Top 12 Survival Tomahawks to Get

When using a tomahawk for military purposes like hand-to-hand combat and forced entry, it is termed a tactical weapon. When used in daily circumstances like chopping kindling, meat and bone or digging then its use is practical.

No matter the situation, tomahawks are among the most versatile and handiest of tools that you can own if you are preparing for the unknown.

cleaning up Y-shaped branch with tomahawk
cleaning up Y-shaped branch with tomahawk

This primitive tool still benefits the modern hiker, camper, and prepper, and with modern materials and design, is an invaluable addition to your survival stash.

In today’s article, we’ll show you the best tomahawks on the market and give the lowdown on design features that you need to know about to make the right purchasing decision.

Tomahawk? Like a Hatchet, Right?

No. Well, sort of. Actually, yes, the two are quite similar. While there is considerable argument and discussion among cognoscenti as to what really constitutes a tomahawk, there are a few features which typify this class of chopper.

A tomahawk is most typically a lightweight axe, suitable for use with one or two hands, possessed of a straight haft (or handle) that is usually round, and possessing a thinner blade with a shorter edge than is typical of a hatchet.

There are three main types of tomahawks, namely:

  • tactical
  • throwing
  • and breaching tomahawks

Opposite the cutting face on the head the poll will feature a spike, or not quite as commonly a hammer head, making for another option to maim or work with.

Of note, if the head and haft of the ‘hawk are not forged of one piece of steel, then the head will secured to the haft by friction owing to the oversized end of the haft, which is inserted through the top of the head through the eye. This makes replacing a tomahawk handle made from wood far simpler than doing the same for an axe or hatchet.

In comparison, true hatchets often have a recurved handle that is more oval in cross section. The handle is inserted through the bottom of the eye and then held in place by a combination of friction and wedges hammered into the topmost part of the handle, mechanically securing the head on the handle.

Hatchets often feature a flat poll that can be used for hammering, but note that this may not be a proper hammer poll, so take care before you get your demolition on with a regular hatchet.

To muddy matters even more, modern chopping tools marketed as tomahawks may follow some, all or none of these rules.

If you want to throw a flag on the play in its entirety and say that real tomahawks are native North American tools made from a big bone or rock lashed or splinted to the top of a wooden handle and was in use long, long before any Europeans made their way to the continent, you aren’t wrong.

But, axes, hatchets and similar but somehow different classes of one handed chopping tools used for work and as weapons of war were in use by all kinds of culture the world over at the same time and since, so it is forgivable if we lifted the descriptor “tomahawk” to describe a particular size or type of hatchet, even a class of “war hatchet” if you will.

The Anatomy of a Survival Tomahawk

  1. 1 End knob/swell knob
  2. Handle/Haft
  3. Poll/butt
  4. Eye with tip
  5. Blade
  6. Cutting edge
  7. Head
  8. Lip/Lug – secures head to haft
diagram of a tomahawk

Practical and Tactical Uses

Through the ages, the possession of an axe of one sort or another often meant the difference between life and death when people had to hunt, create temporary homes on the move and defend themselves from attacks by animals and other humans.

The axe and tomahawk experienced divergent design evolution, evolving into different tools or weapons, the tomahawk being lighter and more versatile as well as having specific design features different to the axe.

In the field of battle, as a class, tomahawks and axes have proven their versatility.

The Vikings were known for their use of the battle-axe in war, mainly because an axe was much cheaper than the cost of forging a quality sword and of course they were useful around the farm for all sorts of jobs when there was no pillaging and plundering to be done

If a Viking was attacked, he always had his axe with him. Lugging a sword around the farm or worksite was not practical!

Today, tomahawks have acquired a polarizing status, with some folks seeing them as implements of the cringe-worthy “Tactical Timmy” and others admiring them for their splendidly multipurpose nature. If you need to smash, pound, puncture, pry or chop, a well-made and well-designed ‘hawk is invaluable!

