Not bragging, not in the least, but when I was in high school and beyond, everyone used to say I was the coolest guy they knew. Just about everyone who signed my high school year book said I was “cool”. Go figure? I guess that puts me in the same camp with “Fonzie” from the TV show “Happy Days”. Fonzie, from the show, and I had a couple of things in common, and one of the major things was that we both hated admitting we were wr…….., er, um, wro…..ohhhh, wron…..ok, ok, we hated admitting when we were wrong!! I guess that’s why we were always careful, so as to not make mistakes, so we wouldn’t have to admit we were wrong. I thought I was wrong, once, but I was mistaken!
I have a keen eye when it comes to knife designs, and several major knife companies have caught on to this and asked me to keep my eye peeled for a new knife design that they might be interested in producing in collaboration with custom knife makers. Many of the knife designs I’ve turned some big knife companies on to have been now factory produced. I guess it comes from testing and reviewing knives for a lot of years. I was the West Coast Field Editor for Knives Illustrated magazine for quite a few years, and prior to that I was just a writer for them. I believe its safe to say that, I’ve probably tested thousands of knives over the years, so I have a good handle on what constitutes a good knife design.
When I got the press release for the new Zero Tolerance 0630 folder, I was kind of “ho-hum” about it for some reason. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but there wasn’t a “wow” factor there to my way of thinking. I was determined that I didn’t like the blade design for starters, and well there was just something there that didn’t rattle my cage. However, I ordered the 0630 for testing just the same.
First of all, all Zero Tolerance knives are made in the USA, right at the Kershaw Knives plant. Many don’t realize that ZT is a division of Kershaw Knives. However, ZT knives are designed and meant for hard use, as in military and law enforcement work. ZT knives aren’t your everyday Gent’s folder, far from it. I guess one thing that drew me to the 0630 is the fact that it is designed by Ernest Emerson, who is like the father of tactical folders. In the past, probably 20 years ago, I tested quite a few of Emerson’s folders for Knives Illustrated magazine, and Ernie and I spent many hours on the phone talking about his knives. Needless to say, we are both martial artists, so there was plenty of talk about that, too. Emerson used to make his knives one at a time, and they were always in demand. He couldn’t keep up with demand, so some years ago Emerson started his own knife company, which is turning out some fantastic “factory” folders. However, as is the case, Ernie still couldn’t keep up with demand. So, he searched around for a big knife company to work in collaboration with him to produce some of his knife designs to his strict guidelines and to his quality. Zero Tolerance was that company. Kershaw Knives is also producing many of Emerson’s designs, however, they are light-use folders. If you want hard use folders, you need to pick up the ZT designs by Emerson.
The 0630 is manufactured out of S35VN– a super tough and chip-resistant stainless steel– that allows ZT to bring this blade to hair-popping sharp, and it’s also easy to re-sharpen, which is something that matters to me. One thing you will notice is the Emerson patented “wave” feature. It kind of looks like an ocean wave on the back, top of the blade. This little device allows you to open the knife faster than any automatic folder; as soon as you have pulled the knife out of your pocket, the blade is open. (I have more on this later.) The front handle scale is textured and groove black G10 material that is almost bullet proof. The rear handle scale is made out of titanium, which is very expensive stuff to be sure. The titanium scale is also the frame lock. We are talking a very thick frame lock, not some skinny little frame lock that can bend and give way, causing the blade to close when you don’t want it to. There is also some added protection in the form or a hardened steel lockbar insert to ensure a tight lock-up when the blade is opened.
We have a reversible pocket clip, for right- or left-handed uses, which is nice! The knife is carried in the pocket, tip up, too! The titanium rear handle scale is stone washed for a subdued look, while the blade itself has a stone washed look too. You will also find an ambi thumb disk on the blade, so you can open the blade in that manner, if you don’t use the wave feature. The blade is 3.6 inches long, and the knife weights in at 6.3 oz, so we have some heft to this knife. It’s made for hard use. Remember that.
On the top of the wave feature, we find some friction grooves, and down the top of the handle we have more of the same for a sure grip when using the knife in the fencing grip. On the bottom rear of the handle we have more friction grooves, which also aid in securing this folder in your hand.
As to the blade shape itself, it is upswept, and I think that’s one of the things that wasn’t very eye appealing to my mind. Why? I have no idea! However, when you stop and think about this upswept blade design, it is outstanding for slicing cuts in self-defense use. I shouldn’t have tried to out-think Emerson on this feature of the blade; the man knows his stuff. ZT also uses a massive pivot pin on the blade. We are talking super-strong, so that there are no worries about this blade’s pivot pin breaking.
The 0630 came super-sharp right out of the box, as to be expected from ZT. I did test the knife around the kitchen just a bit. However, it was not designed for kitchen work. Still it sliced veggies and steaks extremely well. One test I do to test a knife’s sharpness is to see how easily it will cut through the wicked blackberry vines that are all over Oregon and my property. Many knives will simply bend these vines. It takes a sharp, real sharp, knife to cut these vines with one slice! The 0630 had no problems cutting these vines.
Poly rope is a really tough material to cut, even with serrated blades, and the 0630 is NOT serrated. Many knives simply slide right off poly rope, but the 0603 easily cut right through this material. I placed some old clothing over some stacked cardboard and proceeded to attack it with slicing motions. The knife easily cut right through the clothing and deeply into the stacked cardboard, and I mean deeply! If this had been an arm or a leg, it would have cut right down to the bone, I have no doubts!
Now, as to the wave feature, the thing is so simple to operate, yet some people make more out of it. Plus, Emerson’s brain was really working overtime when he thought of this way of opening a folding knife. What the wave does is catch on the top/rear edge of your pocket, as you are drawing the knife out of your pocket, and when the knife is fully out of your pocket the blade is open. It takes about five minutes of practice to master this opening technique. Just don’t make more out of it than it is. As you start to draw the knife out of your front pants pocket, apply pressure to the rear, and draw the knife upwards; the blade springs open, just that simply. No other folders are as fast to open. The wave catches on the pocket, pulling the blade open. An automatic knife requires that you draw the knife, search for the button, and then press it to open the blade. The wave feature is almost automatic itself. It just takes a little practice to master this technique. The wave featured is patented too!
Okay, so I admit it. I was wrong when I looked at the press release and pictures of the knife. I like it, a lot! One has to remember that, first and foremost, a knife is a tool, and it has many uses as a tool. I look at many pocket knives and their design and materials to see if the knife is meant as an everyday carry folder, a Gent’s folder, or a hard use folder. Having spent so many years in the martial arts, I look at a knife as a weapon of self defense, too, since many areas simply don’t allow the carry of firearms, concealed or open carried, and many folks carry a folding knife for self defense. The ZT 0630 shines in this respect. It will get the job done on the mean streets of Big City USA or on the battlefields overseas, if it came down to hand-to-hand combat. The knife is robust, extremely well made, and only the finest materials are used to produce this folder. Add in the fact that Ernest Emerson designed this folder and it’s a no-brainer in my book. Full retail is only $250, which is quite a bargain for so much knife! Get one!
– Senior Product Review Editor, Pat Cascio