Historically, tomahawks are considered a reliable tool, originally used by Native Americans as a self-defense weapon and for trade. While many historical weapons seemed to have gone extinct, the tomahawk remains a staple of many survivalists’ toolkits.
The reason for their continued popularity is that they’re one of the most practical tools you can have in a survival situation. They function like an axe, so they’re ideal for chopping in the wilderness. Tomahawks can also be used for self-defense against humans and animals, and also for search and rescue purposes.
While most tomahawks will be fit for purpose, if you can choose the best survival tomahawk, then you’ll have the best chance of survival.
Here at Survival Front, we’ve reviewed five products to help you find the best survival tomahawk, so you can defend yourself no matter the situation. Take a look at our reviews, and check out our handy buyer’s guide, to help you choose the best tomahawk for survival!
SOG Tactical Tomahawk (F01TN-CP)
Despite its name, this tomahawk is more than just tactical. It is a multipurpose tool, suitable for a variety of situations you could find yourself in when you need to survive.
The head is constructed from 420 stainless steel, and its weight is reduced by the inclusion of two round holes in its design. It has a Rockwell Hardness rating of 51-53, which means it performs well against heavy-duty tasks and is an ideal level of toughness for survival.
It also features a large spike opposite the blade, which is great for piercing through stubborn materials. It also works well in serious emergencies, such as when you need to smash through glass windows.
The handle is made from fiberglass-reinforced nylon, and secured by two bolts and a metal ferrule for extra safety. When it comes to length, the tomahawk has an overall length of 15.75 inches. It’s on the longer side, making it far-reaching and full of force.
- Suitable for a variety of purposes, including precision tasks due to the large spike
- Durable design, with a strong Rockwell Hardness rating
- 420 stainless steel head means it prevents corrosion and rust
- Lightweight, despite its ability to tackle heavy-duty chopping
- The length means there is more leverage to chop through hard materials
- Longer handle may mean less control for precision tasks
Smith & Wesson SW671 Tomahawk
A trusted maker of tomahawks and survival tools, Smith & Wesson haven’t disappointed with the Smith & Wesson SW671 Tomahawk.
Constructed with high carbon steel, both the blade and the handle are built to last against any survival situation. The blade has a black, corrosion-resistant coating to increase its durability against the elements and prolonged use. You can also use the heavy-duty spike on the opposite side to help you chop through more restricted areas.
What makes this tomahawk stand out from the crowd is its handle design. The steel handle features two removable handle scales, designed from Thermoplastic Elastomer, which have a textured surface for an exceptionally secure grip no matter what.
- Blade is built to be extremely durable and powerful
- Corrosion-resistant coating means it can withstand the elements
- Heavy-duty spike is great for tactical survival
- Strong grip from the steel handle
- Includes a nylon sheath for easy storage and portability
- Heavier than competitor tomahawks
- May need sharpening straight out of the box
Gerber Downrange Tomahawk (30-000715)
The Gerber Downrange Tomahawk (30-000715) is a serious survival tool.
It can chop through pretty much everything, and help you in emergencies, like when you need to hammer in tent stakes or pry doors open, with it’s 3-in-1 design.
Don’t expect average results from this tomahawk. Its length, measuring at 19.27”, means you’ll have plenty of force behind your swing.
The ax head has a beveled edge, which means it can chop through drywall and stubborn materials.
The backside of the ax head is designed like a hammer, to help you get through difficult obstacles. It then also comes with a pry bar at the end of the handle, for getting through hard to reach places.
It’s a heavy-duty tactical tool, with high power when it comes to performance.
The tomahawk body is built from corrosion-resistant 420 high carbon steel, so it won’t let you down in harsh weather conditions or when faced up against tough materials.
- High carbon steel is durable and gives a powerful chop
- The 3-in-1 tool is versatile for survival situations
- MOLLE compatible sheath for carrying convenience
- Comfortable grip with G-10 composite scales on the handle
- Not budget-friendly
- Longer than competitor models, and can be difficult to store in a survival situation
CRKT Kangee Tomahawk
With a unique head design, the CRKT Kangee Tomahawk is a multi-functional tool that offers both utility and protection.
It is designed by a single piece of SK5 high carbon steel, so it is durable enough to chop through almost anything. The hawk also features a sharp spike, which is great for precision chopping, and contrasts nicely with the heavy-duty cutting edge on the opposite side.
The hawk measures at 13.75” overall, which is ideal for survival situations. It’s not only relatively small in size, but also comfortable to hold. It features a curved handle and a finger grip choils so that you can execute your swings with the finest control.
- Durable SK5 Carbon Steel
- Coated in corrosion-resistant black powder
- Lightweight and compact
- Curved handle and finger grip choils for enhanced control
- MOLLE sheath makes it easy to carry
- Some customers have reported that the cutting edge has chipped or broken off after only a few uses
United Cutlery M48 Tactical Tomahawk
The United Cutlery M48 Tactical Tomahawk is a great combination of a durable and multi-functional tool.
It has dual cutting edges, with one on the top of the axe head, and one on the front edge. This feature, combined with the sharp spike on the opposite side, makes for a great defensive weapon in the wilderness.
It measures at just over 15 inches overall, so while it is compact to take with you in the wilderness, it is also long enough to give you a powerful swing when you need it.
