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Tactical tomahawk in Africa

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When talking about bush gear in Africa, the discussion hardly ever turns to a tactical tomahawk. Some hunters think they do not need an axe, others think that a camp ax is all you need - and still others think that the best choice is to have a tactical tomahawk.

A tactical tomahawk is a great choice for the bush because they come in several different configurations, styles, and sizes which gives it an advantage over the common axe.


The name "tomahawk" comes from Powhatan tamahaac, derived from the Proto-Algonquian root *temah- ‘to cut off by tool’.

The Algonquian Indians in Native America created the tomahawk. Before Europeans came to America, Native Americans would use stones attached to wooden handles, secured with strips of rawhide for everyday uses, such as chopping, cutting or hunting but was typically used as a weapon.

Pre-contact Native Americans lacked iron making technology, so tomahawks were not fitted with metal axe heads until they could be obtained from trade with Europeans. The tomahawk’s original designs were fitted with heads of bladed or rounded stone or deer antler.

Tomahawks sometimes had a pipe-bowl carved into the poll, and a hole drilled down the center of the shaft for smoking tobacco through the tomahawk. There are also metal-headed versions of this unusual pipe. Pipe tomahawks are artifacts unique to North America: created by Europeans as trade objects but often exchanged as diplomatic gifts. They were symbols of the choice Europeans and Native Americans faced whenever they met: one end was the pipe of peace, the other an axe of war.

The ceremonial tomahawk usually was richly decorated with feathers and paint. Some Native Americans had the custom of ceremonially burying a tomahawk after peace had been reached with an enemy. This custom is supposedly the origin of the colloquial phrase, "to bury the hatchet."

In colonial French territory, a very different tomahawk design, closer to the ancient European francisca, was in use by French settlers and indigenous peoples. In the late 18th century, the British Army issued tomahawks to their colonial regulars during the American Revolutionary War as a weapon and tool.

When Europeans arrived in North America, they introduced the metal blade to the natives, which improved the effectiveness of the tool. Metal did not break as readily as stone and could be fashioned for additional uses. Native Americans created a tomahawk’s poll, the side opposite the blade, which consisted of a hammer, spike or a pipe. These became known as pipe tomahawks, which consisted of a bowl on the poll and a hollowed out shaft. These were created by European and American artisans for trade and diplomatic gifts for the tribes.

During the Revolutionary War in the late 18th century, the Continental Congress required the military men to carry either a tomahawk or cutting sword. Guns were unreliable and took a long time to reload so the tomahawks served as a weapon for hand to hand or melee combat.

A few American soldiers used the tomahakws during the World War II and the Korean War. But as technology progressed, the use of guns also advanced, causing tomahawks to lose its prominence. Tomahawks resurfaced again between 1966-1970 when Peter La Gana, a World War II veteran of Mohawk – descent, crafted and sold thousands of tactical tomahawks to the American troops serving in Vietnam. These tactical tomahawks were sturdier and featured a penetrating spike for the poll.

The U.S. military is adopting the Tomahawk for use in hot spots such as Iraq and Afghanistan. The U.S. Army Stryker Brigade is employing Tomahawks in Afghanistan, and the device is used by several American reconnaissance platoons in Iraq. A Tomahawk is also included in each Stryker vehicle as part of a "tool kit." A Stryker is a 4 x 4 armored fighting vehicle. Soldiers are using Tomahawks for hand-to-hand combat and for taking down doors and entering buildings.

The Tomahawk is proving to be a diverse instrument with multiple applications with the U.S. military. In addition to its use in combat, soldiers are also using Tomahawks to open crates, dig trenches, remove road obstacles and knock out improvised explosive devices and detonate landmines. The Tomahawk’s used by the U.S. military are manufactured by the American Tomahawk Company based in Byesville, Ohio.

