Once upon a time, most people know that 440c steel is excellent. That’s easy enough to tell during those times because you’d generally find it among the best of US-made knives. There was simply no better choice at the time.
But that was then, and this is now. Is 440c steel still a viable option, now that you have newer “super-steels” to choose from?
That’s what you’ll really find out in this 440c steel review. You’ll know what to expect from it, how it compares directly with other steels, and even delve closely into its chemical makeup. You’ll also find a list of terrific 440c steel knives that exemplify the very best that 440c steel has to offer.
What is 440c Steel?
There’s a very common type of steel known as the 440 stainless steel series. They’re all hard due to the amount of carbon. What’s more they’re all stainless steel due to the amount of chromium, so they’re corrosion-resistant.
The experts generally consider the 440c steel as the best of the lot. That’s because it has the most carbon, and it has the most chromium too.
Just because there are newer steels around doesn’t negate the fact that the 440c steel remains a good all-around steel. It’s hard but tough too, and it’s definitely great at stain resistance. It’s still among the upper-midrange steels, even if it’s been around for a long time now.
Common Uses of 440c Steel
As the 440c steel is so versatile, it’s so for a wide range of tools and components. The fact that it’s stainless steel also means it’s great for wet environments.
- EDC knives
- Survival knives
- Fishing knives
- Kitchen knives
- Measuring instruments
- Valve components
- Molds and dies
- Ball bearings
440c Steel Chemical Composition
The exact chemical composition of 440c steel can vary, depending on where it comes from and what heat treatment it gets. But in general, you can expect the following elements in these amounts.
- Carbon 1.1%
- Chromium 17%
- Manganese 1%
- Silicon 1%
- Molybdenum 0.75%
Carbon 1.1%: Since lots of steels with just 0.7% carbon are considered “high-carbon” steels, you’ll then realize that with more than 1% carbon, the 440c steel has a lot of this element. Carbon is actually its most important chemical component, because it’s the main element that determines the hardness of the steel. That means with this amount of carbon, the 440c steel can be really hard.
Chromium 17%: This is the other main element found in the 440c steel. Take note of the fact that to be considered stainless steel, the steel has to have at least 12% chromium. The 17% chromium here exceeds that standard by a lot, so it’s safe to say that this is corrosion-resistant.
Manganese 1%: Like carbon, the manganese helps with the hardness. Some experts regard manganese as the 2nd most important element in steel after carbon. The manganese boosts the hardenability of the steel also increases the tensile strength.
Silicon 1%: This is a deoxidizer for the steel, meaning that it works to get rid of the oxygen bubbles from the molten steel during production. Normally, you’d only find 0.20% silicon in most steels. But here you also get a lot, and another of its effects is that it boosts the strength and hardness of the steel.
Molybdenum 0.75%: Like manganese it also boosts the hardenability and strength of the steel. More specifically, the molybdenum increases the creep strength and the strength in higher temperatures. When added to stainless steel (like in this case), it also helps with corrosion resistance.
440c Steel Hardness
As the 440c steel is a carbon steel, it’s definitely not soft steel. But a lot of newer steels are harder than 440c steel.
Still, you can get about 58 to 60 HRC with 440c steel. That’s generally the hardness level you’ll find in higher-quality pocket knives from the more famous brands. It’s also the hardness level you can expect in Japanese kitchen knives, which are usually harder than the professional kitchen knives from Germany and France.
What’s more, having too much hardness leads to lower toughness levels. And toughness isn’t a problem with the 440c steel, as it’s unlikely to chip off easily if you have a well-made knife.
Properties of 440c Steel
It’s extremely wear-resistant. In fact, it’s difficult to find another stainless steel with greater wear resistance. That means it will last you for a good long while.
It’s also tough. This can be quite surprising, given that most hard steels are usually prone to chip off more easily.
It’s very resistant to corrosion. You need minimum effort to keep rust at bay.
It can give you a polish finish. That means it can look really great.
A blade with high polish is also easier to clean, and you can even use the blade as a signaling device (like a mirror).
It can take an extremely sharp edge, plus it’s relatively easy to sharpen. In many cases, it’s already sharp right out of the box.
Since a lot of the newer steels are better than the 440c steel, knives made with 440c steel are a lot more affordable these days.
440c Equivalent Steels or Alternative
You can see how 440c steel really performs when you compare it directly with some other well-known steels.
440c steel vs d2 steel
While 440c is an upper midrange steel, the D2 steel is part of a higher tier of premium steels. The D2 steel is famed for its hardness, and as a consequence of this it can really hold its sharp edge for a long time.
But it’s not as easy to sharpen as the 440c steel. In fact, you better be an expert knife sharpener to even try sharpening D2 steel.
In addition, 440c is a lot more corrosion-resistant than D2. D2 does have a lot of chromium, but not enough to qualify as stainless steel.
440c steel vs 440a steel
The 440a steel is part of the same series as the 440c. But while 440c is good enough for the upper-midrange tier, the 440a steel is relegated to the lower midrange category.
