Starting in 1962 through to 2007 this 93mm alox scaled model was the official issue to the Swiss Army - and other military organisations - See History and Variations for more information.
- Large drop-point main blade - with year of issue tang stamp
- Cap-lifter - with large screwdriver and wire stripper
- Can-opener - with small slotted screwdriver that also works for small Phillips screws
Initially red, then silver, ribbed Alox - See Evolution of the 1961 Soldier below.
The military knives have not included the popular toothpick and tweezers of the civilian knives, presumably because they are too easily lost in the field, or deemed to be non-essential for soldiers. Excluding them would also make the manufacturing of the Alox scales easier.
A ‘Swiss Army Knife’ has been standard issue to the Swiss military since 1891, and has continued every year to the present day. Every knife has the year of production stamped on the tang of the main blade as two digits: YY - e.g. '68 ' - for 1968. This is the only Swiss Army knife that has this feature, although see note in Related Models below.
Since the knives were issued to soldiers, in part to maintain their firearms, they were under the supervision of the Waffenkontrolle, and early models contain their 'approved' stamp on the scales (see image above). This stamp went through some changes, before ultimately being withdrawn from Swiss Army Knives. See: Wiki page Soldier 1890 and articles WaffenKontrol & Soldier 1961 for additional background.
- Prior to 1951 the ‘Soldier’s knife’ was the 100mm Original Soldier's Knife first made by Victorinox in 1891.
- Between 1951 and 1961 the Soldier was the similar, but smaller, 93mm 1951 Soldier's Knife.
- The Soldier model was completely redesigned in 1961 resulting in this familiar 93mm alox handled knife, which was issued between 1962 and 2008. This knife was also issued to other military organisations, in addition to the Swiss troops.
- In 2008 Victorinox introduced the new 111mm Soldier's Knife that replaced this 93mm model as the official Soldier's knife.
The Pioneer range was introduced for the first time to the market in 1957. This range led to the development of the Soldier Knife (Model 1961) with red aluminium handles which was delivered, the first time, to the Swiss Army in June 1962. There was no shipment to the Swiss Army by Victorinox in 1960 and 1961, whereas Wenger produced the former model during these two years.
The list below chronicles the major features and changes to the 1961 Soldier:
- The new models were originally produced with red alox scales between 1962 and 1964.
- After which, they changed to the regular silver alox scales - apparently due to wear and tear on the red scales, which becomes very obvious, compared to the silver ones.
- However, red alox models are also known to exist, in addition to the silver handled models, between 1965 and 1975, with the exception of 1972 & 1974.
- As part of the new design a sharpened inside edge, that could be used as a wire striper/scraper or as a general scraper, and a 90° half-stop, were added to the screwdriver/cap-lifter tool. The scraper is reported to work quite well with modern fire-steels.
- Hollow rivets were also introduced on one end of the knife, through which a lanyard could be threaded, or a removable shackle or bail could be inserted.
- In 1977 the familiar red shield was added to the scales. 1977 models were produced with both the old cross and the new shield.
- From 1987 the Waffenkontrolle stamp no longer featured on the scales, as this quality control check was no longer required by the army.
- In 1993 the hollow rivet and sharpened edge to the caplifter were withdrawn. The wire stripper notch (which had been around on the 'Officer's Knives' for some time) was introduced. Some knives stamped with the year 93 still had a hollow rivets. The linked image shows two the two different Soldier configurations for 93.
- In 2003/4 the shade of red on the Swiss shield became slightly darker. This image of Soldiers from the same year shows both colours.
- Later models have more highly polished openers. Many prefer the more matte finish, and some say these tools grip and hold better. The high-polished tools have an aesthetic appearance that some feel do not fit such a tool, especially if it affects performance.
- 08 was the last tang stamp on the 1961 Alox Soldier.
The Soldier model was not produced at all by Victorinox during the following years:
1958, 1960, 1961, 1972, 1974
It is unknown whether or not the annual military order was filled by existing knives or by Wenger alone.
- With Keyring; Whilst almost all Soldier knives do not include the keyring attachment spacer and keyring, there was an unissued version that included the keyring. It was reported by Victorinox to have been manufactured from 1992/93 to 2002 for general sale, and was never delivered to the Swiss Army. Examples have been have been reported with year stamps 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 00. These knives are labelled as Soldiers, rather than Pioneers with dated blades, because they had the Swiss shield on the scales and the dated blade was intentional.
- In the years 2003 and 2005 some models were produced with Charles Elsener's signature etched on the main blade. The majority of these, if not all, were originally included in a package with the book A Collector's Companion.
- The ARMAGEDDON Soldier was produced in 1998 in coordination with the motion picture company Touchstone Pictures. It features a double laser etching with ARMAGEDDON on the obverse and Touchstone Pictures on the reverse of the blade. This edition was numbered and limited to 5000 pieces.
