Review of the Zero Tolerance 0561
Last month I posted my review on my first Zero Tolerance knife – the ZT 0550. I like the knife quite a bit, despite having some problems with it initially. The ZT 0550 was attractive to me primarily due to being designed by Rick Hinderer, but it’s not the only Rick Hinderer collaboration with Zero Tolerance. Earlier this year, ZT released the 0560 and 0561 – I was recently able to secure and example of the ZT 0561:
Here are the basic specifications of the knife from the KAI USA (parent company to both Zero Tolerance and Kershaw) website:
Steel: ELMAX®, stonewashed finish
Handle: 3-D machined G-10 front scale, 3-D machined titanium back handle, stonewashed finish
Blade Length: 3.75 in. (9.5 cm)
Closed Length: 5 in. (12.7 cm)
Overall Length: 8.8 in. (22.4 cm)
Weight: 5.8 oz.
Like the ZT 055x series before it, the ZT 056x series (0560 and 0561 are identical with the exception of the Dark Earth (brown) G10 scale color found on the 0561) is a collaboration with celebrated knife designer Rick Hinderer. Size wise, the ZT 056x seems most closely analogous to the Hinderer XM-24, however Zero Tolerance claims it’s based on the smaller XM-18. Here’s a couple of comparison photos of the ZT 0561 with my Hinderer XM-24 – they’re quite close in size, but the blade on the ZT 0561 is just a bit shorter than that of the XM-24:
The ZT 0561 also exhibits some nifty 3D machining of the titanium backside of the knife. Not only is this visually appealing and “different ” but it also provides some added grip to the knife and should make it easier to hang on to under hard use.
The 3D machining isn’t at all sharp – it’s more like a golf ball texture so it’s comfortable to hold on to and be less apt to show minor scratches (which are already starting to show on the backside of my ZT 0550). In the above photo, you’ll also notice the deep-carry pocket clip of the ZT 0561. It’s an improvement over the ZT 0550’s pocket clip. You can barely see any of the top of the knife sticking out of your pocket thanks to its design – well done. Being a Hinderer designed knife, the ZT 0561 also features the famous Hinderer lock bar stabilizer.
The ZT 0561 is impressively light for its size – something you notice immediately when you hold the knife. It feels noticeably lighter than the XM-24, but likewise, not nearly as robust as the XM-24 either. But if you like to carry a somewhat larger knife (as I like to do on the weekends) you’ll definitely like the weight of the ZT 0561.
Compared to the previous Zero Tolerance/Hinderer collaboration model (the ZT 0550), the 0561 seems more “Hinderer like” if for no other reasons than the G10 texture pattern, and the fact that the 0561 offers flipper style blade deployment:
The ZT0550 feels just a bit more robust and “tank like” in hand than the 0561, though they weigh about the same despite their considerable size difference. Whether you’d see any actual difference between the two under hard use is unknown to me, but the feeling I get while holding them is that the the ZT 0550 is the more robust knife – the ZT0561 perhaps sacrifices a bit in this department in order to attain a lighter weight. It’s just a feeling mind you…an impression with no hard data to support it. For all I know, if test the ZT 0561 might perform better in this regard than the ZT 0550.
One area in which the ZT 0561 may be superior to not only the ZT 0550 but also the Hinderer XM-24 is the blade steel. ZT chose the German made Elmax steel for the ZT 0561, and this is my first experience with it. It seems every week manufacturers are introducing a new “super steel” which offers greater hardness, edge taking, edge retention, etc. than ever before. Under normal use for most consumers, will there be a noticeable difference between how Elmax performs vs. S35VN (used in both the XM-24 and the ZT 0550)? Probably not. But, much like how car consumers want ever faster performing cars despite a 70MPH highway speed limit, knife consumers want the theoretical best steel possible regardless of if they can actually observe or take advantage of such subtle differences. On paper, Elmax seems to be a better steel than S35VN as it’s harder and should therefore hold an edge better. I don’t have enough personal experience with either steel at this point to comment. As always, keep in mind that how a blade is heat treated makes a substantial difference in how it performs – the type of steel used doesn’t tell the whole story.
