What Self Defense Weapons are Legal in NY? Survival 101

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By Bryan Rucker •  18 min read

New York is one of the most densely populated states in the United States, with nearly 20 million residents calling it home.

What Self-Defense Weapons are Legal in NY

That being said, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it also has some of the highest crime rates in the entire nation, although not quite the worst.

New York is essentially a diehard liberal state, in just about every aspect.

Of course, what this means is that self-defense weapons often receive harsh limitations and guidelines as to what the citizens can and cannot use or own.

This in turn calls for the citizens of New York to be creative in what they can use legally.

Luckily, firearms are legal in the state of New York. However, there are quite a few requirements to do so legally.

In this article, I’ll also cover many other used self-defense weapons that are legal in New York that are much easier to own than firearms without running through the hoops of law. Let’s take a look.

Legal Self Defense Weapons in New York


Many Regulations

I sat on this question for quite a while. Trying to determine the best answer was hard. With that said, however, I’m going to make a recommendation.

New York requires a large amount of regulations to follow,  such as the amount of ammunition the weapon can hold, the length of the weapon, or what type of accessories can be attached.

Tricky Licensing Process

One of the requirements for the license is essentially their “judgement of your character.”

This essentially means that they could easily deny you a permit, simply by the way you looked at them.

I’ve looked at this online, and they will drag the licensing process out for months for absolutely no reason, in hopes that you give up.

Through my research, there are actually quite a few weapons that are legal in the state of New York.

What’s Legal?

However, each weapon has a very unique set of regulations to be strictly followed at all times.

A few of these weapons include: long rifles, pistols and shotguns. It’s also illegal to stop somewhere within the city while the weapon is on your person.

This is where I had to stop for a second to determine it’s worthiness, but the benefits that it will provide you, particularly at home, makes it all the more worth it.

Better To Have It

I’d rather have it and not need it, versus the contrary of not having it and needing it. Firearms are tricky to obtain and use legally in the state of New York.

For this reason, I nearly omitted this from the article. Despite this, it’s definitely possible to do so legally.

You’ll just need to follow the laws and regulations properly. I’m going to cover the different laws, regulations and the ‘how to’ further into the article, which will cover the basics for you.

Also, due to the sheer amount of laws and regulations in the state of New York, I recommend that you visit this Wikipedia page.

Doing so will allow you to view each requirement in the state of New York; because there is definitely a huge amount of them.



The Benefits

Carrying a knife is a very good way to defend yourself, as long as you know how to use it and how to avoid the target grabbing it from you.

I’ve carried a knife often, and it’s nice knowing that it’s there if I need it. In the state of New York, knives are, in fact, legal.

There are quite a few laws that you must follow, however. These include the types of knives, size and use, for example. Let’s cover the specifications.

The Law: Basics

The Type: This law had me particularly surprised, mostly at the sheer amount of what isn’t legal.

Fortunately for us, I’ve found a few that are. These include stilettos, hunting knives and gravity knives, to name a few.

The Size: This is where the determining factor between jail and freedom comes into the picture.

New York is extremely hard on this law, so make sure you follow it. Their maximum length of the blade comes in at a whopping 4” long.

My Recommendations

Is it enough to do damage? Yes, but it’s not the most appealing size, that’s for sure.

I was surprised when I looked a little deeper into the ‘fine print’ of the knife laws. You should know that many knives are unable to be legally used in ‘self-defense’ within the city limits of NYC, one of those being the gravity knife.

A knife size and type that I’d recommend would be a hunting knife with a blade no longer than 4” (per New York restrictions) that has no capability to fold. Check here for an in-depth review of many great knives!

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Sketchy Wording

In many places, wearing them with the intent of ‘self-defense’ against another human is illegal.

This just means that you’ll want to be a little creative as to what your “real” use of the weapon is actually for.

If you’d like more information about what’s legal and what’s not, then please visit the AKTI website for a more detailed look.

