People who do not know any martial arts can resort to self-protection weapons to defend themselves in emergency situations. Knives, for example, are suitable for this purpose. However, certain knives for defense are prohibited under the Weapons Act. However, a distinction must be made here as to whether the purchase and possession of a knife is already prohibited or whether you may possess it but not carry it in public. It plays an important role how long the blade of the knife is, whether it is fixed and what type of knife it is.

The following article provides you with valuable information on the topic of knives for self-defense, which types of knives exist and what you should pay attention to.

In 30 seconds, the most important thing:

  • Carrying knives with a fixed blade of more than 12 centimeters is prohibited
  • Some knives are generally prohibited, for example butterfly knives
  • Attention when carrying in public: better in a locked container
Walther 5.0715 Messer Black Tac Knife, schwarz, 205mm
  • Klingenlänge: ca. 85 mm
  • Grifflänge: 114 mm (mit integriertem Glasbrecher)
  • Gesamtlänge: 199 mm

Knife types for defense

In the following sections, we will introduce you to the different types of knives and tell you which ones are allowed and which ones are forbidden, and what else you should look out for with each type of knife

Throwing knife: As a long range weapon

The throwing knife is a throwing weapon. Due to its special shape and the exact distribution of balance, this weapon is intended to be thrown specifically and accurately. Usually a throwing knife is sharp on both sides. Whether a throwing knife counts as a “cutting and thrusting weapon” is not clear from the Weapons Act. The possession of a throwing knife is therefore not fundamentally prohibited. However, it is clear that the carrying of fixed knives with a blade of more than 12 centimeters is prohibited. This should apply to most throwing knives.

Combat knife: for close combat

Combat knives are knives that were originally intended for special units of the police or army. In addition, they are popular with outdoor enthusiasts, because they can withstand difficult environmental conditions. Since combat knives are not explicitly prohibited, you are allowed to buy and own such knives. But again, you can only carry these fixed blade knives in public if the blade is less than 12 centimeters long.

Kitchen knife: As an emergency plan

Kitchen knives – as the name suggests – are actually meant for preparing food in the kitchen at home. Buying and owning them is therefore legal, of course. You have to be careful if you want to carry such knives in public, for example when searching for mushrooms in the forest: Since they have a fixed blade, the blade length must not exceed 12 centimeters. Otherwise, it is forbidden to carry them.

Switchblade knives: Permitted conditionally

Spring knives are knives whose blades spring out at the push of a lever or button and can be fixed by this or by the release of a locking device. Such knives are forbidden! That is, you may not legally buy, own or carry them. Switchblades are only permitted if:

  1. the blade jumps out of the handle at the side, i.e. not to the front
  2. the part of the blade that protrudes from the handle is no more than 8.5 centimeters long
  3. the blade is not double-edged

It is important that the knife meets all three specifications. If only one point does not apply, the switchblade is not legal. Furthermore, even for legal switchblade knives, they are considered weapons according to Appendix 1 of the Weapons Act and are therefore subject to the corresponding regulations.

Fist knife: Attention forbidden

Fist knives have a handle that runs across the fixed or lockable blade. Intended, fist knives are wielded or used in a closed fist. Fist knives, like switchblades, are generally prohibited. Therefore, you may not purchase, possess, or carry them. An exception is made for hunters or people who follow a profession of fur or leather processing. They are allowed to use hand knives to carry out their activity.

Folding knives: Partially permitted

With folding knives, the blade can be folded away for safe transport. Possession and handling of these knives is allowed in most cases. However, public carrying is not permitted if they are lockable one-handed knives. So, if you can operate the folding mechanism one-handed and lock the blade, you are prohibited from carrying the knife under the Weapons Act. Such a knife may be stored safely in your own home – such as in a closed cabinet – but you may not carry it in public.

Butterfly: Attention forbidden

Butterfly is the name for a folding knife that has two-part, pivoting handles. These knives are generally prohibited in Germany. The purchase is just as illegal as the possession. Carrying them is also not allowed and punishable.

Survival knife: For camping trips

Survival knives are particularly robust and versatile knives, also known as survival knives. They are used especially for outdoor activities. They are knives with fixed blades. Mostly, they have a coated stainless steel blade as well as a partial serration on the back. Especially hunters like to use survival knives. The possession of these knives is basically allowed. You have to be careful when carrying them in public: As soon as the blade length is longer than 12 centimeters, it is forbidden to carry the knife.

Machetes: A tool?

Machetes are single-edged household knives that are bent at the tip. The blade is long and widens from the handle to the middle. This ensures that the force when striking is very large. The machete has been used as a tool for harvesting agricultural products such as sugar cane for many years. It is also used as a bushwhacker for beating away brush. However, it is also used as a weapon.

Unfortunately, it is not possible to clearly classify machetes in terms of weapons law. Mostly machetes are considered as tools and are therefore not subject to any restrictions under weapons law. However, we cannot exclude that the Federal Criminal Police Office classifies the machete as a weapon in case of a declaratory decision. You are on the safe side if you obtain more detailed information about the machete from the responsible weapons authority or the Federal Criminal Police Office.

