ZT Hinderer Knife

Zero Tolerance Hinderer | Tactical Knife Review

Tank-tough custom knife design by Rick Hinderer for the professional adventurer and warfighter!

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The deep pocket carry-clip is a welcome addition to the ZT Hinderer and helps maintain a low profile.

Zero Tolerance, the high-end tactical division of Kai USA, has hit one homerun after another with a flurry of folding and fixed-blade designs geared specifically for the warfighter. Using famed industry designers like Ken Onion, Strider and now Rick Hinderer, ZT is at the tip of the spear for small-production but near handmade quality tactical bladeware.

Having known custom maker and designer Rick Hinderer for many years, and wrote the first feature about his knives in TK. I was always impressed by Rick’s grasp of knifemaking technology and how to merge that into his highly technical but practical handmade knives. Rick’s direct experiences in rescue and firefighting have given him a practical edge over his competitors. He knows the design elements that a hard-use knife requires to be useful in the field.

The 0560 was announced at the 2011 Blade Show with much fanfare and the award for “Best Collaboration of 2011.” The 0560 is based of the XM-18, a custom combat folder that has quickly become Rick’s “signature” knife. The XM-18 is one of those pieces of tactical bladeware that are always seemingly unavailable at practically any price. The winning combination of a smooth, flipper actuated rugged framelock has been well received by end-users all across the globe.

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The lock bar stabilizer prevents the frame lock from being overextended when opened.

I had practically given up on trying to find an XM-18, and since Rick is several years behind on orders, I was thrilled to get a sample of the production ZT 0560 knife, which has a nearly identical shape but a few innovations of its own.

Innovative Knife Art

Zero Tolerance has had a pretty simple mantra since Thomas Welk, sales manager of KAI USA/Kershaw, envisioned the brand to develop hard use tactical knives designed by the best custom makers of the genre, built in the USA of the latest materials and using the best cutlery technology. That is exactly what ZT has done. From tip to stern, the 0560 exhibits some pretty radical materials and engineering that takes limited production knife performance to a very high level.

This is not Hinderer’s first rodeo with Zero Tolerance—Rick also designed the 550, a workhorse folder that bears a resemblance to the 0560, but has a more utilitarian flavor and feel. The 3.75-inch long blade of the 0560 is a brawny slice of 0.156-inch thick, laser cut ELMAX powdered stainless steel, and saber ground to a practical dropped profile. This useful blade profile has a reinforced tip, thick center spine for rigidity, and an overall edge contour that should prove easy to re-sharpen in the field.

ELMAX is very impressive steel for a hard-use knife. Basically, in my testing and the testing of others, it is stainless steel that behaves like the high-carbon tool steels but without the rust. This means it gets sharp, stays sharp, and can be easily resharpened. And it is brutally tough-without the potential for much corrosion. It is quite possibly optimum steel for a heavyweight tactical folder. A product of Bohler-Uddeholm, the European steel conglomerate, ELMAX was originally developed for the manufacturing of high-end injection molds in the precision plastics industry where corrosion and wear to a high-speed mold can cause thousands of dollars in damages to a manufacturer processing parts. Many modern plastics are using fillers and stabilizers to dramatically increase their toughness and these additives are highly abrasive and often corrosive-this is where ELMAX shines. A third-generation powdered metal, ELMAX is also a high Vanadium steel with 3% added to the alloy blend. ZT is so enamored with the performance of ELMAX they plan on using more of it in the future. A close friend of mine who makes a living forging carbon steel says ELMAX is among toughest blade steel he has used-surpassing most carbon tool steels in his testing. At RC 58-60 it is nearly unbreakable in normal use. The smooth tumbled blade finish is non-reflective, easy to clean, and resists speckling. The edge is thin and polished to a hair-shaving sharpness. Slicing challenging items like newsprint or nylon rope is no problem.

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A massive frame lock bar holds the blade open under any and all field conditions.

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