If you aren’t familiar with Oregon-based Zero Tolerance knives, I’d wager you’ve probably heard of Kershaw. The two are sister companies, both part of the Kai group. Given that the pair are headquartered just a few miles down the road from me, I’m more than familiar with them and many of their products.
The primary difference between the two brands is that while Kershaw has design and quality control here in Oregon, they use Chinese manufactured parts to keep the costs in line on their budget-based knives. Zero Tolerance on the other hand, is a no-holds-barred American-made brand, with prices that reflect the care and quality that go into the final products.
I’m not primarily a knife reviewer, and this isn’t a knife-centric website. I took the chance to review this knife because I’m tired of working with low- to mid-grade knives that just don’t hold up over time.
If you’re looking for a “good enough” or a “twice-a-year” camping or bushcraft knife, you might want to move along to the next post. Zero Tolerance knives are reputed to be made for those who make their own shelters, hack their own trails, baton through wood, and expect to slice easily through a steak at the end of the day.
With that, let me introduce the Zero Tolerance 0006. Let’s take a crack at the ZT-0006’s specs as provided by Zero Tolerance before looking at hands-on time.
- Blade Steel CPM 3V
- Blade Length 6 in.
- HRC 59-61
- Blade Finish/Coating Bead-blasted finish and Cerakote coating
- Blade Thickness 0.19 in.
- Handle Material G10
- Handle Thickness 0.7 in.
- Overall Length 10.7 in.
- Weight 10.3 oz.
- Kydex Sheath Included
- Made In The USA
First a quick visual inspection. The ZT-0006 looks like a bayonet, which is expected since the design is inspired by the ZT-9 bayonet. The 0006 was shrunk down a bit, and turned more into a hiking/camp knife.
The spine is thick with a nice taper towards the front. The handguard is fairly small, but it’s large enough to protect your hand. The Cerakote finish is well applied.
The textured G-10 handle is comfortably beveled, lacking coarse edges but providing enough grip even for a harsh stab (more on that later).
And then there’s the edge. Most factory knives come with a good edge on them — you’d expect that — but the ZT-0006 has them beat. I’m surprised there isn’t an animated gleam of light running down the blade with a cartoony “SHING” noise accompanying it when you take it out of the sheath.
Overall, an excellent presentation.
I wanted to test that edge, then beat it up, then test is again and see how it holds. First, the paper test.
It’s simple really, hold a piece of standard printer paper up, place the knife in the middle, and see how easily it slides down through the paper. If you have to saw back and forth, or if the paper has tear marks instead of a clean slice, the knife isn’t sharp enough.
The ZT-0006 easily slid through the paper, with far less resistance than my Emerson Seax, and about on par with my Morakniv (which has a blade about half the thickness). So far, so good.
Batoning is a test nearly everyone uses with camping and bushcraft knives, and for good reason. It’s a realistic use for a knife that might be your only modern tool in an emergency situation. Place your knife on top of a piece of firewood and use a thick stick as a hammer to pound the blade through the wood.
I took the ZT-0006 through a couple of thick pieces of wood with no trouble. That wide spine shook off the hammering with ease, and so far the edge still looks picture perfect. No rolls, no chips.
Sharpening sticks is another common test with real world application, whether you’re getting a stick ready to roast some meat over the fire, or sharpening some stake poles for a survival shelter. Even if the kids just need marshmallow skewers, this is a basic task. Green wood is far easier to shave down, so I found some harder branches around the property and went at them.
The ZT-0006 pivots nicely in my hand as I pared the sticks down, again showing the good balance of texture vs “non-cheese grater” of the grip.
Any knife you’re hoping to have on you in an emergency situation or on a hunting trip may end up doing more than cutting kindling. It may end up being used defensively or to break downn an animal. The term “tactical” is used in the advertising after all. I was lacking in fresh mammal corpses, so I went to the next best thing: ballistic gelatin.
Long held as the standard for ballistic testing, gelatin calibrated to 10% is the FBI ammunition testing protocol medium. It’s less than stellar for a knife as I found, but still makes for a useful exercise.
I jabbed my gel block from a few different angles and with a couple different grips on the knife. Each hit was between 3 and 5 inches deep, but it wasn’t long before I discovered the problem with gelatin and knives.
Ballistic gelatin is very “dry.” It doesn’t feel slippery like Jell-O, it’s more like a giant, partially dehydrated gummi bear. Stabbing in? Ok that’s fine. Tough, but fine. Pulling the knife out? It’s kinda like starting an engine without oil. Punching a cheap folder through the side of a (bloodshot) deer’s ribcage is far easier than doing that in gel.
Compared to real world experiences, I don’t think this was a particularly enlightening test, but worth a try. The “bloody” ballistic mannequins often seen on Forged in Fire and Garand Thumb’s YouTube channel are much more realistic, given the lubricating effect blood has, and the overall moisture content of meat.
Time to get the ZT-0006 into some dirt. No, I’m not going to throw it at a steel plate or drop it onto a concrete floor, but I know I’m not the only one who’s ever dropped a knife around the camp site. Will the edge hold up?
At that point I expected to see at least a couple small rolls, given that I nearly had to stand on the handle to get the blade halfway down into the dry, hardpacked summer dirt, had shaved a couple branches down, had hacked into the side of a log, had batoned a small pile of kindling, and had murdered a small cube of gelatin. The ZT-0006 took it all like a champ, with nothing to show for it but some minor blemishes on the Cerakote. The edge is still in fantastic shape.
After all that I listed above (and a good bit more) I was hungry. I grabbed a few apples off one of my trees and went for a series of thin slices all the way through, core included.
The thickness of the spine precludes keeping the semi-transparent slices all the way through the apple, but slicing was still easy regardless of which part of the edge I was using.
The ZT-0006 blade is made of CPM 3V steel. This is a premium, American-made steel, well known for its edge retention, resistance to chipping, ability to hold a fine edge, and exceptional toughness.
There’s no such thing as a free lunch, so all of that performance comes with two costs. The first is this isn’t a stainless steel (which are softer and less durable, but resist rust), so it will oxidize if you don’t take care of it. That Cerakote finish will help in that regard. The second cost is, well, cost. American steel and workmanship don’t come with “Made in China” price tags.
So in the end, you have to ask yourself, am I in the market for a “good enough” knife that will handle a few leisurely camping trips (and will be replaced a few times in my life), or do I want a top-of-the-line knife that your kids can fight over when you’re in the ground?
I’ve broken and worn out a dozen lesser knives between hunting, camping, and during my time as an Army Ranger. When I realized I was no longer a kid living paycheck-to-paycheck anymore, I adopted the “buy once, cry once” policy whenever possible. The ZT-0006 is the kind of knife Mad Max will find laying on the outskirts of the post-apocalyptic wastelands, lightly oiled and still with a honed edge.
I’m just one man with one opinion, and that opinion is that $320 (of ever-inflating dollars) is a worthwhile price to pay for a knife this good that will last a lifetime.
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