Texas Legalizes Bowie Knives

June 21, 2017

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Texas Legalizes Bowie Knives

Last Thursday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott legalized the open carry of knives with blades longer that five and a half inches including Bowie knives, which were specifically outlawed by the state in 1871.

The same law that outlawed Bowie knives also outlawed slingshots, sword canes and brass knuckles. It was preceded by an 1856 Texas law that doubled punishments for attempted murder with a “Bowie knife or dagger.”

The new law allows citizens to wear a Bowie knife on their hip or in a shoulder rig provided you don’t do it in “schools or education institutions or passenger transportation of a public or private school or educational institution, businesses earning more than 51 percent of their income from alcohol to be consumed on the premises and a polling place on Election Day or during early voting.” And you still can’t wear a Bowie knife at any public sporting event, within 1.000 of a correctional facility, in a hospital or nursing home, or when you go to the racetrack, church, the amusement park or the airport. You are guilty of a third degree felony if you do.

Since the closing of the American frontier in 1890, the Bowie knife has held great symbolic significance in America. During the 1950s, the golden age of Sunday rides and gas guzzlers when modern motorcycle clubs appeared, stories about Jim Bowie and his famous knife were featured in movies and on television. It is a matter of a little scholarly debate whether Bowie, or his brother Rezin (which is how the Bowie family spelled “Reason”) or someone completely anonymous to history invented America’s best known knife.

The Knife

The Bowie knife appeared during America’s most lawless age – the Age of Andrew Jackson. One persistent, tale is that Rezin gave his brother a big, new knife in 1826 after a Louisiana lawman and banker named Norris Wright shot at Bowie at point blank range. The bullet glanced off Bowie’s old knife. Bowie’s life was spared but his old knife was lost.

Bowie’s new knife got a reputation for making its owner invincible after a brawl on a sandbar near Natchez, Mississippi in 1827. After serving as a second in a bloodless duel – and some period of drinking and exchanging insults – Jim Bowie was shot in the leg, stabbed in the side and impaled with a sword cane. Mostly on account of his enormous personal courage and tremendous capacity for rage, Bowie survived. But the knife he used, which resembled a Roman gladius, got the credit.

Becoming A Hero

The Bowie brothers were slavers, land speculators and brawlers. Their father, also named Rezin, was a slaver and an entrepreneur. The Bowie brothers are widely remembered to have been friends of the pirate Jean Lafitte. After Congress banned the importation of new slaves into the United States in 1808. the Bowie brothers became regulars at Lafitte’s slave market in Galveston and smuggled their merchandise back into Louisiana and Mississippi.

The brothers were partners in the sugar business. In 1831 they sold their sugar plantation and 82 slaves for $90,000 and moved west. It seems that Mexico was looking for immigrants and 4,400-acre land grants were selling for $100 each. Jim Bowie recognized the profit opportunity. His land dealings annoyed Stephen F. Austin. He got married and told numerous lies, about his age and about how much his land was worth. He became a citizen ranger before there were Texas Rangers. He killed Wichitas and Comanches and adopted the title Colonel.

Through his land dealings he became friends with William B. Travis. He and Austin had a reconciliation when war broke out – after Austin was released from a Mexican prison. Austin made Bowie an official Colonel. Bowie and about a hundred horsemen fought off a Mexican detachment four times that size at the Battle of Concepcion “Bowie was a born leader,” a witness later wrote, “never needlessly spending a bullet or imperiling a life. His voice is still ringing in my old deaf ears as he repeatedly admonished us. ‘Keep under cover boys and reserve your fire; we haven’t a man to spare.’”

Bowie tried to resign his commission and took a leave from the new Texas army. But he returned. He was safe. He knew how to make money. But he had recently been widowed and he returned to the cause of Texas. He rode into the Alamo with 30 men on January 19, 1836. He never left. He died on March 6, it is said, “without a single bullet hole in his back.”

Jim Bowie quickly became one of the heroes in the story Texans used to tell other people to explain who they are. His big knife, along with the six shooter, became an essential element of that story. And now, for the first time in 146 years, Texans can legally wear those knives again.

“Legally.” Jim Bowie would have laughed at that.




10 Responses to “Texas Legalizes Bowie Knives”

  1. Union proud Says:

    Great info thanks

  2. david Says:

    The pigs of Texas never asked the people of Texas for permission to possess full-autos and fire them from rooftops ambush style over two years ago.

  3. Dutchboy Says:

    I make knives as a hobby. When selecting a Bowie three primary things to look for; thickness, temper, and balance. A real Bowie is made of thin springy stock. This mostly goes to weight, a heavy knife is slow and slow makes you dead. Temper is about edge holding ability. A dull knife is more dangerous to you than your foe. Good temper and quality steel allows a solid razor edge and will allow the blade to flex without bending or breaking. Good balance means the knife sits comfortably in the hand and is hard to dislodge. It also helps make the blade faster. A real Bowie has a sharpened “false edge”. In skilled hands the false edge is what does the killing. Thanks for a great article Rebel. I didn’t realize the Lone Star State had such STUPID laws. Where the hell are we? Nutered York or maybe Comrad-fornia? Hopefully they will continue removing such Draconian laws. Fair Winds

  4. TX_Biker Says:

    When I moved to Texas, I assumed the gun and knife laws would be much like the laws in Arizona. Not even close. Arizonans have much more freedom with firearms and knives. I found this strange as one would think Texas would be the poster child for the second amendment. In Arizona a business can post no gun signs all they want but their is no law to back those signs up. Not even in a bar unless said gun toting individual is drinking. In Texas just walking into a 51% bar carrying is a felony. You must also have a CHL to carry concealed or openly in Texas. No CHL is required to carry concealed or openly in AZ. Texas is not as free as I thought it would be….but then we know that all too well don’t we….

  5. Mazer Says:

    A philosophy to emulate…

    I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do. I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do. — Robert Heinlein

  6. panamaa Says:

    Ah, the things I don’t know… Great history lesson and very good article Rebel,
    thank you…

  7. Paladin Says:

    More and more States are allowing the open carrying of firearms and the permissible carrying of concealed firearms without a permit or license. Glad to see TX and other States are revising their knife laws as well.

    I doubt I’ll live to see it, but there may come a day when the pussies and the laws they enact are forced fade from this Country’s landscape.


  8. Filburt Says:

    “To the victor belongs the spoils”.

  9. R&R Says:

    Pretty much the same rules for Texas open carry firearms.


  10. ed Says:

    …and he reputedly killed another man with said knife on a sandbar in the Mississippi River in Natchez Mississippi.

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