One to Watch–Zero Tolerance ZT0456

   02.23.16

One to Watch–Zero Tolerance ZT0456

This “One to Watch” is a bit different. I got hands-on time with the production prototypes, but I don’t feel right in saying that this is a review because I only had a limited time. Plus, given its status as production prototypes, I didn’t thrash on the ZT0456. I did carry it and use it, but not to the degree I do when doing a review.

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The ZT0456 was first shown at SHOT Show 2016. About two weeks later, thanks to the kind folks at KAI USA, I had that knife, the production prototype, in my hands. The knife itself is a Dmitri Sinkevich design.

If that name sounds familiar, it shoul; Sinkevich was the designer of the ZT0454, a Blade Show Overall winner in 2013. That knife is something of a high water mark for what is possible in production knives. Not only did it have a three part composite blade, but the knife also had flipping action that was, frankly, better than even great customs. The tolerances were so dialed in that the flipping action was akin to a missile launch more than a knife deployment (credit to Dan Policastro of Blade Reviews for first describing the 454 as a missile launcher).

That design spawned two others: a more everyday user version called the ZT0452 and a small EDC knife, the ZT0450. Sinkevich is part of a wave of Russian knife designers, folks like the Shirogorovs and others, who are bringing unique looks to the knife world.

The ZT0456 is a compact but very beefy knife. Though the blade is just over 3 inches long (3.25 inches), the knife is more than 6.5 ounces. This is in part due to its heft and in part due to its backspacer. The handle scales and the blade itself are positively massive slabs. The handles are massive not only to complement the blade, but also to allow for some very nice machining. The handle is faceted, which give the ZT0456 a great in-hand feel. This is a knife that fills the palm nicely.

The blade is a very hardy piece of CTS-204p, which is Carpenter Steel’s answer to M390 or 20CV. It is a very well-rounded performer with great edge retention, high toughness, and very good corrosion resistance. The steel, found on one other ZT this year, is one of my very favorites on the market. It’s pricey, but, if you are steel junkie, you know that is par for the course.

The knife is not just a well-made beast, but it looks good, too. ZT brought a pop of color to the ZT0456 by using three blue pieces: the pocket clip, the backspacer, and the pivot. All three gleam on this otherwise gray blade and balance out the appearance quite nicely. The color scheme coupled with the faceted, angular look, is really eye catching. This might be the nicest looking blade to debut in 2016. We have a ways to go, but this is one fine looking knife.

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All of this, of course, is secondary to the blade itself. Echoing the handle, the blade is an angular, multifaceted affair. The blade shape is something like a reverse tanto, with a point that is closer to the middle line than usual and a continuously curving main cutting edge. The overall shape is one that gives you lots of room to slice while at the same time creating a very sturdy point. In the cutting I did, I was impressed with how the blade handled material. Breaking down cardboard boxes for the accursed recycling bin was easy.

The grind, left a nice grinder satin (and contrasting with the stonewashed flats), is a very high flat grind. It’s a good thing it is because on a blade this thick, you need a lot of real estate to get down to a fine cutting edge. I wouldn’t call the ZT0456 a slicer by any means, but I was surprised at how it did with true slicing tasks like food prep. The blade is a very tall, and given where the grind starts, I think that’s how ZT pulled off the trick of making a beefy blade a decent cutter.

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The knife is big and thick and heavy. I would not call this a great carry knife, but in jeans or similarly thick material, you can get away with it. I did get a bit of pendulum effect because of the density of the knife (it has a solid backspacer in addition to all of the slabs of metal), but with the clip in use it was okay. You’ll never mistake this for a Dragonfly in the pocket, but it was not too offensive. It’s basically the ZT0801 in the pocket.

There were a few points to note. First, the blade did not remain centered over time. I have never had this happen in a production ZT, so I think it is fair to say that this is one of the results of being a production prototype and not a full fledged production blade. A bit of Loctite would clearly fix the problem.

The other interesting point is one that has cropped up on ZT blades and folks around the knife world have noticed. Like with my ZT0450, the ZT0456 has difficulty deploying when you put your hand on the lock bar. I am not talking about squeezing the lock bar, just putting your fingers on it while holding the knife to flip it open is enough to gum up the works. On a knife as thin as the ZT0450, this is a real problem. There just isn’t a whole lot of spare room for your fingers to go, but on the ZT0456 I only had to adjust my grip slightly to get the knife to fire open. It wasn’t the surface to air missile that the ZT0454 was, but it was very, very close. And ZT told me they were still dialing in the detent, so it might be just as good by the time the knife is in full production.

Overall, the ZT0456 is a treat–a big, thick knife that does lots of tougher work well and still retains the appearance and feel of a premium blade. Sinkevich is clearly one of the better designers out there right now, and ZT is at the absolute pinnacle of the production world as of 2016. This isn’t a replacement for your Dragonfly, but it looks like it will be a great knife nonetheless.


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