Knife Review: Zero Tolerance 0350

 Image: Chris Dumm

Depending on how you approach it, KAI USA’s Zero Tolerance 0350 is either a modest-size tactical knife or an utter beast of an EDC folder. It’s not big enough for many to call it a ‘fighting knife,’ but it’s somewhere near the upper limit of what most guys are willing to haul around in their back pocket all day.

Either way, this knife is a serious piece of steel. It’s so badass (how badass is it?) that if it got caught in a Denny’s robbery, Tim Roth would have to give it its wallet back.

OVERVIEW

Image: Chris Dumm

The Zero Tolerance 0350 is an assisted-opening folding knife with a liner lock and a 3.25″ blade. The Speedsafe opening mechanism can be actuated by the flipper or the blade stops, which can also be used as thumb studs. The 0350 is a slightly smaller and lighter interpretation of Zero Tolerance’s flagship 0300 ‘Beast,’ and it’s marketed as an EDC, tactical and survival knife.

Whether the 0350 is too big for your pocket, “just right” or too small for your MOLLE rig will be a matter of personal taste. Even if you don’t like it as much as I do, it is by any measure a top-quality production knife.

CONSTRUCTION, FIT AND FINISH

Image: Chris Dumm

The 0350 is a heavily overbuilt for a folding knife, and each of its components are just a little bit thicker and sturdier than you expect. The S30V recurve drop-point blade is three and a quarter inches long instead of the standard three inches, and a sturdy .125″ thick. It’s offered in plain and combo edge versions with various tungsten DLC coatings.

The grip is a solid half-inch thick, not including the pocket clip, and is about as broad as any pocketknife can be. The stainless steel liners and liner lock are probably the thickest you’ve ever seen. The pivot is adjustable for tightness, and carry is provided by a 4-way pocket clip. The pommel and thumb rise are jimped so aggressively that you could almost call them serrated.

Fit And Finish

Image: Chris Dumm

Although this knife is marked as a factory second, I’ve been unable to find any defects other than a minuscule scratch in the DLC blade coating which I may have caused myself. The fasteners were all tight and undamaged, the liners and scales are properly fit, the blade is properly centered and extremely stable, and it’s free of machining marks. Even as a factory second, it’s one of the best put-together folding knives I’ve used. I hope these photos can do justice to how finely this knife is finished.

HANDLING AND CARRY

Image: Chris Dumm

Carry Ergonomics:
The 0350 has a thick (1/2 inch) grip that’s more than an inch wide for most of its length. This size allows it to be nicely shaped for retention and comfort during hard cutting tasks.

On the down side, it also weighs in at a hefty 5.6 ounces. This makes it a bit of a chunky monkey for EDC use, but I’ve carried it nonstop for the better part of a month and I’m not planning to stop any time soon. I’ve worn it in everything from cargo pants to Levi’s to wool dress slacks, and I can say it definitely works better with sturdy pants than with flimsy ones.

Image: Chris Dumm for TTAK

Left to right: Kershaw Skyline, Spyderco Native FRN, CRKT Carajas, ZT 0350

This shows the comparative sizes of the 0350 and some of my other favorite EDC knives. If the Carajas is Audrey Hepburn, the 0350 is definitely Jane Mansfield. But in a good way.

Image: Chris Dumm for TTAK

Left to right: ZT 0350, CRKT Carajas, Kershaw Skyline, Spyderco Native FRN

This pic shows how the 0350 looks in your pocket, compared to the other EDC knives. It sticks up a little too far, but its muted colors actually make it less conspicuous than our other choices here. Aside from this, the pocket clip does its job and retains the knife without trashing your pocket. I wish somebody could combine the quick clipping and presentation of a polished stainless clip (Benchmade!) with the visually discreet carry of a black spring steel clip like this one. And configured it for deep carry.

Cutting Ergonomics:
The 0350 may be a little saftig in your pocket, but it’s really comfortable in your hands. It features a prominent choil and finger guard, and it’s shaped to be secure and comfortable in a forward or reverse grip. You can absolutely crush the grip in your hands with no discomfort; this comes in really handy when you find yourself cutting cardboard for ten minutes straight.

Image: Chris Dumm

The G10 scales are modestly textured, exactly like the Kershaw Skyline, and the frame and scales are really aggressively jimped at the thumb rise and the pommel. The pommel jimping purports to provide a more safe reverse grip, although its importance on an EDC knife is probably marginal. It could deliver an absolutely devastating hammer blow to an opponent, if you ever had to use it for self-defense.