Check out this article written by one of our survival professionals for a few great in-depth reviews of great knives, many which are legal in New York.

Pepper Spray

Pepper Spray

Is It Worthy To Carry?

I carry pepper spray on my person and regularly recommend it to friends and family. It’s one of the most veritable self defense weapons, in my opinion.

I say this because it can be kept just about everywhere; not to mention it’s small, compact and packs a punch.

With pepper spray, you essentially spray a substance into the target’s eyes, leaving them nearly blinded and in severe pain for minutes, which is enough time to flee and get help.

Is Pepper Spray legal in NYC?

The legality of pepper spray in New York is pretty simple. If it’s labeled as a self-defense item, it’s legal. It must be pocket-sized, though, and purchased only within the state of New York.

It must also have a number somewhere on the bottle that returns the caller back to a self-defense course.

To read more about these laws, visit the Legal Beagle. If you think purchasing one may benefit you, check out this in-depth review of Devil Juice Pepper Spray.

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Tactical Pen

Strike pen review

Many Uses

This is definitely one of the favorites of mine on this list. For one reason, they’re extremely low profile.

This means that you’ll unlikely grab any unwanted attention in public with it, particularly if it’s visible to those around you.

Another reason I love them is due to their wide spectrum of use. Oftentimes, they have the ability to write, crack open cans, break glass and provide all types of other uses.

They Inflict Serious Damage

They’re a bit bigger than regular pens, but not by much. Nonetheless, tactical pens can, if you allow it, inflict serious damage; essentially as dangerous as you’d need.

It should be noted that it could be snatched from you during a hand-to-hand fight.

You’ll just have to make sure that when it’s time to use it, you hit them on the first throw.

We’ve already taken it upon ourselves to review the Strike Pen, which is honestly a great pick for most situations. They’re perfectly legal in New York too, according to their federal websites.

Baseball Bat

Baseball Bat

Zero Regulations

I know, a baseball bat? Surprisingly, I think it’s a good recommendation. Particularly for home defense; although it could be used as defense while in your vehicle too.

I wanted to add something that could inflict severe damage, yet something that was also legally owned and obtained without any licenses or laws to jump through.

Adequate Protection

Baseball bats can inflict deadly damage, as long as you use them right. You could practice outside first, but to say it would leave the target in pain is an understatement.

A single tap to the head and he’s down for the count. Yes, I know it’s not versatile in the sense of a casual self defense weapon to carry down the sidewalk; that wouldn’t be a good idea, obviously.

But if you want something easily obtainable and damage inflicting, a baseball bat is a good way to go.

They’re perfectly legal, as long as you don’t attach any crazy accessories to it like spikes or anything. (Do not put spikes on your baseball bat!)

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Honorable Mentions

Martial Arts

Weapons Only Get You So Far

Weapons are a great way to protect yourself, but they can only get you so far. You may also find yourself unable to carry such a weapon on your person at some point.

Due to the extreme weapon restrictions of New York, I’ve decided to mention Martial Arts. These can include anything from Boxing, MMA, Taekwondo, Karate or Judo to name a few.

Think Longterm 

Many of these Martial Arts not only teach you how to disable your target but also teach you how to safely grab a weapon such as a gun or knife away from your opponent without injuring yourself.

This is especially useful up close of course, but it’s a skill that once learned, will stick with you for many years.

Frequently asked Questions

How Do I Obtain A Firearm License in New York?

The First Step

Firearm licenses are definitely obtainable in the state of New York; but don’t think it’ll be an easy process.

First you’ll need to contact your local sheriff’s office; they’ll be able to either start the application process or tell you where to go to do so, such as the court clerk office.

The Annoying Part

The fees are roughly $400 to apply. You’ll need lots of legal documents too, including your birth certificate, state I.D, proof of citizenship and many others.

Keep in mind, pistols are only allowed concealed permits. Once you’ve applied, expect to wait 4 months before you are given the license.

