Chapter 05: Carbon Steel Knives vs. Stainless Steel Knives

01: Hunting 101 – Hunting Knife vs. Survival Knife vs. Camping Knife
02: Hunting and Skinning Knife, Types and Uses
03: The Fixed Blade vs. Folding Blade Debate
04: Types of Knife Blades
05: Carbon Steel Knives vs. Stainless Steel Knives
06: What Makes The Best Knife Grip?
07: Best Knife Sheath

Carbon Steel Knives or Stainless Steel Knives?

 IMG_0317For this article, we will focus on the two major make up of knives and that are used by hunters: carbon steel knives and stainless steel.

Hunting knives have a single purpose and that is to separate one material from another whether it be skinning, dressing or slicing. The quality of the business end of the knife is of great importance for this task, and knowing the type of steel used to create it dictates the strength, corrosion resistance and other qualities that will make the knife what it is. There are a lot of steel types out there, from the 154 CM that was originally designed for jet engine fan blades to the X-15 T.N used in water sport products due to its excellent corrosion resistance quality.

Stainless Steel knives

stainlessStainless steel contains at least 12% chromium. On the one hand this makes it generally softer than carbon steel knives but on the other hand –  it resists rust better. It does not mean that it will never rust; carbon steel knives just rust faster. One main drawback of stainless steel knives vs. carbon steel knives is that carbon steel blades keep their edge sharper, longer. This is a major concern because a beautiful knife is not worth much if it is hard work using it. It takes more time to sharpen it and that might be an issue for hunters when using it in the wild. Stainless steel knives include:

  • 440A ( a low cost stainless steel but is the most rust resistant of all the 440 steel. It has a carbon content of 0.65 – 0.75%.)
  • 440B (very similar to 440A but has a relatively higher carbon content of 0.75 – 0.95%)
  • 440C (has a carbon range of 0.95 – 1.20% and is considered to be  a high-end steel)
  • AUS 6 (0.65 % carbon and is considered low quality steel.)
  • AUS 8 (has 0.75% carbon content and is very tough and holds an edge fairly well)
  • AUS 10 (has 1.1% carbon content, slightly tougher but a little bit lagging in rust resistance)
  • VG-10 (considered to be the “super steel” and contains 0.95 – 1.05% carbon and also has vanadium which increases its toughness. Holds an edge very well and is mostly produced in Japan, the home of the Katana).

The general Rockwell hardness of stainless steel knives 55 to 59 which is not very hard compared to carbon steel knives which is around 60 and above. Rockwell hardness is a test that, as the name implies, measures the hardness of a specific material. It is done by pressing an indentor into the surface of the material with a specific load then measuring how far it penetrated

Carbon Steel Knives

 carbon steel knifeCarbon Steel blades are stronger with better performance than stainless steel knives. They also hold an edge better thus you sharpen it a lot less. The downside of carbon steel is that with no chromium in the blade, it is not rust resistant. This is a deterring factor for many hunters because of the environment that the knife will be used in. Carbon steel knives are great for the outdoors because they hold an edge well, are perfect for skinning even large game and, if treated well enough, resist rusting pretty well. Many carbon steel knives also come with an appropriate sheath that not only makes it easy to carry but protects it well from the elements. Some of the newer sheaths have a drain hole at the bottom to further make sure that moisture stays away from the knife. 10xx (1095, 1060, 1071, 1080, 1084, 1055, etc) carbon steel are well known and used in most knives and other tools. Chances are your grandfather’s switch blades are made of 1095 HC steel. High carbon steel undergoes heat treatment and has a carbon content of between 0.30 – 1.70% which makes it very hard and retains its edge very well.

 

To Sum Up:

High carbon steel blades are not necessarily harder but they do hold an edge a lot better than stainless steel blades. This is especially important for big game hunters because having to keep on sharpening your stainless knife while field dressing a big game can be time consuming and might even affect the quality of the meat. Stainless looks beautiful but for pure usage, carbon steel makes more sense. That is unless you have to spend extended amount of time in the hunt without being able to clean your blade.

Which material fits your needs? Comment in the area below.

Continue to the next chapter: What Makes The Best Knife Grip?

01: Hunting 101 – Hunting Knife vs. Survival Knife vs. Camping Knife
02: Hunting and Skinning Knife, Types and Uses
03: The Fixed Blade vs. Folding Blade Debate
04: Types of Knife Blades
05: Carbon Steel Knives vs. Stainless Steel Knives
06: What Makes The Best Knife Grip?
07: Best Knife Sheath

8 Comments

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *