In this study, nitrogen and argon were used as the sintering atmosphere for AISI 316L stainless steel compacts. The effects of sintering atmosphere on sintered density, grain morphology and mechanical properties were investigated. The mechanical and microstructural characteristics of the sintered compacts were evaluated using optical microscopy, and scanning electron microscope. Tensile strength and hardness of the compacts sintered in nitrogen atmosphere are 290 MPa and 355.2 HV0.1, respectively. When argon was used as the sintering atmosphere, the tensile strength and hardness of the 316L stainless steel sintered compacts have become 226 MPa and 181.8 HV0.1 respectively. The results of this study indicate that the compacts sintered in nitrogen atmosphere exhibits higher strength and hardness than that of the steels sintered in argon atmosphere. (C) 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.