Is it Possible to Own a Sword in the UK?By Angelica Malin
If you are a history enthusiast, you probably enjoy going back to the past by reading books, watching historical movies, or visiting museums. Meanwhile, some enthusiasts would even go so far as to acquire an object reflective of a particular part of history. One example of such an object is the sword.
Swords can be considered authentic pieces of the past that played a big role in shaping the history of not just one country, but the whole world. These weapons were mostly used for warfare, rituals, and ceremonies, with their design evolving over several millennia.
However, these uses are not necessarily prominent in the present and, because of their destructive capabilities, swords are considered to be dangerous tools by most governments. This article shall focus on the legal possession and use of swords in the United Kingdom, along with the specific types of laws surrounding them.
Is it Legal to Own a Sword in the UK?
Before we jump into the nitty gritty, yes, it is legal to own a sword for yourself in the United Kingdom. However, there are specific types of swords that civilians can obtain and use, while some types are forbidden or have many restrictions on their usage.
Forbidden Swords in the UK
Here is a list of illegal swords:
- Zombie Sword – a sword whose cutting edge has serrated forms that could land lethal strikes or have clearly shown details of murderous images (for example, the word death) on them. These are also called zombie knives on occasion
- Cane Sword – a cane that resembles a walking stick which might have a hidden thin blade inside of it or sticking out from the edge of the cane
- Stealth Sword – any type of sword stick that resembles regular day items, like an umbrella. Because of this, these swords could be hidden and carried without being noticed by the public. They’re also often made out of material that cannot be detected by metal detectors
- Curved Sword – any curved blade that has an overall length larger than 19.68 in (50 cm) based on a straight line from the guard to the end of the blade
Reasons for Sword Exemptions
Although some swords are straight-out forbidden, other swords are exempted from restrictions, depending on their usage.
Here are some of the reasons to exempting sword usage:
- Used as props in movies and TV shows
- Utilized by performers in circuses and theaters
- The sword is more than a 100 years old
- Stealth swords or knives made for home use or processing, preparing, or eating food, or if they are toys
- Imported for the use of museums, galleries, and universities for exhibits and research on historical, artistic, and/or scientific interests. These swords may also be exempt from duty and VAT
- Used by HM Armed Forces on duty or during a visit
Expanded below are scenarios considered in the legality of using curved swords in the United Kingdom. This list also applies to katanas, which are Japanese curved swords.
- Was made by hand using the traditional methods of sword making
- Is only available for religious ceremonies or martial arts
- Is for use in historical reenactments or sports, like a martial arts demonstration, about which public and general populace insurance coverage are available
- Made before the year 1954
Aside from these requirements, make sure that you have the seal of approval from the swordsmiths that crafted the Samurai swords in your possession.
Illegal Actions to do with a Sword
Now that you are equipped with the knowledge of which sword type is forbidden and exempted, the manner of use should still be within legal grounds.
Here are some of the illegal actions that you should not do with a sword in the United Kingdom:
- Use in a threatening way while carrying in a public place
- Import the sword to the UK
- Sell the sword to another civilian
- Lend or rent the sword out to someone
Legal Actions to do with a Sword
Meanwhile, although owning swords has its risks, there are some legal uses for these weapons, even in public.
These are the legal actions that you can do with a sword in the United Kingdom:
- Carry it in public because of work: you will have to show a document that proves you have a valid reason to use it in your job
- Religious reasons: Sikh practitioners can carry a Kirpan knife
- National costume
However, do note that even with these legal uses, if you get stopped by the police, you might get your sword confiscated. Later, the court will decide if you can carry one or not. For this reason, we recommend contacting your local police or getting legal advice before using it in public.
Using the Sword for Self-Defense
The last recorded use of swords in the United Kingdom was during the Boxer Rebellion in China
According to UK law, you have the right to defend yourself and your property against any trespassers who forcibly enter your house. If you feel you need to defend yourself or anyone else in your home, you have the legal right to use “reasonable force”.
Reasonable force is described as using an object or weapon in the “heat of the moment” to protect yourself and your family. Also, the law doesn’t state that you need to be attacked first to be able to protect yourself.
However, like many other policies, this one may have loopholes. But, if you did defend yourself with the sword and wield it with an amount of force that you honestly thought was necessary for your safety, you could have a strong case that what you did was legal.
The Ambiguity of Sword Laws
The legal grounds for owning a sword can be quite puzzling
The law, in general, is quite difficult to comprehend, especially for the common folk. This is also observed in sword policies in the UK that were designed to be broad and ambiguous for a variety of reasons.
This ambiguity of sword laws has led to multiple occasions in 2020 where swords were confiscated by police officers without any viable reason or for reasons that were not stated in these policies.
Even today, there are instances where professional sword martial artists with complete documentation of their profession, might get their swords confiscated. These instances are motivated by the objective of the government to protect its citizens. However, awareness of these policies needs improvement, especially for law enforcers who would even confiscate a sheathed training sword or an exquisite antique sword.
What is the Penalty for Breaking the Sword Law?
Adults who unlawfully carry a sword or other weapons face a penalty of either four years in jail, an unlimited fine, or a combination of the two. If you are convicted more than once, you might face an additional term in jail on top of the original punishments.
With all that said, you can tell that the UK government acknowledges swords as dangerous weapons whose usage needs intervention and regulation by the law. For this reason, it is advised that you have a valid reason and documentation with you while carrying your sword in public. For this, you can contact your local police and ask any further questions. If you are itching for more information, we also suggest giving the law on edged weapons (found on gov.uk) a thorough read.