Tag Archives: fighting

What is a Tactical Tomahawk?

winklerhawks_02 Those that listen to the podcast know I enjoy poking fun at the “tactical” modifier being stuck on nearly everything these days, but is a tactical Tomahawk really any different than what the American Indians carried a hundred years ago?  Have manufacturers simply painted them black and jumped on the tactical bandwagon?

Let’s look a the definition of tactical:

capture 09-May-1101

According to this definition, a tactical tomahawk varies from a “regular” tomahawk in the fact that it is particularly well suited to particular actions or strategies with a specific end.  In other words, the tactical tomahawk is a purpose built tool.  Those purposes vary from rescue to fighting and nearly everything in between.

The tactical tomahawk that you select should fit the job it needs to complete.  Let’s look at some common characteristics of most modern tactical tomahawks:

Full Tang Design

This means that the handle shaft and tomahawk head are made from a single piece of metal.  This is a great design as it greatly reduces the chances of head separation.


Modern tactical tomahawks use steel alloys that fit their priorities for the design. Materials are chosen for edge retention, durability, sharpness, corrosion properties, and weight.  Also, different materials and textures are used for the handle to increase grip, decrease conductivity, etc.


You may see some off-the-wall designs that look nothing like the original tomahawks. Much research has gone into ergonomics of the swinging motion of the arm. This research has resulted in hand tool designs that are not limited to 90 degree  angles(like the ice axe on the right). Depending on the purpose of the hawk(breaching doors, fighting assailants, punching holes, hammering, chopping) the cutting edge or spike may be placed at a different angle or distance from the handle centerline to increase the efficiency of our own body motions.

short winklerLength and weight

One of the great advantages of a tomahawk vs. a fighting knife is the added reach and momentum that comes from the length of a tomahawk.  Lengths and weights vary depending on the purpose. A longer, heavier tomahawk may be better for breaching duty because of the extra momentum, but a foot soldier may find that same tool unwieldy or heavy for close quarters fighting.


A modern tactical tomahawk is not typically thrown, but balance is still important.  A fighting tomahawk becomes  ungainly and difficult to move quickly if the head is too heavy.

walter brend Cutting Edge 

Tactical tomahawk cutting edges and spikes vary in length, angle, and curvature and are very similar to those used by American Indians. 



What do you or would you use a tactical tomahawk for?  What characteristics are you looking for?