Best Tactical Tomahawk for Survival: Top 4 Picks Hand-Reviewed

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By Dennis Howard •  16 min read

I grew up watching cowboy movies.  The images on the big screen came alive with American Indians wielding tomahawks as they attacked the westward-moving wagon trains.  I was enamored with the idea of carrying a tactical tomahawk.  The problem was the closest thing my local outdoors store had was a hatchet that really didn’t fit what I wanted.

Best Tactical Tomahawks

Fast forward 50 plus years and suddenly, everything I always wanted in a tomahawk is available almost everywhere.  Even in the big box stores, you can find at least a few tomahawks hanging on the display with the other edged tools.  Once I couldn’t find anything that closely resembled what I envisioned as a tomahawk, now it is easy to be overwhelmed with the choices.

At a quick glance, here are out top choices:

  • Nail claw and pry bar.
  • Replaceable 6-inch saw blade.
  • Hex sockets.
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  • Handle is glass-reinforced nylon for strength and durability
  • Very lightweight
  • Quick to swing, strong, and durable
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  • Handle is long enough to add to the momentum of a swing yet
  • Steel design for durability
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Picking the Best Tactical Tomahawk: Buying Guide

Functionality must be the deciding factor in choosing a tomahawk.  Having some idea of how you will use a tomahawk is the key factor.   There are some considerations I suggest.

There are rational and arguments pro and con for every variation and combination of these features of tactical tomahawks.  Finding the right combination to suit your needs is the challenge, and in today’s market, deciding from the wide array of tomahawks can be daunting.

What Would I Carry?

The answer to this question depends a lot on what I expect to encounter.  A tomahawk is, more than anything, a tool.  I have always advocated that the right tool makes any job easier.  Finding the right tomahawk for the job you are expecting is the key.

Tomahawks are intended to be versatile tools that can do a variety of jobs.  Most tactical tomahawks can be used for a multitude of tasks, and many have features built into them to make doing specialized tasks easier.  That is why I always try to tailor my choice to the expected jobs I may encounter.

Best Tactical Tomahawk – My Top 4 Picks

I break down the uses I have for a tomahawk into four basic categories.  These define the way I expect to use and carry the tomahawk, which, in turn, defines the ways that I expect to use the tomahawk and the tasks I expect to encounter.  The four basic categories I use in selecting a tomahawk are:

1. Best Bushcraft Tomahawk – Gerber Downrange Tomahawk Review

Downrange Tomahawk Breaching Tool, Coyote G-10 Handle, 420 HC Steel,...

Bushcrafting calls for some compromises in certain tools.  Weight is always a factor and is versatility.  A tomahawk to take bushcrafting must fill many roles.  It isn’t possible to pack in an ax for chopping wood, a pry bark for moving heavy objects, and a hammer to drive tent stakes. 

The Gerber Downrange Tomahawk is my choice for a bushcrafting or camping tomahawk for several reasons.

What Makes the Gerber Downrange the Choice for a Bushcraft Tomahawk?

Gerber has made all the right choices and compromises with the Downrange tomahawk to make it the best bushcraft tomahawk, in my opinion. 

These features make the Gerber Downrange tomahawk my pick for the best bushcraft tomahawk.  It fills the needs I want in a camp tool and brings much more to the table in a pinch. 

  • The blade-edge of the axe head comes sharp and is very durable
  • The Black KG Gune Kote across the entirety of the tomahawk provides extreme durability
  • The axe head of the tomahawk doubles as a hammer.
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We did a more detailed look in this review.

2. Best Bug Out Bag Tomahawk – SOG Fasthawk Tomahawk Review

SOG FastHawk Polished Tomahawk - Tactical Axe with Sheath, Throwing Hatchet...

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My bug-out bag is built around the concept of carrying the primary survival items that I might need in an emergency, whether it be to get back home or to survive after being forced out of my home.  The idea is the lightest weight for the easiest mobility with the best choices of gear and equipment.  That makes the SOG Tactical Tomahawk by choice to carry on my bug-out bag. 

The SOG Fasthawk Tactical Tomahawk answers the needs that I prioritize for anything that goes into or on my bug-out bag.

How does the SOG Fasthawk Tactical Tomahawk Fit into My Bug-Out Bag Requirements?

The SOG Tactical Tomahawk is an easy choice for me.  This tomahawk functions well for several of my anticipated scenarios involving a bug-out bag.

The SOG Fasthawk rides on my bug-out bag as well as in my vehicle.  I have made sure that the rest of my family is also equipped with a SOG Fasthawk Tactical Tomahawk as part of their emergency kit.

SOG FastHawk Polished Tomahawk - Tactical Axe with Sheath, Throwing Hatchet...
  • SOG THROWING TOMAHAWKS WITH BITE: At 12.5 inches, these throwing hatchets and tomahawks are built to...
  • 19 OUNCE TACTICAL TOMAHAWK: Lightweight yet heavy-duty, FastHawk throwing hatchets are superb...

Last update on 2024-05-27 at 01:13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

3. Best Defensive Tomahawk – S&W SW671 Tomahawk Review

Smith & Wesson Extraction and Evasion SW671 15.9in Full Tang Tomahawk with...

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In any self-defense situation, the number one priority is to end the threat as quickly as possible.  If the situation involves coming to close quarters with your assailant, a weapon designed to achieve that goal is essential.  Choosing a tomahawk for self-defense or close-quarters combat needs a different set of criteria than a tomahawk for more utilitarian purposes.

When considering a tactical tomahawk for self-defense, I always take four things into my deliberations.

