Clarifying Boy Scout knife policy…

“Today, though, BSA Health and Safety team lead Richard Bourlon announced a new knife policy that changes things a bit. For the first time in the organization’s history, the BSA is mandating a maximum blade length for knives used within Scouting.

The magic number:

60 inches. The policy is effective beginning today, April 1, 2013.

So grab your tape measures, Scouters, because bladed objects used at the unit level now must be no longer than five feet. If you forget your tape measure, consider identifying a Scout who’s five feet tall, hold the blade vertically, and ask him to stand next to it.”


The above is actually an April Fools post on Scouting Magazine’s online Blog. Read the whole thing. It is fairly amusing. It is few years old, but it was brought to mind after some comments on a photo I posted to our social media feeds this morning…


Cub Scout Den Leader carry. #knives #knifestagram #knifenation #buysomepopcorn @eseeknives @leathermantools

A post shared by The Truth About Knives (@knifetruth) on


There were a couple of comments expressing the incorrect belief that fixed-blades were verboten in Scouts.


Q. What is the official BSA regulation on carrying sheath knives?
 The Boy Scout HandbookBear Handbook, and Webelos Handbook contain the program for the safe and responsible use of knives. The BSA believes choosing the right equipment for the job at hand is the best answer to the question of what specific knife should be used. We are aware that many councils or camps may have limits on the type or style of knife that should be used. The BSA neither encourages nor bans fixed-blade knives nor do we set a limit on blade length. Additional information is found in the Guide to Safe Scouting.


The BSA believes choosing the right equipment for the job at hand is the best answer to the question of
what specific knife should be used.”

Such a wonderful sentence, and policy for that matter.

Many of us remember earning (and losing corners from) our “Toten’ Chip” cards. The Cub Scouts have a corresponding knife-only “Whittlin’ Chip” which allows them to use (but not carry) knives under supervision. While I can’t say with absolute certainty, I would be surprised if there were some prohibition on adult Cub leaders carrying a fixed blade. If there is, it is beyond my Google-Fu skills to locate it.

In the case of the ESEE PR-4 which I was carrying, it serves an additional role. For those of us in East Tennessee, a Kephart-style knife is also a history lesson for the Cubs.


  1. Steve in cle says:

    Since the boy-scouts were founded as a paramilitary organization, they should carry the m9 bayonet or ka-bar knife appropriate to the desired nature of each scouts whished enlistment or commission.

  2. Dan eastland says:

    Officially they may not have a position, but in action there is a ban. I saw first hand that the Washington crossing (Pa & nj.) council specifically bands fix blades. As did every bsa camp I took my kids to. In fact my son could not use a fillet knife to fillet a fish wile getting his fishing merit badge because it was a fixed blade. This was supposedly for “safety reasons” yet bsa sells POS folding knives at the camp store that brake under the lightest use including the locking mechanism. This is one of the reasons I pulled my son out of bsa a lack of logic and strength in its leader ship.

    1. It varies regionally. I worked on Council camp staff in Ohio for 5 years and fixed blades were fine.

      My individual Troop allowed them too.

      I am with you, fixed blades are often safer. Especially over a cheap slip joint.

  3. Mitchell E Lubline says:

    Fixed blades are the safest camp tool around. Theirs no moving parts to break and usually if it’s quality like that of sog, Gerber, eese, buck, Black label or any other USA designed knives with aus 6 or better steel the children can learn how to keep a quality knife sharpener and cut fire kindling. I remember getting yelled at by a scout leader for using a bsa pocket knife safely at the Ohio outing for our troop because I was shaving wooden sticks down making tons of scrap wood shavings. He took all of my troops knives away even though most of our dad’s were their. Sadly that was when in the 5th grade I asked my dad to leave the scouts because if I had learned how to use a knife safely and still got in trouble what was the point.

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Clarifying Boy Scout knife policy…

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