If you’re in the market for a very versatile tool or weapon the tomahawk should be at the top of your list. It can be used to break down doors, bust locks, hand combat or for chopping wood.
They were originally used by Native Americans – often times given as gifts or to sign peace treaties.
As technology improved so did tomahawks, originally they were made from stone and eventually they began forging them out of iron. Today the cheaper tomahawks are usually made from a softer metal such as stainless steel while the more expensive grade tomahawks are machined out of a harder alloy such as 4140.
Higher grade tomahawks such as the ones made by American Tomahawk can often be found in the front lines in military operations. Because they have such a wide range of applications it is pretty rare to find a soldier without a tomahawk on hand.
Truthfully, a hatchet, tomahawk and axe are all very similar. A tomahawk is really a more versatile hatchet and a hatchet is a smaller axe. So in short, they’re both axes.
When you think about an axe you probably think of a full sized axe – 28”-36” in length, real lumber jack shit. Full sized axes are rather heavy and really can be quite dangerous if used incorrectly. Unless you’re chopping down entire trees an axe is probably overkill.
A hatchet, like an axe is primarily used for chopping wood. Of course, like anything with a blade it can be used for a variety of purposes. A good hatchet will have a sharp edge for chopping wood but it needs to be wide enough to split the wood once it’s penetrated.
While it is possible to cut an entire tree down with a hatchet it’s not designed to do so. Splitting wood is a more reasonable task to undertake with a hatchet.
Lastly, a tomahawk is designed for combat and for use as a general tool. This is the main difference between a tomahawk and a hatchet! A hatchet manufacturer should be designing their hatchet to cut wood, a tomahawk manufacturer needs to think about the wide variety of applications that it might be used for. Wood splitting is NOT the primary application of a tomahawk.
A tomahawk will often feature a spike on the end opposite end of the blade. This spike can be used for digging, breaking through a door or for driving a spike into a zombie’s brain.
The best tomahawks usually have a sharpened beard and/or spine. The beard is the bottom portion of the blade and the spine is the top purpose. A sharp beard can be fairly useful for hooking and grabbing.
Depending on the application you can go out and buy yourself a cheaper tomahawk which may serve your needs. Keeping the edge sharp will be difficult and realistically you’ll be using a dull blade more often than not.
The alternative is to purchase a harder steel which has been hand crafted and will provide a sharp edge that lasts.
If you’re looking for a brand that will stand the test of time, American Tomahawk Company (ATC) is usually a great place to start. Of course, like anything quality comes with a price tag.
American Tomahawk Company
Hardcore Hardware Australia
SOG Specialty Knives
Condor Tool and Knives
Smith and Wesson
You can get a tomahawk for a cool $10 and while it may seem like a good idea at the time the truth is, it’s a POS. A few companies that fit this bill include SZCO and BudK.
As you can see there are a ton of brands that make tomahawks. Obviously, this list is a generally guide. SOG for instance makes some very cheap tomahawks out of poor quality materials. As a rule of thumb, you get what you pay for.
The are three primary types of ‘hawks. Tactical, Combat and Throwing ‘hawks. They each have a unique purpose and usually have slightly different features.
Tactical ‘hawks are the Swiss army knife of tomahawks. Their primary function isn’t hand to hand combat, although they do an admiral job during combat. These tomahawks will be more focused on smashing doors, breaking windows, opening locks or used in survival situations.
The top tactical tomahawk on the market for under $100 is the Columbia River Kangee T-Hawk Tomahawk. The entirety of the spine is sharpened and more than half of the beard is razor sharp.
For breaching or search and rescue applications you may want to look towards the Gerber Downrange Tomahawk.
Combat tomahawks are very similar to tactical tomahawk the main difference is the main purpose is for hand to hand combat. Lighter tomahawks are usually better for combat as they allow you to maneuver and strike with greater accuracy.
You can also find tomahawks that feature a more traditional knife grind as opposed to an axe grind. Basically this means it’ll inflict more damage on impact. A good example of this is the badass Sayoc R&D Hawk.
Unfortunately the Sayoc R&D Hawk is incredibly expensive – we really like the Browning Shock n’ Awe Hawk for combat purposes.
Perhaps the most badass tomahawks are designed for chucking. Throwing tomahawks are more for sports then every day use, but like archery or skeet shooting throwing ‘hawks is a hell of a time.
You can’t just throw any old axe and expect it to work out. It requires a very fine balance which creates the end over end toppling action.
The M48 series from United Cultery is their entry level tomahawks. If you’re looking for a tomahawk to put on your wall because it looks bad ass both of these tomahawks will fit the bill.
If you’re looking for a real combat weapon I would stay away from the United Cultery brand in general. Their niche market has always been selling replica’s from movies and shows which doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in the buyer that it will perform under the gun.
