Is 420HC a good knife steel?

Are you eyeing a 420HC steel knife but feeling undecided if it will meet your expectations? If yes, you'll find this guide helpful.

420HC steel knives usually come at highly affordable prices but promise you a high-end performance. How true could this be? Many other knife users are always looking for more information about this steel to see if it's worth investing in.

Our complete 420hc steel review below will serve you with helpful information about 420HC and leave you in a better place to easily decide whether to get a 420HC steel knife.

What is 420HC steel?

420HC is a low-end martensitic stainless steel made in the United States by Latrobe. It was developed as a result of modifying 420, very old steel grade. The key change here is adding more carbon content to 420hc, hence its name HC which stands for "Higher Carbon." The steel can also be brought to a higher hardness level than 420.

This steel excels in high corrosion resistance. Many knife manufacturers use it to come up with knives, scissors, surgical tools, etc. Two companies, in particular, Buck Knives and Gerber Knives, intensively use this steel to make their budget-friendly knives.

What is 420HC steel

What is 420HC blade? Any blade made from 420HC steel is simply referred to as a 420HC blade.

420hc chemical composition

The following table outlines the 420HC steel alloying elements and their corresponding volume as see in the manufacturer's 420hc steel datasheet:

Element

Composition (%)

Carbon

0.45

Chromium

13.00

Manganese

0.40

Silicon

0.40

Vanadium

0.30

0.45% 420hc carbon content improves hardness and wear resistance.

13% Chromium improves tensile strength and edge retention. It also enhances the steel wear and corrosion resistance.

0.4% Manganese increases steel hardness and brittleness.

0.3% Vanadium advocates for better wear resistance and hardenability.

0.4% Silicon improves strength.

420hc steel properties

The following 420hc steel mechanical properties will give you a clear picture of how a 420HC blade steel will perform in a knife.

420hc steel properties

First…

What is the 420HC hardness?

When subjected to quality heat treatment, 420HC stainless steel can achieve a hardness as high as RC 56-59 HRC. The standard hardness rating of this steel, however, 55HRC.

420HC edge retention

420HC doesn't hold an edge very well. This is because it contains low carbon content, which translates to low carbide volumes necessary for providing steel with hardness needed to make it stable and sharp. However, it will keep its cutting edge sharp for long compared to other steels in the 400 series.

420HC steel sharpening

Sharpening 420HC is super easy for you, thanks to the fact that it leans on the "softer" edge of steels. It has a low hardness, which makes it less hard. This way, you will quickly be able to sharpen it to obtain an ultra-fine cutting edge. So, if you're just learning the sharpening game, you'd want to invest in a knife made of this steel.

420HC steel sharpening

420HC steel toughness

420HC is quite tough! The less hard nature of this steel gives it a tougher feel, and it can withstand a lot of abuse compared to the harder steels in the 440 series. The high toughness explains why Bucks and Gerber have been using this steel for manufacturing their knives for years.

420HC corrosion resistance

You're probably burning with this question: "does 420hc steel rust?" The answer is NO…420HC doesn't rust. It contains 13% chromium, a higher volume than the 11-12% threshold required to make it stainless. The high chromium volume gives it high corrosion resistance—another reason why 420hc enjoys popularity among knife smiths and knife users.

420hc steel comparison with other steels

A wide range of popular steels can be regarded as 420hc steel equivalent due to the identical compositions and almost the same level of performance in all areas. In this part, we'll look at how this steel compares to some of these steels.

420hc steel comparison with other steels

420HC vs S30V

S30V has way higher edge retention and better anti-corrosion properties compared to our steel. However, both exhibit the same level of toughness. Sharpening 420hc is way easier than s30v.

420HC vs 8Cr13MoV

Is 420HC better than 8Cr13MoV? Probably not. While 8Cr13MoV beats in terms of toughness, easier sharpening, and corrosion resistance, 420HC hits back with slightly better edge retention.

420HC vs 440C

The two steels are highly comparable since they exist in the same 400 steel series. They offer pretty similar performance in all areas. Though 440C has slightly better edge retention and corrosion resistance than 420HC.

420HC vs 1095

Apart from both being easy to sharpen, both 1095 and 420hc steels have distinct differences that set them slightly apart. 1095 ranks above 420HC with high edge retention and toughness, but it offers less corrosion resistance compared to 420HC.

420HC vs AUS 6

420hc is also comparable to aus-6 since both contain almost the same levels of carbon and chromium. They deliver similar hardness and corrosion resistance. The high Manganese and silicon content in 420hc, however, makes it a bit tougher than 420hc.

420HC vs 5Cr15MoV

This is another pretty close steel alloy to 420hc as both contain almost the same carbon content, which means they fall in the same hardness level. But the 5Cr15Mov steel features slightly higher chromium and less vanadium content, making it more corrosion resistant and less tough.

Is 420HC steel good for knife?

The 420HC stainless steel is good low-end steel that offers you a good toughness degree and can take a lot of abuse without chipping or breaking. It also sharpens quite easily and achieves an ultra-fine cutting edge without much effort. And yes, this steel delivers high rust and corrosion resistance.

