Best Tomahawks of 2022 | Outdoor Life

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Best Tomahawks of 2022 | Outdoor Life

Published Aug 25, 2022 2:00 PM The history of tomahawks can be traced back to First Nations tribes along th


Published Aug 25, 2022 2:00 PM

The history of tomahawks can be traced back to First Nations tribes along the East Coast and Great Lakes area before European exploration. What started as an everyday tool made of stone or antler evolved into a metal head with wood, metal, or synthetic handles that modern tomahawks now sport. 

While they might look a lot different today, tomahawks still have similar purposes: utility and battle. Some have a single edge with nothing on the back of the eye, while others have an edge and a spike opposite, and others have an edge with a hammer poll behind the eye. Tomahawks can be used to chop, pierce, hammer, and pry and can even be effective as a throwing weapon. Whether you’re looking for a lightweight camp tool, a sport throwing hawk, or a more tactically oriented tomahawk, this list will help you find the best tomahawks to fit your needs. 

The Gerber Downrange Tactical Tomahawk is the best overall tomahawk.

Why It Made the Cut

Tomahawks have always been multipurpose tools, and the Gerber Downrange has the most versatility of any on this list. The pry bar built into the handle provides even more capabilities. 

Key Features

  • Made in the U.S.A.
  • Ax head, hammer poll, and pry bar
  • Cerakote stainless steel head and frame 
  • G-10 scales/grip
  • MOLLE compatible sheath included

Pros

  • Versatile sheath
  • Cerakote stainless steel requires minimal maintenance
  • Carry handle built into the head
  • Solid one-piece construction

Cons

  • Most expensive tomahawk on this list

Product Description

The Gerber Downrange Tactical Tomahawk claims best overall because it does all the things that a tomahawk should do and more. Not only can you use this around camp for chopping and hammering, but the integrated pry bar and solid one-piece design make this a great tactical tool as well. The pry bar can be used for digging, forced entry, and even rescue. At almost 20-inches long, it’s on the larger end of the spectrum, which allows for more chopping power and prying leverage. You can mount the sheath to a pack, belt, or MOLLE grids on the back of a seat or in a truck bed. The head also has a cutout big enough for your hand, so you can carry it that way as well. 

The Downrange Tomahawk seems to be at home no matter where it ends up. G-10 handle scales provide a durable, secure grip whether you’re choked up on the handle and carving or out at the end for maximum swings. Its 420hc steel is popular in knives and provides a good balance of edge retention, toughness, and resistance to breaking. At 36 ounces, it certainly isn’t the lightest tool on this list, but you get a lot of utility for the weight. 

The CRKT Johnson Kangee is the best tactical tomahawk.

Why It Made the Cut

The CRKT Johnson Kangee was designed by Ryan Johnson, who has been making tactical tomahawks for more than 30 years, and the Kangee was purpose built for breaching and combat. 

Key Features

  • Made in Taiwan
  • Ax head and spike with sharpened top
  • Powder coated SK5 steel
  • GFN (glass filled nylon) removable handle scales
  • MOLLE compatible polymer sheath included

Pros

  • Solid one-piece construction
  • Excellent grip 
  • Multiple lanyard attachment points
  • Durable powder coating on entire blade and tang
  • Removable scales for easy cleaning

Cons

  • If the coating wears off, SK5 steel can rust without proper care

Product Description

The CRKT Johnson Kangee Tomahawk is designed for the tactical side of the range. While this would work as a camp tool, the spike is not as useful at camp as a hammer poll would be. But for breaching, rescue, or combat scenarios, the curved head and spike make it great for levering doors open and taking down obstacles. Also, nearly every edge on the Kangee’s head is sharpened. A portion of the beard under the main edge is sharp, as well as the entire top edge of the head all the way to the spike. 

Certainly there are advantages to more sharpened edges if this is used in combat. The solid construction means that this tomahawk has serious strength and isn’t in danger of breaking. The ergonomic handle shape provides great grip in three different holds, and the palm swell at the bottom keeps your hand locked into place for full power swings. And you can remove the scales with a Phillips head, which is nice since screwdrivers are ubiquitous. 

The Cold Steel Trail Hawk is the best budget tomahawk.

Why It Made the Cut

The Cold Steel Trail Hawk is a traditional style tomahawk and works great around camp or in the hunting pack. At less than $30, it’s hard to beat. 

Key Features

  • Made in Taiwan
  • Ax head and hardened hammer poll
  • Painted 1055 carbon steel
  • American hickory handle
  • Sheath sold separately

Pros

  • Differentially heat treated to maximize edge retention and toughness
  • Lightweight but strong
  • Removable head and replaceable handle
  • Long handle provides extra power on swings

Cons

  • Handle may need minor shaping for perfect head fit
  • Removable head could slip if not mounted properly

Product Description

The Cold Steel Trail Hawk is patterned off earlier frontier style tomahawks, and the hammer poll and curved edge works great around camp. The 1055 Steel is pretty common for ax heads and is very impact resistant, though it still takes and holds a good edge. While it doesn’t come with a sheath, you can find them for cheap or even make your own (which I did). The trail hawk lives up to its name because it’s perfectly suited for life on the trail where low weight and reliability are important. 

