Clockwise from top, SOG Fusion Tactical Tomahawk, RMJ Tactical Shrike Hammer Forged Tomahawk, American Tomahawk LaGana Tactical Tomahawk and Sayoc/Winkler R&D Hawk F/S. (ROB CURTIS / STAFF)
Referenced by the American military as far back as 1757 in the 28 orders of Robert's Rangers, the tomahawk has seen a resurgence in popularity as an effective weapon and useful battlefield tool. They are replacing knives as the last-ditch close-quarters battle weapon of choice by some of America's most elite forces.
While many are sold as breaching tools, this belies the 'hawk's best and bloodiest use: No other weapon of comparable size can generate as much force with a short stroke in an enclosed space.
If a bad guy gets in your entry stack, you can't shoot him without endangering your teammates, and a knife is a slow kill. If you really want to get someone off a teammate's back in a hurry, there's nothing deadlier than a tomahawk's spike to the head. And if you want to get through a wooden door, rake some glass or bust in a door handle, the longer-handled tomahawks fit the bill.
One of the keys to a tomahawk's durability is the way the handle is connected to the head. Nylon handles attached to steel heads will bend back into shape after a hit, but the head eventually could separate. Full-tang designs mean the head and shaft are made from a single piece of material with no chance of head separation. When it comes to the grade of the steel, you get what you pay for in weight, durability and edge retention.
Here are four best-in-class tomahawks for any budget.
SOG Fusion Tactical Tomahawk
Sometimes, it's all about value. Manufactured overseas and based on the Vietnam tomahawk, the SOG Fusion Tactical Tomahawk is an update of the battle ax optimized for breaching operations, excavation, obstacle removal and extraction. The no-frills 420 stainless-steel head is mounted to the fiberglass-reinforced nylon handle with heavy-duty bolts and a steel ferrule for stability. At a little less than 16 inches and 24 ounces, the Fusion 'hawk can get you through some tough spots without breaking the bank. Comes with a nylon sheath.
American Tomahawk LaGana Tactical Tomahawk (‘VTAC')
Peter LaGana's ax-head design has served the U.S. in every major conflict since Vietnam. AT's update, manufactured in the U.S., lightens the weight to 16 ounces and adds an unbreakable nylon handle. The 1060 steel head is heat-treated and weighted for throwing. The edge bevel is utility ground to retain its edge during breaching operations, but don't expect it to pop hairs off your forearm. The included sheath will mount up to MOLLE gear for safe transport on your pack or vest. The Army found them useful enough to make them standard equipment in the Stryker combat vehicle in support of those 3 a.m. door-knocking ops.
RMJ Tactical Shrike Hammer Forged Tomahawk
RMJ Tactical has taken the tomahawk into the new millennium with this hammer-forged, chrome-moly, 4140 steel beauty. The entire ax is forged from a single piece of steel and covered by an electrically insulated grip, which means the head can't fly off, and you're protected if you hack through a power line. The handle is ST801 Super Tuff Nylon over-molded onto the 8-inch tang. The butt cap unscrews to reveal an enclosed sharpening stone. The long spike is designed for serious penetration, and the head's narrow profile rakes glass with ease. The sleek head shape contains an extra cutting surface (the beard) that works on the pull stroke like a shroud cutter.
Sayoc/Winkler R&D Hawk F/S
The R&D is the love child of a collaboration between two tomahawk titans, Sayoc Tactical Group's Rafael Kayanan and Daniel Winkler, an accomplished bladesmith. This handmade 'hawk is designed for combat and features two hand-hold areas: a traditional grip at the end of the handle and a second just under the head. This distinctive ax starts with 3/8-inch 5160 steel and features a full tang that is skeletonized and tapered to maximize the weight, and impact force, at the head. The blade angle is a knife grind, optimized for damage. This isn't a breaching tool. The spike on the blade has looks to intimidate and is designed to cause maximum soft-tissue damage. Available with light curly maple, durable black Micarta or grippy recycled-rubber scales.
MSRP: $555 military, $840 civilian (with sheath)