AUS8 Stainless Steel Is An Underrated Steel That is Perfect For Budget Knives – Here Are A Few of Our Favorites.

These great knives from CRKT. SOG. Callimus, Cold Steel, Ontario and Cima.

In the world of stainless steel, AUS 8 offers a great compromise. It can take an incredibly sharp edge. It won’t hold that edge as well as something 154CM because it tends to be a little softer, but that also makes it tough enough to be a good working knife, and it will almost always make a knife more affordable than if you used any other decent quality stainless steel. So as knife makers become increasingly obsessed with supersteels, and I find myself having to choose more often between a new knife and eating for a few weeks, I thought it was time to showcase some of the better knives made with AUS-8 on the market right now.

Here’s a breakdown of AUS-8 steel composition for the knife nerds according to CRKT:

Carbon0.70 – 0.75
Chromium13.0 – 14.5
Manganese0.5
Molybdenum0.1-0.3
Vanadium0.10 – 0.26
Nickel0.49
Phosphorus0.04
Silicon1

Rockwell hardness usually runs from 57-58, which is just about perfect where I’m concerned, but you will see some people cooking it as soft as 56 or as hard as 59.

As with any steel, the quality depends highly on the heat treatment, so I’ve tried to compile a list of knives from companies that seem to make a decent folding or fixed blade knife with AUS 8. You’ll see SOG featured pretty heavily in this list, because they seem to have one of the better heat treatments for it. I’m not a huge fan of their designs and manufacturing quality overall, but they know their way around a semi-budget steel.

Folding Knives with Aus-8

Folding knives are the natural home for AUS 8 steel. At least, any time you do find an AUS-8 knife, it’s more likely to be a folder than not. For better or worse, this is the categories with all the big names.

Ontario RAT-2

The Ontario Rat 2 is an excellent camping knife with AUS-8 steel.

 

Overall Length: 7.0”

Blade Length: 3.0”

Blade Style: Drop point

Grind: Full flat

Handle Material: Nylon 6

Open System: Manual thumbstud

Carry System: Pocket clip (all 4 directions)

Lock Type: Liner

Price Range: $20 – 27

 

Someday I might think of a listicle of folding knives that doesn’t include one of the Ontario Rats, but today is not that day. It’s just hard to ignore a folding knife that’s as tough and usable as this design. It’s one of the few folders that can reliably work in survival knife territory. It might look kinda funny, but it’s easily one of the best pocket knives you can get in any category.

Ontario actually makes both the Rat 1 and 2 in AUS 8, but it seems excessive to both on here. If you want a Rat 1 in AUS-8 that bad you can go find it yourself.

Check Price On Amazon

 

 

Esee Zancudo

The Esee Zancudo is a popular EDC folding knife.

 

Overall Length: 7.0”

Blade Length: 2.94”

Blade Style: Drop point

Grind: Flat

Handle Material: G-10 scales

Open System: Manual thumbstud

Carry System: Tip-down pocket clip

Lock Type: Frame

Made in: Taiwan

Designer: Jeff Randall / Mike Perrin

Price Range: $27 – 30

 

I’ve personally put a lot of miles on this knife. It’s actually the knife that made me a little biased toward AUS-8 in the first place. I’ve beat it to hell in every kind of dirty field and tree you can imagine and it came through whole. It did not come through entirely sharp, but it held up for months with a decent edge before it needed some serious care. The Zancudo is just a good simple design that rides easy in the pocket. I think of it as a decent alternative if you don’t like the look of the Ontario Rat family.

If you want a little more detail, check out my full review.

Check Price On Amazon

 

 

Camillus 7.5 with Marlin Spike

The Bamboo Handles Marlin Slike Knife from Camillus is a practical folding knife with AUS-8 Steel.

 

Overall Length: 7.5”

Blade Length: 2.88”

Blade Style: Sheepsfoot

Grind: Flat

Handle Material: Bamboo

Open System: Nail Nick

Carry System: Lanyard loop

Lock Type: Liner

Made in: China

Price Range: $30 – 35

 

This is a neat knife if it’s the kind of thing you’re into. I don’t know if there are a lot of people out there who use both sheepsfoot blades and marlin spikes enough to need them in one tool, but Camillus is your man for that, because they make two knives like that. This is the slightly larger alternative to the Camillus 6.5” folding knife with a marlin spike, which only comes in G-10 scales and VG-10 steel.

The bamboo version looks little more rustic and the blade has an odd incline going in toward the handle, which I assume is supposed to make it better at cutting rope since these were designed primarily for sailing. I’m not a sailor myself, but I do appreciate the uniqueness of these knives. Also Camillus makes a big deal about their titanium coating, which is pretty tough, just maybe not quite what everyone seems to think it is. Check out our guide to Camillus titanium coated folding knives if you’re wondering what the hell that means.

Check Price On Amazon

 

 

SOG Twitch II

The SOG Twitch 2 is a great AUS 8 stainless steel knife.

