Born in Vine Grove, Kentucky, Harold “kit” Carson spent 20 years in the US Army before retiring as a Master Sergeant.Carson designed and custom built knives for the last 40 years, becoming a full-time knifemaker since 1993, and many of his designs have reached worldwide popularity, such as the M16.
Kit has been an avid hunter and fisherman for over 40 years, growing up enjoying the woods and trout streams in the mountains of north Georgia, and has declared that all the time he spent outdoors as a young man and the time spent around the world with the Army has strongly influenced the knives he creates.
Many of his folding blades feature the now famous “Carson Flipper”, which is a small protuberance placed between the base of the sharp portion of the blade and the hinge, where the user’s index finger is when holding the open knife, preventing any accidental slipping of the hand onto the blade.
When the folder is closed, this protuberance is on the back of the handle (when closed); pressing it with the hand’s index finger and briskly flicking the wrist forces the blade to open very quickly, almost as fast as an automatic blade.
CRKT took the basic M16 design and enhanced it, developing a specialized series of liner lock, folding blades specifically designed for the Emergency Services professionals: the M16 Carson E.R.
This line includes three models, the M16-14ZER, M16-13ZE, and the M16-12ZE; all feature bright orange colored reinforced glass filled nylon side panels, the AutoLAWKS blade safety, a carbide glass breaker on the base of the handle, and a seat belt cutter that is machined in the Carson flipper.
All of the knives also have a satin finished (appearing more like brushed steel finish) AUS-8 Stainless Steel blade that depending on the model sports a Tanto design (M16-14ZER and the M16-12ZE) or spear point (M16-13ZE), all with serrations on the third portion of the blade closest to the root.
AUS-8 is a Japanese Stainless Steel, very similar to AISI 440B, with Vanadium added to the alloy. It takes sharpening very well, and holds its edge decently.
CRKT mastered this steel heat treating process, which is critical to its overall final performance, obtaining a Rockwell hardness of 58-59, at the same time retaining excellent resiliency preventing chipping or snapping of the blade under extreme conditions.
The M16-14ZER, M16-13ZE, and the M16-12ZE have a blade length of 3.75”, 3.375” and 3” respectively (95.2mm, 85.725mm and 7.62mm); blade thickness is 3mm except for the M16-14ZER, which has a 3.5mm thick blade. All th eblades are hollow ground.
The serrated edge on the blade improves rope and fiber cutting, and can also assist in cutting tough rubber and tubing.
All the E.R. knives feature a carrying clip; the M16-13ZE and the M16-12ZE have the option to mount the clip either on the left or right side, allowing a normal tip-down carry, while the larger M16-14ZER has four mounting points (4-way carry) allowing both tip-up and tip-down carry, and also includes a second clip and mounting hardware.
Word of advice: do not carry the M16-14ZER in the tip-up position in a trouser pocket: serious injury could result!
We tested the full range of the E.R. series, finding that all three knives are of excellent quality and build; personally, we prefer the two larger models, as the smallest one, the M16-12ZE, is a tad too small to be used with gloves and offered us less leverage and grip in awkward positions, while still providing excellent performance ‒ women and users with a smaller build and small hands will find it perfect.
Both the M16-14ZER and M16-13ZE performed admirably, being remarkably sharp right out of the box, and did not need any break-in to open effortlessly, deploying lighting quick with one hand whenever it’s needed; a small break-in may be necessary for one-hand blade closing, as the friction ball on the liner lock tends to pause upon engaging the blade surface (incidentally, the same effect that allows the knife to remain closed).
The seat belt cutter is designed to be used with the knife closed; another reason we prefer the larger models, since with the M16-12ZE there is little handle real estate left to operate the knife and allow enough clearance to cutter to engage the belt.
Our opinion is that the E.R. series is a perfect emergency service tool for the professional operator; Police officers, first responders, firefighters and paramedics all will find excellent performance and great value for the money, with our personal preference going to the M16-13ZE, and only because we elected it to be our new EDC knife, trading off the better usability and heavy duty performance of the larger M16-14ZER with improved everyday carry size.