There are folding knives, and there are FOLDING KNIVES. The Zero Tolerance 0450 is the latter. Designed by custom tool and knifemaker, Dmitry Sinkevich in collaboration with Kershaw and ZT, this made-in-the-USA beauty has an elegant look, a lightning-fast deployment mechanism, and some innovative features backing up its higher-than-usual price tag
Headquartered in Oregon, Zero Tolerance is a division of Kai USA, and over the years it has become virtually synonymous with high-quality knives. Known for using some of the best materials and most impressive designs available, ZT continues to innovate, surprise, and deliver consistently good products.
Does the 0450 live up to the hype? We’ll see. Stay tuned for our full Zero Tolerance 0450 Review.
In the end, you have to let Zero Tolerance’s reputation speak for itself. The 0450 has all the makings of a genuinely epic EDC: exceptional steel, a wicked blade, featherweight design, and extreme durability. It’s up to you whether or not its few issues constitute a “deal breaker.”
|Titanium frame lock / hardened steel lock bar.||Lots of low-quality clones out there.|
|One-handed use (totally ambidextrous).||Some would prefer a thumb stud to a flipper.|
|Finger guard, choil, and thumb ramp jimping to protect fingers.||The knife sometimes won’t deploy if there’s any pressure on the lock bar (fingers can do this by accident).|
|DLC (diamond-like carbon) coating increases wear resistance and durability.||Some feel the handle is too thin to get a good grip.|
|KVT Ball-Bearing Opening System.||Not for large or fat hands due to the lock bar issue.|
|Carbon Fiber / Titanium handle is lightweight and strong.||“Loose” mechanisms may lead to locking failure.|
A Few Tips when Buying a Folding Knife
If you’re going to invest in a high-dollar knife like the ZT 0450, it’s a good idea to evaluate all the factors that may interfere with your experience. That is to say, you’ll want to make sure you don’t end up with a knife that, for whatever reason, you can’t enjoy all the benefits of.
Here are some factors you should consider:
Is the Size Right?: The size of a knife’s blade and handle (plus its size when folded) is one of the most significant factors contributing to unhappy customers. If you have large/small hands, have limited pocket space, or just know how much “knife” you need, this is important to pay attention to.
Is Extreme Weather a Concern?: If you live somewhere that’s extraordinarily wet, dry, hot, or cold, you have to consider how those extremes will affect your blade. Will the mechanism or blade rust over time? Will the handle be grippy in wet conditions? All such factors need to be evaluated.
Does the Mechanism Fit My Needs?: Some people’s EDC blades will never cut anything but cardboard boxes. Others will take their camping or fishing. Still, others will want a blade that can provide self-defense in a pinch. How fast (or slow) the deployment functions and how it holds up to stress will determine how well the knife will fulfill those needs.
Is it Portable Enough?: Not everyone can handle having the same amount of weight on them all day long. Along with size, the weight and design of a knife will help determine how portable it is for each individual.
Regarding the majority of these questions – the Zero Tolerance 0450 should cause no issue. The high-quality blade, stainless steel components, and carbon fiber/titanium handle should hold up well against all sorts of weather. The size of the knife is a manageable 7.4”, while the weight is only 2.45 oz, which makes it a perfect option for EDC.
The deployment and lock-up of the blade, however, remains a bit of a sticking point with some users. While many owners love the super-fast manual mechanism (faster than an assisted opening in many cases), others feel it takes too much effort to break through the ball-bearings’ resistance. As for the lock-up, there are some concerns that the mechanism may fail altogether.
Separating fact from fiction to identify the real PROs and CONs of the ZT 0450 is our goal for the next several sections.
Specifications of the Zero Tolerance 0450
Steel: S35VN Stainless Steel
Weight: 2.45 oz.
The Zero Tolerance 0450 is easily one of the lightest and most impressive-looking EDCs on the market. At only 2.45 oz., this 7.4” beauty is ready to tackle everything from stacks to boxes to camping jobs to would-be attackers.
Built with S35VN stainless steel, the 3.25”, .12” thick drop-point blade is incredibly tough, with plenty of opposition to wearing and chipping and natural corrosion resistance. The carbon fiber-reinforced titanium handle is incredibly light but very durable, utilizing light scaling, deep finger grooves, and a thin design to offer a reliable grip.
Last is the mechanism – a ball-bearing driven frame lock. Considered one of the fastest manual opens on the market, the KVT Ball-Bearing System has both its fans and its detractors, as does the flipper operation.
