Tomahawk. The name alone conjures up plenty of images and associations both historical and practical. If you asked most people they’d probably assume the tomahawk had pretty much passed into infamy but they’d be wrong. Because the tomahawk or tomahawk axe is actually alive and well and has undergone a high tech makeover in recent years that has produced tactical tools of remarkable versatility, durability and effectiveness. While the tomahawk is still not a practical replacement for the EDC knife (especially in those large urban areas) it nonetheless has myriad tactical and survival applications that make it an invaluable tool to have when on patrol in the wilds of Kandahar province or establishing camp along the Salmon River in Idaho.
Whether you need to force your way into premises to execute a search warrant, rescue people from a burning building or chop wood for a fire the Tomahawk axe will get the job done quickly and effectively. Below we’re going to take a look at what our review panel has determined are the 14 best tomahawks on the market today and what makes them so great.
The Best Tomahawk
First up on our list is the SOG Tactical Tomahawk. Although they are a completely civilian operation SOG is named after the Vietnam era Studies and Observations Group of the US Military. Over the past 30 years they’ve made a considerable name for themselves by creating high quality specialty cutting implements and their Tactical Tomahawk falls neatly into line with the best of their products. The SOG Tomahawk design is clean and uncluttered and puts the focus squarely on balance and the effectiveness of the cutting edge.
That long axe blade is forged from high quality 420 stainless steel and coated with a black oxide coating that helps it resist corrosion and scratching. The head of the tomahawk axe is mounted via 2 heavy duty bolts to a handle that’s fabricated from glass-reinforced ballistic polymer that’s not going to rust or rot no matter how many times you get caught in the rain, along with a no-slip handle. A steel ferrule provides the handle with additional protection from splitting when the forces from the head become extreme. The cherry on the cake is the weight; which comes in at a svelte 24 oz. Outstanding tool.
- Weight1.5 pounds
You’d expect anything that carries the Browning name to be a quality product and with the Shock N’ Awe Tomahawk you’d be absolutely right. The Shock N’ Awe cuts a classic profile that’s as attractive as it is effective. The blade is 2 ⅝” of powder-coated 1055 steel that is tough as nails and easy to re-sharpen. Overall the Shock N’ Awe is compact which allows for precise control either with the blade or the opposing, and rather formidable, spike.
The handle wraps won’t be to everyone’s liking but we found them to be uber-effective in providing a firm, slip free hold under even the most vigorous use. Even if you don’t have issues with the wrap your hands may need to go through a short adjustment period, sort of like breaking in a new pair of shoes. The Shock N’ Awe comes with a durable, high quality sheath you can attach to your belt that locks firmly for safe transport and a discreet glass breaker at the handle’s butt end in case you need to extricate yourself or someone else from a burning wreck.. All in all the Shock N’ Awe makes short work of the most arduous tasks and doesn’t require any elaborate preparations to bring it along. Just sling it on your belt and you’re good to go.
- Weight3.52 ounces
The Downrange is all business from the length that really allows you to build momentum in your swing to the hammer head for blasting through doors to the handhold in the axe head that can be used in conjunction with the pry bar. There’s no extraneous nonsense and weight has been kept to a minimum so the Downrange won’t become a burden on long treks. The integrated scales in the handle ensure you’ll always have a firm, slip proof grip regardless of conditions and corrosion resistant 420 high carbon steel is used throughout. Come hell or high water you’ll be ready when you have the Gerber Downrange Tomahawk axe slung.
- Weight3.15 pounds
The SOG Survival Hawk (as in tomahawk) is an aggressive looking piece of tactical gear that makes short work of obstacles, will allow you to harvest firewood fast when you need it and even provides a ferrocerium firestarter built into the axe head so you can get that firewood going. It’s a compact, lightweight, tough-as-nails piece of tactical/survival kit that should accompany you on any deep woods sojourn.
The shaft of the Survival Hawk is composed of fiberglass-reinforced nylon that won’t rust, rot or break under the strain of repeated use. The 3Cr13MoV steel used in the blade resists corrosion better than other high carbon steels and re-sharpens quickly and effectively. At 1 ¼ pounds the whole thing weighs about the same as a pint of water and at a tidy 12” long there’s no excuse for not taking it with you. Whether you’re harvesting wood for the campfire or demolishing walls to make way for a home addition you’ll appreciate the paracord wrapping around the handle that gives you a solid, slip-free grip every time. Amazingly it’s only about 30 bucks.
- Weight11.2 ounces
Here’s another thoroughly modern tomahawk axe that’s embraced the classic profile of yesterday; at least as far as the axe head goes. The Kershaw Siege is a handsome tool that takes no prisoners when it comes to demolishing dryway, opening doors, chopping firewood, prying open crates and more. Compact, tough and affordable it’s a must-have tool for contractors, rescue workers, front line soldiers and anyone who doesn’t have time for obstructions.