 

Overall Length: 6.2”

Blade Length: 2.65”

Blade Style: Drop point

Grind: Flat

Handle Material: Aluminum

Open System: Assisted thumbstud

Carry System: Tip-up pocket clip

Lock Type: Lockback

Made in: USA

Price Range: $45 – 50

 

I’m not an assisted open fan, but props have to be given to the Twitch II. It’s a tough design with a clean aesthetic that makes it look like it should be a lot more expensive than it is. SOG fans get this knife and end up counting on it for years, so it’s one of those things where I have to put personal bias aside and say this is worth getting.

Check Price On Amazon

 

 

SOG Flash II

The SOG Flash 2 is a great AUS-8 Steel folding knife with an excellent lock.

 

Overall Length: 8.0”

Blade Length: 3.5”

Blade Style: Drop point

Grind: Hollow

Handle Material: FRN

Open System: Assisted thumbstud

Carry System: Tip-up pocket clip

Lock Type: Plunge lock

Made in: Japan

Price Range: $40 – 45

 

If someone dropped a Twitch II on a designers table and said “make this bigger and tactical”, someone might come up with the Flash II. I’m not sure which knife came first, so I don’t know if that’s how it happened, but that’s definitely what it looks like. The Flash II was made to be tough, so it doesn’t look as nice, but the FRN handle won’t show scratches as easily and has some fairly innovative technology in it where the lock is concerned.

Even though I’m not crazy about the design overall, I do think it plays to the strengths of AUS-8 pretty well. It’s a sizable blade with a flat grind, made to be cost-effective and beat to all hell.

Check Price On Amazon

 

 

Cold Steel Large Voyager

The Cold Steel Voyager is an xcellent AUS-8 stainless steel folding knife.

 

Overall Length: 9.25”

Blade Length: 4.0”

Blade Style: Clip point

Grind: Flat

Handle Material: Polymer

Open System: Manual thumbstud

Carry System: Tip-up pocket clip

Lock Type: Back lock

Made in: Taiwan

Price Range: $60 – 67

 

This is getting harder to find in AUS-8 ever since Cold steel made the switch to carpenter steel and AUS-10. Both are nice upgrades, but they do kick the price up a bit. Eventually, I’ll probably take this knife off the list, but for now there are still less expensive AUS-8 versions out there in the wild.

We’ve used the XL version in BD1 carpenter steel a lot. It’s ridiculous, and I don’t like admitting that it’s useful, but sometimes you really can find practical applications for what is essentially a pocket machete. The regular Large version of the knife is more in the range of normal knife classification. It’s reasonable size probably reduces it’s chopping ability compared to the stupidly big version, but for any normal adult using this knife for normal adult things, the Large Voyager is a good EDC/camping knife.

For a better idea of how the larger version of this knife performs, check out our full review of the XL Voyager.

Check Price On Amazon

 

 

Ka Bar Dozier

The KA-BAR Dozier is an extremely popular work knife.

 

Overall Length: 7.25”

Blade Length: 3.0”

Blade Style: Drop point

Grind: Hollow

Handle Material: Zytel

Open System: Right-hand thumbstud

Carry System: Tip-up pocket clip

Lock Type: Lockback

Made in: Taiwan

Price Range: $18 – 20

 

The Dozier is another simple, work-ready design like the Zancudo or the Ontario Rats, but usually runs a little cheaper thanks in part to the handle material. They also use the variant AUS 8A steel, which is basically just AUS 8 cooked to be a little harder. The Dozier should have a better edge retention, if a slightly higher chance of chipping. That’s in keeping with their decision to make it a hollow grind. This was clearly meant to be a slicey folder.

The difference I really like, though, is the extreme drop off of the blade at the end. Technically this is a drop point, but it borders on a  speer point that offers a slightly different range of usability from the other knives you see on here.

Check Price On Amazon

 

 

This well designed folding knife from CRKT as an AUS-8 steel blade.

 

Overall Length: 8.25”

Blade Length: 3.25”

Blade Style: Drop point

Grind: Hollow

Handle Material: GRN

Open System: Manual flipper

Carry System: Tip-down pocket clip

Lock Type: Liner

Made in: Taiwan

Designer: Ken Onion

Price Range: $25 – 35

Ken Onion made this to be a workhorse knife with a light handle material and a fairly simple blade edge, but he couldn’t help but make it at least look a little more interesting with some handle contouring and that false edge on the blade. This might also be one of the comfiest knives of the folding bunch, though. That’s pretty common among all the knives Ken Onion has been designing for CRKT, where he’s actually made some pretty wide use of AUS-8 steel. I’d put more of them here, but we already did a thing on Ken Onion knives a while ago, so you should just go look at that if you like this design.

Check Price On Amazon

 

 

Fixed Blade Knives with AUS 8 Steel

It’s a little harder to find fixed-blade knives in AUS 8, and I’m not sure I could explain exactly why except that maybe it’s a little too hard to safely put in large models. That’s not to say it can’t be done well, though, so here’s what I’ve found that looks promising.

Camillus ST6

The Camillus ST6 features a titanium coated AUS-8 Steel blade.

