Today I am taking a look at the Zero Tolerance 0550, a special collaboration between ZT and Rick Hinderer. Rick has been making knives and self defense weapons for over 20 years. He started out specializing in Damascus and art knives, but over the past decade has made a transition into heavy use knives. These knives are extremely popular with military and law enforcement due to their uncompromising quality and extreme hard use durability. Naturally, knife collectors, enthusiasts and general consumers also became very interested in these knives and they have become a benchmark for quality among the knife community.
Mr. Hinderer is also known for his various knife innovations, the most famous being his “Lockbar Stabilizer,” which is used on his titanium frame-lock knives to prevent over-extension of the frame-lock when you are disengaging the lock. Over the years Mr. Hinderer has been involved in several other collaborations with Gerber and Benchmade, designing various production knives.
The Rick Hinderer and Zero Tolerance Collaboration
What excites me about his latest collaboration with Zero Tolerance, is that ZT is really taking Hinderer’s hard use philosophies to heart by combining premium materials with USA craftsmanship to build the 0550 series of knives. The end result appears to be a knife with a lot of the qualities people lust over in Hinderer’s very rare and expensive custom and semi-custom knives at a price that many collectors can afford.
The 0550 series currently contains 2 knives. The 0550 is the regular production version of the knife and the 0551 (shown here) is a special edition limited to only 1000 pieces. The 0551 differs from the 0550 in that it uses a different type of steel and has a special pattern on the G10 handle scale. Rumor has it that ZT may make more of the 0551.
General Dimensions and Blade Details
The ZT 0551 has a blade length of 3.5″, a closed length of 4.5″, a blade thickness of 0.156″ and a weight of 5.8 ounces. I know for some that the words “5.8 ounces” will be a deal breaker, and I can understand that if weight is a concern, but that doesn’t stop this from being an excellent knife if you enjoy heavier blades. As for purpose here, the ZT 0550 is a hard use tool all the way. Every aspect of this knife has been overbuilt and the Hinderer pedigree shines here at every angle.
The on blade the 0550 is a modified drop point made from thick stock and features a high flat grind. If you run your fingers behind the edge you can feel how thick this knife is. The blade steel actually thickens out as you reach the tip – it’s pretty crazy. I never recommend prying with a knife, but if you had to use a knife for prying, I think the 0550 would hold up extremely well. The caveat to this kind of design is that the knife is not the best slicer. If you want to make paper thin slices of tomato, reach for a chef’s knife. If you want to do something cool, reach for a ZT 0550.
The 0550 features CPM S35VN. S35VN was designed to be a successor to the wildly popular S30V blade steel. The knife community has met S35VN with some skepticism so I took it upon myself to really cut with this knife, and I sharpened the blade a couple times. I feel like S35VN is really good stuff. It sharpened easily, held a nice edge and I had no issues with rust or corrosion. I also feel like the steel exhibited good toughness, as the blade never chipped out or warped in my use. Of course, this is just one knife (with a very thick blade) and I am only one guy. It’s going to take a lot more experience to fully appreciate S35VN. If my opinion ever changes, I’ll be sure to update the review. For the time being I’ll continue to use and enjoy my 0550.
Handle, Ergonomics and Pocket Clip
The 0550 has a handle made of G10, stainless steel, and titanium. The non-locking side has a thick piece of G10 over a painstakingly milled out stainless steel liner. The locking side is made of a solid slab of 6AL4V titanium and features a Hinderer lockbar stabilizer to prevent over-extension of the lock. The knife has a flow-through design with thick pillars securing the two handle pieces together. Hinderer also makes aftermarket G10 scales for both the 0551 and 0550 in pretty much any color you want. This is a really cool way to add some style and make this knife your own.
The 0550 has solid ergonomics and the knife works in a variety of grips. Starting things off, we have a nice finger choil and a thumb ramp with coarse, but very purposeful jimping. This gives you great control over the blade and really fits my fingers well. The handle itself is thick and it fills the hand nicely. It’s a boxy handle, but the corners have been slightly rounded for comfort. I find the 0550 to feel very nice in both forward and reverse grips and I’m pleased with the amount of traction this design offers.
The pocket clip is a piece of steel with the Zero Tolerance logo lightly milled onto it. Like many other Zero Tolerance knives, this is the same clip found on the Kershaw Skyline. For some that might be a turn off, but I’m pleased with the great retention and deep carry of this design. I also am a huge fan of how ZT drilled and tapped this handle for 4 corners carry.
Deployment and Lockup
The 0550 features chunky ambidextrous thumb studs. There is plenty of room to get your thumb behind it and give the knife a nice flick. ZT selected thick phosphor bronze washers, and the knife is extremely smooth. This is a heavy blade, and it takes a little effort to get it moving with any speed, but I’ve found deployment on the 0550 to be incredibly smooth and reliable.
The 0550 features an ultra thick titanium frame lock. This is one of the thickest pieces of titanium I have ever seen used for a lock. The lock engaged early and provides a solid lockup. I am extremely impressed not only by the thickness of the lock, but by how well the lock has been designed. I typically don’t flick open framelock knives, but the 0550 seems to like it. Having flicked the knife open knife hundreds of times the lock still engages as early as it ever did. To me this is a great achievement and is a testament to how well this knife has been made.
The Hinderer lockbar stabilizer ensures that you will not over-extend the lock bar as you disengage it. This will prolong the life of your lock and is a really nice feature to see. In my video I said that the stabilizer was the cherry on top of this delicious ice cream sundae of a knife. I don’t typically have a sweet tooth, but I still stand by that statement.
The ZT 0550 is an absolute home run of a knife. I love pretty much everything about this knife. The materials are great, the level of fit and finish is phenomenal, it features an awesome Rick Hinderer design, outstanding options for carry, excellent ergonomics and the best frame lock I have ever seen in a production blade. Given everything you get, it’s difficult to believe that the 0550 retails for only $200. For some the only reasonable criticism here is the weight (and perhaps that the blade is so thick it doesn’t slice particularly well). But fans of big knives, fans of hard use knives, and fans of big hard use knives made in America will absolutely love this offering from Zero Tolerance. I am walking away extremely impressed by this knife and can easily recommend it if big tactical folders are your thing.
Zero Tolerance has truly raised the bar with this one providing a great knife and outstanding value to the consumer.
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Zero Tolerance 0550 – $199.95
Retail Price: $250.00
You Save: $50.05
Where Can I Buy the Zero Tolerance 0551 and 0550?
As of today, the ZT 0551 is no longer available at retail. However, you can buy the 0550 from KnifeCenter.com. Click here to check out the 0550 on KnifeCenter.