Monday, November 29, 2010
Power outages, real life, and the holiday season have kept me from going full bore the last several weeks. I'm still here, and I'll be back with more soon. At lease 4 new written reviews in the works, and I'm still gonna come through with the video reviews, for the first time in a long time, time has been harder to find.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
|Laci Szabo, the man behind the weapons.|
Szabo is a lifetime martial artist, a USMC veteran, and a law enforcement professional (though I'm not sure in what exact capacity). Apparently he's the type of guy who has the talent to try just about anything, he has his own single-film page at IMDB (Internet Movie Database). In 2005, Szabo starred alongside MMA & kickboxing legend Bas Rutten & Diana Lee Inosanto. Ms. Lee Inosanto is the daughter of the late Dan Inosanto, one of Bruce Lee's original students, and a leader in the world of Jeet Kune Do who helped promote martial arts all over the world during his lifetime. Diana Lee Inosanto also happens to be the goddaughter of the Legendary Bruce Lee. You don't just get cast in a film with Bruce Lee's goddaughter, and one of the most successful early forerunners of mixed martial arts like Bas Rutten if you're just some guy. It's safe to say that Laci Szabo's real world experience contributes to his knife & weapon designs.
|Szabo is a dedicated martial artist, a USMC veteran and a law enforcement professional, not to mention having starred with MMA legend Bas Rutten and Diana Lee Inosanto (daughter of FMA legend Dan Inosanto) in an action film in 2005|
So, we know that Laci Szabo is probably a total badass. I've never met the man, but he's been around in the knife world for a long time. Szabo not only makes his own weapons & knives (in the USA), but he also has other makers produce his designs as well. I mentioned the elusive & hard to find Black Cloud knives, but Szabo has teamed up with many other custom makers including the well-known Frenchman, Mr. Fred Perrin. Szabo has also done various projects with James Keating, and even sells Keating's awesome ComTech Stinger on his site, Szabo Inc .com.
|the Szabo Custom kubotan pictured with a tube of lip balm for size reference.|
approx 1" diameter
indestructible polymer construction
comes with Koppo stick style paracord loop for retention in the hand
Average price: about $20 USD + shipping, just under $30, all told for me.
|I wouldn't want either of those ends contacting my skull or joints at high speeds.|
|Szabo custom in front, Inova Bolt flashlight in the center and an Alpha Innovations flat-ended Kubotan in the rear.|
All of Laci Szabo's wares are USA made, and his site is a treasure trove of awesomeness in personal weapons, both knives and impact devices, along with things you've never even heard of! It would be weak to say he offers a large selection, Szabo Inc. offers a HUGE selection of personal defense devices. Many items are priced very reasonably, and of course some are more limited, and use exclusive materials, so they can get a tad pricey, but even then, most of his prices are beyond fair. I ended up paying a bit more for my kubotan, as it was shipped from Arizona Custom Knives, which ironically, is located in Florida. I believe the business once was located in Arizona. Today the web based business is owned by a woman named Julie Hyman, Julie stocks an amazing array of custom knives and tactical toys, and she's also very nice & easy to deal with. She is apparently the sole owner & operator of ACK, and she is definitely a "knife person". The site is one of my favorite places to browse and I have watched the selection improve almost weekly for a long time. You're looking for an out of production limited edition Emerson folder? No problem, Julie just may be able to find one for you. ACK buys knives as well, so every once in awhile you'll see lots of mint condition knives for sale that used to be a part of somebody's collection, that they have sold for credit on ACK. Most of the items are new from the maker or factory, but it isn't uncommon to see collector's pieces from other time periods, be it two years ago, or even ten. When I placed my order for the kubotan, I dropped Julie a note. She seems like a very unique & pleasant person, and some time in the near future I'd really like to do a short interview with her, so keep an eye peeled, and check out Arizona Custom Knives, it's a great site to browse. In addition to prohibitively expensive (for most of us) custom knives & collector pieces, you'll be surprised by the amount of affordable gear Julie sells on the site as well. Items like Rick Hinderer's Kubotans and tactical pens are big sellers, and as I mentioned Laci Szabo's wares are usually within reach of the average guy like me. Arizona Custom Knives also often stocks Benchmade and Microtech and a few other higher end factory knives, in addition to the fancy custom stuff.
