The Cutting Edge

The official blog of Knife Depot

How Not to Get Your Pocket Knife Jacked by TSA

It happens to thousands of knife owners every year. You’re headed through security at the airport.  You’ve taken your shoes off, removed your belt and diligently placed your laptop in the required bin.  Then, as you’re walking through the metal detector, you hear the shrill beeping that signifies that something on your person is not allowed and you remember, suddenly, that you’ve completely forgotten about your pocket knife.

According to a 2009 CNN report, airports confiscate an estimated 13 million items annually. One of the most common are pocket knives.  Many Americans carry a pocket knife everyday, either as part of their key chain or as a work tool, and too often they don’t remember to put it in their checked baggage.  So, what can you do to avoid getting you knife swiped by TSA?  Here are some tips.

Pack your knife in your checked bag

According to TSA guidelines, the only knives you can carry on are ones with plastic or rounded blades (butter knives).  However, almost any knife can be transported to your destination, if it’s checked.  Want to bring your sushi knife on Christmas vacation?  You can check it.  Just bought a new samurai sword that you don’t want to part with?  Check it and you’re fine.

You can also check meat cleavers, sabers, ice picks, hatchets, axes and saws. What does all this mean?  When in doubt, check your bag.  Just remember, if you’re checking a sword, saber, dagger or other big blade, it needs to be properly sheathed.

But, what if you forget to check and get nabbed at security with your blade?

Know Your Options

TSA provides those whose knives are confiscated with four options:

(1)  Return to the check-in counter and check your knife.

(2)  Put your knife in your car.

(3)  Give your knife to a loved one or friend if they have come to the airport to see you off.

(4)  Mail your knife.  Most airports have mailing supplies and a U.S. post office, which allows you to ship items to yourself.

Don’t stress out, you (probably) won’t get arrested

If you’re nabbed at security with a pocket knife, you won’t be subject to any criminal charges, unless it’s a switch-blade.  However, if you accidentally make it through security and onto a plane with your knife, you could potentially be charged with possessing a dangerous weapon in a secure area.

Last year, an Indian man slipped onto a plane with a 4-inch knife and was arrested when he attempted to cut fruit with it and then refused to give it to an air marshal.  If you make an honest mistake, simply turn your knife over without argument.

Also, be careful  if you’re flying abroad.  A 74-year-old American man was locked up for 9 days after he was caught with a small pocket knife at a Japanese airport.  Many other countries have much stricter knife laws then the U.S., so always check the knife laws of the country you are heading to.

If my knife does get confiscated, where does it go?

According to the TSA blog, your knife will either be donated to organizations like the Boy Scouts or sold on e-bay, with the proceeds going to state and local governments, which means that hypothetically you could end up buying your own knife back some  day.

Related Post:

Six ways to use a pocket knife


  1. A 74-year-old man goes to jail for 9 days for having a pocket knife? Don’t think I’ll be going to Japan anytime soon.

  2. Japanese are good at following rules, standing in lines. They have men whose entire job is to ensure you stand in line “correctly” in Japan. Mostly needed where foreigners are …. I’m guessing for those guests from countries with billions of people where skipping line is an art form.
    I’ve seen 90 yr old grandmas walk passed 500 people in China and wave their entire 15 person family to come forward, as an example.
    In India, some people still abuse the caste system (even though it has been illegal for decades). They “act” like they should be allowed to the front of the line and start walking. Nobody … except this dumb American … said anything. I just moved my bad and took up the rest of the lane. The matriarch said something in a language I didn’t understand. I looked and smiled. A bunch of the Brits around me smiled too. There was a separate line for crew and diplomats. Everyone in the line was already 2 hrs late due to poor organization at immigration to let people leave the country.

    Anyway, the point is that different countries have different laws and different expectations about what is important. “Fair Play” is something I hold higher than most people, but that isn’t normal in Asia from what I’ve seen in over a year of living there. In highly populated places, getting away with what you can is part of the culture. There’s no question as to right or wrong – it is just what can make my effort the least possible to get the most in return. Once saw a lady hit by a car on a busy street in China. Nobody stopped to help her that I saw. At least 20 people where right there. There was a big discussion in the newspapers about it. People worried that if they took her to hospital, they’d be forced to pay or their family would track the good Samaritan down and harm them.

  3. This happened to me last week when I flew home from my vacation. I had completely forgotten about my multi-purpose pocket tool in my carry-on bag, and was stopped at airport security. Fortunately, it was a cheap tool, so I just gave it away to the security guard and moved on without hassle. But if I had had a more expensive tool, I wouldn’t have wanted to lose it. In such a situation, could I have asked the security guard to mail it back to me (i.e. to my home address) from the airport?

  4. I have a 440 stainless steel pocket knife with two blades. One rounded the other sharp if I put in a non carry on bag will it be checked?

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