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Butterfly Knife: Balisong Knives That Soar

To be competitive, today’s balisongs must excel at flipping as well as cutting.

It’s a focus of versatility. From the style of opening to the enthusiasts who perform a variety of maneuvers with it, blade exposed, the balisong/butterfly knife is an object of curiosity and fascination.

The original term for the subject knife, balisong, is a favorite of Lucas Cao, founder and president of Squid Industries, which produces the popular Tsunami balisong. “Butterfly is a great slang name that describes the mechanism,” he remarked, “but the word balisong has a rich cultural history behind it.”

James Hill
Flipping competitions have played a key role in the resurgence of the popularity of balisongs, especially among young enthusiasts. James Hill is an example of the latter. He won first prize of $1,000 at the West Coast Flipping Championship during BLADE Show West in Salt Lake City this past October.

With that observation in mind, the Tsunami is true to the Squid concepts of user accommodation. “Each knife we’ve created is on the basis of more variety while still offering a premium flipper experience no matter the price point,” Cao explained. “At the top of our ladder is the Tsunami, which we designed to embody peak performance and build quality.”

Squid Industries Tsunami

Tsunami balisong knife open
The Tsunami features a traditional Japanese-style tanto blade in a straight-back clip point and flat-ground CPM S35VN stainless steel.

The Tsunami features a traditional Japanese-style tanto blade in a straight-back clip point and flat ground CPM S35VN stainless steel intended to perform well across the spectrum of cutting requirements. However, the knife’s main constituency is the flipper community. “We serve a variety of customers with different requirements,” Lucas said, “but a majority of our customers are focused on the flipping aspect. If I had to estimate the customer desirability, I would say approximately 99 percent flipping and 1 percent cutting.”

The Tsunami employs a combination of bushings and phosphorous bronze washers in its mechanism, ensuring smooth deployment. “This is critical to flipping because it allows the user to consistently and reliably manipulate the knife,” he added. “Bearings aren’t used in our products and many other competitive balisongs from other brands because they produce a flipping experience that’s usually too smooth. Bushings are the preferred style because they offer a specific amount of smoothness and speed.”

Tsunami Butterfly Knife
The Tsunami reflects Squid Industries’ goal of offering balisongs that exhibit both variety and flipping fun, no matter the price. “At the top of our ladder is the Tsunami,” Squid’s Lucas Cao noted, “which we designed to embody peak performance and build quality.”

The Tsunami design is referred to as a “chainwich,” as its 6Al-4V titanium handles come together to mimic an integral grip. The handles themselves are designed with two specific tapers, one along the width and the other along the thickness. This dual taper design in combination with the rounding on the top create a comfortable and controllable feel in the hand, according to Cao.

Squid Industries Tsunami Specs
Blade Length: 4.5”
Blade Steel: CPM S35VN stainless
Blade Grind: Flat
Handle Material: 6Al-4V titanium
Latch: N/A
Pivot: Bushings and phosphorous bronze washers
Weight: 4 ozs.
Closed Length: 5.6”
Country of Origin: USA
MSRP: $775

Kershaw Lucha Carbon Fiber

Kershaw’s Lucha Carbon Fiber Balisong
Kershaw’s Lucha Carbon Fiber is a premium edition of the company’s standard Lucha, including such high-end materials as CPM 20CV stainless blade steel and titanium handles with carbon fiber overlays.

The Kershaw Lucha Carbon Fiber’s spear-point blade of premium CPM 20CV stainless blade steel is ideal for piercing and slicing, while the “working” finish hides scratches from hard use. Company spokesperson Dominic Aiello related, “Our goal at Kershaw is to offer something for everyone, whether that be a budget-friendly knife you can abuse and lose all the way to a premium USA-made automatic. With that said, when we brought the original Lucha to the market, our goal was to offer a value packed, affordable, high-quality butterfly knife. It has been a huge hit and as a result we decided to release a premium version.”

Though the original emphasis on the practical use of the Lucha remains with cutting ability front and center, the knife illustrates the versatility inherent in the balisong style. “Of course, cutting is a critical component for any knife,” Aiello reasoned, “but with butterfly knives the flip ability, balance, and comfort are equally as important, if not more important. A lot of customers enjoy the Lucha for the fun and challenge of flipping, but there is also a segment of users that carry it as an EDC.”