During this wait however, you’ll likely be required to do an interview to assess your cognitive and character health.

The Detailed Information

It’s not that complicated, just a few simple questions to determine your reasons, for example.

This process is very similar for long arm rifles and shotguns. Check the New York’s .gov website out for more detailed information regarding firearm licenses.

Are There Any Requirements To Own A Firearm in New York?

Background Check

Firearms definitely have quite a few requirements that must be met in any state, especially New York. In order to apply, you first need to pass a background check.

If you have a felony, or any violent crimes on your record, you’ll immediately be disqualified.

After this process, you’ll be required to do an interview with the state to determine your mental health and reasons for wanting a firearm.

Fingerprints & Age + Character

They have the discretion to disqualify you for mannerisms even, so make sure you’re presentable and well-characterized during the interview.

Fingerprints are another requirement that must be met before licensing approval. Keep in mind, you’ll need to be at least 21 years of age to be eligible for a license in New York. It’s not terribly difficult, but it definitely takes time; so be patient.

Which Weapon Would Be Best For Me?

Determining What’s Best

In order to answer the question properly, you must ask yourself what you’re using it for exactly.

Firearms are obviously the most reliable in terms of protection, but are limited in use in New York.

If you want something that provides the most protective result, yet comes with a slew of restrictions (such as the requirement to have firearms unloaded during city travel) then Firearms are a great choice.

There are still plenty of other useful scenarios for firearms in New York.

Less Regulated Self Defense Weapons

Baseball bats provide brute force deviation if used properly, but are not versatile. Pepper spray is extremely versatile, yet mainly induces main and very temporary disability.

Strike pens provide excellent protection and are very well hidden, even on plain sight.

Knives however, inflict nearly as much deadly force as firearms, but require essentially hand to hand combat, and you risk it being snatched away from you.

They each have their own pros and cons, which is why we recommend having one for each situation. Firearms for long range, and the handhelds for short range (and much less regulations!).

What guns are legal in NY?

A lot of guns are legal in New York State which are not legal in other States across the USA. In New York you can own or possess a long gun, including shotguns and rifles, without requiring a permit or a license.

It is also possible to own a pistol in New York State, but to be able to carry this type of gun you will have to obtain a permit for the weapon in order to own it legally. The main reason behind you needing a permit to carry a pistol, but not a rifle or shotgun, is because of concealment.

It is easy to conceal a pistol and for others to not know that you are carrying it, but this is almost impossible with a long gun which explains the difference in laws between the two types of firearm. But note, laws differ for New York City.

Are brass knuckles illegal in NY State?

Yes, brass knuckles are illegal in New York State. This includes both metal and plastic brass knuckles, so if you are seen possessing or wearing them anywhere across New York State then you could face prosecution.

Brass knuckles are a ‘self-defense’ weapon that fits to your hand. The device comes with holes for you to slot your fingers through and a metal or plastic bar that then covers your knuckles to create more of an impact should your fist come into contact with anybody or anything.

Traditionally, these weapons were constructed using brass, hence their name, however over time they have evolved, and they are now made with a variety of different metals and plastics. Brass knuckles can be bought, and they can also be made, but if you are found possessing any then you could face legal consequences.

Are collapsible batons legal in NY?

No. Batons are illegal in New York.

Can I shoot a pistol in NY without a permit?

No, in order to shoot a pistol or possess a pistol, anywhere in New York State, you will need to obtain a permit for that firearm.

While you do not need to have a permit in order to own or shoot a long gun, smaller guns, like pistols, do require a permit under NY law due to the element of concealment that they offer.

While there is nothing stopping you from shooting a pistol without a permit in New York State, if you are caught shooting it, or simply caught holding that gun you could get in trouble.

If you were caught possessing a pistol by an official then they will likely request that you bring forward the permit for such a weapon, if you do not have one then you could find yourself caught up in some legal trouble.

Can I open carry a long gun in NY?

