CRKT M16-12ZER EMT Tanto Knife Review

CRKT M16-12ZER EMT Tanto Knife Review

Blaze orange handles, a high polish stainless steel blade and special built-in features like a strap cutter and carbide window breaker make the CRKT M16-12ZER EMT Tanto knife ideal for the emergency first responder. Even the hollow ground Tanto-style blade with serrations conveys a sense of urgency and purpose. For the Average Pro, at first glance this knife might seem like overkill; but after we spent some time with it clipped in our pants, we started to think otherwise. The Tanto is built with all the function and construction of a tactical field knife but without the subdued colors and black blade.

While you might think that its loud looks and ever so slightly large sizing might intimidate people when you whip it out to open a box, the orange actually serves to deter people from noting that this is a tactical-style knife. I suppose that’s part of this particular CRKT knife’s charm. And who’s to say you might not be the first one to an emergency situation? This knife could bring you to a whole new level of preparedness.

CRKT M16-12ZER EMT Tanto Knife Features

CRKT M16-12ZER EMT Tanto Knife glass breaker

The CRKT M16-12ZER EMT Tanto knife is the solution that Columbia River Knife & Tool came up with to meet the grueling needs of folks that work in emergency service fields. By modifying some of the features found on the most successful CRKT tactical knives, they came up with this particular knife design. The tanto style blade is made of AUS4 steel which is a type of Japanese manufactured high-carbon stainless.

This steel is highly resistant to moisture and solvents, but it’s balanced with durability and ease of sharpening. The triangular shape of the blade makes it easy to maintain an edge and gives the knife a more multipurpose feel. With this style blade, the full thickness is carried out almost to the very tip of the knife. The larger section of the blade is hollow ground which makes for a very fine and sharp edge. The last section at the point where the blade angle changes are flat ground for a strong, almost chisel-like edge that can take extra pressure and stress.

Since the tip of a knife is often the weakest part of the blade, the Tanto styling maintains a larger cross-section where it’s needed, making it much stronger. To make blade deployment easy, there is a “Carson Flipper”, named for the knife’s designer Kit Carson, built into the back part of the blade. This flipper nub not only aids in opening the blade but also serves as a blade guard when the knife is open. And it contributes to making the knife look absolutely menacing when held in a reverse grip. The CRKT M16-12ZER EMT Tanto also has a built-in strap cutter that is usable when the blade is closed.

CRKT M16-12ZER EMT Tanto Knife blade
Large Tanto style blade with serrations
CRKT M16-12ZER EMT Tanto Knife clip

The handle scales of the CRKT M16-12ZER EMT Tanto knife use orange-colored glass-filled nylon with full inner liners made of 420J2 stainless steel. The full-length liners create an “InterFrame,” as CRKT calls it, that gives the handle extreme rigidity. Sandwiched in-between the blade and the liner are self-lubricating washers that make deployment of the blade silky smooth – even without any kind of open assist mechanism. The handles are securely screwed together with Torx screws and there is a repositionable pocket clip.

We loved that CRKT included an additional pocket clip along with some extra screws and a Torx wrench. On the bottom of the handle is a carbide stud that can be utilized as a window breaker. It could probably also take out some teeth, but we didn’t do that kind of testing… this week. With the AutoLAWKS blade locking system, once the blade is deployed, the knife is as sturdy as a fixed blade model. The AutoLAWKS uses a combination of a liner lock and a second spring-loaded lever that makes it impossible to move the liner lock until the secondary lever is pressed out of the way. Basically, you could plunge the blade into a 4×4 post and it’s not going to skip and close up on you.

CRKT M16-12ZER EMT Tanto Knife flipper
Using the AutoLAWKS

Using the CRKT M16-12ZER EMT Tanto Knife

The first thing that we liked was the orange handles. In a world full of tactical knives, I was able to confidently whip out this knife to slice open a box and I never once got a dirty look for having an “evil” or tactical-looking pocket knife. It did take a little time to get used to the larger size of this blade, but it was surprising how well it carried thanks to its thin profile when folded. One small word of caution: if you do carry this knife clipped in your pocket, make sure that you don’t catch the strap cutter on the edge when you slide it in. We found ourselves on a few occasions just seconds away from slicing our pants in half. Once the CRKT M16-12ZER is clipped into your pocket, it will stay put and won’t pose a problem.

The Carson Flipper does make the blade of the CRKT M16-12ZER EMT Tanto knife swing open easily but closing the blade took some practice. The AutoLAWKS system on the first few tries seemed like a troublesome way to ensure the knife could not accidentally close. After a little practice, however, we were able to manipulate the AutoLAWKS with just one hand. The additional locking mechanism goes a long way towards instilling confidence that the blade won’t fold, even under extreme force or pressure. For our particular knife, lockup was very crisp and there was no side-to-side blade wiggle. If you’re interested, there is a quick video from CRKT which talks about the AutoLAWKS system.

Rather than wait around for a random highway accident, we decided to give the strap cutting feature a test run on some seat belts we keep around for just this purpose. The strap cutter is just wide enough for seat belt material to enter and it is razor-sharp. With a quick jerk, seat belts won’t stand a chance.

CRKT M16-12ZER EMT Tanto Knife
Seat belts are no match for the built-in strap cutter

While the blade is large in size, we found it to be quite manageable. It arrived razor sharp from the factory and after a month of carrying it around and using it for day-to-day tasks, we only had to hone the edge once. The serrations in the back part of the blade did a stellar job of cutting rope and cord. While the grips of the knife are fairly smooth, we found that the shape of the handle makes it easy to grasp the knife.

CRKT M16-12ZER EMT Tanto Knife jimping


The CRKT M16-12ZER was designed with public safety, firefighters, and other emergency responders in mind. We really feel that it can make for a great knife for anyone to own. Some might find it a little large to carry every day, but there is no reason not to keep one in your glove box or in your emergency kit so that if a situation presents itself, you can be ready. The bright orange handles and highly polished stainless steel blade make this knife look less intimidating than a black tactical model, at least until you get close. But don’t let it fool you, this knife means business. There is a lot to like and we wholeheartedly recommend picking one up, especially for the very reasonable street prices we found. The M16-12ZER would also make a great gift for anyone that works in public safety or who might one day be in an emergency situation. Come to think of it, that’s just about everyone.

Related articles