Preppers often use tomahawks for more practical purposes like wilderness survival and light demolition, their compact and lightweight design makes them one of the best camping tools to have in your backpack regardless of the situation.

With one tool, you can chop wood, fell trees, fashion then pound in pegs and stakes, pierce metal or heavy cloth, and even do light digging and grubbing.

If push comes to shove with man or beast, a tomahawk is a brutally powerful close combat weapon capable of delivering lethal blows with a single stroke. It is in combat where the tomahawk most often shines, as it is far livelier in the hand and faster on offense or defense than a hatchet.

The thin profile of a tomahawk blade allows it to accept a razor sharp edge in most iterations, and while that is unnecessary or even inappropriate for chopping wood, it takes little in the way of imagination to see what it can do to flesh and bone.

Choking up your grip on the straight handle of a tomahawk better enables you to use it close quarters, this permitting the delivery of push cuts and abbreviated snapping cuts easily, with none of the overtravel concerns of using a full swing.

The perks don’t end there; tomahawks make great do-all tools for mechanical breaching and light demolition, especially when equipped with a spike poll.

You can keep a tomahawk around as a crash axe for dealing with motor vehicle accidents, a handy solution for dealing with light sheet metal and especially for handling heavy safety glass- breaking laminated glass leaves a flexible sheet that is slow and tough to remove, but a ‘hawk will cleave right through!

For gaining access through locked portals, a hawk with a spike can be used to lever open padlocks and even break light chain all through the power of leverage.

By inserting the spike through the shackle above the lock body, the lock can be bound in place and then the handle of the hawk can be rotated sharply, shearing right though the shackle itself.

The spike can also be used to puncture metal containers to drain water or fuel with aplomb, for hooking, trapping and pulling and a variety of other purposes.

Do not discount the fact that while it is inferior to hatchets for strict chopping tasks, a tomahawk is far better as a multi-purpose tool, and getting more survival mileage for about the same weight should be near the top of every prepper’s priority list.

Basic Tomahawk Exercises and Techniques

Watch this for some basics on Tomahawk Defense Training:

How To Use a Combat Tomahawk - Behind the Scenes

Choosing a Tomahawk

Tomahawks today are available in every manner of design and all kinds of handle materials and blade steels. The trick is in finding the one best suited to your needs: remember, tomahawks are not just for chopping wood, and at home in the urban jungle as much as the ageless forests!

Finding that magic ‘one’ can take time, but the effort and time expenditure will be worth it!

Before you go out and spend your greenbacks on a tomahawk try out a few first – either ask friends and neighbors who have one nicely or try some at a quality store that allows demos.

It’s important to know how a ‘hawk feels in use before committing; you need to know how it feels when striking, if the handle will give you hotspots, if you like a longer or shorter handle, and so forth. No matter what you want, you want it to be a long and happy relationship!

While many people use their tomahawks for chores around their property and even for recreational chopping and throwing, you should purchase your tomahawk for the times you are going to be using it in a survival situation.

This means it will need to handle pretty much everything from splitting kindling, chopping meat, digging, piercing metal or hacking loose iron sheeting blown off houses in a tornado/hurricane, getting through obstacles like underbrush or doors, notching and about a hundred other things.

To understand what is needed before we get to the recommendations we promised, we’ll look at seven tips for choosing a tomahawk:

 1. Weight

When taking any piece of equipment with you, bugging out or not, weight is important.

While an axe or hatchet would probably do the heavy work of chopping wood far quicker than a small tomahawk, you will quickly come to regret lugging a felling axe around all day along with your BOB unless it happens that you bugged out in a very heavily forested area.

In use, weight will help deliver more power on impact and help the blade or spike bite deeper into the object being struck. Yes, speed is a vital part of imparting maximum kinetic energy, but using a flyweight tomahawk requires far better technique for best results.