Image: Chris Dumm

One of my only ergonomic complaints is the the thumb jimping, which is a bit too pronounced for my comfort. The jimping cuts are fairly sharp-edged, and while they do provide an extremely firm grip they also start to hurt your thumb after a while. These cuts also abrade your index finger when you flip the knife open, especially if you do it fifty times in a row while playing with your fancy new knife like I did.

When opening the 0350, it’s also worth noting that the flipper (slightly over-jimped as it is) is still the most comfortable opening method. The right-hand thumbstud will open the knife reliably, but it takes a lot of pressure to open this way and it’s a bit too sharp for repeated comfort. The left-handed thumbstud sits very close to the scale on that side, and doesn’t really give your thumb enough access to reliably open the blade.

CUTTING TESTS

Newsprint:
The 0350 came from the factory with a hair-popping edge that sliced, diced and julienned newsprint. After about ninety seconds of honing and stropping, it was doing the same to Shotgun News crepe paper. Grade: A+.

3/4″ Manila Rope:
Despite its rather short blade, I expected decent results from the 0350 because of its sturdy grip and partly-serrated edge. It delivered, pulling through a loop of manila rope in a single vigorous draw. Trying to cut the rope with the short plain edge section was predictably more difficult: it took five or six strokes to part it. Grade: B+.

Box Cardboard:

Image: Chris Dumm for TTAK

Note how thin and even most of these cut strips are.

Using only the non-serrated portion of the blade, the 0350 went absolutely medieval on the box cardboard. It cut the first fifty feet like a 30,000-psi water cutter, and for the fifty more feet the cutting was merely ‘really easy.’

After the 100-foot mark the blade seemed to lose its extra-sharp edge, but it kept cutting cleanly (while requiring more and more cutting effort) until it finally started to catch the cardboard at 170 feet. My hands were cramping pretty badly from the effort of cutting with only the non-serrated tip, and it’s possible that I lost my edge before the 0350 did. I am not going to repeat this test to find out, however.

But seriously, 170 feet? Shut up! ZT obviously knows how to use S30v to its full and amazing potential. Of the knives I’ve tested, only the Chris Reeve Sebenza can hold its edge like this, or possibly the Robson X-46 during whose testing I ran out of boxes and gave up. Grade: A++.

Durability

The ZT 0350 had no blade play or looseness when I bought it, and it has none now. Considering the strength of the S30V blade and the absurd thickness of the twin steel liners, I have absolutely no concerns about this knife’s ruggedness or durability.

Even the tigerstripe Tungsten DLC blade coating is bombproof. I thought I’d abraded some of it off of the blade by slicing through more than fifty yards of cardboard, but I was wrong. What I thought was a scratch was only a smudge of glue from the packing tape, and it rubbed off. This tungsten DLC is so tough it eats Duracoat for lunch, and it’s got chunks of generic ‘powder coat’ in its stool.

I’d bet my life on the ZT 0350.

Ease Of Sharpening

Although I can’t say “The ZT 0350 is categorically better than the Sebenza,” this Oregonian definitely beats that South African hands-down at the sharpening bench. Its S30V still takes effort to re-sharpen, but it ‘only’ took me half an hour to restore the 0350 to its original sharpness. I reground the 30 degree back bevel and 40 degree microbevel, and it was slicing Shotgun News again snicker-snack. It wasn’t exactly easy, but at least I could do it. Grade: B-.

FAVORITE FEATURES:

  • The blade and cutting performance are amazing. Zero Tolerance knows how to use S30V.
  • Extremely comfortable in action.
  • Overall strength, fit and finish.

LEAST-FAVORITE FEATURES:

  • Sharp jimping on the thumb rise.
  • Indiscreet tip-up carry.
  • A bit too heavy for its blade length.

CONCLUSION

It’s too big to carry with formal wear, but the ZT 0350 has become my favorite heavy-duty EDC knife. It’s slightly larger and slightly heavier than the also-excellent Benchmade 300 Axis, and its spring assist is either a bonus or a ‘meh’ depending on your tastes.

Either way, it’s a super-comfortable cutting knife (except for that jimping) and its S30V blade keeps on going like an Energizer Bunny.

RATINGS (out of five stars)

Styling: * * * 1/2
Functional and robust, but it’s hard to be stunning in black G10. Some might not like the looks of the modified recurve drop-point, but it works for me.

