5 Legal "Self Defense Weapons" in California (2022)

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5 Legal "Self Defense Weapons" in California (1)

Five legal self-defense weapons in California are:

  1. pepper spray,
  2. stun guns or tasers,
  3. certain knives (such as a pocketknife or non-switchblade folding knife),
  4. personal alarms, and
  5. certain guns (such as handguns or shotguns).

Some self-defense weapons that are illegal under California law include:

  1. weapons that are prohibited under California Penal Code 16590 PC,
  2. concealed dirks and daggers, illegal per Penal Code 21310 PC, and
  3. assault weapons, illegal per Penal Code 30605 PC.

Depending on the facts of a case, a violation of one of the above laws can lead to misdemeanor or felony charges, punishable by time in county jail or state prison.

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1. What weapons are legal in California to use in self-defense?

Some of the best self-defense weapons that are legal to use in California include:

  1. pepper spray,
  2. personal alarms (which are commonly attached to a keychain and produce extremely loud sounds when people activate them),
  3. stun guns or tasers,
  4. certain knives, and
  5. certain guns.

As to stun guns or tasers, California law allows you to purchase, possess, or carry them for lawful self-defense.1 However, you are prohibited from having one if you:

  • are a convicted felon,
  • have a prior conviction for assault or misuse of a stun gun,
  • are addicted to narcotics, or
  • are a minor under 16 years of age.2

With regards to knives, people in California can carry folding knives (other than switchblades) provided that the knives are in the folded position.3 Folding knives include:

  • pocketknives,
  • Swiss army knives,
  • box cutters, and
  • other “utility” knives.

With guns, please note that the State of California has a host of gun laws that:

  • limit the type of gun you can have,
  • restrict the things you can do with a gun, and
  • impose certain rules for storing and transporting guns.

In general, most adults 21 years of age and older can buy, own, and possess legal firearms (like handguns and shotguns).

2. Do state laws make it illegal to use some weapons in self-defense?

Certain California laws make it illegal to use some weapons in self-defense.

For example, Penal Code 16590 PC is the California statute that prohibits manufacturing, selling, possessing, and using certain deadly weapons like:

  • leaded canes or blackjacks4,
  • certain martial arts weapons like shurikens, and
  • brass knuckles.5

California law also makes it a crime for a person to possess or use certain knives and guns. Under Penal Code 21310 PC, it is a crime for a person to carry concealed dirks and daggers.6

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Further, Penal Code 30605 makes it a crime for you to possess an assault weapon.7 It is also a crime for people to have:

  • short-barreled shotguns8,
  • undetectable firearms9, and
  • zip guns.10

3. When can you legally act in self-defense in California?

Under California’s self-defense laws, it is legal for you to stand your ground and act in self-defense when you:

  1. reasonably believe to be in “imminent danger” of suffering bodily harm,
  2. reasonably believe the immediate use of force is necessary to defend against that reasonable fear of suffering bodily injury, and
  3. use no more force than reasonably necessary to defend against that danger.11

Note that you are legally justified in using deadly force in self-defense when:

  1. you reasonably believe that you, or someone else (like a family member), is in imminent danger of being killed, suffering great bodily injury, or being the victim of a forcible and atrocious crime,
  2. a reasonable person would have believed that you needed to use deadly force to prevent the danger from happening, and
  3. your use of force was not more than what was reasonably required to keep the harm from occurring.12

Note, too, that law enforcement officers can use deadly force if they believe it to be necessary. In determining if deadly force is “necessary,” courts consider not only the officer’s actions but also the victim’s actions before the deadly blow. If police officers kill unnecessarily, they can face criminal charges.

4. What is the Castle Doctrine?

The Castle Doctrine is a set of laws that applies to the situation when people use self-defense inside their own home (as opposed to outdoors or in a place of business).

Under this doctrine, there is no duty to retreat if people confront an intruder inside their home.

