Is there a difference in the various firesteels available out there? Yes.
We know the formulation of the Light My Fire (LMF) rods and the Going Gear (GG) rods are different because they strike differently, they burn differently, and they just feel slightly different.
I spent the day Sunday playing with the kids and the firesteels and found one of my old LMF firesteels to be maybe a bit too hard as I was left searching for a more effective striker. The spine on my Fallkniven F1 has been used so often and for so long that it no longer throws big sparks and I'll need to re-square it at some point. Hacksaw blades were too "flexy" to get the job done and a piece of Sawzall blade with a squared spine finally got the job done but even it had some problems with repeated strikes. It would just skate over the surface of the rod.
The GG rods I've used have had some softer spots that wouldn't spark but would drop big curls into my tinder pile that must've been mostly Magnesium but I hadn't encountered the hard spots in the LMF rods before. Whether hard or soft, the rod consistency changes the striker requirements and I'm glad I found this out here at the house and not out at a week long campout.
The awl on my Victorinox Pioneer/Farmer works fine for striking but I have a carbide sharpener that I've used from time to time on the firesteels but it works better with the LMF rods than the GG rods.
I've ordered a handful of the larger rods from Marshall at GoingGear and will continue to work with them to find the best striker for his formulation to see if the softer rods are a better long-term solution. I'm such a big fan of the LMF firesteels that I have a definite bias as to how they work but finding a rod that's too hard to strike presents a very real problem.
Thanks for reading,