Best Tactical Tomahawks for Survival in 2017: Bushcraft & Military Tomahawk Reviews

Many people are familiar with the different varieties knives on the market (tactical knives, fixed blades and EDC folders).  But far fewer people are aware of what a tactical tomahawk is or how effective they can be in a survival situation.  Why would you want to purchase a tactical tomahawk instead of a knife you might ask?  The fact is that a tactical tomahawk can provide you with significantly more reach than a tactical knife.  It can also be used in many other emergency or survival situations such as freeing someone who may be trapped in a wreck.

In addition, due to their weight, they are also capable as an effective game processing tool when separating limb from prey after a hunt.  It’s also important to note that many designs also serve as multi-function tools for rescue personnel and as breaching tools for both law enforcement and military personnel.  Some people have argued that tactical tomahawks can be used for skinning.  Generally you are better off using a tool specifically designed for that purpose, but tomahawks can be effective if used in conjunction with a good skinning knife.

The fact is that in life or death situation, any tomahawk can be a great tactical addition to any survival arsenal.  Don’t feel like an in-depth read?  Our top three choices are below or continue on for our in-depth buyer’s guide and our top 15 choices.

Our Top 3 Picks:

#1. Gerber Downrange Tomahawk
#2. United Cutlery M48 With Compass
#3. SOG Specialty Knives Tactical Tomahawk

Tactical Tomahawk Buyer’s Guide:

When Europeans first began to explore the Americas, their home forests were all tame, coppiced, woodlands that were also reserved for the rich and powerful.  As a result, Europeans (unlike the peoples of the Thailand, Malaysia, and the Philippines who all live in woody jungles) lacked the concept of a large, heavy duty machete  for use as both a woodsman’s tool and as a means of self defense.  They were however well acquainted with both the battle axe and its smaller cousin the hand axe or, “hatchet”.

Survival Hatchet Buried in Wood

Hatchets (like shown above) are actually very different from tactical tomahawks.

A hatchet is specifically designed for to be a compact, woodsman’s, chopping tool making it ill suited for self defense.  American frontiersmen developed the tomahawk which is the offspring of a European battle axe and a hatchet.

It was specifically designed to function as both a woodsman’s tool and for self defense. A good tomahawk displays some very distinct characteristics that distinguish it from both a battle axe and a hatchet.

Let’s break down some of the major differences.

Head design – The first thing you need to understand about tomahawk design is that it differs drastically from both the European battle axe and the common hatchet in purpose.  This means that it differs in design as well.  For example, the European battle axe almost always features a very wide head with a curved cutting edge and a spike on the reverse side.  Hatchets have a much more narrow head with a significantly less curved cutting edge and, instead of a spike on the back, they have a flat surface.

Both the battle axe and the hatchet are relatively heavy for their size. The tomahawk was developed by North American frontiersmen who needed a tool that could chop, split, and shape wood as well as serve as a reliable tool for self defense.  This means that they needed a hatchet with a longer handle and a much narrower and lighter head so that it would still be able to chop and spit but, would also be much quicker in the hand when needed for quick use.

Head steel – The steel that a tomahawk’s head is made from is also an important consideration.  Because a tomahawk is often a multi-use tool as well as a survival tool, it must be made from a tough steel that is formulated to withstand impact without chipping, breaking, or shattering.  It must also be reasonably hard so that it holds an edge well.  As a general rule, non-stainless, high carbon, tool steels such as 1055, 1095, and SK5, tend to be a better choice for making tomahawk heads than stainless steels such as 420 HC or AUS8.

High carbon tool steels are also far more prone to corrosion than stainless steels.  As a result they do require additional care to keep them corrosion free. It should be noted that the hardness of some tomahawk heads is tested and rated according to the Rockwell Hardness C scale.  This is a very accurate measure of just how hard a particular piece of steel is.

This means that a tomahawk head with a Rockwell Hardness of 44-48 would be considered relatively soft but very tough.  A tomahawk with a Rockwell Hardness of 54-58 would be considered to be relatively hard but somewhat brittle. Ideally a tomahawk with a Rockwell Hardness of 50-52 would be an excellent compromise between toughness and edge holding ability.

Military Guy Carrying Gerber Downrange Best Tactical Tomahawk

Handle length can be an important for anything from chopping brush to breaching a door.

Handle length – The length of the handle a tomahawk has also has a significant effect on its suitability.  When splitting wood or performing precision chopping tasks such as removing debris or wreckage from around an injured individual, a shorter handle provides the user with significantly more control over the head.

