February 24, 2021

Zero Tolerance Knives ZT0308, by Pat Cascio

I’ve always liked folding knives on the larger side, for a number of reasons: First of all, I believe a larger folder can accomplish a lot more daily tasks than a smaller folder can. Second, this comes down to survival – and while no folding knife is the best choice for survival, a large one can do many of the chores you ask of it. Third, a larger folder is better suited for self-defense work. Now, I’m not advocating that you take a knife – any knife – to a gunfight, however a larger knife in your hand, when being attacked, tends to scare off a bad guy with a smaller knife, or in the event of several attackers, they might just decide they have an appointment for a root canal, at the other end of town. And, lastly, I believe a larger folder is more stout and will hold up to many different tasks you might have for it.

Zero Tolerance knives, is a division of KAI Corporation, and they also own Kershaw Knives, and the ZT live is produced in the same factory, right here in Oregon, as are many of the Kershaw Knives are being manufactured. Keep in mind, that all ZT knives are all made in the USA. I’ve toured the Kershaw/ZT plant several times, and observed their dedicated employees working on putting these knives together for their consumers. And, to be sure, these knives aren’t simply “assembled” they are fitted, to the tightest tolerances you can imagine. Thus, the name “Zero Tolerance” is truly apropos. CNC machines can only do so much, when it comes to making blades and other parts, and in the end, it is the human being, who does the final fitting of ZT knives, and it takes a close eye to do this. Every station I visited, where knives were being fitted, had a large, lighted magnifying glass there that the worker used to observe the final fitting process. If a partially fitted knife arrived at the next station down the line, and that employee found something wrong, it was sent back to the previous station, and if that didn’t do it, it was set aside.

I happen to know a little bit about fitting things, I used to do a lot of gunsmithing many years ago, and I didn’t simply “assemble” guns – and I specialized in 1911s – I fitted them, not nearly as simple as it sounds, especially when you have parts from different vendors. I had one 1911, that no matter what I did to it, the darn thing just wouldn’t work. I finally figured it out – the pin holes in the frame were drilled off a few thousandths of an inch, and because of that, nothing else would fit properly.

ZT knives say right on their boxes, that they are “Proudly” made in the USA – and that means a lot to most folks. I believe that we in the USA, can produce just about anything better than any other country can – end of story.

The ZT0308 Specifications

ZT only uses the best of the best materials in their knives, and that includes the best hi-tech steels in the blade, as well as in the handle materials. Today we’re looking at their ZT308 model. The 0308 has a blade made out of CPM 20CV and this is an outstanding stainless steel, that not only takes a great edge, but it holds that super-sharp edge for a long, long time – and it isn’t all that hard to keep that edge on the blade – just don’t let it get too dull – like any knife steel, and you can put a factory edge back on this blade. The blade itself is 3.75-inches long, and that is just perfect in my book for a folding knife, and the blade is also wide as well. Plus, we have a drop point design to the blade, one of the most used, and useful blade designs ever. The Rockwell hardness on this steel is 60-62, and that means, as already mentioned that, it will hold an edge a good long time, plus this particular steel isn’t prone to becoming brittle at this higher RC scale – no chipping on the edge of the blade.

We also have a “flipper” on the blade, for rapid opening, and I think a flipper can open just as fast, if not faster than an automatic folder does. It is easy to find the flipper with your thumb or finger. In fact, it is much easier than finding that little button on an automatic folder is. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to press down on the flipper and the blade flings open and locks in place, with a liner lock. And to be sure, the liner is actually the entire Titanium back of the blade, with a hardened steel lock insert to back things up – no flimsy or thin liner lock here at all. The finish on the blade is stonewashed, for a nice subdued finish, and it doesn’t show the scratches easily – that you’ll sure get on any blade that is heavily used. The front handle material is light brown G10, and this stuff is almost bulletproof – at one time, it was only used by custom knife makers ‘cause it was expensive. Both the front and Ti rear handle scales are 3D-machined, for a sure grip on the knife in all weather conditions.

BTW, this particular folder, was designed in-house at ZT/Kershaw, and I’ve seen those folks at work, amazing what they can do, especially with a 3D printer. Hardware is black oxide steel pivot nut, and spacers and steel screws. The steel nut is used to adjust the tension on the blade, and it is designed to be adjusted in the field if the blade loosens up – a very nice touch if you ask me. Plus, in the rear of the handle there is a lanyard hole. That is a nice touch, if you work over water, so you don’t lose your knife.

When the 0308 is open, it has a length of 8.9-inches, and it weighs in at 6.9-ounces, so it is close to weighing half a pound, however, it doesn’t feel that heavy when clipped in your pocket, and when it is in your hand, it balances nicely, too. What’s not to like here? When you open the blade, using the flipper, you will readily feel how smooth the blade opens, this is because ZT used KVT ball bearings, to accomplish this. Unlike blades that pivot on some kind of bronze or poly washers, the ball bearings make the made open without much effort at all.

So, the ZT0308 is a brute, and made to go to war – and it is “that” tough of a folder. However, how did it perform during my testing. And, I’m sure our readers are tired about hearing how I test my blades, especially when it comes to thick blackberry vines. Well, I happened up a long-dead super thick blackberry vine, that I somehow overlooked before. And, I put the 0308 to work on it – to see if it would cleaning slice it in half, with a single swipe of the blade. Well, much to my surprise, it actually cut this vine in two – and I tried a machete after this test, and the machete didn’t do as well. Of course, a machete isn’t “that” sharp, but still, I would have thought with all the effort I put into the cut with the machete, it would have cut that vine in two – it didn’t!

Cardboard boxes are one of the toughest things on a knife blade – it dulls a blade – FAST! So, I cut a lot of pieces of larger cardboard boxes, into smaller pieces, and quite frankly, I just go tired of doing this, and relegated the rest of the cardboard box to my two German Shepherds, who love to tear apart cardboard boxes – all day long – and they’ll “fight” over the smallest of pieces because you see, the “other” dog always has the best pieces.

Once again, yellow poly rope is a tough thing to cut through, but the ZT did it, the teeth on the blade really ripped right through the rope. I also “stabbed” the knife into stacked cardboard, and it easily stabbed up to the handle. Try that with lesser knives, and odds are the lock will give way on you – not a good thing to happen. For some reason, I never got around to using this folder in the kitchen, but I’m sure it would have made for one tough steak knife.

In all my testing, over several weeks, the knife never dulled enough that it needed to be re-sharpened, however, I touched up the edge just the same, and it only took a few minutes to bring the edge back to factory sharp. And, to be sure, ZT offers a lifetime warranty on this blade.  Right now, ZT has the normally $375 ZT308 model on-sale for only $300. And to be honest with you, this is a deal if you ask me. I used to collect custom-made knives, and many of them cost double this amount, and they were not any better, and most were a lot “less” of a folder than the ZT0308 is. Check one out, and be sure to shop the ‘net for your best deals on this one, it’s a winner in all respects.

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