The Jenny Wren proves that great things come in small packages. It is designed to be an ultra-lightweight and nimble-handling tomahawk for fast close quarters combat and light breaching not to mention wood splitting and chopping as well. It’s constructed from solid 4140 chrome-moly differentially heat-treated steel. The handle has a slim cross section covered with textured G-10 FR4 3-D scales. The Jenny Wren is DuraCoated for longevity and includes a bottom-eject Kydex scabbard with multiple carry options.
Designed by Ryan Johnson of RMJ Tactical, the Kangee T-Hawk’s blade is made from a single slab of SK5 carbon steel black powder coated for durability. It has a glass-filled nylon handle built tough enough to handle the harshest of blows. CRKT states that its “blade geometry has tapered cutting edges for efficient splitting, chopping or shaving and overall toughness.” The other end of the blade has a spiked tip. It features a curved handle and finger grooves along the front for control and a secure grip. It is housed in a secure MOLLE-compatible Kydex sheath with a nylon shoulder strap.
The Hawk and Knife Emergency Tool, or HAKET, from TOPS Knives is a modular tool that can convert from tomahawk to scrapper, chopper or knife. The HAKET’s interchangeable blade is made of 1095 steel with a small two-inch tomahawk blade on one end and a 2.5-inch-long knife blade on the other end. TOPS offers several blades with slightly different contours. To convert the axe blade, you simply slide the blade into a slot on the chrome-moly alloy handle and fasten it with a special heavy-duty bolt. The hollow handle can be packed with survival items to help keep a smaller footprint in your bug-out bag.
Designed by Paul Ethers for Tops Knives, MAX the Mini Axe is primarily designed for defensive purposes. The most compact axe in our guide, MAX the Mini Axe has an overall length of only 9.25 inches, which makes it easily concealable. The blade is made of 1095 high carbon alloy RC-58 steel and its handle is covered with black linen Micarta. A great feature about MAX is that it is fully customizable when ordered. You have the choice of either camo or black blade finishes and standard or Rocky Mountain Tread handle contours. Visit the TOPS website for details. It comes with a Kydex sheath with rotating steel spring clip.
RMJ Tactical’s Berserker is based on a ninth century Viking wood axe and features modern all-steel integral construction. You quickly realize RMJ’s solid reputation for building robust tactical tools when you handle the Berserker Tomahawk. Made of solid 4140 Chrome-moly steel, this tomahawk feels well balanced in the hand. It is differentially heat-treated then finished in a layer of protective DuraCoat. The handle is covered with chemical-resistant G-10 FR4 3-D machined handle scales for aggressive grip. On top of all of this, the Berserker comes with a lifetime guarantee.
Three features stand out on the Gator Combo Axe. It has a forged steel head, Gerber’s proprietary Gator-Grip textured rubber- covered handle for improved grip and a hidden knife in its glass-filled nylon handle. The knife fits perfectly inside the axe’s handle and features a nearly 3-inch-long blade and has the Gator-Grip treatment on its handle. This compact hand axe fits well fastened on or in just about any bug-out bag or toolbox, but you’ll have to figure out how to do it safely yourself, since it doesn’t come with its own sheath or axe head cover.
The M48 Ranger Hawk’s head is constructed from precision cast 2Cr13 stainless steel with an upswept axe blade for efficient chopping, slashing and cutting. On the backside of the head is a viciously sharp spiked point that when combined with its wide cutting blade, makes for an effective defensive and breaching tool. The M48 is lightweight so that it can be carried for long periods. The head is attached to a nylon and fiberglass reinforced handle with black nylon cord wrapping around its grip. It includes a snap-button closure nylon belt sheath that also holds an included directional compass.
The Estwing Leather Sportsman Axe is forged in one piece with a genuine leather grip. Perfect for camping or survival, this basic hand axe includes an embossed leather sheath for carrying ease. It’s widely available at stores such as Home Depot, and we give it kudos for its affordable price and the fact that it’s American made.
This American-made Black Eagle Double Bit Axe looks reminiscent of a medieval battle-axe or even something from Lord of the Rings. It features a lightweight design that makes it surprisingly easy to carry. Its handle is shaped like that of a standard hammer and it’s encased with Estwing’s Shock Reduction Grip for extra comfort and durability. The double-sided axe is forged in one piece, making it well balanced and weighted.
Woodsmen and those skilled in bushcraft know that a reliable axe can get you far in survival situations and make routine chores a snap. Whether you need to split wood for a fire, breach a door or wall for rescue purposes or defend yourself from some bad dudes, an axe is the tool that can do it all. The kind of axe you need depends on your intended use as well as your personal preferences. At first glance, axes, hatchets and tomahawks look similar, so what sets them apart from one another?
Understanding Axes & Whiskey
Strolling through the axe department at your local outdoorsman’s store will tell you that the varieties of axes that are available are as diverse as how long whiskeys are aged in distilleries (in their own ways, both can mess you up good). Many casually substitute the names hatchet or tomahawk erroneously, much like those who call a bourbon a Scotch (blasphemy!). The differences between an axe, hatchet and tomahawk can be confusing and is loosely comparable to the differences between whiskey, bourbon and Scotch.
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Let’s begin with the understanding that all Bourbons and Scotches are whiskeys. Similarly, all hatchets and tomahawks are axes. Also, not all whiskeys are Scotches and not all axes are tomahawks. You still with us, or can you use a drink about now? In regards to the naming convention of whiskeys, what makes a whiskey a whiskey is that it is hooch distilled from fermented grain mash. What type of grain, what percentage of mixture, where it’s made and other details factor into whether this whiskey is ultimately called Bourbon, Scotch, Rye or another name. Just as there are many variations of whiskeys, there might be even more variations of axes. In its most basic modern interpretation, an axe is a hand tool with a forged head that has at least one side sharpened to a cutting edge.
Hatchets & Tomahawks
A hatchet is a one-handed tool with a sharp blade on one side and a hammerhead on the other. The blade side is commonly used for chopping or splitting wood while the hammer side is used for driving in nails, stakes or anything in need of a striking blow. The easiest way to spot a hatchet is to look for a hammerhead on the side opposite the axe blade. Note that if you spot a wide flattened area instead of a hammerhead on the backside, you’re looking at a hand axe, which is not technically a hatchet, but is just as useful. Hatchets are relatively compact, versatile tools that can create sparks to start a fire or complete tasks normally accomplished by smaller tools such as pocket knives.
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Tomahawks have a reputation for being deadly Native American battle weapons used for hand-to-hand combat as well as thrown projectiles. As well founded as that reputation is, tomahawks are also very useful as general-purpose tools and as a lighter weight alternative to the hatchet. Visual cues that set a tomahawk apart from other axes are their size, with shafts that are typically less than 24 inches long, and a cutting edge no longer than 4 inches. On the pole, or the butt of the blade, there is usually a protruding tool such as a hammer or spike. There are always exceptions to these rules, however.
We are now going through a tomahawk revival of sorts with the sport of competitive tomahawk throwing on the rise and renewed military and law enforcement interest in the tool. Regardless of what you call them, axes, hatchets or tomahawks, these tools are all adaptable to countless uses. Scroll through the gallery above for a look at a selection of axes that are useful in most survival situations.
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This article was originally published in BALLISTIC™ Summer 2015 magazine. Print Subscriptions are available here.
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