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Other than the GTSS large open blade statements, is there a BSA policy restricting pocket knives to specific standards?


Reason I ask... I'm a fairly new Adult Leader in Boy Scouting (Legacy Cub Leader though). Soon after we joined the Troop, an experienced leader (well-meaning, I have no doubt) said that BSA Policy states that Scouts' pocket knives must be "locking" and no longer than (I think it was) 4 inches. I have not been able to locate this restriction in my online searches.


For the record, I think this is probably a good idea, but am not sure this is a BSA policy. If it is not, we might want to establish a Troop policy about this, but I can't in good conscience tell the Scouts and families that something is "BSA policy" if it isn't.


Any insight?



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No such BSA policy, but may have elements of truth. Local laws or regulations regarding weapons may also get "mixed" into these urban myths of BSA policy.


A Troop on a military installation (Army) had a policy, "IAW BSA policy", of no knives with a blade greater three inchs and the blade must NOT lock, the reason? The post had a policy that knives with a blade greater than three inches was a weapon, not a tool and if the handle locked it counted toward the blade measurement. In this case there was a reason for the Troop policy, but no one remembered what it was.


Maybe there is a local law or even Council policy getting mixed in here. I'd call the Council and ask, tehy should know if there are any restrictions. You can also call the local police department and ask them as well.

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Yah, no such policy. Da BSA position is that Boy Scouts should be allowed to use all kinds of knives, and be taught how to use 'em properly as tools.


Now, to my mind there are good safety reasons to teach lads to use a locking-blade or fixed-blade sheath knife as a preferred tool. Those non-lockin' blades carve more fingers than they should. At the same time, there are all kinds of good reasons to carry a general purpose "Swiss-Army" tool that has non-locking blades.


I'm not at all well versed on knife and weapons laws across da several states, eh? But I have a hard time believin' that many jurisdictions really restrict knives over 4". That would make it awfully hard on restaurant and catering chefs, eh?




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BSA has no rational policy on knives.


A couple of official BSA publications "do not encourage" or counsel that Scouts shold "avoid" "large sheath knives," wharever that means. (Does it, for example, cover large folding knives routinely carried in sheaths?)


The only stated rationale for that advice is that "large sheath knives . . . can be heavy and awkward to carry and are unnecesary for most camp chores." BSHB 12th ed. p. 403. Please note the absence of any reference to safety concerns. (Are they as heavy and awkward to carry and as unnecessary as a axe in this age of LNT?)


The stated exception (GTSS) is a knife to clean fish. The specific exception suggests that a filteting knife is a "large sheath" knife. Otherwise, why an exception?


(Fixed-blade knives are required for food preparation for groups of a certain size by public health laws in many jurisdictions.)


Despite the above, two current, official BSA publications suggest, discuss the use of, and illustrate VERY large knives, namely khukuris, bolos, and machetes.


I find no BSA statement on tactical" folding knives -- knives optimized as weapons -- or folding knives in general.


Some years ago, safe use of the fixed-blade knife was removed from the Tot'N'Chip requirements.


When to comes down to it, BSA policy is largely irrelevant because BSA allows units and Councils to have any rules about knives that they wish. There are units and Councils that purport to totally ban "all sheath knives" and/or "all fixed-blade knives." Some purport to ban lock-blade knives or knives beyond a certain length.


Vague notions of "safety" are the only basis for these arbitrary "bans" that I have ben able to discover. Of course, there is no consideration of any obligation to teach safe use of such tool that is so common as the fixed-blade knife.


A lockblade knife of a given size and shape is, when locked open, indistingishable from a fixed-blade of the same size and shape when to comes to safety. It is safer than a non-locking knife of the same general size.


BSA sells a fixed-blade knife with an 8" as part of the Chef's Kit. Most Councils that "ban" "all fixed-blade knives" sell the Chef's kit in their camp stores and allow use of fixed-blade knives in cooking and wood-working. So "ban."


I WISH the BSA WOULD say: "Da BSA position is that Boy Scouts should be allowed to use all kinds of knives, and be taught how to use 'em properly as tools." But there are many things I wish.

