At first glance a lot of people can’t tell the difference between a tomahawk and a hatchet. Modern tomahawk design hasn’t made that easier. The main difference is intent, both can be used as tools and both can be used as weapons. However, a tomahawk is designed to be a weapon and a hatchet is designed to be a tool.
Tomahawks have made a major comeback in the War on Terror. The dynamic environments troops were fighting in meant they needed modular weapons and tools they could depend on. The tomahawk was reborn with modern metals, polymers, and to fill multiple roles.
This was great since we had new and modern tactical tomahawks to choose from. The bad part was a lot of shady companies popped up to produce some less than reputable tomahawks. To make things easier on you we’ve gathered the Top 4 Tactical Tomahawks.
We are also going to give you a straight rundown on the tomahawk as a weapon and leave you a little more educated on the subject.
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The tomahawk has been around for a long, long time. Tomahawks were a Native American weapon and once they Europeans discovered them they spread like wildfire. What started as sticks with sharp rocks attached became modern metal weapons quite quickly.
Tomahawks by definition are single handed axe like weapons designed for close quarters combat. Tomahawks were used in a variety of roles and could be used as a weapon, a tool or a thrown weapon.
Arms and Antiquities
Both sides of the Revolutionary war carried and employed the tomahawk extensively. Forces around the world use or have used the tomahawk. The weapons staid in use by the United States military from then to now. They became quite popular in Vietnam due to the close quarters jungle fighting and their ability to chop through the local brush.
To this day units in the U.S. Army issue the tomahawk based Ontario SPAX SP16 and the American Tomahawk VTAC.
What Makes a Modern Tomahawk
Traditional tomahawks utilize a wooden handle and were often one sided weapons. The older steels meant they were easily dulled and easily rusted. Modern tomahawks make use of glass filled nylons, polymers, and straight steel as handles. One piece steel designs are much stronger, and glass filled nylon is much lighter.
Wood is still used for some classic designs, and for sport throwing tomahawks, but is not used in tactical tomahawks. Wooden handles are strong and light, but are more prone to failure when exposed to harsh elements. Wooden handles are classy and classic but I would never suggest sending one to the middle east to fight a war.
Another kind of tomahawk
The metals used for the tomahawks heads are often some form of stainless steel. Stainless steel is heavily rust resistant and quite easy to sharpen. The blades are often coated black, flat dark earth or green to reduce glare. The head of the tomahawk doesn’t end at just a blade, and most will feature an alternative tool on the opposite end. Piercing spikes are common, but hammer and hook options are available.
Some tomahawk heads will also have cut outs in the blade so the wielder can use the blade for small tasks. Tasks that would typically be performed by a knife. Tomahawks have strayed slightly from being weapons and have turned into multi use tools.
At this point they still tend to be more weapon than tool, but are multipurpose weapons. Kind of like how a shotgun functions.
The Mission of the Tactical Tomahawk
As the popularity of the tomahawk grew so did how its used. What was once used to fend off bandits and kill enemy soldiers is now being used in the hands of cops, soldiers, firefighters, and preppers.
Tactical tomahawks are often used for breaching doors. They are much lighter than hooligan tools, sledge hammers, and even shotguns. They aren’t are as fast as heavier tools, but a good breacher can get through anything with a tomahawk.
The average infantryman is carrying more weight than ever and carrying heavy breaching tools just in case a breach occurs is just wasteful. A tomahawk offers a good enough tool to get in most places the third world tries to secure.
Tomahawks also allow troops to cut their way out of sticky situations. This includes the affectionately named crash axe for cutting your way out of crashed vehicles.
In the hands of firefighters the tomahawk acts as a one handed chopping tool that’s used like a breaching weapon. Except everything is on fire and no is shooting at you. Firefighters, and EMS can take advantage of the tomahawk’s small size for close quarters cutting and piercing.
Sometimes a fire axe or the jaws of life simply won’t fit. A tomahawks small size makes swinging possible. Tomahawks can be used to break glass, cut through car doors, and pry away at near anything.
Some modern tactical tomahawks are even designed to open fire hydrants with a tool attachment or blade cutout. Specialized tomahawks exist for specialized roles for firefighters, EMS, and other first responders.
Preppers minimize their loadout as much as possible. They prepare for the worst, which means hiking out on foot. When you’re on foot you want to prioritize weight savings and the overall usefulness of your gear.
A tomahawk allows preppers to cut branches for firewood, hammer in tent stakes, breach doors, break into cars, dress game and more. The tomahawk is a lightweight weapon that serves so many roles a prepper would be foolish not to have one in their bug out bag.
Our Top 4
We chose our top 4 Tactical Tomahawks through personal experience and a company’s reputation. We chose 4 because we couldn’t agree on 1. You’re lucky we drew the line at 4! These four tactical tomahawks come from reputable companies with a long history or performance driven blades.
