon screening.

When packing sharp objects, you should do so in a manner that allows TSA inspectors to confirm that the blades are safely secured without having to open your bag. There are many ways to pack blades: they can be put in a metal or wooden container, wrapped and taped with duct tape, kept together or in different plastic bags. You may want to consider investing in a TSA-approved lock to make things even easier.

It’s not mandatory to declare knives and other cold weapons since they’re considered sharp objects. However, most people traveling with knives in the U.S. decide to declare them voluntarily to avoid delays during the security screening.

Remember that just like having your ESTA travel authorization for the U.S. in order, preparing your belongings properly is the best way to ensure a smooth experience at the airport’s security checks.

Bringing a Knife to Security Checks at U.S. Airports

It may happen that you forget having a pocket knife or other sharp objects on you as you go through security checks. However, there’s no need to worry: you won’t be arrested for breaking the law.

Knives and sharp objects are considered prohibited items on a plane. Prohibited items are completely legal outside the airport and carrying prohibited items won’t result in legal charges.

You’ll be given the following options:

  • Leave the security area with your prohibited items and check them in with your luggage;
  • Stay in the security area and give the prohibited items to someone who’s leaving, like a relative who took you to the airport;
  • Mail the item.

Some items may be confiscated if the above options aren’t available.

What Happens to Knives Confiscated at Airports?

Knives are among the most confiscated items in the U.S. All items left at security become the property of the federal government.

Prohibited items are then destroyed or distributed to non-profit and relief organizations.

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