The Cold Steel Trail Hawk
With a traditional hammer poll and curved edge, the Trail Hawk works great around camp. Drew Conover

The hammer poll is hardened so it can drive nails or metal stakes, which comes in handy, and mine has stayed in my truck for the last six years. As with all traditional style hawks, the handle is easy to replace, and you can have several different length handles for different applications.

The Estwing Black Eagle is the best tomahawk for hard use.

Why It Made the Cut

Estwing has been making tough hammers and axes for a long time, and the Black Eagle is no exception. It can handle anything you can throw at it—or throw it at. 

Key Features

  • Made in the U.S.
  • Ax head and rear spike
  • Painted tool steel
  • Shock reducing rubber grip
  • Nylon/Plastic sheath Included

Pros

  • One-piece drop forged construction
  • Sheath has belt loop for easy carry
  • Nearly indestructible
  • Extra weight means extra thump

Cons

  • Sheath is a bit awkward coming on/off

Product Description

There are other strong tomahawks on this list, but the Estwing Black Eagle is built like a tank. The point on the spike is not nearly as fine as others and doesn’t take damage like smaller ones. You can dig a trench around your tent for water run-off and not feel bad, or you can chop through a root with some rocks and not have to worry about chipping this one to shreds. And for high impact work, the rubber overmolded handle does a great job of absorbing the shock. While there are lighter options for hiking or hunting, this tomahawk provides reliable utility around the house and is perfect for those who are hard on tools. If your number one criteria is durability, the Estwing Black Eagle is the tomahawk for you. 

The Estwing Black Eagle
Thanks to its large spike, the Black Eagle won’t tear to shreds should you use it to dig or chop at camp. Drew Conover
The Browning Black Label Shock N’ Awe Tomahawk is the best compact tomahawk.

Why It Made the Cut

The Browning Black Label Shock N’ Awe’s compact 10.5-inch overall length still retains a solid cutting edge and full sized spike. 

Key Features

  • Made in Taiwan
  • Ax head and rear spike
  • Powder coated 1055 carbon steel
  • Paracord wrapped handle
  • Molded sheath with Tek-Lok belt clip

Pros

  • Solid one-piece construction
  • Powder coating protects 1055 from rust
  • Compact size is easier to carry and pack
  • Tapered spike penetrates deep

Cons

  • Finger grooves on handle won’t fit all hands
  • Shorter handle means less leverage

Product Description

Don’t let this one deceive you. This compact tomahawk from Browning still packs a punch. The shorter length makes this tool easier to pack than some of the other choices on this list, but it still retains its utility thanks to a full sized blade and spike. This tomahawk is still large enough to be handy around camp for making kindling or clearing small brush and branches, and the long, curved spike can do some serious piercing in an emergency situation. The finger grooves are not ideal for long term comfort but do offer immediate grip. With only paracord between your hand and the steel handle, this tomahawk is probably best used with a pair of gloves to soften the blows a bit. If space is at a premium in your pack and on your belt, the compact size of the Browning can help you make room. 

The Condor Bushcraft is the best tomahawk for camping.

Why It Made the Cut

The Condor Bushcraft Tomahawk is one of several knives and tools designed by bushcraft and survival expert Joe Flowers. The blade shape is an ax/tomahawk hybrid that makes this perfectly suited for extensive carving and chopping. 

Key Features

  • Made in El Salvador
  • Axe head and hammer poll
  • Forged 1060 steel head
  • American hickory handle 
  • Welted leather sheath with shoulder strap included 

Pros

  • Longer cutting surface on blade
  • Nearly 20-inch handle gives plenty of swinging power
  • Replaceable handle and removable head
  • Hammer poll is hardened

Cons

  • Head can slip if not properly seated

Product Description

The Condor Bushcraft Tomahawk is aptly named. Its blade shape and extended beard provide a wider cutting edge and opportunity to grip the handle behind the edge for greater control, but the handle design is classic tomahawk with a rounded cross section and friction fit up top. If you spend more time chopping, carving, or making some of the best fire starters at camp this is the one for you. 

The hardened poll will allow you to drive nails and metal stakes, which is a nice touch not found on all hammer polls. One of the best things about this tomahawk is the beautiful welted leather sheath and sling. It’s designed to go over your shoulder and hang at your waist on the other side. And it’s not cheap pleather, which is great at this price point. Condor is well known for quality tools at reasonable prices, and this is no exception. 

The Mouse Hawk is the best tomahawk for kids.

Why It Made the Cut

For young people who want to learn how to use an ax or tomahawk, the Mouse Hawk is the perfect size for those with smaller hands to learn how to throw. 

