Last Updated: August 3, 2019
I have given Zero Tolerance over the past year. So I actually had to pause and think when my pre-order for the 0620CF popped into my inbox. I try to feature a variety of knives from different manufacturers. Would I purchase and review this knife? I slept on it for a few days, and decided that this collaboration with Ernest Emerson was special enough to justify another Zero Tolerance review.
I’m glad I made that decision, because when this knife arrived I could immediately tell it was significantly different from the other ZT offerings I have sampled.
General Dimension and Blade Details
The 0620 has an overall length of 8.5″, a 3.6″ blade, and weighs 6.2 ounces. While the Kershaw / Emerson collabs are scaled down offerings, the 0620 more like a full size Emerson. This thing is large and in charge. It suits the nature of the collaboration well, but relegates the knife to a more dedicated defensive role or collector’s item. At least for me. I don’t doubt some will every day carry (EDC) this knife, and there is nothing wrong with that if you can manage the size and weight.
The blade has always been one of my favorite aspects of an Emerson. The crisp grinds and beautiful finishes of the blade contrast oddly with the often crudely finished handles. I am pleased to say that ZT did Ernest right by the 0620. This is an immaculate American tanto complete with Emerson’s 2 tone finish: satin bevels and stonewashed flats. The multi-faceted grind has been beautifully done and the blade catches the light almost like the real deal.
Where this collaboration departs from a real Emerson is that ZT decided to V-grind the edge. Say what you will about chisel edges… easier to maintain “in the field”, cut better, blah blah blah – I’ll take this standard V-grind edge any day.
I have never been a huge tanto fan, but this version features a subtle curve between the tip and secondary point. It speaks to me the same way the Lum Tanto did – a tanto blade for guys who don’t prefer tantos.
The natural geometry of a tanto blade is excellent for stabbing, and this one with its clipped point is no different. While this is a beefy slab of steel, the flat grind is lean enough to make this a reasonable slicer, and the edge has been expertly applied.
If you aren’t a modified tanto guy, ZT is releasing the 0630, featuring a modified clip point blade, much like the CQC-8 Horseman that may be more to your liking. Personally, I have been enjoying the tanto as I currently don’t have a lot of tantos in my collection.
Much like the 0562, ZT is offering the 0620 in two flavors: M390 blade with a carbon fiber handle scale (shown here), and an Elmax blade with a G10 handle scale. M390 is a super steel and I have always treated it with a little apprehension because super steels have a reputation for being difficult to sharpen. I put my big girl panties on for this review and have been actually, like, using both my 0620 and my Benchmade Valet which is also in M390. Edge retention is exceptional and so far the steel has responded well to light stropping. This is all I have had to do over the past 8 weeks or so of use. This is excellent stuff and I look forward to continuing to evaluate M390 in earnest.
Handle, Ergonomics, and Pocket Clip
The 0620 has as thick titanium locking side and the show side is carbon fiber (or G10) over a full stainless steel liner. Construction is robust, to say the least. This is an extremely solid knife and it’s difficult to describe the feeling you get in handling the 0620. Each edge is rounded, the liners and carbon fiber are seamless. Beefy hardware sits securely in the handles. The heft of the thick titanium lock side adds to the gravitas of the knife. It is impressive.
While ZT didn’t include Emerson’s signature flat head pivot and Phillips head body hardware, they did borrow the oversize hex head pivot from the 0300 and included some beefy torx hardware and stand offs. They also included a lanyard post, which seems redundant placed next to the two stand offs, but looks to be removable.
In hand the 0620 feels like a beefed up Emerson – not a bad thing at all. The simple handle design is Emerson ergonomics at its finest. A forward finger groove indexes the finger nicely, and the wide thumb ramp is gently jimped for control and tactile feedback. The rest of the handle is simple and accommodates a wide variety of hand sizes. The 0620 is a pretty thick knife – not amazing in pocket, but excellent in hand. After working with the 0620 for several months I haven’t noticed any hot spots. Job well done by both Ernest and ZT.
The pocket clip looks almost as if it were plucked from the Emerson parts bin – it’s a carbon copy of what you would find on the real deal, except of course for the Zero Tolerance Logo emblazoned on it. It is a blackened steel clip, much like what you would find on a Benchmade Griptilian if you have never handled an Emerson. The handle has been drilled and tapped for ambidextrous tip up carry. It’s not super deep carry, but fairly deep. The 0620 is neither small, thin, nor light, but the sturdy clip holds the knife securely in pocket. It carries well for what it is.
Deployment and Lockup
Like a real Emerson, the 0620 makes use of both a Wave and thumb disk. Perhaps the most notable point regarding the deployment is the detent – it’s very strong. While it’s possible to flick it open with the thumb disk, the detent is so strong that flecks of my thumbnail often depart with the blade. The wave works well, although frankly waves have never graduated beyond a novelty for me. ZT went with classic phosphor bronze washers for the 0620. Bronze washers are all well and good, but it would have been cool to see them put KVT bearings in like on the 05620.
I have said it before and I’ll say it again, ZT has really dialed in the lockup on their frame locks. Like the past few titanium framelocks from Zero Tolerance I have reviewed, this one comes with a stainless steel insert. Lockup is early (~30%), rock solid, and without stick or blade play. It’s perfect. The 0620 in particular inspires a lot of confidence. The blade slides in to place with a satisfying snap and I wouldn’t hesitate to use the 0620 for harder tasks if necessary. Blade centering is perfect.
Zero Tolerance 0620 Review – Final Thoughts
The 0620 is arguably the best “Emerson” ever. The 0620 is built better and finished better than a real Emerson. It lacks quirks like chisel edges, and a right side tip up carry only pocket clip, but it has been upgraded with carbon fiber, M390 blade steel, and a beefy titanium frame lock. Most astonishing is that the 0620 is still made in the USA and priced for about what a similar size Emerson would cost. Case in point: the Emerson Roadhouse, probably one of my favorite Emerson patterns retails for around $230. This ZT collab comes in a at $240, and is right at $200 if you opt for the less-fancy version with Elmax blade and G10 handle scale.
There is little to nothing I would change about the 0620. In a perfect world I’d mill out the titanium frame lock to try and lighten the knife, and possibly add bearings to make this indulgent piece even more over-the-top. These are minor quibbles. Sure, it is big and impractical for normal person daily carry, but so is a real Emerson.
Zero Tolerance has once again delivered a superior product: high quality materials, beautiful construction, and designed by a legend in the industry. I highly recommend the 0620 for Emerson fans and fans of big, well made folding knives.
- Made in the USA; Wave shaped opening feature; Thumb disk for manual opening
- Reversible clip (left/right); Frame lock, hardened steel lockbar inserts
- Steel: Carpenter CTS-204P, stonewashed and satin finish
- Handle: Carbon fiber front, bead-blasted titanium back
- Blade Length: 3.6 Inch (9.1 cm); Closed Length: 4.9 Inch (12.4 cm)