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Buck's S30V vs 420HC

Discussion in 'Buck Knives' started by Lenny, Dec 3, 2012.

  1. Lenny


    Oct 15, 1998
    I'm thinking of getting either a 501 or 110 from the Custom Shop.
    I know Buck's 420HC is highly regarded, but how does it stack up to their S30V?
    What differences will I see in regular use, and heavy use?
    Thanks all,
  2. Badhammer

    Badhammer Gold Member Gold Member

    Jun 8, 2009
    Buck's 420HC is, as you stated highly regarded. IMHO their S30v is also done very, very well. For my use I don't see much difference as I'm quite happy with either but, given the small premium Buck charges for the S30v over their 420HC it's really too good of a bargain to pass up. I believe you'll be happy with either.
  3. 300Bucks

    300Bucks Moderator Moderator

    Apr 19, 2005
    I am not a metal expert, but I think most of them recommend the need of diamond hones to easily sharpen S30V. 300
  4. tiguy7

    tiguy7 Gold Member Gold Member

    Jun 25, 2008
    Sharpening S-30-V is not a problem using Silicon carbide (Carborundum), Aluminum oxide (Corundum), or Arkansas stones (microcrystaline quartz). I also sharpen S-60-V and S-90-V on the same stones. I have the diamond stuff, but it isn't required.
  5. Flatlander1963

    Flatlander1963 Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 28, 2008
    Get the S30V blade. I agree with previous posters that it's a small surcharge for the improved edge holding which I value greatly. A bargain for sure.

    The primary benefit S30V imo is excellent edge holding that exceeds 420HC. I find sharpening S30V on Spyderco's Sharpmaker to be no chore at all. The 420HC is easier to sharpen and will take a scary sharp edge much more quickly.

    If you don't have any experience with premium steels which are harder and thus more time consuming to sharpen, and if you only have the old wet stone you may indeed find S30V a bit difficult to sharpen.

    The stain resistance favors 420HC but not by much.

    Really its about your personality. Do you like to get a good working sharp edge and have that knife hold it for a while? If so S30V. Since you said it will see some heavy use, S30V would be a better choice. But, if you like to sharpen and keep a hair splitting edge then 420HC.

    Either steels will last you many years if not a lifetime.
  6. bertl

    bertl Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 17, 2011
    I'm pretty ignorant about all the different steels but my opinion is that most of the modern steels will do a good job. When buying a new knife, the steel is not the most important thing for me. On the other hand, if you have a choice, you might as well get as much information as possible. Joe Talmadge has a pretty good article about knife steels. One thing he mentions is that to get the most out of the S30V, the sharpening angle should be 15 degrees, not 20 or 25. If you don't change the angle you aren't getting the potential advantage of the steel.
  7. mbjannusch


    Apr 1, 2010
    I have had both, and in my opinion I like the 420Hc better for a couple of reasons. First the chore of sharpening, I have your average three stone whet stone, course, medium, and fine. S30v is a pain to sharpen when using a whet stone. Others may disagree but, I've used the same stones for 20 years and have always got good results until I tried to sharpen S30V. Second, I live, work and play close to the Ocean and for whatever reason S30V has spot rust on the blade after a few hours of being on the ocean. My 420Hc never comes back with rust spots. The price differences are not an issue. Most S30V steel bladed knives will cost you double what Buck charges. The custom shop knives are special though, and there's nothing special about 420HC. Its a great working steel but for the Custom shop you may as well go out with a bang...
  8. David Martin

    David Martin

    Apr 7, 2008
    Agreed, I've done it numerous times using these stones which are very economical and will cut these steels well. Should you rebevel this steel it is time consuming. Still, it takes as much time as the same effort with 440C, you just get much longer edge retention using these steels. DM
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2012
  9. BG42EDGE

    BG42EDGE Banned BANNED

    Nov 6, 2009
    Most users won't be able to tell the difference between the 420HC and the S30V.

    If I remember right, Buck's own testing didn't give S30V a big advantage over 420HC. The S30V is just a status thing for most.

    AND.......the diamond stones are quicker and easier no matter what steel you have.

    Hey, live it up!! This is the 21st Century!

  10. Pack Rat

    Pack Rat Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 27, 2006
    I am a deer hunter and use the S30V 110's for field work as well as some final processing. Son in Law and I both have talked about being able to work up 4 to 5 deer before the S30V needs touching up.

    With 420HC its two to three deer. This has been pretty consistent results over the last 5 years or so.

    We both use the Lansky clamp sharpening system with diamond hones. Sharpening with this is little different than hones on 420HC and little or no extra time involved. As with any blade, it may take some extra time to get "YOUR" edge on one.

