Saturday, March 10, 2012

Zero Tolerance 0301 Review

NOTE: Click on any of the photos to view them at their full size

A couple of years ago, I started seeing a knife on the net that really sparked my interest; the Zero Tolerance 0300 series . The one I had my eye on was the ZT0301 (the 0300 & 0302 are the same just different color combos). Just from reading about the components, it seemed the ultimate pocket knife for me; I'm tough on knives sometimes :) The knife is a collaboration between Ken Onion, known for excellent custom made knives and Mick Strider, known for his beast-like military and hard use knives.  With these two in collaboration and Zero Tolerance as a builder, you know, the knife was going to be good. For a while, the $200+ price scared me away. Then I went to a local gun show and handled one...I HAD to have it. The thing just screamed quality and built like a tank. Shortly thereafter, I sold some things and bought one.

When I received the knife in the mail, I was reminded of how much of a tank this knife was; It's HUGE for a pocket knife. I couldn't wait to put it into use and carry it at work.

Handle Materials:
The handle of the ZT0301 is made from a combination of Titanium (lock side) and 3D machined G-10 on top of a stainless steel liner on the other. This combination is used on several modern hard use knives and has proven it's self well. The titanium lock side is machined to match the look of the G-10 side and looks very nice. While the knife is a collaboration between Strider and Onion, the titanium frame lock is a Rick Hinderer design (It's like a who's who of bad A## knives) The clip is a standard Zero Tolerance clip; it's short, stiff and grips like a pitbull against the contoured titanium. It is so tight in fact, that in a very short time, it demolished the pockets on the jeans I wore it on. The clip also makes it ride pretty high in the pocket, a pet peeve of mine. The one sided G-10 scale and contoured titanium makes for a perfect grip in less than ideal situations.

The pivot screw is unique amongst folders that I have owned and I actually like it.  It is an exposed 3/8" pivot nut designed so that it can be disassembled with common tools. The nut itself is not a size issue as one might think, I found it's presence to be a non-issue in the pocket.

Fit and Finish:
My initial impressions of the fit and finish of the ZT0301 were VERY good but that has been my impression with several knives out of the box so I reserved my review until after a few months of use. After using and carrying this knife for several months, I can honestly say that in a production knife, you won't find much better fit and finish. It becomes very apparent in use that ZT designed this knife to make a statement about their quality and the quality is GOOD. The knife uses ZT's (and Kershaw's) speedsafe assisted opening system for opening the knife. I was quite impressed at how well the speedsafe system opened this big blade. It snaps open with authority albeit a bit slow. Blade centering was very good for a frame lock.

Lock up:
The lock side of this knife as stated previously is a contoured titanium made to look like the 3D machined G-10 on the opposite side. It is a frame lock style lock with Rick Hinderer's Lock Bar Stabilizer. I have to hand it to ZT, they executed the lock very well and it locks up as good as any frame lock I've owned. It locks up like a bank vault at about 40% +/- and once locked in, it has no play in any direction. Well done ZT!

The blade is made of a powdered steel known as CPM-S30V. In blade form, it has a RC hardness of around 59 or so in most knives. S30V is being used more and more in high end knives due to it's ability to hold an edge, and supposed ease of sharpening (compared to steels like D2) and it's corrosion resistance. Some knife makers have complained that S30V is a bit tough to work with and indeed, I found it a bit tough to sharpen. Sharpening to a "chopping" sharpness was fairly easy but getting a hair splitting, polished edge was near impossible for me using lansky sharpening stones. That being said, I really like this steel. On a big tank of a knife not designed for delicate, shaving work, I think its a very good steel. It's edge holding ability was phenominal. The 0301 is also coated with what ZT calls DLC (Diamond like Carbon) to make their tiger stripes; paying homage to Strider, the "Original Tiger Stripe Guy". I found the coating to be VERY tough and even after lots of use showed little to no signed of wearing off.

The blade shape is called a modified drop point blade measuring in a 3 3/4" in length. I did not like the "belly" of the blade, I think it limits it's uses as an EDC but works well for hard use. Completely open, the knife measures a almost 9 inches long.

The ZT0301 also has two types of opening options, a flipper and a standard thumb stud. When I looked at the photos of the ZT0300 series on line, I thought that the thumb stud looked a little close to the scales to be useful but I was proven wrong. While the knife opens very well with the provided flipper, I found myself using the thumb stud more often as I could flick it open with more authority.The thumb stud also doubles as a stop pin.