It also provides less leverage.  This means that a tomahawk with a shorter handle will not generate as much force when chopping as a tomahawk with a longer handle.

A tomahawk with a relatively long handle provides the user with a significant advantage in both leverage and reach in a survival situation.

If the handle is designed well, the user can “choke up” on the handle when precision is needed or in self defense or in tight quarters.  You can then slide your hand down on the handle when more reach or more leverage is needed.

Handle material – Because a tomahawk is specifically designed for chopping, the handle must be every bit as tough as the steel that the head is made from. Traditionally hickory wood has long been the favored material of choice for tomahawk handles.  Today there are modern materials such as fiberglass reinforced nylon or even steel which are both tougher than wood.

It should be noted that all plastics or polymer handles are prone to degradation when exposed to ultraviolet light.  While wood may last longer, it’s prone to absorb moisture and, it often allows the head to become somewhat loose over an extended period of use.  To prolong the life of your tomahawk with a plastic handle, keep it out of the sunlight.

Head weight – The last aspect that you need to keep in mind is the weight of its head. Tomahawk heads that are optimized for chopping through tough materials are  heavy to provide them with enough momentum to drive the cutting edge into or through the material.

These tomahawks are also difficult to wield effectively in self defense situations because the heavy head makes then difficult to control.  Lighter tomahawk heads that are optimized for use in survival situations are relatively light weight to make them highly maneuverable.  This is preferred for mobility and also penetrating doors and walls when used as a breaching tool.

Choosing the correct tactical tomahawk design for your intended purpose is a lot like choosing the right knife.  Whether that’s a field bushcraft knife or surival knife, etc., it really boils down to choosing a cutting edge that is appropriate to the task  along with the appropriate head weight, handle length, steel type and handle material.

The 15 Top Tactical Tomahawks For Survival in 2017:


Gerber Downrange Tomahawk:

Although the Gerber Downrange Tomahawk is really designed to be a tactical breaching tool first and foremost. Featuring a three-tiered approach to tactical breaching, this hand axe features a large head made from 420 HC stainless steel with a tough Cerakote finish that is capable of chopping through drywall and turning doors to splinters! Below is a great video that outlines some of the primary selling points of the Gerber Downrange Tomahawk.

Also, it features a hammer head positioned opposite of the ax head which serves to get you through hinges, locks, doorknobs and anything else that’s might be in your way. Also, it features a 19.27 inch steel handle shaft with a pry bar at the end of the handle which is easily controlled by a cutaway grip in the ax head. Plus, it features desert tan G-10 handle scales to keep the tool firmly in your hands no matter the conditions.

  •  Gerber Downrange Military Tomahawk For Field Bushcraft SurvivalOverall Length: 19.275”
  • Weight: Unknown
  • Blade Width: 2.75″
  • Head Steel: 420 High Carbon
  • Rockwell Hardness: 50-55
  • Handle Shaft Material: Hand Wrapped Nylon Paracord

SOG Tactical Tomahawk model F01TN CP:

Although it’s billed as a tactical tomahawk, the SOG Tactical Tomahawk is actually specifically designed to be a multi-use tool. Often times, both military and law enforcement professionals have a need for a heavy duty tool that will breach, excavate, extract, remove obstacles.  The SOG Tactical Tomahawk is an extreme evolution of the original Vietnam Tomahawk.

It features a 2.75” wide head made from 420 stainless steel with a black, “hardcased”, coating and an unusual blade design with two round holes to make it lighter. It features a rather large spike opposite the blade that is very well suited for penetrating hard materials.  This is helpful when penetrating wooden doors or shattering car windows to facilitate extracting injured passengers. In addition, the head is secured to the fiberglass reinforced nylon (FRN) handle by two bolts and a metal ferrule for an extra tight fit. Plus, with an overall length of 15.75”, it provides significant reach when. Last, it comes with a heavy-duty, black, nylon sheath with a belt loop.

  • SOG Tactical Tomahawk F01TNOverall Length: 15.75”
  • Weight: 24 oz.
  • Blade Width: 2.75”
  • Head Steel: 420 Stainless Steel
  • Rockwell Hardness: 51-53 HRC
  • Handle Shaft Material: Fiberglass Reinforced Nylon

SOG Fasthawk Tactical Tomahawk:

Although the SOG Fasthawk appears to be identical to the SOG Tactical Tomahawk at first glance, upon closer examination, you will see that there are minor, but significant, differences between the two. For instance, it features a 2” wide blade instead of a 2.75″ wide blade made from 420 stainless steel with a black, “hardcased” , coating and the same unusual blade design with two round holes to make it lighter.