It’s true that the 440a steel is actually somewhat more corrosion-resistant than 440c steel. But it doesn’t hold its edge for long, so it can be bothersome out in the bush when you need to sharpen it often. At least it’s very easy to sharpen. It’s actually easier to sharpen than the 440c steel.
440c steel vs 12c27 steel
The Sandvik 12c27 steel is also another good all-around steel. You get good hardness levels with terrific wear resistance, and you also get nice corrosion resistance. But then the 12c27 steel is usually not as hard as 440c steel, since the 12c27 only has 0.6% carbon.
The 12c27 steel is also not really as corrosion-resistant, because the chromium content is only 13.5%. It’s stainless steel, but it barely meets the chromium level requirement.
440c steel vs AUS 8
Like the 440c steel, the aus8 is part of the upper-midrange steels. The 2 steels are about the same when it comes to resisting corrosion.
But the aus8 steel isn’t as hard, so the 440c steel holds a sharp edge for a bit longer. But the aus8 steel is definitely easier to sharpen.
440C VS S30V
The S30V steel is part of the premium steels, so it’s 2 tiers higher than the upper-midrange 440c steel. It does better at retaining a sharp edge than the 440c steel, and it’s even better at corrosion resistance. Many experts consider this a great steel with terrific value for money.
It’s not that hard to sharpen, but it’s easier to sharpen the 440c steel. Also, the S30V steel is more expensive. It’s generally only found in pricey kitchen cutlery and costly premium pocket knives.
440C VS VG10
The VG10 is a “high end” steel, at a higher tier than the 440c steel. It’s quite hard, and it’s harder than 440c steel. That means it’s better at edge retention.
In addition, it has quite a bit of chromium, and the VG10 does even better at corrosion resistance than the 440c steel. And despite the hardness of the VG10, it’s as easy to sharpen as the 440c steel.
The main advantage of the 440c steel is that if you compare the prices of the knives using these steels, the 440c steel knives are usually more affordable.
Is 440c Steel Good for Knives?
Definitely yes. It’s hard, but it’s easy to sharpen. It’s even tough enough that you can use this for outdoor settings. The fact that it’s also stainless-steel means that you can use this safely in the rain or in water. You don’t need to do a lot to keep rust at bay.
Pros & Cons of 440c Steel
Best 440c Steel Knives
#1: QSP Heavy Duty Pocket Knife
- Blade: Chinese 440C S/S
- Handle: G10
- Overall: 8.625”(219mm)
- Closed: 5.125”(130mm)
- Cutting edge: 3.50”(89mm)
- Net weight: +/-177g(6.2oz)
This is a black knife all around, with a blade with the black titanium coating and a knife made with black non-slip G10. The handle length is just 5⅛ inches long, so it’s easy to carry in your pocket. The blade is 3⅝ inches long, and when open the whole thing is 8⅝ inches long.
This is meant for heavy-duty work, as the 440c steel here has a hardness rating of about 58 to 60 HRC. The sturdy build is reassuring, and it feels comfortable to use. It’s not too heavy at 177 grams.
This flip knife allows for quick openings, with its smooth-operating ball bearings. Even left-handed people can use this as well.
#2: ESEE Izula Knife with Sheath
- Overall Length: 6.25″
- Blade Length: 2.63″
- Thickness: .156″
- Weight: 2.0 Oz. w/o Sheath
- Made in the: U.S.A.
With its Damascus design on the blade along with the skeletonized handle, it sure is eye-catching. This is a foxed blade knife that’s 6¼ inches long overall. The blade is 2⅞ inches long, with its cutting edge measuring 2⅝ inches. The handle is 3⅜ inches long.
It’s been sharpened by hand, so right out of the box it’s extremely sharp. This works as a lightweight survival knife, as it only weighs 2 ounces. It also works as a concealed EDC knife for a lot of tasks you might encounter.
It’s meant to last a lifetime. It even comes with its own sheath.
#3: MCDLOKA Fixed Blade Knives Outdoor Duty Knife
- Overall: 10.23″ (26cm)
- Blade length: of 5.11″ (13cm)
- Weight: 9.38 ounces
- Handle: G10
This is a full-tang fixed knife with a partially serrated blade and a clip point design. The overall length is about 10.23 inches, with the blade measuring 5.11 inches. You get a G10 handle along with a Kydex sheath.
This is a great camping knife that can cut through rope easily, and it can cut through and even saw through wood as well. It’s extremely durable, while the anti-skid handle offers a secure grip. Even the sheath is water-resistant.
Basically, if you’re looking for a field knife, you better check this out.
Yes, the 440c steel is old, and lots of newer steels offer better attributes. You can even find steels that are better than 440c steel in just about everything.
That doesn’t negate the fact that the 440c steel is a terrific all-around steel that nicely balances all your crucial factors. It can give you a sharp edge for a long while, and it’s still easy to sharpen. It’s resistant to corrosion, and it also won’t chip off easily.
It’s still a great steel, and it has proven its worth through the years. The good news is that now, you can enjoy the benefits of 440c steel without paying a lot for the privilege!