|The Szabo Custom below an inexpensive Kershaw Oso Sweet knife. I would think if faced with scary odds like multiple attackers, a knife and an impact device might be a great comfort!|
|Szabo's site's menu buttons are decked out in a cool skull motif.|
|another variation of Laci's Custom kubotan, this time, more aggressively textured.|
|Szabo's Mega Koppo stick in anodized Titanium! Wow!|
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
|I just had to show this badboy off. Fresh off the UPS truck. Pictured with the cheap Kershaw Oso Sweet knife for size reference. The Szabo kubotan is 5 inches long, very stout and has a nice heft to it without being heavy. Review coming soon.|
Friday, November 5, 2010
Oregon's Kershaw Knives has a long history of high quality knives, usually at affordable prices. I have found that whether a Kershaw is made in Oregon, or overseas in China, quality is a pretty consistent factor. There was a time, shortly after they began to hit it big with Ken Onion's designs, and their Speed-Safe assisted opening mechanism, when their quality wasn't quite as consistent. I was working in retail cutlery, and we experienced quite a few defective returns on Kershaw's inexpensive assisted opening folder, the Kershaw Blackout, and it's uncoated bladed cousin, the Whirlwind. Both of which have handles of a fiberglass plastic (FRN, Zytel or what-have-you). I also bought the original Kershaw Random Task (the name is a play on the Austin Powers movie character who himself was a play on OddJob, from James Bond fame!). The Random Task pattern has made a comeback recently, a new variation, the "II" model, should be available now. The original RT was an assisted opener, I believe one of Kershaw's first, USA made, with highly polished G10 scales that looked great (almost lacquered), but bordered on slippery. I believe the original had a Ti liner lock as well. The lock on my Random Task consistently stuck in place so badly, that I had to wedge a dime, or a thick bass guitar pick into the handle and pry the liner lock free from the blade tang to close the knife. However, the place where I bought my Random Task exchanged it without incident, and my replacement was just fine. I carried it for a number of months, and I think I eventually used it as trade fodder in a partial trade for a Microtech Kestrel manual folder. These details are however, irrelevant!
These instances of inconsistency seem to happen to just about every production knife company at some point, and they are few, and far between. That was probably over a decade ago though, and those days are long gone. I chalk it up to growing pains, a great company experiencing rapid growth & success at a critical time when the knife industry was undergoing some changes, and growing rapidly as a whole. I have actually purchased a number of USA & Chinese made Kershaw folders since then, and even a few of their cheaper products like their simple, short fillet knife with a 5 inch blade, which is made in China. I haven't had any problem with any Kershaw branded product with the exception of that one knife so many years ago. My experience working in the knife shop that one year aside also, it's rare to see anything with the Kershaw name on it that isn't quality. Zero Tolerance can essentially be thought of as Kershaw's all USA Made Military Products division. Benchmade has their professional Black Class knives...well Kershaw (under their parent company KAI) have Zero Tolerance. I will say with full confidence that the tolerances are TIGHT. ZT just may be my new favorite large-scale manufactured knife company.
A couple of holiday seasons back, I was out Christmas shopping and stopped into the little gun shop that is situated off of Interstate 5, behind Tactical Tailor's HQ & retail store. I had been into Tactical Tailor to buy one of their great multi-tool pouches, and I decided it was time for me to finally check out the tiny gun shop. Their selection of knives is spotty, but they always tend to carry high quality stuff. To make a long story short, I impulsively bought the Zero Tolerance 0500 Mudd knife because I was so impressed with its quality and taken by its unique looks and sealed-pivot design. I believe the 0500 has since been discontinued by ZT, but I love the knife, it's huge, rugged, beefy and reliable. The overall quality is outstanding, and the 0500 Mudd by Zero Tolerance remains one of my favorite folders that I have purchased in the last few years. I actually took it with me for a near-beach camping trip on the Southern Washington coast. It performed admirably and true to its design, cleanup was a snap, all it took was a quick rinse in fresh water. The sealed lock & pivot worked as intended, and kept all grit, dirt & mud out of the knife's inner workings. So that was my introduction to Kershaw's sleek, well made sister brand, and I knew good things would continue to come out of ZT.
|My Zero Tolerance 0350ST, the "st" indicates that it is the combo-edge/partially serrated version, while the plain model is simply dubbed the model 0350.|
The ZT 0350ST, a pared-down model for EDC.