Plus, like the SOG Tactical Tomahawk, it also features a rather large spike opposite the blade that is very well suited for emergency or survival duties. It features a 12.5″ fiberglass reinforced nylon (FRN) handle to which the head is secured by two bolts and a metal ferrule for an extra tight fit. Last, it too comes with a heavy-duty, black, nylon sheath with a belt loop.

  •  SOG Fasthawk TomahawkOverall Length: 12.5”
  • Weight: 19 oz.
  • Blade Width: 2”
  • Head Steel: 420 Stainless Steel
  • Rockwell Hardness: 51-53 HRC
  • Handle Shaft Material: Fiberglass Reinforced Nylon

SOG Voodoo Hawk:

The SOG Voodoo Hawk was designed to be a combination of their Tactical Tomahawk and their FastHawk.  It features 3.5 inch blade made from 3Cr13 stainless steel with a Rockwell Hardness of 51-53 HRC and black, “hardcased”, corrosion resistant, coating secured to the handle shaft with two bolts and a metal ferrule.

It also features a glass reinforced nylon handle shaft with a metal butt cap that both helps to balance the head as well as preventing the tomahawk from sliding out of the hand when in use. Lastly, it includes a heavy duty nylon belt sheath.

  • SOG Voodoo TomahawkOverall Length: 12. 5”
  • Weight: 28.5 oz.
  • Blade Width: 3.5”
  • Head Steel: 3Cr13 Stainless Steel
  • Rockwell Hardness: 51-53 HRC
  • Handle Shaft Material: Fiberglass Reinforced Nylon

SOG Survival Hawk:

Specifically designed for use as a survival tool, the SOG Survival Hawk is a great option for any survival arsenal.  Featuring a 3 inch blade made from 2Cr high carbon tool steel with a black, “hardcased”, corrosion resistant coating.  It’s then balanced by a heavy duty spike on the opposite side secured to the 12.1 inch glass reinforced nylon handle shaft with three bolts.  The Survival Hawk is literally “ready” wherever you go.

In addition, it also features a ferrocerium fire starter rod in the handle, an integral nail puller on the spike.  It also has a textured hammering surface on the side. This makes the Survival Hawk from SOG is the perfect outdoor companion for your survival or camp knife.

  • SOG Survival HawkOverall Length: 12.1”
  • Weight: 19.5 oz.
  • Blade Width: 3”
  • Head Steel: 2Cr High Carbon Steel
  • Rockwell Hardness: 17-19 HRC
  • Handle Shaft Material: Fiberglass Reinforced Nylon

SOG Throwing Hawks 3-pack:

Unlike the other tomahawks in the SOG line, the SOG Throwing Hawk is specifically designed for throwing.  It features a 1.75 inch blade made from 3Cr13MoV stainless steel with a Rockwell Hardness of 50-56 HRC.  It’s equipped with two round holes in the blade to reduce weight balanced by a heavy duty spike on the opposite side.  It has a black, “hardcased”, coating to help prevent corrosion.

The throwing hawks feature a solid steel handle shaft with a paracord wrapped grip. Therefore, the balance, aerodynamics, and proportions of this tomahawk make it great throwing tomahawk.  With its all steel construction, it’s practically indestructible. But, best of all, when you purchase the SOG Throwing Hawk, you get three separate tomahawks for the price of one.  They all fit together in the included heavy duty nylon sheath.

  • SOG Throwing HawkOverall Length: 10.75”
  • Weight: 25 oz.
  • Blade Width: 1.75”
  • Head Steel: 3Cr13MoV Stainless Steel
  • Rockwell Hardness: 50-56 HRC
  • Handle Shaft Material: Fiberglass Reinforced Nylon

Smith & Wesson Extraction & Evasion Tomahawk:

Manufactured by Taylor Brands (makers of Schrade, Old Timer, and Uncle Henry) for Smith & Wesson, the S & W Extraction and Evasion Tomahawk is a formidable survival tool. Significantly heavier than most other tactical tomahawks on the market with an overall weight of 35 oz. and featuring a head made from 3/8″, 1070, high carbon tool steel bar stock with a black, corrosion resistant, coating and a heavy duty spike positioned on the opposite side, this tactical tomahawk makes an awesome wilderness companion!

It also features a steel handle shaft with an overall length of 15.9″ and two removable handle scales made from Thermoplastic Elastomer (aka Krayton/Hypalon) with a slightly textured surface for a secure grip. Last, it includes a heavy duty canvas belt sheath with a snap closure.

