Hunting Knife

What Is the Best Stainless Steel for a Hunting Knife?

Discover top stainless steel choices for hunting knives: S30V, S35VN & more for unmatched durability & performance.

Swedish Knives: Everything You’ve Got to Know Reading What Is the Best Stainless Steel for a Hunting Knife? 5 minutes Next Best Ways to Store a Folding Knife
Steel Type Edge Retention Corrosion Resistance Toughness Ease of Sharpening Best For
CPM-S30V Exceptional Excellent Good Reasonable All-round performance
CPM-S35VN Excellent Excellent Better Easier Heavy use & detailed tasks
154CM Excellent Good Respectable Very Good Budget-conscious hunters
VG-10 Very Good Impressive Good Frequent Sharpening Needed Versatile hunting tasks
CPM-3V Exceptional Reasonable Exceptional Moderate Ultimate toughness & cutting performance
Elmax Fantastic Exceptional Excellent Good Best edge-holding & stain resistance

CPM-S30V

Widely regarded as one of the best all-round steels for hunting knives, CPM-S30V is a premium stainless steel made by the Crucible Particle Metallurgy process. It was created in collaboration with knife-maker Chris Reeve to produce steel that offers the ultimate balance of properties for high-end cutlery. S30V achieves exceptional edge retention and resistance to corrosion and wear while still maintaining reasonably good toughness. This allows hunting knives made from S30V steel to hold an incredibly sharp edge through extensive use when processing wild game. Often considered the benchmark or "gold standard" against which other cutlery steels are measured, S30V maintains its reputation as one of the best steels for hunting knives.

CPM-S35VN

Building upon the impressive performance of S30V, CPM-S35VN steel was developed to further improve some of the minor drawbacks of its predecessor. With a modified chemistry incorporating niobium and a higher vanadium content, S35VN offers significantly better toughness and is noticeably easier to sharpen compared to S30V. Edge retention and corrosion resistance remain similarly excellent. This combination of enhanced mechanical properties makes S35VN an outstanding choice for hunters who expect their knife to withstand heavy use when field dressing large game. It affords the ability to retain a finely-honed edge critical for detailed cutting tasks even after impact or cutting through bone. As S35VN continues to proliferate amongst high-end knife makers catering to hunters, it is cementing its reputation as an exceptional hunting knife steel.

Stainless Steel for a Hunting Knife

154CM

For those seeking excellent edge retention and corrosion resistance on a budget, 154CM steel presents itself as a more affordable option compared to the premium CPM grades. Originally known by the name 154CMW when introduced in the 1970s, it performs similarly to widely-used ATS-34 stainless steel. Good machinability allows hunters to put a very keen edge on 154CM. Combined with respectable toughness and stain resistance, it makes a reliable hunting companion for dressing small to medium-sized game. Though it cannot quite match the cutting prowess of the more advanced powder metallurgy steels, 154CM nevertheless presents an excellent balance of performance and value for the budget-conscious hunter.

VG-10

Hailing from Japan, VG-10 stainless steel has rightfully earned the moniker "samurai steel" for its prowess in blades. Originally developed for high-end kitchen cutlery requiring exceptional edge retention, VG-10 also proved itself an extremely capable outdoor and hunting knife steel. It boasts an optimal balance of hardness to withstand heavy use, a fine grain structure for taking extremely sharp edges, and enough chromium, carbon, and other alloying elements to confer impressive wear and corrosion resistance. While frequent sharpening is needed to maintain peak sharpness compared to premium American and European powder steel grades, VG-10 nevertheless delivers ample cutting ability between sharpening sessions for most hunters' needs. From skinning squirrels to dressing deer and elk, VG-10 hunting knives serve hunters well while carrying samurai-worthy pedigree.

CPM-3V

Thus far, most of the recommended steels are premium stainless grades. However, some hunters may prefer carbon steel for the ultimate edge retention and cutting performance in a hunting knife. Among these, CPM-3V is a standout choice, demonstrating exceptional durability under heavy loads. With high vanadium and medium carbon content, 3V steel combines extreme wear resistance, hardness, and toughness. Originally designed for demanding industrial knifemaking applications, 3V steel has proven itself equally capable for serious hunters who expect extreme performance from their knives, even when processing heavy bone and sinew. With reasonable corrosion resistance compared to other high-carbon steels, hunters find 3V requires relatively little care to prevent discoloration or rusting. When ultimate toughness and tenacity in cutting ability are top priorities, CPM-3V is a prominent carbon steel pick.

Elmax

A newcomer in hunting knife steels, Elmax demonstrates why it also deserves consideration amongst premium stainless grades for hunters. An extremely pure powder metallurgy steel with one of the highest chromium content in its class at 18%, Elmax possesses exceptional stain and wear resistance properties comparable to many much higher-priced custom sheets of steel. Created by Bohler-Uddenholm, it maintains fantastic edge geometry and sharpness significantly longer than other common knife-grade steels thanks to superior hardness, refined grain structure, and additive elements like molybdenum, vanadium, and tungsten that further bolster wear resistance. Elmax presents excellent toughness, meeting critical levels desired in hunting knives that must endure occasional impacts. With corrosion resistance even besting 316L marine grade stainless, Elmax is rightfully considered a "super steel" now gaining popularity amongst discerning knife makers catering to hunters wanting one of the absolute best edge-holding stainless steels.

Stainless Steel for a Hunting Knife

Final Words

S30V, S35VN, 154CM, and Elmax represent exceptional premium-grade stainless steels that optimize all the essential qualities desired in a dedicated hunting knife – edge retention, corrosion resistance, toughness, and sharpenability. Meanwhile, VG-10 and 3V offer time-tested cutting prowess for those partial to Japanese and higher carbon steel options, respectively.

Read More

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.