A short while back I stopped into my favorite local store, it's a warehouse yearly membership sporting goods store specializing in fishing, hunting and boating gear primarily. I like to call this particular store my "Redneck REI", as, they do in fact carry much of the same exact outdoor & camping gear as REI, except these guys tend to be as much as 50% cheaper depending on the item. The fifteen or twenty dollar yearly fee is well worth it, as it pays for itself instantly usually during the trip I make when I renew my membership. Even their non-member prices are pretty reasonable. They have a huge gun counter that alone stocks more guns than some entire mom & pop gunshops, and their knife counter has gotten progressively better as they have found more knowledgeable people to staff in various departments. If I don't order knives from a handful of well-known retail sites, I buy them at the store in question. Not only are their prices great, but the store is staffed with a significant number of gear-savvy people who know their stuff, with a particularly large ratio of attractive 20-something women among them. Just a few reasons why I love shopping there!
Another reason I give these guys my business are the specials they run. They mail out a flyer about monthly and run awesome specials ranging from significant savings to "buy X & get a free Y" sales. In my case, I had gone in specifically to scope out the ZT knives, they just started stocking them late this past spring and I was sort of jonesing for something of significant quality to blow some cash on. I'm an addict, I've known that for a long time. Knives are pretty much where much of my income goes, even though I don't make much or have much else. As I was looking over the whole of the Kershaw and Zero Tolerance shelves, the guy behind the counter informed me that they were offering a free Kershaw Leek with any ZT purchase! That sealed the deal, a FREE USA made Kershaw Leek, the classic silver framelock, just for buying another knife from a related brand? Sold. So in the end, I paid significantly less than the MSRP for my ZT 0350ST and got a free American made knife as probably the best bonus buy I've ever experienced.
|ZT knives are serial numbered (the "Ser. 1918" above), or at the very least, marked with the month and year of production, (my 0500 Mudd)|
ZT's company line states that the 0350 models are the result of customer requests from folks who wanted a slightly smaller knife all around than the 0300 model. "
The blade features Kershaw-esque scalloped serrations. They aren't as pointy as say, Spyderco's widow's peak points, nor are they fine & toothy like Cold Steel's serrations. The edge is ground thin, and where the "tips" or points of each individual serration are on other styles, ZT uses sort of a scalloped arc that reminds me of cartoon "monster teeth", like when children's authors want to draw a "monster", but they imply that it's dopey or friendly by drawing it with big goofy rounded off teeth! This doesn't have any bearing on the sharpness or performance of these serrations, IMO if anything, it makes them last longer. There are no fine tips to break off & they seem to do an excellent job of keeping materials "sucked in" between them, like paper and cloth, with this serrated edge style it's very easy to cut in a straight line, your cut tends to stay in line with the inner fold of each scallop. These "monster teeth" serrations cut very smoothly, there's no trace of that feeling of a ripping or tearing cut that some toothier patterns can bring about. I feel like the plain, full bellied portion of the blade cuts severely and smoothly, the scalloped combo edge cuts smoothly and wickedly. Both aspects of this folder's edge are still scary sharp, even after a couple weeks of daily use. Right out of the box it shaved hair. Now, after daily carry & use for my mundane routine like breaking down household recycling, opening snack bags, cutting fruit & the like, the entire blade still shaves hair. Impressive indeed. The black coating is Tungsten DLC, diamond-like coating, sometimes referred to as diamond-like carbon. It's extremely hard, far more durable than a teflon coating, like, ridiculously more durable. It not only protects the bladesteel, but it acts as a barrier against staining & rust as well. An S30V blade with a DLC coating like this is about as tough a blade as you'll find manufactured by any major factory company. This knife is one of those that totally exudes its own feeling of total badassery. Some knives are just like that, I don't intend to feel it, but when carrying some knives you just feel sort of a boosted, certain confidence. My Darrel Ralph HTM Gun Hammer is that way, so is Benchmade's full size Neil Blackwood Rukus folding knife. There are just certain knives that are so solidly crafted and feel so capable that a bit of that feeling rubs off onto the user. Deny it all you want, anybody who has ever owned a high quality tactical folder knows exactly what I'm talking about! The G10 handle scales are perfectly textured for a definite grip, and that's only the icing on a very well made cake. As I mentioned before, I think ZT could charge more for this knife, and not only would it still sell, I think it'd still be worth it. This knife is up there, on par with the best of the best American factory produced knives. It's a joy to carry and use, it's comfortable, and it looks good. Just a glance at the materials is enough to know that this is a folder that is capable of taking hard knocks. The holidays are coming up, and at what I consider a reasonable price, this knife would probably bring a ton of joy to a soldier somewhere in the world, and you can bet he or she would get a ton of use out of a knife like this that pretty much has a guaranteed long life of service, based on it's pedigree and materials.
