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The Best Tactical Tomahawks
Tips and Advice to Make the Best Choice

The Best Tactical Tomahawks
by Dennis Owens, Copyright ©
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Choosing the best tactical tomahawk isn't that easy.
Luckily, we're here with some well-researched advice that will tell you more about how to make an informed buy, hopefully improving your decision-making process and helping you acquire the tomahawk that's right for you.

Best tactical tomahawk: tips and advice to make the perfect choice

Special forces and SWAT teams have used tactical tomahawks

Tomahawks are back from the pages of history and have a growing popularity in the survivalist and prepper community with a lot of people purchasing modern day tomahawks without putting much thought into how they intend to actually use it. Used correctly, a tactical tomahawk can be a very effective tool -- that is one reason why modern day special forces and SWAT teams have been known to use tomahawks and a good reason to consider a tomahawk for your survival preps.

Used incorrectly, on the other hand, a tomahawk can cause a serious and even deadly accident to yourself or someone near you. This isn't a child's toy: A tomahawk is a tool for wilderness survival and a weapon of war.

So the first question we need to settle is:

What a tomahawk is

Let's see what the differences between a tomahawk and an ax/ hatchet are. That will tell you more about what a tomahawk is.

Ax and hatchet

  • Main purpose: chop things down.
  • Additional purposes: splitting and carving wood.
  • They have similar uses as edged tools.
  • They can be used to build cabins and other structures out of standing timber.
  • The characteristics above take into account the fact that a hatchet is a smaller version of an ax, just lighter in weight and more compact. Therefore, it's more appropriate for less rugged chores.

    Even if you can't chop a wide tree down with a hatchet, you may be able to chop through smaller trees, that just depends on the hatchet. Compared with a hatchet, a tomahawk weighs even less, which means that it is not a good tool for cutting down small trees or chopping wood.

    A tomahawk, as Native American tribes in past centuries have shown with deadly effectiveness, serves a different purpose: Wilderness survival and combat.


  • Main purpose: wilderness survival and combat.
  • Additional purposes: light chopping of small tree limbs.
  • Has a straight handle which renders throwing quick and with ease, hence:
  • As a hobby, they're fun to throw (though dangerous, so be careful and never around children or drunks).
  • Tomahawks have a tactical design.
  • They are well ingrained in the history of the US Military, but they were also used by the Native Americans and have a rich past.
  • Who will use it

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    That being said, people who use a tomahawk are mainly:

  • The Military. Even in Iraq or Afghanistan, tomahawks were used in various hand-to-hand combat situations.
  • SWAT teams. Some very interesting tomahawks are specially designed for use by law enforcement, including SWAT. That's because their shaft looks like a sort of pry bar, they have notches used for cutting rope and their heads are either very heavy for smashing down doors, and some times these same tomahawks have a feature shaped as a wrench for prying doors open.
  • Competitors in various throwing competitions use tomahawks.
  • Campers, hunters, hikers. These are men (and sometimes women) who want to have some fun at the campsite or simply like the security a tactical tomahawk can give a person when they're traveling in the backcountry.

    Main uses for a Tomahawk

    At this point, you can easily figure out for yourself what a tomahawk can help you with. It's such a great tool that it can be used for countless activities, thanks to its versatility:

  • Breaching windows and prying doors open. Having a sturdy blade, tomahawks can easily be inserted between the door/ window and their frame in order to open them.
  • Breaking stuff. With the use of a spiked head, these tools are perfect for destroying things made from glass or other shattering materials.
  • Light chopping. Since tomahawks are a smaller version of a hatchet, they can still be used for some cutting, even if just small branches and light bushcraft.
  • Cutting rope. Whether you're hiking, mountain climbing or just camping, rope and paracord are compulsory items. Cutting them is easy if you have a tomahawk. That will help you make repairs, tie down the poles of an improvised shelter or even climb a ravine.
  • Close quarters combat. If you need a weapon to defend yourself from a human or animal attack, a tomahawk is easy to handle but strong enough to deliver a hard blow -- often fatal; it is a weapon for when your life is in danger.
  • Killing game. If you've already hunted down your game, you can deliver the final blow with your tomahawk to make a humane kill.
  • Having fun.
  • Just throw the thing at a tree if you're bored at camp. Or have a contest with other members of your group, it will help develop more wilderness skills, including aim, strength, and dexterity; be smart about it though -- a bad throw can bounce right off a tree and kill or seriously maim someone standing nearby; keep your distance and keep these things out of the reach of children.

