It is said that Victorinox produces 13 million SAKs per year and exports them all over the world. No doubt, the Swiss Army Knife is one of the most sought-after pocket tools. But like any other tool in the world, a Swiss Army Knife has benefits and drawbacks. There are good reasons for, and reasons against it. Take a look at both sides of this investment before you make your decision.
In this article, we will go through some of the unique advantages of a Swiss Army Knife, the reasons for it being such an effective pocket tool for many. We will also discuss some of the disadvantages, things which you should seriously consider before getting a SAK for yourself.
Let’s first look at some of the practical reasons that make the Swiss Army Knife such an awesome pocket tool.
Reasons Why You Should get a Swiss Army Knife
The Swiss Army knife comes in various sizes and is an indispensable tool for many people. Following are some of the advantages of a SAK and why you should get one for yourself as your EDC tool.
1. Ease of Carrying, Versatility, Quality, Social Acceptability, and Price
The Swiss Army Knife is a multifunctional tool that can be carried on a person at all times. The flexibility of use, along with the quality of Victorinox, makes it a very cost-effective option for people who want to buy a single tool that has numerous functions.
There is so much to discuss on these five points that there exists a complete post on why these are the most compelling reasons to carry a Swiss Army Knife.
Each of the five primary reasons has been explained in detail.
These should give you a perfect view of what makes the SAK so popular all over the world. These reasons should be enough to convince you to get a Swiss Army Knife. But if you need more reasons, keep reading.
2. Multiple Tool Combination options
There are more than 400 models of Swiss Army Knives available. They exist in different sizes, from the small ones that you can attach to your keyring, to the larger and heavier models that you will need a pouch to carry along with you.
Each model can have a multitude of tools for various purposes. Tasks are often easier when you use the right tool, and a SAK allows you to always have the right tool with you.
No matter how big or small you want your pocket knife to be, there is probably a Swiss Army Knife model that suits your needs. You just need to spend some time searching for a model that covers most if not all of your needs.
3. Martensitic Steel
One of the reasons for the tremendous success of the Swiss Army Knife as a pocket tool is the stainless steel that Victorinox uses. The ‘Inox’ steel is one of a kind. And Victorinox keeps the alloy composition and the making process a trade secret.
If you are wondering, no, it is not the best steel available in the market. But it is the perfect steel that you can get for a multi-purpose tool like the Swiss Army Knife.
Over my more than a decade of usage, I am yet to see corrosion in the main blade or any of the other tools in any of my SAKs.
The high chromium percentage in the alloy makes the tools so shiny and resistant to rusting.
Many consider the Vic steel to be soft. But with regular usage, I can get along by sharpening the blade once or twice a year. And surprisingly, the blades do take an edge and get super sharp, as good as new.
If you want to know more about the composition and hardness of Victorinox steel, do read: What Steel Does Victorinox Use in Swiss Army Knives?
4. Two Blades, Large & Small
Most medium-sized Swiss Army Knife models have two blades – the large main blade, and another smaller and thinner blade. I remember, the first time I got a SAK, I was so confused about the utility of the second blade. It looked almost a redundant tool to me. How wrong I was!
With time, I got to understand and admire the utility of the second smaller blade. Nowadays I use it more often as it is perfect for some specific types of tasks. It also keeps the main blade sharp and shiny, ready to spring into action when I need something longer and bigger.
If you want to know more about how you can use the smaller blade in a Swiss Army Knife, do read this article: Why Victorinox SAKs Have Two Blades?
5. Camping And Outdoor Tools
I bet many campers have carried only a Swiss Army Knife during camping at some point in their life. While some serious campers do prefer dedicated tools sometimes, it is impractical to carry a lot of weight, especially for short trips.
I usually carry two SAKs with me for any outdoor activities.
I prefer a medium one with a lot of tools, and a large one with a few bigger tools, like a big blade and a big wood saw. This makes me feel well-equipped.