A heavy hawk is always more tiring to swing, but you will need fewer swings to do the same work. In combat, a lighter, nimbler ‘hawk is often preferable since your foe will invariably be trying to get the drop on you and counter your defensive blows.

A haymaker swing from a heavy tomahawk could dispatch them in a single, gory blow, but if the windup and strike are heavily telegraphed you’ll be open to a counter.

2. Sharpness

Some tomahawks you’ll buy, remove from its packaging and realize you need to sharpen it before you can actually use it properly.

That’s okay, as the edge of an axe and its relatives do not need to be hair-pooping sharp to do the work they are designed to do and a less-than-razor edge usually holds up longer in use. That being said, a razor edge is definitely what you want for a defensive ‘hawk.

The steel should be the best quality you can afford to accept a keen edge and retain the sharpness – in survival situations things can happen quickly and there isn’t always time to say, “Whoa there, just need to sharpen this puppy real quick…”

Have a file and/or sharpening stone with you on the trail to do the sharpening at any rate. Watch this video for advice on how to sharpen one:

How To Sharpen A Tomahawk

3. Attachment of Head to Haft

The majority of tomahawks today will come in one of three varieties: the first and classic iteration is a steel head that has the wooden handle inserted through it from the bottom, the flaring end of the handle serving to secure the head after you tap it firmly on the ground several times and optionally wrap it with rawhide or cord.

The second variety is solid, one-piece steel construction, guaranteed to take the worst you can throw at it. The last is a sort of “half-tang” construction where the head is affixed to the haft by some lengthy bolsters that run a third to about half of the handle’s length.

All have their pros and cons. The first method allows easy replacement of the handle or removal of the head should either become damaged. It is not as secure as the latter methods (the head may loosen if not secured) but is adaptable and repairable while saving weight; hickory is lighter than steel!

The second method, one-piece construction, affords immense strength and rigidity at the cost of weight. Simply put, a solid steel ‘hawk will never suffer from a loose head or broken handle unless the impact is strong enough to, literally, shatter or cut steel.

The last method is an acceptable compromise of the first two when used with a wooden or even steel handle, but often a poor choice when used with a plastic handle, as is sometimes seen on cheaper, poorly designed tomahawks.

4. Handle/Haft material

You choices of haft material will make a big difference in how your tomahawk holds up and feels in the hand when doing work.

Hickory, or similar hardwoods, are traditional, inexpensive, comparatively easy to fashion in the field for replacements, and light. Contrary to popular opinion, a good, properly made hardwood handle is more than durable enough for combat!

The downsides to wood are that it requires more care, and can be very slippery when wet or depending on how it is finished. The good news is that wood has excellent shock absorbing qualities and will not get terribly cold or hot depending on the weather.

Steel handles are the ultimate in durability, though most transmit a terrible amount of shock upon striking and are totally dependent on their attached scales for grip and shock reduction. They also get hot when it is hot and cold when it is cold but in many cases their supreme durability makes them worth it.

Plastic and fiberglass handles are inexpensive and very light. While sturdy enough from a good manufacturer and having good shock absorption, they often do not hold up well under prolonged heavy use, typically breaking where the bolsters secure the head to the handle itself.

5. Handle/Haft Shape

Another topic of much contention, handle shape is largely referential but certain design characteristics confer tangible benefits or shortcomings. The profile of a modern tomahawk handle will range from round to elliptical to nearly rectangular with relieved corners.

It might also be shaped in other ways, such as featuring a mild curvature or a series of scallops to allow different grips for different cutting tasks.

Together with the handle material, the profile will determine how secure the handle is in the hand as well as how much shock it transmits to your hand, wrist and arm.

A handle shape that allows the ‘hawk to twist and move upon striking will quickly generate hotspots, as will aggressive textures that are suitable for short, sharp fights but terrible for prolonged work. Some handles have no texture at all but instead rely on a swell or knob near the end to lock the tool in hand.

