440A steel is a steel in the 440 family which contains a variety of other metals with varying properties. The others include 440B, 440C, and the less common 440F. All the 440 steels are considered truly stainless, but 440A has the highest corrosion resistance of all because it contains the least amount of carbon.
How 440A Compares to Other Steels
Compared to other metals in the 440 family (ie. 440B and 440C), 440A has a slightly lower carbon content which makes it slightly softer. That means it can be sharpened easily and machined handily. Compared to other kinds of stainless steels, 440A is one of the most common for inexpensive knife blades as it is relatively cheap compared to higher quality steels. Many display only and replica weapons are made with 440A for this reason. Having said this, there are many higher-end knives that use 440A since it can be heated to a very high temperature to achieve higher hardness values.
There are 440A knives that are priced lower, but that is due in part to the quality of the other parts of the knife (handle, fasteners, etc.) and name brand power. So, in some cases, price and stain resistance are the high points of this metal. Besides being used for display knives and swords, it is also a preferred choice for diving knives. Salt water has little corrosive effect on it.
Downsides of 440A Steel
While good in terms of cost and stain resistance, 440A steel is not so stellar in wear resistance. Replica weapons don’t need to withstand use or force, so that is why it is a natural choice for those items. I would not use a 440A steel knife for prying anything significant, and of course, you should probably not use ANY folding knife for prying at all since that will compromise the fulcrum or folding point of even the best knives. That being said, 440A steel is said to have enough wear resistance for mild day-to-day use in camping, outdoor and kitchen use.
You wouldn’t want to construct a survival knife or surgical scalpel out of it. Yet it does well in areas where rust resistance is the primary concern as mentioned regarding diving knives. Diving knives aren’t in continuous use, so the wear resistance isn’t an issue. However, those kinds of knives do need to be rust free under adverse conditions.
How 440A is Made
To anneal (heat and then let cool slowly) 440A, heat it to 850-900°C, and slowly cool it to about 600°C in the furnace. After that, air cool. Hardening is done at 1010-1065°C; quenching should be done in air or warmed oil. Right after hardening, it should be tempered at 150-370°C. Lower temperature in tempering yields a harder end product.
If you temper above 370°C, the impact resistance of the blade will be compromised. However, tempering in the range of 590-675°C gives a boost to the impact resistance. The offset is that you lose hardness.
Best Knives Made with 440A steel
- Gerber Steadfast Fixed Blade Tactical
The Gerber Steadfast fixed blade knife is a classic re-design from the earlier years of Gerber. The clip point blade features bead-blasted 440A stainless steel and a plain edge. A textured SoftGrip overmold on a hard substrate makes the handle, along with deep finger grooves. It has a small pommel, and it also comes with a nylon sheath which features a protective liner.
Check Prices: BladeHQ
- Boker Arctic Ocean Sailor EDC
The Boker Arctic Ocean Sailor is a tough EDC folding knife with a hefty, chunky and dependable design. It sports an arctic gray G10 handle and a satin finished modified clip point blade. Two ambidextrous thumb studs give you a easy way to open the blade with one hand (also looks cool when you can do that). The textured G-10 scales are backed up by a stainless steel liner lock for excellent safety. There’s also a deep carry pocket clip for secure carry.
Check Prices: BladeHQ
Conclusion For 440A Steel
In short, 440A steel makes a good choice for applications where cost and stain resistance are foremost. If the ability to hold an edge or toughness is a bigger concern, choose another metal. If used as a display item or a light-duty tool, then it will serve well. Overall, 440A will serve well in a whole lot of conditions and situations that all but the most hard-core survivalists will encounter. Many knives with 440A steel fall in the sub-one hundred dollar range and many good knives will come in under $50. Please note that I’m not saying 44aA is junk. What I am saying is that both 440 and Aus-8 are curiously found in nearly every knife on the lower end of the price spectrum. There’s a reason for this.
Note to Readers:
If you are a steel/knife fanatic who knows everything possible about every steel or knife ever made, please understand that my conclusions are meant to be concise, short and very generalized, non-exhaustive comments that are easy to understand for someone new to knives and steel. This article is not meant to be an in-depth, metallurgical and technical essay on every aspect that is academically possible to cover regarding this steel. Above all please note that my conclusions represent my opinions after hours of research and some experience with the steel. After all, that is really what anyone’s reviews are on any product on any website, right?