best knife steel for hunting

…Best Knife Metal?

This Article Covers:

…Best Steel For Hunting Knives
…What Is The Best Knife Steel? – Carbon v’s Stainless?

Knife Steel, For Hunting Knives

3 Steel Types for Hunting Knives

  • 420HC – used in a lot of Buck Knives.
  • AUS-8 – used in SOG Knives and Outdoor Edge.
  • VG-10 – use in knives by Spyderco, Cold Steel, and Fallkniven.

Steel Types For Custom Knives

  • 80CRV2 – Used for custom knives including hunting knives, recommended by Jason Knight
  • 01 Tool Steel – Used for Bushcraft Knives by Jack Lore
  • S30V High vanadium stainless steel good hardness rating and edge retention – used in some Buck Knives
  • 154 CM High carbon content high hardness rating and excellent edge retention – used in Buck Knives, for their custom knives

Rather than spec-out over steel hardness, I look for toughness in my knife blades, for me, hunting knives, especially my skinning knife, has to be well made, lightweight, well balanced, and comfortable to use…
Most Important – A Good Hunting Knife Must Hold Its Edge Until The Job Is Done!
In the real world both of my cheap and cheerful, AUS-8 Stainless Steel Hunting Knives, live up to my expectations, whatever the hunting conditions. I’ve owned them 10 years now and see no reason to replace them.

If you are interested in a comprehensive knife steel chart as well as a well researched “best knife steel” buying guide? check out this article on JantzKnifeMaking.com

Carbon v’s Stainless Knife Steel

If I was buying or making a custom knife it would most likely be from Carbon Steel, but if I expected the same knife to be used for hunting? I would be resigned to the fact I would have to fuss over it, clean and oil it a lot more than I would if it was made from stainless, I like to keep my knives clean and sharp, I just don’t want to have to do so – every time I use them?

One trick I did learn years ago when using carbon steel knives for hunting, Is to cover the blade with olive oil before sliding it into the leather sheath, If you do this several times, the inside of the sheath becomes well oiled this in turn transfers to the blade, my knife was less likely to rust, whenever the weather was wet and wild.

Though today, I’d rather use stainless knives for hunting and carbon for knives when the conditions aren’t so harsh – Not because carbon knives can’t handle tough conditions, but simply because I don’t need the extra work keeping them clean and rust-free, plus I find the carbon knives I like always cost more to buy – I guess I’m getting lazier and tighter with my money as I get older? or is it smarter?

Best Hunting Knife Steel?


When I’m choosing a hunting knife, if it’s well-made by a known brand, specifically for hunting, using Stainless Steel… It has met most of my requirements already, I will pick it up to get the feel of it in hand and look at the cost…
I don’t worry too much about “best steel types” when buying a “Working Knife”.
In real-world situations, knife steel used by established Knife Brands is durable enough for processing deer, I’m using AUS-8 at the moment, I’m very happy with the performance and edge retention of AUS-8 in both my boning knife and skinning knife. – If you want your knife to hold an edge longer? and who doesn’t want that! It’s imperative, you use your knife for the specific job it is intended for…

My Boning Knife is only used for boning out deer, either in the field or processing deer at home.
The Swingblade I use for gutting and skinning deer in the field, nothing else.
This is why my basic, but reliable, hunting knives hold an edge for a very long time.
You will never see me cutting wood, plastic, cardboard, or any rubbish like that… One Knife, One Use!

Best Knife Steel…

  1. 154CM is custom steel also used by Buck Knives with high carbon content and higher hardness rating giving it better edge retention than 420HC.
  2. 420HC is tougher than the standard 420, the HC stands for high carbon, 420HC is used by many knife makers including Gerber Knives and Buck as it is resistant to rust, easy to re-sharpen, with good/average edge-retention – 420HC is often derided by knife “experts” as too soft? But many popular production knife makers rely on it for the bulk of their knives, and experienced hunters use 420HC knives every day…
  3. S30V Stainless Steel has a high vanadium content giving it even higher edge retention.
  4. X55CrMo14 or 1.4110 used in Swiss Army Knives as well as Inox blade steel used by Victorinox.
  5. ZDP-189 by Hitachi Metals, used by custom knife makers and a few factory makers including Spyderco Knives and Kershaw Knives.
  6. VG-10 is widely used in Japanese kitchen knives, several manufacturers use it in various folders and fixed blade knives like Spyderco Knives, Cold Steel, and Fallkniven.
  7. AUS-8 (8A) is comparable to 440B with a carbon content close to 0.75%. Outdoor Edge uses it in their SwingBlade hunting knife also SOG Knives use AUS-8 extensively.
  8. 440C is considered high-end stainless steel. It is very resistant to corrosion and is one of the most common stainless alloys used for knife making.
  9. Böhler n695 is equivalent to 440C
  10. CPM S125V High wear resistance, difficult to process, and machine for knifemakers mainly used in custom knives, though it is used by larger manufacturers in very limited quantities.

Best Steel For Hunting Knives

Ask The Experts!?
Ask any 3 hunters “what is the best knife steel?”
You will most likely get 3 different answers and a heated explanation of why it is so!
A better option than “debating with friends” is to visit this page on ThoughtCo and Compare 20 Grades of Knife Steel.
If someone says you must have this! or must have that…? Test It, For Yourself, then buy the knife that works best for You! – at a price you are comfortable spending!


Scroll to Top