8 Best Knife Steel For Hunters

Every outdoorsman knows that to succeed in the wilds you need to have the best tools for the job. Your knife can make or break you when you're out hunting or fishing, so you need to choose carefully. This roundup of some of the different steel alloys used in hunting knives will help you to make informed decisions the best knife steel for you the next time you're buying a hunting knife

Comparison Table

Product FAQ 

a collection of different knife steel for hunting

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1. Why Does a Knife's Steel Make a Difference?

2. What Should I Consider in Looking for the Best Knife Steel?

3. What Are the Benefits of Stainless Steel?

4. What are the Benefits of Carbon Steel?

5. What Else Should I Consider?

How We Reviewed 

two hunting knives

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We reviewed a range of stainless and carbon steel alloys, and have provided you with a roundup of their features and durability level, and included a list of pros and cons. We have also specified the average price for a knife made with that type of steel, and a link to a hunting knife made with that steel type.

Overall Price Range of This Product (and Similar Products)

Products made with the steel alloys we reviewed ranged significantly in price between around $20 to nearly $400. However, the best knife steel is not necessarily the most expensive, as there are many factors influencing the final price of a hunting knife.

What We Reviewed 

  • 80CrV2
  • 7CR17MoV
  • 15N20
  • AUS–8
  • 52100
  • 14C28N
  • 8670
  • 440C

80CrV2

No products found.

Features 

This carbon steel alloy is very well reviewed. Though it can be prone to corrosion, it is not any more prone than most carbon steels, and the steel can be maintained either with regular polishing or by forcing a patina. The steel is very hard and is unlikely to chip or buckle even when doing heavy work with the blade. In addition, the steel has very good edge retention.

PROS

  • Tough springy alloy
  • Good edge retention

CONS

  • Needs maintenance to avoid corrosion

WHERE TO BUY

No products found.

Durability

This steel makes for a very durable blade.

7CR17MoV

Uncle Henry 182UHCP 7Cr17MoV Steel Elk Hunter Knife with Leather...
  • Quality materials and designed for all products
  • Recreational and professional level Use

Features 

This steel is often used in the making of budget survival knives; however, that does not mean that it is not a good steel. 7CR17MOV is a type of 440A stainless steel that has been especially modified to contain more vanadium than other steels. The high vanadium content gives increased toughness to the steel as well as increased overall strength and wear resistance. This steel also retains its edge for a surprising length of time.

PROS

  • High carbon high vanadium alloy
  • Tough
  • Durable
  • Retains edge well

CONS

  • Often used in cheaper knives

WHERE TO BUY

Durability

This steel, though often inexpensive, makes durable and tough blades suitable for heavy use.

15N20

Handmade Damascus Steel Hunting Bowie Knife With Leather Sheath DW1064
  • Useful for cutting hunting outdoor, comes with leather sheath
  • Solid Built , Durable , Full Tang , Sharp and Hard Cutting Edge .
  • Handmade , Forged Damascus Steel (1095 / 4340) . Precise Pattern BLADE

Features 

This high nickel stainless steel is very tough and durable, especially at high temperatures. These qualities mean that it is also commonly used in bandsaw and circular saw blades. 15N20's durability and attractive shine mean that it is often used as one of the components in Damascus steel blades. Damascus steel is forged by building up layers of shiny and dull steel to give the finished blade a pattern within it like rippling water.

PROS

  • Tough
  • Durable
  • Used in Damascus steel

CONS

  • Holds its edge less well at room temperature

WHERE TO BUY

Durability

Users of knives made with this steel state that they are very durable.

AUS–8 

Features 

AUS-8 is one of the cheaper steel alloys, but it nevertheless makes good blades. Users note that though it is less good at retaining its edge, it is easy to sharpen. In all areas it performs at around an average level. This is not the best knife steel for those for whom edge retention is a deal breaker, but is likely to make a good knife for someone wanting a knife able to do most things, especially if they are on a budget.

PROS

  • Inexpensive
  • Widely available

CONS

  • Doesn't retain its edge very well

WHERE TO BUY

Durability

Though the steel itself is durable and tough, this alloy does not retain its edge for very long after sharpening.

