Issue 56 Unusual Suspects: Axes, Tomahawks, and Hatchets Mike Searson Join the Conversation There’s an interesting tool that has migrated from the bushcraft and outdoor theater to urban concealed carry in the form of scaled-down axes and tomahawks. These mini axes may look very different from that 3-inch folding knife sitting in your pocket, but people use them much in the same manner. These definitely aren’t the axes Paul Bunyan hefted in tall tales from the 19th century, and they’re not particularly effective for felling trees. Instead, you have a relatively compact hatchet that can be used for camping, bushcraft, hunting, and other tasks. But some people carry and use them instead of a knife. By choking up on the handle, you have a handy cutting edge and in certain European countries where knife carry is forbidden or strongly restricted, variations of these axes are not. They can make effective self-defense tools, too, but their place is mostly when you need something different than a traditional knife and not quite a full-sized ax or tomahawk. Unlike most traditional axes or hawks, a few of these little guys may have a sharpened top edge for more cutting options. Great for keeping in a bugout bag or any time when a full-sized ax might not be possible due to weight or space constraints; their relatively lightweight allows them to be used for daily carry on the belt or backpack. Read up on your local laws regarding the carry of an ax like one of these. In our research, we didn’t uncover anything putting them on the list with Molotov cocktails or tactical nukes, but that doesn’t mean they’re legal everywhere. Most states and cities may govern them in the same category as any knife. TOPS Knives Wolf Pup Blade Length: 2.5 inchesOverall Length: 5.25 inchesWeight: 4 ouncesHandle Material: Canvas MicartaBlade Steel: 1095Price: $100URL: topsknives.com This knife may look like the odd man out, as it’s a knife and not a mini ax or hawk. The Tops Knives Wolf Pup is included with the Wolf Pax 2 as a backup or accessory knife. Made from 1095 steel and carries piggyback style on the ax sheath to ensure the two always go together. As the Wolf Pax 2 lacks a sharpened top edge for most knife-like chores, this addition was indeed a good one. The price listed is for the Wolf Pup as a stand-alone knife. Pros: + Small, lightweight, and handy, this knife allows you to complete small cutting chores where the ax might be too big or unwieldy.+ The contoured handle fits the hand nicely, and the thumb ramp gives you added control. Cons: – A hair too small and almost unusable in the reverse grip– The lanyard hole was similarly undersized to get a paracord lanyard through it.– An option to remove the sheath from the ax sheath might make sense. TOPS Knives Micro Hawk Blade Length: 1.95 inches Overall Length: 6.9 inchesWeight: 11.2 ouncesHandle Material: Paracord wrapBlade Steel: 1095Price: $180URL: topsknives.com The Micro Hawk was designed by FMA (Filipino Martial Arts) expert Shawn Owens. Billed as part tomahawk, part knife, and part karambit, this scaled-down wonder is a lightweight beauty. The head is sharp enough to shave with, and the sharpened top edge ends with a rear spike. At the base of the handle is a karambit ring. This is more weapon than woodsman’s tool, but capable for both purposes. Pros: + This design is perfect for completing a majority of tasks that’d normally be accomplished with a knife blade.+ Surprisingly comfortable to hold, this is a vital tool that could easily replace a knife without much of a compromise.+ TOPS puts some scary-sharp edges on this one. Cons: – The sheath fits a little too good, and it requires a good amount of force to release it. We’d prefer a Tek-Lok to secure the sheath to a belt or pack over the spring steel clip. You may want to use paracord to secure the sheath to your belt or pack for this reason.– As a karambit user for close to 20 years, the ring never felt comfortable or practical. Perhaps a scallop in the handle at the base of the ring would make it more user friendly. Gerber Pack Hatchet Flat Sage Blade Length: 3.5 inchesOverall Length: 9.46 inchesWeight: 20.8 ouncesHandle Material: Rubber overmoldBlade Steel: Stainless steelPrice: $35URL: gerbergear.com You’re not going to fell trees or process lumber with it, but it’s great for chopping branches and clearing light brush. For our purposes, it excels at typical knife functions and allows the user to choke up well on the blade to use it as a skinner or cutting knife when needed. Based on a model designed by Bear Grylls, the Pack Hatchet can be worn on a pack or a belt when you decide to venture into the woods. Pros: + Small, lightweight, and handy as a substitute for a traditional knife due to the ability to choke way up on the handle+ The rubber overmold handle makes this one very comfortable with or without wearing gloves.