The 10 Best Zero Tolerance Knives in 2019: Tough Blades for Demanding Users

Conrad Novak

Table of Contents

Introduction

Like your knives a bit on the tanky side? Not a problem. Some of us just prefer having the cutlery equivalent of an M1 Abrams resting in our pockets. It gives us the feeling that, no matter the circumstances, at least we don’t have to worry about a skeletonized, ultra-light folder snapping under the pressure.

That is the peace of mind that Zero Tolerance is selling with its knives. And it must be stated that, overall, ZT delivers on this promise. The company uses some of the best materials to be found in production knives and the knives are also extremely well made. And, as we will see, even their smaller offerings are beefy, overbuilt, and give you the confidence to take on all challenges. In this article, we take a look at the best Zero Tolerance knives for users who look for the highest quality blades and some of the history of this renowned company.

At a Glance: Our Choices for The 10 Best Zero Tolerance Knives

Click on one of the links to go directly to our overview, opinion, and features of each knife.

Zero Tolerance Knives Logo

About Zero Tolerance Knives

Zero Tolerance is a brand owned by the Japanese-based Kai Group. The knives are manufactured and distributed under the Kai USA Ltd. umbrella, which also includes Kershaw Knives and Shun Cutlery. Despite its Japanese ownership, though, Zero Tolerance knives are made exclusively in the United States and the company is headquartered in Tualatin, OR.

The ZT brand first appeared in 2006, producing combat ready knives, and since then has expanded its lineup to a wide variety of folders. In doing so, however, the company has not lost sight of its original intention: Building heavy-use cutlery. It continues to make rugged folders for applications as demanding as firefighting, law enforcement, and emergency medical response.

Over time, Zero Tolerance has built a reputation for using some of the highest quality blade steels and handle materials to be found in production knives. They have also issued influential designs by partnering with a number of well-known and innovative knife makers. These collaborative efforts have included luminaries such as Rick Hinderer, Todd Rexford, Dmitry Sinkevich, and Ernest Emerson—all four of whom have knives featured in the reviews below.

In terms of customer service, Zero Tolerance knives are backed by a limited warranty against manufacturing defects. The warranty applies to the original owner and, of course, is void if the company feels like you have abused, misused, or in any way modified the knife from its original construction. They also offer free sharpening when the knives are sent in for warranty servicing.

It also should be noted that Zero Tolerance is strictly a manufacturer of folders. It can often be a good thing when a company focuses all of its resources and creativity into doing one thing right, and that certainly seems to be the case when it comes to Zero Tolerance. And although every knife company will manufacture a dud now and then, Zero Tolerance tends to make them few and far between. Even with the knives that are not flagship models, ZT puts just as much care, craftsmanship, and attention to detail as they do their top sellers.

As far as being a resource for knife enthusiasts, or having deep engagement with the knife community, there really is not as much of that happening with Zero Tolerance compared to other knife manufacturers. For example, Benchmade and Spyderco have their lively online forums, and Case provides plenty of educational materials to help the knife buyer. Zero Tolerance, however, while involving itself in some strategic partnerships, does not do a lot at the grass roots level. This is not to say that there is anything wrong with that approach necessarily. Sometimes it can be a good thing when a company just focuses on its product. But we do like to point our audience to such resources if they happen to exist.

On a final note, the company’s tagline refers to their knives as “proudly overbuilt” and Zero Tolerance’s products certainly live up to that description. The folders we will look at in this review are almost all beefy and beastly and not meant to be the EDC of desk jockeys and ultra-light campers. Even the small models are either unapologetically bulky or lightweights of a substantial length.

With that said, there is going to be … maybe controversy is not the right word … but certainly, some polarity of opinions when it comes to Zero Tolerance. You can love them or hate them, but one thing you cannot do is to fault them on the quality of build and materials.

Top 10 Zero Tolerance Knives

 #1

Zero Tolerance 0350

Zero Tolerance 0350
Our Rating: (5/5)
Steel: S30V
Blade: 3.25 in
Thickness: 0.13 in
Closed: 4.6 in
Overall: 7.6 in
Weight: 6.2 oz

Pros:
(+) Highly durable construction
(+) Great slicing blade with a strong tip
(+) Highly corrosion resistant
Cons:
(-) Has some shortcomings when it comes to EDC
(-) Okay ergonomics

The Zero Tolerance 0350 is a “small” folder by ZT’s standards, although it does retain the same aggressive design that distinguishes its brand. It weighs 6.2oz (175.8g) and has an overall length of 7.6” (19.3cm). This knife also a flipper that features the SpeedSafe® assisted opening mechanism.

