Is M390 A Good Knife Steel? – [Complete Steel Guide]

When it comes to different kinds of steel, M390 is one of the most popular and widely used steels in today’s market. But is it a suitable type of steel to be used in knives? 

We are going to be taking an in-depth look at M390 steel in general before we look at its role as a kind of steel to use for knives. 

Let’s get started. 

Is M390 A Good Knife Steel

What Is M390 Steel?

M390 steel is a relatively new type of carbon steel that was developed by Bohler-Uddenholm, an Austrian company that specializes in tool steel, steel products, and special forgings.

M390 steel has a very high carbon content which makes it ideal for use in cutting tools such as chisels, saws, axes, hatchets, and other types of hand tools. 

It also has a very high chromium content, which gives it excellent corrosion resistance and wear resistance properties. The combination of these two properties makes it a great choice for any kind of cutting or shaping application.

The Chemical Composition Of M390 Steel

The chemical composition of M390 steel can vary slightly depending on the manufacturer, but generally speaking, it contains:

  • Carbon (C) – 16 – 18%
  • Chromium (Cr) – 12 – 15%
  • Manganese (Mn) – 0.5 – 1.0%
  • Phosphorus (P) – 0.2 – 0.4%
  • Sulfur (S) – 0.05 – 0.1%
  • Titanium (Ti) – 0.01 – 0.02%

The Properties Of M390 Steel

When it comes to the physical properties of M390 steel, there aren’t many differences between this steel and other common steels like ATS-34, S30V, D2, etc. They all have similar hardness values, ranging from 60 HRC to 70 HRC. 

The only difference is their toughness levels. The higher the chromium content, the tougher the steel becomes. For example, M390 steel with a chromium content of 13.5% will be much tougher than M390 steel with a lower chromium content of 11%.

This means that you can expect M390 steel to hold up better against impacts and abrasions when compared to other steels.

The Hardness Of M390 Steel

One of the biggest advantages of using M390 steel is that it has a fairly high level of hardness. In fact, M390 steel has a Rockwell C hardness rating of 65 RC which is comparable to some of the hardest steels out there like A1045, S30V, CRN80A, etc. 

If you want a hardening kind of steel that won’t lose too much of its hardness after being heat treated, then M390 is definitely your best bet.

The Toughness Of M390 Steel

Another advantage of using M390 steel over other harder steels is that it has a very high level of toughness. This means that you can cut through things without worrying about breaking them. Because M390 steel has a high carbon content, it is also able to withstand heavy-duty applications. 

For example, if you were to try and cut through thick metal sheets with a regular steel blade, chances are you would end up with a dull blade because the steel would become brittle due to overheating.

However, M390 steel doesn’t suffer from this problem because it has a high amount of chromium, which allows it to resist cracking even under extreme conditions.

The Corrosion Resistance Of M390 Steel

Another reason why M390 steel is so popular is that it has excellent corrosion resistance properties. This is mainly thanks to the high chromium content that helps protect the steel from rusting. 

When exposed to moisture, M390 steel will naturally form a protective oxide layer that protects it from further corrosive attacks. You don’t need to worry about having to apply any sort of surface treatment to get rid of rust either, since M390 steel has a low susceptibility to pitting and crevice corrosion.

The Wear Resistance Of M390 Steel

If you’re looking for a cutting tool that’s going to last a long time, then M390 steel is probably one of the best options available today. It has excellent wear resistance properties which make it ideal for use in tools such as saw blades, knives, chisels, and axes. 

Unlike softer steels, M390 steel does not tend to chip or crack easily. This makes it extremely durable, especially when used in applications where you’ll be repeatedly striking an object with it.

The Cost Of M390 Steel

M390 steel isn’t particularly expensive to buy. On average, you should be able to find it at most hardware stores for around $10 per pound.

However, if you’re planning on buying large amounts of M390 steel, you may want to consider purchasing it online instead. Online retailers often offer bulk discounts, which can help save you money.

Does M390 Steel Make For A Good Knife? Pros And Cons

Does M390 Steel Make For A Good Knife Pros And Cons

Now that we have looked at this kind of steel in general, let’s finally get to the question at hand! In terms of making a quality knife, M390 steel is certainly one of the better choices available.

It has many great qualities that are particularly suited for knives, including:



The hardness of M390 steel makes it perfect for creating sharp edges. As mentioned earlier, M390 steel has a Rockwell C hardness rating of 65 RC, which puts it right up there with some of the hardest steel tons out there.

Excellent Toughness 

M390 steel has excellent toughness properties, which make it suitable for use in a wide range of different types of applications. In fact, it’s been used to create everything from kitchen utensils to weapons!

High Carbon Content 

The high carbon content of M390 steel contributes to its strength and durability. This is especially useful for creating knives that are capable of handling tough jobs.

Low Susceptibility To Pitting And Crevice Corrosion 

One of the main reasons why people choose M390 steel is because it has an impressive level of resistance to both pitting and crevice corrosion.

These two forms of corrosion are responsible for causing many common problems in kitchenware, such as chipping and cracking. Since M390 steel is more resistant to these issues, it’s much less likely to suffer from them.


Due to its excellent level of hardness, M390 steel is capable of lasting for a really long time. If you take care of your knives properly, they could even last for decades.


Because M390 steel is made from a combination of iron and chromium, it’s lightweight compared to other steel tons. This means that it won’t add too much weight to your knife, which can be important if you plan on using it for camping trips, hiking, or any other outdoor activities.