+ Probably the easiest of these axes to come by and available at numerous discount and hardware stores Cons: – We couldn’t get a fix on what type of stainless steel, but edge retention seems decent.– The sheath may be the weakest link on this one. The hatchet doesn’t come out gracefully or easily every time.– More of a day-trip or weekend tool. We wouldn’t recommend this one for a month-long vacation or long-term off-grid use. CRKT Jenny Wren Compact Blade Length: 2.59 inchesOverall Length: 10.06 inchesWeight: 19 ouncesHandle Material: Glass-reinforced nylonBlade Steel: SK-5Price: $135URL: crkt.com Designed by Ryan M. Johnson and based on one of his custom axes, the CRKT Jenny Wren Compact is a great ax that’s capable of numerous tasks in the backwoods or an urban environment. The glass-reinforced nylon handle ends in a nice brake that has a natural contour to fit the hand. Beneath the head, there’s a nice choil to allow you to choke up on the top end for more precise cutting chores using the top edge. It’s equipped with an armor-piercing back spike too. Pros: + There’s just enough weight to make this a fully capable ax for chopping.+ Three grommets in the handle provide great points for attaching paracord lanyards to ensure a secure grip for retaining the hawk.+ SK-5 steel is a good basic working steel and easily maintainable. Cons: – The edges could’ve been a bit sharper. Out of the box it was sharp enough to be dangerous, but not quite as sharp as it could’ve been for working use.– Three sets of traction grooves on the handle make for good reference points but have the potential for causing hot spots. Don’t forget your gloves. TOPS Knives Wolf Pax 2 Blade Length: 3.6 inchesOverall Length: 10.13 inchesWeight: 20.1 ouncesHandle Material: Canvas MicartaBlade Steel: 1095Price: $280URL: topsknives.com A little bit bigger in size than the other hawks we looked at, the Wolf Pax 2 is more ax than knife when compared to the others in this review. It’s more of a bearded-type ax with a nasty sharp edge in the beard that’s more of a Scandi grind. It’s paired up with a smaller knife called the Wolf Pup described elsewhere in this review. Pros: + The sharpened beard allows for draw-type cuts, making it more versatile in some cases.+ Razor sharp out of the box — this is how all axes and hawks should ship from the factory.+ The versatile sheath includes a smaller knife for additional cutting chores.+ Multiple points for attaching paracord lanyards to the ax Cons: – The handle was more flat than oval, which can fatigue your hand after a day of serious and constant use.– Like the Micro Hawk, the sheath clip is spring steel and difficult to replace. We really think these types of tools need a Tek-Lok or something similar. SOG Camp Hatchet Blade Length: 3.1 inchesOverall Length: 11.5 inchesWeight: 16.1 ouncesHandle Material: Glass-reinforced nylonBlade Steel: 420 stainless steelPrice: $63URL: www.sogknives.com The SOG Camp Hatchet is a versatile hatchet with a deep beard to allow you to choke up on it and use it as a knife. The back of the head can be used as a hammer in an emergency situation. The head has a cutout section with a filler to make for a more lightweight design. It does perform the knife type tasks well, but could’ve been engineered a little better to make for a decent hatchet. Pros: + Very lightweight and comfortable to hold+ The polished stainless steel gives a very neat and attractive appearance. + The hammerhead on the reverse may have been the only one we’ve seen in this group, and it adds to the tool’s versatility. Cons: – While it has better steel than many of the blades that won the West in the exploration of America, most stainless steel isn’t suited for axes, hatchets, or tomahawks.– The sheath is the weakest link on this, as there are no attachments to mount it on a belt or pack. It does protect the user from the edge of the blade while carrying it though.– I’m not a big fan of the skeletonized head. I’ll gladly tote the little additional weight for a stronger tool. 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