Before we discuss the law relating to knives in Texas I think it is important to break the knife down into its components. A lot of the information below comes from AKTI’s website. I would encourage you to take a look at their website (AKTI.org) as it is packed with good information. AKTI is the NRA for knives (at least that’s my opinion.) They do a lot of legislative work and represent manufacturers as well as individual knife owners. You can see definitions at
http://akti.org/PDFS/AKTIDefinitions.pdf. There is also a good component definition list at this link http://www.allaboutpocketknives.com/research/knife_definitions.php The last link has links you can click on with diagrams.
For this article I am going to keep it to the relevant definitions and components that affect our carry rights on a day to day basis. What is the blade and how do you measure it? I will start with the venerable pocket knife. For this I refer to a blade that folds into the handle. Think about your buck knife. The handle comes in many shapes and sizes as well as a myriad of materials. You can grab the blade and pull it out of the handle on some folders. Others have a thumb stud on the blade to extend the blade. The designs are almost limitless.
The focus here is on the blade.
The above picture is from allaboutpocketknives.com (the link is supplied above.) Most people think of the blade as the piece of metal that is attached to the handle of the knife but there is definitely more to it. On a fixed blade this diagram would differ a bit but let’s keep this to folders. There are parts of the blade that attach to the handle/grip. There are parts that assist in opening. There are many shapes based on the design parameters. Then there is a the cutting surface (the sharpened part of the blade.) For this I believe the most important section other than the sharpened edge is the Tang. The tang is the portion of the blade that extends from where the blade attaches to the handle to the start of the sharpened edge. The reason for all of this is it is important to where you start measuring blade length.
For blade measurements we need to look at where the handle ends and the blade (don’t forget tang) begins. First lets take a look at how different handle shapes can confuse blade measurement.
The first picture is of a Cold Steel knife. The second is a Buck. The third is a KaBar. The Cold Steel has a pretty flat area where the handle ends and the blade begins (don’t forget that the tang extends further down into the handle. The Buck in the second picture has a pointed area at the end of the handle. The KaBar’s have a slanted handle/grip end.
SO WHERE DO YOU MEASURE BLADE LENGTH FROM IN TEXAS? What happens when you get stopped and an officer takes a look at the knife you are carrying and tries to measure the blade. The Buck and KaBar may be 5 ½ inches and legal from the pointed part (Buck) or bottom (KaBar) but not from the recessed part.
What about the Cold Steel and the Buck. The sharp part of the blade is shorter than the entire blade. The sharp part ends before you even get to the part of the handle that protrudes the most.
We are left with two questions that both ask: WHERE AND HOW DO YOU MEASURE BLADE LENGTH?
In an unpublished appeal out of Dallas (Perez v. State 1999 WL 521705) the court made reference to the tang of the blade. They said: "We use the more specific term "tang" in addressing the unsharpened portion of the knife blade that attaches to the handle." Addison police arrested the defendant for having a blade over 5 ½ inches. The sharpened part of the blade measured 5 ½ inches and the tang measured ½ an inch. The trial court found that the blade length was more that 5 1/2 inches making it illegal. The court relied on Tx Penal Code section 46.01. The appellate court went on to say: "Texas, however, does not limit an illegal knife blade to the sharpened portion of the blade. Any ordinary person exercising common sense would be on notice that a blade includes that portion of a knife between the handle and the sharpened portion of the blade."
In McMurrough v. State (995 S.W.2d 944) the court talked about how to measure the blade length:
""Blade" is defined as "[t]he flat-edged cutting part of a sharpened tool or weapon." the American Heritage Dictionary 185 (2d ed.1985). The common meaning merely distinguishes the cutting part of a knife from the handle. See Rainer v. State. Therefore, a "blade," as used in section 46.01(6)(A), is the flat-edged part of the knife, which includes the sharpened part of the instrument and any remaining flat-edged part up to, but not including, the handle."
Now that we know where to measure there are still some unanswered questions. The Cold Steel measurement is simple but what about the Buck and the KaBar. Well I would err on the side of caution and measure to the point that makes the blade the longest. If the longest mesurement is 5 1/2 or less you should be fine. If not I would not carry it.