Siege is a good name for this tomahawk as anything that’s in its way will definitely feel as though it’s under siege. If you’re searching for insurgents house to house, trying to get an emergency shelter up before the weather closes in or are a contractor pulling down old walls or ripping up an old roof you’ll want the Siege on your side. It’s one of the few tomahawks we tested that’s full tang so there’s zero chance of the head coming loose in pressure situations. It’s also 1 of only 2 that has a built in nail puller in the pry bar which puts it squarely in the realm of must have gear for contractors. Strong, sharp, versatile and durable. You can’t lose with the Kershaw 1073X Siege tomahawk.
- Weight1.98 pounds
The United Cutlery M48 tomahawk embodies the company’s flair for expressive design and high-end utility. At just over 15 inches in length it’s long enough to get up a good head of steam with your swing but compact enough to be easily transported with the rest of your hunting, climbing or rescue gear.
The overall feel of the tomahawk is one of excellent balance, rugged durability and amazing versatility. That usability comes by way of the dual cutting edges on both the front edge and along the top of axe head. (While we applaud the ingenuity one also has to caution against making the mistake of grabbing the tomahawk head in a cane type manner.) The butt end of the axe head also comes to a seriously sharp point for penetrating wood or drywall and the blade itself is made from corrosion resistant AUS-6 stainless. Add a glass-reinforced nylon handle and a head that’s attached with 3 stout bolts and you have a tool made for outdoor survival, personal defense, tactical breaching or just getting a nice campfire going.
- BrandUnited Cutlery
- Weight7 ounces
Most people associate the legendary Smith & Wesson with Dirty Harry’s S&W Model 29 44 caliber revolver and not tomahawks. But the SW671 Smith & Wesson Full Tang Tomahawk axe is a tactical tool that would make Detective Harry Callahan himself green with envy. The ‘full tang’ of the name means there’s no chance the axe head will come loose and, at 2 ¾ pound, the heft of the tomahawk means the axe will do some of the work for you.
The SW671 features textured, Black TPE removable hand grips attached to a 3/8 inch stock. As we mentioned the axe is heavier than many others of comparable size which has its upside (more effective chops) and downside (added burden on long treks). The axe head itself is made of high carbon 1070 stainless steel with the blade length being just shy of 4 inches. The SW671 will deliver for both pros and amateurs, in both difficult and recreational settings and it could potentially last for decades or longer. While the tomahawk comes with a belt loop and sheath, the belt loop isn’t going to be all the practical given the weight of the tomahawk.
- BrandSmith & Wesson
- Weight7 ounces
United Cutlery make a second appearance on our list of best tomahawks with this variation on their popular M48 tomahawk. The Apocalypse is designed to help you navigate the zombie wasteland or, in lieu of that, to help you build a nice campfire to roast marshmallows for the kids. At 15” in length with an axe head 8” long it’s well-proportioned and packs a punch.
The M48 Apocalypse tactical tomahawk features a generous sweeping blade made of 2Cr13 stainless steel and coated with black oxide to improve corrosion resistance. It has a bright yellow-green shaft that comes in handy in wilderness settings and the axe head is bolted down in 3 places to ensure it’s not coming loose no matter how many zombies you need to hack your way through on your path to freedom. It’s compact, tough and well-balanced and the paracord wrapping provides you a firm, slip-free hold regardless of the conditions. Included sheath snaps closed firmly so you can safely transport the Apocalypse. A valuable addition to your survival or tactical kit.
- BrandUnited Cutlery
- Weight2 pounds
The Columbia River 2725 Kangee tomahawk embraces a slightly different twist on the classic tomahawk design. It’s full tang with one continuous piece of SK5 forged high carbon steel extending all the way from the axe head down the shaft to the butt end of the handle. As such you can lean into any task with this puppy without fear of the axe head coming loose.
Besides being full tang the Kangee T-Hawk Tomahawk sports one of the most comfortable handles in the business as well. It’s made of fiberglass reinforced nylon and gracefully curved with a checked surface for a sure grip. The scales can also be removed at any time in about a minute for cleaning. When it comes to transporting the Kangee tomahawk Columbia River provides a fully form-fitting Kydex sheath that’s MOLLE compatible if you’re in the armed forces or just have MOLLE compliant gear. The Kangee tomahawk will set you back a little more than most other tomahawks but this beautifully engineered and balanced piece of tactical kitis worth it.
- BrandColumbia River Knife & Tool
- Weight1.84 pounds
The Cold Steel Trail Hawk is a bare bones tomahawk with no frills that nonetheless gets the job done. It’s the kind of tactical kit guys like to purchase and then trip out with their own design and practical touches like custom scales. But none of that is really necessary if you just want a basic tomahawk that will perform some primary functions for you.
