Victorinox vs. Wenger Showdown

Oct 15, 2000
A short while back, someone in here suggested that we weren't being completely fair to one or the other of these SAK companies because we didn't evaluate them side by side, model to model.

I decided to do this showdown of sorts for my own benefit and share my findings with you. I went yesterday afternoon and purchased two SAK's, the "Standard Issue" by Wenger and the "Soldier" by Victorinox. These are each company's version of the official issue Swiss military (milspec) pocket knives.

I usually inspect knives very carefully before I buy, but the Wenger was only available in a blister pack which precluded my ability to inspect it. Therefore, I bought the Victorinox off the shelf without preinspection. You have no idea how much that pained me.

Knife details:

1. 91 mm Aluminum checkered bolsters with
Swiss Army Logo,
2. Nickle plated brass pins,
3. Stout 2.5" main blade (thicker than the
celluloid handle SAK models have),
4. Combo large screwdriver / bottle opener /
5. Combo small screwdriver / canopener
(canopener is the Victorinox design on
both knives - as per Swiss milspec),
6. Awl / reamer.

Readily Apparent Knife Differences:

1. Wenger model uses a hollow rivet on the
awl / large screwdriver end to accomodate
a bail.
2. Liners - The Wenger appears to be brass
with an aluminum spacer, the Victorinox
appears to be aluminum. (I found that
Victorinox says the spacers and liners
are hardened aluminum.)
3. Main blade width - The Victorinox model
is slightly thicker.

Price Point:

Wenger - $19.98 retail
Victorinox - $17.99 retail

Initial Impressions:

Fit - The Victorinox opens and closes with a very authoritative snap. No blade play in any position with any of the tools. The Wenger seems to have weaker springs, it doesn't have anywhere near the snap of the Vic. The Wenger also has some blade play in the awl / reamer. The play in the Wenger's awl blade is close to being excessive.
Grades: Victorinox A Wenger C

Finish - Both models use mirror polished tools and brushed finished aluminum bolsters. The Wenger tools seem "cloudy" to me, but I'm relatively certain that this is due to the use of different steels. The main blade edge of the Victorinox was evenly ground and shaving sharp out of the box. The Wenger model main blade hard an uneven grind and was not sharp enough to shave hair.
What really surprised me was that it took two full cycles on a Sharpmaker 204 and a quick leather stropping to bring up the edge on the Wenger to a desireable level of sharpness.
Grades: Victorinox A Wenger C

Over the next few days to a week, I will equally divide all of my non-emergency cutting chores between these two knives. When completed, I will edit this post and report my findings.

UPDATE #1 - Discovery - The Wenger model has an unanticipated problem. Not being careful on closing the main blade, the bail folded over, prohibiting it's closing. The impact of the blade closing on the bail caused a chip in the blade which took a great deal of time and effort to reduce and resharpen. This didn't become a problem until my gf's nephew picked up the knife and did the same thing, causing another chip. Back to the Sharpmaker it goes. The test will begin tomorrow, after I remove the bail.

Lined up for cutting; I have some old manila backed carpet, cardboard, hardwood dowels, and some webbing (seatbelt) material for now. More to follow.

UPDATE #2 - Cardboard Cutting & Awl Performance:

The Wenger made 73 slices of cardboard before losing it's razor edge. The Victorinox made 91. Both knives were returned to the Sharpmaker for touch up. Again, it took some extra time to bring the Wenger back.
Grades: Victorinox A Wenger C

I next used the sharp edge of the awl to shave a magnesium block fire starter. Both knives performed this test equally well. The only difference noted is that the Wenger started this test with some blade play. That blade play increased to the point of causing blade rub on the folded main blade. Both knives were easily able to scrape a shower of sparks from the sparking insert of the magnesium block.