 

Overall Length: 6.75”

Blade Length: 4.0”

Blade Style: Drop point

Grind: Hollow

Handle Material: Rubber w/ steel bolsters

Sheath: Nylon

Made in: China

Price Range: $30 – 60

This is a nice budget skinning knife from Camillus. I’ve brought up before in our fixed-blade Camillus knives blog, and it’s worth bringing up again here. Mostly because it’s hard to find fixed blade knives in AUS-8 steel, and I really want to balance this list out. Don’t let that distract you from the cool look of the knife or the usually reasonable price point of the thing. I see it fluctuate quite a bit, but it’s usually hitting the below $50 category.

Check Price On Amazon

 

 

Cima G20

The Cima g20 fixed blade knife has a well designed AUS 8 steel blade.

 

Overall Length: 8.26”

Blade Length: 3.86”

Blade Style: Drop point

Grind: Full flat

Handle Material: G10

Sheath: Nylon

Made in: China

Price Range: $19 – 24

 

We’ve played around with this knife a bit and the general consensus was “better than it looks, because it looks really ugly.” It really is a good budget survival knife, though. The knife itself is tough, and the handle is actually comfortable. There are some issues with the sheath (at least with the one we tested). The retention isn’t great, but it can strap to your leg and feels pretty secure so long as you stay upright. It’s certainly not the best survival knife out there, but it’s pretty hard to beat the amount of versatility you get with it for the cost.

Check out our Cima G20 review here if you want our fuller, tastefully inebriated opinion of it.

Check Price On Amazon

 

 

Cold Steel Mini Tac Tanto

This neck knife from Cold Steel has an AUS 8 steel blade.

 

Overall Length: 6.75”

Blade Length: 3.75”

Blade Style: Tanto

Grind: Full lfat

Handle Material: G10 Griv-Ex

Sheath: Neck sheath

Made in: Taiwan

Price Range: $28 – 30

 

As far as neck knives go, the Mini Tac is pretty usable, especially in its tanto style. It’s a little beefier than your typical neck knife and actually has some decent ergonomics. True to AUS-8 form, this knife is really made to be abused. A full flat grind with a thick spine make it pretty easy to bring back from whatever horors you visit on this knife, and even though it’s probably heavier than most people would want to wear around their neck, it’s great for travelling.

Read our full review here if you aren’t tired of our words yet.

Check Price On Amazon

 

 

Ka Bar TDI

The Ka-Bar TDI knife is a popular law enforcement knife that has AUS8 steel.

 

Overall Length: 5.63”

Blade Length: 2.31”

Blade Style: Drop point

Grind: Hollow

Handle Material: Zytel

Sheath:

Made in: Taiwan

Designer: John Benner

Price Range: $30 – 40

 

This was designed as a close quarters tactical knife for law enforcement, which is pretty far outside the range of knives we usually feature on this site, but John Benner did a good job designing this knife with a clear purpose in mind.

We brought the TDI up in our horizontal-carry knives blog, but it only loosely fits in that category thanks to the severe curve of the handle. It kind of begs the question of what actually counts as horizontal when you’re wearing this knife. The TDI doesn’t exactly fit cleanly into any category, though. It’s small, it’s neat, it’s easy to carry. I’m not sure why anyone who isn’t law enforcement would carry it, but if the TDI is your kind of thing, who am I to judge.

Check Price On Amazon

 

 

SOG Seal Pup Elite

The Seal Pup is a versatile fixed blade knife with AUS 8 steel.

 

Overall Length: 9.0”

Blade Length: 4.75”

Blade Style: Clip point

Grind: Hollow

Handle Material: GRN

Sheath: Nylon

Made in: China

Price Range: $50 – 80

 

As much as I disapprove of knives trying too hard to be tactical, I do appreciate knives with big comfy handles and a large range of options for carrying. The Seal Pup is actually the smaller version of the SOG Seal team knife, which is also in AUS-8, but also gigantic and usually riding over the $100 mark. The design of the Seal Pup itself is okay, but the price and MOLLE compatible sheath are what really make it worth checking out. It’s easy enough to learn to use and take care of any slab of AUS-8 after that.

Check Price On Amazon

 

 

SOG Bowie 2.0

The SOG Bowie 2.0 is a great AUS-8 steel survival knife.

 

Overall Length: 11.0”

Blade Length: 6.4”

Blade Style: Clip point

Grind: Hollow

Handle Material: Leather

Sheath: Leather

Made in: Taiwan

Price Range: $150 – 180

 

It only seemed fair to put at least one expensive knife on here, and a Bowie is as good a style as any to do that with. I’ve tried to include this knife before, but it’s not made in America and isn’t under $50, so it’s kind of an awkward model to include.

The Bowie 2.0 is almost as much about the style as it is anything you would actually use it for. It comes in a nice leather sheath with a pouch for the sharpening stone. It’s just a neat thing to pack around. That being said, SOG does do a good AUS-8, and they put a strong coating on the blade so this is genuinely a tough survival knife. It’s not horizontal carry, but this would definitely be fun to take into the woods for a few days.

Check Price On Amazon