400 series stainless?

Discussion in 'General Knife Discussion' started by asod001, Feb 7, 2010.

  1. asod001


    Feb 2, 2010
    What is 400 series stainless? I have been doing some reading and it sounds like it could be any stainless steel that starts with the number 4. True? If so, does anyone know which specific types are used by Cold Steel, Smith & Wesson, and Gerber?
  2. harkamus


    Apr 23, 2007
    440a, 440b, 440c, and 440f (although f and b are not as common). A has the least amount of carbon in it making it the most stainless. C has the most carbon in it, making it stronger than the rest of the 440 steels. Dunno much about B. F is what's referred to as free machinable and is not commonly found in knives. There is also 420 which is stainless.

    EDIT: Ooops, forgot about 410, which is also stainless IIRC.
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2010
  3. orthogonal1


    Oct 30, 2005
    I've always wondered about that.

    I've also seen "440 Vanadium" and "400 series Molybdium".
  4. DennisStrickland

    DennisStrickland Banned BANNED

    Jun 24, 2009
    of all the 440 series the 440c is only one makes decent blades. 440b is close with .85c but rarely used. 440 steels have been mostly exclisped by newer alloys.the chinese 8 series & japans aus series have replaced them. 440c used for collector knives since takes a super high polish.
  5. knarfeng

    knarfeng senex morosus moderator Staff Member Super Mod Moderator

    Jul 30, 2006
    For knives, "400 series" typically means alloys similar to 420HC or 440A, though it could mean 425 mod as well. Normally, if it is anything else it is identified as such. I say "similar" because so many knives are now made in China from Chinese steel. Chinese steel alloys are similar in composition to American and Japanese alloys, but are enough different that you cannot say they are an exact match.
  6. enderwiggin


    Nov 18, 2006
    If you see "400 series stainless" printed on a knife, more often than not it means the manufacturer doesn't want to print the name of the steel being used.

    It's not a good sign.
  7. 3Guardsmen


    Mar 16, 2005
    To me, "400 series stainless" is a generic term for "steel so junky the manufacturer won't even admit what exact steel they're using." "Surgical stainless," for me, has the exact same definition. "400 series stainless" is anything from 410, to 420J2, to 440C, but most likely it is not 440C (makers who use 440C usually don't want to hide that fact from their customers).

    Cold Steel uses what they call "420 sub-zero quenched," and they have used 440A in the past. To me, "420 sub-zero quenched" is just a fancy way of saying "crap steel that's been frozen for no real purpose."

    Gerber (the Gerber of today) is notorius for using junk steel and trying to be coy about it.

    Smith and Wesson knives, made under contract by Taylor Cutlery, are made in China, so when they claim "440" or "440C," I start thinking alphabet steels, like 8Cr13MoV and the like. As Sal Glesser of Spyderco discovered, what the Chinese think of as "440C" is vastly different from what we consider (and what really is) 440C.

    If you see "440," with no letter (A, B, or C) after it, assume you're getting the lowest (440A) grade of 440 steel! If you see the terms "440C," "400 series," or "surgical stainless," coupled with the word "China," or "Made in China," you'd be fairly safe in assuming that you're getting "crap steel with a fancy name.";)
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2010
  8. Bob W

    Bob W

    Dec 31, 2000
    It also gives manufacturers, potentially, the ability to change steel types at will without creating a marketing nightmare. Drop from 440B to 440A or 420HC to 420J2 to save $$, and have most users remain unaware.
  9. batosai117

    batosai117 Gold Member Gold Member

    Jun 5, 2007
    I believe 3Guardsmen hit the nail :)

    To me they are in order from least to greatest:

    400 series stainless steel, and surgical stainless = not good for anything
    410 stainless steel = great handle and liner material which seems to be a common application for this grade of steel
    420 stainless steel = makes a great liner, but that's about it, never want to see just "420" on a blade
    420J2 stainless steel = great liner, but never want to see this on a blade steel, I believe CRKT uses this on some models.....those models go dull quickly.
    420HC stainless steel = when done properly (Buck Knives for example) it is a blade steel beyond it's metallurgical components, this can typically rank with some 440C or AUS8/AUS10 (see below for 440C and AUS8 and AUS10)
    440A stainless steel and/or AUS6 = OK blade steel, great when done properly (such as Kershaw before they switched to sandvik). Mostly given poor heat treatment and not held very highly in the knife community (except when kershaw made it right).
    440B and/or AUS8 = These two are very similar in their edge retention and sharpness, AUS8 is more widely used, but 440B and AUS8 make a great "medium" blade steel. Medium such as it's not the greatest at anything except being a little of everything....savvy?
    440C and/or AUS10 = The king daddy-o before its crown was taken away by 154CM and ATS-34 (and all the other modern steels). Still widely used and revered as a great blade steel for edge holding, stainless, and hair whittling sharp :D

    I hope this "crash course" in 400 helps, it's questions like this that lead me here to bladeforums in the first place. I wanted to know about blade steels and read up everything I could find.....3 years later and I am still reading up on stuff here :thumbup:
  10. cutter17


    May 16, 2006
    Dosen't Randall Knives use 440B on some of their knives?
  11. marthinus

    marthinus KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Dec 10, 2006
    :thumbup: Agreed. 440C with the right heat treat from a respectable maker is really great IMO!
  12. tiguy7

    tiguy7 Gold Member Gold Member

    Jun 25, 2008
    400 series stainless steels are in the 14% Chrome range and are known for their hardenability but not their corrosion resistance. 300 series stainless steels are in the 18% Chrome and 8% Nickel range. They can't be hardened but are so resistant to corrosion that they are used for kitchen ware, autoclavable surgical instruments, watch cases, etc. The latter is more expensive because of the higher spec. So surgical stainless is not cheap, but it doesn't make good knives.
  13. mete


    Jun 10, 2003
    I have a 440 B AGRussell kukri which works very well. 416 is the free machining grade of 410 and is used for guards and pommels.
  14. The Mastiff

    The Mastiff Gold Member Gold Member

    Apr 21, 2006
  15. wongKI


    Jul 9, 2009
    +1 on China 440C not being 440C. My buddy had a blade in one.

    It sucked.
  16. idaho


    May 5, 2005
    Yes, that is true. Randall were one of the first who used DECENT stainless blade. Earlier, if you wanted good edge holding ability you HAD to use non-stainless carbon alloys.

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