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.
440A has a general Rockwell Hardness (HRC) of 56-ish which is soft for great-quality knives, but pretty hard when compared to the entire spectrum of knives manufactured worldwide.
Best Knives With 440A?
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. Saltwater 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.
(Read our guide to butterfly knives).
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.
(Is 440A used to make machetes?)
More Best Knives Made with 440A steel
Boker 02SC099 Magnum Trail with 3-1/4 in. 440A Stainless Steel Blade
This Boker is versatile in that it is officially considered by Boker (and I do trust their expertise) to be an EDC, camping and hunting knife. That about covers it as far as I’m concerned! The contoured Micarta handle scales of this full tang knife give us a comfortable grip, and are held in place by cool-looking decorative mosaic pins. It features satin-finished stainless steel bolsters and a 440A stainless steel blade (obviously). It Includes leather lanyard and black leather sheath. The blade itself is 3.25 inches long.
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 an 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.
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 though most really good ones will be a tad bit more because of the over all construction quality. 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?
25 thoughts on “How Good is 440A Steel?”
Actually 440A Stainless Steel is at caliber with AUS-8,Sandvik 12C27,425 Modified,and N680 in edge retention…middle class stainless steels.It was a commonly used stainless up until the mid 1990’s by Imperial Knives USA,Schrade USA,and Camillus for the knife models they offered in stainless steel.The steel was discontinued in use because of the following factors…
440A was not an ‘easy bake’ stainless steel like soft 420HC,the purified Sandvik Steel,or unalloyed tool steels like 1095.The entire 440 Series was not fine blanking so this resulted in slower production rate among mass production and heat treating .
Generally with the American knife manufacturers they understood there was a differential gap in edge retention of stainless steel vs. carbon steel.And what alloyed steels could perform equally in edge retention to 1095 were too expensive for mass production at offered price point,harder to heat treat, and difficult to sharpen on a traditional stone.So the companies went for a cutlery grade of stainless that wasn’t at the bottom of the chain in edge retention…440A.
In the end the retirement of 440A Stainless was economic for the American knife industry by the mid 1990’s by these two factors as stainless steel became more popular.The cheaper grades of stainless made heat treating and production go faster.And they were saving money through the use of 420HC yet keeping the price the same.The sales pitch still fit the bill-it takes and holds an edge,and it resists rust.Today to upgrade to a middle grade stainless USA knife manufacturers charge more.China offers comparison steels imitated off these middle class steels but they vary highly in purity or are poorly heat treated.
What does it mean when it just says 440?
Pardon my ignorance, but what grade metal makes for a great everyday carry and is recommended in the dreadful situation of having to use it for self defense ? I’m “pretty sure” that all my carry knives are likely 440A steel. I only found your web-site about 30 minutes ago. Do you sell Commemorative Knifes ? I am a Cold War Veteran and would like to find a good knife dedicated to C.W. Veterans.
SOG made extensive use of 440A in their knives & tools with good results(I own some). Experts in the field said that SOG had developed a proprietary heat treatment process that elevated the steel’s performance. If you know anything about knifemaking, you know that the way you process and heat-treat a blade is what accounts for the majority of its performance characteristics.
The only difference between the 440 series is the amount of carbon. Of course, this has an effect on the blade’s potential for hardness and edge-holding, but it also reduces toughness & corrosion resistance, as mentioned.
All said, 440A all to often gets a bad rap. It’s even been called “junk” by some snobs.
Thanx You, for that info. Yeah, I have a Ocoee River, and some Steel Warriors, They claim to be 56-58 RC. and some seem to hold a decent edge. Yeah, Frostst Cutlery makes that claim on RC. Is that possible that they are not.,,. Again, Thanx You.,,.
did know this information on 440 steel glad to have learned here on ask, com thanks!!!!!!!!!!
Cutco knives are made of 440a steel according to their website. If the said steel is inferior to say D2 then why are they so expensive?
