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Published Oct. 12, 2021

Practically speaking, tomahawks have long been a utilitarian solution for survival and woodworking. Make them light enough to throw, and you’ve got yourself one of the most badass melee weapons of all time. Knuckle dusters and spiked flails may be things of the past, but the glorious tomahawk lives on, and it’s better than ever. Modern tactical tomahawks are almost too good to be true. We’re firm believers that anyone who uses a tomahawk in combat should be awarded a special medal emblazoned with Mel Gibson’s face. While we work on getting that approved by the Defense Department, you go ahead and pick your weapon of choice. These tomahawks belong not on the frontier or on some distant battlefield, but amongst us, and our jealous friends must learn of our awesome tomahawk with their own eyes.

In the off-chance that you don’t strike the war story lottery and find yourself slaying baddies with your tomahawk, there are plenty of other ways to put it to use. I’ve used my Aplhatraz commemorative tomahawk (shoutout to BOC 10-1) to chop firewood on occasion, and it’s a hell of a lot easier to carry on my camping pack than a full-size ax or even a hatchet. Most tomahawks are sharp enough for all kinds of campsite chores. Since they’re designed for throwing, you could even rustle up some friends and create an ax-throwing league––assuming you can find a suitable venue. Fair warning, neighbors aren’t always thrilled with such activities. 

It’s a marvel that such incredible tomahawks not only exist but can arrive on your doorstep in a matter of hours. We’re spoiled for choice, too. For less than you’d spend on a casual night at the bars, you can score an old-school tomahawk or a futuristic composite one with all the latest materials. Maybe it’s time to start a collection to rival your friends’ knife and watch collections. Now, how many references to The Patriot can I fit in this article? Read on to find out.

The CRKT Woods uses the same classic design that’s made tomahawks relevant for centuries. Its timeless looks might seem like they came straight from Fort Wilderness, but its refined carbon steel is a far cry from old-school blades. This durable metal is forged very hard for extended edge life. The Tennessee hickory handle provides a feel that can only come from wood, but is hard enough to withstand the elements and create a solid fulcrum for the swinging blade. In the unlikely event you do wear out the handle, replacements are available. This tomahawk weighs in at just over 1.5 pounds, and is well-balanced for use around the campsite or throwing accurately. A full-grain leather sheath can be purchased separately.

If you want a tomahawk for your bugout bag or survival kit, this Supcamp survival axe looks like the one for you. You’ll get an oversized axe head that’s more adept at cutting wood than throwing, and a hammer for pounding in tent stakes or using wedges to split logs. The modular handle can be configured to give you three different working lengths. Inside are a knife with a fish scaler, bottle opener, fire starter, compass, impact striker, and whistle. A protective sheath is also included. Anyone who’s assembled a survival kit knows how important it is for every item to perform multiple tasks to keep you and your loved ones taken care of. Adding this to your kit will ensure that you’re prepared to tend your flock and, at times, fend off the wolves.

The Gerber Downrange is the premium option on this list, so you’re going to have to sell a lot of handmade rocking chairs to buy one of these. For the premium price, you get premium features like extremely durable high-carbon stainless steel with the ever-popular Cerakote finish to protect against rust, corrosion, and scratches. This tomahawk is also backed by Gerber’s lifetime warranty. The composite handle is more than capable of not only standing up to the elements, but ensuring you have a firm handhold in the worst conditions. The head of this tomahawk includes the blade as well as a hammer and handle that reduces weight while giving you a firm grip while using the pry bar on the other end. A hard protective sheath and MOLLE mount are included. At more than 19 inches and nearly two pounds, this is the heavy-hitter of the group.

SOG is one of the biggest names in tactical gear, and they came to win with their Survival Hawk. Stainless steel construction makes this tomahawk incredibly strong and resistant to rust and corrosion. It also allows this robust tomahawk to weigh in at just over a pound. At about a foot long, it’s a great balance of utility and portability. The three-inch straight blade makes quick work of chopping wood or performing more precise cuts around the campsite. A claw spike on the reverse side of the axe head is good for prying boards apart or cutting wire. The paracord-wrapped handle can be disassembled in a survival situation to make lashings for a hasty shelter. Inside the shaft is a fire starter that can be used with the blade to create sparks so you can light your campfire and start melting down lead for fresh musket balls.

In addition to building badass firearms, Smith & Wesson protects the colonies from those damned redcoats with these one-piece metal throwing axes. The set of three is great for anyone interested in learning to throw and makes it easier to challenge your friends to a friendly competition. The slim metal throwing axes fit into a portable carrying case for a combined weight of about two pounds. At ten inches long, these are very compact without compromising throwing effectiveness. If you aren’t in love with these already, there’s a bottle opener built into each axe handle to kick off celebrations at your local pub. Just don’t drink and throw, please.

