What is a Tactical Tomahawk?

MFE01 Tactical Tomahawk

What is a tactical tomahawk?

The term tomahawk conjures up images of Native Americans with their adopted specialty tool in hand ready for anything. And the correlation isn’t wrong, originally a striking tool made from stone or bone, they were later adapted from small European axes or forged from scrap metal, into lightweight and thin axes that served a multitude of purposes from wood chopping and ceremony to combat and defense.

Largely forgotten throughout the 20th century, the tomahawk made a comeback during the Vietnam War when they found use with the Army in situations where a heavy cutting blade was needed as well as something that could be used for demolition, forced entry, extraction, and defense. Hence the tactical tomahawk was born.

Sometimes referred to as a tactical hatchet or military tomahawk, the modern tactical tomahawk is a term that covers a wide range of multi-purpose axes in a variety of styles and degrees of quality. It can’t be denied that some are made more for looks than utility, but a great many of these tactical tomahawks are built with incredible durability and quality by some of the most respected manufacturers around.

What mostly defines the tactical tomahawk is its multi-use capabilities. It seeks to replace several tools into one lightweight axe that can handle a multitude of jobs. They retain their status as a defensive weapon for obvious reasons, but thankfully most will be used for other important tasks such as breaching, extraction, demolition, cutting, chopping, and prying.

The tactical tomahawk is a true multi-tool and beyond military applications first responder duties, the tomahawk makes an excellent camp axe and companion in the woods to hunters, hikers, and explorers.

The feature set of each tactical tomahawk ultimately determines its best application but the best tomahawks all share the following features:


Like typical wood cutting axes, all tomahawks and tactical axes are made from modern steel alloys that chosen to strike a balance between sharpness, edge retention and durability. They are constructed in two configurations:

Full-tang construction: In this case the axe is made from a single piece of steel which is forged into the head and the handle. This type of construction is extremely strong and that axe head cannot be separated from the handle.

RMJ Shrike Tomahawk 2

Partial-tang construction: In this case the axe head and handle are built separately then attached in some fashion. This may have benefits in using a non-steel handle for weight reduction but comes at the obvious cost of strength.

SOG F01P-K Tomahawk


In the case of full-tang tactical tomahawks, the handle is made from the same steel material that the cutting head is made from. The think steel is generally wrapped with a grip material or has grip scales attached on either side that may be made from a poly material or other high performance synthetic. Full-tang handles are best for military and heavy duty applications where a high degree of strength is required for leverage in breaching and demolition situations.

In the case of partial-tang tactical tomahawks, the handle could be made from any durable material but generally are constructed of wood or a durable poly or modified nylon. Although these materials are lightweight and durable, they can fail and separate from the cutting head. For light duty applications, hiking, and camping this lightweight may be advantages.


Sizes vary from around 10 inches to over 20 inches. Smaller tactical tomahawks and tactical axes are great for hiking and camping, but a longer handle is advantages for prying and breaching and in the case of self-defense a longer handle length would give great advantages.


Although tomahawks are rarely thrown, balance is still important for safety, ergonomics, and efficiency. Typically, the center of gravity should be near the top of the handle close to where the cutting head attaches.

Cutting surfaces:

Tactical tomahawks use multiple cutting edges as well as piercing and prying points. Each brand is slightly different but most use a wide, strong, front cutting edge that is typical of any good splitting axe. The type of steel used and the grind angle of the cutting edge affects the edge retention and durability. Most tomahawks use a high angle grind that creates an edge perfect for heavy duty cutting, crushing, and demolition.

In addition to the front side cutting edge, many tomahawks have additional cutting surfaces on the bottom or backside of the beard and/or the top edge of the head. These unlike a traditional axe these secondary cutting edges allow the tomahawk to cut or pry on the backswing.

Cold Steel Trench Hawk

One distinctive feature of tactical axes and tactical tomahawks is the additional tool on the back or poll end of the axe head. This feature is usually some type of spike for piercing or prying. This multi-edged spike can be used for many breaching and extraction type of applications. A few tactical tomahawks use a flat hammer style poll for pounding or compromising locks.

Ragnarok 14

The modern military tomahawk or tactical hatchet is a  very popular tool that is excellent for many activities  and applications. To find out the best tactical tomahawk for  your needs, check out these tactical tomahawk  reviews for detailed information and specifications of the best  tactical tomahawks available.









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