Some users prefer a straight handle saying it is more accurate, while others preferring a curved one feeling it helps generate more power and control on contact.

If you want to see what worked well in the past just compare images for Viking battle axes and Native American tomahawks – the handles of both are pretty much straight. Straight handles are definitely simpler to fabricate.

Length is another crucial consideration. A longer haft allows the use of two hands and better power generation while a shorter handle makes the tomahawk nimbler and easier to maneuver quickly in close quarters or a fight.

Depending on the shape and configuration of the beard and head, you can always choke up on the handle for better control at the cost of power.

6. Poll: Spike or Hammer

Which breed is best? One of the most common arguments you’ll see pop up in tomahawk enthusiasts’ discussions is that concerning the relative merits of spike or hammer polls. After all, in the eyes of most, one or the other is indeed required to earn a chopper’s inclusion into the “tomahawk” family in the first place!

Your choice will mostly be determined by the uses you desire from your ‘hawk’.

The spike poll is altogether superior for forced entry, fighting and a few survival purposes. This wicked implement allows you to pierce, bind, hook and puncture.

As mentioned above its practical effects for gaining access and extrication are not to be underestimated, all the while saving the edge for its intended purposes.

All on its own, a spike poll will cause gruesome wounds, and can even pierce light armor with a sure blow. The biggest drawback? Batoning the tomahawk through stubborn wood becomes almost impossible.

The hammer poll on the other hand is purpose made for pounding everything that stands to be pounded by a hammer. Even nails, if one is cautious of the blade now aimed at your backside.

It can perform all kinds of manual demolition tasks like busting block and loosening stuck material without endangering the edge or risking getting stuck as the spike might. It also makes a perfect striking surface for a baton when processing wood.

Preference is ultimately the decider here and both have their own merits. Personally I prefer the spike poll since it opens up a few new capabilities that I would not have any other way.

In a pinch, I can perform light duty pounding with the side of the eye as long as I am careful not to smash the beard or edge while I am hammering.

7. Price

As with most tools, you typically get what you pay for. That being said, for all the advancements in material science and fabrication technology, tomahawks are very simple tools: a sharpened wedge on a stick!

There are tomahawks, tomahawks, costing over half a grand, and ones that you can get for $20 at a local big-box discount store. Some are heirloom-grade masterpiece and others I wouldn’t get caught dead with at my funeral. There is a shoe for every foot and a tomahawk for every budget.

Generally, most decent hawks will run anywhere from $50 to $150 or a little more, with bespoke or custom examples costing in the several hundred dollar range.

When buying a ‘hawk, consider the steel, handle material and construction quality foremost. Additional goodies and gadgets might be fine to have, but invariably such things are used to artificially inflate the retail price of a unit.

I would rather have a dead-hard, simple, traditionally styled tomahawk made right than a tacti-cool slasher ‘hawk packed with murderizing features that is made by untrained wage-slave labor.

The Best Tomahawks You Can Buy

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ESTWING E24AEstwing Tomahawk Axe E6-TA

Weight: 7 ouncesLength: 16.2 inches

Estwing is one of the oldest and most respected names in actually-made-in-America American-made tools. Their hammers are the stuff of legend and every grandpa in the U.S. has one of their iconic camping hatchets.

You know, the one with the handle made of stacked leather washers? They have carried on that same legacy of greatness and supreme durability in their tomahawk, a surprisingly aggressive tactical tool from a mild-mannered carpentry tool company.

The all one-piece forged steel ‘hawk’ is crowned by a short, nearly straight cutting edge and opposite is a wide and pronounced point, more a pick than a proper spike.

The cheeks of the blade have been cut out, creating a cool skeletonized look that also saves weight. No matter, since both edge and pick are more than up to their respective tasks, with the geometry of the pick side making short work of thin metal, brick, rock and so forth.

The best part of this tomahawk aside from its excellent durability is without question the overmolded rubber grip, which Estwing claims reduces impact shock by up to 70%.

