Knife Law (UK)

I’m a big fan of Ray Mears and Bear Grylls or of anyone whom I can learn from regarding  survival techniques. All talk about the essentials of survival: water, food, shelter, fire and the one essential tool that can help you gather food and water,  build your shelter and light your fire… the most important tool you can carry is your trusty survival knife. After looking at Bear Grylls Gerber Ultimate Pro fixed blade ( which has the specifications below, I thought yeah, this will be perfect or something similar.

  • 4.8-inch fine edge, drop-point blade for smooth, versatile cuts
  • Full-tang, premium stainless steel construction for durability
  • Ergonomic, non-slip rubber grip for comfortable, precise handling
  • Lashing holes in handle
  • Military-grade, mildew-resistant nylon sheath
  • Pull-through carbide sharpener in sheath, for guaranteed sharpness
  • Built-in fire starter rod in watertight holder
  • Lanyard with loud emergency whistle
  • Bear Grylls “Priorities of Survival” Pocket Guide
  • Backed by Gerber’s Lifetime Warranty

Now here comes the problem. In the UK it is a criminal offence to carry any knife in public that exceeds 3″. A lock knife or a knife opened via a mechanism or if  it has a fixed blade is illegal. If you carry any knife or potential weapon (axes, screw drivers, household knives or scissors etc) in a government or public area or private area that general public could access you will quickly find yourself on the wrong side of the law and fined up to £5000 and four years imprisonment. Actually if you carry a knife under 3″ and don’t have a good reason for carrying it, you can also get fined and imprisoned.

“..what if I’m in a Bushcraft or survival group of enthusiasts”

We are all aware of the dangers of knives and that there are some crazy people in this world who don’t use them for the intended purposes but it left me thinking, how can I learn and practice survival techniques other than to sit in front of a television/computer screen or joining the Forces (of which I’m too old to do).  If you go into wild terrain in the UK, the chances are the land is privately owned but with public access or be retained for public access (National Trust). Which then results in being in possession of a knife in a public place with the Rozzer’s breathing down your neck.


So, what if I’m in a Bushcraft or survival group of enthusiasts. Well, it turns out there is only one exception.  Privately owned land is the only place to legally use the knife. Where nobody outside of your group can wander onto. Obviously you need the permission of the owner first.

Here’s another fly in the ointment. The UK public are not allowed to purchase knives from other countries and import them back into the UK. Not unless you want the customs to seize your imported property. You can however purchase them from licensed shops in the UK (invitatio ad offerendum), Assuming the product is legally sold in the UK,  then the shops can sell them. As soon as you leave the shop you will be committing an offence. Basically if you don’t have that good reason for owning it, you’re nicked mate!


Where does this leave me? Am I breaking the law when I go camping with the family and pack cutlery and scissors to prepare and eat food? I doubt the Rozzers would arrest you for that unless I walked into a shopping center wielding the scissors. Assuming we are using them in the intended way and securing them afterwards the law takes a softer approach. Even though we’re essentially using them in a public place and where the public can wander onto. This is where we start to get the ambiguity of the UK law. In the end it comes down to common sense. In terms of furthering my survival techniques I guess my chances are greatly reduced using a swiss army knife and in terms of  feelings of  inadequacy with those who can carry appropriate survival knives, yes,  yours is probably much bigger than mine but it’s how you use it that counts!

Foot note: Always seek professional legal advice concerning knife laws. 


2 thoughts on “Knife Law (UK)

  1. robakers June 21, 2013 / 18:58

    All very true and troubling. I am sorry that you have to make the choice of camp or follow the law.

    One things you said I must disagree with. You said the most important tool you can carry is the knife. I think the most important tool you can carry is the will to survive followed closely by the human mind.

    I think you would be surprised how much you can do with a knife that meets the requirements of the law. You might need to carry a small tool kit that would hold all of the tools a multi-purpose tool would cover, but you are legal and camping at the same time.


    • Charles Cooper June 21, 2013 / 23:22

      Thanks for your comment. Yes you are absolutely right the will, the motivation, the mind are at the pinnacle of survival or a positive mental attitude (PMA) as I like to refer to it, is key to keeping you moving and achieving your goal. I was however aiming for the more tangible aspect when referring to the knife but I’m glad you pointed that out as it is so important..

      With regards to the multi-tool I have considered the Leatherman as I see many have recommended it as a reliable tool. I’m sure this would suffice in the UK but it’s still a shame I can’t use some of the great survival knives on the market.

      Thanks again for your comments.

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