Are Katanas Legal in the US? [Explained]

In the world of martial arts and collectibles, the allure of owning a katana, the iconic Japanese sword, is undeniable. However, the legal landscape surrounding these revered weapons can be quite intricate, leaving enthusiasts and potential buyers with numerous questions and considerations. In this detailed guide, we will delve into the legality of owning a katana in the US, addressing various crucial aspects and key queries commonly raised by curious minds.

Are Katanas Legal to Own?

The question of whether katanas are legal to own in the United States is a matter that often sparks interest and debate. The legality of possessing a katana primarily depends on several factors, including the type of sword, its intended use, and the laws specific to each state.

Understanding Laws Regarding Katana Ownership

The legality of owning a katana in the US is not a straightforward yes or no. Federal law generally allows individuals to own a katana, considering it as a decorative item or a collector’s piece. However, it’s essential to recognize that individual states might have their own regulations and restrictions. For instance, some states impose stringent laws on sword ownership, especially regarding blade length, handle design, and intended use.

Can You Buy a Katana in the US?

Buying a katana in the US is feasible, given that you adhere to the legal constraints in your residing state. Numerous online and physical stores specialize in selling authentic katanas, ensuring they comply with legal requirements. Always verify the store’s reputation, as well as the sword’s specifications, before making a purchase to avoid any legal ramifications.

Can You Carry a Katana in Public?

Carrying a katana in public is subject to stringent regulations and legal boundaries. In most states, carrying a katana openly in public places is restricted or prohibited due to safety concerns and potential threats it may pose. However, laws might vary by state, with some allowing concealed carry under specific conditions or for ceremonial purposes.

Legal Considerations and Diverse State Laws

Katana Laws in Different States in the US

Each state in the US maintains its unique set of laws regarding the ownership and possession of katanas. For instance, in California, owning a sword is legal, but it must be worn openly, while in Texas, there are more lenient regulations, allowing the concealed carry of swords. Referencing local laws and consulting legal professionals is crucial before acquiring or carrying a katana.

Here’s a table highlighting the legal status of owning a katana in different US states:

StateOwnership Status and Carry in Public
Can you own a katana in California?Certain concealable swords, such as cane swords or Zatoichi style Katana, are prohibited for purchase, ownership, and carrying in California and New York State.
Can you carry a katana in Texas?In Texas, swords are considered “location-restricted knives” due to their length exceeding 5.5 inches. Carrying a sword is generally legal in most places, except for specific restricted locations like schools, churches, bars, and government buildings.
Are katanas legal in Michigan?In Michigan, it is unlawful to carry any dangerous or potentially lethal weapon (including pistols, rifles, shotguns, knives, swords, axes, hammers, ball bats, golf clubs) with the intent to harm someone. Whether the weapon is openly carried or concealed, carrying it with unlawful intent is a violation of the law.
Are katanas legal in New York?In New York City, it is forbidden to carry a knife with a blade that measures 4 inches or more, regardless of whether any part of the knife, including the blade, is visible or concealed in public.
Are katanas legal in Pennsylvania?In Pennsylvania, under the “CURIO EXCEPTION,” individuals can own any knife, but they must provide a valid reason for possessing knives like a 25-inch Japanese katana or an automatic knife.
Are katanas legal in North Carolina?In North Carolina, laws on carrying non-firearm weapons focus on concealed weapons, except in restricted places like schools, courthouses, the State Capitol Building, the Executive Mansion, or the Western Residence of the Governor.

Do Different Countries or States Have Varying Laws about Katanas?

Absolutely. Different countries and states have diverse laws regarding katana ownership and carry. For instance, while some states may allow open carry, others may have stringent regulations against carrying swords in public, considering them dangerous weapons.