Lucha Carbon Fiber butterfly knife closed
The handles of the Lucha Carbon Fiber are titanium anodized blue overlaid with machined carbon fiber. The handles and carbon fiber are contoured for a rounded profile and ease of use.

The Lucha combines good looks with smooth mechanics and easy maintenance. “Each pivot uses two KVT ball bearings, four total,” Dominic commented. “The ball bearings provide an extremely fast and smooth action for easy flipping. The handles are blue anodized titanium with machined carbon fiber overlays. The handles and carbon fiber have been contoured for a rounded profile and ease of use.”

Kershaw Lucha Carbon Fiber Specs
Blade Length: 4.6”
Blade Steel: CPM 20CV stainless
Blade Grind: Flat
Handle Material: Titanium w/carbon-fiber overlay
Latch: Yes
Pivot: Ball bearings
Weight: 4.9 ozs.
Closed Length: 5.65”
Country of Origin: USA
MSRP: $423.99

Bear & Son Cutlery Bear Song VIII

Bear Song VIII open
The Bear Song VIII includes a tanto-style blade in flat-ground 154CM stainless steel ideal for detailed cutting and general use.

Matt Griffey of Bear & Son Cutlery says the company has referred to the balisong as the “butterfly knife” since 1986. To that end, the company has continued to develop the famed flippers. With the release of the Bear Song VIII, the company’s design eye was fixed on a knife “being symmetrical and balanced, the most important design elements to start,” Griffey explained.

The Bear Song VIII includes a tanto-style blade in 154CM stainless steel, flat ground and ideal for fine cutting and general use. According to Griffey, the knife’s aptitude is 80 percent flipping and 20 percent cutting.

“A butterfly knife is the strongest folding knife, and as long as you are holding both handles it is as close to a fixed blade as possible for a folding knife,” Matt reasoned. “If the knife is maintained and tight there is almost no chance of lock failure. Maintenance should be just keeping it clean and oiled and checking it periodically to make sure it is not getting loose anywhere on the knife. If you find anything loose, remove the screw, and use Loctite® to replace the screw to the correct tension and let it set for at least twice as long as the thread locker recommends. We find they always give a time that is the bare minimum for the thread lock to work.”

Bear Song VIII closed
The Bear Song VIII sports stainless steel handles, rounded edges, and milled stepped holes and slots for user comfort. A spring-loaded locking latch and a stainless-steel pocket clip in a short design for easy carry and that can be removed if the user chooses completes the package.

In light of simple maintenance, the Bear Song VIII features an encased bearing design that is easily lubricated, while stainless steel handles, rounded edges, and milled stepped holes and slots provide user comfort. A spring-loaded locking latch makes operation a pleasure. A stainless-steel clip is in a short design for easy carry and can be removed if the user chooses.

“The Bear Song VIII has all the modern features with the timeless classic look,” noted Griffey, who sees the recent legislation regarding butterfly knives as positive (see sidebar). “Butterflies are far slower to open than a modern knife with a flipper on the blade that doesn’t have any spring mechanism. So anyone wasting time in their legislation to target this is just trying to fill time so they don’t have to do any work that might help the people they were elected to serve.”

Bear & Son Bear Song VIII Specs
Blade Length: 4”
Blade Steel: 154CM stainless
Blade Grind: Flat
Handle Material: Stainless steel w/Cerakote® finish
Latch: Spring loaded
Pivot: Ball-bearing washers
Weight: 5.1 ozs.
Closed Length: 5.25”
Country of Origin: USA
MSRP: $182.99

Butterfly Knife History

Butterfly knives, also known as balisongs, are one of the most popular knife styles today. They consist of a blade with two handles that rotate around a pivot and wrap around the blade in the closed position. That much is agreed upon. The origin of butterfly knives is still up for debate.

Where Were Butterfly Knives Invented?

Butterfly knives have a rich history, though much of it has been left up to speculation. Walk up to a knife enthusiast and ask, “Where did butterfly knives originate?” and you may get two very different answers.

Fuzzy historical records and well worn legends are to blame. The two main countries of focus are France and the Philippines. Each has evidence and supporters.

One Version: Butterfly Knives Came from the Philippines

Balisong knife history
Authentic Filipino balisongs (Image from Balislinger on bladeforums.com)

The Philippines is often cited as the birthplace of butterfly knives, where “balisong” is a more appropriate term. Legend has it that the balisong knife has roots that go back to around 800 AD. This style of knife could be opened quickly with one hand and easily used as a weapon. It proved a common choice for self-defense and utility uses.

