420HC Steel: Is it a Good Knife Steel?

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You may have come across a 420HC blade if you are after budget-friendly knives from Bucks or Gerber. These two esteemed brands widely use this steel to make a distinct collection of affordable knives with decent performance.

What is 420HC Steel?

Buck Knives 110 Folding Hunter Lock-back Knife, Brass Bolsters, Ebony Handles, 3-3/4" 420HC Clip Point Blade with Leather Sheath

420HC refers to the advanced version of the 420 steel. It is a low-end martensitic steel made by Latrobe in the United States. It is widely used for making cutlery, scissors, custom knives, and surgical tools. It is used for making a variety of knives such as camping, tactical, EDC, and even machetes420HC evolved by modifying 420 by adding more carbon content. Thus, the letters HC in the name represents ‘High Carbon.’

There are several types of steels of which, a specific set is termed 420 steels. In this category, 420 HC is usually tagged as the best of them. This is because of its high carbon content.

However, it is a fact that a variety of other steels have even higher carbon content. Many people believe that the carbon amount in this steel is just right. Hence the steel is significantly affordable. Therefore, the 420 HC knives usually cost below fifty bucks.

Just because this steel is affordable does not mean that its performance is not up to par. It is widely used for making affordable Kershaw, Buck, and Gerber knives.

Chemical Composition

420HC is a type of stainless steel(>11% Chromium). There is also enough carbon as well as vanadium. Following are the various elements of which this steel is made up of:

  • 13% chromium for better tensile strength, resistance to corrosion as well as wear, and retention of sharpness
  • 0.46% carbon for enhanced hardness, durability, as well as resistance to wear and corrosion
  • 0.4% manganese for improved hardness and sharpness retention
  • 0.4% silicon for better strength
  • 0.3% vanadium for better hardenability as well as wear resistance

Steel Hardness

Generally, the hardness level of 420HC stainless steel is around 55 HRC. This is sufficiently hard for most tasks, although many other steel versions are harder. A few knife manufacturers apply their distinct process of heat treatment, hence the hardness can go up in the range of 56 to 59 HRC.

420HC Stainless Steel Properties

Buck Knives 931 Chef's Knife, 8-Inch 420HC Stainless Steel Blade, DymaLux Rosewood Handle, Kitchen Cutlery

The chemical composition of this steel indicates its properties. Following are its most significant properties that you can expect:

  • Decent Edge Retention: It is a fact that many newer steel variants hold a sharp edge for a time longer than that of 420 HC. Practically, the ability to retain a sharp edge of 420 HC steel is not that bad. However, this steel can retain a sharp cutting edge for a longer time than other variants in the 400 series. So, although you may have to sharpen your blade quite often, it would not be as often as in the case of any other 400 option.
  • Great Corrosion Resistance: 420HC is a pure type of stainless steel, as it has the required amount of chromium content. Thus, it fully keeps rust and corrosion at bay. Wet conditions are no longer a problem for your knife. Further, if you keep wiping your blade after using it, you may not even face the issue of discoloration after many years of use.
  • Good Sharpening Ease: It is one of the easiest steel variants to sharpen. After all, only a handful of steel variants are easy to sharpen.
  • Toughness: This steel is tough, although its hardness level can be more if heat-treated distinctively. Toughness refers to the ability to resist chipping. This steel will not chip quicker than other steels in the 440 series. This steel can endure a fair amount of abuse.

420 HC vs Other Knife Steel Options

420HC vs S30V

In terms of toughness, both these steel variants have the same rating. However, in terms of edge retention as well as resistance to corrosion, S30V wins the race. Still, 420HC steel competes closely with S30V in terms of resisting corrosion. However, it loses significantly to S30V when it comes to edge retention. In terms of ease of sharpness, 420 HC wins the race.

S30V is also much harder due to which its blade cuts stronger materials like butter. Despite being this hard, its level of toughness is decent. Due to these reasons, S30V is a premium steel variant that is pricier than lower mid-range steels.

420HC vs 440C

The pricier 440C steel is harder than 420 HC but is relatively less tough. This means its ability to hold a sharp edge is better and is a bit more resistant to corrosion. While both are easy to sharpen, a 420 HC blade is easier to sharpen than that of 440C.

420HC vs 8Cr13MoV

Just as 440C, 8Cr13MoV is an upper mid-range option. However, in terms of toughness as well as resistance to corrosion, both have the same rank. 420HC is more rustproof than 8Cr13MoV. When it comes to the ability to retain a sharp edge, 420 HC wins. However, in terms of ease of sharpness, 8Cr13MoV wins the race.

420HC vs AUS 8

The latter is another upper mid-range option just as 8Cr13MoV. In terms of edge retention as well as toughness, both steels score the same. However, when it comes to resisting corrosion, AUS 8 is better. AUS 8 steel is a bit easier to sharpen than the 420HC steel.

420HC vs 1095

The latter is lower mid-range steel just as 420HC. While both are easy to sharpen options, they differ significantly. In terms of edge retention, 1095 gets a slight edge. However, when it is the matter of resisting rust and corrosion, 420HC is significantly better than 1095 that can rust easily if used in a humid setup. However, 1095 is tougher.

420HC vs 154CM

The latter is one of the high-end steel variants. It is considered all-around steel but is only on par with the former when in terms of keeping rust or corrosion at bay. However, 420HC is less likely to rust. The ability of 154CM steel to retain a sharp edge is much better. However, 420 HC wins over 154CM in terms of ease of sharpness. While 154CM is not easy to sharpen, it is more difficult than sharpening a 420 HC blade.

Top 420HC Knives

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So, is 420HC a Good Knife Steel?

420 HC is an ideal option for making low-entry knives. Due to its good corrosion resistance power, decent edge retention ability, and ease of sharpening, this steel is good for knives. Moreover, it is an economical option. However, due to poor resistance to wear, you need to take proper care of your 420HC knife.