The Best Zero Tolerance Knives
ZT, better known as Zero Tolerance, is one of the three most popular knife brands next to Spyderco and Benchmade. Some people may disagree with this, but anyone who has ever used a ZT product understands how much this brand has accomplished considering it’s only been around for a short time, while the Butterfly and the Spider have been around longer.
Here’s some background information about Zero Tolerance. In a simple metaphor, Benchmade is comparable to a Mercedes-Benz, Spyderco is comparable to a BMW, and ZT is comparable to a Lexus in terms of quality. Zero Tolerance has premium, upscale materials similar to its sibling, Kershaw. The same can be said of Lexus vehicles which a majority of people consider to be “fancy Toyotas with a different name on them.” This metaphor can be stretched even further. Whereas Lexus has modified mechanical components and product overlap, Zero Tolerance’s products are cut from Kershaw’s cloth and are nicer in terms of finish, fit, and materials. This article will look more closely into the best Zero Tolerance knives.
Rick Hinderer is one of the most well-known people in the custom knife industry. He created the Zero Tolerance 0562, which is one of many Kershaw and ZT products in existence. When he semi-customized the XM18, it dramatically changed the secondary market’s rules several years ago. It sold for nearly 3 to 4 times its overall retail value as soon as the item hit the buyer, because the supply was limited, it restricted sales as Hinderer sold directly to firefighters and LEOs specifically, and the demand for it was high. The market for XM18’s has significantly slowed since then. You can now get a used one for much less than a new one, but thanks to the ZT0562 line, it is still a hard sell.
ZT’s analogue to the 3.5” XM18 is the 0562, which includes the “slicer grind,” one of Rick’s unique specialties. A large plunge line becomes roughly level with the pivot up to its spine, which intersects the swedge. The grind does a little bit of everything. It is very thin behind the edge which is perfect for food preparation, a delicate task, but also tough enough to cut through wood. There are two variations of the 0562 – the Zero Tolerance 0562CF, which costs an extra $40.00, and the standard version. The standard version of the product has CPM S35VN steel and a G10 show side scale. The 0562CF features upgrades to the CPM-20CV steel and a carbon fiber scale.
It’s important to note that the 0562 line has changed its steel several times. The first 0562 line had Bohler Elmax stainless steel; the 0562CF came originally in Bohler M390 through 2015, when it changed over to Carpenter CTS-204p, before switching more recently to Crucible CPM-20CV steel. Despite all of these changes over the years, all of the 0562 products include hourglass standoffs and flow-through construction, flipper tabs, a KVT ball-bearing pivot from Kershaw, a lockbar overtravel stop (Hinderer-style), and a bolted-in stainless lockbar insert. While it is a little heavy, it’s in the right spot with regard to functions, features, and blade size, making it one of the best Zero Tolerance knives.
One of the first ZT models to break the mold of being “proudly overbuilt” was the Zero Tolerance 0450. This model was far from flimsy, however – the half-pound knife doesn’t require a particular belt to hold up your pants. The 0450 is based on 0454’s award-winning line, which won the 2013 Blade Show’s “Overall Knife of the Year.” The 0454 had a large 4.1” blade and the knife overall was shy of 9.4”, while the 0450’s overall size was much smaller and easier to use. The 3 ¼” blade is a good size for carrying the knife and at 7.4” overall, it’s easy to control as its handle-heavy.
There are different variations of the 0450, but the original line was made entirely out of titanium, including a Zero Tolerance logo above the pivot pin and stonewashing. The Sinkevich design is sleek, very slim and has a gentle curve on the handle, which is balanced by one that’s inverse to the spine. The modified drop point blade includes a long swedge which gives this product a needle tip, a flat grind, and high centerline. This line also has a variety of features such as the KVT, which is a caged-ball bearing swivel developed by Kershaw. Also included is a lockbar insert made out of stainless steel, which serves as an ambidextrous tip-up spring clip that’s stainless and is used for retention purposes, an overtravel protection stop, and red anodized standoffs. The satin-finished two-tone stonewashed blade steel on the CPM-S35VN gives this knife the perfect balance between sharpening ease and durability.
The 0450 is only 2.90 ounces which is an EDC knife’s ideal dimensions; however, newer versions have even more features. The Zero Tolerance 0450CF, for instance, has a blade finish in black stonewash. On the show side, there is a carbon filter scale that reduces the weight of the knife to 2.45 ounces. Finally, to set it off, the knife includes bright backspaces in acid-green. The 0450G10 model is new to the market and weighs 2.60 ounces, has a show side scale of G10, and is about $15.00 less than the full Ti 0450 model. EDC perfection is lightweight no matter what your preferences are.
