New Hampshire Knife Laws: What You Need to Know

The Essentials

Legal to Carry Openly or Concealed

  • Any knife except one with integral knuckle guard(s)

Legal Knives in New Hampshire

  • Dirks
  • Daggers
  • Switchblades/automatics
  • Butterfly knives
  • Bowies
  • Stilettos
  • Machetes
  • Throwing stars
  • Gravity knives
  • Assisted opening knives
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New Hampshire Knife Law Overview

New Hampshire is a bastion of sanity in the wilds of government-run-amok that is New England.

Since a 2010 initiative that swept out nearly the entirety of New Hampshire’s old and outmoded knife laws, New Hampshire is easily the most knife-friendly state in New England, and is actually one of the most knife friendly in the country!

New Hampshire law only concerns itself with deadly weapons, including knives, if one is using them in the commission of a crime or carrying them intending to commit a crime, and hardly anything else to speak of.

In fact, New Hampshire’s knife laws are so sparse, it is easier to show what isn’t in the statutes instead of what is concerning knives and other bladed weapons.

Aside from a few niche and peculiar statutes mentioning specific types of knives regarding use in crimes or selling them, there is not much to see! We’ll open up all the pertinent statutes below at any rate so you can see for yourself.

Relevant New Hampshire State Statutes Covering Use and Ownership of Knives

  • 625:11 General Definitions
  • 159:3 Convicted Felons
  • 159:4 Carrying weapon without a license
  • 159:15 Possession of Dangerous Weapon while committing violent crimes
  • 159:16 Carrying or selling weapons
  • 159:19a Criminal use of a sword cane
  • 159:24 Sale of martial arts weapons
  • 159:26 State preemption of knife law

New Hampshire spares little space or ink for definitions in their state statutes, trusting in plain language to carry the day for once. There are only a couple that concern us and they are found in 625:11:

625:11 General Definitions. –

The following definitions apply to this code.

I. “Conduct” means an action or omission, and its accompanying state of mind, or, a series of acts or omissions.

II. “Person”, “he”, and “actor” include any natural person and, a corporation or an unincorporated association.

III. “Element of an offense” means such conduct, or such attendant circumstances, or such a result of conduct as:

(a) Is included in the definition of the offense; or
(b) Establishes the required kind of culpability; or
(c) Negatives an excuse or justification for such conduct; or
(d) Negatives a defense under the statute of limitations; or
(e) Establishes jurisdiction or venue.

IV. “Material element of an offense” means an element that does not relate exclusively to the statute of limitations, jurisdiction, venue or to any other matter similarly unrelated to (1) the harm sought to be prevented by the definition of the offense, or (2) any justification or excuse for the prescribed conduct.

V. “Deadly weapon” means any firearm, knife or other substance or thing which, in the manner it is used, intended to be used, or threatened to be used, is known to be capable of producing death or serious bodily injury.

VI. “Serious bodily injury” means any harm to the body which causes severe, permanent or protracted loss of or impairment to the health or of the function of any part of the body.

“Deadly weapon” includes knives, all kinds of knives, the end. This is not necessarily a bad thing in NH as they don’t make any sweeping proscriptions against the carry of deadly weapons for citizens.

“Serious bodily injury” is similarly important and likely known to most preppers and students of self-defense, for its implications in making your own use of force decisions in a dangerous encounter.

Regarding ownership and possession of the overwhelming majority of knives, The Granite State is only concerned about it if you happen to be a felon. 159:3 has all the relevant details:

159:3 Convicted Felons. –

I. A person is guilty of a class B felony if he:

(a) Owns or has in his possession or under his control, a pistol, revolver, or other firearm, or slungshot, metallic knuckles, billies, stiletto, switchblade knife, sword cane, pistol cane, blackjack, dagger, dirk-knife, or other deadly weapon as defined in RSA 625:11, V; and

(b) Has been convicted in either a state or federal court in this or any other state, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, or any territory or possession of the United States of:

(1) A felony against the person or property of another; or

(2) A felony under RSA 318-B; or

(3) A felony violation of the laws of any other state, the District of Columbia, the United States, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico or any territory or possession of the United States relating to controlled drugs as defined in RSA 318-B.

I-a. A person is guilty of a class B felony if such person completes and signs an application for purchase of a firearm and the person is a convicted felon under the provisions of paragraph I.

II. The state shall confiscate to the use of the state the weapon or weapons of persons convicted under this section.

III. It is an affirmative defense to a charge under this section that a felony of which a defendant has been convicted in another jurisdiction would not have constituted a felony in the state of New Hampshire at the time such felony was committed.

Pay close attention to Ia. and Ib.: it is only a felony to own any of the listed dangerous weapons if you are also a felon.

The next relevant statute criminalizing possession of weapons is 159:15, which proffers that it is only a misdemeanor to employ weapons during the commission of a violent crime:

159:15 Possession of Dangerous Weapon While Committing a Violent Crime. –

I. A person shall be guilty of a class A misdemeanor if that person uses or employs slung shot, metallic knuckles, billies, or other deadly weapon as defined in RSA 625:11, V during the commission or attempted commission of a violent crime.

II. “Violent crime,” for purposes of this section, means “violent crime” as defined in RSA 651:5, XIII.

Still nothing particularly restrictive to law-abiding good guys and good gals. How about 159:19?

159:19-a Criminal Use of Pistol Cane or Sword Cane. –

I. Any person who uses a pistol cane or sword cane on another person with intent to commit a crime punishable as a misdemeanor shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.

II. Any person who uses a pistol cane or sword cane on another person with intent to commit a crime punishable as a felony shall be guilty of a class B felony.

III. Neither the whole nor any part of a sentence of imprisonment imposed for a violation of this section shall be served concurrently with any other term of imprisonment.

Okay, that’s oddly specific, since sword canes are necessarily classified under “deadly weapons” along with other bladed implements.

Let’s have a look at section 159:16. Maybe we’ll find some pertinent laws there. There has to be some kind of real restriction on knives in New Hampshire, right?

159:16 Carrying or Selling Weapons. –

Whoever, except as provided by the laws of this state, sells, has in his possession with intent to sell, or carries on his person any blackjack, slung shot, or metallic knuckles shall be guilty of a misdemeanor; and such weapon or articles so carried by him shall be confiscated to the use of the state.

Alright, we finally land on something definitively prohibitive. While this series has not concerned itself with close combat weapons aside from knives, I have made it a point to pay attention to statutes regarding them for just such an occasion.

There exist a few kinds of fixed blade knives that feature integral handguards or even purpose designed knuckles for punching, a-la the infamous World War I era trench knives that would be classed as prohibited in New Hampshire solely on the basis of the knuckle feature. Don’t carry them in NH, simple as that!

There is also a throw-away prohibition on the sale or transfer of martial arts weapons to persons under 18, though curiously there is no prohibition on the sale of any other kind of knives or bladed implement:

159:24 Sale of Martial Arts Weapons.

I. “Martial arts weapon” means any kind of sword, knife, spear, throwing star, throwing dart, or nunchaku or any other object designed for use in the martial arts which is capable of being used as a lethal or dangerous weapon.

II. Any person who shall sell, deliver, or otherwise transfer any martial arts weapon to a person under the age of 18 without first obtaining the written consent of such person’s parent or guardian shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.

III. Paragraph II shall not apply to fathers, mothers, guardians, administrators or executors who give a martial arts weapon to their children or wards or to heirs to an estate.

Note that parents are exempt from this statute. The kids have to learn their ancient weapons, you dig?

No-Go Zones

None. While not explicitly stated, it is in your best interest to exercise extreme discretion if you carry any kind of knife, great or small, into sensitive areas like schools, hospitals and any governmental buildings that otherwise permit weapons.

Some places will institute security checkpoints, inspections and scans to detect the presence of weapons, e.g. airports and courthouses.

It is in your best interest to not get found out that you are indeed carrying a weapon, whatever the law says.

Be discreet, keep your head, keep your freedom. Don’t scare the horses.

Preemption

Yes, in a big way. New Hampshire explicitly reserves the right to regulate firearms and knives, and they aren’t keen on tightening things up anytime soon after the major revisions carried out in 2010, this being to the chagrin of some municipalities:

159:26 Firearms, Ammunition, and Knives; Authority of the State. –

I. To the extent consistent with federal law, the state of New Hampshire shall have authority and jurisdiction over the sale, purchase, ownership, use, possession, transportation, licensing, permitting, taxation, or other matter pertaining to firearms, firearms components, ammunition, firearms supplies, or knives in the state.

Except as otherwise specifically provided by statute, no ordinance or regulation of a political subdivision may regulate the sale, purchase, ownership, use, possession, transportation, licensing, permitting, taxation, or other matter pertaining to firearms, firearms components, ammunition, or firearms supplies in the state.

Nothing in this section shall be construed as affecting a political subdivision’s right to adopt zoning ordinances for the purpose of regulating firearms or knives businesses in the same manner as other businesses or to take any action allowed under RSA 207:59.

II. Upon the effective date of this section, all municipal ordinances and regulations not authorized under paragraph I relative to the sale, purchase, ownership, use, possession, transportation, licensing, permitting, taxation, or other matter pertaining to firearms, firearm components, ammunition, firearms supplies, or knives shall be null and void.

Bottom Line

New Hampshire is a beacon of freedom and personal responsibility in the foaming sea of infringement that is New England.

“Live Free or Die” is not just a pithy motto for this state, which allows nearly any kind of knives imaginable not just for ownership, but for carry as well, with hardly any place off-limits and concealment a non-issue.

New Hampshire sets a very high watermark not just for New England states, but for the rest of the U.S.

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About Tom Marlowe

Tom Marlowe
Tom Marlowe practically grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, Tom has the experience to help civilian shooters figure out what will work best for them.

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