Tomahawks for self defense

Today, tomahawks are manufactured on a large scale in Europe or created by individual makers and companies in America. There are also some Indian blacksmiths who are expert in creating the tool. Tomahawks come in different shapes, designs and purpose. It is useful in camping and bushcraft scenarios and is often used as an alternative to hatchets, since it is lighter and slimmer. Modern tomahawks are now made of drop forged, differentially treated, alloy steel. This allows the blade and the spike to be harder and shock resistant.

American Tomahawk Company’s VTAC was used by the US Army Stryker Brigade in Afghanistan, the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team based at Grafenwöhr (Germany), the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division out of Fort Lewis, a reconnaissance platoon in the 2d Squadron 183d Cavalry (116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team) (OIF 2007–2008) and numerous other soldiers. The VTAC was issued a national stock number (4210-01-518-7244) and classified as a "Class 9 rescue kit" as a result of a program called the Rapid Fielding Initiative; it is also included within every Stryker vehicle as the "modular entry tool set". This design enjoyed something of a renaissance with US soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan as a tool and in use in hand-to-hand combat.

The tomahawk has gained some respect by members of various law enforcement tactical (i.e. "SWAT") teams. Some companies have seized upon this new popularity and are producing "tactical tomahawks." These SWAT oriented tools are designed to be both useful and relatively light.

Some examples of "tactical tomahawks" include models wherein the shaft is designed as a prybar. There are models with line/rope cutting notches, cuts in the head allowing its use as a spanner, and models with broad, heavy heads to assist in breaching doors.

For serious tomahawk fighting techniques see

Tomahawks in Africa

Battle axes were used by both the Shona and KwaZulu. However, in neither tribe were they commonly used as weapons but were carried into battle by commanders as insignia of rank.

To the Shona the battleaxe or gano also symbolises the legitimate ownership of the land and is used in modern ceremonies to denote the nation’s independence. A gano was presented by the Shona to Joshua Nkomo at Harare Airport after his founding of ZAPU, the Zimbabwe African Peoples Union in 1962.

The Zulu battle-axe - the Imbemba - was a fearsome weapon. A curved, slightly asymmetrical metal blade was set on a long wooden shaft. The battle-axe could be used as both a chopping and slashing weapon. It was not a common weapon because of the general preference for spear and club.

Tomahawks on safari

Few hunters use tomahawks today. The reason for that probably is that us African love knives and spears – and axes are used for chopping wood.

This is rapidly changing. New materials and designs have resulted in superb cutting instruments and tomahawks have advantages over knives in skinning game. In addition, a well-handled tomahawk is a deadly self-defense weapon.

1. Starting a Fire

Although full-size axes work better for splitting logs, a tomahawk can be used just like a knife would in cutting small shavings in wood to start a fire using a bowdrill. It will also assist in the essential tools/sticks needed to create a bow drill.

2. Defense against Attacks from predators or humans

If you are stranded in the wild, you may come across predators of all kinds. If you are ever up against a hyena in the velt, you will not regret having a vicious blade at hand.

3. Cutting Wood for a Splint

A tomahawk can be used to chop wood into a splint for broken bones.

4. Weapon for Hunting or Field Dressing Animals

You can also use your hatchet, axe, or tomahawk for hunting animals and field dressing them.

Should you be in need of food out in the wild you will want some type of blade to cut the animal to get access to the meat. You can take the tomahawk or axe head off of the blade and use it as a knife for field dressing.

Using a tomahawk as a weapon as a last resort maybe be the difference maker in a survival situation. We recommend this small axe for performing this function.

5. Use the Metal of the Tool to Reflect Light for a Signal

You can use the metal side of the head of your tool as a reflector. Soma tomahawks have a special hole in the blade just for this purpose. a plane or helicopter comes by then you can use the reflection of the sun to signal to them.

6. Static edge

If the tomahawk has a sharp edge on top, chop the spike into a tree and use the tomahawk as a static cutting edge.

7. Digging.

Dig holes for traps or bulbs for water or food - or get that spring hare or porcupine out of that hole for dinner.