Moving on to the next model, one may not think that the Zero Tolerance 0456 design is Dmitry Sinkevich’s, as it is bulbous, broad, and chunky, instead of a smooth minimalist visual as he is known for creating. Regardless of the knife’s unconventional appearance, it’s proved to be quite successful for the designer and the brand. In 2016, it won Dealer’s Choice Award by KnifeNews for being the Best Manual Folder. Based on the customized design of the pole, the 0456 model has a sheepsfoot blade that is 3.25” in length and is made from stainless steel that is powdered metallurgy, making it very similar to Bohler’s M390 and Carpenter’s CTS-204p in performance. 0456 models with earlier build dates were made in Carpenter’s CTS-204p; however, the steel was later changed to CPM-20CV along with many other ZT models because Crucible’s sourced super steel was more readily available. The blade is broad sheepsfoot and at its leading edge, there is a small reverse tanto, similar to Benchmade’s 940 series. The slicing abilities of the 0456 are further enhanced with a tall flat grind.
The handle of the 0456 is a spectacle in and of itself, as it is multi-faceted with many rays stemming behind the end of the handle. The outside has specialized texturing to increase traction. An attractive anodized gear backspacer in blue is elevated to give the handle a new look and more depth, matched with a large embellished pivot that’s anodized blue. For tension adjustment it comes with a standard Torx fitting. As with other current ZT models, the blade on the 0456 uses a framelock made of titanium with a bolt-in lockbar insert made of stainless steel to prevent overtravel, and also rolls onto caged KVT ball bearings. A mounted blue pocket blip includes two inline screws and can be used for right or left-handed tip-up carry. There are even variants in limited production that have a blackwash finish if blue is not the color for you.
Dmitry is another name that’s frequently been mentioned in the world of knives, but who can blame them when their designs are nothing short of amazing. The Zero Tolerance 0460 model is one of Dmitry’s latest collaborations with the Zero Tolerance brand. According to Cliff’s notes, it is the 0450 model everyone loves re-imagined with a Persian-shaped blade, or, more specifically, a trailing-edge shaped blade similar to Persian Shamshir swords. To keep the design balanced, the handle has an inverse curve. The blade is close to full flat ground with a small number of flats that reach down the spine about halfway. The blade stock is 0.12”, a thin grind, and a trailing edge shaped blade which makes this model a great slicer for food preparation or hunting. This knife can be used more practically than the dynamic blade shape would indicate. The steel for the blade is CPM S35VN and on the primary grind has an attractive satin finish, while the flats have a stonewashed finish.
The 0460 product, similar to its brother, the 0450CF, has an excellent flipper. KVT’s caged ball bearing design along with a durable detent and a lightweight blade make the blade snap open quickly. The stainless lockbar insert keeps the lock from sticking, which often occurs when titanium makes contact with metal. One of the most striking features of the 0460 model is its handle located on the show side. The handle is made out of carbon fibers that are combined with bronze, giving the handle a one-of-a-kind glistening hue that, based on how you’re looking at it, changes. It’s also cool to look at. This knife is only for right-handed carriers due to the carbon fiber scale. There’s no doubt that additional changes will be made to this knife in the near future, but even right now, it’s a great item to keep around the house, making it another one of the best Zero Tolerance knives out there.
Last, but not least, is the Todd Rexford design which can be found on the Zero Tolerance 0801, which has been around for quite a while. This knife model has undergone numerous changes, but one thing remains the same – it still has fantastic flipping action and magnificent ergonomics. Quite arguably, in terms of the minutia knife fans love as well as the knife’s speed, heft, and detent balance, the 0801 is the best production flipper on the market. Zero Tolerance has had time to make improvements to it, but right off the assembly line, it was already amazing to begin with.
The entire 0801 line has the same 3.5” blade drop point with a pronounced swedge across the knife’s spine and a high flat grind. The tip of the knife is situated level with the pivot, giving the knife a balanced feel and look in your hand. This knife is good for slicing and piercing, and its blade shape makes it very easy to use. The original 0801s had titanium handles and numerous grooves cut from the bolster and had stonewashed Bohler Elmax blades. There have even been a variety of special edition 0801s such as the popular 0801CF “Copperhead” with titanium handles coated with bronze PVD, and lower and upper carbon fiber inserts with silver twill inlay. The actual blade, made from high-quality M390 steel, has a bronze PVD located on the flats and a satin finish on the knife’s primary grind. Another model, the 0801BRWCF, had a distressed finish in the stonewash color on the handles instead of using a matte PVD like the CFs have. These special editions are hard to find, especially the 0801S110V which features the high performance of the Crucible’s CPM-S110V steel on the blade and ordinary titanium slab handles.
After running a multi-year campaign in the churning, whirling ZT lineup, the 0801 was given a makeover to become the new 0801TI instead of being discontinued altogether. The shape of the blade hasn’t changed, but the steel that’s being used is CPM S35VN, which is what the rest of the ZT’s are now using. The handle has now been redesigned. On the handle’s show side, five holes have been cut out of it and the contouring is more prominent, making it easier to grip. As the 0801 is also one of the best Zero Tolerance knives available on the market, it is a great option for a person who wants a modest-sized titanium framelock flipper that can handle almost any task fairly well.