An end hardness of HRC 56-57 is more than hard enough for most camping and hiking purposes and makes field resharpening easy cf. say HRC of 60 plus. Good corrosion resistance will be obtained at this HRC range of 56-57 as with the high Chromium content of 440A, will allow for more Cr to be in “solution” than most of it tied up in chromium carbides. Most technical documentation regarding the end use of 440A will state an end HRC of 56-57 is achievable with correct heat treatment and stress relief. For larger bladed knives, toughness must also be considered to avoid possible damage to the blade from any levering actions (ok blades should not be used as levers). There is much marketing hype regarding alloy choice for outdoor knives and manufacturers and retailers alike would have us believe that only the latest PM alloys are what we should be considering, which of course is not true, for “real life adventures” but probably true for machining and or industrial applications of the said alloys where wear can be properly judged by repeated cutting activities eg “milling operations” . The downside to high HRC knives is the time taken to re-sharpen them in the field, especially if left to go blunt as apposed to just slightly dull. HRC ranges from 55-58 are far more serviceable than HRC values of 59-60 and above. Replica weapons can be constructed from basically anything unless the manufacturer says otherwise in writing and also you see it for yourself and or analyse the material.
Your conclusions associating 440A with “cheap” kitchen knives and or replica weapons is unfounded and of course you contradict yourselves by stating: “but it’s very possible to get a higher-end version with great construction”.
WHY THEN DOES THE EICKHORN CO. USE 440A STEEL IN THEIR UK2000 LIGHTWEIGHT COMBAT UTILITY KNIFE? YOU WOULD THINK THAT EICKHORN WOULD USE A BETTER STAINLESS STEEL FOR A COMBAT KNIFE, REGARDLESS OF THE WEIGHT.
WHY DOES THE EICKHORN CO. USE 440A STEEL FOR THEIR UK 2000 COMBAT/UTILITY KNIFE. IT IS MY UNDERSTANDING THAT 440A STAINLESS STEEL IS NOT A GOOD STEEL TO USE IN A MILITARY COMBAT/UTILITY KNIFE. YOUR OPINIONS PLEASE ABOUT THE EICKHORN CO. AND THEIR USING THIS 440A STEEL IN A COMBAT/UTILITY KNIFE.
I KNOW THAT THE EICKHORN CO. HAS A VERY GOOD REPUTATION ABOUT THEIR MILITARY KNIFE MAKING.
THE EICKHORN UK 2000 KNIFE IS A FINE LOOKING KNIFE.
Robert, what do you call “better?” The article above states that 440A is durable, sharpens easily, is able to be tempered to a range of hardness, is highly corrosion resistant, and is inexpensive. All of these are good qualities and would seem a sensible choice for a knife developed for a military customer. Is a ball peen hammer “better” than a claw hammer? Is a corvette “better” than a dune buggy?
I have a Marto Brewer Explora made of 440 stainless. It’s a very collectable survival knife. But I digress. This knife was made in the early 80’s. Is 440 the same as 440A?
Thanks for the question! As far as we can tell, 440 is a category of steels where each steel in that category has a letter rating like 440A or 440C. Each steel with a letter like A, B or C has specific qualities different than the others, but they’re close enough to be under the bigger category of 440. So, the answer to your question is “not necessarily”. I’m sure that’s clear as mud, but it’s the best I’ve got at midnight!
I’m not a steel expert by any stretch, I just like what works. I bought a very inexpensive fixed blade knife with the idea that it would be ruined during winter use ($19 ). I live in Alaska and it’s not uncommon to wear a knife out due to hard use. The steel of this knife has been really impressive. The knife holds and edge and is easy to sharpen. I don’t know what “mild” duty for a knife is, but I’ve used this thing to cut leaded line, baton countless pieces of firewood (it’s how I heat my house), chop ice that gets on everything, cut countless amounts of line in saltwater, and even clean fish. It’s held up just fine. So I don’t know if 440a is a good knife steel or not. I do know that my 440a knife has done everything I’ve needed it to do and is still going strong.
