The Soldier Knife was issued to enlisted officers and soldiers as a rifle maintenance tool (the screwdriver), as well as having a can-opener for ration tins, an awl for punching holes, and of course a blade.
This multi-tooled knife, defined by its quality construction and incredible utility, would go on to define the Victorinox company, and even the Swiss nation for the next century and beyond.
The original 100mm model was issued, with only small updates (see History below), for an incredible 50+ years until 1951, at which time a slightly smaller version of this knife was adopted.
- Large blade
- Large screwdriver - Original design with no other tools
- Can-opener - Original design with no other tools
- Awl - No sharpened edge
While the popular, and often defining, toothpick and tweezers were added later to most Victorinox knives, especially the Officer family, to this day they have never been included in the army's official issue Soldier Knives, presumably because they are too easily lost in the field, or are not regarded as essential tools for a soldier.
Initially black wood, later brown fibre.
The Soldier was a knife manufactured for the military, and had the year of issue stamped on the tang. However, Victorinox also made this knife available for non-military use. To distunguish these knives from military issue knives, they had a 'P' (for ‘Privat’) stamped on the tang instead of the date. The knives would be purchased through cutlery shops.
Occasionally a date and a 'P' are seen stamped on the tang, this was when a soldier elected to keep his military knife for private use, after his commission was over, so a 'P' was stamped on his knife. The two stamps often have different fonts in this case.
The original 1890 Soldier Knife was first issued to Swiss troops in 1891, and was manufactured by German cutlers. Karl Elsener’s company, in conjunction with other Swiss cutlers, took over production in late 1891.
The 100mm Soldier was issued until 1951, with the following evolutionary variations, which are typically known as 'models'.
- Model 1890: Black wooden handles; Regular carbon steel tools; Drop-point blade; Weight 144g
- Model 1901: Handles switched to brown wooden fibrous material
- Model 1908: Clip-point design blade; Screwdriver remodeled; Weight 125g
- From 1921 (to the present day) the year of production (YY) is stamped on the main blade tang: e.g. 36 for 1936
There were other minor changes, for example to liner materials and the Waffenkontrol stamp (see next).
Since the knives were issued to soldiers, in part to maintain their firearms, they were under the supervision of the Swiss Army’s 'Waffenkontrol' (weapons control). This organisation carried out a quality check on military equipment, and put their 'approved' stamp on the scales of a Swiss Army Knife. Initially this stamp was a small Swiss Cross, from 1915 onwards the stamp had the letters 'WK' inside a cross, inside a small circle.
See: article WaffenKontrol & Soldier 1961 for additional Waffenkontrol information.
The 1890 Model was first issued in 1891 and a Soldier knife has been issued to Swiss troops every year to the present day. The models evolved as follows:
- The 1890 Model was redesigned in 1951, creating a scaled down version of this knife, resulting in the lighter weight, smaller 93mm Soldier's Knife still with fibre scales (handles).
- In 1961 the Soldier Knife was completely redesigned, resulting in the 93mm Alox scaled Soldier knife which was issued to troops for nearly another 50 years until 2008.
- In 2008 the Soldier was again significantly redesigned, this time creating the 111mm Soldier Knife with a locking blade and screwdriver/pry-bar.
A total of 7,536 anniversary knives were produced - 1,884 in each of four zones:
Zone I: Switzerland; Zone II: Europe; Zone III: The rest of the world (Ubrige Welt); Zone IV: USA and Canada.
Each knife was stamped with its particular number and zone, on the liner behind the awl. For example: 0059/1884 II - The 59th knife out of 1,884 produced for zone II. These numbers also appear on the certificate of authenticity that accompanies each knife.
- 200 Victoria: Model number for the fibre handled Soldier's knife
- 200 inox Victoria: Model number for the fibre handled stainless steel Soldier's knife
- 0.1891.J: Limited Edition 125th Anniversary replica (US Model Number: 51884)
- Officer's Knife - The second Victorinox model, released in 1897 - and not a moment too soon!
- Soldier 1951 - 93mm fiber handled knife with bolsters
- Soldier 1961 - 93mm Alox scaled Soldier's knife, 1961 design
- Soldier 2008 - 111mm synthetic scaled Soldier's knife, with saw and locking blade
- Standard Issue - The Wenger manufactured Soldier Knife (Soldat) from almost the same time-period, built to the same military specifications
Website containing very detailed information on the evolution of the Swiss Army Soldier Knife (in English)
Les Couteaux du Soldat de l'Armée Suisse