Is M390 A Good Knife Steel? (Properties And Functionality)

Knife steels are ranked by quality from the lowest to the highest. There are low-end steels, mid-range steels, and high-end steels.

The grade level of the steel will be determined by its Carbon content, the alloys found in it, and its form of processing. One of the high-end steels around is the M390 which you may have come across at some point.

The steel is quite popular when it comes to the making of high-end quality knives. We will be looking deeper at its composition, properties, and functionality, so keep reading to find out more.

What is M390 steel?

M390 steel is a type of super steel manufactured by Bohler Uddeholm through a third-generation powder metallurgical process where its carbides are spread evenly. The method is used for steel that will require higher resistance for its blades. M390 is highly durable, tough, hard, resistant to corrosion, wear, and rust, and it can withstand a lot of hard use.

Composition of M390 steel

M390 steel is an upper range steel whose components add up to give it high-quality characteristics. It is made up of:

Chromium at 20% – Chromium increases resistance to wear and corrosion and enhances edge retention and strength at the same time.

Carbon at 1.9% – Carbon enhances hardness plus the wear and corrosion resistance, but it lowers strength if it’s in high amounts.

Silicon at 0.7% – Silicon adds more hardness and strength to the steel.

Manganese at 0.3% – Manganese improves hardness.

Molybdenum at 1% – Molybdenum increases the weldability, strength, and resistance to corrosion and wear.

Tungsten at 0.6% – Tungsten enhances the wear resistance, corrosion resistance, and increases the melting temperatures.

Vanadium at 4% – Vanadium boosts the tensile strength, makes sharpening easier, and improves the capabilities of other components.

The hardness of M390 steel

The Rockwell hardness of M390 steel is 60-62HRC which is very hard. If the hardness of steel is high, it is great at holding an edge but it becomes more difficult to sharpen.

Is M390 steel stainless?

M390 steel is stainless because it has a high Chromium level of 20%.

When it comes to determining if the steel is stainless, we mainly look at the Chromium content. Chromium is a determinant factor because if the steel has above 10.5% of it then it is stainless.

Properties of M390 steel

The components that make up M390 steel will determine it’s properties. For it to be considered high quality, it offers the following properties:

Edge Retention

The M390 steel has very high edge retention due to the amount of Carbon in it that makes it hard. It can hold an edge for long.

Corrosion Resistance

M390 has very high Chromium quantities at 20%. This gives it great resistance to corrosion and it can last a long while making it a sustainable knife.

Wear Resistance

The steel has great wear resistance and can be used for indoor or outdoor activities in humid weather with no problems.

Toughness Quality

The steel has high toughness levels and it can withstand a lot of hard use.


M390 steel is very hard and as we have seen before, the harder the steel the harder to sharpen it becomes. So sharpening it can be quite a task especially when using a stone. The grinding of the steel though is quite easy.

M390 Steel Comparisons

M390 is great steel but there are similar steels in the same range. Let’s see how they compare:

S36VN Steel – they both have similar toughness, the S36VN is easier to sharpen, but the M390 has better edge retention and corrosion resistance.

20 CV Steel – The M390 is a replica of the 20CV as they both carry the same properties. They have similar edge retention, corrosion resistance, toughness, and ease of sharpness.

M4 Steel – Both sheets of steel have similar edge retention and toughness but the M4 has very low corrosion resistance compared to M390 and M390 steel is easier to sharpen.

Is M390 A Good Knife Steel?

The M390 steel is a high-quality grade that is used in the making of knives for outdoor activities like camping and hunting and even for survival purposes. The knives can hold an edge well, are resistant to corrosion, wear, and rust, and are tough too. They are not very easy to sharpen but when sharpened, they can keep that edge for long.

The steel has a very good shine too and it makes great display knives. It can acquire a mirror polish when polished. Though it has good resistance, it is not very good with salty water and can get rusted with regular use.


The knife is great for its price and you will get good quality for what you buy. All you have to do is maintain it well, take good care of it, and it will last you a long while.

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