The Trail Hawk is actually smaller in real life than it appears in the above photo. Although the shaft is 22” end to end several inches of that runs through the axe blade and emerges out the top where it’s basically dead weight. The American hickory shaft is arrow-straight and comes unstained or otherwise “finished”. The simple blade is forged from high carbon 1055 stainless steel for real durability and sharpens up fast and effectively. Overall blade length is 6 1/2 inches with the cutting edge being 2 1/4 inches long. If we were conducting house to house searches for Taliban insurgents we’d have something that was tougher and more versatile. But if we were heading into the woods for a week of camping and relaxation we wouldn’t hesitate to take the Trail Hawk.
- BrandCold Steel
- Weight1.43 pounds
SOG makes an encore visit to our “Best Tomahawks” list with what may be the slickest looking tomahawk on planet earth. The company has obviously put a great deal of time and energy into the design of the “Voodoo” tomahawk mini. It’s all black fiberglass reinforced nylon and satin finish 3Cr13MoV stainless steel creating a dynamic, yet solid profile that’s in a league of its own.
The SOG Voodoo Hawk Mini tomahawk is actually a pared down version of the company’s original Voodoo Hawk. This one is shorter overall and a bit lighter although it retains the same components that made its bigger brother so appealing. It has a formidable spike for piercing drywall, glass or even wood should a perp be barricaded inside and the overall feel of the Voodoo mini tomahawk is one of a high quality, supremely well-balanced hammer. The 2 3/4 inch 3Cr13MoV stainless steel blade sharpens up nice and is held in place by 2 bolts and the articulated nylon handle provides you a firm grip. Toss in the company’s limited lifetime warranty and you’ve got a winner.
- Weight1.68 pounds
The Columbia River T-Hawk is another bare bones tomahawk axe that won’t win any design awards but will get the job done whether you’re a contractor, hunter or mountaineer. It features a blade forged from 1055 high carbon, corrosion resistant stainless steel, a hammer head for driving stakes, nails or anything else that needs a good whacking and a solid hickory handle that’s as pleasing to hold as it is to look at.
The T-Hawk is old-school survival tech at its best. While it won’t allow you to pry things open or remove nails or blast your way through drywall like some high end tomahawks will it’s great for basic physical chores like chopping and driving. It’s 19 inches long and weighs just over 2 pounds so it’s easy to fix to the outside of your backpack as you head into the wild after elk. It will be there to help you build a blind and to create a roaring fire to celebrate your 12 point trophy buck. Around the house it will help you with myriad gardening, renovation and maintenance chores and you can always modify it to your liking. Good, basic survival and work kit.
- Weight2.14 pounds
The Black Label Shock N’ Awe is more hatchet than tomahawk though we’ll give them a pass on the nomenclature since it’s so handy and effective. It’s the most compact of the tomahawks we’ve included on this list at 10 1/2 inches. The axe head is 6 1/4 inches from blade to point and when combined with the tomahawks weight makes for a very solid overall feel.
If you’re looking for compact power projection the Black Label Shock N’ Awe from Browning is a good place to start. The paracord handle provides a sure, comfortable grip. The full tang construction means there is no job too tough and the generous, gently curved blade fashioned from high carbon, corrosion resistant 1060 stainless steel makes quick work of the thickest branches and then sharpens up quickly again so you never miss a beat. The tomahawk stows easily in your backpack away from prying eyes and weighs less than a bottle of water. It will cost a bit more but it will last to beat the band.
- Weight3.52 ounces
The final entry on our list of Best Tomahawks is the Camillus Cutlery 19150 Sin Tomahawk. A beauty of a tomahawk that takes simple design concepts and manages to breathe new life into them while also creating a tomahawk that is tough a leather, comfortable to wield and built to last. If we had to choose one tomahawk from the list this we’d give serious consideration to the Sin Tomahawk.
The 4 inch curved blade of the Sin Tomahawk axe is forged from titanium bonded stainless for absolute toughness and held in place by 3 sizeable bolts through the fiberglass reinforced nylon shaft that ensure the axe head isn’t coming loose no matter what type of task you’ve bitten into. The Sin Tomahawk is 15 inches long so it’s easy to transport yet long enough to build momentum in your swings. The 550 lb paracord provides a sure grip in all weather and the aforementioned titanium bonded stainless holds a razor sharp edge like nobody’s business. A great compact tomahawk at a very affordable price.
- Weight2 pounds
Tomahawk Buyers Guide
Buyers typically have the same basic questions when it comes to this type of tactical tool and so we’ll endeavor to answer those questions here.
Q: What Is A Tomahawk?
