Zero Tolerance 0393GLCF – Review by Pat Cascio

Some knife models have only been on the market for a year, the owner of a large knife company told me. So when I see a “new” design that is not really new, but an updated version, it catches my attention. It’s a lot to ask – a big gamble – for a knife maker to release the same basic design as years ago, but with some updates and improvements. So I tested it with the Zero Tolerance 0393GLCF file.

Zero Tolerance is a division of KAI Corporation, and they also own the Kershaw knives here in Oregon. The ZT line is made in the same factory as the Kershaw knives. Except they are manufactured to a much higher standard and only the best materials are used. ZT knives are high end knives and they have been used to advertise “For Professionals” and I understand that. ZT is talking about military, law enforcement and other first responders who will use these knives in tough, everyday circumstances. So these knives need to be made of the best materials – you don’t want them to break down in an emergency or life and death situation. In another life, I have worked as a police officer and as an ambulance driver, and more than once I have had to cut a victim out of a stuck seat belt – and you need a good knife for that.

Today, Zero Tolerance also makes Gentleman’s Folders, but they are still as strong as other folders – only the best materials are used, as well as some of the best designs. Many ZT knives are the result of collaboration between cutters and designers and ZT. The result is a factory-made knife, both custom and bespoke, for a fraction of the cost of a custom-made knife. In addition, you don’t have to wait months or even years to get a “custom” file from the factory. ZT tries to keep all drawings in stock as much as possible. Of course, there have been times when they have sold out – and they don’t drop everything to make a knife as fast as possible – it is in the queue and will be made faster than you think. And if you don’t find that knife on the ZT website, search the web and chances are you’ll find it in stock somewhere else – and usually for less than the retail price.

The original ZT 0393 was a huge success when it debuted a few years ago, and now ZT is offering an updated and improved version – if that’s possible? – which they are calling the ZT0393GLCF version. This knife was designed by carver Rick Hinderer, and if you don’t know him, do a little research. He created the “break-in device” and it locks the file even more than usual – a simple thing, but it works.

The 0393GLCF has what Zero Tolerance calls a “working” finish, which means it has a more discreet appearance, and the carbon fiber coatings on the knife handles have a phosphorescent feature – they are exposed to a bright light source, and they have phosphorescent scales in the handle. That means they’re clean and scary. I love it. Hinderer calls this style of blade “spanto” – and that’s what I would call it – just a modified tanto style blade. And, if you know a little about tanto blades, they can pierce – really pierce compared to many other blade shapes. 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. You can also find other “material” to attach on the Hinderer website in folder 0393GLCF. Of course, this knife, like all ZT knives, is made in the United States – and I still believe we can build everything better than in other countries. The material of the knife is 20HP CPM steel, and it really holds its cut for a very, very long time. And most importantly, it doesn’t shrink with heavy use, as some other stainless steel knives do. Rockwell, the hardness up there is a little bit – 60-62, so it will hold for a long time, and it takes a little bit of effort to resharpen this knife, but I rarely let my knives get too blunt to begin with. The 3.5-inch blade is perfect for many applications. Personally, I like a folder with a 3.5 to 4 inch blade, and the ideal point is at 3.75 inches.

The handle material is heavy and expensive titanium, with eye-catching carbon fiber coatings to say the least. The carbon fiber has a black/silver color and shines green. The overall length of the backrest is 8.25 inches when unfolded, and it weighs only 5, so you can easily carry it in your pocket throughout the day. Needless to say, this file, like all the other knives I received from ZT for testing, was incredibly sharp right out of the box – which I can’t say about some custom knives – it took a long time to get a functional edge. I saw craftsmen from Kershaw/ZT put their skills to work on the bench grinder and the striking wheels, polishing these knives before they were packed into the box for shipment. And I’m here to tell you that I wouldn’t be able to do what they do if I had a week to do it – and these people put that edge on the blades in about a minute or two – with the naked eye – no molds are used – it’s more than a little impressive, and all the edges are tested on newsprint – and it takes a big super-sharp edge to cut newsprint without any effort.

My tests

I began to subject the 0393GLCF to my usual tests on the knife, and I have no secret formula for testing the knife. I tested the knife to give me an idea of the sharpness of the blade and its performance in many tasks. I think I have a handy formula for testing knives without abusing them – any knife can break under the right conditions, so I don’t test knives for breakage – it doesn’t make sense. But I must say that ZT knives are made of hard materials, so they are suitable for really difficult tasks.

Cutting polymer dew is harder than you think – if the blade is not sharp, it just slides off the smooth material – the ZT had no problems cutting this material. Cutting through thick brambles is a challenge for any knife, and the ZT was once again able to cleanly cut through the thickest vines with a single movement of the blade. Knives in the stacked box. I reached the handle on the back of the box with no problem. I even used an old roast in the pan on which the freezer was burning – to see if the back handle would cut into the meat, and I opened it – as if in self-defense – and cut deep, very deep into the roast – several inches – so that it would leave a nasty wound on any intruder.

Of course, boxes come in every day that need to be cut. This means cutting cardboard as well as various types of tape, and ZT has managed to cut these boxes with ease. I have also used the file on the kitchen table, and as a “steak” knife, not that we eat steak very often, but it cuts cooked meat without any problem. I showed file 0393GLCF to the guys at the local gun store and to some of their customers – all thought the guy with the knife looked and felt good. And when I exposed the scales on the handle to a bright light and then turned off some lights, they were amazed at how shiny the material of the handle was.

An interesting feature is that this back handle can be opened with a thumb or an eraser on the blade. I found that the flipper worked easier and faster than the thumb button – it took no effort or thinking to press the flipper and the blade opened and locked effortlessly, and on one side of the handle there is a real “lock” – it goes behind the blade and locks it in the open position and it is almost as easy to unlock the blade, but it takes little effort because the blade is locked in the open position.

This ZT model costs $260, and that’s a lot of your hard-earned money. But believe me, it’s worth it. If you store online, you will probably find that it is slightly cheaper than in the store. If you’re looking for a new file, one that will serve as an everyday file or one that can be used for self-defense and will be a little more than a lot of others, then this might be the file you’re looking for – it will also work as a great game-changing file. Check it out.