Monday, April 13, 2009

Sharps: A modern-day Soldier

I'll spare readers extended commentary on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's dizzying (and altogether expected) pivot on Second Amendment issues. In a matter of days she went from favoring "enforcing the (gun) laws we have now" to insisting that Congress has "never denied" individual American citizens our constitutional right to keep and bear arms, saying matter-of-factly,

"We don't want to take their guns away. We want them registered. We don't want them crossing state lines."

C'mon, people, consider the source -- it's Pelosi, for cryin' out loud. You'll have that. I'm just thankful (so far) for the 65 Democrats who signed that letter to Attorney General Holder.

I'll keep an eye on the incurably disingenuous congresswoman from The People's Republic of California, but right now I'm going to talk about a pocketknife. First, a brief rewind.

An earlier KintlaLake Blog post made it clear that I like the venerable Victorinox Soldier. It's slim, elegant and stout, and it regularly hitches a ride in my pocket when I'm decked out in a coat and tie. As simple as it looks, should this be the knife I'm carrying when the SHTF, it wouldn't cause me a moment's concern. Worked within its limits, my 1986-vintage Soldier is more than capable of getting the job done.

In the same post I also mentioned that within the last couple of years I've been carrying another Victorinox -- a Bundeswehr, the pocketknife issued to the German Federal Defense Force. It one-ups the Soldier with serrations, one-handed opening, liner locks and larger tools, as well as a saw blade and a Phillips screwdriver. The 111mm Bundeswehr is beefier than the 93mm Soldier and, as a result, a bit more able.

Fast-forward to 2008 when, for the first time in nearly a half-century and only the fourth time in 120 years, the Swiss government asked for an update to its standard-issue pocketknife. The new Victorinox Soldier, just released for sale to the general public, bears a striking resemblance to the olive-drab knife produced for the German Army. In fact, other than the "ergonomic dual density" scales, rounder thumbhole and seat-belt cutter on the new model, the two knives appear to be identical variations on the Victorinox One-Hand Trekker.

Street price for the updated Soldier looks to be $40 for a special inaugural edition, or two bucks more without the "First Production Run" inscription. (Figure that, eh?) A Bundeswehr goes for just $36, and the old-school Soldier is available for less than $20.

I quit the knife-collecting hobby a number of years ago -- these days I'm drawn to knives I know I'll actually use. In that light, and since I already own a Bundeswehr, there's no good reason for me to spend money on the new Soldier. If I were assembling a new go-kit for the truck, however, the seat-belt cutter might justify the four-dollar premium over the German Army model.
Update, April 20th: Since writing this post I've learned that the page on announcing the new Victorinox Soldier is incorrect -- the knife being sold right now in the U.S. is not equipped with a seat-belt cutter. Victorinox knives featuring that tool include the Workchamp, the Parachutist, the Fireman and the Rescue Tool.
To be fair, I haven't yet handled the new Soldier. Maybe I shouldn't, what with the "ergonomic dual density" grip and all.

No, these knives aren't made in the USA, much less in the Heartland, but my experience tells me that Swiss-made Victorinox is still the best of this particular breed. As soon as a comparable American-made knife comes close -- in quality as well as value -- I'll be the first guy in line.

Until then, you'll often find me toting an old Soldier or a Bundeswehr.

Earlier posts
Sharps: Rite of passage
Sharps, Part I: In the pocket

Swiss Army
Smoky Mountain Knife Works
Secret Order of Swiss Army Knives