Top 12 Tactical Tomahawks

SOG F01T Tactical Tomahawk

Based on the Vietnam Tomahawk, the Tactical Tomahawk is an extreme evolution of the original which was considered one of the more unusual weapons of its day. The broader stainless steel head and fiberglass body are intended for use in heavy bush. The vicious spike on the poll side can go in deep and won’t come out easily. Web site

Omnivore 3B

The scout is intended to be the all-in-one outdoor tomahawk. It handles chopping, breaching, fighting, and slicing up the perfect onion blossom before the game. Its light weight and versatility make it best for survival needs.

This is the tactical choice for the hiker, backpacker, or extraction and evasion specialist that needs to live through the day rather than the entrenched soldier or battle-hardened field operative.

The 3B Tomahawk is derived from Anubis: The Ultimate Tomahawk. With the removal of a single feature (the sharp edge under the spike "Anubis edge") they have transformed a battlefield weapon into a less menacing multi-purpose axe.

This tool is designed for heavy duty work in the field.

Because it has three distinct cutting edges, the 3B can accommodate tasks not normally suited to a camp axe. It’s finer than average axe edge makes cutting chores less tiresome.

The mohawk edge is useful especially when the spike is driven into a stump to create a fixed cutting edge (both hands can control the work piece, allowing for safer, faster chip removal.

The hooked edge can be used to quietly cut small trees and branches with a single, controlled pull.


Badger Claw spike for aggressive penetration

Sharpened hook under beard of axe edge for pull cutting chores

Sharpened Mohawk edge: With spike embedded into a stump, the Mohawk edge can be used as a fixed knife blade to make carving chores safer and faster.


  • Material: .25″ thick 1095 Carbon steel Austempered 50-52 HRC

  • Overall Length: 18.5

  • Weight: 2.2 Lbs

  • Options:

  • Mirror polish one blade face for signal mirror (+20)

  • Large or small handstop

  • Additional sheath

  • CRKT Kangee

    The CRKT Kangee T-Hawk Axe by Ryan Johnson Design builds on 30 years of tactical tomahawk design experience. Designer Ryan Johnson’s work has become a favorite of special forces troops and others who need a versatile, powerful tactical tool, and the axe from CRKT is no exception. This field-tough tomahawk has a range of uses from manual utility tasks to emergency self-defense. The CRKT Kangee T-Hawk Tomahawk is formed from a single piece of steel, with a curved handle and grip choils along the front for a stronger grip. Your grasp is further enhanced by the full-length checkered handle scales, which can be removed for cleaning.

    The CRKT Kangee T-Hawk Tactical Tomahawk has a distinctive bladed head shape which provides exceptional utility and toughness. The axe comes with a MOLLE equipped, form-fitting Kydex sheath that fits over the head and secures with a buckled strap. The Columbia River Kangee T-Hawk Axe is very well balanced and easily controlled, and robust enough to handle most any tactical or field situation.

    If you need to dig through consumer-grade metal, the Kangee will allow you to do so with speed and precision.

    The smaller design gives you high penetration while the shape pulls apart your target with every swing. The hammer on the poll side keeps the weight low and gives an effective blunt instrument not common in tactical tomahawks.

    Hardcore Hardware LFT01

    Hardcore Hardware LFT01

    The standard rule is that with high impact power and force, you need to use a larger hawk. That is usually true, but the LFT01 breaks the mold by giving dominant penetration and destructive performance without excessive size.

    The large head works well for digging as well as busting open locks or those pesky brick walls. As far as tactical tomahawks go, this gives you all the "Hulk Smash" capability you need while not wearing you down as you use it. The multiple grips improve combat performance for hatchet and knife fighters, while also allowing for dual-handed wielding for those times when you need to ventilate something with a quickness.

    Benchmade Killian Forged 172

    Benchmade Killian Forged 172

    This is the heavy breachers dream. The full tang head is perfect for prying open the toughest of obstacles. Picking it up, it feels more like a heavy-duty crowbar than a tomahawk. Unless you want to blow out your shoulder, you wouldn’t try to do much chopping or fighting, but when it comes to getting through a door or a wall, the 172 has few rivals.