52100 

Cold Steel Drop Forged Hunter, 4"
  • Overall Length 8 5/8"
  • Blade Length 4"
  • Blade Thickness 5mm

Features 

This is a carbon steel alloy which is often used for making small fixed-blade knives. It makes a good slicing or fine angle blade and is easy to sharpen, meaning that it is frequently used in kitchen knives. Users of knives made out of this steel speak highly of its toughness and edge retention. Another benefit to this steel alloy is that it has been around for a while and continues to stand the test of time.

PROS

  • Easy to sharpen
  • Good edge retention

CONS

  • Not often used in folding blades

WHERE TO BUY

Durability

This is a highly durable steel.

14C28N

Puma Merlin Hunting Motif Deep Etched Knife/Stag / Sandvik Stainless
  • Blade length: 5.91" (150 mm) - Blade thickness: 0.16" (4 mm) - Total length: 10.55" (268 mm)
  • Knife weight: 328 g
  • Steel / hardness: Sandvik 14C28N / 60-62 HRC

Features 

This alloy, manufactured by Sandvik, is ideal for hunting blades. The steel is very hard but without compromising the durable structure of the steel, making knives manufactured form this alloy suitable for the toughest tasks. This alloy tends to be used in high-end knives and often comes at a premium price. However, its edge retention, strength, and resistance to corrosion even by salt water make the financial outlay worth it if you want a blade of really fine quality.

PROS

  • Hard
  • Very durable
  • Retains sharpness well
  • Easy to sharpen

CONS

  • Not suitable for hacking knives or machete type blades

WHERE TO BUY

Durability

This steel is very durable and knives made with it are unlikely to chip or roll at the edge, even when put to heavy use.

8670

Southern Grind Jackal Fixed Blade Knife w/Black Blade, Jade Ghost...
  • DIMENSIONS: 4.75” blade and 4.5” handle with overall length of 9.25”. Weighs in at 9.5 oz.
  • QUALITY MATERIAL: full-tang 8670M high carbon steel is tough as nails and holds a great edge
  • DEPENDABLE GRIP: solid G10 handle for a solid, all-conditions grip

Features 

This high quality carbon steel is used extensively in the lumber industry, where it is used in the composition of large circular saw blades. It contains nickel which adds toughness, and carbon which makes the blade keep its edge for a longer period of time. A knife made with 8670 will hold an edge for a long time and will also be tough and corrosion resistant. 8670 makes a good everyday working knife and will not let you down in the field.

PROS

  • Tough
  • Good edge
  • Easy to sharpen

CONS

  • Not used in many knives

WHERE TO BUY

Durability

8670 steel makes a very durable knife.

440C 

Texas Knifemakers Supply Judge's Favorite - 440C Stainless Steel...
  • Made of 440C stainless steel that has been cryogenically treated to enhance its edge holding capability
  • Overall length: 8-5/8" Blade length: 3-1/2" Blade width: 1-1/8" Tang thickness: 5/32" Guard width: 1-5/8" Use pins up to...
  • Six thumb notches and a contoured handle assist with a solid grip and precision cutting

Features 

This is often hailed as the best knife steel by custom knife makers. 440C is a stainless steel alloy with a high chromium content which can be polished to a dazzling mirror-shine. It is similar to the alloy 1095, but though it contains more carbon (making a harder steel), it is also more resistant to corrosion than 1095. This steel is highly resistant to wear and has a good length of edge retention. This steel does make for a rather heavy blade though, so it is often used in folding knives where the blades are not so large.

PROS

  • Tough
  • Corrosion resistant
  • Good edge retention

CONS

  • Comparatively heavy

WHERE TO BUY

Durability

This is a very durable knife steel, able to keep an edge longer than almost any other of the stainless steel alloys.

The Verdict

a hunting knife stuck on a trunk of a tree

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Knife enthusiasts can argue all day about types of steel, but much opinion just comes down to personal taste. Don't forget that the steel used to make a knife is just the beginning, and you will have other factors that you need to consider before making a purchase.

In the category of carbon steel the best knife steel may be 80CrV2, because it can be used to make a tough springy blade that retains its edge well. If you're going on a long trip and need something to keep its edge over several weeks, then you'll want to consider this excellent carbon steel alloy.

In the category of stainless steel, the best knife steel may be the 440C, which combines toughness, edge retention and corrosion resistance in a steel that can be polished to an attractive mirror-shine. If you are looking for a good hunting knife, one made from either of these alloys may be a good place to start.

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