Is 420HC steel good for knife

420HC is also affordable compared to most high-end steels on the market. Despite this, it makes high-performance knives. If you still doubt how good is 420HC stainless steel, you should take note of how many top brands, e.g. Gerber, Buck, S&M, Kershaw, to name but a few, continue using the steel to make some of their most popular knives.

Best 420HC steel knives

The market is flooded with 420HC, which is expected for popular steel. We took some extra time to research which of these knives perform well, and we ended up with top 3 options below.

1. Gerber StrongArm Fixed Blade Knife

Gerber StrongArm Fixed Blade Knife

Gerber has been in the game for soo long and has earned respect among US knife users. Mind you, this brand has been used to make knives for the US military since 1968. And this StrongArm carries on its legacy of super-tough fixed blade knives for combat and survival use.

Featuring a fine-edge, full-tang 420hc steel blade, this knife is designed for brute strength. It offers you reliable performance in survival situations. The 420HC steel is pretty tough and decently keeps a sharp edge while offering excellent corrosion resistance.

The budget-friendly survival knife also comes with a diamond-textured rubberized handle, which offers you a good, solid grip on your knife in all conditions.

The striking pommel positioned at the handle base will help you effortlessly break through hard surfaces during rescue operations. The black ceramic coating ensures a low visual profile (much needed for tactical situations) while shielding the blade against corrosion and ensuring long life.

Being a fixed knife, this Gerber StrongArm needs a sheath, and the manufacturer gives you one. You'll get a sheath system with a snap-in Molle strap to let you easily carry your knife vertical. What's more, this sheath will let you carry your knife horizontally on a belt or in traditional drop-leg belt carry.

Highlighted Features:

  • 100% made in the USA
  • Overall length: 9.8"; Blade length: 4.8"
  • Multi-mount, snap-together sheath
  • Rubberized handle for secure grip
  • Nylon webbing for drop leg carry
  • Detachable belt hoops for horizontal carry

2. Buck Knives 112 Ranger Folding Knife

Buck Knives 112 Ranger Folding Knife

Buck also takes pride in manufacturing a variety of knives using 420HC stainless steel. This is one of their most popular folding knives made from steel. And it was designed as a mini version of their 110 Folding Hunter. It comes in a more compact and lightweight design, making it ideal for everyday carry.

The knife boasts a 3-inch 420HC steel blade that's easy to sharpen, offers good edge retention, and resists corrosions quite well. It comes razor sharp right out of the box, and its clip point shape with super-sharp point effortlessly works out piercing and slicing tasks.

As a true classic, this folder also comes armed with the traditional lock back mechanism. This keeps the blade locked in an open position to give you reliable strength and ensure your safety when using the knife.

Regarding the handle, Buck equips this compact folder with a Macassar ebony handle with brass bolsters. This not only looks great but also offers you a comfortable grip when using your knife. The deep finger grooves ensure a more secure, slip-free grip for users with varying hand sizes.

A nice, well-made genuine leather sheath comes with this folding knife to offer you a safe and secure way to carry your knife. The sheath has a belt loop to let you easily mount it to your belt.

Highlighted Features:

  • 3 Inch 420HC clip point blade
  • Closed length 4-1/4"; weighs 5.6 oz.
  • Beautiful Macassar ebony handle
  • Includes a genuine leather sheath
  • Covered by Buck's lifetime warranty

3. Kershaw Chive Pocket Knife

Kershaw Chive Pocket Knife

Kershaw is also a popular brand that relies on 420HC steel to make some of their pocket knives. A good example is this highly popular Chive pocket knife. Designed for everyday carry, it comes in a compact and lightweight design to ensure high portability.

The knife is characterized by a 1.9-inch blade made out of 420HC stainless steel, which is engineered for high performance and offers good edge retention and excellent rust/corrosion resistance. The knife comes sharp out of the box and stays sharp for a long while.

A matching durable stainless steel handle completes this knife and offers equally high resistance to corrosion and staining. The entire knife sports a non-reflective matte bead-blasted finish to offer additional corrosion resistance while dampening light reflections and keep your profile low in a tactical situation.

Like most of the knives coming from Kershaw, this pocket knife is armed with SpeedSafe assisted opening, which ensures smooth and fast one-handed blade opening, closing, and locking. Since it's a lock back, you won't have to worry about the blade accidentally closing on your hand and injuring you during use.

You'll also get a handy, removable pocket clip when you purchase this knife. Needless to say, this offers you an easy to carry knife in your pocket. A pre-drilled lanyard hole on the handle gives you an alternative around the neck carry option.

Highlighted Features:

  • 1.9inch high-performance 420HC steel blade
  • SpeedSafe assisted opening
  • Durable stainless steel handle
  • Non-reflective matte bead-blasted finish
  • Includes Tip-lock slider
  • Convenient single-position pocket clip

Final Verdict

There you have it! The complete guide to 420HC blade steel helps you decide if it's the right steel for you. The key strengths of this steel lie in excellent corrosion resistance, ability to hold a sharp edge decently, and super-easy sharpening. Oh! Knives made from this steel are also quite affordable. With this info, you should have an easy time deciding whether 420hc steel is good for you.

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