A rich balisong tradition has been present in the Philippines for more than a century. Countless stands and stores sell handmade butterfly knives today, and Filipino province of Batangas and the area of Balisong in Taal are known for the blades.

At the very least, the word “balisong” is widely recognized to have come from there. That said, the lack of physical evidence to support a Filipino origin fuels the argument.

Another Version: Butterfly Knives Came from France

Pied Du Roi history
A vintage example of the Pied Du Roi. (Image from balisong.net)

Another claim is that the butterfly knife was invented in France between 1500 and 1700. The reason for this is the “Pied Du Roi,” which means “foot of the king” and is a French measurement tool that dates to the 1700s. The “Pied Du Roi” greatly resembles a butterfly knife. This tool has been pictured with measurement handles and a blade that folds out on one end. It looks like a butterfly knife, but could it be considered the first one ever made?

Proponents of the French origin argue that Spain, allied with France at the time, adopted the butterfly knife in their tasks and eventually took it to the Philippines as sailors sailed to different countries. Sounds reasonable, but hasn’t been proven.

Another supporting argument for the French is that these knives comes from Germany and England, where some butterflies can trace back to prior to 1900. I recently came across a collector’s piece online made in England with markings dating to 1873. This rules out the butterfly knife originating in the early 1900s in the Philippines, but like I said earlier, it has also been claimed to be influenced from similar Filipino knife models as early as 800 AD.

So Where Did Butterfly Knives Actually Come From?

Due to the popularity of balisongs in the Philippines, it isn’t surprising to suspect it started there. The lore passed down from generation to generation also support this idea.

On the other hand, France has pictures and documentation of a measurement device that resembles a butterfly knife and dates back hundreds of years. However, that measurement device likely wasn’t used for self-defense, flipping, or other tasks common to butterfly knives today. Could it be considered the same thing? Hard to tell.

Both sides have great arguments. More information is needed to finally determine this unsolved piece of butterfly knife history.

Butterfly Knives Today

Regardless of history, butterfly knives are rising in popularity due to the fun of “flipping.” Flipping involves tossing butterfly knives open to perform all kinds of tricks. Whether it’s the danger of it, the community, the collectible appeal, or anything else, there’s no doubt flippers are mesmerizing to watch.

Editor’s Note: Mike Haskew and Trevor Brown contributed to this article.

Read More On Butterfly Knives:

Best Push Dagger: Background And Buyer’s Guide (2024)


Push daggers are experiencing something of a renaissance in the knife world these days, as more and more people are coming to realize their value as a self-defense tool. More and more makers are releasing push daggers, and I for one couldn’t be happier.

To celebrate this resurgence of the push dagger, and as a bit of an aficionado of the genre, I thought this was as good a time as any to take a look at the push dagger in depth.

We’re going to start with some background on the push dagger, including its history, how to use it, why to use (and perhaps why not), some legal issues surrounding them, and finally we’re going to take a look at the best push daggers on the market today.

Table of Contents

History and Development of the Push Dagger

The push dagger, at least as we know it, originated in the early 1800s in the United States. At a time when small pocket pistols like the derringer weren’t yet reliably available, many people wanted a discrete, concealable weapon with which to defend themselves.

The push dagger arose to fill that niche, along with other concealable force multipliers like brass knuckles. They became especially popular with gamblers and other folks in places like New Orleans, Savannah, and other busy ports.

It also became popular with politicians and others who wanted to stay armed, without openly carrying a weapon. In turn, push daggers weren’t an uncommon thing to carry in various state houses, particularly throughout the South.

Riverboat Gamblers and the Gimlet Knife

In New Orleans in particular, the “gimlet knife,” as the local version of the push dagger was known, became so popular and was used in so many different riots, brawls, and back-alley muggings, it eventually was banned in the city in 1879.

This version of the knife would live on and become the most popular variation of the push dagger. Its simply a T-handle gripped with a closed fist, featuring a tang that extends between the middle and ring fingers to form a short blade, usually 2-3 inches in length at most.

Abroad, sailors and other travelers brought the push knife to Germany, where local cutlers immediately took to it, and the faustmesser or “fist-knife” began to spread to other European countries, particularly England, France, and Spain.

Wartime Use

By the time of World War I, push-daggers of many different designs became a backup weapon for soldiers fighting in trenches on both sides as pistols were often in short supply. Everything—from straightened and braided wire to bent nails—was used to improvise punch dagger-style knives. Manufactured options were available as well.

