The Law on Samurai Swords

Updated April 17, 2017

In the United States it is legal to own the 3- to 5-foot-long, curved blades known as Samurai swords, but every state in the union has laws forbidding people from carrying them in public. Samurai swords and other curved swords were banned in England and Wales in 2008 after a rash of crimes committed using those weapons.


Samurai swords, also known as katana swords, are razor sharp and possibly the most efficient cutting weapon ever manufactured. During heyday of the Samurai warriors in Japan when the sword maker's art flourished, legendary metal workers produced fabled swords. A few of these priceless weapons survive in museums as national treasures.

Development of Samurai Swords

The earliest Japanese swords copied the design of Chinese Jian swords, simple straight, double-edged iron blades. About 700 A.D. Japanese sword smiths began to evolve the weapons into more sophisticated, curved blades. These swords were increasingly refined over the centuries to meet exacting standards of strength, sharpness and elegant design.

When Western influences introduced guns into Japan in 1543, many sword makers turned to making guns. Firearms were banned during Japan's centuries of severely limited contact with the Western world. This time period was also a peaceful era when a unified government put an end to the civil wars. With no wars to fight, the Samurai lifestyle became more formalised and sword making developed into a fine art.

Samurai Swords in the West

In the 1870s when Japan was forced into contact with the Western world after centuries of isolation, the Japanese government began a sweeping program of modernisation, the Samurai class was disbanded and sword makers were forced out of business. However, the post World War II demand for these exotic weapons has produced a mass market for replicas of Samurai swords continues to this day.

Swords Banned in England and Wales

The Samurai swords England and Wales banned from sale, manufacture or import are mainly cheap imitations. The violent crimes that spurred the law were committed with mass-produced replicas of Samurai swords. Exceptions to the law include antique swords over 100 years old, collectable swords, swords used in re-enactments and by licensed martial artists.

United States Deadly Weapon Laws

The U.S. Constitution protects the rights of citizens to bear arms, and swords fall into that category, so no federal laws restrict citizens from owning Samurai swords in the United States. However, the states are concerned with public safety and Samurai swords fall into the category of deadly weapons that are restricted. Every state has so-called knife laws that forbid carrying blades larger than pocket knives, and many states ban the carrying of blades over a certain length, usually 3 to 5 inches. (See in References below for links to laws for each state) Such restrictions would include Samurai swords, which are usually from 3 to 5 feet long. Some state laws list exceptions to the rule (see some examples at State knife laws, in Resources).

Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author

Lynne Murray has over 40 years writing experience, with publications including mystery novels and an interview with Darlene Cates, of "What's Eating Gilbert Grape." Murray received a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from San Francisco State University. She's conducted workshops at the Open Education Exchange and Southwestern Writers Conference.