Is 5160 Steel Good For Knives? A Complete Guide

When people first start researching knives, they are shocked to find quite a few steel types are used in their construction. Despite being similar in composition, the different steels come with varying properties, making them suitable for different scenarios. Some steels are softer and easy to sharpen, while others have great edge retention but require some extra tools or sharpening skills.

One known steel type for knives is 5160 steel. Although this is a good steel type for knives, it is typically only found in long knives, large knives, and swords because of its increased flexibility. It certainly is not the best steel for hunting, fishing, or diving knives. To find out more about 5160 steel, read on.

What is 5160 Steel?

5160 Steel

5160 steel is made from a high carbon and chromium mix. Because of this composition, it is incredibly tough, malleable, and flexible. It even has great fatigue resistance. Unfortunately, this material is difficult to machine and will require special tools to sharpen properly. Even more unfortunate about this steel is that it rusts easily.

As a result, you don’t find 5160 steel in many knives, even though it is strong, hard, and offers great edge retention. Instead, you will typically find this type of steel in long or large knives, including survival knives and swords. More so, 5160 steel is used a lot in the automotive industry. Many heavy springs, such as leaf Springs, require this type of steel for flexibility and toughness.

5160 Steel Composition

As we already mentioned, 5160 steel has a high chromium and carbon content, but those are not the only ingredients in this steel composition. Here’s a complete list of the chemicals used in 5160 steel:

  • 0.64% Carbon: Improves hardness, erosion resistance, and wear resistance but decreases strength
  • 0.9% Chromium: Improves tensile strength, edge retention, corrosion resistance, and wear resistance
  • 1% Manganese: Improves brittleness and hardness
  • 0.035% Phosphorous: Improves strength
  • 0.3% Silicon: Improves strength
  • 0.04% Sulfur: Improves machinability

Because of the high carbon, chromium, and manganese content, 5160 steel is considered a spring alloy. Spring steel refers to steel typically used within the automotive and industrial industries for springs. They have a high yield strength, allowing the steel to take the original shape even after twisting.

What Are 5160 Steel Properties?

Every steel type has unique properties, relating to edge retention, corrosion resistance, machinability, and more. Let’s take a look at the specific properties of 5160 steel.

  • Corrosion Resistance: Because 5160 steel does not have a high chromium amount, it does not offer impressive corrosion resistance.
  • Edge Retention: Although 5160 steel does not offer the best edge retention compared to other carbon steels, the edge retention is still impressive because of its maximum HRC of 60.
  • Machinability: 5160 steel is considered very difficult for machining.
  • Sharpness: unlike other rigid knives, 5160 steel is relatively easy to sharpen.
  • Toughness: 5160 steel is regarded as a very tough material because of its mix of chromium, carbon, and manganese. 
  • Wear Resistance: As a spring alloy, the chemical composition allows 5160 steel to have good wear resistance.
  • Welding: Because 5160 steel has a lot of carbon and chromium, it does not offer good weldability.

To put all of these properties together, 5160 steel has great edge retention, sharpness, toughness, and wear resistance, making it great for knives used in dry and high-impact environments. Its main downfall is that it does not offer good corrosion resistance and will rust very easily.

Is 5160 Steel Good for Knives?

Because 5160 steel has good edge retention, hardness, toughness, and wear resistance, this is a good steel for knives. It will take a great beating, and it is not very expensive. If you are looking for a durable knife that won’t cost you a fortune, then one made with 5160 steel may be the choice for you.

Easily the most useful setting for 5160 steel is in large knives, such as survival knives and swords. Being both flexible and hard, this material can withstand a beating and won’t break when put under pressure. These are qualities that are especially needed in long knives.

However, 5160 steel is not very durable if you intend to use it in a wet environment. Fishermen, divers, hunters, or chefs should not select a knife with this type of steel. It will rust very quickly. So, only use this sort of knife in dry environments.

Will 5160 Steel Rust?

Yes. 5160 steel will rust because it has low corrosion resistance, thanks to the chromium alloy. You should oil a knife made from 5160 steel once a week and clean it up after every usage. Doing so will prevent it from rusting prematurely.

How Strong is 5160 Steel?

5160 steel is considered pretty hard because it has a hardening capability between 57 and 58 HRC. Its maximum HRC is 60, but you will find 5160 steel options closer to the high 50s. In addition to its strength, 5160 steel is considered tough as well.

Is it Easy to Sharpen 5160 Steel Blades?

Normally, hard knives are difficult to sharpen. 5160 steel, on the other hand, is relatively easy to sharpen. Beginners who are not as familiar with sharpening knives should handle 5160 steel blades with relative ease in comparison to other steel types.

What Are The Best 5160 Steel Knives in the Market

Last update on 2024-04-25 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Final Word….

5160 steel is pretty impressive for knives because it is tough, hard, flexible, and sharp. This makes it perfect for long survival knives and swords. Unfortunately, this steel is not corrosion-resistant, making it unsuitable for hunting, fishing, diving, and cooking purposes.

In other words, 5160 steel definitely isn’t the best steel to select for most knife purposes. Unless you have a specific need for the knife, most often relating to a large blade, you can likely find a better steel material than 5160.

If you select 5160 steel, you need to take a lot of precautions and preemptive maintenance. This includes oiling the steel once a week and cleaning the knife thoroughly after every use. Taking extra care and maintenance will help prevent the blade from rusting.


I’m Ahmed, the guy behind I’ve owned several types of knives and sharpeners over the last few years and have become obsessed with everything to do with knives. I’m always trying to improve my cleaning and sharpening process, and always on the hunt for the next best knife. But when I’m not spending time with my hobby, I’m here, writing about Knives and Sharpeners on KnifePulse to share with you what I learn along the way.

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