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Zero Tolerance 0100 and 0121 Review

Discussion in 'Knife Reviews & Testing' started by lava_lamp, Feb 23, 2013.

  1. lava_lamp


    Oct 5, 2006
    Zero Tolerance 0100 and 0121 Review - Part One



    I recently received a Zero Tolerance 0100 and ZT 0121 as part of a pass around here. Thomas W. and the fine folks at Zero Tolerance (ZT) made the knife available and Morrow organized the pass around. The MSRP on the ZT 0121 is $285 and the MSRP on the ZT 0100 is $360. The ZT 0121 is now discontinued, but at least one online site is still selling it for $228. The ZT 0100 is still available and sells online for about $265. Both knives come with sheaths.


    KAI Group is a Japanese company. KAI USA, Ltd. markets Shun Cutlery, Kershaw Knives, and Zero Tolerance Knives. Shun makes kitchen knives primarily made in Japan. Kershaw offers a wide variety of folding knives, many of which are made in the USA. Zero Tolerance knives are heavy-duty variations on Kershaw themes. All ZT knives have a military feel, usually with black-coated blades and earth tone handles. They are typically made with premium steel. I think all of them are made in the USA, as are the two pass around knives.

    Of all the knife makers and knife industry folks that contribute to BladeForums, Thomas W. of KAI USA is perhaps the greatest contributor. He is truly a friend of the forum and is generous with his time and insights. His passion for knives shows in his posts, and he is quick to offer his products for a pass around, or even the occasional giveaway.



    The first thing I thought as I took the knives out of the box was that the Zero Tolerance 01201 looks like a Strider and the Zero Tolerance 0100 looks like a Ken Onion. Sure enough, the folks at Strider did have a hand in the ZT 01201’s design. It has the blocky “Lego” handle, blade recurve, and deep choil found on most Strider fixed blades plus a slight curve to the handle distinctive to ZT's 300 series folders. While the ZT website doesn’t mention Ken Onion as the ZT 0100 designer, many of his design cues are present, such as a double recurve blade and curvy, tapering handle. The ZT 0100 looks to me like a reduced size Kershaw Outcast, or maybe a blown-up fixed blade Bump.


    Size & Weight

    In keeping with all the Zero Tolerance knives I’ve handled, the 0100 and 0121 are thick-bladed and heavy. Here is how they compare to some other popular fixed blades:



    The ZT 0100‘s blade is ground from American-made Crucible CPM 3V steel. The ZT 0121 uses Crucible CPM S30V. S30V is probably the most popular premium steel amongst knife makers, where it is often cited as having the best compromise of toughness, edge-holding, and corrosion resistance.

    Both pass-around blades were ground from .19” thick steel and have a black tungsten DLC coating. I’m not sure how much use the pass-around knives have seen, but the low-gloss matte coating shows little wear. I don’t see any peeling or bare metal showing through. There are some streaks and scuffs, but some of that may be from cut material adhering to the blade.

    The blade grind on the ZT 0121 is one of the best I’ve seen. It tapers from a very thick spine to a very thin edge in a hollow grind with a seatbelt cutter style hook right before the handle. The blade has a slight recurve reminiscent of Strider knives and a false edge up top. It is a much better slice than I expected and worked well cutting thin slices from a cucumber.

    The ZT 0100 is an even better slicer. The Ken Onion style double recurve provides lots of belly and cutting edge and made quick work of my cucumber slices. A blood groove runs along part of the blade, reducing weight and helping prevent things from sticking to the blade, like a Santoku. A narrow false edge runs across the top, producing an almost three dimensional spear point. One negative: the edge of the ZT 0100 showed some soiling or corrosion when it got to me.

    Both blades have a nice bevel and arrived sharp, though that may have more to do with the sharpening skills of my fellow pass-around participants than the factory edge. All the KAI knives I have owned, however, came factory sharp.


    Both knives are full tang. Both the ZT 0100 and ZT 0121 have G10 handles held in place by Allen bolts -- three on the ZT100 and two on the ZT 0121. The surface of both sets of handles is 3D machined in a ripple pattern distinctive to most of the Zero Tolerance line.

    The ZT 0100 handles are black with aggressively rounded contours and a pronounced hilt guard. There is a lanyard hole and moderate jimping at the butt end, as well as moderate jimping on the thumb ramp. In use, I found the handles ergonomic and comfortable for my size XL hands, though I would prefer the handle to be a little thicker in girth.

    The ZT 0121 handles are ranger green with relatively angular contours and chunky crenellated jimping. There is a lanyard hole and the flat butt end could be useful for hammering tent pegs, etc. In use, the ZT 0121‘s handles were a little smaller and less comfortable than the those on the ZT 0100.


    Continued in Part Two below...
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2013


    Nov 24, 2008
    good deal, i got the 0100 it is a handfull of knife built thick like a strider.
  3. lava_lamp


    Oct 5, 2006
    Zero Tolerance 0100 and 0121 Review - Part Two



    The ZT 0121 comes supplied with a nice hardshell Kydex sheath. It is molded well to the contours of the knife and holds the knife firmly, even without the rubber snap strap. Part of the sheath is molded in the same pattern as the handle scales, which is a nice touch. It is with MOLLE compatible with a very useful quick release clip from American Sportsmen's Products on the back: http://amspro.com/index.php?l=product_detail&p=198. Two negatives about the sheath: it can only be configured for vertical carry, and the rubber tie-down strap is cracked and likely to break. (More on the strap later.)