Another grip option is the O.G. leather washers, but as cool as they are, they are nowhere near as nice when doing work; the difference in shock absorption is significant. Pass on that.

While it does not look as racy or as ferocious as some of the other ‘hawks on our list, the Estwing E6-TA is an awesome value at around $40 and is available in matte black, textured tan or blue.

Get the Estwing Tomahawk Axe from Amazon.

CRKT Woods Chogan, Kangee and Nobo

Weight: 1lbLength: 19.1 inches

Among the heaviest and most hulking of the tomahawks on this list, the Woods Chogan and Woods Kangee are Ryan Johnson designed and CRKT produced ‘hawks that might have a little wrecking ball DNA in them.

Both are made from superb 1055 carbon steel and sport traditional and practical genuine Tennessee hickory handles, easily replaceable in a pinch.

The Chogan, Nobo and Kangee differ only in configuration of the head: the Chogan has a blade with a prominent beard and a hammer poll, also featuring a highly distinctive false edge trailing the beard.

The Kangee has a blade with just a hint of a beard but sports a vicious-looking spike opposite. The Nobo features the blade of the Chogan but no accessory tool on the poll.

All are hungry choppers and their longer hafts allow anyone of less than goliath proportions to assume a fairly traditional two-handed hold for heavy work.

That being said, the CRKT tomahawks are quite close to a boys’ axe in size and, already quite heavy, are very laborious to use one handed without choking up and it makes for a devastating if slightly cumbersome weapon.

Nonetheless, an amazing price of about $50 and the use of excellent steel on a Ryan Johnson designed ‘hawk that is available in most big box camping stores is just the ticket for most folks. If you lean more towards the tool side of tomahawks, definitely give any of these sweethearts a try.

Get the CRKT Woods Nobo Tomahawk Axe on

5.11 Operator Axe

Weight: 7 ouncesLength: 16.5 inches

If ever, in the most hallowed halls of prepping heaven there was to be a tomahawk that would make preppers scream with joy, this is it. The 5.11 Operator Axe, a 24 function wonder that looks like the unholy spawn of a wrecking bar, a battle axe and a sledge hammer, and no one would be more surprised than that sledgehammer!

While it looks gimmicky, and sounds gimmicky, believe us, it isn’t. Designed by the universally esteemed and respected SGM Kyle Lamb of Viking Tactics fame after a small multi-function axe he carried overseas, 5.11 has taken his expertise and input and created a super-useful multi-function tool for breaching, extrication and demolition.

The Operator Axe features a deeply bearded (of course, it is the Viking way) axe blade, a massive toothed hammer poll, a pry bar, a nail puller with chisel tips and a variety of metric and imperial wrench openings, driver sockets and, of most interest, a sheet metal cutter opening.

This allows one to open up an aircraft or car body akin to a giant can of tuna by making a slash in the bodywork, inserting the metal cutter, and then working the handle back and forth.

Created from solid SCM 435 stainless (save the hammer poll, which is welded on) and featuring a heavily grooved handle front and rear, this is one tool ready to go to work on any SHTF problem.

The only shortcoming is the thin, flat handle is really hard on your hands when doing serious chopping and pounding. Expensive, at around $160, but no other tomahawk even comes close to doing what it can.

SOG Tactical Tomahawk

Weight: 24 oz / 1.5 lbsLength: 15.75 inches

The most popular tomahawk on the market. The SOG Tactical Tomahawk and its smaller cousin bear a striking resemblance to the classic Vietnam era U.S. military tomahawks and are made from 420 stainless steel and feature light, weather-proof polymer handles crowned by a short 2 ¾ ” blade and spike combo that is the standard on the tomahawk market.

But low price and light weight (only 1 ½ lbs!) come at a cost: half-tang construction. Secured to the polymer haft by means of bolt-on bolsters and a metal strengthening band, the SOG is more on the light-duty end of the spectrum than the others on this list.