Blade: * * * * *
Sharp and tough, and among the best blades I’ve ever tested.

Ergonomics: * * * *
Really comfortable for prolonged, heavy cutting, but subtract a star for overly-sharp jimping and uncomfortable thumbstud openers.

Ruggedness/Durability * * * * *
The 0350 is strong like bull.

Overall Rating: * * * * 1/2
Indestructible and sharper than all get-out, this heavy-duty EDC knife may be just a bit heavy for everyone’s tastes.

SPECS

Type: Heavy-duty EDC folding knife.
Opening mechanism: Speedsafe assisted-opener with flipper and (semi) ambidextrous thumb studs.
Blade style: Modified recurve drop-point with partial serrations. (Plain edge also available.)
Blade dimensions: 3.25″ length, .125″ thickness.
Blade material: CPM S30V with tigerstripe tungsten DLC. (HRC not specified.)
Locking mechanism: Liner lock.
Carry clip: Pocket clip, reversible for left/right side tip-up carry.
Construction: Dual stainless steel liners, textured black G10 scales, polymer spacer.
Overall dimensions: 4.5″ closed, 7.75″ open, .50″ thickness.
Weight: 5.6 oz.
Origin: USA
MSRP: $185 (street price $150)

Manufacturer Link: KAI USA

comments

  1. M Robertson says:

    I’ve used this knife (serrated, non-tiger striped) in the field for more than a year and absolutely love it. Yes, it has some heft to it, but that’s exactly why I bought it; this thing is tough! The flipper is very well designed, allowing it to open almost as easily as my Benchmade auto-opener. Mine came with the clip installed for tip-down when closed; I changed this to tip-up, which I’m more comfortable with. My only wish is that they would make the clip ‘deeper’, thus allowing the knife to ride a little lower in a pocket. This is a very useful knife that I would buy again with no hesitation.

  2. B says:

    I absolutely detest “super steels.” I like my Benchmade 940, but I hate sharpening that S30V. It encouraged me buy the Cryo 2 instead of the ZT 0561. I sliced 40 linear feet of *carpet* with my Cryo 2 (20’x20′ rug cut into 1/3rds) and it will still shave the hair off my arm (well, parts of the blade), and it would only take 10 minutes on a Spyderco sharpmaker with ultra stones to make the 8Cr130MoV blade split hairs.

    1. Chris Dumm says:

      Cutting carpet is a fantastic blade test, if you’ve got enough scraps handy.

    2. ralph hinkle [ eddie] says:

      that’s what utility knives or carpet knives are for not a pocket knife

      1. Yes. And the reason for this is it is hell on a knife. That is what makes those folding utility knives with the removable blades so great.

        For the purpose of testing however, we are trying to push the knife past what it is ordinarily asked to do, both in terms of power (cutting carpet with a pocket knife) or delicate (cubing pineapple with a machete)

        I think I might try some carpet myself on mt Benchmade Steep Mountain review coming up.

  3. Mike L says:

    To clarify for those who might think that Chris Reeve makes his knives in South Africa, not true. While he grew up there, he came to the USA about 30 years ago. His awesome blades are made right here in Idaho.

  4. NavyRetGold says:

    The entire Zero Tolerance line is badass from start to finish. This is a maker that understands hard use. The 0350 is a fantastic defensive EDC, and if you need military grade the 0300 line is where the beef is. For my purposes, I prefer the plain edge blades. They don’t come cheap, but they are excellent value for the money. The S30V steel works well in these designs, and I would love to get a 560 with the Elmax steel to see how that compares.

  5. gun papa says:

    I use my 0350 for both professional and personal use. It is my constant companion along with a Fenix pd22. I trust the strong construction of the knife. I like everything about it for a pocket knife. I do not find its weight to be noticeable as I often read as a complaint. I would buy again.

  6. RON says:

    I got a chance to play around with the
    0620 Tanto Folding Knife
    I think this is a very well made knife. Rugged and feels good in the hand. Was easy to open and cuts extremely well.

  7. Adam says:

    This is an absolute “Beast” of a knife. I bought it on a whim at a local gun shop years ago and couldn’t make a dent in it with EDC & hard camping use. My best friend went through 4 knives in this time period and his last was a Boker that had the liner lock give out. I asked him if he wanted mine and he jumped at the chance… The only problem now is that I’m out a ZT 0350 and the cost to replace it has gone up since the $80 I spent on it when nobody ever heard of ZT. Oh well.

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Knife Review: Zero Tolerance 0350

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