When deciding on a safety razor, you will find in your research two that often get recommended, especially for beginners: the Merkur 34C and the Merkur 38C.
While we have done in-depth reviews of each of these razors here…
…this is the first time that we are comparing both of them head-to-head.
In this comparison, you will learn how the razors differ and decide ultimately which one is best for you.
Comparing the Merkur 34C vs 38C
For guys that like an executive overview, here’s how they compare on the spec sheet:
|Feature||Merkur 34C||Merkur 38C|
|Length||3.25″ / 8.25cm||4″ / 10cm|
|Weight||2.68oz / 76g||3.88oz / 110g|
|Handle||Diamond Knurled||Ribbed Barber Pole|
|Composition (Head)||Die-casted Zinc||Die-casted Zinc|
|Plate||Chrome Plating||Chrome Plating|
Who Makes Merkur Razors?
Merkur razors are made by DOVO Solingen in Solingen, Germany. They were founded in 1906 and make a variety of shaving tools including safety razors, straight razors, and shavettes.
Comparing the Merkur 34C vs 38C
Here’s a detailed look at how both of these razors are similar and different from one another:
The most apparent difference between these razors is their size. When stacked next to each other, you can see just how long the 38C is when compared to the 34C.
When measured, the 38C stands at about 4″ (10cm) in length while the 34C stands at a modest 3.25″ (8.25cm) in length:
The difference here will have an impact on control while shaving along with weight.
The difference in weight between these two safety razors is large. When measured on a scale, we found that the 38C weighed 110g (3.88oz) and the 34C weighed 76g (2.68oz) – that’s a net difference of 34g (1.2oz):
For context, the cartridge razors you are familiar with typically weigh about 50g (1.76oz).
A subtle yet important difference between both of these razors is the handle design.
As you may already be keenly aware, the 38C has the nickname Barber Pole. This is due to the knurled etching that extends the length of the razor and mimics the barber pole that is outside of barbershops:
The 34C, on the other hand, has the classic diamond knurled handle that is found on most safety razors:
When holding and gripping the razor, I found the 34C to provide a slightly more confident and steady grip.
The handle on the 38C, while still nice, does slide a bit more effortlessly. Don’t take this as a downside of this razor, just a subtle difference worth noting.
You may not have noticed it in the pictures above, but one minor feature that is different between these two razors is the rings that wrap around the top and bottom of the handle.
These not only add to the total weight but also provide good stopping points for your hands to grip when shaving:
Furthermore, when looking at the bottom of the handle (below), you will find that the 38C has a cap and the 34C is completely hollow:
When holding the 34C up against the camera here, you can see straight through (with the top razor cap removed):
Now moving up to the razor head. When inspecting the cap on both of these safety razors, you will find that they are identical:
For reference, the 38C cap is on the left, and the 34C cap is on the right.
To test if they were identical, I was able to screw the 34C onto the 38C with no problem (and vice versa). Additionally, both center posts were the same length.
As for the comb, both the 34C and 38C are closed comb with a scalloped safety bar. Like the cap, both are the exact same:
For reference – 38C on left, 34C on right. Furthermore, both combs had 11 scalloped indentations along the safety bar.
As for the number of pieces, both safety razors have a screw bottom that removes just the cap and leaves the blade mount fixed – making both two-piece safety razors:
When comparing the composition of these razors, they are both identical per the Dovo site (34C source, 38C source). The handle is made from brass and the head relies on die-casted zinc.
Both head and handle have been chrome plated to give these razors their signature shiny look.
Holding the 34C and 38C
While it’s apparent that the length is the biggest difference between these two razors, to give you a better idea of what to expect should you decide on purchasing one of them, here’s how both of them look when held:
As you can see, the 38C (pictured second) is quite a bit longer and the pinky can still grip onto the handle. Just for context, I am 5’8″ tall and like to think I have average-sized hands.
Despite the size here, I don’t actually find the 38C to be as unwieldy as others have claimed.
As for the 34C, I don’t find it to be too short of a safety razor, either.
34C vs 38C Shave Performance & Aggressiveness
Given that both of these razors feature an identical cap and scalloped closed comb safety bar, they both provide a similar shave.
However, they aren’t the same.
When shaving with the 38C, you will find that the weight of the razor alone is more than enough to slice through your beard – making it rather easy to use.
On the contrary, the 34Cs shorter length and lighter weight makes it a touch more beginner-friendly as it’s easier to control.
When it comes to aggressiveness between both the razors, they feel identical. This is largely due to the matching head design they both feature.
Price Difference Between the 34C and 38C
At the initial time of publication of this article, the 34C retails for approximately $40, whereas the 38C retails for approximately $60.
Which Razor is Best for You – the 34C or 38C?
While there are notable differences between both razor systems, their performance is nearly identical.
If you are coming from a cartridge razor background, here are a few things to note:
The weight of the 38C takes some getting used to. No pressure is needed in order to get good results. Simply let the weight of the 38C do all the work for you. Additionally, the length of the 38C is closer to a cartridge razor making it a bit easier of a transition.
For the 34C, the small size will be a significant change. For context, a Gillette cartridge razor is about 5.5″ in length whereas the 34C is 2.25″ shorter – that’s a lot! However, when using a safety razor, much more control and skill will be needed.
Our recommendation is to go with the 34C. With the $20 you save, go pick up a variety pack of blades ($9) along with a decent shave cream ($10).
Of course, if you are a large guy or have big hands, go with the 38C; it will be much easier to control.
This was a fun article to put together as the 34C and 38C are a lot of mens’ first introduction to traditional wet shaving.
We hope that this guide helps to provide you with a better understanding of some of the nuances between these razors in order to make a sound decision.