  • Smith & Wesson Extraction TomahawkOverall Length: 15.9”
  • Weight: 35 oz.
  • Blade Width: Unknown
  • Head Steel: 1070 High Carbon Steel
  • Rockwell Hardness: Unknown
  • Handle Shaft Material: Krayton

Browning Shock N’ Awe Tactical Tomahawk:

Although the Browning Shock N’ Awe Tomahawk has a significantly shorter handle than most tactical tomahawks, it is still an awesome little tomahawk. Featuring a overall length of just 10.5 inches with a 2.75 inch blade made from 1055 high carbon tool steel with a Rockwell Hardness of 54 and black powder coat to inhibit corrosion, the head is balanced by a large, heavy duty, curved, penetration spike.

Also, it features a steel handle shaft with a hand-wrapped black nylon paracord grip and a generously-sized lanyard hole. Plus, it includes a Blade-Tech molded polymer sheath with a Tek-Lok belt clip that easily adjusts for carry angle and belt loop width.  Browning is synonymous with quality outdoor products, from trail and game cameras to sleeping bags and camping tents that are big enough for families.  They also make several accessories for 22 caliber rifles.

  • Browning Shock N Awe TomahawkOverall Length: 10.5”
  • Weight: Unknown
  • Blade Width: 2.75″
  • Head Steel: 1055 High Carbon Steel
  • Rockwell Hardness: 54 HRC
  • Handle Shaft Material: Hand Wrapped Nylon Paracord

Kershaw Siege Tomahawk Knife:

The Kersha Siege Tomahawk is a great tactical model that has a full tang blade.  It’s designed to be a multi-functional tool that can do everything well including breaching doors and opening crates.  The back spike is great for penetration in rescue scenarios.  It also has a nail puller built into the handle which effectively doubles up as a pry bar.

Also, the riveted glass-filled nylon scales on the handle contribute to an extra secure grip. Last, it also includes a heavy duty, black, nylon belt sheath.  The coating is black oxide built for a rugged long term abuse.  This Tomahawk is great for survival, comping and just about any outdoor activity you can throw at it.

  • Kershaw TomahawkOverall Length: 16”
  • Weight: Unknown
  • Blade Width: 4.0″
  • Head Steel: 3Cr13 Steel Oxide Coated Steel
  • Rockwell Hardness: Unknown
  • Handle steel: Glass Reinforced Nylon

CRKT Chogan T-Hawk:

Designed by custom bladesmith Ryan Johnson, the Columbia River Knife & Tool Chogan T-Hawk is designed to be a dedicated survival tool. Featuring a rather unique head shape that is not only sharpened on the leading edge but is also sharpened on the top edge but is lacking the customary spike on the opposite side, making it a rather unusual tactical tomahawk.

Made from SK5 high carbon tool steel with black, corrosion resistant, powder coat and a Rockwell Hardness of 54-55, the steel handle shaft is accompanied by two removable handle scales made from textured glass reinforced nylon with grip choils along the front for an enhanced grip. Last, it includes a MOLLE compatible Kydex sheath with a buckle strap.

  • CRKT ChoganOverall Length: 14”
  • Weight: 24.6 oz.
  • Blade Width: 2.93″
  • Head Steel: SK5 High Carbon Steel
  • Rockwell Hardness: 54-55 HRC
  • Handle Shaft Material: Glass Filled Nylon

CRKT Kangee T-Hawk:

Like the CRKT Chogan T-Hawk, the Columbia River Knife & Tool Kangee T-Hawk is also designed by custom bladesmith Ryan Johnson. Featuring a rather unique head shape that is not only sharpened on the leading edge but is also sharpened on the top edge, unlike the Chogan T-Hawk, the Kangee T-Hawk does feature a spike opposite the cutting edge.

Also, it too is made from SK5 high carbon tool steel with black, corrosion resistant, powder coat and a Rockwell Hardness of 54-55 and, the steel handle shaft is accompanied by two removable handle scales made from textured glass reinforced nylon with grip choils along the front for an enhanced grip. Last, it includes a MOLLE compatible Kydex sheath with a buckle strap.

  • CRKT Kangee TomahawkOverall Length: 13.75”
  • Weight: 24.4
  • Blade Width: 2.93″
  • Head Steel: SK5 High Carbon Steel
  • Rockwell Hardness: 54-55
  • Handle Shaft Material: Glass Filled Nylon

United Cutlery M48 Hawk Axe Tactical Tomahawk:

Designed specifically as a tactical survival tool, the United Cutlery M48 Hawk Axe is without a doubt a great option for any survivalist.  Featuring a wide, upswept, battle axe type blade for serious chopping and cutting combined with a head that is constructed of precision cast 2Cr13 stainless steel, the M48 Hawk Axe makes an efficient personal defense and breaching tool as well as a great camping tool.

