Abstract The objective of the study is to fundamentally understand the dynamic behavior of alloy 800H at moderate to high strain rate using hot compression tests and propose nucleation mechanism associated with dynamic crystallization (DRX). We firstly investigated the dynamic behavior of alloy 800H with industrial scale strain rates using hot compression tests and adiabatic correction was performed to correct as-measured flow curves. Secondly, a Johnson–Cook model was established by using the corrected data and could give a precise prediction of elevated temperature flow stress for the studied alloy. Finally, the nucleation mechanism of DRX grains at high strain rates was studied. The results showed that the predominant nucleation mechanism for DRX is the formation of “bulge” at parent grain boundary. Additionally, the fragmentation of original grain at low deformation temperatures and the twinning near the bulged regions at high deformation temperatures also accelerate the DRX process.