I found that the Wenger's awl was easier to penetrate thick leather with. It's design and grind seems to make it a better penetrator on soft materials. The Victorinox was easier to penetrate the thick side of a tin coffee can (to make a solid fuel hobo stove.)
Grades: Victorinox B Wenger B

Update 3: Carpet and Dowl Cutting

Both knives didn't tolerate the heavy manila backed carpet that I used. The carpet was an old piece that had been trampled on, so I'm sure that there was a fair amount of dirt and grit embedded in it that I couldn't shake out. The Victorinox made 21 cuts to the Wenger's 20 before losing their razor's edge. After resharpening, however, both knives shined in hardwood dowel whittling. I lost hand and arm strength before the knives wore out. I stopped at 125 cuts each with no discernable difference in the edges.
Grades: Victorinox A Wenger A

Side note - I tried to see if there was any difference in the performance of the can openers. Both models are forced to use the Victorinox design due to Swiss MilSpecs. There again was no discernable difference.
Grades: Victorinox A Wenger A

Also, I compared the large screwdrivers. The Victorinox was was the clear winner in screwdriving performance. The Vic's screwdriver is slightly thicker and more squared, lending itself to the better performance (less likely to slip or deform the screwheads.)
Grades: Victorinox A Wenger B

Summary - IMHO, and based on my rather unscientific tests, the Victorinox is clearly the better value and better overall performer. But then again, we're talking about a sub $20 pair of knives that I'm sure will give a lifetime of satisfactory performance to the average user. They both are great knives.

FYI, I will send back the Wenger to get the awl blade play problem corrected. Then, It'll be cleaned, sharpened, and put away as a gift for the first of my nephews to get a Totin' Chip card.
It's not the pace of life that concerns me, It's the sudden stop at the end.

[This message has been edited by sgtmike88 (edited 02-25-2001).]

[This message has been edited by sgtmike88 (edited 02-25-2001).]

[This message has been edited by sgtmike88 (edited 02-26-2001).]

[This message has been edited by sgtmike88 (edited 02-27-2001).]
Excellent idea! I will be glad to see the results.

Dennis Bible

Great review idea!
I have the V-nox Soldier but not the Wenger version. I love these types of threads because I love SAKs!

I've never performed specific tests with these. I have owned numerous examples of each brand and, intuitively, if nothing else, I feel that the Victorinox is the superior knife in all respects. The Vic. seems to hold an edge much better and, when a little dull, comes back to a fine edge with a few strokes on my EZlap.
I agree, the Vic's have an overall sturdier construction. I have owned SAK's from both makers and the Victorinox blades always come
a lot sharper than those of the Wengers. I think I'll stick with Victorinox.
One thing that kind of surprises me, though.
Although I, too, find Victorinox knives to be superior, I would have thought that on the Standard issue soldier's model, Wenger would have made it equal to V-nox's, esp. as distribution (I would imagine) would run about 50-50 in the Swiss army, and comparisons could be easily made.

I find that V-nox knives have stronger springs which equal better snap and stability, slightly thicker and sharper blades, and nicer finish. Though I own from both makers, my V-nox's are what get carried.
I have owned several comparible models from both makers and have found the Victorinox models to be the best.
Without any bias, if you perform a test on a "mass produced" item, please use more than one of a kind. There will be individual differences.
Thankyou for the informative test, anyway.
Happy sharpening

Well Zutx2, If y'all want to send me several more samples, I'd be happy to test them. These were bought off the shelf and each manufacturer had the opportunity to provide, off that shelf, a "perfect" example of their product. Geez, get a grip.

It's not the pace of life that concerns me, It's the sudden stop at the end.
I had not drawn any generalizations from it, but the couple Wengers I've owned had weaker springs than my usual Victorinox. In addition the plastic grip cracked on one of them. I have found some of the Wenger tools nicely designed.
bttt ... man is my hand sore now.

It's not the pace of life that concerns me, It's the sudden stop at the end.
Mike, thanks for the excellent review! I now have a new reason to buy that Pioneer or Soldier that I just "need".


Thanks for the review! Your review agrees with my impression of these brands aquired over the years. I picked up a Spartan Victorinox model while Switzerland many years ago. It served me well until finally replaced by a knife capable of withstanding the abuse I now routinely inflicted on my knives.

I recently began looking at SAK's in general and happened to pickup up a Victorinox "Altimeter" model. It has all the typical Victorinox SAK features plus an Altimeter and Thermometer built into the translucent red scales. While I haven't found a really good use or need for the thermomenter, the Altimeter has proven very adept at predicting weather changes. The Altimeter is very sensitive which can be a plus or minus depending on your point of view and intended use
. To keep the altimeter 'calibrated', requires resetting it to known reference but, is easy enough to do.

Stay Sharp,
I went and picked up a Victorinox Soldier and was very pleased. This is the first metal frame SAK I've owned and I'm impressed so far. The blades do open with authority and feel quite solid. It was very sharp out of the box and will replace my everyday pocket carry blade, to be used for mundane tasks. Thanks again for the great review. Dave