Zero Tolerance has been Kershaw’s premium label since the early 2000s. Initially, the brand made crazy, hard-use folders that were right on trend. Then, for the last decade or so, it has been fighting a losing battle against premium overseas brands like Reate and WE Knives.
After releasing one or two knives a year that never seemed to make a splash, and retreading old designs, Zero Tolerance finally released a knife in tune with the market. And boy, is it a stunner!
The ZT0545 is a thin, slicey, modest-size knife that works incredibly well as an EDC. Its launch was quiet — off cycle from the normal SHOT/BLADE announcement schedule. But don’t sleep on the ZT0545 — let me tell you why.
In short: The ZT0545 stands as one of the best folders on the market, circa 2023, and the best EDC knife Zero Tolerance has ever made.
- Steel MagnaCut
- Grind High flat grind
- Lock Frame lock
- Blade length 3.2"
- OAL 7.5"
- Weight 2.0 oz.
- Price $272
- Country of origin USA
- Ultra thin blade stock (0.09")
- MagnaCut blade steel
- Premium materials and look
- Very effective and discrete pocket clip
- Not the best flipping action
- A smidge over par in terms of price
Zero Tolerance ZT0545 Knife Review
The ZT0545 is a titanium framelock flipper. It has carbon fiber on the show side and stonewashed titanium on the lock side. The lock side has external milling to lighten the knife and lend the otherwise slippery titanium some texture and visual interest. The clip is a very small, very discrete deep-carry steel clip that has been covered in a surprisingly durable black coating.
Meanwhile, the blade itself is a clip point, and the flat grind starts almost at the very spine of the knife. As for the steel, it employs Larrin Thomas-engineered and Crucible-produced MagnaCut. This is an exceptionally good all-around steel; hard and tough enough for use in fixed blades, and corrosion-resistant enough to work on knives intended for use in salt water.
The stock itself is exceedingly thin at 0.09 inches at the spine, really leveraging the high hardness properties of MagnaCut. The blade deploys via a relatively small flipper tab that has only a bit of mild jimping. Likewise, there is also some mild jimping along the spine.
The show side is very nice, void-free carbon fiber that has been chamfered in facets along the edge for comfort and aesthetics. The entire knife is exceedingly light for its size and is very thin.
Road to the ZT0545
After a decade in the wilderness producing decent Hinderer designs, gaudy knives (the not-quite-a-Triple ZT ZT0990, and the high-priced but meh materials ZT0762), weird knives (the strangely hated ZT0223), and stuff no one asked for (the super tiny ZT0022 and the tactical slipjoint ZT0230), the ZT0545 stands as just a great knife, plain and simple.
Since ZT’s origin at the start of the century, the knife market has shifted away from bulky, slabby “tactical” folders and now seems to be making knives for real people to actually use.
Unfortunately, ZT must have missed that memo. The brand was still cranking out folding pry bars as consumers flocked to knives like the Benchmade Bugout, and enthusiasts were fixed on blades like the TRM Neutron 2 (“N2”).
Now, thankfully, ZT makes a knife that sits comfortably alongside these other two amazing blades.
The ZT0545 is just as slicey and elegant as an upgraded Bugout or the amazing N2. Additionally, while having a lot of cues from the last ZT effort to target the EDC market — the ZT0707 — the ZT0545 makes none of the mistakes that doomed that knife to being quickly discontinued.
First, its blade shape is a bit more attractive and less fragile at the tip. Second, it falls more clearly into the mid-size knife range, being about a half-inch shorter in blade length. Finally, it gets rid of the lint-magnet handle cutout from the ZT0707. Quite simply, the ZT0545 is just a better ZT0707. This is easily one of the 10 best folders on the market right now.
There are only two things that hold the ZT0545 back from being the best blade available. First, its flipping action is not great (the knife runs on both bearings and washers, opting for a belt and suspenders approach, I guess).
It’s not bad either, but in an age when Bestech, Reate, and WE all make knives with literally flawless action, the slightly balky action here stands out. Five years ago, it would be par. Now, it is just a smidge below.
Second is the price. The N2 from TRM is domestically produced as well, and it is just as good as the ZT0545 — but it sells for $180. At $272, the ZT0545 seems oddly priced. And this isn’t a question of scale; ZT is vastly larger than TRM.
While MagnaCut is better than 20CV, it is only slightly better, and not enough to justify the price increase.
I don’t think the ZT0545 is exceedingly expensive, but if you want to unseat the N2 as the king of the hill, you have to be able to match or exceed it in every way. Here, in the price category, it is not particularly close.
As Omar on The Wire once advised us: “If you come at the king, you best not miss.”
And here, the price is a bit of a miss.
Zero Tolerance ZT0545 Knife: Conclusion
As of the writing of this review, the ZT0545 is sold out in a lot of places. But I think that’s more a reflection of how fallow a field ZT has been over the past 10 years, and less a statement that this knife is correctly priced to beat the N2 or something like the Hogue Deka in MagnaCut (which has an MSRP of $130).
That said, these are small points, ones only the most hardcore knife knut would even care about. They shouldn’t cloud the picture. The ZT0545 is a stunningly great knife. Rejoice! ZT has returned and it brought an amazing folder that anyone could use and appreciate.