420HC Steel Review: Is It Good For Making Knives?

By Ryan Leavitt •  Updated: 02/13/21 •  5 min read

If you’ve been on the hunt for a buck knife, there’s a big chance you’ve heard of 420HC steel.

After all, the reason 420HC is such a popular steel recipe is that it was used in buck knives.

You can trace the roots of the 420HC recipe to older steel, simply known as 420.

420 steel was known as a soft material that wasn’t that tough.

The 420HC recipe improved on that made it much harder, which is why it is now widely used for scissors, cutlery, and other tools.

420HC is very hard stainless steel, making it an ideal candidate for knife steel.

However, because it is so hard, it is also brittle, so make sure to take proper care of a 420HC blade.

If you’ve been looking to learn more about this material, you’ve come to the right place.

Our 420HC review dives deep into the properties of this material and paints a clear picture of whether or not it’s the right steel for your knife.

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What Is 420HC Steel?

This is actually a retrofit of very old steel.

The origin of this material is the 420 steel recipe, which is a material that has been used for a long while.

It has a relatively low carbon content, which makes it soft, and the fact that it has a low number of carbides (the microcrystals that give steel its toughness), it isn’t the toughest material on the planet.

In 420HC, the “HC” stands for high-carbon, because it is a tweaked recipe of an old material that adds more carbon to the mix.

The result of this is a much tougher material that is very stain-resistant and corrosion-resistant.

It might not hold its edge as well as others on the market, but it’s also relatively affordable, making it a great material for affordable blades.

420HC Chemical Composition

Here’s a list of the materials that you can find in 420HC steel.

1. Carbon – 0.46%

This is one of the best qualities of this material.

Since it has a fair amount of carbon in it, it’s very hard and corrosion-resistant.

And since it doesn’t have too much carbon it’s still very strong as too much carbon can reduce its strength.

2. Chromium – 13%

This is one of the most important aspects of this steel.

Since it has more than 12% chromium in it, this is stainless steel.

Because it is stainless, the material has great edge retention and tensile strength.

On top of that, the chromium also makes it much more resistant to wear and tear.

3. Manganese – 0.4%

This mineral can help increase the hardness of the steel.

However, too much of it can cause the material to become brittle.

4. Vanadium – 0.3%

This material helps improve its ability to withstand the wear and tear that a regular knife would go through on a daily basis.

5. Silicon – 0.5%

The last element of this material helps improve the strength of the material, which is one of the main reasons it’s a great choice for knife steel.

Properties Of 420HC

Corrosion Resistance

As mentioned earlier, this material is made of 13% chromium.

The main requirement for a material to be considered stainless is if it has more than 12% chromium in it, making 420HC a type of stainless steel.

This means that it has great corrosion resistance and won’t rust too easily, a great feature of any knife.

Wear Resistance

If you’re looking for a blade to last you years upon years, then you might want to consider one made of 420HC.

This is because the steel has a fair amount of Vanadium and carbon in it, which gives it very good wear resistance.

That being said, it isn’t the best out there, and you can find knives and blades on the market today with much better wear resistance.

Because of that, it’s important to take close care of your 420HC blades.

Sharpness

The sharpness of a knife won’t be because of the steel but because of how it was sharpened and honed in manufacturing.

That being said, 420HC is a material that is very easy to sharpen and form into whatever shape you’d want.

So that makes it easy for knife manufacturers to give 420HC blades a very sharp and precise edge that will cut through just about anything.

Edge Retention

420HC has fair edge-retention, but it isn’t the best out there because it isn’t that hard.

Durability

As mentioned earlier, the elements present in this material make it a good choice for knives, but it isn’t the best.

This isn’t the most durable material out there, but because of the Silicon and Chromium in it, it can hold its own against most of the other materials out there.

Conclusion – Is This A Good Material For Knives?

And that will end our crash course on 420HC steel.

It’s a great material that traces its roots back to a very old type of steel.

The elements that makeup 420HC all add up to make it very durable, easy to form, with fair edge retention.

And while it isn’t the best knife steel out there, it’s affordable and accessible, which is why a lot of budget knives on the market use this in making their blades.

Ryan Leavitt

Hi my name is Ryan Leavitt a Marine Corps Veteran and currently an over the road trucker (Long Haul). I am no expert chef but am enjoying preparing my own meals on the road and testing all the different knives.