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AUS-8, 420HC, 440A or 440C?

Discussion in 'General Knife Discussion' started by emann, Jun 4, 2005.

  1. emann


    Apr 27, 2005
    Curious as to which steel most of you feel is the best of these three and the strengths and weaknesses of each. Just trying to get an idea of which one's are exceptable when I'm out knife browsing, and all of these seem to be pretty popular from what I've seen. Thanks for the info.
  2. bama_lou


    Jun 15, 2004
  3. emann


    Apr 27, 2005
    I've seen that before but I didn't know how accurate it might still be being as it's about 7 years old now. Also I saw 420 on there but not 420HC if there's any difference in the two?
  4. Zerileous


    Dec 30, 2004
    common opinion of the rank of those knives is 420 440a aus-8 440c. With 440c at the top. All of these are considered to be low end steels but should perform decently. The 420HC is not liked very well. Its only advantage is stain resistance, as it does a poor job of holding an edge (it is still better than the random stainless you find around). 440a is on the soft side with excelent stain resistance, but makes a decent blade. I have owened 440a knives and they honestly do not compare to aus-8.

    When I decide to buy a knife I consider steel. I usually have some sort of price to steel threshold. Meaning if the knife is 10 bucks, but it does something I want, then I might be satisfied with 420HC. However, by the time I am over $40, it takes some nice features to get me into aus-8. I would buy a BM Griptalian 440c for about 60, though other knives i would not pay that much for 440c. Basically, steel is only part of it, and depending on the price, and a certian threshold, steel gains or looses importance.

    I hope this helps. My advice, avoid 420HC unless everything else about the knife is perfect for you. Do the same with 440A, but not as much so. These are pretty soft but can still work, esp when the price is right. Finally, dont fret too much over steel. Aus-8 and 440c will be similar in performance and you probably will not notice a difference. It is critical to not let steel ruin you knife buying experience. Dont buy a knife for its steel. Choose a knife for everything else and then decide whether or not the knife has an adiquate steel to meet your needs.
    tim8557 likes this.
  5. Quiet Storm

    Quiet Storm

    May 17, 2002
    I don't think AUS-8 and 440C can be considered low end steels at all. 440C is probably the best general purpose steel around, it offers no particularly noteworthy advantages, but unlike other steels, it has no weaknesses either.

  6. ishiyumisan


    Apr 17, 2005
    AUS-6 - AUS-8 - AUS-10 (aka 6A 8A 10A)
    Japanese stainless steels, roughly comparable to 440A (AUS-6, .65%
    carbon) and 440B (AUS-8, .75% carbon) and 440C (AUS-10, 1.1% carbon).
    AUS-6 is used by Al Mar. Cold Steel's use of AUS-8 has made it pretty
    popular, as heat treated by CS it won't hold an edge like ATS-34, but
    is a bit softer and may be a bit tougher. AUS-10 has roughly the same
    carbon content as 440C but with slightly less chromium, so it should
    be a bit less rust resistant but perhaps a bit tougher than 440C. All
    3 steels have some vanadium added (which the 440 series lacks), which
    will improve wear resistance.

    440 A - 440 B - 440C
    The carbon content (and hardenability) of this stainless steel goes up
    in order from A (.75%) to B (.9%) to C (1.2%). 440C is an excellent,
    high-end stainless steel, usually hardened to around 56-58 Rc. All
    three resist rust well, with 440A being the most rust resistant, and
    440C the least. The SOG Seal 2000 is 440A, and Randall uses 440B for
    their stainless knives. 440C is fairly ubiquitous, and is generally
    considered the penultimate general-use stainless (with ATS-34 being
    the ultimate). If your knife is marked with just "440", it is
    probably the less expensive 440A; if a manufacturer had used the more
    expensive 440C, he'd want to advertise that. The general feeling is
    that 440A (and similar steels, see below) is just good enough for
    everyday use, especially with a good heat treat (we've heard good
    reports on SOG's 440A heat treat). 440-B is a very solid performer
    and 440-C is excellent. :cool:
  7. Zerileous


    Dec 30, 2004
    excelent point Queit Storm. What I meant was weaker edge retention. 440c is pretty good but much better can be done these days, although, if the design is good, then dont worry too much about steel. As far as i am concerned, 440c is good for most blades.

    To be honest, I am not experienced enough to make qualatative steel judgements except in a few cases. I have sharpened 440c once, and that is my only experience with it.
  8. Quiet Storm

    Quiet Storm

    May 17, 2002
    Yeah, it ranks a bit lower in the edge retention department than some of the "high-end" alloys, but IMO the difference is not as huge as some people want us to believe. And many of the "late and great" steel are very difficult to resharpen, or they're not overly tough, or even both.
    Of course a lot of that depends on heat treatment, but I have the feeling that many manufacturers don't harden their high-end steels properly - or rather, they don't harden them for maximum performance.
  9. averageguy

    averageguy Banned BANNED

    Jun 10, 1999
    Ishiyumisan is correct.
  10. haertig


    May 31, 2005
    Trying to stay somewhat on topic. I just read that FAQ the other day and learned a lot. Then I went over to the Swamp Rat website to look at the knives many here seem to like.

