The Sentinel was the first Victorinox product that I purchased as an adult. At the time I purchased it, I was collecting strictly pocket knives, and I wanted to see how one of their pocket knives stood up to the other brands I was buying, such as Spyderco and Kershaw.
My review sample was purchased from Amazon a little more than a year ago, where it sat in a drawer until recently when I started seriously collecting Victorinox Sentinel.
Victorinox Sentinel Description
Unlike most of their other products, the Sentinel is just a pocket knife. Sure, it has the trademark toothpick and tweezers common to most of their products, but that’s it–just a basic pocket knife with no nail file, scissors or any of the other doodads you’d expect on a Swiss Army Knife.
The Sentinel features one-handed opening and a locking blade. The steel is the same mid-range steel you will find on their other products. This model also features the newer style plastic handle, which isn’t as highly regarded as the more classic versions like the Tinker and Explorer.
Official Specs (From Amazon)
Price: $25-$30 online
- Smooth one-hand operation
- Slim knife design features four stainless-steel tools
- One-handed non-serrated locking blade, key ring, tweezers, toothpick
- 4 3/8 inches long
- Precision crafted in Switzerland; lifetime warranty
My first impression was that some of the reviews of this model are correct: the plastic scales on the handle do feel a little cheap. Not a lot cheap, but definitely something noticeable. With a full stainless steel liner, the scales are basically just there to look good and protect the liner, so I understand from a design point they are probably more than sufficient. But flicking them with my finger, they sound cheap and hollow.
The second thing I noticed is that the blade is off center. It’s just shy of rubbing against the liner, which it would if it was any more off. It’s also a little stiff to open and close. I’m sure that it will wear in and loosen up a little over time.
Other than that, it seems like a decent knife. The blade has the “spidey hole” which makes it a one-hander, and I really like the non-tactical, non-threatening blade geometry that tells the whole world “this is a utility knife” which I have always liked about Victorinox Sentinel. And the blade is made of the same above average steel they make most of their other cutlery and multi-tool products from.
Fit and Finish
The only thing I would really deduct from the fit and finish would be the off center blade. It never should’ve made it past quality control like this. Come on, Switzerland. Since the cheap-feeling handles are not really a function of the fit and finish, the off center blade is really my only official gripe.
Victorinox Sentinel Blade
The heart of any knife is the blade, and here is where Victorinox Sentinel got it right. Mine came shiny and with a good edge, just like I would expect from any SAK. It also features the typical hollow grind you’ll find on most pocket knives these days.
Lately I’ve been having a good bit of discussion on certain forums about the steel used by Victorinox Sentinel. The purists say that it’s perfect and the naysayers say that it’s a mid-range steel at best. Personally I think the quality of steel is less important for an EDC pocket knife than it is for say a Philips screwdriver, where the softer Chinese steel can and will strip every screw. So it’s nice to have the harder Swiss steel, and I will never argue with decent steel. Is it as good as some high end knives and multi-tools? If you are into high end steel, keep looking. But having said that, the blade on this model is above average, and better than 90% of the pocket knives out there.
The blade geometry on the Sentinel is also very appealing to me, and other than being a little stiff, deploys easily with one hand.
Victorinox Sentinel Lockup
This model features a simple liner lock mechanism. Interestingly, the release seems to be the opposite direction as every single other liner lock I own, which confuses me. My review sample locks up solid and has a decent feel. There’s a little bit of play, but nothing that would jeopardize the integrity of the lock.
Maybe I’m just spoiled on budget pocket knives, but even the little bit of play in the lock is disconcerting at this price range. Heck, I have $8 SanRenMu knives with perfectly centered blades and lockup. But just like your mom said about always wearing clean underwear in case you’re in an ambulance, always put your best product out in case it lands in a reviewer’s hands.
I don’t own any other models with the newer, larger style shape and newer handle scale material, so I can’t say if one of the newer models like the Trekker has the same cheap feel in its handles as this model. Most of those newer style models get much better reviews, so I will give them the benefit of the doubt on future purchases.
Out of my growing SAK collection, the Sentinel is the only one with cheap feeling handles. In fact, I just got a new Cadet with the black Alox scales on it, and what a difference. The Alox is simply amazing, and the Cadet cost less than the Sentinel.
While the scales feel cheap, I’m not convinced that they are cheap. But I’m not sure that matters since I’m having a hard time moving past the perception that they are cheap.
Victorinox Sentinel Conclusions
This is one of those products that just didn’t click with me for whatever reason. What’s funny is that there’s no one thing I can point to and say “this is why I don’t like it.” Maybe it’s because I’m too used to seeing all the tools on a Victorinox Sentinel. Or maybe it’s just a combination of a few little things that contribute to me not really liking it. But it’s not a bad knife. Sure, I’m not a big fan of the plastic scales on the handle, but it isn’t that bad. And it uses the same good steel found on the models that I do like.
There is a whole lot of competition in the $30 price range this model belongs to. For the same money you can have a Kershaw, Ontario or even low end Spyderco. For example, at this price point you could have a made in USA Kershaw Skyline with much better fit and finish, not to mention much better steel. Or a Spyderco Tenacious, which even though it’s made in China is superior to the Sentinel in almost every way. It almost seems like Victorinox just didn’t try very hard with this model. So it’s not that the Sentinel is a bad knife, it’s more like it can’t compete with the superb offerings at the $30 price point.
Lately I have become a huge fanboy of Victorinox Sentinel, but I’m definitely not a fan of this particular model. It’s probably fine for an emergency bag or a car’s glove box, but at this price point, honestly, buy the Spyderco Tenacious instead.