Plus, the blade is securely attached to the sturdy, glass reinforced nylon, handle with three separate bolts to hold it in place and, it includes a nylon snap button sheath.

  • United Cutlery M-48 TomahawkOverall Length: 15”
  • Weight: Unknown
  • Blade Width: 3.75”
  • Head Steel: 2Cr13 Stainless Steel
  • Rockwell Hardness: Unknown
  • Handle Shaft Material: Fiberglass Reinforced Nylon

United Cutlery M48 Ranger Hawk Axe w/Compass:

Nearly identical to the United Cutlery M48 Hawk Axe, the M48 Ranger Hawk Axe is also designed specifically as a survival tool. Like the United Cutlery Hawk Axe, this tactical tomahawk features a wide, upswept, battle axe type blade for serious chopping, slashing, and cutting.  It has a head that is constructed of precision cast AUS-6 stainless steel which makes the M48 Ranger Hawk Axe an efficient personal defense and breaching tool as well as a great camping tool.

Plus, the blade is securely attached to the sturdy, olive drab, glass reinforced nylon, handle with three separate bolts to hold it in place. But, rather than the black handle featured on the Hawk Axe, the Ranger Hawk Axe features an olive drab handle with a paracord wrapping and it too includes a nylon snap button sheath and comes with a matching lensactic compass.

  •  United Cutlery M48 RangerOverall Length: 15”
  • Weight: Unknown
  • Blade Width: 3.75”
  • Head Steel: AUS-6 Stainless Steel
  • Rockwell Hardness: Unknown
  • Handle Shaft Material: Fiberglass Reinforced Nylon

Estwing Black Eagle Tomahawk:

Best known for their hammers, the American made Estwing Black Eagle Tomahawk is an excellent example of the quality tools they are famous for. This tomahawk features a head made from 1070 high carbon tool steel with a relatively narrow blade and a cutout to lessen the weight.

It also has a black, corrosion resistant coating, making it an awesome tactical tool. It also features an overall length of 16.25 inches with Estwing’s signature, all steel, handle shaft with the same shock absorbing rubber grip featured on their hammers.

  • Estwing Tactical TomahawkOverall Length: 16.25”
  • Weight: 27oz.
  • Blade Width: Unknown
  • Head Steel: 1070 High Carbon Steel
  • Rockwell Hardness: Unknown
  • Handle Shaft Material: Shock Absorbing Rubber

SOG FastHawk Tactical Tomahawk model F06TN CP:

Identical to the SOG Tactical Tomahawk model FO1TN CP in every way except for the finish on the head and the length of the tomahawk.  This tomahawk features a 2” wide head made from 420 stainless steel with a bright, polished, finish and an unusual blade design with two round holes to make it lighter. Like the F01TN CP, it features a rather large spike opposite the blade that is very well suited for penetrating hard materials such as wooden door as well as for shattering car windows to facilitate extracting injured passengers.

In addition, the head is secured to the fiberglass reinforced nylon (FRN) handle by two bolts and a metal ferrule for an extra tight fit. Plus, with an overall length of 12.75”, it provides a shorter more compact reach. Last, it comes with a heavy-duty, black, nylon sheath with a belt loop.

  • SOG Mini Tomahawk FastHawkOverall Length: 12.75”
  • Weight: 24 oz.
  • Blade Width: 2”
  • Head Steel: 420 Stainless Steel
  • Rockwell Hardness: 51-53 HRC
  • Handle Shaft Material: Fiberglass Reinforced Nylon

Wrapping Up & Parting Thoughts:

Adding a tactical tomahawk to your survival arsenal is no different than piecing together the right hunting accessories like laser rangefinders or two way radios for your next hunting trip.  A hatchet or an axe may be a better all around tool to take camping.  With that being said, a tactical tomahawk is still an excellent survival tool that can be used in a variety of methods.  It’s something that you can take with you on your next hunting trip while out hunting deer with your crossbowcompound bow or recurve bow, yet still be effective enough in the most dire survival circumstances.

Having a tactical tomahawk by your side can provide you a significant advantage out in the wild for both self protection and basic survival use.  Any accomplished survivalist will tell you that having a good variety of survival tools at your side in any life threatening situation is of the utmost importance.  Our list here isn’t all inclusive but it’s a good representation of some of the best tactical tomahawks on the market today.  As always, if you feel we’ve missed something, leave us a note in the comments section below!

Gerber Image Credits:  Gerber Gear on Facebook

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