    Gerber Downrange

    The Downrange goes through wood, drywall, and glass like a champ. It is lighter to reduce muscle and carry fatigue and chews up most urban and residential materials. The blunt poll is handy for knocking out hinges or locks. This is much better used for those that work enforcement or policing rather than full-blown combat. Though you still wouldn’t want to be on the business end of it.

    Sayoc Winkler RnD Hawk

    Gerber Downrange

    A collaboration between edged weapons expert Rafael Kayanan and Daniel Winkler. The goal was to exceed the standards of what a tomahawk could be- a practical application tool of exceptional craftsmanship. Despite its sleek appearance, the Sayoc-Winkler R&D Hawk is made with edge awareness, economy of motion and mobility in mind. Designed so that the heaviest area rests at the head, the hawk’s full tang is tapered, reducing overall weight to an approximate 1 1/2 lbs. Featuring an upward curve to reinforce grip, the handle is 13 inches long

    It has multiple grip positions, a lightweight design, impeccable balance, and a vicious head clearly designed with a singular purpose. Make no mistake about it, this is a weapon, not a tool.

    Browning Shock n Awe

    Sayoc Winkler RnD Hawk

    The Browning Tomahawk tactical tool will make you one tough customer when serious trouble comes calling

    Capable of anything from splitting kindling at camp to hacking your way out of a crashed helicopter

    It offers a black powder coated sword-grade blade forged from 1055 stainless steel and the handle has spiked pommel hand-wrapped with black nylon paracord and has a lanyard hole

    Curved penetration spike puts a serious hole in hardened targets

    This is the "standard sidearm" of the tomahawk world. Like the RnD it has a singular, deadly purpose. It’s a nasty little customer with a long puncturing spike on the poll side that is meant to go in and pull out cleanly. It isn’t quite as fancy as the RnD since it is best employed as a fighting hand axe rather than a multiple-use close-quarters combat weapon. You won’t need to learn as many special skills, or spend as much money, but for what it does, it does with violent efficiency.

    United Cutlery Black Ronin

    Browning Shock n Awe

    Ordinarily, you wouldn’t want to throw a tactical tomahawk since the end result is usually that you have to go out and buy a new tomahawk since yours is now lost, dull, or in the hands of someone else.

    If you absolutely must have a tactical ‘hawk to chuck around for fun or competition, then the Black Ronin is going to be your best bet. They are inexpensive and the multiple protrusions, long poll spike, and spiked handle mean that even on half turns and partial throws, you’re likely to get it to stick somewhere.

    Smith and Wesson EE Tomahawk

    Smith and Wesson EE Tomahawk

    The Extraction and Evasion model by S&W doesn’t specialize in any particular area but rather gives you better than average usage in all arenas. It is light enough for combat, sturdy enough for some breaching, and able to punch and pry thanks to the full tang head. Basically it is the standard fallback for those days when you aren’t sure what you’ll face. The E&E will prepare you to face any challenge.

  • 15.9 Inch overall length

  • 1070 High Carbob Steel

  • TPE & Steel Handle

  • 2-lbs, 11.0 ounces

  • RMJ Tactical S13 Shrike

    RMJ Tactical S13 Shrike

    The full tang design makes the head and shaft one piece.

    It is good for breaching, prying, digging, and combat uses, though its weight makes it tiring for any long periods of swinging.

  • Length - 13 1/2 inches

  • Weight - 21 ounces

  • Differentially heat-treated

  • Designed to pierce a kevlar helmet

  • Hammer forged all chrome-moly 4140 steel construction

  • Handle tang fixed into an insulated, non-conductive grip

  • Handle is hard rubber over molded onto the full tang

  • Hardened 4140 end cap unscrews to provide access to the provided sharpening stone

  • Bottom-eject kydex scabbard with choice of belt loops, shoulder strap or RUMP Molle platform

  • Cerakote finish

  • Custom made Tomahawk

    If you can afford it, specify the steel, design, specifications and get a professional to make you the tactical tomahawk that makes the military drool.



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