Zero Tolerance 0393GLCF, by Pat Cascio

Some knife designs only last about a year on the market, or so I was told, by the owner of a large knife company.  So, whenever I see a “new” design, that really isn’t new at all, but an updated version, it catches my attention. It takes a lot – a big gamble – for a knife company to come out with the basic same design, it did years ago, but with some updates and improvements. So, it is with the Zero Tolerance 0393GLCF folder that I’ve been testing.

Zero Tolerance is a division of KAI Corporation, and they also own Kershaw Knives here in Oregon. The ZT lineup is made in the same factory as the Kershaw Knives are made. Except, they are made to a much higher standard, and use only the best materials available. ZT knives are hard-use knives, and they used to advertise them “For Professionals”, and I understand that. ZT is talking about military, law enforcement, and other first responders, who will put these knives to some hard use on a daily basis. So these knives have to have the best materials possible – you don’t want them to fail in an emergency, or in a life or death situation. In another life, I worked as a police officer as well as a paramedic, and on more than one occasion, I had to cut a victim out of a jammed seat belt – and you need a good knife to do that.

These days, Zero Tolerance also manufactures some Gentleman’s Folders, however, they are still up to the hard-core use as their other folders are – only the best materials are used, and some of the best designs as well. Many ZT knives are a result of a collaboration between custom knife makers/designers and ZT. So, you are getting a factory-made knife that is every bit as well-made as the custom version, at a fraction of the cost of the custom knife. Plus, you don’t have to wait months and months — or sometimes years, to get a “custom” folder, from the factory. ZT tries to keep all their designs in-stock, whenever possible. Sure, there’ve been times when they were sold out – and they don’t drop everything they are doing to make a knife ASAP – it is in the line, and will be made faster than you think. And, if you can’t find that knife at the ZT web site, then do a web search, and odds are you can find it in-stock someplace else – and usually for less money than retail.

The original ZT 0393 was a hit when it was first introduced some years ago, and now ZT is offering an updated and improved – if that is possible? – version, that they are calling the ZT0393GLCF. This knife was designed by custom knifemaker Rick Hinderer, and if you aren’t familiar with him, then do some research, he developed the “Hinderer Device” and this aids in keeping a folder locked-up even more than usual – a simply thing, but it works.

The 0393GLCF has what Zero Tolerance calls a “working” finish, in that it has a more subdued look to it, and the carbon fiber overlays on the handles of the knife have a glow-in-the-dark feature to them – expose this to a bright light source, and they handle scales glow. Neat and spooky at the same time. I like it! Hinderer calls this blade design a “spanto” – it is a modified tanto blade – and that’s what I would call it – just a modified tanto-style blade. And, if you know anything about a tanto blade, it can pierce – really pierce compared to many other blade designs. I also like the reversible pocket clip – so you can move it from one side to the other, depending on which front pocket you carry the knife in. And, you can shop around at the Hinderer website and find other “hardware” that you can attach on the 0393GLCF folder.

Of course, like all ZT knives, this one is made in the USA – and I still believe that we can build just about anything better than can be built is some other countries. The blade material is CPM 20CV steel and it really holds an edge a long, long time. And more importantly, it doesn’t chip, like some other stainless steel blades do, when used vigorously. The Rockwell, hardness is up there a bit – 60-62, so it will hold that edge a long time, and it takes a little bit of effort to re-sharpen that blade, but I rarely let my knife blades get too dull to start with. The blade is 3.5 inches long and that’s about perfect for many uses. I personally like a folder with a blade 3.5-inches to 4-inches long and that sweet spot is right at 3.75-inches.

The handle material is made out of super-tough and expensive Titanium, with carbon fiber overlays that are eye-catching, to say the least. The carbon fiber has a black/silver color to it, and when it glows, it is green. Overall length of the folder is 8.25-inches when opened and it only weighs in at 5-ounces, so it is easy to carry in your pocket all day long.

Needless to say, but I will, this folder, like all knives I’ve received for testing from ZT came scary sharp right out of the box – something I can’t say, for some custom made knives – that took a good long time to get a working edge on them. I’ve watched the masters are Kershaw/ZT apply their skills at the bench grinder/buffing wheels, put an edge on those knives before they are boxed up for shipment. And, I’m here to tell you, I couldn’t do what they do, if I had a week to do it – and these folks put this edge on knives in about a minute or two – by eye – no jigs are used – it is more than a little impressive to watch, and all edges are tested on newsprint – and it takes a great, super-sharp edge to cut newspaper without any effort.

My Tests

I set about to run the 0393GLCF through my usual tests I perform on knives, and I don’t have any secret formula to testing a blade. I put a knife to some tests that will give me an idea as to how sharp the blade is, as well as how it will perform in many tasks. I believe I have a workable formula for testing knives, without actually abusing them – any knife can be broken under the right circumstance, so I don’t test knives to the point of destruction – it doesn’t make any sense. I will say though, that ZT knives are made of some tough materials, so they are up to truly hard-use tasks.

Cutting polymer rope is more of a challenge than you think it is – if a blade isn’t sharp, it will simply slip right off this slick material – the ZT had no problems cutting this material. Cutting thick blackberry vines is a challenge for any knife – and the ZT, once again, was able to cleanly slice right through the thickest vines, with one swipe of the blade. Stabbing into stacked cardboard – I could go up to the handle of the folder without any problems. I even used an old pot roast that had freezer burn on it – to see how well the folder stabbed into meat, as well as slicing it – as in a self-defense move – and it cut deeply, very deeply into the roast – several inches – so it would leave a nasty wound in any attacker.

Of course, we have daily boxes that arrive that need cut open. That means cutting through the cardboard as well as some various types of tape, and the ZT pretended like it was warm butter – cut those boxes up with ease. I also used the folder at the kitchen table, and as a “steak” knife, not that we eat steak very often, but it cut through the cooked meat with zero problems at all.

I showed the 0393GLCF folder around to the folks at the local gun shop, as well as some of their customers – everyone loved the look and feel of the knife to a person. And, when I exposed the handle scales to a bright light and then turned off some lights, they were surprised at the way the handle material glowed.

One nice feature is that this folder can be opened using the thumb stud, or the flipper on the blade. I find the flipper worked easier and faster than the thumb stud did – it didn’t take any effort or thought to press down on the flipper and the blade opened and locked in place without any effort, and one side of the handle is the actual “lock” – it moves into place, behind the blade and locks it open solidly, and it easy almost as easy to unlock the blade, but does take a little bit of effort because the blade is locked-open solidly.

This ZT model retails for $260 and granted that is a lot of your hard-earned money. But believe me, it is well worth the price. Shop around the ‘net, and you can probably find it for a little bit less than retail. If you’re in the market for a new folder, one that will do service as an Every Day Carry Folder, or one that can be used for last-ditch self-defense, that has a little bit “more” more to it than many other folders, then this one might be just what you’re looking for – it would also work as a great folder for dressing out big game, as well. Check one out.


  1. I do not have one, but I like it. I am an avid collector and have just under 90 high quality knives.

    ZT makes very good knives, the 20CV is excellent steel and the spanto blade shape is very interesting. I never bought one because I was going to buy a Hinderer XM-18 with a spanto blade, but never got around to it and now there are other knives that I’d rather have.

    Make no mistake though, this is a very good knife!

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