  • Hammering.
  • You can use the back of a Hammer Tomahawk or Pipe Tomahawk for all sorts of outdoor chores that require hammering.

    After considering all that, you can make up your mind about whether or not you should get a tomahawk, by making a list of pros and cons.

    Advantages of having a tomahawk

  • It's versatile. It can be used in a ton of ways, whether outdoors or for various DIY projects.
  • It doesn't weigh much, so you can easily add it to your backpack.
  • It's not a large tool, so it won't take up much of space in your pack.
  • In comparison to an ax or hatchet, on many days it will be better to have a tomahawk for increased functionality and all sorts of medium to light chores around camp. On the other hand there are:

    Disadvantages of having a tomahawk

  • It's not that good for building shelters from scratch.
  • You can't make huge stores of firewood for the winter.
  • If you want to kill or prepare larger game, you'll need something bigger.
  • If you want to make more minute carvings or flails, you'll need something smaller, like a knife (this is getting into bushcraft).
  • Main features

    At this point, you may have decided to get a tactical tomahawk, which is great. The features you'll need to consider are:

    The handle length

    You can pick any size that varies between 8 and 20 inches, but that will depend on your purpose. For instance, you'll get more leverage, force, and momentum if you choose something that's bigger, and less for a smaller tool.

    Bigger handle

  • More appropriate for all sorts of rugged chores like chopping, splitting, prying or killing larger game.
  • Better for longer camping trips.
  • More force added to each blow.
  • Better at intimidating your opponent.
  • More difficult to sharpen.
  • May require use with both hands.
  • Less good for carrying for longer periods of time.
  • Heavier and more voluminous.
  • You get tired faster.
  • Less good for chores that require precision.
  • Not so good at hand-to-hand combat.
  • Smaller handle

  • More appropriate for all sorts of precise chores like precise splitting, throwing, wrenching or preparing smaller game.
  • Better for longer hikes, when you spend less time around camp.
  • Great in hand-to-hand combat.
  • You don't get tired that fast.
  • Lesser weight and volume.
  • Easier to sharpen.
  • Better for carrying for longer periods of time.
  • Can be used with just one hand.
  • Less force added to each blow.
  • Not that good intimidating your opponent
  • Less good for rugged chores.
  • The back side

    There are different sorts of tomahawks on the market, and you can choose between the ones that have a flat back or a spiked back, depending on your purposes.

    Flat back

  • Better for bushcraft.
  • Safer to carry.
  • Amazing for hammering and pounding.
  • Less good for self-defense.
  • Can't be used for digging and prying.
  • Spiked back

  • Better for tactical purposes.
  • Good self-defense weapon.
  • Digging, prying, and stabbing are some of the main uses.
  • Less safe to carry around.
  • Can't be used as a hammering tool.
  • Tomahawk's cutting edge

    Again as with the other features, the way in which you choose the cutting edge is influenced by your intentions. The cutting edge is defined by its length. When it comes to size, you have to make your selection between:


  • Needs a bigger head.
  • Adds more force.
  • Better for chopping and splitting.
  • Lighter than a tomahawk with a longer handle, but can basically do the same things.
  • Harder to sharpen.
  • Smaller

  • Requires a smaller head.
  • Doesn't add much force to your blows.
  • Better for piercing and prying.
  • Lighter than a tomahawk with a smaller handle, but can basically do the same things.
  • Easier to sharpen.
  • The spine and beard

    If these are sharpened too, they complement a good sharp cutting edge and provide additional advantages for tactical purposes.