A: A tomahawk axe is a typically compact, one-handed axe that can trace its origins back many centuries to Native American stone hand axes. They’re traditionally a light duty tool meant for chopping branches and clearing brush, as opposed to the two-handed lumberjack axe used to fell large trees. The word “tomahawk” is an English interpretation of the Powhatan Indian word of roughly the same sound. Today tomahawks are used for everything from carpentry to construction work to demolition to hunting to self-defense and even competitive sport tossing.
Q: What Are The Different Types Of Tomahawks?
A: Today there are 3 primary types of tomahawks in use; they are tactical tomahawks, breaching tomahawks and throwing tomahawks.
- Tactical tomahawks like many of the ones reviewed above are typically used for close quarter combat although to be sure 99.999% of the people who buy tactical tomahawks won’t ever use them on another person because it just so happens that tactical tomahawks are also great for other things like building emergency shelters, helping to free people from burning structures, demolishing walls to make way for renovations and much more.
- Breaching tomahawks are typically full tang because they’re used for more heavy duty purposes like breaking through doors and prying things open. They often have a pry bar feature on the butt end of the handle and they can be heavier than typical tactical tomahawks. Often however, people will use breaching tomahawks instead of tactical tomahawks (though not so much vice versa).
- Throwing tomahawks are used in competition. They’re typically balanced specifically to produce a proper spin while in the air and are generally too light to be of much use for any type of substantial work.
Things To Look For When Buying A Tomahawk
Selecting the right tomahawk to meet your needs isn’t as simple as it might sound. There are myriad things you’ll want to keep in mind before laying down your hard-earned money on one of these high value pieces of tactical or survival gear. Below we’ll go over the major considerations.
Usage – As we discussed above there are 3 main uses for tomahawks today – tactical, breaching and throwing – and so selecting the right tomahawk for you begins with determining which of those 3 uses you have in mind. A throwing tomahawk will be light and balanced to optimize its flightpath, while a tactical tomahawk will be slightly heavier and used for self-defense, light construction work or general outdoor survival. Lastly, a breaching tomahawk is the heaviest type and is typically full tang with a pry bar feature as well. Also, as mentioned above breaching tomahawks are often put to tactical use and tactical tomahawks can fulfill some requirements of the breaching tomahawk.
Head shape – The style of axe head you choose will depend again on your intended use. If you need both an excellent cutting tool and a point for precision work you’ll want an axe head with both. Others who use their tomahawk for more general purposes may prefer a head with a cutting edge on one side and a blunt surface that can be used for hammering on the other, instead of a point. A limited number of tomahawks come with double heads. These are commonly used for throwing or heavy duty chopping tasks.
Blade edge – As a general rule the longer the blade edge the larger the axe head needs to be and the heavier it is. As a larger steel axe head means added weight you’ll want to carefully consider before choosing a tomahawk axe with a long blade and heavy head. Some manufacturers get around the weight problem by hollowing out the center of the blade (see the Gerber Downrange reviewed above). This way they retain the long cutting edge without adding so much weight that carrying the tomahawk any distance will be a problem. If you want to maximize the penetrative ability of your tomahawk axe you’ll want a blade with a narrower cutting edge and a large, full axe head.
Handle – Tomahawks by nature are one-handed instruments. Therefore their handles are rarely going to be much more than 18 inches. In that sense they resemble a hatchet. The length you choose for your tomahawk will depend on what you intend to use it for. A long handled tomahawk will be good for anything that requires a lot of head speed at impact such as splitting and chopping wood and piercing tough materials. Long handles are also necessary if you want to use your tomahawk axe to pry things open as a short handle won’t provide the necessary leverage. Short handle tomahawks by contrast are typically used for precision chopping, chopping branches to make emergency shelters and butchering rabbits, chickens and the like.
Weight – Generally the heavier the tomahawk axe the larger the bite you can take out of the target. Whether that’s large game, a tree, drywall or a wooden door. That said there are other things to consider beside chopping power including your ability to wield the axe effectively and the distance you plan to transport that axe in your backpack or your tactical pants. You don’t want your survival gear to become an anchor, weighing you down as you hike.
The Native Americans of 500 years ago had scant idea that half a millennia onward their stone hand axes would evolve into highly efficient high tech survival gear used by untold numbers of adventurers, soldiers, climbers, hunters and tradesmen the world over. But such is the way of progress. Today’s tomahawks are marvels of engineering that provide brute force when needed, precise control when it’s called for, myriad self-defense options and an inexpensive yet invaluable multi tool that can literally mean the difference between life and death when you’re lost in the wild.
We hope you found this review of the best tomahawks informative and that it helps you make an informed decision when it comes time to purchase a tomahawk to fulfill your security, sporting or needs. Don’t forget to check back regularly for more product reviews and comparisons from gearhungry.com.