Even so, it is more than tough enough for limbing and chopping some small diameter wood or busting a few car windows. Don’t even think about subjecting it to what you’re Estwing or Chogan would laugh off, else the head might start to loosen.

If you are chopping and prepping on a budget, and don’t mind saving the serious chopping and hacking tasks for a more serious axe, the SOG Tactical Tomahawk may be just the ticket.

Check out the price on Amazon.

Browning Shock N’ Awe Tomahawk Knife

Weight: 3.52 ouncesLength: 13.2 inches

One of the best close-in fighting ‘hawks on this list, the Shock N Awe Tomahawk from Browning’s tactical Black Label line of blades is the smallest and nastiest hawk on our list.

Glossy black a gently curving blade and a sweeping, scythe-like spike make this mean customer a hateful handful in close quarters fighting.

But short range problem solving comes at the cost of sheer utility, and if you need to perform serious chopping against harder targets, this might not be the best choice, though it will work well enough given time and patience thanks to its high-performance 1055 steel blade.

For urban misadventure, though, it fares better in the survival role, since the spike is a long, thin and tapering model, perfect for lock busting and canister puncturing.

You can also get a little more utility from the pointed pommel for pounding and scoring when you want to save both edge and spike from more mundane use.

The cord wrapping on the grip surface is attractive and functional, furnishing a good grip wet or dry. The configuration also allows you to wrap your own should you choose.

Check out the Browning Shock N’ Awe Tomahawk Knife on Amazon.

Smith & Wesson E&E Tomahawk

Weight: 3.30 ouncesLength: 15.9 inches

A “just right” sized hawk for combat, survival and utility, from ones of the oldest American gunmakers comes a surprisingly good tomahawk for preppers.

A smidge under 1’ 4” long and weighing in at right at 3 lbs, the 1070 carbon steel E&E ‘hawk is a full tang bruiser designed for chopping up wood at the campsite or hatches off of wrecked aircraft.

Three-quarter length finger grooved scales provide plenty secure gripping surface while the lack of an aggressive texture keeps hot-spots and blisters to a minimum while working over a longer period of time.

The gently tapering spike is perfect for heavy duty breaching and puncturing, and is narrow enough to fit into longer padlocks while still being thick enough to have plenty of utility for heavy duty prying.

Get the Smith & Wesson Extraction and Evasion SW671 from

RMJ Tactical Shrike

Weight: 1 pound 8.7 ouncesLength: 15.8 inches

Ask a dozen guys who have cause to use a tomahawk professionally, either in a hot zone or mopping up in an American city after a major disaster has struck, who makes the flat-out best American tomahawks and five will get you ten that they’ll answer Ryan Johnson of RMJ Tactical.

The Shrike is a solid, one-piece ‘hawk made from excellent 80CRV2 steel and features a uni-lug overmolded grip for sure handling whether you are soaking wet with water or dripping with blood, hopefully not your own.

Specially designed for deep, potent cutting possessing a spike whose specialized geometry lends maximum strength without sacrificing performance, this is one ‘hawk that can bring you back any catastrophe.

As a weapon, the Shrike strikes the right balance between heft and liveliness. As a tool, it cuts and chops magnificently with no appreciable edge degradation no matter how poorly you treat it.

Add to all of the above one of the best sheaths on the market and a tuck-away filing stone included for maintenance and you have the complete package for the well-heeled and tomahawk toting survivor.

Bring your checkbook: this righteously wicked tool will cost you as much as a brand new Glock- about $500. You can get the RMJ Tactical Shrike from their official website.

Cold Steel Frontier Hawk

Weight: 1.48 poundsLength: 22 inches

The other traditional hawk on our list, and one of the best budget offerings. Don’t let Cold Steel’s sometimes-cringey marketing turn you away; this is a serious tool for serious preppers.

