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420HC Steel vs 440C Steel – What’s the Difference

420HC Steel vs 440C Steel

Steel-making is a craft that has been perfected over centuries, with countless innovations and improvements. The result is a dizzying array of alloys and grades that offer unique advantages, making it challenging for even experienced knife enthusiasts to understand their differences. Among the most common grades are 420HC and 440C steels, widely used for knives, but how do they compare? In this post, we’ll examine the differences between these two popular steel types and how they affect the performance of knives made from them.

What is 420HC Steel?

420HC (high carbon) steel is a special type of stainless steel that is highly corrosion-resistant and extremely durable. It has a higher amount of carbon, contributing to its strength and hardness while maintaining all the advantages of regular stainless steel, such as resistance to rusting, staining, abrasion, and toughness. Additionally, it provides excellent edge-holding characteristics making it ideal for use in blades and cutlery applications.

What is 440C Steel?

440C Steel is a type of stainless steel created with carbon, chromium and molybdenum added to create a high hardness, wear resistance and strength. It’s great for knives, surgical instruments, valves and other components that require durability. 440C offers excellent corrosion resistance compared to conventional steels and can be heat-treated to very high hardness levels.

Difference Between 420HC Steel and 440C Steel

Chemical Composition

The primary difference between the two steels is their chemical composition. 420HC is a high-carbon stainless steel that contains between 0.4% and 0.5% carbon, while 440C is a high-chromium stainless steel that contains between 0.95% and 1.2% carbon. The higher carbon content of 440C steel makes it harder and more abrasion-resistant, while the lower carbon content of 420HC steel enhances its toughness and corrosion resistance. Regarding other elements, both steel sheets contain iron, manganese, and chromium, with 440C steel also containing significant amounts of molybdenum and vanadium.

Hardness and Wear Resistance

Since 440C contains more carbon, it is harder than 420HC and has superior wear resistance. 440C has a Rockwell hardness rating of 58–62, while 420HC has a rating of 56–59. As a result, knives made from 440C steel will maintain their sharpness for longer and require less sharpening overall. Meanwhile, 420HC is relatively easy to sharpen and resists chipping and deformation due to its less brittle nature.

Corrosion Resistance

Both 420HC and 440C steels are stainless, meaning they have a high resistance to rust and other forms of corrosion. Chromium is the primary element responsible for this, with both steels containing at least 13% chromium. However, 440C steel has a higher percentage of chromium, which makes it more corrosion-resistant than 420HC steel. Nevertheless, 420HC still offers good corrosion resistance, and knives made from this steel are suitable for outdoor use and other harsh environments where moisture is present.


Regarding price, 420HC is generally cheaper than 440C steel due to its different compositions and the extra steps required to manufacture high-carbon steel. 420HC steel is widely used in budget knives and offers good value for money, while 440C steel is found in high-end knives that cost significantly more.


Both 420HC and 440C steels are used in the production of knives, with 420HC being more commonly employed in budget and outdoor knives, while 440C is widely used in high-end knives. 420HC is suitable for general-purpose knives that require good all-around performance, while 440C is preferred for knives that demand high wear resistance and superior edge retention.


In conclusion, there is no clear ” winner ” for 420HC vs. 440C steel there is no clear “winner” as each steel has unique strengths and weaknesses. The choice largely depends on the user’s preferences, intended applications, and budget. 420HC is a good choice for those searching for a budget-friendly option with good corrosion resistance, easy sharpening, and decent toughness. Meanwhile, 440C is perfect for those who require high-performance steel that will maintain its edge for longer and require less sharpening. Ultimately, the choice comes down to user requirements, and it is important to weigh the pros and cons of each steel grade before making a decision.

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