Knife Steel

420HC vs. S30V Steel: How Do They Differ?

420HC vs. S30V Steel How Do They Differ

Among the numerous steel options available to make a knife blade, 420HC and S30V stand out as two prominent contenders. Although the two are drastically different in terms of chemical composition and properties, they share some characteristics that may confuse novice buyers.

S30V is considered high-end powder metallurgy steel, while 420HC fits more into the mid-range stainless steel spectrum.

In this article, we’ll put 420HC and S30V steels side by side, comparing their edge retention, corrosion resistance, toughness, and more. Read to the end to discover the better pick for your knife store.

420HC steel overview

Chemical composition

  • Carbon: 0.45%
  • Chromium: 13.00%
  • Manganese: 0.40%
  • Silicon: 0.40%
  • Vanadium: 0.30%

420HC steel is a higher carbon version of 410 and 416 series stainless steel. Unlike 420HC, these steels have a wide range of applications, from valve components to even firearms. 420HC, on the other hand, is primarily used for the cutlery industry.

420HC has unmatched corrosion resistance and toughness, which enabled it to make a name for itself in the knife industry. It has a toughness lever close to premium steel like 14C28N and AEB-L. These make 420HC a great knife blade material for heavy-duty applications. Think cleavers and outdoor knives.

S30V steel overview

Chemical composition

  • Carbon: 1.45%
  • Chromium: 14.00%
  • Vanadium: 4.00%
  • Molybdenum: 2.00%

S30V, or CPM-S30V, is a powder metallurgy steel developed by Crucible Industries. It’s one of the first knife steels that came out in the 21st century. Crucible created S30V specifically for use in knives.

S30V makes an all-rounder knife with overall good qualities. It doesn’t excel in a particular area. Instead, it has a good balance from edge retention to toughness to corrosion resistance. Although it’s somewhat expensive, it makes a knife that satisfies both recreational and daily users.

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420HC vs. S30V: performance

how do 420HC vs. S30V differ in performance


420HC steel’s hardness can be between 55 and 58 HRc. It’s a relatively soft steel, but this Rockwell hardness range is ideal for those looking for an outdoor knife for heavy-duty applications.

Depending on heat treatment, S30V steel typically measures 59 and 61 HRc. The hardness measures tell a lot about 420HC and S30V steel’s wear resistance, which ultimately affects edge retention.

Edge retention

As anyone with knowledge of knife steels would expect, S30V has much better edge retention than 420HC. The two don’t even come close in this regard. S30V steel knives are also much sharper as the steel has a finer microstructure enabling a more refined edge profile.

Although the ability to hold a sharp edge is at the forefront of decision-making for most users, it isn’t always the case. A knife user employing their knife for heavy-duty applications may favor 420HC over the S30V. As with any other knife steel, base your decision on what will benefit your customers.


The toughness and strength are where 420HC turns the table around. Compared to the S30V, 420HC is a lot tougher. You can cut small wood pieces, thick bones, and strip branches while camping and it won’t chip. It may pick up a significant amount of scratches but be assured knowing that the edge won’t get damaged.

It isn’t the same with S30V steel knives. It’s relatively tough for a steel around the same hardness range, but it may chip under stress. It doesn’t have good tensile strength. Using an S30V knife to cut with stabbing motions or prying things can chip the edge, resulting in a blade that needs fixing.

Corrosion resistance

S30V steel has good corrosion resistance. It isn’t prone to rust when used regularly. However, it may not hold up well to corrosive substances. The blades made from this steel don’t make good diving knives or saltwater fishing knives. 

420HC is an exemplary stainless steel for users that need beyond great corrosion resistance. It resists corrosion and rust around saltwater, making it the ideal knife steel for users that fish or live near the beach. Even chlorine-based substances don’t lead to corrosion in 420HC steel knives.

This corrosion resistance with its superb toughness is favorable to cleaver-type knives that won’t break or rust easily.


difference between sharpening 420HC and S30V steel

420HC steel knives are notably easier to sharpen for novice sharpeners. It’s more forgiving to common sharpening mistakes. Anyone can utilize a standard whetstone and sharpen up a 420HC blade effortlessly. It’s a steel notably easier to sharpen for novice sharpeners for being forgiving of common sharpening mistakes.

S30V steel is harder to sharpen than 420HC. Being a powder metallurgy steel doesn’t help either. But they are not notoriously hard to sharpen. The right technique and sharpening stone contribute to the sharpening ease in this matter.

420HC vs. S30V: price

So far, we can conclude that the edge retention and sharpness of the S30V are far better than the 420HC. On the other hand, 420HC has superior toughness with slightly better corrosion resistance. Now that they are in some sort of an even field, the price might just be the deciding factor.

In this case, 420HC will provide better value as they are much cheaper to come by compared to S30V.

Buck Knives is one of the few knife brands with a wide selection of 420HC steel knives. On average, they cost $40 to $50. A similarly built knife from a competitor brand that uses S30V costs upwards of $100 – or even higher. Considering this, users with a budget will favor 420HC more than S30V.

420 HC vs. S30V: conclusion table

Hardness55 – 58 HRc58 – 61 HRc
Edge RetentionFairGreat
Corrosion ResistanceExcellentGreat
Sharpening EaseEasyModerate

Which steel is better for your knife store?

Which steel is better for your knife store between 420hc and s30v steel

That depends. While S30V is an overall balanced knife steel, 420HC steel is just as good – even better for users that need toughness and corrosion resistance. S30V provides better value as it’s a balanced steel that won’t disappoint. 

When using a knife to cut for long hours, 420HC may fall below expectations. It isn’t the same for S30V steel’s toughness and corrosion resistance. S30V has adequate strength and rust resistance for everyday users.

S30V steel makes a more fitting knife for the general user. However, the price also plays a role. Your customers can get two to three 420HC steel knives for the price of one S30V.

With these profiles, any knife store should have products similar to S30V and 420HC. If that isn’t an option for your store, 420HC steel may offer better value with its affordable pricing.

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