If you’re looking for a great combat knife, you’re likely not the only one. These make for excellent gifts for those who have been honorably discharged from military service. They’re cool, and they’re quite useful. Also, they’re probably made with 1095 CRO Van steel.
It can be quite confusing to do some online research on this steel, since it goes by so many different names. Ka-Bar uses the 1095 CRO Van steel term, but the Bark River calls it 50-110B. Other names for it include 1095CV, 0170-6, and Carbon V.
Sometimes you even get the full name, like Sharon Steel 1095 CRO Van steel. That’s because this steel was developed by Sharon Steel, but that company is now defunct.
What is 1095 CRO Van Steel?
Officially, 1095 CRO Van steel’s designation is 50100B, at least according to the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI). Marketing execs started using the 1095 CRO Van steel name to remind people that it’s somewhat related to the popular 1095 steel, which has been quite popular with combat and utility knives.
1095 CRO Van steel is a type of carbon steel, meaning it contains a significant amount of carbon to bolster its hardness. The originators of the steel added more carbon, chromium, vanadium, nickel, and molybdenum to improve on the original 1095 steel.
Because of its reliable hardness and general durability, it makes for a great steel for combat blades and utility knives. It’s also easy to sharpen, which also helps to make it a popular choice.
1095 CRO Van Chemical Composition
Let’s take a long at the component elements of the 1095 CRO Van steel to get a more accurate idea of how it will perform.
- Carbon, 1.1%
- Manganese, 0.5%
- Chromium, 0.6%
- Vanadium, 0.25%
- Molybdenum, 0.06%
- Nitrogen, 0.25%
- Molybdenum, 0.06%
- Nitrogen, 0.25%
- Silicon, 0.25%
- Phosphorus, 0.025%
- Sulfur, 0.025%
Carbon, 1.1%: This is the element that really helps to make the steel quite hard. The original 1905 steel contained only 0.95% carbon, and that steel was considered already hard. The extra carbon makes this 1095 CRO Van steel even harder.
Manganese, 0.5%: This is another element that enhances the hardness of the steel. In the 1095, you only get 0.4% manganese, so you have more in the 1095 CRO Van steel.
Chromium, 0.6%: One of the problems with the original 1095 steel is its lack of chromium, which made it very susceptible to corrosion. The addition of the chromium here is to help with this.
This isn’t enough chromium for adequate corrosion resistance, since stainless steel contains at least 10% chromium. But the chromium also helps with wear resistance, edge resistance, and toughness.
Vanadium, 0.25%: This was added to the 1905 to also help in boosting the hardness of the steel. It makes the 1095 CRO Van steel more resistant to wear.
Molybdenum, 0.06%: This is another addition to the 1905. While this represents just a tiny amount, it helps with the toughness of the steel to balance out the hardness. Also, it gives greater machinability to the 1095 CRO Van steel.
Nitrogen, 0.25%: This also helps with the steel’s edge retention.
Silicon, 0.25%: 1095 CRO Van steel is a bit stronger due to the addition of silicon.
Phosphorus, 0.025%: This is just a tiny amount, but it also makes the steel stronger.
Sulfur, 0.025%: This helps with the steel’s machinability.
1095 CRO Van Steel Hardness
It’s safe to say that 1095 CRO Van steel is impressively hard, as it’s even harder than the original 1905 steel. The addition of the extra carbon, plus the vanadium and molybdenum, saw to that.
The 1905 steel normally has an HRC rating of 55 HRC. That’s somewhat soft, compared to 1095 CRO Van steel. While the final hardness rating also depends on other manufacturing variables such as the heat treatment, usually you can expect 1095 CRO Van steel to have a hardness rating of 56 to 60 HRC.
Because it’s hard, you can expect the blade to resist wear very well. It should last a long while with proper use and maintenance. It should also have better edge retention.
Properties of 1095 CRO Van Steel
Here are some of the more important features of 1095 CRO Van steel:
One of the main benefits of using hard steel for your knife is that it keeps a sharp edge for a relatively longer period of time. You won’t have to sharpen the blade often, as it doesn’t dull quickly at all.
This is a convenient feature for those who hate to sharpen their knives, or who don’t want to do it all that often. It’s especially important for outdoor use, when you want to spend several days cutting stuff without having to sharpen the blade too often.
This is the other benefit of hard steel. Like most things, steel can wear out with constant use. But that’s less of a problem with 1095 CRO Van steel. Because of its excellent hardness, you can expect a longer lifespan for your combat or utility knife.
Of course, you do have to use it properly. You also have to maintain the knife regularly as well.