Table: Laws Regarding Katana Ownership in Various Countries

RegionKatana Ownership StatusAdditional Notes
South AmericaNot illegal, subject to heavy import leviesRelatively rare due to levies exceeding 50% of the sword’s value.
AustralasiaNot illegal, except in Victoria, AustraliaRestricted in Victoria since 2004; exceptions for re-enactors, martial artists, and Highland dancers.
United KingdomPartial ban, amendments and exemptionsCurved swords over 50cm long banned in 2008; exemptions for traditionally made swords with discretion from customs, additional paperwork may be required.
European UnionAmbiguous changes in customs, shipping restrictionsUnclear changes in 2017, swords rejected in shipments; restrictions on shipping services in various European countries (e.g., Denmark, Italy).
ChinaBecame illegal in 2017, exceptions in special regionsBecame illegal due to misuse; exceptions in Hong Kong and Macau, with some customs complications.
JapanSevere restrictions since WWII, limited productionRestricted mass production; limited to certified swordsmiths; strict paperwork, registration, and storage regulations; only Japanese-made Nihonto are permitted.
Indian SubcontinentIllegal to import or export sharpened swordsExport of non-sharpened blades is allowed; stringent regulations.
South East AsiaIllegal in most, exceptions in Thailand and the PhilippinesOnly legal in Thailand and the Philippines; strict regulations on public display; importing requires special licenses (e.g., Singapore).
African ContinentVaries, legal in South Africa, unclear in other regionsLegal in South Africa; unclear regulations in other African countries, subject to customs officers’ discretion.
Middle EastHit and miss affair, varies on import and ownershipInconsistent regulations on import and ownership; customs have varying decisions on allowing or confiscating swords.

What are the Laws Regarding Katana Ownership User


Here is a table summarizing the information and key points regarding the laws and regulations on katana ownership and carrying in the United States, as discussed in the provided comments:

Key Points
In Japan, it’s illegal to carry katanas around, but martial artists practice with sword bags heading to dojos; some use real swords for training.
Expresses discomfort at the idea of practicing with real katanas.
Sword martial arts involve predetermined movements (kata) with wooden swords in practice; aluminum or real swords are used for advanced practitioners.
Feels uneasy even after understanding that the movements are predetermined.
Advanced practitioners may use steel swords; movements are well-practiced and predetermined, no danger in practice.
Initially uncertain if the katanas seen were real or props; doubts their authenticity.
Training with real swords is safe due to predetermined movements, unless an accident occurs.
Understands the movements are predetermined after clarification.
Mentions that swords cannot be brandished; adds a philosophical perspective on mortality.
Suggests sharing the discussion on another subreddit.
Discusses differences in katana ownership between China and Japan.
Comments on totalitarian regimes and their attitudes towards weapon carrying.
Mentions some states allowing open carry of swords, following similar laws as Texas.
States in open carry states, carrying a sword in its scabbard can be legal.
Discusses the legal intricacies of carrying a katana in the US, expressing the difficulty in drawing a sword of that length.
Shares an incident where a re-enactor was arrested for carrying a large sword concealed.
Confirms that in some places, it is legal to walk around with a katana.
Suggests that the legality depends on the location and questions the practicality of carrying a sword.
Discusses Georgia’s laws requiring a license for carrying certain blade lengths.
Forum members discuss state-specific laws regarding blade length and open carry.
Members talk about the benefits and drawbacks of federal involvement in standardizing weapon laws across states.
Members share specific legal pointers about knife size and California’s Prop 65 warning.
Advises double-checking for a CA Prop 65 warning to avoid illegality.

This table summarizes various perspectives and insights on katana ownership and the legality of carrying swords in the United States, reflecting diverse opinions and state-specific regulations.


The ownership and carry of katanas in the US are governed by a complex web of laws and regulations, varying significantly across states. As an enthusiast or potential buyer, it’s vital to conduct thorough research, consult legal experts, and adhere to local laws to ensure compliance and responsible ownership of these revered swords. Always prioritize safety, legality, and respect for the law when dealing with katana ownership.

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