Blade Design and Steel
Look at 100 different EDC knives, and you’ll see 97 of them are drop-point designs. This is not an accident, nor is it a bad thing. Drop-point blades offer lots of versatility, making the knife suitable to a wide range of jobs. In the case of the ZT 0450, you also have a swedge running just south of the spine to add a bit of piercing support (which is needed for a .12″ thick blade). The steel is an excellent choice as well – a relatively new blend created by Crucible Industries. Not only will it stand up to a lifetime of abuse, but it will also naturally resist corrosion and rust. Thanks to the DLC coating, it should also resist chipping and wear better than an unprotected alternative.
A close look at the ZT 0450’s blade design reveals a pretty standard, high-tipped drop-point design with one very notable exception – the swedge that runs along the top. With the blade being so thin, it makes sense that the designers would want to add a little bit of piercing support. While it might not allow you to penetrate the toughest materials, it will certainly hold up better than the majority of the competition.
Another point that stands out about the ZT 0450’s blade is that it has a relatively “aggressive” design. By this, I simply mean that if you flipped it out in a self-defense situation, the shape of the 3.25” would make it look a lot bigger, and a lot more dangerous than your average folding knife. This seems to allude to the Zero Tolerance crew at least considering tactical use when designing this blade.
Overall, the jimping on the thumb ramp and solid, straight belly of this blade will provide excellent cutting, feathering, filleting, and slicing control. No matter what the job is, there’s a good chance the ZT 0450 will make short work of it.
Designed by Crucible Industries (who made this steel’s popular predecessor, CPM S30V), S35VN stainless steel features a makeup of 1.4% carbon, 2% molybdenum, .5% niobium. In practical terms, the carbon helps establish the hardness of the blade, while the molybdenum helps ensure that the blade doesn’t become stiff or “brittle” in the process. Lastly, the niobium is added to increase resistance to chopping and wear over time.
Overall, S35VN is sturdy, easy to sharpen, and – thanks to another element, “Vanadium” – has a very fine grain structure that helps it hold a longer edge and makes it much easier to sharpen than other premium-grade steels.
The thin, extraordinarily light, and straightforward handle of the ZT 0450 features a carbon fiber front and titanium back. There is some minimal scaling to increase grip, but it otherwise relies on its deep cut finger grooves to give the user control.
It seems to me that this handle design is an example of aesthetics overtaking functionality. There’s no reason to only include thumb ramp jimping on an EDC knife, especially one that has so many “outdoors-ready” features. It’s clear that the Zero Tolerance folks weren’t planning on this knife sitting in a display case somewhere, so why focus on looks more than practical function?
On the plus side, this isn’t a knife that will get stuck in your pocket thanks to too much “grip.”
It’s again worth noting the thinness of the handle, as it contributes to the “lock bar” problem (which we’ll go into below). Though this certainly makes the knife easier to conceal and more comfortable to carry, if it hinders the operation, we can’t really rate it as a positive.
Deployment & Locking Mechanism
As I mentioned, the ZT 0450 uses the KVT Ball-Bearing Opening System along with Kershaw’s famous “frame lock” dual liner lock system. In the case of the former, caged ball-bearings surround and freely rotate around the pivot point. When the user pulls back on the flipper, the blade rotates out of the handle as the ball-bearing roll into place. At the same time, two metal plates (liners) on either side of the handle engage a lock bar, which butts up against the back part of the blade to prevent closure. To close, the frame is pushed to the side.
If this all sounds nice and simple – it really depends on who you ask.
The vast majority of 0450 owners claim both mechanisms are nearly flawless, with the former offering what’s been called the “fastest manual deployment on the market” and the latter being called “reliable,” “sturdy,” and “safe.”
Some users, on the other hand, have found their knives too hard to open with the flipper and would
prefer a thumb stud or hole similar to what Spyderco offers. As for the lock-up, a few knife enthusiasts have pointed out that some 0450s have “play” in the mechanism, which – should the ball-bearing move out of position – could cause it to close unexpectedly, resulting in serious injury.
By far the most significant issue, however, is that at times the knife won’t deploy if there’s any pressure on the lock bar. This could be caused by the user having too tight a grip, or having overly-large or “chubby” hands.
Taking all of this into account, it’s hard to rate these two systems as high as they might deserve – even though the majority of reviews are overwhelmingly positive. While it’s possible poor “QC” led to a few bad eggs getting out there (or that some of the users received low-quality copies), in the interest of fairness, we have to knock off a few points.