The usual rule for the steel used for knives is that when you gain more hardness, you sacrifice toughness. Toughness, in this case, is the steel’s susceptibility to chipping. It’s an unfortunate consequence of hard steel that it usually becomes more brittle.
However, the problem isn’t at all that bad with 1095 CRO Van steel. It’s still reasonably tough, which means it’s not as brittle as it could have been. This is another reason for its popularity for use in utility and combat knives.
Easy to Sharpen
The hardest steels are notorious for being hard to sharpen, needing specialized sharpening systems with diamonds. But 1095 CRO Van steel is actually not difficult to sharpen at all. It’s hard, but not too hard. This is a nice balance to have in your EDC knife.
Prone to Rusting
This is perhaps the greatest weakness of 1095 CRO Van steel.
While it contains chromium, it’s not really enough to match up with the corrosive resistance you get with stainless steel. It’s not surprising if you end up with blemishes on the steel if you use it in wet conditions or if you live in a humid area.
That simply means you have to wipe it down constantly. With proper maintenance, you can keep corrosion at bay. Even applying some vegetable oil to the blade will help.
1095 CRO Van Steel Equivalent or Alternative
A direct comparison with other steel variants should give you a clearer idea if 1095 CRO Van steel is the best for your needs. So, here’s how 1095 CRO Van steel performs relative to other popular steel options:
1095 CRO Van vs 420hc
When it comes to edge retention, 1095 CRO Van steel does significantly better than 420 HC. You also get much better resistance to wear, as a consequence of the harder steel in 1095 CRO Van steel.
420 HC steel is more of an all-around performer, so it’s easier to sharpen and quite a bit tougher (less brittle) than 1095 CRO Van steel. The 420 HC also does much better when it comes to corrosion resistance, since 1095 CRO Van steel is almost a non-starter in that category.
1095 CRO Van vs D2
D2 is an extremely hard variant of steel. That means it holds its edge better than 1095 CRO Van steel, and it’s also much more wear-resistant. Also, like most other steels, D2 resists corrosion much more ably than 1095 CRO Van steel.
But there’s a price to pay for this level of hardness. Eventually, the sharp edge will become blunt, and sharpening a D2 blade is a more difficult task. It’s easier to sharpen 1095 CRO Van steel.
1095 CRO Van vs s30v
Again, when it comes to corrosion resistance, the 1095 CRO Van steel simply doesn’t measure up. This isn’t the steel you’re looking for if you’re really worried about rust and staining. The S30V steel does much better in this regard.
The S30V steel is also slightly better at edge retention and wear resistance. But the 1095 CRO Van steel is less likely to chip off due to its greater toughness.
How Rust Resistant is 1095 CRO Van Steel?
Not very rust-resistant at all. You might say that it scores a 1 on a 0 to 10 scale for corrosion resistance. The only steels worse in this regard are steels like the original 1095, along with the 1075 and 1060 steel. These steels don’t have any chromium at all, so they score a zero on the corrosion resistance scale.
What this means if you own a 1095 CRO Van steel knife is that you need to keep wiping the blade dry. It’s not your best option for wet environments at all, but constantly wiping down the blade should help it last longer in a wet or humid environment. Apply vegetable oil as well.
How Much Carbon is in 1095 CRO Van Steel?
It contains 1.1% carbon, which is actually a lot compared to the carbon content of many other steels. It’s certainly an improvement over the carbon content of the original 1095 steel, which is just 0.95%.
That makes 1095 CRO Van steel harder, but it’s not too hard that it becomes brittle. It’s a lot more versatile, which explains its popularity in many Ka-Bar combat and utility knives.
Is 1095 CRO Van Steel Good for Knives?
It really depends on your situation and how you plan to use it. If you’re planning to use this knife for your fishing adventures, then it’s not a very good idea at all.
But for lots of indoor tasks such as cutting open packages, the 1095 CRO Van steel works out nicely. Its hardness can deal with some of the tougher cords you need to cut. But if you’re diligent about wiping the blade dry regularly, then the 1095 CRO Van steel works for outdoor activities as well.
Also, Ka-Bar is respected brand in the industry, and they use a lot of 1095 CRO Van steel in their knives. That means it’s not a bad type of steel at all.
Pros and Cos of 1095 CRO Van Steel
- Reasonably affordable
- Quite harder than many other steels
- Retains its edge nicely
- Good wear resistance
- Easy to sharpen
- Nice resistance to chipping
- Needs constant wipe down
- Takes a bit longer to sharpen
- May be more prone to chipping than other steels
Best 1095 CRO Van Steel Knives
#1: KA-BAR Full Size US Marine Corps Fighting Knife
- Edge Angles: 20 Degrees
- Overall length: 11.875 inches
- Blade Length: 7.0 inches
- Knife Weight: 11.2
- Handle Material: Leather
- Blade Material: Carbon Steel
- Sheath Material: Leather
This is a faithful copy of the famous US Ka-Bar knife that the US Marines used during World War II, when they were fighting in the Pacific theater. Its effectiveness quickly made it famous, and it didn’t hurt that the tough Marines used it. Even now, it’s considered as the most famous fixed knife designs in the world.