- The 2004 the VSAKCS Anniversary Club Knife was a Soldier with Jahr 2004 etched on the blade, VSAK Collectors Society printed in the advertising panel on the bottom scale, but somewhat unexpectedly had an 05 manufacturing date stamp on the reverse tang. For more details see the linked page.
- A South African Army version was produced between YYYY and YYYY. It was based on the civilian version of the knife and featured the silver Alox scales with the old Swiss Cross emblem and the NATO stock number on the top scale.
- The Black Beauty model is technically not a Soldier, but was a black-scaled model that was sold by Swiss Railway shops in the late 80s or early 90s. It had the Soldier's Swiss shield and, except for the year stamp on the blade tang and the black scales, it had all the features of an Alox soldier from the years 1988-1992: thicker unpolished screwdriver with wire-scraper; hollow-rivet; unpolished can-opener; steel rivet in the middle. The complete set consisted of the Soldier knife, plus a Maglite flashlight, packaged in a roll-style pouch for the tools, which also featured a pocket for railway tickets or other small items.
Black Beauty image gallery here - Also see picture below.
- The Feuerschlagmesser (Fire Striker Knife), was a limited run of custom Soldiers for renowned knife collector Horst Brunner of Switzerland. Mr. Brunner wrote the book 'Feuer und Feuerschlagmesser' (ISBN:3-7193-1156-2 / 978-3-7193-1156-8) on the history of fire starter knives. The Victorinox Feuerschlagmesser featured a steel striker on a special back spring added to the Soldier's knife, and were sold with a piece of flint and firestarter material. The striker is used with flint rock to create sparks for fire starting, The Fish stamp on the striker is the maker's mark of H. Fischlin, who designed the striker and special backspring for the knife.
The total production numbers for this model was reported to be 658 knives, in four different runs:
1996 August: – 100; 1998 February: – 185; 2000 August: – 173; 2002 July: - 200
In 2008, probably to use up old stock of the special strikers, Victorinox assembled a small additional number of these knives, they are reported to have the later Swiss Made tang stamps and no date stamp.
- In 2008 Victorinox made a limited run of only ten special red Alox Soldiers for the dealer SwissBianco. These models had a solid red shield (same colour as the scales), the main blade had an 08 tang-stamp and the older Victorinox/Switzerland/Stainless/Rostfrei stamp on the obverse. The can-opener and cap-lifter were the older non-polished tools, with the cap-lifter having the internal scraper and no wire stripper notch. The scales have a slightly different shade of red anodizing, and the tail rivet is the older hollow style. This knife was a nice way to commemorate the original features of the 1961 Alox Soldier's Knife, as it transitioned to the new 111mm design.
The Dutch Army was also issued versions of the Victorinox Soldier for a number of years, first starting in 1983. These knives do not have the year of production stamped on the tang of the main blade, but carry a unique stamp on the top scale that includes the year of production. The scale stamp also includes KL an abbreviation for Koninklijke Landmacht (Royal Army), or KM an abbreviation for Koninklijke Marine (Royal Navy). The knives were all silver Alox and have the old silver Swiss Cross logo on the top scale. See also: SOSAK: Soldier Variants
- Length: 93mm - Was listed in some official catalogs as 91mm!
- Width: 11.5mm
- Weight: 69.7g
US Model Numbers:
- 53929: Standard model
- 53939: Final production run (Labeled Soldier 61)
- Pioneer - Same tools, but adds a keyring (other differences depending on year)
- Farmer - Adds the woodsaw and keyring attachment
- Soldier Model 1890 - The original Soldier Knife
- Soldier 1951 Design - The 93mm fiber handled model with bolsters.
- Soldier 2008 Design - 111mm synthetic scaled Soldier's Knife, with a saw and locking blade
- Soldat 1961 - the Wenger Soldier Knife based on the 1961 design
Note: Occasionally other 93mm Alox knives are seen with a year stamped on the blade, but these are either repaired or modified versions, or units assembled by Victorinox using excess production of the blades for a given year. The year stamp does not precisely indicate the year of production for these knives.
- Les Couteaux du Soldat de l'Armée Suisse: Website containing very detailed information on the evolution of the Swiss Army Soldier Knife models (in English)
- SwissArmyKnights: The Victorinox Soldier vs. The Wenger Standard Issue - November 21st, 2005
- SwissArmyKnights: Swiss Army - The Red Years - December 2nd, 2010
- SwissArmyKnights: Pre-Shield Years - January 1st, 2011
- SwissArmyKnights: Red Shield Years - February 2nd, 2011
- SwissArmyKnights: Soldier Variants, Part II - April 1st, 2008
- MultiTool.org: Thread showcasing Soldier Knives
- Swissknives.info: Soldier 1961
- Broken Link - SOSAK: Soldier Variants, Part I - August 26, 2006