What makes one oxy-fuel torch better than the next? Victor’s research says that we’re most efficient at welding and cutting when we can see our workpiece and easily control the torch. They incorporated a number of features into their re-designed 400 series to directly address these issues, and the result is a pretty interesting-looking torch.
While most three-line torches feature a triangular-shaped pipe pattern (or concentric tubes), Victor stacked the 400 series’ pipes vertically, which they say makes it easier to see what you’re doing since most folks look down upon the torch at an angle while welding or cutting. This seems like a small change, but in our experience, a millimeter or two of visibility can make all the difference — either the part you need to see is covered or it isn’t. So this sounds like a slick idea, and it’s an idea of our favorite type — the kind that don’t dramatically change the cost or functionality of the product beyond helping out a little.
Victor addressed control from a few directions. First, they placed the 400 series torch’s oxygen blast trigger at the center of the torch, hinge-forward instead of the more common hinge-backward positioning. They hope that this will make the torch more comfortable to use, both with and without the trigger depressed. It sounds like a great idea in theory, since it allows you to hold on to the grip more firmly when the trigger isn’t engaged. Victor also made the 400’s adjustment knobs a hell of a lot easier to read, as each now features a large “O” (for oxygen) and “F” (for fuel), as well as the industry-standard color codes for each (green for O2, red for fuel). The color coding not only makes it a lot easier to see which knob you want at a glance, but it also helps Toolmongers for whom English might not be a first language. (And believe me, learning a second language is one thing; applying it with instinctive speed in a safety situation is something else completely.)
Finally, Victor re-tooled the 400’s grip. In fact, one might say that they created a grip for it, since most torches don’t seem to have a grip as much as a piece of brass that you can sorta hang on to. The 400’s grip is sculpted — by a firm Victor contracted with to complete an ergonomics study — to fit better in your hand during normal use, and it’s made of what Victor claims is a pretty durable zinc alloy. Supposedly the short 400 series is also very well balanced.
Obviously we have some questions and concerns, like how durable the 400’s grip really is and whether the tool’s balance carries through when attached to a rig. But at least on paper, these changes sound positive to us. Other key specs: The 400 series works with acetylene, propylene, propane, and other fuels via swappable tips and attachments. It can handle gas flow rates for tips sized 000 through 6, and can both cut and weld (with the proper accessories).
Price varies significantly based on component choice and purpose — Victor sells the torch alone, includes it with a variety of packaged rigs, and even sells some parts of the torch (like the handle) separately. But for comparison’s sake, MSRP for the medium-duty oxy-acetylene torch is $354. Though you’ll find a few scattered Victor items available online, you’ll likely need to visit your local welding distributor to find the new 400 series.