What is A36 Steel?

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A man with headphones is A36 steel aiming at the target You don’t actually find knives made with A36 steel. But the A36 steel is basically everywhere. Enter a building and its structural components are probably made with A36 steel. Cross a bridge, and many of its components use A36 steel. It’s used in a lot of industries, including the automotive and oil and gas industries.

Find out exactly what makes A36 steel, and discover its characteristics. It’s actually a good option for steel targets used for shooting practice, and we even have a couple of A36 steel targets for you to consider. If you’re shooting light caliber rounds, then you can use A36 steel targets and not have to spend much for them.

What is A36 carbon steel?

The A36 is a type of low carbon steel, meaning it doesn’t have more than 0.3% carbon. It also doesn’t contain too much chromium or nickel.

It’s easy for manufacturers to work with, when it comes to machining, forming, and welding. It’s a popular choice for construction use.

While there are some requirements regarding the chemical composition for the steel to qualify as A36 steel, for the most part A36 must meet certain mechanical standards. These include yield strength of at least 36,000 psi and tensile strength to within 58,000 to 79,800 psi. It should also be ductile enough that it stretches to 20% of its original length before it breaks.

Common Uses of A36 steel

You can find A36 steel used for buildings, bridges, and oil rigs, along with many other components in the oil and gas, heavy equipment, construction, and automotive industries. But A36 steel can also be found in certain consumer products.

More specifically, you can find A36 steel in the following:

  • Base Plates
  • Bending and Cold Forming
  • Bearing plates
  • Bridge Plates
  • Column Base Plates
  • Drilling and Machining Processes
  • Fabricating
  • Griddles
  • Grinding
  • Gusset Plates
  • Light caliber targets
  • Machine Frames
  • Ornamental works
  • Press Platens
  • Punching
  • Shim Plates
  • Steel Table Tops
  • Tapping
  • Tooling Plates
  • Welding

A36 steel Chemical Composition

The A36 steel is 98% iron (Fe), and the rest of it is made up of the following elements:

  • Carbon, 0.25% to 0.29%
  • Manganese, 1.03%
  • Phosphorus, 0.04%
  • Copper, 0.2%
  • Silicon, 0.28%
  • Sulfur, 0.05%

Carbon, 0.25% to 0.29%: Many experts regard carbon as the most crucial element in a steel alloy, especially if you’re planning to use it for knives. Here, there’s simply not enough of it. But then the low carbon level explains why the A36 steel is so easy to weld, form and machine.

Manganese, 1.03%: At least it has a significant amount of manganese, which helps with the tensile strength and the hardenability of the steel. The manganese here also acts as a deoxidant, ridding the melt of oxygen and sulfur.

Phosphorus, 0.04%: Phosphorus is usually considered an impurity, but a tiny bit of it helps with machinability and tensile strength. It even helps a bit with corrosion resistance.

Copper, 0.2%: This is an element known to help with corrosion resistance, and it acts as the main anti-corrosion element in the A36 chemical composition.

Silicon, 0.28%: This is one of the main removers of oxygen bubbles in the molten steel. It does help a bit with hardness and strength.

Sulfur, 0.05%: It’s rare to find steel that contains more than this small amount (0.05%), because it reduces ductility and notched impact toughness. But this is just enough sulfur to help with machinability.

A36 steel hardness

The A36 steel isn’t hard enough to qualify for a knife. Its Brinell hardness rating is only 112 to 140, and a steel needs at least to a Brinell hardness rating of 154 to even qualify for 1 HRC. Simply put, the A36 steel bends much more easily.

Does A36 steel rust?

Yes, most definitely. It doesn’t have a lot of chromium or nickel, and these are the main elements that boost corrosion resistance. The steel will need some sort of plating (or just some paint) to resist corrosion. That’s why it’s used in ways that don’t expose it to water and oxygen.

Properties of A36 steel

Best A36 Steel KnivesHere are the properties you can expect from A36 steel:

Easy to Work With

You won’t have trouble machining the A36 steel, and it’s especially easy when it comes to forming and welding. You can pick any welding process you want, and you can do it. That really cuts down on the cost, since you can go with the easiest and most affordable welding processes.

Strong and Tough, with Good Ductility

This is why it’s used for bridges and buildings. If they weren’t tough enough, then those buildings and bridges may collapse under all that weight.