Throughout World War II, the push-dagger became the domain of the special forces, particularly the British SAS and SOE infiltration forces who needed a very effective and concealable defensive tool (or assassination weapon).

It was also employed by French resistance forces who were not allowed weapons by occupying German forces.

Later, push daggers saw another surge in popularity during the 1980s when several US manufacturers started producing them again as tactical or self-defense weapons. That’s a trend continuing to this day.

Using a Push Dagger Correctly (and Safely)

A push dagger is fairly easy to use, though a bit limiting in some ways compared to other more traditional knives. It only has one practical use (defense) so we’ll look at it in that context. This is not the style of knife to pick up for, say, bushcrafting or folk art carving.

It can open packages, which is all most of us use our knives for anyway, but beyond that, this is a tool that’s always been designed to keep the wielder safe.

Towards that end, using it is relatively instinctive. Simply wrap your fingers around the (usually) T-shaped grip, and close your hand with the tang of the blade extending between your middle and ring fingers.

From here, you can punch more or less as you normally would, albeit with an immense amount of additional damage-dealing potential.

Off-Hand Comments

Outdoor Edge Pistol Grip Push Dagger

One thing not so intuitive is you will typically put the knife on your non-dominant hand. This is typically going to be your more forward hand in a fighting stance and will save your dominant hand for grabbing your opponent’s body or interacting with your environment.

Most people naturally want to wield the knife in their dominant hand, but that’s less than optimal if you ever have to use it in a true self-defense situation.

Your non-dominant hand isn’t going to be as strong or dexterous as your dominant one, but you’re not writing a letter or opening a jar…you’re throwing a punch. And while an off-hand jab isn’t the most powerful blow, when you have a knife extending over your knuckles, it doesn’t need to be.

Pros and Cons of the Push Dagger

These days, push daggers are still used as a very concealable self-defense tool. They’re fairly intuitive because most everyone has a basic idea of how to throw a punch. Those with any martial arts experience are likely to find them comfortable and familiar to use instinctively.

The predominant variety these days is the New Orleans-style version with the T-shaped handle, but some others do exist. Whichever variety you go with, know you aren’t going to be doing a whole lot of slashing.

These are tools meant for piercing and stabbing, so some traditional knife fighting techniques aren’t going to translate here. Experienced Kali/Escrima practitioners will likely not have any problems at the end of the day, but the knife just isn’t optimized for cutting blows.

Legality of the Push Dagger: Perhaps the Biggest Con

First, let me say none of this is legal advice. I’m not a lawyer, I’m just some guy on the internet who likes knives. Everything here is just what I’ve come to understand from my own research and is subject to be wrong.

Do your research about where you live and plan to own or carry a push knife and ask a licensed attorney.

Bans and Restrictions on Push Daggers

Now, while push knives aren’t outright banned in most states, several do have restrictions on “daggers” and knives designed to cause harm to another person without an obvious other purpose like a hunting knife.

Most push knives have a blade length of less than 3 inches, and many are single-edged so they don’t meet the “dagger” definition in states where this is part of the definition of a dagger. Also, many states have laws about carrying a knife with “intent to harm,” but that applies to any knife.

The things to look out for are the differences in what your state allows you to own versus what you can carry. If you just want to own a push knife as a collector piece, you’re going to have a much easier time than if you want to carry one.

That said, many states have weapons carry licenses/concealed carry permits that not only allow you to carry a firearm, but also a knife, such as a push dagger.

In general, all we can say is to check your state and local laws and make sure you’re not going to violate them by owning or carrying a push knife. Few states flat out say they’re illegal to own, but many have limits on carrying them, especially concealed.

When to Take Special Care

I would advise special caution to anyone living in the following states: California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia.

All of these states have some restrictions on what knives you can carry, some have restrictions on ownership in general, and many mention “daggers” without really defining what they consider a dagger.

As always, do your research and cover your backside. Don’t rely on anyone else to do it for you. Other states may have laws I don’t know about or didn’t find information on, and your local city government may have ordinances as well.

Best Push Daggers on the Market Today

Today, we have a huge number of great push daggers on the market, which is both a good and bad thing. On the one hand, we have more choices than ever, which means there’s something out there to fit every need

On the other hand…we have more choices than ever, which can make it hard to choose.