Key Features

  • Made in India
  • Ax head, no poll or spike
  • Forged carbon steel
  • Hickory handle
  • No sheath

Pros

  • Small but traditional shape
  • Relatively inexpensive
  • Good factory edge
  • Great learning tool 
  • Doubles as an ultralight option for adults

Cons

  • Strong head but unrefined forging
  • May require some shaping for solid fit

Product Description

If your young one is looking to learn how to throw, the Mouse Hawk is one of the best tomahawks for the job. The handle is both thinner and shorter than a traditional full-sized tomahawk. Replacement handles are readily available, but with the hickory handle you won’t have to replace them often. The width of the blasé on these hawks is about the same as many full-sized hawks, but it’s proportionately balanced. As for throwing, it requires good spin timing because there is no spike in the back. The handle is well suited for small hands and is easy for them to hold. The Mouse Hawk is also good for those looking to save some weight and still retain the usefulness of a chopping tool. 

Mouse Hawk tomahawk stuck into a tree stump.
The Mouse Hawk is perfect for small hands or those learning how to use a tomahawk. Drew Conover
The SOG FastHawk is the best tomahawk for throwing.

Why It Made the Cut

The SOG FastHawk has a reputation of toughness and reliability when it comes to throwing. The Drilled holes in the blade make it light yet strong, and the GRN handle can handle tons of impacts and keep going. 

Key Features

  • Made in China
  • Ax head and spike
  • 420 coated stainless steel
  • Glass reinforced nylon handle
  • Includes nylon sheath

Pros

  • Lightweight and maneuverable
  • Bolted design makes handle replacement easy
  • Short blade still useful around camp
  • Built-in hammer on side of head

Cons

  • Built-in hammer is awkward to use

Product Description

The SOG FastHawk was designed for throwing, but that’s not to say that it isn’t handy around camp or in combat. However, I wouldn’t use it for prying, since the head is bolted to the handle. It’s a strong enough joint for throwing and resists impact well, but I don’t think I would trust it for breaching a door. That being said, it’s surprisingly strong and holds up to throwing exceptionally well. 

The FastHawk is only 19 ounces, which makes it easy to control and quick to throw. With a little practice, you’ll be sticking this one on every throw. The handle’s grooves provide a good balance of grip for throwing, but when it’s wet, the lack of knurling or palm swell can make the grip feel a little less than secure. Otherwise, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better tomahawk for throwing.

Things to Consider Before Buying a Tomahawk

Most tomahawks are designed for specific applications, so you’ll want one that’s best suited for your needs. A lightweight, streamlined tomahawk that’s designed for throwing will disappoint you if you try to use it as your primary bushcraft tool and vice versa. Still, there are some that do an adequate job at a variety of tasks. Figure out the main tasks for your tomahawk, and you’ll quickly narrow down your options.

Use

The most important thing to consider is how you plan to use your tomahawk. If you are in a professional setting such as military or a firefighter, your duties will likely dictate which one you need to buy.  A traditional, hickory handled tool won’t be the best choice for high stress or extreme conditions like a full tang or one-piece option. If you’re using this around the house or campsite, a more traditional design will work better because the hammer poll will be more useful than a spike.

Safety

There is definitely a learning curve when it comes to throwing or using tomahawks, and it can be dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. If you won’t be taking lessons from an expert, make sure you wear protective gear and have one of the best first aid kits nearby.  It’s not uncommon for tomahawks or axes to bounce back at you if they strike the wood just right. If you’re throwing too hard or too close, a bounce back can ruin your day in a hurry. There are resources out there for learning proper techniques that can help you before you sling your slick new tomahawk downrange. 

FAQs

Q: How much does a tomahawk cost?

The hawks on this list range anywhere from about $25 up to $250, and there are plenty that cost more. Traditional Hawks tend to cost a little less than tactical designs. 

Q: How is a tomahawk different than an axe or hatchet?

A tomahawk has a narrower blade and a spike at the rear of the head that make it more suitable for battle and throwing. They also have a thinner blade stock than axes and hatchets, which allows them to have deeper penetration. While the best camping axes are designed for chopping and splitting, a tomahawk’s geometry is not optimized for those tasks. Tomahawks are also lighter and generally have thinner handles. Traditional tomahawks also have a floating head which is easily removable and not wedged onto the handle like axes or hatchets.

Q: Are tomahawks good for bushcraft?

Yes, depending on the model, tomahawks are good for bushcraft. They will all do bushcraft type tasks, but not nearly as well as an ax. The thinner, narrower bits on tomahawks are usually not as well suited for splitting and chopping like axes or hatchets, which are the two main uses for bushcraft. However, there are some designs that work very well for bushcraft and blur the line between ax and tomahawk. If you want a tomahawk for bushcraft, look for a model with a thicker handle and a wider cutting edge. The Condor on this list is a great crossover tool that works well for bushcraft.

Final Thoughts

The best tomahawks excel at a variety of cutting, throwing, or chopping tasks, while others are application specific. Whether you need a multipurpose tool or range throwing tomahawk, you’ll be hard pressed not to find one on this list.

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