The blade on the 0350 is CPM S30V stainless steel for both excellent corrosion and wear resistance (analysis). It features black Tungsten DLC (diamond like coating) to give it a non-reflective finish. The blade length is 3.25” (8.25cm) and the overall length is 7.6” (19.3cm). The blade also has dual tiered thumb studs for ambidextrous one-hand opening.

The handle on this knife is made of G-10 that is scaled for improved grip. It features a liner lockup mechanism and a lanyard hole. The handle also has jimping along the spine and at the base. It has a 4-way pocket clip that can be configured for right or left-hand carry, as well as tip up or tip-down carry. The closed length is 4.6” (11.7cm).

The 0350 has really found a home in the knife community. Aside from its quality build, it also has a very strong blade and large belly that makes it a great slicing knife. The 0350 has a solid lockup mechanism and you will not experience any wiggle in the open blade.

The knife does have its detractors, however. Some may find the 6.2oz weight too much for its size when it comes to EDC, or as a camping folder where every ounce may be at a premium. The blade is also very broad and might not work for some tight-fit or delicate cutting tasks.

 #2

Zero Tolerance 0562CF

Zero Tolerance 0562CF
Our Rating: (5/5)
Steel: CPM-20CV
Blade: 3.5 in
Thickness: 0.156 in
Closed: 4.8 in
Overall: 8.3 in
Weight: 5.5 oz

Pros:
(+) Clip makes for a very comfortable carry
(+) Durable, wear resistant blade
(+) Very smooth and easy deployment with a solid lockup
Cons:
(-) A little bit bulky for EDC
(-) Flipper mechanism is maybe a little oversized

The Zero Tolerance 0562 features a flat “slicer” grind courtesy of designer Rick Hinderer. It is meant to provide both efficient slicing action, as well as a tough blade tip. It has an overall length of 8.3” (21.1cm) and weighs 5.5oz (156g).

The blade on the 0562 is made of CPM-20CV powdered steel. It has a high concentration of vanadium carbides (for toughness and edge retention) and also a high amount of chromium (for oxidation/rust resistance). The blade is 3.5” (8.9cm) and has a thickness of 0.16” (4mm). It features a jimped thumb ramp.

The 0562 uses a frame lock with a hardened steel lockbar insert for stabilization. This knife also has a flipper mechanism that works off of a pivot that is surrounded by a caged ball bearing system. This is a Kershaw design known as the KVT opening mechanism. The handle material is carbon fiber with a titanium back and it features a reversible clip. The closed length is 4.8” (12.2cm).

The 0562, although lighter than the 0350 reviewed above, is again a fairly substantial folder. Also like the 0350, the blade on this knife makes for a great slicer. However, you will notice that it is a little thick when it comes to some EDC tasks.

One thing you might note is that the thumb “studs” on this knife are not functional for deploying the blade. They are actually part of the mechanism that stops the blade when you open it and you will not be able to use them to flip the blade open.

 #3

Zero Tolerance 0450CF

Zero Tolerance 0450CF
Our Rating: (4.9/5)
Steel: S35VN
Blade: 3.25 in
Thickness: 0.121 in
Closed: 4.1 in
Overall: 7.4 in
Weight: 2.7 oz

Pros:
(+) Lightweight
(+) Durable
(+) Functional jimping and nice ergonomics
Cons:
(-) Not extremely grippy
(-) Not a deep carry

The Zero Tolerance 0450 is a slimmer and sleeker design from Zero Tolerance. It has an overall length of 7.4” (18.8cm) and weighs in at just 2.7oz (76.5g).

The blade on this knife is CPM-S35VN—a steel that was designed to be a little tougher than its predecessor S30V, which was somewhat prone to chipping. The blade on the 0450 is DLC coated with a black matte finish and features jimping along the thumb ramp. The blade length is 3.25” (8.3cm) and has a thickness of .12” (3mm).

The handle on this knife is carbon fiber with a titanium back. It has a frame lock, a KVT ball bearing flipper opening system, and features a deep finger groove. It also has a reversible clip for right or left-hand carry. The closed length is 4.1” (10.4cm).

This is a great EDC that is genuinely lightweight. You might be in the market for something a little more tactical, or more heavy-duty, but if you want something that works for everyday utility the 0450 might be right up your alley. The carbon fiber handle is somewhat textured, so there is a decent amount of grip even with the titanium back. The clip allows for fairly a deep carry, but if you prefer to have the knife essentially buried in your pocket then it might be a negative for you. It is also tip-up only.