That’s why in structural plans, you often find it noted that “All steel shall be ASTM A36 lor locations where a specific strength requirement is not stated in the drawings.” It’s just assumed that it will be used, because anything else may not be strong enough.

Proven Performance

It’s used in a lot of industries. A36 steel is everywhere, including the oil and rig, and the automotive industries. You know what you’re getting with A36 steel, and you can rely on it for crucial components.

Readily Available

You can easily find the A36 steel from a lot of sellers. With the variations regarding the chemical composition, you can even find the A36 with the chemical composition that best suits your needs. In addition, the A36 steel is available in a wide variety of sizes, shapes, and thicknesses.

Extremely Affordable

This is also one of the main reasons (if not the main reason) why it’s so popular.  Why spend more when this extremely affordable steel can already do the job?

Consider how it compares to 1018 steel. In many ways, they’re very similar. But the 1018 steel is somewhat better. But it’s also twice as expensive as A36 steel. It doesn’t make sense to go with 1018 steel when you don’t need its stronger yield strength, when the A36 steel strength is enough. Not if you have to double your budget for the steel!

A36 Equivalent Steels or Alternative

There are quite a few steels that are somewhat similar to A36 steel. Find out here how A36 steel performs when compared directly to these similar steels.

A36 Steel vs 1018

When you look at the chemical compositions, the 2 steels are very similar. But A36 is usually hot-rolled, while the 1018 steel is cold-rolled. The cold rolling process leads to better properties and a superior surface finish. The 1018 steel is easier to machine and has greater yield strength, but the A36 steel doesn’t cost as much.

In fact, the 1018 steel generally costs twice as much as the A36 steel. That makes the A36 steel a much more sensible option, if its strength is able to do the job.

A36 Steel vs a572

The A572 is also a very popular structural steel, mainly because it’s also affordable. It’s also used in buildings, bridges, and construction equipment. The A572 does have a greater tensile strength and yield strength than A36 steel. In more practical terms, the A572 can bear more weight.

Again, the A36 steel is simply more affordable.

A36 Steel vs 1040

These 2 steels also have plenty of similarities when you look at their chemical compositions. But the hot-rolled 1040 steel is slightly harder, with somewhat greater fatigue strength, shear strength, and tensile strength. But A36 steel doesn’t cost as much as 1040 steel.

A36 Steel vs a2

The A2 steel is also popular for various tooling applications. It offers excellent stability and decent toughness. But it doesn’t match the A36 in terms of strength and machinability, and A36 steel is more affordable. That’s why the A2 steel isn’t as popular, especially in structural use for buildings and bridges.

Is A36 steel good for Knives?

With that low carbon content and poor corrosion resistance? Definitely not. While it’s technically possible for you to smith a knife blade with A36 steel, it just won’t cut worth a damn. It’s mainly a structural steel, not for knives at all.

Pros & Cons of A36 steel

  • High strength
  • Great weldability
  • Great formability
  • Easy machinability
  • Low cost
  • Readily available
  • Not really meant for knives
  • Many other steels perform better for structural applications (but they cost more)

Best A36 Steel Knives

Apologies for the rather misleading section header, as A36 steel doesn’t really work well for knives. But for consumers, they sure work nicely as targets for your shooting practice. You just need to make sure that you use the A36 targets for light caliber bullets—the low carbon steel won’t be able to handle anything more powerful.

#1: High Caliber A36 Mild Steel 1/4-inch Targets – for Precision Practice

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Quick Specification
  • Made in the USA, in our own facility
  • 1/4″ High Quality A36 Mild Steel
  • Precision-cut with a CNC High Definition plasma table
  • Painted to prevent rust and corrosion
  • Includes One 7″ x 12″ Silhouettte target

Here, High Caliber is the brand name. So don’t be too disappointed when you learn that the are designed for .22 rifles, rimfire, and light caliber pistols.

We went with the NRL22 League set, with 16 round targets of different sizes. You even get a silhouette target measuring 7 by 12 inches. None of them are painted, but you can request them to come in any of the available colors—black, white, orange, or red.

All the targets already have 1-inch mounting holes, so you can just set them up on hooks and you’re ready to go. There are also available pipe stands from High Caliber for the setup, but they have to be bought separately. The round targets have a stem protruding from them for the mounting holes.

