420HC Steel Overview

Peter Stec
April 3, 2021
420hc Knife Steel Guide

420HC Steel holds a higher carbon production rate than some stainless steels. The content is softer than the higher number steel count 440, yet it’s more rugged than other similar products. This steel material has a greater carbon base and is mixed to a harder finish than 420 stainless steels, but under normal processes, falls around 55 HRC.  Given the correct process of hardening, it can reach an HRC value of 56-59.

Buck Knives are just one of the many products that are made from this tough material. There are many different levels of steel, but products made from 420HC steel are definitely different from other types of steel in terms of performance and reliability.

Good Uses for 420HC

Tools made from 420HC Steel are easy to sharpen and are durable when in constant use and they’re pretty rust-resistant. This makes them great for some machetes. A knife made from this level of steel is one of the best products available when on any expedition. Any product made from 420HC steel is a smart purchase. Using old-fashioned sharpening tools works fine on this steel and it still takes the pressure of everyday use. Blades made from this material are less apt to corrode; the machete is a good example.  They are an excellent work tool. While rusting is always an issue for many steels, just remember to rinse, dry, and oil your knife after use if you’re concerned.

Composition

Carbon.45%
Chromium13.00%
Manganese0.80%
Silicon0.80%
Nickel0.50% or less
Though 420HC falls around 55 HRC, it can be hardened to the range of 56-59 with the correct process.

Choice Steel by Enthusiasts

There are advantages in using 420HC Steel. It is hailed by people with a passion for outdoor living to be easy to sharpen. This excellent material is used for hatchets, knives or fine swords. Sportsmen have chosen this material for years to own in Buck Knives and other well-made sporting utility tools. Knives and other bladed tools made of this material stand up really well under the vigor of work while fishing or hunting. On the trail a reliable work tool is critical and hunters and fishermen have used 420HC Steel for years. It is strong and reliable.

Our Favorites Using 420HC

The Buck 112 Ranger Automatic Lockback knife (which is a mini version of the classic Buck 110) has a drop point blade that is forged with cryogenically treated 420HC steel and a Macassar Ebony Dymondwood handle with a brass bolster.  It nearly goes without saying that the Buck is an American icon (even more than the Spyderco Paramilitary 2).  The automatic deployment comes from a push-button and allows for one-handed engagement.  A full leather friction fit sheath is designed to prevent deployment while removing the knife from its sheath.  It’s fully USA-made, and has one of the very best warranties in the knife business!

The Buck 112 Ranger Automatic Lockback Knife is only one of many high-quality American knives made with 420HC Stainless steel.

Conclusion

This stainless serves a number or purposes but survival products are the ones more noted. The price is advantageous and the material does the job it is designed to do. 420HC is tough and easy to clean; however, it is considered one of the World’s lower alloyed steels. Manufacturers have proven through customer usage 420HC steel makes an excellent knife. The scale of 420HC Steel can be demonstrated through the focus of any outdoors magazine. This carbon-based product keeps the price of hunting knives, swords, machetes and hatchets affordable. 420HC is also used in some balisong knives.

About The Author
Hey Knife Up gang! I'm Pete, and I'm just another man like you in a small rural town who loves the outdoors as much as the other million internet users that cruise sites like KnifeUp.com every day. The difference is that I like to share what I know and research what I don't totally know so that YOU can have all the info you need to feel confident and prepared for all things outdoors-related! And, for those who care, I have 42 years of wilderness canoeing and bushcraft experience in Northern Ontario and spend most of my Summers covered in mosquitos and fish slime, but hey, it's a lifestyle choice, eh?

12 comments on “420HC Steel Overview”

  1. I HAVE TWO BUCK 110 FOLDING HUNTER ONE MADE IN 1974 WITH 440 C STEEL AND A 2012 110 WITH 420 HC AND I HAVE NO TROUBLE GETTING EITHER ONE RAZOR SHARP I CAN GET MY OLD 440 C 110 JUST AS SHARP AS MY CURRENT 2012 110 THAT I USE AS A EVERYDAY CARRY KNIFE. OF COURSE I HAVE ANTIQUE SHARPENING EQUIPMENT THAT IS OVER 100 YRS OLD.

  2. so is it waterproof i mean thats pretty vague considering that most steels are but is 420hc particularly water resistant therefore it will not corrode?

  3. all steels are at least acceptable. there is no substitute for knowing to use each specific type of steel and what they can and cannot do.

  4. I just received my buck 420HC folding knife and i am very impressed and it gives me renewed confidence in Buck. I also ordered the CPM145 and find it as well impressive. Deer season in a few months should prove there value

  5. I have Buck 110’s in 420HC, 440C, and S30V. I love the 440C and S30V as they hold up very well. I am not a fan of 420HC as it has failed me at critical moments. I don’t like to stop and sharpen before finishing a task. I will give Buck a thumbs up on their lock backs which I consider the the best. I purchased a custom 110 folding hunter with S30V blade steel, Elk stag handle and nickle silver bolsters that was made to perfection. I have skinned 4 deer and one hog and it is still sharp. Thanks

  6. 420HC is a horrible blade steel.I’m no steel snob because I think it works just fine on a light use blade on a Leatherman.On a full-time use folder though it’s softness presents edge stability issues.Here’s what I mean…

    *If you’re sharpening this on a bench stone it’s not hard to apply too much pressure and roll over the apex.Touching it up on a flat rock isn’t really a trait because quite a few mass production steels can do this too.420HC just responds faster from softness/low alloying.

    *Normal slicing this steel holds up fine.Pull-cuts,pressurized cuts,scraping spilled adhesive off of workshop floor…420HC doesn’t hold up.It’s just too soft and rolls it’s edge easily.It does not possess remotely the edge stability of any of the 440 Series steels domestic or foreign equivalent with variable heat treatment quality…higher alloying alone speaks for the edge stability differential in the mentioned rougher use as a utility blade.

    Buck Knives can harden this steel to 58rc all they want.They can widen the bevel and narrow the edge through their Edge 2X process all they want to extend the cutting capability.In the end it’s still related to the same soft junk steel put on Pakistan cutlery and movie replica knives.It behaves in every way identical to 420J2…it’s just takes a bit more to dull that extended bevel.But not much more to bang up that soft edge.

  7. Awesome article. Great user experience share. I’m going to buy a Buck 110 auto with the green micarta scales and old school brass. Thanks.

  8. 420 hc is good cryo treated when hardened for edc because most average people can’t sharpen to good but still holds good edge for average steel.i use it for edc and sharpenable

  9. I have had a Kershaw Scallion made with 420HC steel that has been a good knife, it does require fairly frequent sharpening but is a tough knife. The plastic clip that prevents inadvertent opening has broken so Kershaw sent several replacements with a driver to install with.

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