This combination allows me to use the smaller blade in the kitchen for food preparation and maybe fix things with the screwdrivers if necessary.
The larger one is specifically used for bushcraft, cutting branches, making campfires, etc. You can read about some of the best Swiss Army Knife for outdoor activities in this post: Best Swiss Army Knives for the Outdoors.
6. Fisherman’s Tools
A Swiss Army Knife is an excellent tool for the fisherman. From cutting lines to removing hooks, fishermen have been using it for all sorts of tasks. So much so, that Victorinox has designed some SAKs specifically for the fishing enthusiasts. Many other models have the necessary tools that come in handy during fishing.
Many professional fishermen keep a SAK in their fishing tackle box.
I have compiled a list of Swiss Army Knives that you can use in your fishing expeditions in this post. Do have a look if fishing is one of your hobbies.
7. First Aid and Rescue Tools
A small Swiss Army Knife has many of the tools required in an emergency, especially in the outdoors when you are not carrying a first aid kit.
The tweezers are excellent for picking out any dirt, pieces of glass, or gravel, to clean minor cuts and wounds.
Scissors and knife blades are useful in cutting pieces of cloth to create a bandage to cover up wounds.
Scissors are also useful in removing dressings while changing bandages to reduce the risk of infection.
Talking about rescue tools, Victorinox makes a dedicated model just for that purpose, and it is named as such, you guessed it – Victorinox RescueTool!
Apart from a seat-belt cutter and window breaker, it also has a glass cutter!
What else do you need in a tool that you can fit in your pocket? Of course, you can keep one always inside your car for emergencies.
8. An Attractive Gift Item
A Swiss army knife is an ideal gift item for someone you care about, for all ages and genders. This is because it can be used in so many different ways and also because it has many practical usages.
And in case you don’t know, women love Swiss Army Knives, especially the smaller ones that they can easily carry in their purses or keychain.
Also, the medium-sized Alox models are a big hit with the feminine gender.
I gave the Victorinox Pioneer X to my wife and she now carries it everywhere with her. Here is a post that may give you some ideas: Swiss Army Knife – The Awesome Gift for Women!
9. Can be used for Whittling
Whittling is a popular art as well as a hobby for many. While there are dedicated tools available for whittling and crafting things from wood, the two blades in the Swiss Army Knife have proved to be excellent whittling tools, especially for beginners.
Famous whittling professional Chris Lubkemann has written an entire book on this topic where he uses mostly a Swiss Army Knife for some DIY whittling projects. The book is one of the best sellers on the topic of Amazon.
Experts usually advise using the bigger blade for the initial slicing and carving and then using the smaller blade for finer details.
Victorinox also publishes a book on whittling especially targeted towards kids, written by their in-house expert, Felix Immler.
10. SAK as a Weapon
A Swiss Army Knife is a tool to get things done. Most people will admit that it is not a weapon, and they are right. In the hands of an amateur, it will make a pretty lousy defensive or offensive weapon.
But it has a blade nevertheless, and the blade is sharp! And it also has some other tools. Can any of these be used as a weapon during an emergency?
There are instances where people have used a pocket knife for defensive purposes. Here is an example.
In fact, in the hands of an expert, a SAK can prove to be a quite effective weapon. Of course, you need special skills (and practice) to wield it as a weapon. Most people will rather fail to use it effectively. What is worse, they will hurt themselves more than their enemy.
But someone with special training and fight IQ will find a way to use a SAK to their advantage in a fight. Here is a post that explains some of the ways a Swiss Army Knife can be used as a weapon, especially to defend yourself, or your near and dear ones.
Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Buy a Swiss Army Knife
While there are enough advantages of having a Swiss Army Knife, it is not for everyone. Some people I know don’t carry a SAK with them anymore. These are usually those who prefer dedicated tools over multi-tools. Also, A Swiss Army Knife may not always fulfill the specific requirements of everyone looking for a pocket tool.
