Wenger Standard Issue

Concept: 3 out of 5
Execution: 3 out of 5
Yeah, but: One of the best.

The Long Version: In this era of mil-spec spec-ops mall-ninja tacticool aspirational garbage it's easy to forget that the title "Swiss Army Knife" is not yet another example of marketing's language abuses. Victorinox and Wenger do actually make military-issue hardware, both historically and currently. This review is of the Wenger Standard Issue, which is the smaller Alox knife in the photo above; the other knife will have to wait a little bit for its companion review.

The Standard Issue is a 93mm metal-handled knife with a large blade, in-line awl, can opener, and bottle opener. That's remarkably like the Victorinox Pioneer, and for a very good reason. The knives issued by the Swiss Army were all made to the same specifications, despite being supplied by different companies. So the 1961 Soldier knives, and their 'civilian' variants, are all built on the 93mm Alox platform pioneered by the Pioneer. It's a rugged and versatile tool set in a minimalist work knife, so it makes perfect sense that it was in service for some thirty-five years.

Setting aside the manufacturer and its historical legacy, the only difference between the Victorinox Electrician (that I reviewed last January) and the Wenger Standard Issue is the bail on one end and the can opener on the other. And even though this is a Wenger knife, the can opener is the cuts-forward Victorinox style with the small screwdriver tip, not the sharpened hook that typifies most Wenger knives.

The 93mm Alox is my favourite style of SAK for medium-duty work tasks, being solidly built without being too large or heavy for just-in-case pocket carry. The bail on the Standard Issue makes it easy to retrieve from a watch pocket or to clip to things, and provides an immediate cue to the orientation of the knife as it's drawn, with the only downside of needing a bit more care when closing the blade.

One other distinction that marks the Soldier knives is a date stamp on the tang of the blade. Mine is marked 99, making it more than a dozen years old, and it has had at least a few years of solid use before being put away to languish in a drawer. It was rescued by a friend of mine who gave it to me, and after just a bit of work it's as smooth and sharp as my newer knives. I don't hesitate to use it for difficult tasks, carry it often, and sharpen it as needed, yet I'm sure it has another good dozen or more years to it. As nice as a new Swiss Army Knife is, old ones can be better.

last updated 31 jan 2014


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