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Swiss Army- The Red Years

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In 1961, modernization came to the Swiss Armed Forces. The older style Swiss Army knife became a thing of the past. With newer materials and a better design, the model 1961 was introduced by Wenger. This all metal knife was a lot smaller than the older version. Gone were the old brown fibre scales.

The newer aluminum scales became part of the strength of the new design. A knife that is lighter and stronger. These scales were anodized red until 1965. These red scales were to help the soldiers find his knife if it fell into a snow bank. A red handled knife can be very easily spotted from just about any distance. Do you want to guess why most Swiss Army knives have red plastic scales? Tradition plays a huge role in Swiss culture.

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So let’s have a look at the red years. Wenger was the only manufacturer of this new model in 1961. I do not know why Victorinox (Elsener) did not produce any knives for this contract period. Personally, I have not yet found a new model 1961 knife.

The 1961 knife I have used in this article is one of the older Grilon scaled knives that Wenger had produced in the late 50’s. I would love to find a true model 1961, but I do not think the total G.N.P. of Ireland would buy one of these rare knives. Keep your eyes open.

    

 

The red handled Wengers were stamped with two lines, WENGER and DELEMONT. The Victorinox knife has the older stamping in three lines ELSENER, SCHWYZ and VICTORIA. You will not see the 4 line Victorinox stamping show up until the early 70’s. That will be another article.


I have included a shot of the newer silver scaled model of 1965. The 1965 models did not have the red anodizing. A brand new red handled knife looked very pretty, but after being in the soldiers pockets, the finish was easily scratched. The pocket wear to these knives made them look horrible. By 1965, Wenger and Victorinox were not required to add the red coloring.

I was told the Swiss are frugal. Why would any factory throw out a perfectly manufactured red handle? The remaining stocks of red anodized handles were used until there was none left on the factory shelves. Almost zero waste and that was in the early 60’s. This is why you will find lots of exceptions for the factory rules. The possibilities for a different style knife are endless. Just think, you have a whole life time to find these rare gems. If you look hard enough, you will find red scaled knives stamped with “65” and “66” in this article. This is a classic example of the factory using up old stock.

The older style knife in this article has the red Wenger Grilon scales. It has the older Swiss Army acceptance stamping on the handle. It also has the letter “P”, which was stamped under the Swiss Cross stamp. The “P” stands for PRIVATE. The Swiss Soldier had the option to buy his own army knife. These purchased knives were not subjected to any military inspections. They could be used and abused by the soldier. Just think a knife that could be used to cut things and get dirty. That is a novel idea.

  

There are some really rare examples of the some red handled knives that can be found around the internet. If a soldier broke his blade in the field and the knife was sent back to the factory for repair. The factory would disassemble the red handled knife and replace the broken blade with a newer blade. This new blade would have the newer date stamp. Old red scales with a newer date. A very rare item. 

Stay tuned for the (Silver) and (Red shield) military models.