Let’s take a look at the best options on the market today, and narrow the field a bit while also highlighting the best of the best in the world of push knives.


Condor Tool & Knife Tactical P.A.S.S.

Push Dagger Condor Tactical Pass

Right off the bat I must say I like the blade of the Tactical P.A.S.S. from Condor Tool & Knife because it departs from the traditional symmetrical dagger design. It pays often enough to try something different, and here it works. The hammer-finished look along with the clip point and false grind give it a rustic appearance. Condor also offers a fixed blade called the Tactical P.A.S.S. with the exact same blade pattern.

Now to talk about a practical bonus of the design. In some states double-edged blades are illegal. Condor’s false edge would allow you to carry the push dagger in such states and stay on the safe side of the law.

The handle size seems just right for my large, meaty hand. In most knives I look for that contoured fit. Due to the fact I want any resistance encountered by this blade absorbed by my palm and wrist, I want the handle to have a broad radius. The P.A.S.S. is in that Goldilocks position.

If I had to give any negative feedback, and I do when I find something wrong, it would be the leather sheath. Oddly enough, it is constructed very well. There are minor issues with the fit and finish but overall it is a sturdy, good-looking build.

My issue is with the design. Condor includes a full belt loop but I find that gets in the way when trying to make a smooth, full, fast purchase. For knives used for self-defense that is what you want—a solid grip and you want it fast. A horizontal and vertical carry patch is on the sheath’s back but will accommodate MOLLE-sized straps only. I know it might seem picky but keep in mind this is a push dagger, and the same rules apply for it as a pistol draw. I think the set-up would be taken to another level if the carrying system was mounted to the back of the sheath only and was large enough to accommodate regular-size belts. Such a change would leave the handle free and open to a quick, secure grasp.

Does the sheath make the knife a bad value? No, most people are either satisfied with the sheath or they aren’t. As a result, your decision to buy a P.A.S.S. might factor in an aftermarket sheath. The knife is still spot on.

Heretic Knives Sleight

Push Dagger Heretic

The Sleight from Heretic Knives is a sleek little design. Of the test group it’s the most compact and concealable. The blade is part of an aluminum body with a thin CPM 20CV layer mechanically fastened with screws to it to produce an edge. Such a design gives you the cutting power of a heavier metal while reducing weight. The aluminum body has an asymmetrical, CNC-textured handle. Heretic uses more of a pistol-grip design, enabling you to palm it quickly and have accurate control over the tip.

The Sleight is a great-looking piece of kit. Heretic even gets creative with the sheath, carrying through on the theme of decorative but lightweight. It has a Blade-Tech belt clip on the back for vertical carry.

The small design makes it easier to use for certain cutting chores without drawing too much attention. On the other hand, smaller knives lack the effectiveness of larger ones in self-defense situations.

One thing that bothered me is how difficult it is to draw the knife from the sheath. The first time I did it I thought I was going to have to follow up with a visit to my chiropractor. (OK, an exaggeration, but I must have at least one overstatement per story.) It was and still is difficult to draw and definitely not on the smooth side. Moreover, if you’re trying to pull it out of the sheath in a stealthy manner there is a loud click upon drawing. Perhaps over time it will break in as I sit fidgeting with it while watch Kung Fu reruns.

The Sleight is well made and well designed. It will make a good EDC blade once the sheath is broken in.

TOPS Knives I Stick

Push Dagger Tops I Stick

Of the test push daggers, the I Stick by TOPS Knives has to be the largest. According to TOPS, the I Stick weighs 12.6 ounces. When using a knife such as this, size can count—especially in the blade length. At this weight, though, you’d better be prepared for a long day. On its own the weight might not be that much, but when you start adding on your other everyday carry gear it gets burdensome. I am not normally one to point out the weight of a knife, but when they get this heavy you start to notice.

The blade is .38 inch at the thickest. You won’t have to worry about this knife breaking. Scales are black and green Micarta®. I do find the handle a bit big for my hand. The size does allow for a quick, solid grip, though. TOPS structures the handle to be asymmetrical so you can get a full thumb wrap around it. Being able to completely close your fist around the handle makes a world of difference in grip strength. The molded Kydex sheath has belt loops for vertical carry. Before carrying the I Stick, I recommend you practice drawing it from the sheath, as the sheath needs breaking in.

