Tips for Selecting the Right Tomahawk


The tomahawk was a standard tool and weapon on the belt of early frontiersmen, but this unique American design faded from popularity until the Vietnam War, when the LaGana Tactical Tomahawk achieved popularity. With the coming of the modern warrior, many soldiers in the field began to rediscover the utility and usefulness of the tomahawk—with some modern tweaks to the design. Here’s a brief look at some of the better ’hawks.


Emerson’s CQC-T

Ernest Emerson’s entry into the tactical tomahawk field is called the CQC-T, a 13 3/4-inch ’hawk with a 4140 machined alloy head that weighs in at 16 ounces overall. It is hardened to Rc 54-55, and the sheath is jumpable nylon-, LBE/LBV-, MOLLE-, Sling- or Belt-compatible. The handle is precision-molded in a gas-assisted process from a modified nylon material. O-Rings on the handle, made from a copolymer called Buna N, insures a strong grip.

    The Emerson CQC-T features rings on the handle to ensure a solid grip.

The Emerson CQC-T features rings on the handle to ensure a solid grip.


When asked about the head/handle junction’s strength, Emerson’s Web site states, “Whatever broke it probably killed you first. If you survived whatever it was, it will be replaced.” Retail is $290. Web site:


RMJ Tactical Tomahawks

Ryan Johnson was one of the early pioneers of the modern tactical tomahawks, and was featured in May 2008 in a “Modern Marvels” (History Channel) segment on ax-like devices. His tactical tomahawk took off in in 2001, when Johnson was commissioned by members of the 820th Security Forces to design a tomahawk that featured 18th century lines and 21st century engineering—a tomahawk for modern combat use. Now under the name RMJ Tactical, hundreds of these tomahawks are being manufactured and used by elite soldiers around the world, as well as stateside rescue personnel and law enforcement.

The RMJ Tactical Shrike is the latest model of Ryan Johnson’s tactical tomahawk line. It features wraparound insulated handles.

The RMJ Tactical Shrike is the latest model of Ryan Johnson’s tactical tomahawk line. It features wraparound insulated handles.


Johnson, a mechanical engineer, has been making knives and tomahawks since he was 11 years old. He produces ’hawks through both RMJ Forge and RMJ Tactical. He has made three improvements on the Shrike-Ryan Tomahawk: The latest hammer-forging process makes the steel stronger than their other tomahawks; the new grip surrounds the steel tang so that the handle is completely insulated, the overall balance is better and it provides better penetration during field tests.


A cutaway version of the RJM Tactical Shrike reveals the sharpening stone that is mounted in the buttcap.

A cutaway version of the RJM Tactical Shrike reveals the sharpening stone that is mounted in the buttcap.

It is 15 1/2 inches long with a 4140 differentially heat-treated head. The steel handle, which is inserted into the grip, is 12 inches long. The bottom of the handle has a sharpening stone under the buttcap.


Retail is $360. RMJ Tactical offers a variety of other tactical tomahawks as well. Visit for more information.



R&D Hawk From Kayanan and Winkler

This new style of tactical tomahawks is a collaboration between Rafael Kayanan and knifemaker Daniel Winker. Rafael Kayanan, from Sayoc Tactical Group, designed this based on his interaction with Special Operations, coupled with experience making tomahawks and working hatchets. One of Winkler’s credits includes making some of the knives and tomahawks used in the movie “Last of the Mohicans.”


The R&D Hawks are effective when held high, under the head or at the regular grip points. “The R&D Hawk is not meant to substitute for a firearm, but complement the training of someone already well-trained with the biomechanics of shooting,” say the designers.


The R&D Tactical Tomahawk

The R&D Tactical Tomahawk comes in different blade and handle variations, with options on decoration as well. The offset handle allows the Tomahawk to be held in a variety of grips. Rafael Kayanan and knifemaker Daniel Winker are the designers.

Individuals who have expertise in tomahawk close-quarter fighting or are adept with various edged weapons, such as karambits, Bowies and short swords, can easily adapt their methods to this weapon because of the versatility these Hawks provide.


Every aspect of the design of these Hawks has been developed based on direct feedback from actual users. Weight, balance, grips, materials, size, the curve of the blade and the spike, and other details, have been taken into consideration.


Despite its sleek appearance, the Sayoc-Winkler R&D Hawk is no wall hanger. It is made with precision targeting and economy of motion and speed in mind. The weight is distributed so that the heaviest area rests at the head, giving it that “alive” feeling. The full tang is milled to a taper, greatly reducing the Hawk’s weight to a very light 1.5 pounds (approximately). The handle length of 13 inches makes the Hawk an easy carry.


The handle end is curved upward to reinforce the grip. The bottom of the bit/beak is angled out to prevent the user from injury when held high and facing the back spike forward. The back spike is designed as a blunt-force trauma tool without the added sharpness to prevent snagging on the user’s gear.


This Hawk has a complete Web site devoted to it at It is available in a variety of handles and versions, starting at $650.


SOG’s Fusion Tomahawk

SOG’s Fusion Tomahawk has checkering on the side for no-slip hammering.

SOG’s Tactical Tomahawk

Based on the Vietnam Tomahawk, the Fusion Tactical has a 420 stainless steel head with a hardcased coating mounted to a fiberglass-reinforced nylon handle with heavy-duty bolts and a steel ferrule for stability. Side hammer checkering on the head prevents slippage when pounding with the tomahawk. It comes with a nylon sheath. The overall length is 15 3/4 inches and weights 24 ounces. Retail is $62. Contact: SOG Specialty Knives & Tools, Dept. KI, 6521 212th Street Southwest, Lynnwood, WA 98036; e-mail


American Tomahawks modern version

American Tomahawks modern version of the Vietnam Tomahawk is called the VTAC. It is use by all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces.

American Tomahawk

The VTAC is a beneficiary of national stock system status. It is in use by all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces. These ’hawks are made from dropforged 1060 steel that has been hardened to Rc 52-54. The handle is a tough, modified nylon in an oval design with indexing finger grooves. The overall weight is 1 pound and an overall length of 14 inches. A jumpable nylon sheath is included and can be carried by LBE/LBV, MOLLE, Sling or Belt. Retail on the standard model is $130. Contact: American Tomahawk c/o Fehrman Knives, Dept. KI, 8824 Clay Pike Rd., Byesville, OH 43723;


By KI Staff