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No knives over 6 inches. No blade of any knife may be over six inches long No buck knives. No sheath knives.

Fact or Fiction?



The Guide to Safe Scouting states that knives are part of the program, but that long sheath knives should be avoided. (But even then, there is no statement that they're "banned").


above is from US Scouts. they probably don't want to see any military Bowies

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The Guide to Safe Scouting states that knives are part of the program, but that long sheath knives should be avoided. (But even then, there is no statement that they're "banned").


above is from US Scouts. they probably don't want to see any military Bowies."


GSS says: "Avoid large sheath knives. They are heavy and awkward to carry, and unnecessary for most camp chores except for cleaning fish."


US Scouts would probably faint if they saw pictures of Troop 43 in 1954 -- all those surplus Mk II Fighting/Utility knives with 7" clip blades might be mistaken for "military bowies." Still, they are smaller than the monsters shown in some official BSA publications today (think of 13" blades close to 1/2" thick).

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I used to carry a large, heavy sheath knife (WWII Army Airforce survival knife). It was heavy enough that I didn't need to fetch the hatchet when splitting firewood or chopping tent stakes.

wish they would call a fillet knife a fillet knife instead of "large sheath knife"

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In my troop we teach the usage of all kinds of knives. Most boys wind up buying inexpensive non locking knives with a 3 inch or so blade. The local flea market sells these for about $8. The G2SS is confusing and lacking in detail (my opinion). It would be great if it talked about the use of quality blades that held an edge longer instead of making blanket statements.


I carry a victorinox rucksack with a 4 inch locking blade. I've gotten cut a few times whittlin. However, my preference is for a 4 inch sheath knife. As they are easier to clean and lighter.


Our patrol box has a number of long knives for kitchen use, none of them fold.


Now the funny part, our local council camp does not allow sheath knifes for anyone.


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In order to protect the edges of "cooking knives" -- and the Scouts -- we have made protecting sheaths for them. Does that make them "sheath knives"?


When I noticed that camp we attended this Summer banned "all fixed-blade knives anywhere on the camp property," I emailed the Program Director. asking if that ban applied to cooking knives, fishing knives, and the knives used for wood-carving. He promptly replied: 1) that he had no idea why the rule existed; 2) we should bring whatever knives we typically brought to camp; and 3) he requested that the Scouts not "walk around camp with big honking sheath knives dangling from theor belts." No problem. But, see, he's exercising judgment instead of being arbitrary.

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Okay, let's see now...

Pocket knives fold up and go in the pocket. Usually. Yeah, there are belt hung pockets one can use.

Sheath knives are kept in a special sheath, ostensably hanging on one's belt. Could be a problem with backpack hip belts, or be nasty if one falls down. The sheaths can sometimes hold the sharpening stone. Depending on the size, hanging on a small Scout's belt, it might remind one of a machete or Roman soldier's gladius.

When not in use, cooking knives are kept in the Patrol box or wrapped up in the cooking kit. The BIG knives are not carried around in your pocket or on one's belt, unless you cook for a Japanese Steak House. Their knife sheaths also hone the edge eachtime the knife is drawn out.

Good Whittlin' Chip and Totin' Chip instructors talk about all of them. The choice often is... what is the boy going to do? Cut down trees? Field dress a deer? Make twizzle sticks to start a fire? Protect against grizzly bear attacks? Carve necker slides? Scare away pirates? Impress his friends? Again, the good instructor will mention all possibilities and get the Scout to realize the responsibilities and consequences of his actions. Does he really NEED an 8" chrome vanadium polished Bowie knife? At summer camp?

Yes, only so much "official" guidelines and policy can be promulgated. The rest is up to us Scouters.

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I'm an adult and so not many ever question why I carry a light-weight belt axe/sheath knife combo when camping and canoeing. When the rare occasion occurs when it is questioned, I merely switch it out with a heavier combo knife/axe that says "BSA" on it. The discussion veritably changes to, "Cool, can I see that?" To which I answer, "No, it's on my belt in a sheath where it belongs and I would need to take my belt off to show you and my pants might fall down." A small belt axe is a great tool in the woods. To outlaw it would be a real shame.



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