Overall, it is a good knife and has a respectable edge out of the box. Seeing as how it’s on the large side, the decision to purchase it would be something you would need to think over. A knife of this nature is no good if you don’t have program compliance and carry it. If you are not used to carrying a lot of weight, before buying it try carrying around something of comparable size and weight. As far as value, the I Stick is built like a tank. I am sure it will outlast us all and be handed down to future generations.

TOPS Knives Grim Ripper

Tops Grim Reaper side

If you want a slightly more utility-focused knife, the TOPS Knives Grim Ripper might be up your alley. It features a shorter two-finger grip that is shaped to lock into your hand. It feels just as secure when wielding, but is less likely to dig into your side or what have you when carrying it.

It features a single-edge blade designed with some wavy semi-serrations ahead of the sharpening choil designed to quickly slice through webbing or ropes in the event of an emergency.

The handle is a very nice gray micarta that won’t get slick if held with wet hands. I felt very secure wielding the Grim Ripper in a variety of light camp tasks and it was easy to slice boxes as well, thanks to the well-designed handle.

The blade is a 3.75-inch long tanto-shaped affair made out of 1095 high-carbon steel for great edge retention and sharpness.

Esee Izula Tertiary

EESE tertiary push dagger

The Esee Izula is a wildly-popular small fixed blade that’s good for everything from opening a reluctant Amazon box to whittling by the fire. But the Tertiary version is geared strongly towards defense with its T-shaped handle and perpendicular blade.

“Izula” is the local Peruvian word for the bullet ant, one of the fiercest insects on the planet and the one with the most painful sting. I’d say Esee named its knife appropriately.

It is very compact and concealable, but easy to draw quickly when you need it. The grip allows for you to easily hold the stem between your first and second or second and third fingers, depending on your preferences, and is comfortable and secure in the hand.

The 2.625-inch blade is made out of 1095 steel and features a clip point so it is more acceptable in those places that might take issue with someone concealing a double-edged blade.

Cold Steel Safemaker II

Cold Steel Safe Maker II push knife

The Cold Steel Safemaker is, in my opinion, one of the knives that’s most true to the origins of the push dagger or push knife. It’s cheap, easy to conceal, and it’ll put a hole in an attacker. For those looking for an affordable and discrete means of protection, it’s difficult to argue against it.

Is the AUS-A8 steel the best? No. Does it have the best handle? No. Does it do what you need it to and will it hold up well in a self-defense situation? Absolutely.

Remember, this isn’t meant to be your EDC knife you blunt the edge on by opening boxes and slicing through tape all day…its meant for self-defense. To that end, if you do ever use it, it probably only really needs to be sharp once.

I’m all about lowering the barrier of entry to self-defense. I think too much emphasis is sometimes put on high-speed, low-drag designs made with the highest-quality materials out there and sometimes that distracts from the fact you don’t need any of those features most of the time.

I say that as someone who carries a $400 knife as my main EDC. I get it. But I also recognize the fact knives can be expensive for folks who have other priorities and other things they need to spend money on. That shouldn’t keep them from being able to defend themselves though.

The last I’ll say about it is a little anecdote that has stuck with me.

I had a friend tell me a story about a fellow Marine who chuckled during a briefing at the idea of facing a likely enemy armed with decades-old AKs. The unfortunate Marine’s Sergeant then sharply reminded him “Cain got the job done with a rock.”

That’s something I like to keep in mind when talking about weapons. Sometimes, you don’t need the best materials. Sometimes, you just need something to get the job done. And the Safemaker and the smaller Safemaker II will get the job done.

The Safemaker II has a 3.5-inch blade made out of very budget-friendly AUS-A8 steel.

CRKT Tecpatl

CRKR TECPATL push dagger

The Tecpatl by CRKT is a modern take on the push dagger designed by Army Special Forces veteran Michael R. Rodrigues as part of CRKT’s high-end Forged By War line of knives designed by or in collaboration with combat veterans.

Mr. Rodrigues is a bladesmith himself, and brought years of front-line experience to his version of the push dagger. It features an upswept Warncliffe profile making it fairly effective at utility tasks in a pinch, but it’s clear this is a knife meant to do damage to an attacker.

The handle is ergonomically shaped to give you a few different grip options depending on your preferences and what you’re doing with the knife, and I found it to be very comfortable and secure no matter what I was doing with it.

The 3.375-inch hollow-ground blade is made of Japanese SK5 carbon steel.

GTI Push Knife

GPI push knife

Gingrich Tactical Innovations has (somewhat predictably, if you know anything about Justin Gingrich and his style) turned their attention to the push knife. Equally predictably they’ve given us something excellent.