It should also be said that the handle on this knife has very nice ergonomics overall. Even when pressing and making harder cuts with the 0450CF, you will not feel discomfort or hot spots with it. The flipper mechanism also makes for very smooth and easy opening.

 #4

Zero Tolerance 0770CF

Zero Tolerance 0770CF
Our Rating: (4.8/5)
Steel: S35VN
Blade: 3.25 in
Thickness: 0.121 in
Closed: 4.3 in
Overall: 7.5 in
Weight: 3 oz

Pros:
(+) Great ergonomics
(+) Tough, durable blade
(+) Very high-quality materials all around
Cons:
(-) Blade profile is not extremely versatile
(-) Assist mechanism makes for clunky opening

The Zero Tolerance 0770 is actually a newer version of ZT’s original, and acclaimed, 0770. The original was a limited run, but this version has been made available to the masses and features a smaller, more streamlined design. The knife has an overall length of 7.5” (19.2cm) and is another lightweight at 3oz (85g).

The 0770 has a lightweight carbon fiber handle. It has a SpeedSafe® assisted opening mechanism and a liner lock. The closed length is 4.3” (10.9cm). The blade length is 3.25” (8.3cm), with a thickness of .12” (3mm).  It is made of S35VN steel.

The 0770 has a bit more tactical flavor to it than the 0450CF reviewed above. It is not a huge knife, but it is not small either due to its substantial length. It is lightweight, though, and really hits the sweet spot in terms of its overall thickness.

The blade profile is also very broad on the 0770, which can be an issue for some folks when it comes to EDC. Also, the blade has a bit of a sheepsfoot quality to it, which might limit those who prefer to work with a finer tip. It does have plenty of belly, though, and makes for a good slicer.

The only big complaint on this knife is that the action is not that great on it, especially in light of other ZT knives. It tends to be a bit jerky with the SpeedSafe® mechanism, which can be problematic in situations where you really need a smooth and easy deployment.

 #5

Zero Tolerance 0801

Zero Tolerance 0801
Our Rating: (4.7/5)
Steel: ELMAX®
Blade: 3.5 in
Thickness: 0.16 in
Closed: 4.7 in
Overall: 8.2 in
Weight: 5.8 oz

Pros:
(+) Great blade steel that is tough and retains an edge
(+) Solid, durable build
(+) Excellent flipper mechanism
Cons:
(-) Might be too big and heavy for your EDC
(-) Not the grippiest or best handling knife

The Zero Tolerance 0801 is a titanium flipper knife designed by knifemaker Todd Rexford. It also uses Kershaw’s KVT ball bearing system. The overall length of the knife is 8.2” (20.8cm) and weighs 5.8oz (164.4g).

The 0801’s blade is made of ELMAX® powdered steel, which is produced by Bohler-Uddeholm and is an alloy that is high in chromium (rust resistance), vanadium (toughness), and molybdenum (corrosion resistance). According to some in the knife community, it is the best all-around knife steel—although that might depend on your purposes. Needless to say, however, it is a very high-grade blade material. The blade has a length of 3.5” (8.9cm) and a large bellied Drop Point profile.

The handle on this knife is titanium that has been machined grooved. It features a frame lock, a reversible, deep carry clip that is tip-up only, and a lanyard hole. The closed length is 4.7” (11.9cm).

This is a heavy folder, especially when you compare it to others knives in its class like Benchmade’s Griptilian. But the blade shape does make this a very good slicing knife, and the tip is sturdy for more heavy-use applications. The 0801 also has a great flipper mechanism for smooth deployment and a solid lockup.

You might be a little bit disappointed with the handle of this knife. The feel and balance of it are good, but not great. And although the handle itself is reasonably comfortable, it is not great in terms of grip. The handle is large, though, and should feel natural across a range of hand sizes.

 #6

Zero Tolerance 0456

Zero Tolerance 0456
Our Rating: (4.5/5)
Steel: CTS-204P
Blade: 3.25 in
Thickness: 0.156 in
Closed: 4.5 in
Overall: 7.7 in
Weight: 6.6 oz

Pros:
(+) Impressive flipper mechanism
(+) Great lockup mechanism
(+) Very attractive overall appearance
Cons:
(-) Not a deep carry
(-) It is a fat, bulky knife

The Zero Tolerance 0456 was produced out of a partnership between Zero Tolerance and Belarusian knife maker Dmitry Sinkevich. It is a flipper that has an overall length of 7.7” (19.6cm), and weighs 6.6oz (187g).