THE DETENT ISSUE
As I reported in my review of the ZT 0550, Zero Tolerance purposely designed a rather strong detent into the knife – excessively strong in my opinion, but your mileage may vary. Unfortunately, this same design philosophy carried into the ZT 0561. In fact it’s worse. Using the flipper method of deploying the knife, the detent resistance isn’t as big of a problem, thanks to the mechanical advantage provided by the flipper. But I’ve yet to be able to get the blade to deploy using the blade stops/thumb studs – I flat out can’t do it. Once you do muscle past the detent however the blade flies open cleanly and smoothly thanks to the KVT bearings built into the pivot. However, my knife also exhibits a very audible and annoying squeak when opening and closing – my best guess is it’s caused by the detent ball dragging along the axis point, and not the KVT bearings.
Having a statistically insignificant sample size of one, I did some research into what the knife enthusiast community was experiencing with the ZT 056x line of knives. The first information I found was on Blade Forums in the Kershaw/Zero Tolerance Forum. Head of Marketing and Forum Moderator Thomas W made a statement regarding the detent on the ZT 056x knives. I quote from that statement:
suppose I need to explain the detent portion of the 0560, and our reasoning behind the set up. After some internal conversation yesterday, we feel we’ve brought forth confusion with this knife. By utilizing the studs as the blade stop, we’re enticing folks to use the studs as a way of opening the knife. The set up (heavy detent) can make the studs difficult if not impossible (for some) to deploy the blade. Inexperience hands will additionally perplex the situation. In retrospect, we should have left the studs off, done up an internal stop pin, and made the 0560 a no doubt flipper…our bad on that one. For those of you that can utilize both the flipper and the studs effectively…we’re happy you’ve found that balance. From a production build perspective it is near impossible for us to repeatedly dial in a 0560 that balances a perfect detent set up to accommodate for both flipping and thumb stud deployment.
I also found a thread where other owners talked about the squeaky sound the ZT 056x makes when opening and closing. The consensus seemed to be that the sound would eventually go away on its own.
One thing which bugged me about the detent in both the ZT 055x and the ZT 056x lines is the fact that the detent seemed to be very inconsistent – some users report very light/perfect detent, while others report a very heavy/obtrusive detent. Apparently this is a known issue within Zero Tolerance – I’ll point you to post #50 from the fore mentioned Thomas W in this thread:
I’ll add that each 056X will have variances with their detent set up. Some lighter than others.
Thomas’s response here doesn’t make any sense to me. Detent is created with a tiny detent ball built into the blade, and a matching hole built into the frame. The strength of resistance in the detent is a factor of (among a few factors) the size of the ball and the depth of the hole. If both are consistent, it stands to reason that there should be little variation in the detent found between different examples of the ZT 056x knives from the manufacturer. Yet, there’s significant variation which can be found, as evidenced by both Thomas W above, and this testimonial from CrimsonTideShooter in the same thread:
My local shop has gotten over 30 of these knives in so far, and I’ve handled nearly every one. The detent ranges from almost non existent, to almost to hard to even deploy the blade, and that’s coming from a flipper lover…..The detent varies pretty wildly on these knives. I own 5 of them, and all 5 are unique when it comes to detent pressure. I don’t mind it at all, but I can definitely see how some people think the detent is too strong (if they got one with an extremely heavy detent).
It makes absolutely no sense to me. Kershaw/Zero Tolerance is one of the larger production quality knife manufacturers in the world. The Zero Tolerance line is their “Cadillac” line. It stands to reason that they have the manufacturing acumen and capability to do high volume, high precision manufacturing. Yet, they cannot achieve a consistent detent in their knives.
It has been strongly suggested (and that’s putting it mildly) by Thomas W that I send my knives back to Zero Tolerance if I’m not completely satisfied so that they can address my concerns and that’s exactly what I plan to do. I’ll report back once I receive them back. I do hope they can make both my ZT 0550 and my ZT 0561 more usable. In terms of the ZT 0561, I think there’s a lot to like and depending on whether you get one with an overly strong detent, it’s a great knife.
John B. Holbrook, II
John B. Holbrook, II is a freelance writer, photographer, and author of ThruMyLens.org, as well as LuxuryTyme.com and TheSeamasterReferencePage.com. *All text and images contained in this web site are the original work of the author, John B. Holbrook, II and are copyright protected. Use of any of the information or images without the permission of the author is prohibited.