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Metal Matches: What They Are and How to Use Them

If you don’t have a lighter or traditional match on hand, you may have to rely on alternative methods to start a fire. While you can use glasses, a magnifying lens, or even flint, metal matches are one of the best methods for starting fires.

Campfire Lit by Metal Match

If you’ve never heard of metal matches and don’t know the first thing about using them, you’ve come to the right place. This article will discuss everything there is to know about these fire-starting tools, including what they are, how they work, and how to use them.

What are Metal Matches?

Metal matches are also known as firesteel and are not to be confused with flint and steel. Although similar, the mechanism and materials of metal matches are different than flint and steel.

Matches of metal are a substitute for standard matches, lighters, and other tools used to start fires. They’re like a bigger version of the flint that gets used in cigarette lighters and consists of a metal rod with a small handle.

Most metal matches are made from a mixture of metals and rare earth elements. The mixture is alloyed at a high temperature and then shaped into rods of various diameters.

Cerium Found in Metal Matches

In many cases, cerium is the metal of choice for making metal matches. The cerium then gets mixed with iron alloy for extra strength and durability in a combination known as mischmetal.

Firesteel has come a long way since it was first used by the Greeks and Romans in days of old. Originally, they were made of a combination of metals known as ferrocerium.

However, because of the advantages that iron has over other metals, it’s now the preferred metal of choice for firesteel.

How Do Metal Matches Work?

Metal matches work similarly to how flint and steel or striking rocks do. You strike different components together to produce heat and create a spark.

The force of striking the tip of the match against another piece of metal or a hard object creates friction and heat to form the spark. While knives will get the job done, a custom striker specifically for metal matches is preferred.

You can purchase such a kit on Amazon for a great price! However, if you don’t have a special rod, you can use a knife or other pieces of steel with metal matches.

How to Use Metal Matches

If you’re curious about metal matches and want to learn how to use them to start a fire, here’s everything you need to know.

  1. Start by gathering tinder and fodder so that the spark from your match has something to ignite.
  2. Hold the match firmly in your non-dominant hand over the center of your pile of tinder.
  3. Hold your knife, steel, or custom striker in your dominant hand.
  4. Holding the match at a 90-degree angle and with a firm grip, strike the match with your knife or striker.
  5. If you struggle to hold the match firmly while striking it, you can also try aggressively scraping the match with the striker. As long as you scrape quickly enough and with enough pressure, it will have the same effect as a strike.
  6. Once you strike or scrape the match with the striker, it produces enough heat to create a spark.
  7. If you’re holding the match properly at a 90-degree angle, the spark will get directed downward, straight onto the tinder.

If you strike the match five or six times and the spark won’t ignite your tinder, the issue could be with your tinder. Move it around and reshuffle it, and make sure that the most flammable components are at the top of the pile.

If you have some handy, splash a bit of gas or petroleum jelly onto the top of the pile. You can also bring some petroleum jelly, cotton balls, or other flammable material with you to help get the flame going.

While metal matches are a great and reliable way to start a fire, they take time and practice to perfect. It could take several tries before you get the spark to ignite.

Advantages of Metal Matches Over Other Fire Starters

Now that you know what metal matches are and how they work, let’s look at some of the advantages they have over other fire-starting tools.


The main advantage of these matches is that they’re waterproof. They’re made of a combination of iron, cerium, and other metals, which means they aren’t affected by water or moisture.

Matches, on the other hand, have a striking head made of potassium chlorate, phosphorous, sulfur, and other powders and chemicals. Just like old flintlock rifles and muskets, however, these matches will fail to fire if they get wet.

Making a Fire

Lighters aren’t waterproof because they have fuel inside of them that helps to start a fire. If this fuel gets wet, it won’t do its job of ignition and make it useless.

While you can’t strike and start a fire underwater, a damp match of metal will work perfectly fine if it’s wet or gets dropped in water.


Most metal matches can get used 1,000 to 15,000 times before they give out, depending on the size of your match. They’re similar to flint, Ferro rods, and lighters in that respect and are known as permanent matches for a reason.

These matches also don’t have a fuel source that you have to constantly refill or replace. In most cases, these matches will only give out once you work through all the metal, and there isn’t enough left to strike.

Small and Lightweight

Most metal matches are very small and similar in size to a cigarette lighter or box of matches. They fit easily in most pockets, making them ideal for camping trips, hiking, and other activities where you have limited space.


Because these matches don’t require fuel, are waterproof, and are reusable, they’re one of the most reliable fire-starting tools on the market. However, they will only be reliable if you put in the work and practice and learn how to use them properly.

Where to Buy Metal Matches

You can find metal matches in many places online, but for the best combination of affordability and reliability, check out Amazon’s selection.

Wrapping Up How to Use a Metal Match for Survival

While metal matches take time and practice to perfect, they’re one of the best and most reliable ways to start a fire. Their size, versatility, and reliability make them the perfect addition to any survivalist’s equipment.

If you like the idea of not having to rely on matches or a lighter to start a fire, check out our article about how to use flint and steel to get your fire going.