    I found the ZT 0100 sheath to be less impressive. It is a fairly generic black nylon with a plastic or Kydex insert. Kinda meh. It can go on a belt and there are MOLLE style straps on the rear. It comes with webbing for a drop-down style sheath.


    In Use

    Unless you are in the military or law enforcement, it may be tough to carry these knives and stay in compliance with local laws. I can't take them to the office, but I've used them in my home and they handled whatever kitchen or office help I needed, though they felt a little large and unwieldy at times.

    I finally got to use them outside and I was a little surprised by the results. The ZT 0121 sheath rides too high on the belt. The heavy knife handle flops around a bit and it's a little awkward to draw. It rides so high it digs into your torso when bending over -- unless you were it at the small of your back, which makes it awkward to draw. The rubber retention strap naturally falls across the insertion point of the sheath and I had to be careful not to slice it in two when putting the knife back. In fact, on closer inspection I noticed existing cuts on the strap presumably caused by this. I used the ZT 0121 to cut open mulch bags and it did it easily and cleanly, though thought the seatbelt tended to snag. I did some more lawn work trimming branches and weeds and such and the knife did just fine, though I would have liked more length. All in all, though, I wondered why I would carry a short, heavy fixed blade over a folder. The only real answer for me is that a fixed blade is more convenient to deploy and the ZT 0121 makes for a better pry bar than any folder.

    The "meh" looking sheath on the ZT 0100 actually performs pretty well in use. It hangs low and I forgot it was on my belt. It snaps positively into the plastic insert and the retention strap wasn't really needed. The extra length of the ZT 0100 is very handy for landscaping type work -- both in reach and leverage. I like the blade, but the tapered handle slipped some in my hand when using it like a machete on firewood. It could use a rear guard at the pommel for better grip when chopping. The contours and the surface were a bit uncomfortable to the point of blisters. Gloves made such a positive difference it almost seemed like the knife was designed for use with gloves.

    I ended up using the ZT 0100 quite a bit to take old palm fronds off some trees. It normally dulls a knife quickly, but the ZT edge held up much longer than I expected. I've done that task before and the ZT 0100 did the best job of anything I've used: sharper with better edge holding than a machete and more weight and leverage than a good folder.

    Who are these knives for?

    The ZT 0100 and 0121 are great knives. The quality is about what I have come to expect from KAI -- well made with top-notch fit and finish, backed by the best warranty in the industry. Like the Zero Tolerance 0300 series of folders, which compare well to the Strider SNG and SMF, I think the ZT 0121 is a great alternative if you want a Strider fixed blade at a lower price point, but with better customer service and better fit & finish.

    The ZT 0100 is harder for me to classify. At a street price of just under $300, it is a bit pricey. It's a nicer knife than mid-tier knives like the ESEE 5, ESEE 6, and Becker BK2, but those are just as heavy duty for half the price. When I compare the ZT 0100 to the Busse Kin offerings it comes up a little short. I think there may be better choices for the money. The bigger, thicker, better-finished Team Gemini Light Brigade, for example, is only about 20% more than the ZT 0100 (including the cost of a cheap sheath.)

    Whatever your choice, you probably need an outdoor job if you are going to carry one of the pass around knives. Neither knife is really suitable for pocket carry.


    My thanks again to Zero Tolerance, Thomas W., Morrow, and BladeForums for making the pass-around happen.
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2013
  4. jwolf90


    Oct 17, 2011
    Great in depth review Lava:thumbup:
  5. Morrow

    Morrow Don't make this weird Staff Member Super Mod

    Apr 11, 2007
    Your reviews are always top-notch. Thanks for taking the time to share your review.
  6. KLJTech


    Aug 26, 2005
    Nice review! I've had the ZT 0121 for a while now and really enjoy using it, in the sheath it rides a bit high on the waist so I started carrying mine inverted and this works perfectly for me. When using the blade it reminds me a bit of a stouter, fixed blade version of the Benchmade Skirmish...yet another knife that I love.

    Before I ordered the 0121 I was concerned that the handle may be too short for my somewhat larger hands but just like some of Strider's smaller fixed blades w/shorter handles you find that you still have great purchase of the knife. Plus, the shorter handle allows more flexibility of movement in your wrist since the handle doesn't protrude beyond your hand (if that makes any sense).

    Its a great knife and you did a very nice review.
  7. JayGoliath

    JayGoliath Gold Member Gold Member

    Mar 27, 2010
    Your review is very systematic and educational. I truly enjoyed every bit of it.
  8. lava_lamp


    Oct 5, 2006
    Added a little more on using the knives...
  9. lucastanzh


    May 3, 2013
    Are you selling it? I want to buy the ZT0100
  10. lucastanzh


    May 3, 2013
    Are you selling the ZT0100? How much?

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