Here is a list of some of the common disadvantages of a Swiss Army Knife that I hear about from time to time.
1. Blade Is Too Small and Thin
The pocket-sized Swiss Army Knife model (91mm) has a blade length of around 6-7 cm. Many people do not consider this big enough for most tasks. While there are larger Swiss Army Knives with longer blades (111mm and 130mm models), those are not portable enough for pocket carry. You will find other pocket knives of similar size and weight with a longer blade.
The main blade in a 91mm SAK is also considerably thinner than that of a dedicated pocket knife. It is not adequate for cutting thick materials, and you will have to apply more force and pressure to slice through.
2. Blade does not Lock
This is a very common complaint against Swiss Army Knives. While larger SAKs do have locking blades, any locking mechanism is absent in the medium-sized Swiss Army Knives. I guess Victorinox deliberately does this to keep the medium-sized SAKs compliant with regulations against locking pocket knives in certain European countries.
A non-locking blade is unsuitable for certain types of tasks. For example, while whittling with a slip-joint blade, the blade sometimes tends to fold up.
You should take proper caution while doing any kind of woodwork or bushcraft with a slip joint knife.
This is why I always carry a bigger SAK with a liner lock for any outdoor activities.
There are some medium-sized Swiss Army Knives that have a locking main blade, but these models are remnants of the erstwhile Wenger design. If you do not know, Wenger was the other Swiss company that used to make SAKs, which has been taken over by Victorinox and merged with itself. You can read more about Wenger here.
You may find one of those Wenger designs if you look around, but Victorinox is slowly phasing out those models. To know more about locking blades in Swiss Army Knives, read: Do Swiss Army Knives Have Locking Blades?
3. Blade is not Strong Enough
I think this point arises from the first two points. The size and thickness of the SAK blade coupled with the fact that the blade doesn’t lock in place make it unsuitable for heavy-duty tasks.
The slip-joint lock that most of the SAK model uses was not originally designed for power work. Also, the thin spine of the blade makes it quite unsuitable for certain tasks, like batoning. While you need a fixed blade with a thick spine for batoning, but people sometimes do use their pocket knives.
I should mention here that I have successfully used a SAK Alox model for batoning. The blade in the 93mm Alox models is slightly thicker than that in the 91mm SAK models.
However, I guess if required you can use the 91mm SAK blade too, but you do run the risk of damaging the blade. Batoning is not recommended for any type of folding pocket knife, be it a SAK or any other small pocket knife.
4. Steel Hardness is not Up to the Mark
Experts often accuse Victorinox of not using the best quality steel in their Swiss Army Knives. The steel is soft and doesn’t hold an edge for long, especially compared to other high-quality multi-tool makers like Leatherman or Gerber.
Victorinox doesn’t tell the exact composition of the alloy steel that they use, and the composition of the steel is not the same for the different tools in a SAK. But if you are looking for the strongest steel in a pocket knife, a Swiss Army Knife is not what you are looking for.
5. No Pocket Clip
A pocket knife without a pocket clip! yes, that’s a Swiss Army Knife for you. I have seen so many people who didn’t consider a SAK as their EDC knife just because they cannot clip it onto their trouser pockets.
It is surprising why Victorinox hasn’t designed a model of SAK with a pocket clip attached to it. I guess they stuck to the traditional design of the Offiziersmesser, the first-ever model designed by Karl Esner in 1897. Considering how popular Swiss Army Knives are, Victorinox probably never bothered to bring any drastic changes to the original design.
While there are other off-market solutions of attaching a clip to a SAK, it would have been much more desirable had Victorinox themselves incorporated this feature into some of their medium-sized SAKs.
However, in addition to these off-market alternatives for pocket clips, you can read all about the different ways of comfortably carrying a SAK with you in this post: Various Ways of Carrying a Swiss Army Knife.
6. No One-handed Opening
You cannot open the blade of a Swiss Army Knife with one hand. The blade is held in place with a slip-joint which requires two hands to pull the blade out.