Excellent to hear Stuart! I appreciate you checking out our site and offering your insight from experience!
To sharpen my knives I use the Ken Onion work sharp with blade grinding attachment. Most of my knives use 440A and I have shaved my face a few times with them (I just wanted to make sure I did a good job with sharpening). Most of mine are MTech with Matince Corps logos on them. Eventually I’ll upgrade knife steel to more high carbon steel so they’ll hold edge longer and they’ll be stronger overall. Semper fi.
Stuart, please let us in on the brand and model your 440A knife. id like to look into it. cheers
Gerber Hinderer rescue knife. Awesome knife hands down
440A Stainless Steel is something I’d classify as a ‘sportsman and general use’ blade steel.It is soft and takes a sweet edge.As you already mentioned Josh it is highly rust resistant.I have no problem with Gerber’s 7Cr17MoV (440A equivalent) because it performs within the properties of 440A.
440A was widely used under many American knife manufacturers like Western Cutlery,Schrade’s USA(Uncle Henry line and a little bit on Old Timer),Imperial,Camillus,and Gerber’s USA years (late 80’s to about the year 2000 then changed to 420HC).These companies used 440A because they expected the user would be cleaning game or fish with it and enjoying the high sharpness.Doing yard work,carving food sticks for the campfire,doing crafts,cutting open a blister pack,stripping wire,cutting a piece of rope or twine now and then…you name it.That’s an essential blade steel and 440A lasts.
But 440A does get labeled as junk by people who buy a $25 Gerber as a full-time box cutter.They find out they have to touch it up often and don’t get what the steel was intended for or why people buy it.
Nice description for lay people like myself who just want to know if their knife is good or considered junk. I have heard that 440a is similar to 7cr17mov and after reading the specs for myself I have seen that they are not too far off, but, not identical. I have experience with the 7cr17mov and like it. It does bend rather than break, and, if you have serrations, it can be a good thing. I just bend them back. I had a 420hc blade the serrations broke off after mild use and the 7cr17mov blade is fine. So, I don’t think toughness is and issue. How long the steel remains sharp seems to have much to do with edge angle as much as type of use. The steel is easily brought to razor like sharpness and keeps a decent working edge.
440A can be a good steel if it’s done the right way. If the heat treatment is really good then the steel is going to be good. I would rather have 440A done by a skilled craftsman than S30V done by novice. The same goes for budget carbon steel like 1095. With that said, the modern supersteels are excellent but far from necessary and they are difficult to sharpen. the knife industry is like any other industry. It’s goal is to make profit so they have to develop and push the latest steels and while they can be a little better, it’s hardly noticeable. A good example can be car makers. Every brand comes out with tweaked style of the same model each year to make the customer believe that the new and latest style is better than the previous. Is it really?
Dale’s cut above. I sell Elkridge fillet knives and skinny knifes I have over 100 never had one complaint everybody loves them they are knives
All the 420hc and 440 steel knives I have owned have been more than satisfactory. Of course, 440c holds an edge better, although harder to sharpen(obviously), and is not as tough( broken tips). You just have to know what you’re buying. These knife websites are quite educational. Thank-you.
I had a Böker knife made out of 440 and the blade snapped in two while opening an ammo crate. So not really a military grade steel, looked pretty tho.
I have kitchen knives in 440A and AUS-8. They are great for that purpose. Not too hard, no chipping, corrosion resistant, easy to maintain a sharp working edge. I am more of a steel snob for my EDC knives and fixed blade survival/camp knives, preferring higher end super steels for those knives. For example, I like VG-10 for fixed blades for outdoor use and it’s fine in EDC folding knives, but I don’t care for it in kitchen knives, chips too easily. I found that some of the ‘softer’ steels like AUS-8, 1.4116 german steel and 440A are less chippy, even if I need to maintain the edge more often. You do that anyway with kitchen knives. I am curious about AUS-10 in a kitchen knife, thinking it’s similar to 440C?