In addition, residents have the right to use deadly force (in self-defense) inside their homes when someone uses force to break in.13

Legal References:

  1. California Penal Code Section 22610 PC.
  2. See same.
  3. California Penal Code 17235 PC.
  4. As to blackjacks, see People v. Duncan (1945) 72 Cal.App.2nd 423.
  5. California Penal Code 16590 PC.
  6. California Penal Code 21310 PC.
  7. California Penal Code 30605 PC.
  8. California Penal Code 33215 PC.
  9. California Penal Code 24610 PC.
  10. California Penal Code 33600 PC.
  11. See CALCRIM No. 3470 – Right to Self-Defense or Defense of Another, Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instructions (2021 edition). See also People v. Humphrey (1996) 13 Cal.4th 1073.
  12. See CALCRIM No. 505 – Justifiable Homicide: Self-Defense or Defense of Another, Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instructions (2021 edition).
  13. California Penal Code 198.5 PC.

About the Author

5 Legal "Self Defense Weapons" in California (2)

Neil Shouse

A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.


5 Legal "Self Defense Weapons" in California? ›

Five legal self-defense weapons in California are:
  • pepper spray,
  • stun guns or tasers,
  • certain knives (such as a pocketknife or non-switchblade folding knife),
  • personal alarms, and.
  • certain guns (such as handguns or shotguns).
Apr 25, 2022

What is legal self-defense in California? ›

California Penal Code 198.5 PC explains that a person will be presumed to have a reasonable fear of imminent harm when someone unlawfully breaks into their home. If the person, while in their own home, uses deadly force to protect themselves and their family, it can be justified as self-defense.

What weapons can you carry in California? ›

In California, most adults can legally own long shotguns, long rifles, revolvers, conventional pistols, and conventional ammunition, subject to applicable restrictions. However, it is a crime to possess, sell, or manufacture even the legal firearms if you: Have a prior felony conviction in any jurisdiction.

What self Defence items are legal? ›

The only fully legal self-defence product at the moment is a rape alarm. These are not expensive and can be bought from most local police stations or supermarkets.

Are Kitty knuckles legal in California? ›

At first glance, they look like harmless cat or dog keychains. But as it turns out, they're actually used as a deadly self-defense weapon. Deputies say they're known as Plastic Knuckle Dusters, which fall under the umbrella of brass knuckles, which are illegal in the state of California.

What self Defence weapons are legal in California? ›

Five legal self-defense weapons in California are:
  • pepper spray,
  • stun guns or tasers,
  • certain knives (such as a pocketknife or non-switchblade folding knife),
  • personal alarms, and.
  • certain guns (such as handguns or shotguns).
Apr 25, 2022

Is pepper spray legal in CA? ›

You may purchase, possess, and use pepper spray as long as you do so only for self-defense purposes. Interestingly, in California, "use" includes not just discharging the weapon, but displaying it in a threatening manner.

Can you buy pepper balls in California? ›

Pepperballs are not legal in California per state law. Was this answer helpful?

Are brass knuckles legal in California? ›

Under Penal Code 21810 PC, it is illegal in California to make, import, sell, give, or possess metal knuckles, or brass knuckles (“BKs”). This section is a wobbler, meaning prosecutors can elect to file the charge as either a misdemeanor or a felony.

Are rubber bullets legal in California? ›

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law on Thursday that will restrict law enforcement officers' use of kinetic projectile weapons, such as rubber bullets, and chemical agents, such as tear gas.

What is the best legal weapon for self-defence? ›

Examples of the best non-lethal self-defense weapons include:
  • Pepper Spray.
  • Personal Alarms.
  • Stun Guns and Tasers.
  • Tactical Whips.
  • Steel Batons.
  • Tactical Pen.
  • Baseball Bats.
  • Emergency Whistles.
Nov 17, 2021

How can I prove self-defence? ›

When relying on self-defence, the accused would have to prove the following beyond reasonable doubt:
  1. The person genuinely believed they had to protect themselves from being assaulted or attacked;
  2. The person has only used a level of force that is reasonable for the threat or attack being used against them; and.

What is a good self-defense weapon? ›

Here are a variety of reliable pepper sprays to consider for self-defense: Sabre Lipstick Pepper Spray. Mace Police Personal Model Pepper Spray. Mace Security International Pepper Gun Distance Defense Spray.

Is Monkey Fist legal in California? ›

It is evident from a reading of the foregoing statute that the possession of a "monkey fist" is not made illegal by such act nor is a "monkey fist" commonly known as a black-jack, slungshot, billy, sand-club, sandbag or metal knuckle.

Are Blackjacks legal in California? ›

PC 22210 - Are batons and billy clubs illegal in California? California Penal Code 22210 PC makes it a crime to manufacture, import, sell, give, or possess leaded canes or batons (or other weapons in this category). The offense can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony.

Are Tactical Pens illegal in California? ›

Are tactical pens legal in California? Yep as said before, tactical gear like the black ABP Tactical Pen are completely legal in California.

Is baton legal in California? ›

California details baton laws under Penal Code 22210 which prohibit the possession of batons or leaded canes. More specifically, this law makes it a crime to: Manufacture, distribute, sell, or possess; This includes giving, importing, making, trading, lending, or sharing.

Are cane swords legal in California? ›

What is a cane sword and is it illegal in California? Penal Code 20510 is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to make, import, sell, give, or possess a cane sword. A “CS” is an object that looks like an ordinary cane but has a concealed sword inside it.

Is CA stand your ground? ›

California is largely a stand your ground state. The stand your ground defense laws generally establish a right by which a person may reasonably defend themselves or others, even to the point of applying lethal force, regardless of whether retreating from the situation might have been possible.

Is bear mace legal in California? ›

It is absolutely legal to carry pepper spray and use it to protect your personal safety without having any special state or federal permits. CA laws do regulate the size and/or weight of the defense spray products you can carry and buy. The legal container size must be equal to or below 2.5 ounces of active product.

What size pocket knife is legal to carry in California? ›

A. In the State of California, there is no maximum length for knives in general. However, the maximum legal length for a switchblade knife is 2 inches. Additionally, it is illegal to carry daggers or dirks concealed, and also illegal to carry many types of knives which are designed for concealment.

Are pocket knives legal in California? ›

This includes a “pocketknife” or “Swiss army knife,” box cutter, or “utility knife.” According to California Penal Code Section 17235, all folding knives are legal in the state and may be concealed as long as they are in the folded position. There is also no restriction on the blade length of a folding knife.

Are rubber bullets legal? ›

No laws in the US declare rubber bullets or any other less lethal self-defense tools as having any sort of protected status where you don't have to prove a reasonable threat to life and limb, or have to meet a lesser standard than you would if you used a gun loaded with lethal ammunition.

What is a Byrna gun? ›

The Byrna Launcher is an incredibly powerful and effective non-lethal self-defense weapon that can be taken virtually anywhere. Powered by compressed air (CO2), the Byrna Launcher shoots . 68 caliber round kinetic and chemical irritant projectiles that can disable a threat from up to 60-feet away. SHOP NOW.

Can I carry a non lethal gun in California? ›

You may carry either openly or concealed. Irritant powder shotgun shells are prohibited, but baton/bean bag shells are not. A less lethal weapon (defined by 16780) cannot be sold to anyone under 18 (19405), except a stun gun may be purchased by some 16 or older with written parental permission.

Are plastic knuckles legal in CA? ›

California, like many other states, has a ban on brass, plastic and composite knuckles. Brass knuckles, despite their name, aren't necessarily made of brass and are often referred to as "metal knuckles." State law prohibits both the possession and sale of brass knuckles.

Are nunchucks illegal in California? ›

Yes. Under Penal Code 22010 PC, it is illegal in California to make, import, sell, give away or even to possess nunchakus. Nunchakus are commonly referred to as “nunchuks” or “karate sticks.”

Are Kitty knuckles legal? ›

California. California imposes a strict ban on all kinds of brass knuckles, whether they are metal or plastic. This includes selling, buying, using, carrying, repairing, lending, and manufacturing.

Can I buy ammo in Nevada if I live in California? ›

See text of Prop 63 or this article for details. That means while you can buy it here, you can't bring it back into California. However, it is perfectly legal to use high capacity magazines and ammo in Nevada. California laws cannot be enforced outside of California.

Can I buy a Byrna gun in California? ›

Thus, according to Byrna, it can be purchased and possessed by anyone over the age of 18, without need of obtaining any special license or permit, without any background check, and without any necessary waiting period.