None of the tools in a Swiss Army Knife can be opened with one hand.
Even closing the tools with one hand is difficult.
While the one-handed opening is a feature in some of the bigger Swiss Army Knives, none of the medium-sized SAKs (91mm or smaller) have this. If this is a must-have feature for you in a pocket knife, then you have to look elsewhere, unless you are comfortable carrying a large 111mm SAK as your EDC pocket knife.
7. Hard to Open the Tools
I bet you have heard this before, perhaps experienced this yourself. All the tools in a Swiss Army Knife have small nails nicks to aid in opening. At times, it becomes difficult to pull the tools out, especially considering how good and strong the slip-joint springs in a SAK are.
If you trim your nails too short, you are guaranteed to struggle. If you have long nails, they may break if you are not careful.
I broke my fingernail once while trying to pull out the awl.
Some of the springs are so tight, you may hurt yourself while pulling the tools out. Another point to note is that it is impossible to open any of the tools if you are wearing gloves.
8. Extra Tools are Often Redundant
You may get the thickest Swiss Army Knife for yourself with the most tools, only to realize that you use only a few of the tools daily. The rest are just dead weight that you have been carrying along all the time with you.
This is such a common problem with most first-time SAK users. Of course, the fault lies in selecting the right SAK for yourself.
Even though there are a lot of tools in a SAK, most of them may have limited utility in your lifestyle. I have carried the Swiss Army Knife Ranger daily for almost two years but never used some of the tools in it even once during that period.
9. Cannot Replace Dedicated Tools
It is true that sometimes a Swiss Army Knife can replace a complete toolbox. But that does not mean that each tool in the SAK would be as useful as its dedicated counterpart.
The tiny set of pliers that you get with a Swiss Army Knife will never be as effective as a dedicated set of pliers. The same is true for the wood saw, or the metal file.
Yes, they do come in handy for minor short-duration tasks, which is their main purpose.
But if you ever put these tools through any serious prolonged work, be prepared for some genuine frustration.
10. Not a Survival Knife
I have seen many people promoting pocket-sized Swiss Army Knives as survival knives. While in a survival situation, a Swiss Army Knife may come handy, but these are by no means survival knives.
Maybe, the bigger 111mm or 130 mm SAK models fulfill that requirement better than the popular pocket-sized 91mm models. But even the bigger models pale in comparison to a truly fixed-blade full-tang knife.
Survival situations, especially in the wild, demand a lot from a knife. The knife should be good enough for cutting and chopping wood, hunting, gutting, and skinning games.
It should also be strong enough to defend against wild animal attacks.
The design, size, and strength of the Swiss Army Knife just don’t fit these purposes. If you want a Victorinox-made knife for that, you may have a look at the Victorinox Outdoor Master, but it is not a Swiss Army Knife.
Is There an Alternative Tool that Provides Similar Functions as the Swiss Army Knife?
Some of the disadvantages mentioned above apply to most pocket tools, not just Swiss Army Knives.
However, some of the cons are specific to Swiss Army Knife, and you may be thinking if anything else exists that solves some of the issues while maintaining the same level of quality and functionality as a Swiss Army Knife.
Fortunately, many alternatives to Swiss Army Knives are now available in the market, some of which are covered in this post: Finding the Best Alternatives to a Swiss Army Knife. While I still consider a Swiss Army Knife the best VFM tool, some of these models from other manufacturers are worth a look and can give a SAK a run for its money.
I am hoping by now you have gotten a good idea of whether a Swiss Army Knife is the right choice for you. I have covered all the advantages that a SAK provides, along with the most glaring drawbacks. To me, the benefits outweigh the disadvantages, the reason why I have collected so many SAKs over the years.
Every pocket knife is a compromise of some sort. Of all the different pocket-sized multipurpose tools that I have used, a Swiss Army Knife of the right size and the right assortment of tools almost always provided the best bang for the buck!