When you are ready to buy a new hunting knife, one of the most important issues to consider is whether you want the blade to be made from a stainless steel or high carbon steel. There are several very distinct advantages and disadvantages of both types of steels and I am writing this article to share these factors with the reader so that you can make an educated decision when it is your time to buy.
As a general rule of thumb, high carbon steel is harder than stainless steel and will stay sharp for a longer period of time. The downside of having steel that is so hard is that when the knife eventually loses its sharp edge, it will be more difficult to re-sharpen. Hunters are particularly fond of high-carbon steel for their field knives because they need a knife that will keep its edge while skinning large animals. Re-sharpening a dull knife while the animal that you just killed is decomposing can be very tedious and frustrating. What many hunters fail to remember is that the high carbon content in their knife makes it much more prone to rust. Moisture is the main cause of rust on most hunting knives. This moisture can come from blood, rain, or water that is used to clean the blade. Always remember to thoroughly dry the blade of your knife (high carbon or stainless) after use if it comes into contact with any moisture. Storing your hunting knife in its sheath (knife holder) for long periods of time can also cause the blade to rust as moisture tends to develop inside of the sheath and sits on the blade which causes corrosion. I recommend that you do not store your knife in its sheath unless you are in the field or need it to be there.
Stainless steel knives tend to be more expensive than high carbon knives due to the fact that more work goes into making the knife stainless or “rust proof”. Many hunters are mislead by the word “stainless” and believe that their stainless steel hunting knife will not rust under any condition! This belief is false and many hunters are upset to find rust spots and corrosion on their favorite hunting or outdoor knives after only several uses. I recommend that you use the same caution and maintenance procedures with a stainless knife as you would with a high carbon knife in terms of rust prevention. Stainless steel is softer than high carbon steel and accordingly can be sharpened much easier.
It is a good idea to keep a light coat of non-detergent based oil on your high carbon-hunting knife when it is not being used. I especially recommend 3-in-1 oil; as it seems to be effective for rust prevention, yet gentle enough to not corrode the blade in any way. Many knife buyers like to use gun oil when it comes to lubricating their favorite hunting knives. This is a good practice, but I would advise that you make certain that the oil does not have any type of acid or other substance in it that could corrode the blade of your knife. Lubricating your stainless steel hunting knife with oil is usually not necessary, but a light coat of non-detergent based oil should not cause any harm.