You can also hang the targets from the chain using clevises or bolts. Just keep in mind that these generally break easier than hooks and chains.

This is great for newbies, as you can then use the bigger targets first to practice. As you improve your skills, you can then go with the smaller targets.

Keep in mind that these won’t work for heavier calibers. Even with light calibers, after a while the steel plate will become too dented for use. But then again, A36 steel isn’t really expensive, so shoot away!

  • Targets of different sizes
  • 4 available colors
  • Great for light calibers
  • Easy mounting with built-in mounting holes
  • Not meant for heavier calibers
  • Mounting stands aren’t part of the kit

#2: Quality Targets Six 6″ 3/8″ Thick A36 NRA Action Pistol

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Quick Specification
  • 3/8 Inch
  • 6 Inch Diameter
  • 3/8″ thick NRA Action Pistol Hanging Plate Target.
  • These have a hole for hanging.
  • NRA Thickness for 45acp or 9mm.
  • Shipped Via USPS Priority Mail – We ship same day as order is placed.

It’s hard to check out where we hit targets if they’re black, so this time we went with the white targets from Quality Targets. There are 6 targets in the set, and they all measure 6 inches in diameter and measure ⅜ of an inch thick.

They all have mounting holes too, but this time there are no stems for them. Quality Targets simply drilled a hole near the side of the target, and that’s your mounting hole.

The targets all meet the NRA specifications for A36 targets that are painted white. They work for 45 ACP and 9mm rounds.

The targets work as intended, and when one target has been hit too much, you just switch to the next target of the same size. The white paint lets you see where you hit the target more easily.

  • 6 targets of the same size (good for consistency)
  • Painted white to easier see where you hit the targets
  • Thickness can deal with 45 ACP rounds
  • The mounting holes are all within the round targets



A36 is actually one of the most useful steels out there, even if they’re not useful for knives. It’s simply doesn’t have enough carbon for the steel to work.

It’s out there in bridges and buildings, and in various components of many industries. A36 is popular due to its easy machinability and low costs.

Try using the A36 steel targets, if you’re into handguns and .22-caliber rifles. These work well enough, and they’re sure great for your budget. The affordable A36 targets let you practice more frequently, since you won’t have to spend as much for replacements.

Frequently Asked Questions

When was A36 steel introduced?

The A36 first appeared way back in 1960. Since then, it’s been a popular choice for constructing buildings, bridges, and oil rigs. You’ll find it used for many types of industries, including the automotive industry and also the oil and rig industry.

What kind of steel is A36?

A36 is a low carbon steel, mainly considered as a structural steel. It works very well for frames and rivets, and other applications meant to boost structural strength.

Is A36 considered mild steel

Yes, it’s mild steel. It’s actually the most commonly used mild/hot-rolled steel in the US. It’s so mild and soft you can really treat it directly with heat.

Can I cook on A36 steel?

Yes, you can. In fact, it’s said that just about all restaurant griddles in the US are made with A36 steel. This is because it’s perfectly food safe, and it’s also 3 times more conductive than stainless steel. You can even buy an A36 steel plate and somehow build your own baking steel for pizza.

Is A36 steel safe to cook on?

Yes, it’s completely food-safe. Make your own pizza on your baking steel and don’t worry.

What is the difference between A36 and A500 steel?

The 2 steels are very similar, as A500 steel is also another low carbon steel with just 0.26% carbon. They’re both widely used for structural applications.

But they differ in the shape they’re usually available in, when they’re both hot-rolled. The A36 is available in many shapes, but the A500 steel is just available in square and rectangular tubing.

how much does A36 steel cost?

That really depends on where you’re getting it and how it was prepared. But it’s normal to pay about $27 for a square steel plate that measures 12 inches on each side, with a thickness of ¼ of an inch.

Can A36 steel be welded?

Yes, very easily in fact. The ease of welding A36 is one of its advantages. You can use all welding processes, including the easiest and cheapest methods. These include oxyacetylene welding, gas metal arc welding (GMAW), and shielded metal arc welding (SMAW).

Can A36 steel be heat treated?

Direct heating isn’t possible for A36 steel. But you can use the case hardening process to treat the A36 steel.

Will A36 steel rust?

If you’re not careful, it’s very likely. A36 steel is notorious for its poor corrosion resistance.

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