Featuring a round genuine hickory handle and a thin, light, vintage-styled head made from 1055 carbon steel, this is a lighter and livelier option than the CRKY Chogan and Kangee series above, though it lacks the extra tool on the poll.

Suitable for chores around camp or self-defense, the Frontier Hawk beautifully proves the adage that you cannot improve on perfection, as tomahawks in this class are among the best all around chopping tools man has yet devised.

One of the few ‘hawks suitable for throwing, the Frontier Hawk is easy to maintain and a joy to use. Just about the only thing it needs is a little extra grip on the handle, as it is very slick as it comes from the factory, and a sheath.

Get the Cold Steel Frontier Hawk here.

Gerber Downrange Tomahawk

Weight: 1.9 poundsLength: 22 inches

One of the most tactically oriented ‘hawks on our list, Gerber’s Donwrange certainly looks the part of a near-future tactical tool. 420HC steel is not an ideal choice for a chopping tool, but the Gerber is plenty tough, and makes up for average steel with tons of functionality and ergonomic enhancements.

The Downrange features a cutting edge with a modest beard, a generous hammer poll and a pry bar at the pommel made easier and safer to use by the distinctively skeletonized head which forms a handle (complete with finger grooves!) to make popping open crates or doors a cinch.

The G-10 scales are tough as nails and deeply choiled for a sure grip, although they are somewhat notorious for causing blisters if you aren’t wearing gloves.

A high-quality sheath and MOLLE attachment apparatus makes the tool easy to setup in various modes for carry. Stem to stern Cerakoting means rust and wear are non-issues.

It is hefty for such a thin tomahawk, right at 2 lbs., and expensive, but the Gerber is a sturdy and elegant take a multifunction SHTF tool that is as much at home in the backcountry as it is a warzone. Check it out on

CRKT Kangee Tactical

Weight: 1.53 poundsLength: 13.8 inches

Not to be confused with the Woods Kangee above, the Kangee Tactical, also designed as you might have guess by the inimitable talented Ryan Johnson, is an especially mean tomahawk for dealing with tactical situations.

Made from SK5 carbon steel and featuring full length, deeply crenellated “frag” style scales, with three possible grip points, the Kangee so far hits all the boxes you’d expect from a one-piece steel hawk.

The head is where things get interesting. The barely-curved, chisel-shaped edge is razor sharp. As is the trailing edge of the beard… And too the spine of the entire head, from the upper corner of the blade to the tip of the viciously pointed spike!

This is one ‘hawk that is going to do damage no matter how it strikes, and the user too will have to be extra careful to stay clear of the numerous edges lest they draw their own blood.

This is of most concern at the uppermost notch just behind the beard, which is designed to allow the user maximum control for scraping and planing.

A ready slicer and chopper, the Kangee is nonetheless most at home when hacking attackers to bits, and its haft reflects this; designed for a secure hold first and foremost, and blister protection as a distant second, the Kangee may be one of the best performing self-defense weapons on this list at a very modest price.

Cold Steel War Hawk

Weight: 1.80 poundsLength: 19 inches

This one is a chopping machine. A beefy, 8 ½ “ 1055 carbon steel head atop a light weight polypropylene handle that suffers none of the fragility that are hallmarks of this class of tomahawk.

With a thin blade and excellent edge geometry, this hawk goes through anything like nobody’s business. Unlike other, lesser synthetic-hafted hawks, the War Hawk lives up to the name, withstanding abuse and shock that would put even the finest hickory to the test.

The blade alone is bad enough but combining the poll spike and long handle makes this War Hawk a sleeper at sailing though sheet metal, padlocks and even helmets with ease.

Even better, the designers included finger choils at the very top of the handle behind the blade for maximum control in a pinch when you need to choke up fast for a detail cut.

In the unlikely event you do wear the handle out (cause you definitely won’t wear the head out!) the entire unit is easily and cheaply replaced, so you need not concern yourself with testing harshly or practicing with your War Hawk. Check out today’s price on Amazon.