The laws surrounding open carrying in New York are a bit blurry. It is clearly illegal to openly carry a handgun anywhere in New York State, but there does not appear to be any legal restriction that would prevent you from open carrying your long gun in New York.

Unlike handguns, under NY Law you do not need a permit in order to own, possess, carry, or shoot a long gun.

Mainly due to the fact that long guns cannot be easily concealed, while handguns can. So while the laws surrounding the open carry of guns in NY seem to be blurry, it appears that you will require a permit in order to carry a concealed handgun in public, but there doesn’t seem to be anything preventing you from open carrying your long gun in this State of America.

Can you own an AR15 in New York State?

Just like the laws surrounding open carrying in New York, the laws surrounding assault rifles are very unclear. There is a list of weapons that are banned in New York State, and the AR15 (just like many other ArmaLite Rifles) does not appear on this list, but does this mean that they are legal?

An AR is named after the company that first designed the platform, and they are a type of assault rifles that have a selective fire option. These are commonly available in many US states, but New York is among the few that are more restrictive to their gun availability.

While the AR-15 is not necessarily banned by name, only certain variants are legal under the SAFE Act (2013). Guns that fall under the SAFE act purchased before January 15, 2013, and were registered with state police before April 15, 2014, are legal to own in New York.

So, if you have owned and had your AR-15 registered before this date, then your gun is technically legal. However, newer AR-15s than this are not available to civilians of New York State.

Is NY a stand your ground State?

Stand your ground laws differ all across America with different States implementing different laws and regulations. In New York, you have the right to protect yourself and your home and can do this through the use of self-defense.

When it comes to self-defense, a lot of people are reliant on weapons and firearms but are you allowed to use them to protect yourself and your property in NY?

Yes, you can as NY has laws which state that a person can use ‘deadly physical force’ upon another individual if they believe that that individual has the potential to do something that could cause deadly physical harm to themselves.

This means that in New York you are allowed to use physical force to protect yourself and your home, rather than your first mode of defense being retreat as it is in some other States.

How many rounds can you carry in NY?

Every State has a restriction on the amount of rounds that you can carry for your firearm at any one time. In NY this limit stands at 7 rounds.

So when you are out in public with your firearm anywhere in New York State it is illegal to carry a magazine that contains more than 7 bullets inside of it. However, there are some exemptions to this rule.

For example, if you are at a shooting range or at a competition that is recognized by the National Rifle Association then the number of bullets that you can carry in a magazine is 10 instead of 7.

On your own land, you are able to carry more rounds than this, but ensure that you are definitely on your land at all times and that you do not stray onto public property.

Can I open carry on my property in NY?

On your own land you can open carry your gun, however you will still be bound by State laws.

This means that you can open carry your long gun without requiring a permit or license for the weapon, but if you want to open carry a pistol or handgun you will need to obtain a permit for that firearm.

However, you need a permit to legally own a handgun in New York State, so if you own a handgun the chances are that you will already have a permit. If you are able to produce this permit when requested then you are allowed to open carry your handgun in your own property in NY.

If you own a long gun then you will not need a permit to be able to open carry on your property as you do not need a permit to own a long gun in New York State.


When looking at the different weapon laws in New York, I consider myself lucky to have such relaxed laws here in the southern part of the United States.

New York has some of the strictest weapon laws in the country, but it’s definitely possible to acquire a few useful items.

Items that would inflict enough damage to a life threatening individual, to make them rethink their entire life and every decision they’ve ever made. As long as you follow the state laws and regulations, you’ll be just fine.

You don’t ‘always’ need a bazooka to defend yourself, so these weapons will likely be satisfactory for most any dangerous scenario you find yourself in.

Bryan Rucker

Brian Rucker has spent his entire life participating in essentially all things wildlife. His concern grew astronomically during the previous tensions between the United States and other nations. He also has grown a substantial interest in survival and sustainability due to the current shape of the world over the years. He believes that preparation triumphs all things.