The blade is designed from corrosion-resistant AUS-6 stainless steel, with a scratch-resistant black oxide coating for added durability. The handle is constructed with reinforced nylon, and is attached securely to the axe head with three heavy-duty bolts, so you can feel safe knowing your hawk won’t fall apart during a crucial moment.
- Lightweight and compact
- Corrosion-resistant stainless steel works well in a variety of weather conditions
- Sharp spike is great for precision chopping
- Nylon snap button sheath is convenient for carrying
- Not the most powerful tomahawk and wouldn't be ideal for heavy-duty tasks
Tomahawks differ from their hatchet brothers in both their purpose and their style.
While axes and hatchets are more heavy-duty tools, the tomahawk is significantly lighter by design, with a narrow and lightweight head. It is constructed in this way so that it can chop and split wood, while still able to be used quickly and without much effort involved in throwing.
Tomahawks heads are usually designed in one of three ways: spiked, polled, or un-polled. The ‘poll’ is the part of the tomahawk that is on the opposite side of the main blade.
In terms of survival, a spiked polled tomahawk is an excellent choice. This style of tomahawk head allows for a multitude of uses, and can work well for both self-defense and chopping or splitting.
Stainless vs. High Carbon Steel
Choosing a tomahawk made from durable, high-quality steel will set you up with the best chance of survival. This is definitely a component that you shouldn’t overlook, as your tomahawk will need to withstand a variety of conditions and elements from the outdoors.
Generally, high carbon, non-stainless steel can withstand the most damage and will last the longest. Look out for 1055, SK5, or 1095 steel when choosing a survival tomahawk, as these models can handle impact without shattering or falling apart.
You’ll likely be cutting through all sorts of materials, particularly in the wilderness, so you shouldn’t have to worry about your tomahawk not getting the job done.
However, it is worth noting that high carbon steel will corrode more than stainless steel, especially if it is not looked after properly. With this in mind, you will need to maintain a high carbon steel tomahawk with the correct tools to keep it in excellent condition.
Some tomahawk heads are measured by a Rockwell Hardness C scale, in order to rate their toughness. Generally, a head with a Rockwell Hardness rating of 44-48 is soft, but durable against impact, while a rating of 54-58 is harder to the touch, but not as strong.
That’s why a Rockwell Hardness rating of between 50-52 is considered the ideal blend of performing well, but also being durable and tough against the elements.
It is essential to consider the length of the tomahawk handle, as this part of the tool can affect its overall performance. A handle will typically measure between 8 and 22 inches, but the right size for you will depend on its intended use.
For example, when it comes to precision cutting tasks, like splitting wood, it’s believed that a shorter handle will give you greater control. However, with more precision comes less force.
A short handle won’t give you as much leverage, so if you need to chop through large, tough wood, or pierce through stubborn materials, then a long handle will be your best option.
As you are looking for a tomahawk to suit a survival situation, then it also vital that you consider how easy it will be to pack and carry.
A longer handle won’t be as compact or lightweight as a short handle, so if you think you can survive without the force of a long handle, then maybe something smaller will be worth considering.
A Firm Grip
Once you’ve considered which length is best for you, it’s time to think about what the handle is made from. Tomahawks are usually made from either wood, metal, or both.
Wood handles are the most budget-friendly option out of the three, because the head of the tomahawk will carry most of the weight. Hickory wood is a popular choice for tomahawk handles. If the wood is as tough as the head’s steel, then you’ll have a high-performing tomahawk.
Usually a more premium-priced choice, it is harder to get the balance right with metal tomahawks, with the head and handle being made from the same metal. This is because the head is usually lighter than the handle, which can make swinging and precision tasks harder than they need to be.
In contrast, a hybrid of both wood and metal for the handle doesn’t have this problem, as they will have a non-wood handle that is separate from the head. They’re therefore more comfortable to use, and more lightweight.
Weight and Control
For heavy-duty, high-impact tasks, a heavier tomahawk will be the right choice. It will be able to take more out of a target for self-defense, or chop deeper than a lightweight tomahawk. This is because the weight of the head gives the tomahawk more momentum when swung.
However, it is worth thinking about how much control you’ll have over a heavy tomahawk. While it might be able to chop through a target with great force, it will be harder to chop through the target in the first place because of the weight.
If you are adamant on choosing a heavier tomahawk for survival, as they do make a great choice, then it is a good idea to practice your chopping techniques beforehand, and get used to the feel of the tool in your hands.
More lightweight tomahawks are designed with survival in mind, as they’re easier to handle and can, therefore, be more versatile. This makes them the desired choice for when you’re stuck in tight spaces, but the increased control makes them work for self-defense if the head is strong enough.
With a great range of survival tomahawks available, it’s not an easy decision to choose just one. However, my pick for the best survival tomahawk would have to be the Smith & Wesson Extraction and Evasion SW671 Tomahawk.
If you’re looking for the ideal combination of durability and power, while still getting the precision and control for tactical survival, this could be the tomahawk for you.
You’re also getting a high-quality design from a trusted manufacturer that can work in pretty much any survival situation you might have to face.
Thanks for reading, and we hope our reviews have helped you to choose the best survival tomahawk to add to your toolkit. Please leave any feedback in the comments section below, or if you have any suggestions for future topics, please get in touch with us. We’d love to hear from you!
Good Luck and Happy Survival Prepping!
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