The Self-Defense Stratagem

Choosing a tomahawk for self-defense presents a completely different set of priorities to consider.  Remembering that you could be putting your life on the line with your decision of a self-defense tomahawk adds to the care that should be taken.  The Smith and Wesson SW671 meet or exceed the challenges for a self-defense tomahawk.

If self-defense is your main priority in choosing a tomahawk, you won’t do any better than the Smith and Wesson SW671 Tomahawk. 

Last update on 2024-05-27 at 01:13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

4. General Use Tomahawk – Off Grid Tools Survival Axe Review

Off Grid Tools Survival Axe – Black, All Steel, Ultimate Outdoor...

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I classify a general use tomahawk as one which I keep around in my shop, home, or vehicle for general purpose work.  In practice, my general use tomahawk gets as much use in my garden and lawn as it does on the trail or in camp. 

A general-purpose tomahawk can fill the role of many other tools and is handy to have within reach around the home and garden.   The main features I look for in a utility tomahawk are:

Is it or Isn’t it a Tomahawk?

The Off Grid Tools Survival Ax isn’t, in the strictest definition, a tomahawk.  It does, however, fill many of the same roles as a tomahawk.  It is about the same size and weight as a tomahawk and certainly can be used anywhere a tomahawk would be used.  It doesn’t have the classic tomahawk shape, but otherwise, it fills the role quite well

Off Grid Tools Survival Axe – Black, All Steel, Ultimate Outdoor...
  • SURVIVAL AXE MULTITOOL: The OGT Survival Axe is the ultimate outdoor multitool. With 31 features,...
  • ALL STEEL DESIGN: The build incorporates an all-steel full tang and axe head with an ultra-strong,...

Last update on 2024-05-27 at 01:13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Other honorable mentions…

Here are some other tomahawks that are worthy of mention:

Tactical Tomahawk FAQs

Do Special Forces use tomahawks?

Yes! There are several US military groups who use tomahawks as part of their basic carrying kit, including the Air Force security team, Army Rangers and Special Forces. Though it isn’t a weapon you’d expect to see on the battlefield, it’s there.

They can be incredibly useful, and not just necessarily as a weapon. Being sharp and solid, they are great for cutting through thick foliage, breaking down doors or into buildings, and destroying locks. These are all part of the job for Special Forces!

It is the US Navy SEALS, specifically Team 6, who are known to carry their tomahawks into missions, specifically for hand-to-hand combat, as well as needing to breach territories.

Even as far back as the Vietnam War, the US Special Forces have been known to use tomahawks. Though considered quite a medieval weapon, it appears that they are more useful than was first thought!

Is it legal to carry a tomahawk?

Yes, except in California, Colorado, or Texas. In the majority of states across America where you are free to carry a fixed blade, tomahawks are accepted as such, apart from in Colorado where they are considered to be a dangerous weapon.

Likewise, in Texas, any “hand instrument designed to cut or stab another by being thrown” is completely banned, which means that tomahawks are a no-go there. I mean, can you imagine if they had tomahawks in Texas? There’d be no one left!

California does permit tomahawk carrying in certain exceptional circumstances, like attending a war reenactment or going camping in the woods. If you’re just out and about swinging a tomahawk in public, however, then expect to get into trouble.

Of course, the rest of the world has its own laws and legislation, so it’s always good to do some research on the legalities of carrying sharp blades wherever you are, just in case. Better to be safe than sorry, or in prison, right?

What is the difference between an axe and a tomahawk?

For a start, axes were originally invented for cutting and chopping wood and bringing down trees (Timber!) whereas the Native American First Nations warriors devised the first tomahawks, also known as hatchets, to be used as weapons in battle.

Where originally the two were very very similar in appearance, and their only differences were the tasks for which they were used, it’s very different nowadays. There are countless designs for axes and tomahawks alike, each being unique.

You’ll find that tomahawks traditionally have a rounded eye – the hole in which a handle or shaft is mounted to the head – whereas the eye of an axe is very very narrow, nearly triangular in nature.

This would originally be because it’s far easier to add a handle to a rounded eye than a thin or angular one, so if yours was broken then you could use pretty much anything you had on hand in order to fix it.

Is a tomahawk a good weapon?

That depends on who you ask! In our opinion, yes, and far superior to battlefield equivalents like a throwing knife, sword or another blade. The handle of a tomahawk is far longer than that of a knife, allowing you to be far more precise with your movements.

You can use it as an axe would be used, to break in or break down obstacles, but it also makes a fantastic self defense tool, whether you’re being attacked at close range or from a distance.

The extra weight of it also means that when you are swinging or throwing, you can garner a lot more power, which means it’ll be way more impactful when it comes into contact with whatever you’re hitting!

What Do I carry?

In the end, if I were to be limited to choosing the best tactical tomahawk that I could have to carry, my choice is the SOG Fasthawk.  

I carry one of these on my bug-out bag consistently. The Fasthawk is economical, durable, and offers me what I consider to be the best compromise for the uses I have for a tactical tomahawk.  It rides quietly on my bug-out bag, ready for instant use with the knowledge that I have a tactical tomahawk that will fill whatever need arises in an emergency.

Dennis Howard

A life long hunter, fisherman, and outdoorsman, after surviving a devastating tornado in his home town, he saw the effects on people's lives as they struggled to cope. He built his first bugout bag a few weeks later and has been a dedicated prepper/survivalist since that time. After a career as a fireman, Dennis opened a retail store (FFL approved) catering to the military, law enforcement, and like-minded individuals. The store built their own AR platforms. Furthermore, Dennis was also an NRA instructor in both long gun and handgun as well as a certified range safety officer. Read his full interview here.