Last week I received a sample of the new Swiss Army issue Swiss Army Knife from Victorinox and played around with it a bit this weekend. This will be a very brief review, at least in part because there’s nothing earthshaking new here. The decision by the Swiss to upgrade to a more capable pocket knife for their troops became a bit controversial when it was put out to bid, per EU regulations, but in the end, no huge surprise, Victorinox won out (read their official release here).
Click here for higher resolution images and more photos from our brief field test (opens a new window)
Also not a great surprise, though perhaps a disappointment to some, the winning entry turned out to be simply a variation on one of their existing large frame (111mm) SAKs, the One-hand Trekker first introduced back in 2002 (as the One-hand Trailmaster, which is what it is still called in Europe). It incorporates a liner-locking 3.375” blade with a 3-inch edge. There’s also a full length saw blade, locking bottle opener with large screwdriver & wire stripper and can opener with small screwdriver. On the underside is a Phillips screwdriver and reamer. A key ring is included, but no toothpick or tweezers.
In concert with the release of the new issue SAK, they have changed the one-hand opening hole on the new lockblades to be a larger symmetrical oval, which is definitely an improvement. While they have finally come out with a non-serrated blade option for the Trekker, this knife retains the partially serrated blade. Like all Victorinox serrations, they are not very aggressive. You’ve probably seen cheap steak knives with more aggressive serrations, and they are on the forward two-thirds of the blade, which actually makes more sense than where most companies put them, at the back.
The liner lock is “backwards” in comparison to most knives. A leftie will find it natural, us righties will find is somewhat awkward to pull the liner to release the lock versus the normal pushing it to release. If this is your normal carry knife you’ll quickly adapt, so it’s not a big thing. The liner lock on the large screwdriver/cap lifter works normally.
The liner lock is also different from most such conventionally constructed locks in that it doesn’t so much lock the blade in place as prevent it from closing. The blade still has a conventional backspring that actually holds the blade open (and makes it more difficult to open). The liner lock simply prevents it from closing inadvertently. It does not have what we in the industry refer to a “solid lock-up.” There is definitely vertical play in the blade when open until the tang contacts the lock. Not so much play as to be a problem, per se, but they certainly approach this concept from a different mindset. Anyway you look at it, however, it’s a whole lot better than the non-locking blade of the standard Soldier, the issue SAK up to now (which, by the way, is being discontinued).
The plastic handles are matte finish Olive Drab with black smooth rubber inserts and edging molded in. The rubber inserts and matte finish add only a very little grippiness, but the handle is still a big ergonomic improvement over the standard Soldier.
We went out and made some feather sticks, sliced branches off and sawed down a small sapling with the ease you’d expect. While Victroinox may not use very high carbon stainless, their relatively thin blade and narrow edge geometry means they do slice well. We had to be careful making feather sticks to stay within the one-inch of plain edge. The serrated portion just doesn’t work well for this and many other tasks. It slices fine, but I’d still prefer a non-serrated blade myself. By the way, there’s also no sharp point to the blade. Not a big thing, but still a bit odd. I guess they figure the reamer will suffice for that.
The reamer is excellent, but it doesn’t lock and you had best be very careful trying to puncture heavy material or leather lest you close it on your fingers, which hurts a lot and will likely draw blood!
The saw performed ably, which is exactly what we expect from a SAK saw. They set the standard on which others are judged. The extra length compared to a standard sized SAK is a plus and the original Soldier didn’t have a saw at all. Having a saw can be a definite advantage and is second only to the knife blade in potential usefulness in the field.
All in all, I think the new issue SAK is a big improvement over the old Soldier. For myself though, I’d take a new Non-Serrated One-hand Trekker myself. In either case, you wouldn’t go far wrong for an inexpensive and reliable large pocket knife for field use.
By the way, for those traditionalists or collectors, Victroinox tells me that there will be a final run of the Soldier which has been the standard issue to the Swiss Army since 1961. There will be 5,000 with special engraving on the large blade, something on the order of “Final Production Run 1 of 5,000.” Those same traditionalist will also be happy to hear that Wenger will continue with production of their Standard Issue SAK.
And, speaking of Wenger, I have heard that they are introducing an upgraded version of their large frame Ranger line at SHOT Show this week, the RangerGrip. These will have rubber inserts like their EvoGrip and will be available in a number of configurations, including one that’s directly comparable to the new Victorinox issue SAK. Imagine that! I’m looking forward to comparing the two in a more involved field test in the very near future. Stay tuned!