GTI’s take on the push knife features a full tang design incorporating a generous handle to give you a secure grip in difficult conditions, like say, when you’re desperately defending yourself. Always nice to see the practicalities of being in a knife fight take precedence in a defensive knife design.

It also comes with a nice Kydex sheath that, on the one I handled, was one of the better examples of a push knife sheathe I’d seen. It covers everything but the oversized handle to protect the steel from moisture, but still allows the knife to slip free easily when you need it.

That big chunky handle is covered in excellent non-slip Micarta scales and tapers down to a sensible 2.6-inch blade made out of D2 steel.

WE Knives Typhoeus

WE Knife push dagger

Lastly, we have the most unique knife on this list. The WE Knives Typhoeus, which is essentially a push knife that transforms into a more standard fixed-blade knife. But it’s not a fixed blade and it’s not a folder either… it’s confusing, I have to admit.

Even WE Knives seems unsure how to classify the Typhoeus because of the way it works. At its default, holstered state, it’s a fairly standard push knife, with an asymmetrical T-shaped handle that is very comfortable to grip.

But you can then push the knife blade up and have it snap forward parallel to the handle, giving you a more traditionally shaped knife you can use for everyday knife tasks.

It is available in three different finishes and uses an excellent CPM-20CV steel in the 2.27-inch blade.

Editor’s Note: Matt Collins and Abe Elias contributed to this article.

Check Out More Buyer’s Guides:

Cool Custom: Ray Rybar’s Prospector Push Dagger Strikes It Rich

Sourced from Geronimo country Rybar’s Prospector dagger and bolo combo prove pure gold.

The Prospector by Ray Rybar is a push dagger/bolo combo that bespeaks not only his talent as an ABS master smith but also the array of beautiful, valuable ore in and around his home in Camp Verde, Arizona.

Ray lives in the middle of an Apache reservation where he owns three or four gold mine claims. Camp Verde was the headquarters of U.S. Army Gen. George Crook during the Army’s pursuit and eventual defeat of Geronimo and his Chiricahua Apache band in 1886. Navajos live in the area as well.

Ray Rybar Prospector Push Dagger and bolo
Also from near one of his claims, the rock for the inlay has a naturally occurring “stringer” of gold down the center. A local Apache weaved the beautiful leather bolo strap, and Ray forged the shovel and pick of carbon steel and heat colored them. (Eric Eggly/PointSeven images)

Ray teaches various forging and other classes. On occasion he takes his students out to forage for blade and other materials in and around his claims. There they find not only gold every so often but also iron/nickel meteorite, samples of Fe3 and Fe4 iron, ore that can be developed into copper, silver and more. He teaches his students how to convert the iron ore into high-carbon steel. He saves up the leftover steel forged by his students and also rocks he finds and slices with a slab saw for his knives and sheaths. The results can be spectacular—of which The Prospector is a most representative example.

Prospector Specs
Knife name: The Prospector
Maker: ABS master smith Ray Rybar
Knife type: Push dagger/bolo
Blade length: 4”
Blade material: Damascus forged from iron ore converted to high carbon steel and also iron/nickel meteorite
Handle: Ancient walrus ivory w/silver pins and backing
Handle inlay: Prospector is solid silver and his tray contains real gold nuggets
Sheath: Silver front and back and ebony center w/silver pins; decorated with various marks/designs made with stamps Ray cut from carbon steel and based on those used by the local Apaches and Navajos
Sheath inlay: Rock containing quartz, feldspar and a stringer of gold
Bolo strap: Leather weaved by a local Apache
Maker’s price for a similar push dagger/bolo: $6,500

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New Knives: Hunting Knives And Outdoor Blades

Hunting and outdoor endeavors, these blades are a cut above the rest.

Looking to kit up for the next hunting season? Need to start thinking about filleting this summer’s catch? Or maybe you just require a little summer to make camp life a little easier. We’ve got you covered! From stunning custom creations to workhorse production models, we’ve gathered up top-not hunting knives, camp knives and about every other blade to tackle your outdoor adventures.