This HX Outdoors tactical tomahawk looks like it came straight from the future, and that’s a good thing. One-piece stainless steel construction ensures durability, and the composite handle provides a firm grip for chopping and throwing. The integrated hammer, pry bar, and wrenches add urban practicality, whether you’re breaching a door or hanging a picture in your house. The unique blade shape offers three cutting edges and three sharp corners so you can separate cutting surfaces for different tasks and preserve blade sharpness where you need it most. A protective sheath is included. This is one of the smaller tactical tomahawks available–perfect for taking the kids on a good old-fashioned family ambush in the woods.

If you’re dead set on having a throwing axe that comes with son-saving accuracy right out of the box, this one from Cold Steel is what you want. The carbon steel head sharpens to a razor edge. If you throw your tomahawk with much regularity, handle replacements are going to happen eventually. Remove this axe head with two bolts, rather than traditional shims, when the time comes. The heavy-duty hickory handle should make replacements an uncommon affair. This throwing tomahawk weighs in at just under two pounds, with about two-thirds of that in the head. That creates a nice balance for smooth, consistent rotation on each throw. This competition-oriented option is priced very reasonably, and we’d recommend it for regular axe throwing rather than survival situations.

Statuscrafts is another company building competition-oriented tomahawks for target practice. This 19-inch version is a simple, affordable way to develop your technique without breaking the bank. The hardwood handle is durable and light, and provides better throwing balance than featherweight composite handles. The steel head measures six inches long with a four-inch blade, and is oil tempered for protection against rust and corrosion. At around $40, this is also a good option for camping since you don’t need to baby it. A more upscale 20-inch version is also available and comes with a Teak handle and dimpled axe head. A premium “real Viking battle axe” is also available for more than $100, but I’m not sure how many actual Viking battles it’s been used in. I’d hate for you to spend all that money just to look like some poser from the Continental Army.

Types of tomahawks

The tomahawk concept is a derivative of the hatchet. Variations have been designed as lightweight hand tools, throwing weapons, and even axe/pipe combination devices–which gets wilder the more you think about it. Today, you can also choose between natural materials and advanced composites like polymers and metal alloys that increase durability and reduce weight. Many have secondary features built-in, including fire-starters, compasses, and pry-bars. Some are designed for competitive throwing events, and others are built to strike down members of the murderous cavalry unit who killed two of your sons. 

Key features of tomahawks

  • Size: While tomahawks were originally designed to be chuckable multitools, more compact options have become available. A little extra size and balanced weight are important for throwing, but you might want to consider mobility if you have a lot of gear to carry.
  • Weight: A good tomahawk needs to have a little bit of heft to it. Composite materials can reduce weight, but they still have the rigidity and balance to throw or fit securely in your hand. All will be lighter than a traditional hatchet.
  • Balance: Hand axes built for chopping have some flexibility as long as the head is heavy enough to split small logs. Tomahawks need to have a more refined balance that allows them to rotate predictably through the air.
  • Durability: Wild places like the Black Swamp require equipment that can take hard knocks and resist nature’s merciless assault in the form of moisture and extreme temperatures. Look for high-quality steel and either composite or hardwood handles.
  • Tools: Survival tomahawks come with additional tools integrated into their design. One of these will keep you prepped with a knife, hammer, fire-starter, and compass. More urban-oriented tomahawks come with things like a pry-bay for breaching doors or opening General Cornwallis’ personal effects.

Benefits of tomahawks

Do you need to be told? Tomahawks are like the knife’s cooler older brother who’s in a band and drives an IROC Camaro. They can chop wood, fashion a wilderness shelter, fight off bad guys, and intimidate the daylights out of your French allies. Many are essentially a survival kit, with integrated tools like fire-starters and removable knives. Modern materials and innovative designs make today’s tomahawks some of the most versatile, practical tools you can get. You might get a few looks for being the first one in your unit to show up with one of these strapped to your body armor, but can you imagine the regret you’d live with if you ever got an opportunity to use a tomahawk and didn’t have one? 

Tomahawk pricing

Since tomahawks are fairly simple to make, you can find serviceable examples for less than $30. Decent throwing axes cost around $50. Premium options can cost as much as $375, but that will get you top-shelf materials and build quality. Fortunately, there are great options across the price range. You’ll just have to decide what kind of features you want in addition to a basic tomahawk before settling on a budget. Since these aren’t firearms, there’s no need to set money aside for a safe. Feel free to store your tomahawk in a trunk under your bed that can easily be retrieved if someone sets your house on fire for harboring a colonial spy. 

That’s 14 Patriot references, by the way. Did you catch them all?

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