The titanium handle of this unique knife has what ZT describes as “3-D rayed contours” and features a KVT opening mechanism, frame lock, and steel lockbar inset. The pocket clip is 4-way (tip up/down, left/right reversible). The closed length is 4.5” (11.4cm).

The 0456 has a custom blade shape and is available in either CTS-204P steel (analysis) or CPM-20CV. The blade length is 3.25” (8.3cm) and has a thickness of .16” (4mm).

As with the 0801, the 0456 has a really smooth flipper action that allows for fluidity when both opening and closing. In addition, it has a very solid lockup, and absolutely no wiggle in the blade with the steel lockbar insert.

ZT has also made this a very distinctive looking knife with the contoured titanium handle offset by the shots of blue in the pivot and the aluminum backspacer. No one ever said it was against the rules for your workhorse to win some style points too.

One possible drawback to this knife (which comes into play on a number of ZT knives) is that the clip is not deep carry. A little bit of the handle will protrude from your pants pocket. This is especially problematic with such a bulky knife and detracts from its comfort while carrying it.

 #7

Zero Tolerance 0566BW

Zero Tolerance 0566BW
Our Rating: (4.5/5)
Steel: ELMAX®
Blade: 3.25 in
Thickness: 0.156 in
Closed: 4.45 in
Overall: 7.70 in
Weight: 5.4 oz

Pros:
ELMAX blade sharpens easily
Comfortable handle
Tremendous build quality, made to last
Cons:
(-) Still heavy for an EDC folder
(-) SpeedSafe® assist, you just might hate it

The Zero Tolerance 0566 is a Rick Hinderer design made for EDC use in terms of both its size and features. It has a SpeedSafe® assisted opening mechanism and an overall length of 7.7” (19.6cm). It weighs 5.4oz (153g).

The blade is available in either S35VN stainless or ELMAX® steel. Its length is 3.25” (8.25cm) and has a thickness of .16” (4mm). The blade comes in a faded, black matte finish that ZT calls BlackWash.

The handle is a textured G-10 and features a stainless steel back, frame lock, and a lockbar stabilizer. It also has a large lanyard hole at the base. The pocket clip is 4-way and allows for deep carry. It has a closed length of 4.45” (11.3cm).

This is another beefy, solid knife from Zero Tolerance, although the company has shown a little restraint to the degree that they have overbuilt it.

This knife also has a little more of a tactical purpose in mind, beyond just basic utility. The jimping on the thumb ramp and spine of the handle is precisely machined and highly functional. The 0566 also has a very comfortable handle, with the G-10 providing some decent grip.

This knife again has the SpeedSafe® spring assist that we saw on the 0770CF, which is not the smoothest of opening mechanisms. The assist tends to make the blade want to suddenly pop open. For some, this might not even be an issue, but flipper aficionados will register it as a noticeably erratic action when compared to other high-end flippers.

 #8

Zero Tolerance 0900

Zero Tolerance 0900
Our Rating: (4.4/5)
Steel: S35VN
Blade: 2.7 in
Thickness: 0.156 in
Closed: 3.9 in
Overall: 6.6 in
Weight: 4.3 oz

Pros:
(+) A very solidly built knife
(+) Smaller size for EDC
(+) Great flipper action
Cons:
(-) Bulky for its small size
(-) Flipper mechanism is long and is uncomfortable to carry

The Zero Tolerance 0900 is designed by custom knifemaker Les George and is based on his Mini-Harpy. It is built with a short and wide blade that is meant to be both powerful and compact. It is another flipper with a KVT ball bearing mechanism. It has an overall length of 6.6” (16.8cm) and weighs 4.3oz (122g).

The blade on the 0900 is made of S35VN. It is 2.7” (6.9cm) long and has a thickness of .16” (4mm). The handle on this knife is titanium, and it also features a titanium blade lock. In addition, it has a steel lockbar insert. The pocket clip is reversible and allows for deep pocket carry. The closed length is 3.9” (9.9cm).

This is a smaller knife that really works well for EDC, and competes well with knives like the Spyderco Techno in the small-but-hefty market. It is fit for use in both the workplace, as well as in areas with restrictive laws against blade lengths.

The 0900 has a very comfortable handle with a deep finger groove for making harder cuts. ZT also gets the jimping right once again with this folder—it provides some extra grip but is not so aggressive that it costs you skin to use it.

As with most all ZT’s, the 0900 is a very high-quality build, with a well-executed design and solid lockup.  The action on the flipper mechanism is great, again using the KVT system.

