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Saber = illegal knuck in CA?

Jun 24, 2013
It might sound silly but hear me out.

I own 3 historical sabers. One has a brass D guard and the other two steel basket guards.

My fear is that those guards could make the sabers illegal under California law.

The law prohibits the carrying (not that I'll ever do that) and even the possession of knuckle dusters.
It's very vague when defining what classifies as such. Something along the line that it was made for and increases the power of a punch. There's no denying that design, training and actual use of sword guards include punching, though it's a very secondary function in my opinion.

Also some modern makers go to great lengths to avoid D guards in California. Busse offers some knives with actual D guards and then the same model in a "California legal" version. Some users are even afraid of owning a Karambit which only has one ring around one finger.
On the other hand even a guard less handle makes a punch stronger and companies like Cold Steel sell fully functional sabers with guards to Ca.

What are your thoughts? Are some makers and users over reacting / erring on the side of caution or are they completely justified?
Could their legal worries apply to historical sabers with guards?
If so, what is the best course of action?
Nailing them to a wall?
Keep them dissassembled?
Register them somewhere?

Thank you for your help with this. :)

As a side, for HEMA practice we use plastic sabers which also include substantial integral D guards. Are they a dicey thing?
Mar 20, 2016
If you were concerned about their legality, I would try to contact your local police department and ask for their opinion. They would know more about the law (especially when it comes to respective enforcement) than an average civilian.


Gold Member
Jun 29, 1999
Sep 24, 2002
If you said that you were considering buying them I would advise against it, but since you already own them I wouldn't consider getting rid of them. Although, I do believe that any prosecutor would regard the hand guards as "metal knuckles", and prosecute accordingly.

I often advise people- "When it comes to your freedom, always go the extra mile to stay out of jail. Never assume the people who work in the criminal justice system will look upon you favorably, or that they will interpret the law, or perceive your possessions, in a way that is favorable to you".

When it comes to prosecutors, they are always looking to make convictions. And weapons convictions are highly desirable.

But like I said, you already own them, and before a prosecutor can get the chance to try and convict you, a cop would first have to discover the sabers. So this begs the question- what are the chances that law enforcement personnel will ever discover them?

My advice is to keep them out of sight, and don't transport them in your car. You never know when or why the police will have a reason to enter your home. Like if you call them to report a crime (like if your home is broken into/burglarized), or if you witness a crime and they come to your home to interview you, or any number of other reasons. They may not have justification to search your home, but if you have the sabres hanging on your living room wall, or in a display case, they might see them, and they might arrest you.

If someone gave me, let's say, a WW2 knuckle knife, like the kind Lee Marvin had in the movie The Big Red One, I wouldn't turn it over to the cops, or cut the guard off, and I wouldn't get rid of it, I would just keep it private and completely out of sight.

As far as California and "metal knuckles", in a thread somewhere in this sub-forum I posted a few different case laws on the subject. In one case, a guy was arrested and charged with possession of metal knuckles because he was wearing a three finger ring on his middle, ring, and pinky finger. The ring was just "bling", and he had not used it as a weapon, and based on it's description it didn't sound like it could possibly be used as any kind of weapon, but he was convicted, and his conviction was upheld on appeal.

In another case, the police found a set of metal knuckles in a mans home during a search, and he was arrested, charged, convicted, and the conviction was upheld.

I think if a guy could be arrested, convicted, and the conviction upheld, when all he had was a three finger ring, then I have to believe that a prosecutor would consider a D-guard on a sword to be a deadly weapon, and qualify as "metal knuckles".

But this is all just my opinion, based on my experience in the California criminal justice system, and my reading of case law. Perhaps the best advice might come from a paid attorney.
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Jun 24, 2013
Thank you Killgar. Odds are low to be on the police radar. Though you never know. Once they were so nice to drive me home after a car hit my bicycle. :)
I also don't plan to ever carry a saber in public. But once a week there are training sabers in a friends car on a way to a gym and while they have no edge and no point could still be interpreted as knucks. Afterall even the 3 finger ring which you mentioned which sounds more hurtful to the wearer was defined as knuck :-O

Anyways, a lawyer seems to be the best course as have you suggested. But even then it's no guarantee unless he knows of a courtcase involving similar circumstances, I doubt there is any and the law itself is too vague.

It's kind of sad that there are citizens who want to do everything legal but can never be sure they are, unless there's a full fledged court case and on top of that involving the risk of jail time.

Would be cool if one could send some pictures to a judicial institution and maybe even for a hefty fee they'd say this is guaranteed legal and this is not. Then if one gets arrested or even into a hearing one could refer to that and be done with that without paying judges and lawyers and more importantly without risking imprisonment.

Why make it so hard for citizens to understand and be 100% sure about how a law applies to a particular case or object?
Jun 29, 2005
guards on sabers are there for hand protection not punching regardless of modern training.of course the police might decide to let the judge decide.


Gold Member
Dec 4, 2015
If you were concerned about their legality, I would try to contact your local police department and ask for their opinion.

You'd be surprised how little police officers actually know about knife laws.