The 48 Hawk Axe and the M48 Ranger Hawk is cast out of 2Cr13 which is a stainless steel manufactured in China. 2Cr13 is a rather tough material, however it won’t hold an edge for very long meaning you’ll be sharpening this bad boy frequently.
In addition to this, the blade and handle ARE NOT one piece which leaves it prone to breaking. Whenever you have a connection of sorts it’s generally going to be the weakest part.
The main difference between the Kangee hawk and the Chogan is the backside of the tool. The Kangee has a spike perfect for penetrating tough to puncture materials while the Chogan has a flat heat for hammer like applications.
These tomahawks were both designed exclusively for Columbia River by Ryan Johnson (RMJ Tactical).
Unlike the United Cultery tools, CRKT tomahawks were made for the field. They’re excellent tools to carry for breaching and combat. You can bust a lock with the spike or you can blast through a window or cut your way through a car door.
They’re made out of SK-5 steel which is a Japenese Steel and treated in such a way that they’re durable and they keep an edge.
The Cold Steel Trench Hawk is a pretty great pick up. It’s made from 5150 Carbon Steel which means it is a little bit more prone to rusting than stainless steel.
It is an exceptionally hard material which stands up well to impact over time. It doesn’t hold an edge as well as the CRKT tomahawks which should be expected given the price point differences. It’s a little bit heavier than most other hawks on the market. If you’re looking for a throwing hawk the Trench Hawk Axe isn’t as balanced as some of the others on the market.
The Smith and Wesson extraction and evasion tomahawk is aptly named. It’s not for hacking down lumber or to be used in throwing competitions. It’s a tool used for extraction – often times folks complain about the weight. As an extraction tool, you want the extra weight for breaching.
It’s full tang – which simply means the blade and handle are one piece. Its made from 1070 steel which is a fairly standard carbon steel.
“The axe is the most important bush tool there is. Outside of fire, nothing may contribute to your comfort and leisure than a well-chosen axe.”
There are some that say you can survive stranded in the wilderness as long as you have an axe. It comes as no surprise that many survivalists insist their axe, hatchet or tomahawk is their most important survival tool. Axes are obviously built for chopping wood, but there are other uses to consider when choosing the perfect axe for your needs.
Peter Freuchen made an axe out of his own poo and dug himself out of a snowed in cave. You probably think I'm a liar, the cracked podcast is a credible source of information. Right?
Size Matters: When choosing an all-around camping and survival axe, a good rule of thumb is to match your axe length to that of your arm. To do this, grasp the head of the axe and try to tuck it into your armpit. The toe of the haft should sit inside your armpit comfortably.
Alignment: When inspecting your axe choices, pay attention to the alignment of the head with the handle. This varies, even with the finest axes from the best makes and suppliers. The head should be perfectly in line along the handle.
Balance: The axe should balance level when you balance it with a couple of fingers just below the head.
Grain: If you are choosing an axe with a more traditional wooden handle, the grain should run straight along the entire handle. If a diagonal grain is present, the handle is likely to split.
A Note on Blade Edge: It is good practice to keep your axe sharp. All woodworking tools must be sharp enough to be used effortlessly and efficiently. A dull axe will take more time and energy from you and be prone to glancing and potentially injuring the user. Keep your axe sharp. Caring for your tools is as important as choosing the right one.
The Difference Between an Axe and A Hatchet
The most prominent difference between these two survival tools is size. An axe has a longer handle than a hatchet.
Axes are mainly meant to cut and chop wood that requires a two handed effort whereas hatchets are a single handed tool meant for smaller tasks like cutting young trees and shrubs.
The blade of the axe is slimmer and tapers out whereas the hatchet has a wider and shaped like an inverted funnel. A hatchet is more versatile and has the ability to be used as a weapon.
This high quality hand-made Scandinavian Forest Axe comes with a 20 year warranty. The axe is specially designed for strength and power by professional blacksmiths. The handle is hickory and the blade is forged to a thin, curved bit and sharpened. This axe is an ideal tool for cutting and chopping wood while camping.
This is an ideal axe for survivalists and outdoor enthusiasts. It has a forged stainless steel head and a longer glass-filled nylon handle than its predecessor. The handle is decorated with Gerber’s “gator” texture, offering a comfortable grip in soggy conditions. What we really love about this product is that there is a coarse blade handsaw housed in the handle and held in place magnetically. This tool can be used for sawing branches and brush, making this combo a tough, lightweight, and ideal camping tool
The Estwing Splitting Axe is a single forged piece for added strength. The handle is covered in a vinyl nylon grip perfect for shock reduction. At an affordable rate this axe comes with an embossed leather sheath.
It’s no secret why the axe is any survivalist’s go-to tool of choice. Choosing a quality axe that meets your own individual needs is an important decision not to be taken lightly. One day, your axe may be the difference between life and death. So choose wisely, and take care of it.