M390 steel is highly resistant to rust and corrosion. This makes it ideal for outdoor activities like camping and hiking where you might come into contact with moisture.

Edge Retention

M390 steel is also known for having excellent edge retention properties. This means that once you’ve created a sharp edge on your blade, you can expect it to stay that way for a really long time without any loss of performance.

Wear Resistance

M390 steel is incredibly wear-resistant. This means that if you keep your blades well maintained, you shouldn’t have to worry about their durability being affected by normal wear and tear.

Corrosion Resistance

M390 steel has excellent resistance to corrosion. It’s not only able to resist pitting and crevice corrosion, but it’s also immune to rust. This means that you can be confident that your blades will remain rust-free for years to come.

These are all some of the plus points when it comes to using this kind of steel for knives, but as with everything, there are always downsides. Let’s take a look at some cons of M390 steel as a material for knives:



While M390 steel is harder than most steels, it’s still softer than traditional stainless steel. This means that it may require a bit more force to cut things with it.

You should use it alongside another steel-such as ATS or VG10- so that you get the best of both worlds.

Lack Of Ease When It Comes To Sharpening

As we mentioned above, M390 steel has a high carbon content. This makes the material much more durable and strong, but also makes it difficult to sharpen. 

It takes longer to achieve a fine edge on M390 steel than it does on other types of steel. This means that it will likely take more time and effort to create a sharpened edge on your blades.

Don’t let that put you off, though! If you’re willing to invest the extra time and effort, you’ll end up with a much sharper blade.

Unwieldy Blades

The hardness of M390 steel makes it quite heavy, especially when compared to other materials. This means that it’s going to feel very different when holding your knife. It will also make it harder to handle during cutting.

Despite these drawbacks, M390 steel remains an excellent choice for making high-quality knives due to its many benefits. Let’s take a look at some of the best M390 steel knives on the market right now.

Benchmade Bugout Knife

Benchmade Bugout Knife

The Benchmade Bugout Knife is one of the best M390 knives you can buy today. This is mainly thanks to its incredible build quality and design. The handle is made from G-10 and features a lanyard hole for easy carrying. 

The blade itself is made from CPM S35VN steel and measures 3 inches overall. It’s been designed specifically for outdoor activities including hunting, camping, fishing, etc. The blade is extremely tough and is capable of taking a beating without breaking. It’s also incredibly sharp and is perfect for slicing through thick materials like wood, rope, leather, etc.

The Benchmade Bugout Knife also includes a removable pocket clip. This makes it ideal for storing small items inside the sheath while keeping them safe from loss. It has a weight of 6 ounces and is definitely worth considering if you’re looking for a great M390 knife.

GianMouse ACE Sonoma Knife 

The Gianmouse ACE Sonoma Knife is another outstanding option for those who prefer a smaller-sized knife. At just over 2 inches long, it’s not only compact, but also lightweight.

The blade is made from CPM-S30V steel and comes razor sharp. It’s also exceptionally strong and can easily be used for cutting through thick objects like ropes, leather, etc. 

The handle is constructed from aircraft aluminum and is comfortable to grip even when wet. It also has a lanyard hole, so you don’t have to worry about losing it. Overall, this is a fantastic option for anyone who wants a smaller-sized knife that packs a big punch.

Benchmade Valet 485 Knife

The Valet 485 Knife by Benchmade is one of the most popular options among knife enthusiasts. It’s a full tang knife with a drop point style blade that’s been specially designed for everyday use.

The blade is made out of MP30V stainless steel, which is known for being extremely hard and durable. It’s also extremely versatile, since it’s suitable for both left-handed and right-handed users. 

The handle is constructed using G-10 material and is ergonomically shaped to provide comfort during use. It also includes a lanyard hole and a reversible tip-up/down safety mechanism. Overall, this is an exceptional option for any type of user.

Safety Tips For Knives

It’s essential to remember that knives are dangerous tools. They should never be handled carelessly or recklessly. Here are a few tips to maintain your safety as well as the safety of those around you when it comes to your knife.

  1. Always keep your knife in a secure place where it cannot be accessed by children or pets.
  2. Never leave your knife unattended. If you must go somewhere else, make sure you lock up your knife before leaving.
  3. Keep your knife stored away from other household items such as cleaning products, chemicals, etc.
  4. Do not store your knife in areas exposed to extreme heat or cold.
  5. When not in use, always carry your knife on your person.
  6. Avoid putting your finger near the edge of the blade.
  7. Make sure you practice proper knife handling techniques. Learn how to properly hold the knife and how to control it.
  8. Be aware of what you are doing at all times. Know your surroundings and know what could happen if you get injured.
  9.  Remember to clean your knife regularly.
  10. Use common sense!

Final Thoughts On M390 Steel 

M390 steel is undoubtedly one of the strongest steels available in the industry. However, it’s important to note that it’s not a perfect material for every application.

For example, it tends to wear down quickly under heavy-duty applications. This means that if you’re planning on using it for heavy-duty tasks such as chopping wood or cutting rope, then you need to take extra precautions. 

On the flip side, it does perform very well for tasks such as skinning animals, trimming meat, etc. In addition, it’s relatively easy to sharpen and maintain due to its low carbon content. All things considered, it’s definitely worth trying out. 

Regardless of what kind of knife you choose, make sure that you always take proper care of it and keep the proper safety precautions in mind.

Tom Bower