United Cutlery M48 Tactical Tomahawk

Weight: 7 ouncesLength: 17.5 inches

Far and away the most sinister looking tomahawk on this list, the M48 by United Cutlery is a techno-barbarian take on a classic Vietnam-era tomahawk.

Making use of the AUS 8 steel, this is one of my favorite all-around hawks on the list: it cuts and chops beautifully, the spike has best in class penetration and it does not weigh so much it is tiring or cumbersome to use. Combined with the Dark Side good looks, what is not to love?!

Not much as it turns out. The M48 has a series of deep, circular grooves on the handle to provide a sure grip with gloves or without. Above the grooves is a pair pronounced palm swells which serve to lock the hand in place when choked up on the haft above the textured area.

The spike is sharpened (really sharpened!) on the top and bottom, lending it better penetration than any of the other hawks shown. What’s more, for self-defense, this opens up entirely new avenues of attack, both through hooking and making draw cuts.

There is one thing you should be aware of, though: while very durable, the handle does not tolerate throwing well. Chopping, hacking, piercing smashing, all day and all night. Throwing? No. So don’t throw it, unless you want to see it broken in short order.

Check it out on Amazon.


Around the world and throughout history, tomahawks and other small members of the axe family have been accompanying people on all kinds of perilous journeys, from war to the forging of civilization out of untamed wilderness.

This ancient tool is no less applicable and valuable today, no matter if you are in the urban jungle or the remote and pristine forests of our nation’s heartland. Use this article as your buying guide and you are certain to come out ahead with a ‘hawk you can count on!

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5 thoughts on “Top 12 Survival Tomahawks to Get”

  1. tomahawks are a complete waste of time, money and effort. and this author does not know what he is saying…4140 does not contain 40% carbon…maybe 0.40% that’s 4/10 of 1%…and that’s a lot of carbon.
    but besides that, the chances of meeting all the conditions of needing one of these tools and also having the skill strength and luck to prevail in the use of one is astronomical at best…

    1. I was issued one of these in RVN and also a knife ,both of which I wish I had kept. The hawk was more useful then the knife in my role and it was more deadly then the knife. It also opened ammo crates and choked up on the head made a good cutting tool. I kike and used the knife too but hawk was faster at some things. Even if the author is not versed in metallurgy his other points are good. My only dismay is the cost of them and try to find one made in USA.

  2. I was issued one of these in RVN and it was more useful then the knife they gave me, good knife wish I had brought them home. He may be off on the metallurgy but on as of use from killing someone to opening ammo grates etc hawk is better. choke up on blade and make a good cutting tool. Cost is to high now for a good one. and hard to find made in USA.

  3. Many years ago, I called my friend, who is a retired 26 year Special Forces LT Col. I asked John what I should get my son in law , who was in the box, supporting SF and SEALS, with his group of JTACS. I had wanted to gift him a 1911, however John pointed out he was USAF, and their rules were the 9mm.

    John told me his guys were carrying tomahawks and that the enemy was scared to death of the hawks. John suggested the RMJ tactical. I purchased several, as I wanted the numbers to be in series. My SIL received his while in country. The others arrived here at home, where I gave them to my male family members.

    Each of us still have our RMJ, hawks, and charring the, to this day. I’m a retired police officer, and Deputy sheriff, with lots and lots of time in the woods, hunting cartel marijuana grows. I carried,my hawk on every garden. A very capable weapon, or tool.

    Fast forward.all the ladies in my family have BOBs, each has a hawk in their BOB kits. Those hawks are the SOG, versions. Buy with confidence. A great tool for every environment.

  4. The tomahawk you have pictured as an RMJ shrike is not a shrike but a very similar model called the Loggerhead. This model has a rubber haft to protect against electrical hazards while breaching through walls. The Shrike is a normal steel and G10 handle.

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