Abstract The hard turning process with advanced cutting tool materials has several advantages over grinding such as short cycle time, process flexibility, compatible surface roughness, higher material removal rate and less environment problems without the use of cutting fluid. However, the main concerns of hard turning are the cost of expensive tool materials and the effect of the process on machinability characteristics. The poor selection of the process parameters may cause excessive tool wear and increased work surface roughness. Hence, there is a need to study the machinability aspects in high-hardened components. In this work, an attempt has been made to analyze the influence of cutting speed, feed rate, depth of cut and machining time on machinability characteristics such as machining force, surface roughness and tool wear using response surface methodology (RSM) based second order mathematical models during turning of AISI 4340 high strength low alloy steel using coated carbide inserts. The experiments were planned as per full factorial design (FFD). From the parametric analysis, it is revealed that, the combination of low feed rate, low depth of cut and low machining time with high cutting speed is beneficial for minimizing the machining force and surface roughness. On the other hand, the interaction plots suggest that employing lower cutting speed with lower feed rate can reduce tool wear. Chip morphology study indicates the formation of various types of chips operating under several cutting conditions.