Overall Quality and Features
Even taking its less-desirable features into account, you can’t really argue that the 0450 is a premium blade. With its elegant and simple design, high-quality steel, extreme durability, and super-fast deployment, it’s almost everything you’d want in an EDC knife.
Still, while the reported problems of the deployment and lock up haven’t had a significant effect on the knife’s popularity, they are still problems, and you need to be aware of them before you buy. Keep in mind, there are proven instances of people getting knock-offs and low-quality copies of this knife. How many complaints can be chalked up to this? Who can say?
Some Alternatives to Consider
There are alternatives to Zero Tolerance 0450 if you want to check out other options. Here is a look at some of the best ones.
#1 Benchmade 940-2 Reverse Tanto
Benchmade is another name that often comes up in conversation when discussing high-quality, made-in-the-USA knife brands. In the case of their 940-2, you have a unique “reverse tanto” style blade, offering a long cutting edge that ends in a “spear point” tip.
With the patented AXIS locking mechanism, durable and weather-resistant G-10 handle, and CPM-S30V Steel, this is a fine alternative to the ZT 0450, and features similar measurements and weight. Best of all, like all Benchmade’s products, it features both the LifeSharp and Lifetime Warranty.
Benefits / Features:
- G-10 handle with resin-soaked fiberglass body resistant to climate changes and water.
- American made CPM-S3OV steel has excellent edge retention and corrosion resistance.
- AXIS locking mechanism
- Slim profile
- Unique, versatile blade design.
- Blade: 3.4”, Overall: 4.87”, Closed: 4.47”
- Weighs in at only 2.65 oz.
- LifeSharp and Lifetime Warranty.
- Made in the USA
#2 Spyderco Paramilitary II
If you know knives, you know Spyderco – their unique looking blades and innovative design features have been turning heads in the industry for nearly two decades now. One of their most popular blade designs is the Paramilitary II, an 8.2” modified drop point blade that features all of Spyderco’s “hits,” including the assisted open “Spyder Hole,” and new Pivot Bushing System, which offers a smooth action and higher tolerance to pressure.
As compared to the ZT 0450, it’s a heavier and longer knife with a broader profile, but a more reliable grip and mechanism make it a worthy EDC adversary.
Benefits / Features:
- G-10 handle features a thin body and wider pommel.
- Pivot Bushing system for a smooth open and tighter tolerance.
- Overall: 8.2″, Closed: 4.8″, Blade: 3.4”
- Compression locking mechanism
- Made in the USA
- CPM-S30V Stainless Steel
#3 Kershaw Leek (Carbon Fiber Handle)
Kershaw comes from the same “family” of companies that produce the ZT 0450. In fact, the latter even includes some Kershaw design features in its construction. The Leek is easily one of the most recognizable and popular Kershaw blades, and with its much lower price point, it’s a great budget alternative to the 0450.
Along with the lower price, you get a bit less quality steel (CPM 154), though still an excellent choice for an EDC knife. However, you also get the SpeedSafe assisted opening, a unique, versatile modified drop-point tip, and a smaller, tighter package than any of the other knives listed here. The only problem is that the Leek features the same frame lock mechanism as the ZT 0450, which some users have called into question.
Benefits / Features:
- Stonewashed CPM 154 Steel.
- Black Carbon Fiber handle is extremely tough ad weather-ready.
- SpeedSafe assisted opening mechanism.
- Weighs only 2.3 oz.
- Made in the USA.
- Ultra-fine tip on the 3” modified drop point blade. Frame lock mechanism.
- Glasssbreaker tip.
- Overall: 7” Blade: 3”, Closed: 4”
If you’re looking for a knife that you can use all day, every day in almost any environment, the Zero Tolerance 0450 will put a smile on your face and keep it there. All things considered, it’s a brilliantly-designed knife made of some of the highest-quality components on the market.
As for its issues:
The handle is only as problematic as the user lets it be. If the carbon fiber is too slick, there are ways to deal with it in the aftermarket. After all, no one is buying this knife for the handle, that’s for sure.
The lock-up and deployment issues are more serious, however. Still, with the majority of feedback being positive, it’s possible that the reported complaints refer to just a few badly QC’d knives or some cheap copies that got passed off as real. In the end, you’ll have to determine if the knife is right for your needs, and – once you receive it – if the craftsmanship is up to your standards.
To find out more about the Zero Tolerance 0450, click the link below.