You Call That a Knife?! TSA Rule Changes

a knife and a tape measureThe big news this week is TSA’s change on thier rules for what you can carry on a plane, specifically small knives.   I heard on the Pointshoarder podcast, that with the current rules, TSA had confiscated over 70 knives a day at LAX alone! I can understand why the TSA wants to get away from patrolling for small knives and focus on the more dangerous items.  The new TSA rules can be found here. This is actually a pretty useful guide as it has clear illustrations rather than the typical narrative style of military regulations.  Knives are allowed as long as the blade is no more than 2.36″ (which equals 60mm in case you were wondering why such a weird number) and no more than 1/2″ wide.  This is supposed to comply with similar European standards.  This is actually a lot smaller than you would think.  Here is a photo of my Swiss Army Knife and it would not pass the test.

The knives also cannot have locking blades, molded grips, or be a fixed blade. Note that you measure the blade from the hilt, not just the sharp edge according to my reading of the regs.   All steps in my opinion that make what you can carry on pretty useless for fighting.  Personally, I would have no hestiation fighting a guy who was holding a little pen knife.  He can cut you, but it wouldn’t be bad.  I think that anyone with even Level 1 Combatives training could take someone down if all they had was a little knife.

However, you would not guess that from all the uproar from the Flight Attendents, Federal Air Marshalls and Congress.  They all treat this like the TSA is handling out boarding passes to terrorists.  The widow of one of the 9/11 pilots was on television quoting that is only takes 3-5 seconds to break into the cockpit and 2 seconds to take control of the plane.  Really?  Has someone actually tested this in an experiment?  Those reinforced cockpit doors are that flimsy?  I don’t think so.

The rules change also allows souvenir bats (less than 24″ and 24 ounces) and some sporting equipment such as hockey sticks and golf clubs.  I have even seen people commenting that now terrorist will take over the cockpit with a nine iron.  Yeah, I would like to see someone try swinging that for effect given the cramped conditions of all the planes that I have ever been on.  Well the civilian ones anyway.  The hysteria over this is incredible and not helped by the media who are fanning the flames.

I know people do not often have a lot of confidence in TSA, but I really think they are making the right call here.  Remember when nail clippers were banned?  Can you imagine hijacking a plane with nail clippers?  We need to let the TSA focus on the kind of things that will bring down a plane such as binary liquid explosives, not pen knives.  That’s the reason for not bringing toothpaste or your bottle of Coke on a plane.  For full disclosure, I have a Sapper Tab (Google it) and know a lot of ways to make improvised explosives so am commenting with some authority.  I think that the TSA needs to spend thier energy in that type of search rather than worrying about a handy, but useless in fighting, tool.  What is your opinion?



  1. Your picture adds a question. What is considered the blade? Some would argue only the sharpened portion, reducing your measurement by about a half inch. Others will say all of blade when opened, regardless if it is sharpened or not. I agree with the new rules, but it will cause more issues for enforcement.

    1. @applezz13 – Yeah, I measured just the blade by itself (i.e. the sharp part) and it came to under the 60mm limit. I then thought this would pass, but my reading of the TSA reg says that they measure from where the blade comes out of the handle (the hilt) and therefore it does not comply. I expect that a lot of people will get caught by TSA on this one as they will think it is just the blade. Ironically, the confiscated knife count could increase in the short term by people not understanding the rules properly.


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