This works nicely as a presentation knife, and you can give this as a gift (even for yourself) for a retiring serviceman. You can also gift this for a special military occasion, such as attaining a new rank or marking another year in service.
It even features a gold-plated brass guard and pommel. In all other aspects, it’s a faithful copy with a 7-inch straight edge blade, 20-degree edge angles, and an overall length of 11⅞ inches.
The other main difference is that it’s made with 1095 CRO Van steel, which is harder than what the Marines used back then. The steel here makes it a functional knife and not just for keeping the knife on display.
- Based on the famous USMC Ka-Bar knife
- Made in the US
- Will last a long time
- Comes with a nice sheath
- Functional as well as commemorative
- Not meant for EDC
- Does require frequent sharpening
#2: KA-BAR Becker BK2 Campanion Fixed Blade Knife
- Overall Length: 10.75″
- Blade Length: 5.25″
- Blade Thickness: 0.25″
- Hardness: 56-58 RC
- Blade Style: Drop Point
- Blade Grind: Flat
- Finish: Black
- Edge Type: Plain
Some sellers use the “Campanion” name, while others stick to the more conventional “Companion”. This isn’t a big deal, really. After all, it uses the 1095 CRO Van steel which has even more aliases.
What’s more of a big deal is that this is a US-made Ka-Bar knife, and it was designed by the famous knife maker Ethan Becker. With this you get a full-tang field knife, and while it looks great, this is meant for heavy-duty use.
The flat blade measures 5.5 inches long with a 20-degree angle and a drop point blade shape. The overall length is 10.5 inches. It helps that the Grivory handle is comfortable to hold, with a nicely balanced grip that works well for your outdoor activities.
Use this for your camping trips, or even when you hunt. This comes with a nylon sheath, which is glass-filled to keep your knife sharp and secure. The knife locks in the sheath, so you can move around a lot and the knife won’t fall out.
If you’re an outdoorsman, you’ll appreciate the versatility of the knife. You can use it to skin game and pry joints. Or you can build a fire after using this to split out kindling.
- Made in the US
- Tough enough for heavy-duty field adventures
- Comfy handle
- Secure sheath that won’t let the knife drop out
- May be a bit heavy for some users
- Some think the grip is too slick (but that’s easily fixed with black stick tape)
#3: KA-BAR BKR7-BRK Combat Utility
- Overall Length: 12.75″
- Blade Length: 7.00″
- Blade Thickness: 0.19″
- Hardness: 56-58 RC
- Edge Type: Plain
This is another Ethan Becker knife, and it was designed for soldiers and other adventurer types. That’s why it’s so lightweight, even if the whole knife looks substantial. It only weighs ¾ of a pound. This is what you want for combat or for camping, or even if there’s a zombie apocalypse.
This is still a full-sized combat utility knife with a 7-inch blade and a 20-degree blade angle. You also get the classic flat grind and a clip point, which allows for longer cuts compared to a drop point.
It also uses 1095 CRO Van steel, and in this knife, it retains its edge nicely. But if it does become dull, it’s easy enough to sharpen. The handle is made by the Swiss brand Grivory.
It’s not the best option if you’re always working near a stream or in the rain, but it should help if you bring food-grade mineral or vegetable oil to boost the corrosion resistance of the blade. A bit of sandpaper also helps, to sand away the rust if it does form.
The whole blade is 12⅞ inches long, and it comes with a durable nylon sheath. The sheath doesn’t quite match the quality of the knife, but it’ll do just fine.
- Designed by Ethan Becker and made in the US
- Specifically made for soldiers
- Extremely lightweight
- Nice heft and balance
- Versatile enough that you can use it for cutting cords and chopping kindling
- Needs vegetable oil for corrosion resistance
- The sheath doesn’t hold the knife securely unless you button it up
Ka-Bar is famous for its combat utility knives, and the fact that the brand uses a lot of 1095 CRO Van steel says a lot about the overall quality of the blade.
True, it doesn’t offer any sort of corrosion resistance, but true outdoorsmen won’t mind applying some vegetable oil to the blade beforehand.
With this 1095 CRO Van steel, you can have a combat utility knife that you can use for virtually anything except fishing adventures. Just keep it dry and well-oiled, and it won’t let you down.