Is hollow point ammo legal in California? ›

As defined by law, certain types of ammunition are illegal to possess. Restricted ammunition includes both armor piercing and hollow point bullets, along with other weaponry. Restricted ammunition includes what legislators have deemed to be particularly dangerous.

Is kubotan legal in California? ›

Kubotans are not specificly mentioned in 12020(a) PC, therefor they are not illegal to carry. It's what you use it for that can cause a problem. If the kubotan winds up stuck in someone's eye or something drastic like that, it may be interpreted as a deadly weapon and a person might be charged accordingly.

What are legal weapons? ›

Legal Weapon means a weapon that is recognized by Applicable Law as legal to possess or use. For the purposes of this Agreement, a Legal Weapon does not include any part of the human body, such as head, fingers, hands, fists, elbows, knees, legs, feet or toes.

What is the best caliber for home defense? ›

The most common caliber for a home defense handgun is 9mm. This does mean that your gun will penetrate through walls and can possibly harm your loved ones during a home invasion. Also, many experts recommend hollow point ammo because of the power, and they are a bit safer to shoot in a home defense scenario.

What are the 5 elements of self-defense? ›

There are five inter-related elements necessary to justify use of deadly force in self-defense: Innocence, imminence, proportionality, avoidance and reasonableness. They are well illustrated here. Of these five elements, the overriding one here and in most cases is reasonableness.

Is murder in self-defence legal? ›

Yes! Self-defence is known as the Right to private defence.

Section 96 to 106 provides defences when a person can kill someone in self-defence but section 99 of IPC Clearly mentions that the right to private defense can only be available when there is a a reasonable apprehension of death or grievous hurt to the person.

What are the four elements of self-defense? ›

Four elements are required for self-defense: (1) an unprovoked attack, (2) which threatens imminent injury or death, and (3) an objectively reasonable degree of force, used in response to (4) an objectively reasonable fear of injury or death.

What is the most painful weapon? ›

The 8 most painful non-lethal weapons
  1. The non-lethal claymore. Two M5 modular crowd control munitions are mounted on the side of this M-113 armored personnel carrier in Camp Bucca, Iraq, in 2008. ...
  2. Pulsed Energy Projectile. The Pulsed Energy Projectile is a beast. ...
  3. Pain Ray. ...
  4. Plasma shield. ...
  5. Shotgun tasers.
Jan 5, 2022

Are slingshots legal in California? ›

Answer: Slingshots may only be used to take nongame birds and mammals (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 475).

Are ninja stars illegal in California? ›

1. Are shurikens or ninja stars illegal in California? Yes. Penal Code 22410 is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to make, import, sell, give, or possess a shuriken or ninja star.

Are Tomahawks legal in California? ›

Tomahawks – Not California, Colorado, or Texas

Battle tomahawks are legal to own in most states that allow a fixed blade, except Colorado.

Are Kali sticks legal? ›

They are not prohibited weapons. But it is illegal to whack someone with them, except in self defense.

Is a sap illegal in California? ›

A lot of people are keeping those in their cars in case there's some sort of trouble. If the police want, they can charge you with possession of a sap and use that Penal Code Section 22210 in order to prosecute you for a misdemeanor – you'd be looking at up to one year in the County Jail.

Are baton flashlights legal in California? ›

It is perfectly legal for anyone to carry a flashlight on their person; law enforcement agencies do not even consider a weapon. In any location where carrying a weapon is not permitted or legal, a flashlight can be carried without incident, and when necessary, it can be used for self-defense.

Is self-defense bat legal in California? ›

In the recent case of People v Baugh, decided on February 9, 2018, the First District Court of Appeal in California found that exactly such a bat constitutes a weapon and is illegal to possess under Penal Code Section 22210.

Are billy clubs legal in California? ›

A San Diego federal judge ruled on Wednesday that a California law banning possession of a baton or billy club is constitutional, noting the prohibition's longstanding nature of being on the books for more than a century.

Can you own a cannon in California? ›

California does not (but Federal law does) regulate possession of machine guns or cannons that are permanently unserviceable; however, there have been successful prosecutions for "constructive possession" where one person was alleged to have all the parts necessary to assemble a machine gun.


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