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.
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:
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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.
- What will be the primary function of your tomahawk? – Are you going to use it while camping or bushcrafting as a tool? Are you employing it as a rescue tool? Is self-defense the reason you are considering carrying a tomahawk?
- What configuration of tomahawk best fits your needs? – Do you need a straight cutting edge or a curved edge? Is a full tank or through head handle the right choice? What other uses should my tomahawk fill? How long should the handle be?
- What kind of handle is best? Handles come in many options. You can find tomahawks with wood, fiberglass, polycarbonate, and even carbon fiber handles.
- What size tomahawk do I want to carry? – This depends on a lot on how you intend to use your hawk. Longer handles give more leverage. Shorter handles are easier to carry and maneuver in tight spaces.
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:
- Bushcraft or Camping – A bushcraft tomahawk needs to be versatile enough to chop firewood or cut a trail through heavy brush. Because it is typically used around a camp, it should be able to drive and pull tent stakes or shave a point on a spear.
- Bug out bag, get-home bag, or survival pack – Light, durable, and fast are the watchwords for selecting a tactical tomahawk for your survival bags. Breaching, rescue, and self-defense are just a few of the roles a tactical tomahawk may need to fill on your bug-out bag.
- General Use
1. Best Bushcraft Tomahawk – Gerber Downrange Tomahawk Review
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.
- Solid functional construction
- Longer Handle for leverage
- Wider curved cutting edge
- Unique head design for functionality
- 420HC Steel body
- Weighs 36oz.
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.
- The solid one-piece metal construction ensures longevity and durability. No loose or splintered handles to compound your problems.
- The overall length of nearly 20 inches is long enough to provide leverage to chop wood, pry open doors or move heavier objects, yet it is short enough to pack easily into a bushcraft backpack.
- The slightly curved cutting edge is long enough to make the Downrange tomahawk an effective too for ax work. The length provides enough cutting area to handle moderate-sized logs. However, the curve is slight enough that the edge can also be used as a cutting tool. It might take some time but, with the edge properly dressed, you could skin an animal with this tomahawk.
- The head of the downrange features a unique cut out. There are several reasons I find this feature attractive. First, it lightens the overall weight of the tomahawk without compromising strength. Second, when using the tomahawk handle as a pry bar, it provided a convenient grip that keeps your arms and hands away from the cutting edge. The backside functions as a hammerhead when the need to drive tent stakes.
- The choice of steel, 420HC, is a good compromise. 420HC is stainless steel that resists corrosion. Edge retention may not be as good as some harder steels, but it is easy to sharpen and resilient to hard use.
- Weight in a tomahawk is always a point of concern. I want enough weight in a bushcraft tomahawk to make the heavier chores like chopping wood as easy as possible. I also want to minimize the weight that I must carry. AT 36pz, the Gerber Downrange Tomahawk is a good compromise in weight.
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.
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We did a more detailed look in this review.
2. Best Bug Out Bag Tomahawk – SOG Fasthawk Tomahawk Review
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.
- From the standpoint of durability, the SOG Tactical Tomahawk is unquestioned. The handle is glass-reinforced nylon for strength and durability. The blade is 420 stainless, which is a great steel choice for a rugged and dependable tool that can be easily sharpened.
- The Fastback tomahawk only weights 19oz. The lightweight is perfect for keeping weight down on a bug-out bag. The Fastback tomahawk won’t slow you down, inhibit your mobility, or take away valuable carry capacity in your bug-out bag.
- If you think about what you may encounter if your bug-out bag is in use, several scenarios come quickly to mind. Breaching with the back of the head is easy with the integral breaching tool. The relatively narrow straight cutting edge is great for quick cutting jobs. The flat middle of the head can be used as a hammer in a pinch. The design also lends itself to self-defense and adds another weapon to your arsenal if the need arises.
- SOG designed the Fasthawk to be light, quick to use, and strong. From the outset, this design was intended for the kind of tasks and situations that might face anyone in a bug-out situation.
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 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...
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3. Best Defensive Tomahawk – S&W SW671 Tomahawk Review
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.
- Reach and Maneuverability
- Edge Retention
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.
- The Smith and Wesson tomahawk has every capability for self-defense for which you could ask. The long curved cutting edge with a sharp drop point on the bottom makes this a formidable weapon. It harks back to the Viking battle axes and gives you many of the same capabilities. The breaching point on the back of the head adds another penetrating tool that can inflict massive damage.
- The 15.5-inch overall length of the Smith and Wesson tomahawk can give you an advantage in reach and penetration. The handle is long enough to add to the momentum of a swing yet short enough to remain maneuverable, and the full tank ensures durability and toughness.
- The Smith and Wesson Tomahawk is made from 1070 high carbon steel. 1070 is usually .7% carbon making it tough steel that is most often used in large knives that see rough use. This makes it an excellent choice for knives or tools that are used to chop, slash, or baton.
- The choice of steel and the design make the Smith and Wesson Tomahawk as durable as any hawk you can find. Full tang construction and one-piece head and handle create a solid unit that won’t fail under the most extreme conditions.
If self-defense is your main priority in choosing a tomahawk, you won’t do any better than the Smith and Wesson SW671 Tomahawk.
- 15.9 Inches overall length
- 1070 High Carbob Steel
Last update on 2021-05-10 at 15:52 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
4. General Use Tomahawk – Off Grid Tools Survival Axe Review
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
- The Off Grid Survival Axe can’t be shorted for its versatility. Featuring a long curved cutting edge, a hamper backside plus an impressive list of other tools and features
- Nail claw and pry bar
- Replaceable 6-inch saw blade
- Hex sockets
- Glass breaker
- Seat belt cutter
- Gas valve wrench
- The handle of the Off Grid Survival Axe is a rubberized glass-filled nylon material. This has several advantages over an all-steel tool. The rubberized coating and the glass-filled nylon act as shock absorbers and vibration dampers to make long term use of the tool more comfortable. The durability is without question.
- Buying an Off Grid Tools Survival Ax won’t set your budget back. These reasonably priced tools make it possible to have one of these tools in your shop, each of your vehicles and in your bushcraft or bug-out bag.
- Hatchet blade
- Hammer head, nail Claw and pry bar
Last update on 2021-05-10 at 15:32 / 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.