Is 9Cr18MoV A Good Blade Steel? Composition & Review

9Cr18MoV steel is commonly found in budget pocket knives. Is it any good? In short, yes.

I recently reviewed the CIVIVI Praxis, which has a flat-ground, 9Cr18MoV steel blade. It performed quite well in our sharpness and edge retention test.

You can see the results below:

Knife / ModelFactory SharpnessSharpness After TestEdge Retention
Spyderco Para 3 12026545%
Benchmade 940 EDC17529060%
SOG TWI8-CP Twitch II12520063%
S&W Extreme Ops SWA24S16526063%
Buck Knives 110 Folding Hunter14522066%
Spyderco Tenacious15022567%
Ontario Knife OKC Rat II SP18527069%
CIVIVI Elementum20127972%
Opinel No. 1228037073%
CIVIVI Praxis18323080%
Zero Tolerance 0450CF24029083%
KA-BAR Dozier Folder27532585%
Cold Steel AD-1018520590%
CRKT Endorser23025092%
CJRB Feldspar21522596%
Cold Steel Recon 1 Tanto17721582%
Kershaw Link CPM 20CV23226289%
CJRB Ria Folder (12C27)19628369%
Gerber Paraframe 1 (ATS-314)18622085%
CRKT CEO18320490%
Kershaw Leek13319269%
CRKT M16-10KS22833468%
CRKT Squid21537557%
Vosteed Corsair16317494%

What is 9Cr18MoV Steel?

This alloy is a stainless steel made in China. With its chromium and decently high carbon, this steel provides a good balance of strength, high sharpness, and edge retention.

Any alloy with at least 13% chromium and less than 1.2% carbon in its chemical composition is considered stainless steel. 9Cr18MoV steel performs very well when it comes to corrosion resistance and wear resistance.

9Cr18MoV Steel Composition

  • Carbon: 0.95%
  • Chromium: 18%
  • Manganese: 0.8%
  • Molybdenum: 1.3%
  • Nickel: 0.6%
  • Phosphorus: 0.04%
  • Silicon: 0.8%
  • Sulfur: 0.03%
  • Vanadium: 0.12%

Super steels like Elmax and ZDP-189 also have between 18% and 20% chromium. This facilitates the formation of carbides, which help to maintain a sharp edge. Carbides also provide great hardness and improve wear resistance.

Carbides are super hard compounds formed from carbon and other elements (like Vanadium and Molybdenum) in the steel’s composition.

They improve wear resistance and increase a steel’s hardness. Basically, they allow an edge to stay sharper for longer periods of time.

9Cr18MoV contains molybdenum, manganese, and vanadium, all of which form carbides that contribute to consistent heat-treating in the factory, which produces a fine grain structure within the steel. Together, these attributes yield a hard, long-wearing, resilient blade that makes it easy to hone a good edge.

9Cr18MoV Steel Properties

9Cr18MoV Hardness

Thanks to its carbide structure and carbon, 9Cr18MoV obtains a score of 58 to 60 HRC on the Rockwell Hardness Scale. On average, most blades made from this alloy will rate 59 HRC. That places it amongst high-end powdered steels like S35VN, H1, and VG-10.

Advantages of 9Cr18MoV Steel

High edge retention: 9Cr18MoV has relatively high carbon (nearly 1%) and various carbides that form a balance chemical composition. That means this steel provides great edge retention and decent toughness, as shown in our chart above. Any knife with a blade made from this alloy will make a good daily driver for plenty of work shift cutting, or as a general-purpose “EDC” knife.

Corrosion Resistance: Given its high percentage of chromium, 9Cr18MoV will perform well in wet weather, and maritime or humid environments. It’ll resist rust and its high corrosion resistance means it’ll be a great companion no matter where you go.

Disadvantages of 9Cr18MoV

Sharpening Time: This alloy provides a hard edge that’ll last awhile. But once that edge dulls, it’ll take some extra time and effort to grind and hone a blade made from 9Cr18MoV back to high sharpness. Softer steels are always easier to sharpen and maintain.

Overall Toughness: High hardness and edge retention are at odds with high toughness and resiliency. Since 9Cr18MoV is a pretty hard steel, its edge will chip more easily if struck hard or abused. You probably don’t want to use a 9Cr18MoV blade as a heavy-duty camping, hunting, or batoning knife.

9Cr18MoV vs. AUS-8

9Cr18MoV provides better edge retention (but is more brittle) than AUS-8. A Japanese alloy, AUS-8 has added vanadium to increase hardness. Both steels are closely matched, but 9Cr18MoV has more chromium and carbon. This means more hardness and toughness, and more carbides.

AUS-8 tends to rate between 57 and 59 HRC on the Rockwell Hardness Scale. But 9Cr18MoV rates 58 to 60 HRC. So it should, in theory, hold an edge longer. Both steels also have similar amounts of manganese and silicon.

9Cr18MoV vs. 8Cr13MoV

It makes sense to wonder whether one’s better than the other, right? After all, the two steels sound similar. Except the latter is the better steel.

9Cr18MoV has a higher carbon and chromium content than 8Cr13MoV, which yields better hardness, toughness, and corrosion resistance. The softer 8Cr13MoV steel will dull more quickly, and rust more easily.

9Cr18MoV vs. D2

On paper, D2 steel outperforms 9Cr18MoV, but not by much. It has a slighter higher carbon content (1.4 to 1.6%) which will yield slightly better hardness. D2 has 12% Chromium, so it has less corrosion resistance and isn’t technically considered a stainless steel.

Both steels have about the same molybdenum content (~1%) which provides higher hardness from quenching, and it helps drive carbide formation. D2 edges out 9Cr18MoV with 1.1% Vanadium to further improve toughness and edge retention. 9Cr18MoV does not contain vanadium.

My CIVIVI Praxis (which has a 9Cr18MoV blade) outperformed my CIVIVI Elementum, which has a D2 blade. This probably came down to the fact the Praxis has a tougher and more resilient flat grind, while the Elementum has a thinner, more delicate hollow grind.

Other Steels Like 9Cr18MoV

Both 440C and VG-10 perform similarly to 9Cr18MoV. Both qualify as stainless steel. They have similar carbide compositions and carbon contents, yielding similar edge retention, hardness, and toughness.

Compare 9Cr18MoV to other steels with our Composition Charts.

Is 9Cr18MoV A Good Steel?

Absolutely. The typical pocket knife made from 9Cr18MoV retails for between $35 and $65. Considering its composition and carbide content, this is a stainless alloy that provides excellent “bang” for its buck. It makes a great knife steel, and I’d be happy to find 9Cr18MoV blade on any 4″ folding knife, kitchen knife, or daily-carry pocket knife.