Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sharps: Zero Tolerance 0350

I believe it was Holiday Inn that coined the advertising slogan, "The best surprise is no surprise." Myself, I'm a fan of pleasant surprises.

I'd put off sampling Zero Tolerance Knives for years, judging them (from afar) shamelessly "tacticool." Then, on something of a whim, I decided to take ZT's 0350 folder for a spin.

Color me pleasantly surprised.

The Zero Tolerance 0350 (MSRP $175, street $100) is a downsized-and-detuned version of the 0300 (MSRP $340, street $220), which is a higher-end folder designed in collaboration with Strider. The made-in-USA 0350 features a 3.25-inch recurve blade of coated CPM S30V, thick stainless-steel liners incorporating a beefy liner lock, textured G-10 scales and a four-position pocket clip.

The 0350 is equipped with Kai-Kershaw's SpeedSafe assisted-opening system. Pulling back with an index fingertip on the "flipper" protruding from the spine snaps the blade open with authority. Ingeniously, the flipper becomes a guard when the blade is deployed.

Now, if you read the maker's description of SpeedSafe, you'll see that the blade also can be opened "with a manual push on the blade's thumb stud." Problem is, when the blade is closed the ambidextrous stud nests very close to the frame. It's virtually useless as a natural and reliable means of opening the knife.

The stud functions primarily as a stop-pin, it appears. And since the flipper works so well, not having the thumb-opening option is no loss.

It took a week or so of EDC (and a few drops of Benchmade BlueLube) for the 0350's pivot to get over its initial stickiness. Since then it's been smooth and precise -- no wiggle whatsoever.

This ZT's handle fits my large paws perfectly, and the G-10 slabs are wonderfully grippy. The CPM S30V blade takes and holds a scary-sharp edge; quick touchups, rarely necessary, have been easy. That's a good thing, since it's trickier to hone a recurve than a straight edge.

After carrying and using the Zero Tolerance 0350 for several weeks, I'm not just pleasantly surprised -- I'm damned impressed. It's a hell-for-stout tool and, with the exception of that vestigial thumb stud, very well designed. Best of all, considering the street price, it's a whole lot of knife for the money.