3cr13 Steel : Full Details And Review

3cr13 Steel Review

3cr13 Steel For Knives

In this article we take a close look at 3cr13 steel.  We will explore its composition and capabilities as a knife steel as well as compare it to other closely related blade steels.

With a multitude of different types of steel and lots of new premium steels available today it can be hard to determine which are suitable for your uses.  3cr13 is a cost effective and durable steel that makes it very suitable for lower cost knives.

There are a variety of different steels in the cr13 family such as 8cr13MoV steel that are very similar but have slightly different characteristics.

What Is 3cr13 Steel?

3cr13 steel is a martensitic stainless steel that contains 0.3% Carbon and 13% Chromium.  The name 3cr13 follows the GB/T 1220 Chinese national standard for steel classification. 

To be considered a stainless steel it must contain a minimum of approximately 11% Chromium. 

It is often used in various applications and high-strength parts such as;  shafts, bolts, nozzles, valves, bearings, tools, and springs.  

It has also been used for many years as a reliable and proven knife steel.  It has many desirable properties that make is suitable for knives such as;

  • Its ability to be formed and ground easily when tempered
  • Decent toughness
  • Ease of sharpening
  • Good corrosion resistance
  • Cost effective
  • Readily available in large quantities


3cr13 Composition

As mentioned above, the name 3cr13 means that this steel has a basic composition that includes 0.3% carbon and 13% chromium.  The full chemical composition is as follows.

  • 0.3% Carbon
  • 13% Chromium
  • 1% Silicon
  • 1% Manganese
  • 0.6% Nickel
  • 0.04% Phosphorus
  • 0.03% Sulfur

Properties of 3cr13

Edge Retention

While 3cr13 is a decent knife steel with fairly balanced properties its edge retention is considerably lower than many modern day higher end steels.  That said, for it's price it holds an edge fairly well and when it does get dull it sharpens up very easily.

Hardness

One of the main contributing factors to a steels hardness is the total level of carbon it contains. (along with various other additives)  Since 3cr13 is on the lower end of carbon content it makes sense that it has a moderate hardness compared to some other premium steels.  

The overall hardness of 3cr13 is usually between about 50 and 58 HRC depending on the heat treatment applied.

Toughness

One of the areas where 3cr13 shines is its overall toughness.  It is a very robust steel that does not chip or break easily.  Very often, hardness and toughness are competing factors in the overall durability of different steels.  As a steel gets harder, it tends to get more brittle and thus reduces its overall toughness.

The good toughness of 3cr13 lends it to be a good steel for things like machetes, tomahawks, and throwing knives, as well as other more general use blades that may be subjected to a bit of abuse.

Corrosion Resistance

With it's low carbon content and decent amount of Chromium added, 3cr13 resists corrosion fairly well.  While any stainless steel will eventually rust with repeated exposure to adverse conditions 3cr13 will hold up well to normal use and even a good bit of abuse.

Sharpening

As mentioned above, 3cr13 has a moderate hardness which makes it very easy to resharpen.  In this regard, it is a great steel for a knife owner who is learning to sharpen their knives without many special tools or supplies.  Once you learn how to sharpen properly, 3cr13 can achieve a razor-sharp edge.

3cr13 steel utility knife

3cr13 Equivalent Steels

3cr13 is often compared to 420J steel, which is the American equivalent naming convention.  In more industrial applications, 1cr13, and 2cr13 are often used in similar applications and have very similar properties.  The main difference being that 3cr13 has a slightly higher hardness than the 1 and 2.

I have also heard of 3cr13 being compared to AUS-4 since they are fairly similar. However, AUS-4 has a slightly higher carbon and chromium content that 3cr13 at 0.4% Carbon and 14% Chromium.

If you are looking for a more premium steel that still wont break the bank then you should check out our detailed review of VG-10 Steel.

Is 3cr13 Steel A Good Knife Steel?

While there are harder and tougher steels on the market, 3cr13 is a very good knife steel for its price.  It is very easy to sharpen and resists corrosion well.  It is quite tough for its price and will hold up to abuse well.

All of the above points make 3cr13 a decent blade steel and it is hard to find one better at the same price point.  We have listed out 3 favorite 3cr13 knives below to help you choose which one is best for you.

Best 3cr13 knives


SMITH & WESSON Bullseye set Check Current Price At Amazon
Spyderco Grasshopper Check Current Price At Amazon
Kershaw Cinder Check Current Price At Amazon

FINAL VERDICT

3cr13 is a good stainless steel with decent corrosion resistance.  It sharpens very easily and is very resistant to chipping and breaking.

While there are much higher quality steels out there it is hard to find a competing steel that can perform as well at such a reasonable price point.

Do you have any knives made out of 3cr13?  what do you like about them or what has your experience been?  Drop us a note below to let us know what you think.

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2comments
butch bilbrey - August 26, 2023

I have a Kershaw Filter, which is a dang good knife, it is in 3 CR 13 mov steel. For a knife that cost less than $20 it can’t be beat. It has a 3 and 1/4 inch blade, assisted open and stainless steel handles with a tip down right handed pocket clip, it’s also a frame lock, I absolutely love the knife. When it comes to fit and finish it’s hard to beat a Kershaw.

Reply
    Blade Protector - August 27, 2023

    I’ve got a few Kershaw knives and although they aren’t the most premium knives I own. Every one has been a solid performer. And at a good value too.

    Reply
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