While Ergonomics is a personal preference, I found the ergos of the ZT0301 to be very well executed for a knife of this size. When open, this knife fits my big mits very well and the jimping is in all the right places including nice jimping on the opposite end for reverse gripping the knife. The ergonomics were well thought out on this knife.

Size and Weight:
If you are looking for a small knife, then you'll want to look elsewhere. ZT0300 series knives are definite beasts of knives; made for abuse. That being said, when open it fills the hand nicely and feel right.  Closed at 5 1/2 inches and clipped in the pocket is where I had my issues with this knife. It fills the pocket so much that it becomes a "pocket snob" (a step above pocket hog) not allowing anything else to be retrieved easily in the same pocket. It simply does not like company when it in your pocket. When this knife was clipped in my pocket, it rode high and was very heavy. It felt uncomfortable in anything but jeans and slightly obtrusive even in them. In shorts or work pants, at half a pound, it was just a bit too much.

Smoothness of opening:

I don't often see this mentioned in reviews but to me it's an important factor. In a life or death situation, being able to snap your knife open with authority via muscle memory is a must. Despite the very large size of this knife, it opens extremely smoothly with the flipper or thumb stud. With the flipper, it flips open nicely and locks up very well; add some wrist flick and it goes even faster. With the big blade it does seem to be a bit slow with just the flipper but it still does what it's supposed to. Using the thumb stud allows for one to flick it open with a bit more authority and I found myself using this method more often than the flipper. Lastly, this knife is so smooth with the installed phosphor bronze washers that simple wrist flicking in any position is easily accomplished. All in all, I'd give the "flickability" rating a 9 on this knife. It would be a ten but the large blade slows it a bit.

If you are in the military or Law Enforcement, if you don't mind a big heavy knife, look no further. This knife was obviously built to be abused and used in the harshest environments known. It's size and weight (for me at least) limit it's use as an EDC knife. Opening this knife in a sheeple environment might cause some bladder control issues amongst the weak minded. In a knife friendly environment, EVERYONE is going to want to hold it, flip it, ask questions and drool over it.

Customer Service:
One of the best things about this knife is the company that makes it; Zero Tolerance. ZT is the sister (or brother) company to Kershaw and as any knife nut will tell you, in the customer service department, they have few rivals. While I never used their customer service for the ZT, I have used them for a speedsafe issue on my Kershaw Boa and even a broken tip on a leek that was my fault. In both cases, I was amazed at how well they took care of my issues. These guys score a solid 10 on the customer service scale! It should also be noted that the ZT0301 is 100% American made, that should count for allot in my book.

The old adage of "you get what you pay for" holds very true with the Zero Tolerance 0301. The materials, fit and finish, innovative design and a company that stands behind their product all score a solid ten on this knife. I really wanted to like this knife and make it an EDC, alas it was just not meant to be. The size and pocket snobberery was just a little too much. These issues are personal preference however and should not detract from the fact that this is one hell of a knife. If I had to ding anything on this knife, it would be the pocket clip design. It makes the knife ride a bit high for my tastes and it's tightness against the machined grooves of the titanium lock side wreak havoc on pockets. Maybe a longer pocket clip that allows for some flex and lower ride or maybe smoothing out the titanium in the area next to the clip..I don't know. All this being said, if you are looking for a BIG, heavy hard use folder that will last you a lifetime, this may just be your knife. It's a beast of a knife in every sense of the word. While I ended up selling this knife, I sold my Strider for pocket snobbery issues as well. If I were to have to choose between a Strider and a ZT0301, I'd personally choose the ZT. Thats's no ding on strider (they're great knives), it's just that the Zero Tolerance 0300 series is built that dang good.
Ergonomics: 8/10 (Great in the hand, not so much in the pocket)
Looks: 10/10
Materials: 10/10
Fit and Finish: 9/10 (only cutoms get better)
Camp Use: 10/10
Hard/Military/Police Use: 9/10
EDC Use: 6/10 (a big knife and it stands out; might scare sheeple)
Food Prep: 7/10 (a little big for delicate tasks)
Skinning/Game Prep: 8/10 (excellent for this purpose, belly good for skinning)
Warranty: 10/10 (as good as it gets)
Zombie Usefulness: 8/10 (lay some Tiger stripes on a Zombie skull and they're done!)


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