    The Lansky or Gatco clamp systems have the guides that make this fairly easy. We use the 25 degree angle for all of our 110's. Seems to be the closest to Buck's factory edge.

    From field experience...... LFH
  11. pinnah


    Jul 28, 2011

    But then, status issues drive nearly all purchases for nearly all kinds of consumer goods. Related, pricing strategy usually has little to nothing to do with actual production or wholesale costs. This is very closely related to the quality levels thread. It's also related to "fit and finish" discussions that focus on visual flaws that have no effect on actual performance (e.g. perfect blade centering, wood grain matching, proud springs) but a huge effect on the consumer's perception of quality and value.
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2012
  12. arty


    Oct 18, 2003
    I have used knives in 420 HC and just got a Buck 501 in S30V. I was never very happy with the edge holding of the 420HC.
    It is easy to sharpen, and just required too frequent sharpening in my use. Nothing wrong with it, but I'd rather get S30V or another high carbon steel for
    the edge holding. The 501 from the custom shop came as sharp or sharper than any other knife I have seen.
  13. zpstl321


    Sep 20, 2012
    Watch some of these videos and it will help. He does have a few on Buck blades that he has tested if you search for them. To be honest, I don't think I've seen a better test/review process. This guy will even go back and revisit issues and post updates.

    One advantage to some of the better steels is that you don't have to use the same profile or angle on the blades. The harder steels can be made thinner and still retain their edge longer. I also encurage you to watch all of the videos in the above link on how he sharpens this knives. It will make you job much easier in the long run.

    As to Buck's 420HC performing as well as S30V...In the test Buck posted they clearly note the edge profile of the blade is what gave their knife the advantage vs the thicker blade it was tested against. On like for like blades S30V, 3V and even A2 is going to outlast and stay sharp longer 420HC by a large margin. Don't get me wrong, I'm a fan of 420HC and own a bunch of Buck blades, but it aint no S30V. :)
  14. BG42EDGE

    BG42EDGE Banned BANNED

    Nov 6, 2009
    The question is not whether S30V can hold an edge longer......that has been demonstrated, at least with easy cutting like flesh.

    The questions are two:

    1. How much longer can S30V hold an edge?
    2. Can the S30V, being a powder steel, still hold an edge longer when really tough cutting tasks are added to the test? And if so, again, HOW MUCH longer?

  15. zpstl321


    Sep 20, 2012
    Yes, watch the videos and you'll see a few examples of bone, battoning wood, carving, the effects of sand paper, stropping compounds, etc.

    In normal use he calls 420HC a one deer blade. I've cut up a pile of deer from feild to freezer and have to agree. I've never see 420HC shave after the full process. If memory serves he rates S30V as well as 3V based on how many deer he processed before it was in need of repairs.

    You can also search for other test by other people and see that be it rope, paper, or whatever, S30V is going to stay sharp at least 6 times longer.

    Also, if you look at the test posted by Buck you'll see once 420HC starts to degrade it does so much, much faster than S30V, regardless of the profile.
  16. BG42EDGE

    BG42EDGE Banned BANNED

    Nov 6, 2009
    That's odd, because I recall Buck's test as showing S30V having about a 50% advantage over 420HC.......not 600%.

    And I'm not even going to attempt to analyze a non-official you tube test that may or may not be an honest test.

  17. 110 Dave

    110 Dave

    May 6, 2004
    well my two centivoes ... get the s30v
    sure it is thought to be a tad more britle at the edge
    but MY experance is that it's edge last longer then 420..
    as to sharpening .. i have no issues with it tho it
    takes a bit longer to re shape the angles if ya lets it get dang good and dulll
  18. David Martin

    David Martin

    Apr 7, 2008
    Thanks for sharing this good time consuning experience. You can post all kinds of tests and user experience with this steel like Pack Rats knowledge and some here just won't listen. So, I wouldn't bother. DM
  19. mbjannusch


    Apr 1, 2010
    Everybody has different experiences with knives and steel based on their use and expertise in different areas. Ones experience/opinion isn't fact or written is stone. I've used S30v and don't care for it. I don't think it holds an edge substantially longer than 420HC with the applications I use it for. Thats my opinion, regardless of the bizillion tests it has under gone and the paper shredder on YouTube. I hate to have to sharpen S30V because it is substantially harder than 420HC. If you want to post others opinions and their experiences, go ahead, It wont change my opinion of the steel. The only way to find out is TRY IT YOURSELF.
  20. sitflyer


    Mar 10, 2011
    That's about the best answer I have heard to this question yet Matt, Try it for yourself, either it's a good fit for your uses or not, only the end user can decide...

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