On the down side, although 4.3oz is not extremely heavy, this is still a heavy knife for its size. It also has the problem of the clip making the top of the handle protrude from the pocket.

 #9

Zero Tolerance 0909

Zero Tolerance 0909
Our Rating: (4.3/5)
Steel: S35VN
Blade: 3.8 in
Thickness: 0.156 in
Closed: 4.75 in
Overall: 8.5 in
Weight: 7.5 oz

Pros:
(+) Great knife for heavy duty work
(+) Awesome deployment and solid lockup
(+) Grippy and ergonomic handle
Cons:
(-) It is really big, and not legal everywhere
(-) Limited in its use

The Zero Tolerance 0909 is our second Les George design, which recalls one of his earlier well-known offerings, the Talos. The knife has an overall length of 8.5” (22cm) and weighs a hefty 7.5oz (213g).

The handle features a rounded finger groove for improved handling. It is made of scaled G-10 and has extra-thick liners to reinforce the knife’s overall frame and liner lock. The pocket clip is reversible and the handle also features a lanyard hole. It has a closed length of 4.75” (12cm).

The blade is S35VN steel and is 3.8” (9.7cm) long. It has a thickness of .16” (4mm). The blade also features a jimped thumb ramp and a Drop Point profile.

Surprise, surprise, yet another monster folder from ZT. Again, with this knife, there is a very smooth delivery on the flipper. Especially for something this size, the mechanism deploys in a remarkably effortless manner. The thumb ramp also features some very good jimping that provides great handling for both piercing and more forceful cuts.

The liner lock on the 0909 is very sturdy and there are no concerns about blade movement once it is deployed. One minor drawback to it, however, is that it can be a little bit difficult to unlock because of how it is recessed in the handle. Also, you cannot use this knife for something like general use around the office; it is just too big. And it is probably too big for what most would be looking for in a camping/hunting knife as well.

 #10

Zero Tolerance 0620CF

Zero Tolerance 0620CF
Our Rating: (4.2/5)
Steel: CTS-204P
Blade: 3.6 in
Thickness: 0.156 in
Closed: 4.9 in
Overall: 8.5 in
Weight: 6.2 oz

Pros:
(+) Great balance and handling on this knife
(+) Has an Emerson deployment which is good
(+) Great ergonomics, balance, and handling
Cons:
(-) Tanto shape might is not versatile enough

The Zero Tolerance 0620 is a folder with a rugged Tanto blade that features an Emerson “wave shaped” deployment mechanism. The “wave shaped” feature allows the knife to be opened as it is removed from the pocket by actually catching on the seam as it is being drawn.

This knife has an overall length of 8.5” (22cm) and weighs 6.2oz (177g). The blade length is 3.6” (9.1cm) and it has a thickness of .16” (4mm).  The blade is made from Carpenter Technology’s CTS-204P (analysis), which is very close to CPM-20CV. That is to say, CTS-204P is an ultra-premium grade of steel that is highly wear resistant, known for superior edge retention, and also resists corrosion.

In addition to the wave-shaped feature, this knife also has a thumb disc for ambidextrous opening (in keeping with the full spirit of the Emerson-inspired deployment system). The handle is carbon fiber with a titanium back. It features a frame lock mechanism with steel lockbar inserts. It also has jimping on the spine and along the base.

This collaboration with Ernest Emerson really gets a lot of things right. The modified Tanto blade features two grinds to make a great piercing knife with a strong tip. It also features a V-grind, rather than the (often) dreaded chisel grind that appears on many Emersons.

This knife does not feature the KVT ball bearing system, but instead stays true to the Emerson philosophy with low-friction phosphor bronze washers. The 0620 has a very smooth deployment, and some may prefer the washer system over ball bearings. Also— fear not Emerson fans—the wave shape deployment is executed just as well just as well on this knife as it is on any Emerson.

Summary

So there you have it: Overbuilt and proud of it. These knives are going to make great companions to those of you who need something built to last, with weight and bulk being secondary considerations. As far as production knives go, the quality of materials is really second to none. These knives are truly about as good as you can ask for without veering into exotic, high dollar, custom knife territory.

If you want a tiny, ultra-light folder, you might just need to keep looking. But even still, you can take away some good information from this review about the level of detail, the types of steels, and handle materials you should be looking for in any high-quality folder.

We showed you what we think are the best Zero Tolerance knives available in the market right now. Built to last, this company produces some stellar knives for tactical and EDC uses. Do you agree with our picks? Let us know in the comments below.

Resources:

Guide to The Best Knife Steel – BladeHQ

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