A lot of the time, when I enter USA by car from Canada, I am asked if I have any weapons.

Sometimes I have a hatchet or a 5" blade for when I go camping.

Should I answer Yes or No to the question "Do you have any weapons?" at the USA border crossing?

I don't think this question is similar to questions about entering other countries, such as UK with ice axes, as they are different countries with different policies.

  • 1
    Possible duplicate of Do I need to declare ice axes at customs?
    – Freiheit
    Mar 2, 2018 at 20:34
  • 2
    This seems to come up a lot with ice axes. Review: travel.stackexchange.com/search?q=ice+axe
    – Freiheit
    Mar 2, 2018 at 20:35
  • 7
    That's not a Border Patrol officer, it's a Customs and Border Protection officer.
    – phoog
    Mar 2, 2018 at 22:43
  • 5
    @Freiheit A question about bringing a hatchet into the USA isn't a duplicate of a question about bringing ice-axes into Norway. Mar 3, 2018 at 23:40
  • 1
    @DavidRicherby of course there will be differences but the general advice is consistent. Over-declare and articulate that it's camping or hiking or climbing tools
    – Freiheit
    Mar 4, 2018 at 2:21

3 Answers 3


It is never wrong to answer "I'm going camping, I have a hatchet" or "I'm going camping, I have a 5" folding knife" rather than just "yes" or "no" when you are asked a question like that verbally, by a person at your car window.

If you are filling out a form, you can check Yes and write under that what it is. I do this all the time with the Food question, writing "Candy" if that's what I have, for example. No border guard has ever complained. I think they actually like it because it saves them a step.

If you are using a computer terminal and have no opportunity for freeform answers, then in case of doubt, say yes, take the time hit, and let them establish that it's not a problem. As a bonus, when your secondary inspection is complete, you can ask them what to check for that item next time.

Here's one way to look at it: if you say Yes when No was the correct answer, you will spend perhaps one minute extra when someone says "what is this weapon you say you have" "a hatchet, I'm going camping" "oh dude, that's not a weapon, do you have like a gun?" "no" "ok, have a nice day" or possibly an extra 20 minutes waiting in a line and getting asked 5 or 6 questions before they agree a hatchet isn't a weapon. But if you say No when Yes was the correct answer, and for some reason they search you and find the hatchet, you could be denied entry -- and possibly not just on this trip but for a year or more, since you "lied to a border office" or "lied on your form". You could in theory be arrested for smuggling. These are unlikely, but they are so much worse than a little extra time at the border crossing saying Yes to something they don't actually think is a weapon. There is no penalty for being over cautious, but there's a huge one for trying to hide something.

  • 6
    This is a good answer. I'll often answer similar questions with "No, but I do have xxx". Sometimes they'll ask me a followup question or two about it but it's always been fine. If in doubt, declare. Mar 2, 2018 at 19:20
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    I disagree, @emory. I wouldn't give a speech, but restricting yourself to just Yes and No is adversarial. The OP wants to co-operate and reveal the camping equipment if it counts as a weapon. A single sentence is an appropriate answer. Mar 3, 2018 at 3:18
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    @eggyal The charge wouldn't be lying because over-declaring would not be material. The definition of making false statements requires materiality; over-declaring would not have a material consequence of allowing a prohibited weapon from being imported, it would have the immaterial consequence of the agent having to ask more questions. In any case, you can answer "I don't know if it's a weapon, I have a...".
    – user71659
    Mar 3, 2018 at 17:32
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    @emory Except you are already talking to them. Your stuff is talking to them. Your advice only fits if you import nothing. Otherwise it risks serious trouble if they feel there's a discrepancy between what you say and what your stuff says, and silence is guilt. So no, "the right to remain silent" does not exist for an importer of anything. Mar 3, 2018 at 21:00
  • 26
    @emory your advice is common and WRONG. I know someone who was denied entry for no other reason than he just answered "yes" or "no" to questions, volunteered nothing, wasn't co-operating, they decided he was hiding something (which he wasn't.) Wherever your lack of trust came from, your advice will not spare others from a bad fate. Mar 3, 2018 at 21:17

If you are ever in doubt that you might have something that you need to declare, DECLARE, and let the Border Agents sort out what is or is not allowed.

You might get patted down a little more, but if you don't declare, and they find something that is a weapon, you could be in serious trouble (charges and/or fines).

Just like @KateGregory said, if they verbally ask you something, just say "I have a hatchet in my camping supplies, does that count?" in a controlled tone of voice. CBP does not like it if they believe a person is being rude/sarcastic.

If you have a written declaration, check "yes" and let them sort it out. You cannot get in trouble for over-declaring

  • 2
    Or rather, you can get in trouble for overdeclaring, but that pales in comparison to the trouble from underdeclaring. I remember that I was asked if I had an scissors or knives. After wincing a bit, I pulled out my Gerber traveler's multitool, and said, "This is a multitool designed to be openly taken through airport security, and [hand shuffle] this is a tiny pair of scissors that were part of the multitool." Mar 4, 2018 at 23:33
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    She did find it necessary to momentarily keep the multitool. However, she did not seem to react as negative or disturbed about having a tool in my possession, and she still continued, but she did not seem particularly worried that the multitool branded me as a live threat. She was just doing her job, and apparently the "no scissors" rule said nothing "No scissors unless blade length is below XYZ." Mar 4, 2018 at 23:42

To be clear, your hatchet is not a weapon. It could be used to inflict harm, but it is not designed as, nor do you intend to use it as, a weapon.

Therefore, answer the question properly. Answer "no" but mention that you do have items that could be used as a weapon, such as your hatchet.

Officer: Do you have a weapon?

ScottF: No, but I do have a hatchet for my camping trip.

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