SOG is really the company that brought the tomahawk back into the modern tactical realm. The SOG Tactical Tomahawk was the first in what would become a very large industry. The SOG Tactical Tomahawk is a hell of a tool, and even though its its the granddaddy of tactical tomahawks it’s still a great weapon.
The SOG Tactical Tomahawk is a modern take on a Vietnam weapon. The SOG model is quite similar to the tactical tomahawk used by Marine Force Recon units in Vietnam.
It features a 2.75 inch axe head that’s almost razor sharp. The stainless steel nature means its not easily rusted and adapted for heavy use. On the opposite side of the axe head is a spike that’s designed to penetrate deep and hard.
It will go through a car door with a single blow. The handle is a glass reinforced nylon that’s both ridiculously strong and super lightweight. The Sog Tactical Tomahawk is 15 inches long, but weighs only 24 ounces.
Because the SOG Tactical Tomahawk is the old school tactical tomahawk you have tons of sheath options. It does come with a standard nylon sheath but there are tons of options out there.
This includes polymer and leather options, and options to attach the kit to tac vests and packs. The only downside is that SOG tried to faithfully recreate an old design so much it’s stuck with a straight blade. A slightly curved blade makes the tool better for slashing.
Kershaw is pretty legendary in the blade market. I’m happy to own several of their knives from folders to fixed blades. The Kershaw Siege is their entry into the tactical tomahawk market. The Kershaw uses a familiar tomahawk design, but manages to evolve and improve the concept. The Siege is designed to work.
It can hack through doors, pry crates to pieces, and break in and out of just about anything. The Siege is incredibly strong due to its construction. It’s a one piece design that takes a solid piece of metal and machines it into a single tomahawk.
From the axe head at the top to the bottom of the handle it’s all one piece of metal. The handle is then covered with a set of modern grips made from glass filled nylon.
The handles are scaled for a sure grip which is critical when you’re banging your way through the world. The Tomahawk head is a bit bigger than normal and closer in shape to a hatchet head. It’s got a 4 inch blade that curves gently outwards at the center.
The opposite side of the blade is a hawkbill piercing spike. One part of the piercing spike is actually sharpened into a blade. It can be used in a pinch as a knife for close work. Going all the way to the bottom of the grip and we have a pry bar. This can be used for more subtle work. All together Kersahw has made an outstanding tactical tomahawk.
Cold Steel is a fantastic maker of everything from Gladius style swords to mini folding knives. Somewhere in between you have the Cold Steel Trench hawk. The fully bearded tomahawk head is certainly more medieval in design.
The Trench hawk mixes both traditional native American tomahawk design with classic European battle axe designs. This makes it an interestizng and capable tool and weapon. It curved belly makes the head more modular and it works as both a cutting tool and a slashing weapon. The curved and bearded blade makes deep slashes possible.
The normal flat face tomahawk blade is a poor slashing weapon, but a solid piercing weapon. The Trench Hawk’s blade is 3.5 inches long and has a nice piercing spike on the opposite side.
The Trench Hawk is designed for both traditional hand to hand use, and to be thrown. The handles are easily replaceable, which is important because thrown tomahawks are quick to wear out.
The Trench Hawk comes with a thoroughly modern polymer sheath that secures the blade, but makes it quick to access. The Trench hawk is 19 inches overall and weighs only 29 ounces. It’s a sturdy and durable multi use weapon.
The tomahawk has a long history of service with the United States military from the Revolution to the War on Terror the tomahawk has served as an issued piece of gear. It may not be general issue anymore, but its still found in use by modern warriors for a reason.
The Gerber Downrange Tomahawk is made for the military user. Not only as a weapon in a pinch, but as a tool. The Downrange is a lot more than a tomahawk.
Instead of a spike like most tomahawks the opposite side features a hammer for both construction and breaking tasks. The flat face is small, and takes solid hammering accuracy to land blows. The blade features an easy to use grip that acts as a hand hold for using the pry bar at the bottom of the handle.
The Gerber Downrange tomahawk is a serious breaching tool designed for hardcore use. The Downrange tomahawk’s blade is large and in charge. It weighs almost two pounds and when you swing it you’re doing it with force and authority.
The Gerber Downrange also comes with the best sheath I’ve ever seen from a factory issue hawk. This sheath actually mounts to MOLLE/PALS webbing. This allows it to mount to almost any modern tactical platform.
The one thing I don’t like is that Gerber doesn’t sharpen these to a razor’s edge when they sell them. You gotta do that part yourself.
The Tactical Tomahawk is an invaluable tool for preppers, cops, firemen, soldiers and anyone who needs to cut through something with some serious force. Modern tomahawks are a perfect combination of tool and weapon. In most cases they can do more damage than any knife, and weigh way less than any axe.
A good tactical tomahawk will get you in and get you out of sticky situations. The hardest part of owning a tactical tomahawk is having to choose just one. With so many great options out there it may be intimidating.
If you snag one of our top 4 list then you know you are getting a rock solid tactical tomahawk. Just make sure you identify your own personal needs and takes those into account when you choose a ‘hawk.