    What's SR-101 steel? They say it's "like 52-100 steel with Kryptonite". OK, 52100 is mentioned in the FAQ as a "ball bearing" steel, but where do they find real Kryptonite to add to it?! ;-) And does "like 52-100" mean "it really is 52-100"? Does it matter?

    Is SR-101 a true steel designation, or is it more akin to Cold Steels "Carbon V" ... a trademarked name that doesn't exactly tell you much about what it really might be?

    People really seem to like these Swamp Rats, so I'm guessing their steel must be pretty darn good - whatever it is. But it's confusing for us newbies who are just now trying to learn what is what when it comes to knife construction. BTW, those Swamp Rat knives LOOK nice. And LOOKS are about the only thing I feel qualified to judge (personal preference, obviously).
  11. STR

    STR Knifemaker/Moderator Moderator

    Aug 27, 2004
    I've always considered 440C to be a 'premium' steel. I doubt all would agree but in my mind 440C is the clear winner here in this comparison. With AUS8 coming in second.

    As for the other two steels mentioned. Frankly with what is available today in the way of better steel that will outperform both 420HC and 440A by a wide margin I wonder why knife companies still insult the buying public by making products with either of those steels.
  12. Rat Finkenstein

    Rat Finkenstein Gold Member Gold Member

    May 18, 2005
    The SR-101 steel on swamprats is awesome and tough, but very low alloy- and it will rust readily, if not properly cared for. This is why most of the blades come coated, (coating also keeps prices down) The added Kryptonite they speak of might be their Tempering protocols. Or maybe they add something to it? Not so sure. Bottom line is- Swamp Rat offers the highest performing knives for the price, or pretty much any price. Infi Steel from Busse Combat is supposed to be a little better, But I guess SR-101 is comparable. Swamp Rat is Basically the Budget Line of Busse. You cant go wrong buying any swamp rat.
  13. SpyderJon


    Jan 27, 2002
    You know, I tend to get a lot of my custom knives in either ats 34 or 440C, and in all honesty, 440C is my favorite steel (other than Spyderco's VG10). Sure, it isn't as fancy as BG42 or even S30V, but it has its advantages for my purposes. Those being:

    1. It is reliable
    2. It is Cheap
    3. Just about anyone can competently heat treat the stuff
    4. For my purposes, it keeps going and doesn't complain when I mistreat it.

    What can I say, I like the stuff.

  14. Greenbone Boy

    Greenbone Boy

    Feb 19, 2005
    Of those you list 440C without doubt. IMHO
  15. allenC


    Jun 18, 2000
    As I see things,
    440C has the potential to be the best of the listed blade-steels, but it seems that the quality varies greatly (maybe the heat treatment?).
    I have a Spyderco Meerkat in 440C that gets very sharp and holds an edge for a good while, and my Benchmades are terrific in 440C, but I have a 440C Boker that UI just cannot seem to get very sharp.

    AUS-8 seems to be nearly as good as 440C and I've never had a bad AUS-8 knife from any maker.

    There really is'nt much reason to buy a knife with 420HC or 440A.
    Sometimes you find a knife in 420HC (like the Buck 112) that you just can't get in any other steel, but no matter how much I like the knife, I always wish it had better steel.

    Good luck,
  16. 1gailt

    1gailt Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 25, 2005
    allenc, sometimes buck does a run of BG42 steel for the 112 and you can send in your 112 for a blade exchange.you can also buy a new knife direct from Joe Houser when they have a run of BG42 blades. thats where I got mine.
    it could be awhile after Buck's move before they have a new run of BG42 blades.
  17. 440c is great stuff and AUS10 should be considered along with ATS-34 and VG-10 in my opinion. NS-690 should be added to the list of very good but slightly less expensive steels also.
  18. emann


    Apr 27, 2005
    It seems like the knife magazines I read are always making 420HC or 440A sound like a really good thing when reviewing knives that use this blade material. You read some of these reviews and you start to think that there is no difference between a blade made of 420J2 and CPM-S30V sometimes. It seems like Tactical Knives magazine is the worst about this.
  19. William12


    May 30, 2005
    Best luck I have had is with correctly hardened AUS 8. 440 C has performed well as a kitchen steel, but I have heard does not meet the standards of the "new" steels. May be just hype, and I am new. I am leaning towards ATS for making my own knive (initially)when I can actually afford to send Admiral a check. Right now, W1 and W2 (file steel), when selectively tempered (just did two) seem to perform very well. C content 1.00 - 1.25 when usiing Nicholson files (again, I have heard), but are functioning well.

  20. Dirk

    Dirk Moderator Moderator

    Mar 19, 1999
    One thing that hasn't really been touched on with all of these steels. Is the blade ground correctly? Knives, especially small knives are meant to cut. To cut well, the grind needs to right as does the edge geometry. If these aren't right, you could have an s30v blade with the best heat treat and it will be a lousy performer.

    One reason the low end steels are used so much is that they are easy to stamp blades out of. Much quicker and cheaper to make blades this way.

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