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What is a dirk? Stiletto?

Discussion in 'Non-Firearm Weapons' started by DCR, Mar 12, 2003.

  1. DCR

    DCR New Member

    Please edumacate me on the following; I want to erase some of my ignorance. (I know, I have a big job ahead of me :D )

    My understanding is that a dagger is a two-edged weapon, whose edges go from hilt to tip. What is a dirk then? Is it just another name for a dagger?

    And what is a stiletto? Is it an automatic, two-edged weapon whose blade comes out the hilt?

    What do you call an automatic whose blade comes out the hilt? (the kind where your fingers can remain wrapped around the whole handle while you activate the knife, as opposed to the classic "switchblade," where you have to keep your fingers clear so the blade can swing out) Are they made in both single and double-edge variants?

    An old friend had told me of an uncle who, after WWII, brought back some kind of Nazi automatic knife whose blade came out of the hilt; his recollection was that the blade came out with such force it could poke through sheet rock, and had to be closed by pushing the tip against a board. Did such a knife ever exist? Or was it a tall tale?

    Are good quality automatic knives available for purchase in the USA? I don't think I'll get one, but if I do I know to check my state law (Idaho) first.

    Thanks in advance to anyone who responds; I truly appreciate the information

  2. brownie0486

    brownie0486 New Member

    Each states dangerous weapons statutes usually include language about the dirks, daggers, stilletos, double edged knives being restricted with serious penalties if violated.

    The dictionary gives the following descriptions:

    Dirk---------" A dagger"

    Dagger-----" A short pointed weapon with sharp edges"

    Stilletto----" A small dagger with a slender, tapering blade"

    So we see that these are usually tapered; short; pointed; slender objects usually designed for stabbing/puncturing various materials/objects.

    The Fairbairn/Sykes ww2 knives would be considered such.
    If it is slender with sharp edges, tapering from the guard area to the tip and was designed mainly for puncturing objects it would generally fall under these one of these types above.

    The ww2 knife you speak of was probably the "ballistic" knife. They also had what they called a "gravity" knife where the blade would fall from the handle once a button was depressed and the handle tipped down to allow the blade to fall free and lock in the open position. To close you reveresed the process tripping the knife up and puching the button retracted [ through gravity again ] into the handle.

    Most states make these objects illegal to carry/possess in public but do not give descriptions or what constitutes such an item/object in the statute. They remain vague on purpose and leave the actual interpretation to the courts once you have been charged with violating the statute.

  3. hksw

    hksw New Member

    A "dagger" is defined as a "short knife used for stabbing--see ANLACE, DIRK, MISERICORD, PONIARD, STILLETTO." Webster's New Third Int'l Dictionary, 570 (unabridged ed 1993).

    An "anlace" is a "tapering medieval dagger." Id. at 87.
    A "dirk" is commonly understood to mean a "long straight-bladed dagger formerly carried esp. by the Scottish Highlanders." Id. at 642.
    A "misericord" is a "thin-bladed medieval dagger used to give the coup de grace." Id. at 1443.
    A "poniard" is a "dagger with a usu. slender triangular or square blade." Id. at 1763.
    A "stiletto" is a "slender dagger with a blade that is thick in proportion to its breadth." Id. at 2243.

    Thus, a dagger is generally slender, straight, and coming to a point. Its function is to stab, historically to pierce armor. Daggers come in several varieties, depending on slight variations in the shape of the blade or the hilt. A dirk is one variety, being one that is long and straight, with a blade of approximately 18 inches. See generally 6 Encyclopedia Britannica, 984 (1971); The Complete Encyclopedia of Arms and Weapons, 153-58 (Leonid Tarassuk & Claude Blair eds 1982).
  4. hso

    hso Moderator Staff Member

    brownie0486, a "ballistic" knife has a blade that leaves the handle. I think our friend is talking about a spring loaded out-the-front (OTF) commonly, and mistakenly, called a stilleto, where the blade locks into the extended position after coming straight out of the handle. These were often German or Italian.

    The very posession of a "ballistic" knife is a felony on the federal books while posession and carry OTFs, like other switchblades, are regulated on state and local level.

    As has been pointed out stilleto applies to any narrow, thick, pointy fixed blade, but it has also been applied to the Italian pick and button lock switchblades with cross guards whether they swing out or are OTF.