    How to choose wisely

    These are the features of basically every tomahawk, with both positives and flaws. But when you're actually buying a tactical tomahawk, you have to take additional factors into consideration, which requires some research. That's because you'll have to ponder further options, like:

    Quality in a Tomahawk

    There's no use in choosing a tomahawk of poor quality which you'll have to change or repair all the time, and which probably isn't safe either. When discussing the matter of quality, materials and craftsmanship are the first things to consider.

    The best materials are very tough, long-lasting and easy to handle, although they might cost a bit more.

    The Tomahawk's blade

  • Steel. Stainless steel is especially good for blades because it's very sharp and sturdy. It doesn't rust either, so it can't get damaged that fast. As a plus, it's lightweight so it's fairly easy to add it to your backpack.
  • Stone. This is a more traditional material and unfortunately has some disadvantages. For instance, it's not that easy to get sharp that fast, it weighs a lot and it's not particularly versatile.
  • The Tomahawk's handle

  • Wood. Another traditional choice, wood is quite sturdy itself. However, it can get damaged faster, it doesn't withstand a whole lot of powerful blows and it's not that light either. Besides, even though you can get a pretty decent grip with a wood handle, modern materials feel more comfortable in a person's hands for long term use.
  • Fiberglass. This is a very resistant and strong sort of material yet slightly heavier than other handles of other materials, like nylon. It's comfortable to grip and has a long lifespan.
  • Nylon. Mainly used in a mixture with fiberglass, nylon is a resistant plastic that can withstand damage and hardship with ease. It's light and comfortable in your hands, but be careful not to choose the cheap sort of plastic.
  • The weight of a Tomahawk

    When it comes to choosing a perfect weight, think about the positives and negatives of:

    Heavier tomahawks

  • More force.
  • More momentum.
  • Requires more power to throw.
  • Probably on the larger side, so you need more space to handle them.
  • Better for rugged outdoor tasks.
  • Lighter tomahawks

  • Will add less force to your blows.
  • Don't have as much momentum as a heavier tomahawk.
  • It takes less strength to throw a lighter tomahawk.
  • They take up less space, so they can be used in close quarters combat split-seconds faster than a heavier tomahawk (in a sudden fight or ambush, those split-seconds may save the day).
  • The welding

    With reference to the way in which the blade and the handle come together, it's wiser to choose a full-tang tomahawk. This is when the blade and the handle are one piece. A full tang tomahawk is better because it's:
  • Stronger.
  • Safer.
  • More resistant.
  • Has a longer lifespan.
  • The grip

    Your comfort is also a decisive factor in choosing your tools and weapons, so don't forget about the grip of your tomahawk. Most modern tools will be very ergonomic and easy to maneuver for longer periods of time, even if they're heavier, because of a strong grip that:
  • Doesn't allow perspiration to get in the way.
  • Molds itself to the shape of your hand.
  • Has handle scales for an easier, positive hold.
  • Is contoured properly to give a better orientation.
  • Offers more than one grip position.
  • What else should you look for in a tactical tomahawk?

    A good indicator of quality is also the retail price and brand. For instance, well-renowned brands like SOG, Gerber, Smith & Wesson or Browning are trusted, reputable companies in the field, which manufacture a large variety of tomahawks that fit all budgets. It's better to invest wisely in something that you can give your grandkids rather than spend money on a tomahawk that isn't going to last or be counted on in a survival emergency.

    A tactical tomahawk is a proven survival tool

    The fact is, a tomahawk is a proven survival tool for wilderness survival (rope cutting, hog hunting, rabbit hunting, light bushcraft, etc.) and close quarters self defense. Once you get your aim down and coordination from a lot of practice throws, you can hunt with it, and you can defend yourself with it.

    That's why, in the heat of the moment, any time you use a tactical tomahawk in a survival emergency you want it to be counted on everytime; so always choose a good one.

    Dennis Owens is a specialist in outdoor and wilderness adventures with the experience to discuss the best tactical tomahawk for various situations. He graduated the National Camping School and REI Outdoor School, and gathered lots of useful information along the years of challenging Mother Nature.

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