In an edgy decision, the BSA sets limit on knife-blade length

(Update, April 2, 2013) Please read a special message at the end of the post.

Knives. They may be the source of the most confusion within Scouting circles.

I’ve heard people tell me sheath knives are banned in Scouting (they’re not), that Scouts can only carry one knife (not true), or that blades can’t be longer than five inches (wrong again).

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 hope is that we cut down on the number of Scouts carrying blades that are longer than they are tall. That can get unwieldy,” Bourlon says. “We also heard from some Scout leaders who simply didn’t have space in their compact cars to transport a half-dozen six- or seven-foot blades to the state park every month for troop campouts.”

Bourlon says he understands some Scouts might think bringing their medieval longswords to a Scout event would be fun. “Believe me, I loved Braveheart as much as the next guy,” he says, “but we have to put safety first.”

Along those lines, Bourlon wants to remind everyone about the “blood circle” — that no-go zone any Scout with a Whittling Chip should know about. When someone’s using a knife, nobody else should come within that circle.

“But it expands the larger your blade is,” Bourlon says, “so with those seven-foot blades we were forcing Scouts to stand hundreds of feet apart.”

What’s next for the Health and Safety team? In the coming months, Bourlon hopes to officially limit the number of helmets that can be worn simultaneously to one.

April Fools!

April 2 update: As many of you guessed yesterday, the above post was an April Fools’ Day joke. Thanks to everyone for playing along and allowing me to have a little fun yesterday.

And lest anyone think there’s a Scout out there brandishing a sword, the photo above the post was doctored in Photoshop. I added the sword to an actual photo.

In truth, there still is no official blade-length restriction, but I’d encourage you to help your Scouts exercise caution when using bladed objects of any length.

The best place to start is the Whittling Chip. Consider requiring each Scout to carry one before he can use a knife while on a campout.

Photo Illustration. Original photo from Flickr: Some rights reserved by Richard Masoner / Cyclelicious

100 thoughts on “In an edgy decision, the BSA sets limit on knife-blade length

  1. You’re a regular cut up type of guy. I guess this is a continuation of the edge method. I an not real keen on the idea though. But I know you are a sharp person.

  2. I was wondering why in hell would any scout need a 5 foot blade for, until I realised that its April fools day. Nice one Bryan, 10/10 :)

  3. Bryan –

    Is there any official rule on knife types appropriate for BSA? If yes, please send. I have always wondered why BSA did not add a blade lock to the official pocket knives. Much safer for the youth (& adults who think they are youth).

    Thanks for your blogs. Keep up the great work.



  4. When I began to read I expected that our Scouts would have to give up their swords. What a relief.

    BTW don’t forget to listen to All Things Considered this afternoon. May learn more about exploding maple trees, zip codes that you can take with you when you move, etc.

    • Chuck,
      What a great idea, movable zip codes, wish we had that over hear would make snail mail so much easier

  5. Our re-enactment Venturing Crew is distressed at the explicit prohibition of “medieval longswords”. Venturers are older and usually much taller than the Boy Scouts this regulation was designed for.

  6. ok, I’m confused now??? Real or not? I’m very mystified that any scouts would ever take anything more than 3 inches or so…guess I’m too new to leadership w/in Scouting…:(

    • Definitely not real – just a fun April Fool’s joke! Check out the Guide to Safe Scouting for guidelines on what types of knives are recommended and what are prohibited.

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