    Current production spring-loaded OTFs made by Microtech, Desert Knife Works, MOD are available (well, the MOD Harkins will be soon) from many sources while there are several custom makers of OTF springers.
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2003
  5. brownie0486

    brownie0486 New Member


    Ya, his comment about coming out of the hilt threw me as I thought he meant leaving the handle.

  6. hso

    hso Moderator Staff Member

    Brownie, I've seen a couple of those things and "ran" the other way every time.

    The first of the CFOs from MT had a failure to stop at the end of it's travel while the owner playing with it was sitting in the pasenger seat of a BMW 7 series going 90 mph. The blasted blade went zip ZING POING THUNK instead of zip thack and ended up under the seat of driver between his legs :what: Suffice it to say the dozen or so that had been sold at the time were quickly, and quietly, "recalled".
  7. hksw

    hksw New Member

    "As has been pointed out stilleto applies to any narrow, thick, pointy fixed blade, but it has also been applied to the Italian pick and button lock switchblades with cross guards whether they swing out or are OTF."

    Yeah, I've seen those medieval weak hand stilettoes that had 'blades' that looked (to me) like nothing more than a three sided spike.
  8. Ledbetter

    Ledbetter New Member

    Legal Disclaimer

    Your states' Penal Code probably has a definition different from Webster's or Brittanica's. If the Penal Code definition is relevant to you, better look it up for your state. In California, it's (generally) any knife sharpened on both top and bottom or of greater than 4".

    "As used in this section (Penal Code 12020), a "dirk" or "dagger" means a knife or other instrument with or without a handguard that is capable of
    ready use as a stabbing weapon that may inflict great bodily injury
    or death. A nonlocking folding knife, a folding knife that is not
    prohibited by Section 653k, or a pocketknife is capable of ready use
    as a stabbing weapon that may inflict great bodily injury or death
    only if the blade of the knife is exposed and locked into position."
  9. DCR

    DCR New Member

    Thank you all for the posts and for sharing your knowledge. I guess I was confused when, if I recall, I looked up "dirk" and it said "dagger," so I looked up "dagger" and it said "dirk," and our statute mentions both of them as if they were different things.

    I appreciate your help.

  10. Alan Smithiee

    Alan Smithiee New Member

    DCR, "switchblades" (open out the side) do seem to be legal in Idaho (I know of a LEO who carries one, as well as a couple of friends who also carry), and I have seen them for sale over the counter, I have been trying to find out wether "gravity" knives (with or without a spring) are legal or not, no one seems to be able to give me a answer.
  11. gun-fucious

    gun-fucious New Member

  12. laynlow

    laynlow New Member

    I have a Benchmade automatic model 9530. It is a nice auto, and yes it would be illegal for me to carry so I don't. Many retailers restrict the sale of automatics to active duty military or law enforcement. Just because a LEO carries a knife does not mean it is legal for us common folk. WE might cut a finger or something.
  13. brownie0486

    brownie0486 New Member


    Just because LE's carry it doesn't automatically make it legal for them either.

    In Massachusetts there are those officers who believe they can and do. They are not exempt from our statutes anymore than we are. It's an urban legend around here.

    Once I show them the statute they still carry them so what are we to do. Don't trust the fact that they carry them makes them legal for them as well.

  14. El Tejon

    El Tejon New Member

    brownie, well said. We have the same silly switchblade law here. It is widely ignored. Most coppers shrug when I point this out.:scrutiny:
  15. laynlow

    laynlow New Member


    You are correct. I did not want to be all inclusive however because in Oklahoma there is an exception in the statute for law enforcement. All LEO's in OK need is the approval of their agency for on duty use. I don't know about other states.

    Most of the LEO types I am friends with say they would not hassle someone for just an automatic knife. That would be a common sense approach, but I know there are others out there.
  16. brownie0486

    brownie0486 New Member

    Most of the cops I know would want it for themselves and take the opportunity to relieve someone of one if it were nice enough.

    In Mass., officers are required by statute to surrender the contraband confiscated to the Colonel of the state police within 30 days for disposal or suffer a 50.00 fine.

    Guess how many officers have dozens of knives and contraband in their lockers at the station that were never surrendered?:uhoh: :uhoh:

    They are not aware of the statute requiring them to do so most of the time.

  17. Al Thompson

    Al Thompson Moderator Staff Member

    Statutes can be funny things - here in Columbia city limits, locking folders are unlawful to posess. No enforcement though.

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