|the "monster teeth" (a term of my creation) serrated edge that reminds me of the way cartoonists and other artists draw a monster's teeth when he's meant to be friendly or cartoonish, and not vicious.|
MSRP is about $140 USD, though they can be had for under $120 @ most reasonable retailers. I got an unusually good deal on mine with my store membership in addition to their special free Kershaw Leek promotion. I paid just a hair over $100, plus state sales tax. MSRP & actual cost aside, there are certainly a large number of inferior knives out there that cost much more. I contend that even at full MSRP plus shipping, or retail sales tax, this knife is still well worth it. This line of knives (Zero Tolerance) seems to be the culmination of all of KAI & Kershaw's experience and success, coming together in an entire family of knives that is masterfully crafted, aesthetically pleasing (they look damn good!) and pretty affordable. Not to mention American made. I know it's sort of an "apples & oranges" situation, but I'm willing to argue that as a brand, Zero Tolerance is right up there with the best of Benchmade's line of folders & fixed blades, along with Spyderco's Golden, CO factory output.
Boom! Awesome materials put together by a great company, here in the U.S. at a fair price with a lifetime warranty. I don't think it'd be all that fair to ask for anything more. Seriously, I know I tend to stick to reviews on stuff I'm happy with, but that's because I do my research, and crummy knives from crummy companies don't deserve mention. That being said, this is one of those knives I was certain enough about to plunk down the cash, but I really did expect some design or feature to come forth at some point that might make me go "meh". No such luck, this is a full size working knife that I have no complaints about. As I mentioned, you may not like the fact that thumbstud opening takes a bit of finesse, but IMO, the flipper kicks off the assisted action perfectly, almost negating the need for thumbstuds at all, they're just there as an option, and also to act as sort of a reinforcing stop-pin. I would encourage interested parties to take a quick look at the Zero Tolerance website to find what you like, and then narrow your choice down. I like many of their knives, but I didn't need overly-large, nor did I need a tiger striped blade. My 0350 is an ideal size, black, low profile and looks mean as hell...despite its "monster teeth". HAHA! I may have just created an alternative term for serrations that have a more gentle, scalloped look to them!
You should be able to find the entire ZT line on better retail sites, and in most brick & mortar retail shops that sell Kershaw products. Speaking of Kershaw, I recently got a hold of a pair of made-in-China Kershaw folders, 2 different models that I stumbled upon at the same store where I picked up the ZT. I am pleased to report that they are nearly flawless in execution as well, especially for their respective much lower price range. I just may bang out another review focusing on the Volt II, and the Clash (LOL, London Calling), no not THE Clash as in the seminal English band, but Kershaw's inexpensive and very well executed Clash folding knife.
Meanwhile, do yourself a favor, as an old friend used to say, "do yourself a favor man", and check out either of Zero Tolerance's 0350 models. You may prefer a plain edge for ease of sharpening, but I like a folding knife with "monster teeth" serrations for overall utility!
|Can you see the resemblance of ZT/Kershaw's rounded serration pattern to silly cartoon monster teeth?|
|Monster teeth in S30V & black DLC|
|ZT serrations? or a monster's dopey mouth?|
|Monster Teefs everywhurr.|
|If you don't get it by now.....|
|ZT's 0400st also features a wide, rounded serration pattern, total monster teeth, I tell ya.|