Buying knives

Basically, you are allowed to buy all types of knives that are not expressly prohibited in Germany. Among other things, a ban applies to switchblades, butterfly knives, drop knives and fist knives. These knives may not be purchased, manufactured, given away or possessed in Germany. All non-prohibited knives are legal.

Specialized online stores are best suited for buying knives. There, the selection is also correspondingly large. Depending on the type of knife you want, you can also find them in outdoor stores and hunting outfits.

Knife types, such as pocket knives or kitchen knives, are generally freely available for sale. There is no age limit for them. In addition, they are not registered in the weapons ownership card and a weapons license is not required. Only knives, which are considered weapons according to the Weapons Act, can only be purchased from the age of 18. Such knives are then also subject to all the regulations of the Weapons Act, so that a weapons license may be required under certain circumstances.

Transport of knives

Whenever you are in doubt as to whether the Weapons Act applies to a knife, please contact the Federal Criminal Police Office or the relevant weapons authority. This procedure is also described in § 2 para. 5 of the Weapons Act. In this way, you can find out whether your knife is subject to the Weapons Act and, if necessary, take appropriate precautions – especially with regard to transporting and carrying the knife. For example, if a hunting knife falls under the Weapons Act, you may only carry it for hunting.

In principle, however, the following applies: As a private person, you are not allowed to carry weapons at all public events such as concerts, sporting events, demonstrations, public festivals or similar gatherings of people. This also applies to knives, which are considered weapons. Furthermore, landlords of hotels, restaurants, concert halls, cinemas and schools have the possibility to prohibit the carrying of weapons.

Whenever carrying a knife is not allowed according to the weapons law, you may only keep it in your own home. It must be transported in a closed container, such as a suitcase. Basically, this applies to all knives that are considered to be cutting and thrusting weapons, as well as knives with a fixed blade longer than twelve centimeters. All one-handed knives, regardless of their blade length, may not be carried in public, so you must transport them in a closed container.

Only if there is a legitimate interest, the ban on carrying does not apply. Such a legitimate interest may exist, for example, if you need the knife to practice your profession, for sports or for customs. A legitimate interest may also exist for other generally recognized reasons, for example because you need the knife for fishing, camping, hiking or hunting.

What knives are prohibited?

The Weapons Act not only regulates the ban on carrying, but also which knives are completely prohibited and may not be possessed. Which items fall under the ban in Germany is regulated in Annex 2 to the Weapons Act. Generally prohibited are:

  • Butterfly knives
  • Drop knife
  • Fist knife
  • Switchblade knife

In addition, front jumping knives and balisong knives belong to the category of prohibited types of knives. However, exceptions confirm the rule, of course. For example, the police, the customs administration, the German armed forces and other authorities are allowed to possess drop knives, unless the Weapons Act provides otherwise. Private individuals, however, should keep their hands off such illegal knives. Possession despite a ban may be considered a criminal offense and be punished. After all, this is illegal possession of weapons, so it is decided on a case-by-case basis. Throwing knives are not expressly prohibited by law.

Always remember: Even if your knife does not belong to the prohibited types of knives and possession is basically allowed, this does not necessarily mean that you are allowed to carry them in public. This is only permitted if the blade is no more than twelve centimeters long. The length of the blade is measured from the base of the handle to the tip.

Risks with knives

In general, knives for self-defense are always associated with certain risks. This is the case for legal reasons alone: If you own a prohibited knife and are caught with it, you risk a prison sentence of up to three years or a high fine for illegal possession of weapons according to § 52 III No. 1 WaffG. It does not matter whether you knew that the knife is prohibited or whether you unknowingly bought a prohibited knife. If, on the other hand, you only carry a knife in public without permission, which is not generally illegal, it is a misdemeanor according to § 53 No. 21a WaffG. This can also result in fines of up to 10,000 euros. Since the legal situation is not entirely clear for most knives, you should generally be careful when carrying knives.

In addition, there may be other problems: If, for example, you commit a simple theft and have a simple pocket knife with you, you are guilty of “theft with weapons” according to § 244 StGB and must expect a higher penalty.

In addition, the use of a knife for self-defense is anything but simple. You must be very close to your opponent to be able to harm him with it. If the attacker is physically superior to you, he will have an easy time and steal the knife from you. In the worst case, he will then use the knife against you and inflict considerable injuries. Therefore, you should only consider carrying a knife for self-defense if you are good with a knife and have a certain level of physical fitness. Remember: knives are generally dangerous and can cause life-threatening injuries.

Conclusion: Knives are not optimal for self-defense


Let’s be clear from the outset:We advise you not to use knives as a self-defense weapon – no matter what type of knife it is. There are several other options that are more suitable and less dangerous for you and the attacker. Think about using pepper spray or a stun gun to defend yourself

Furthermore, a weapon can always be used against you. So if you are learning a martial art, you are always defensible. You cannot be disarmed, nor can you run out of ammunition. Likewise, you will increase your self-confidence and possibly not even get into a critical situation, because your charisma will be improved.

FAQ about knives for self-defense

Attention: Our content has been carefully prepared, however, legal standards change and some are subject to interpretation. We can not guarantee the following information, for a legally sound advice please consult a lawyer. Status: 03/ 2020

Update: 2023-05-28 / Affiliate Links / Bilder von der Amazon Product Advertising API