Paul DiStefano: Hunter

Paul DiStefano: Hunter

BLADE STEEL: Mosaic damascus
HANDLE: Ivory Micarta® carved w/Japanese maple leaves and birds native to Japan; bird’s-beak butt design
GUARD: Mosaic damascus
KNIFE TO KNOW: Paul DiStefano is an American Bladesmith Society journeyman smith
MAKER: Paul DiStefano

Jacob Gaetz: Hunter

Jacob Gaetz: Hunter

BLADE MATERIAL: Mosaic damascus of 1084 carbon and 15N20 nickel-alloy steels
BLADE GRIND: Full flat, .01”-thick BTE (behind the edge)
HANDLE: Stabilized redwood burl
HANDLE PIN: Argentium silver
SPACER: Heat-colored damascus
GUARD STEEL: Heat-colored 416 stainless
KNIFE TO KNOW: Jacob Gaetz is an American Bladesmith Society journeyman smith
MAKER: Jacob Gaetz (Jocelyn Frasier image)

Tanner Couch: Rabbit Skinner

Tanner Couch: Rabbit Skinner

BLADE STEEL: CPM 154 stainless
HANDLE FRAME: 410 stainless steel
BOLSTER: 416 stainless
KNIFE TO KNOW: Tanner Couch is a card-carrying member of the South Texas Slipjoint Cartel
MAKER: Tanner Couch (SharpByCoop image)

Chris Hamelin: Saratoga Hunter

Chris Hamelin: Saratoga Hunter

BLADE STEEL: 440C stainless
HANDLE: Maple Valley Richlite w/copper pin and lanyard tube, natural Micarta®
BOLSTER: Copper; engraved by Wolfgang Loerchner
SHEATH (not shown): Belt model w/snap closure of leather and alligator skin inlay by Buffalo Bones
MAKER: Chris Hamelin (Jocelyn Frasier image edit)

Charlie Lloyd: Crushed W’s hunter

Charlie Lloyd: Crushed W’s hunter

BLADE MATERIAL: Crushed W’s damascus of 1080 carbon and 15N20 nickel-alloy steels
GUARD: Damascus
KNIFE TO KNOW: Charlie Lloyd is a journeyman smith in the American Bladesmith Society
MAKER: Charlie Lloyd (SharpByCoop image)

CAS Iberia: Modern Tanto

CAS Iberia: Modern Tanto

BLADE MATERIAL: 1566 carbon steel w/hamon
TSUKA (handle): G-10
HABAKI (collar): Copper
MENUKI (handle ornaments): Silver shi shi (lion dogs)
SAYA (scabbard; not shown): Textured black
WEIGHT: 15 ozs.
MSRP: $259

Russell Roosevelt: Hunter

Russell Roosevelt: Hunter

BLADE MATERIAL: Ladder-pattern damascus of 1084 carbon and 15N20 nickel-alloy steels
HANDLE: Amboyna burl
GUARD: 416 stainless steel w/spacers
KNIFE TO KNOW: Russell Roosevelt is a journeyman smith in the American Bladesmith Society
MAKER: Russell Roosevelt (SharpByCoop image)

Josh Hults: Skinner/camp knife

Josh Hults: Skinner/camp knife

BLADE MATERIAL: Twisted ‘W’s’ damascus of 1084 carbon and 15N20 nickel-alloy steels
HANDLE: Stabilized black ash
HANDLE SPACERS: Copper and G-10
KNIFE TO KNOW: Josh Hults is a journeyman smith in the American Bladesmith Society
MAKER: Josh Hults (Jocelyn Frasier image edit)

Outdoor Edge: Razor VX 4

Outdoor Edge: Razor VX 4

BLADE STEEL: 420J2 stainless
BLADE FINISH: Black oxide coated
HANDLE MATERIAL: Forged carbon fiber
LOCK: Linerlock
LINERS: Vented stainless steel
PIVOT: Ceramic ball bearing
KNIFE TO KNOW: The Razor VX 4 is a replaceable-blade model; also available in handle materials of green Micarta® ($54.99) and Black G-10 w/spring assist $44.95)
MSRP: $69.99
COMPANY: Outdoor Edge

Spyderco: Spyder Thrower, Small

Spyderco: Spyder Thrower, Small

DESIGNER: Harald Moeller
BLADE STEEL: 8Cr13MoV stainless
BLADE FINISH: Two-tone black oxide and satin finish
WEIGHT: 7 ozs.
SHEATH: Leather
KNIFE TO KNOW: Comes in a set of three w/three-tiered leather sheath and a copy of the instructional booklet, Knife Throwing: The Knives and Throwing Technique of Harald Moeller; designed to be thrown by either the blade tip or handle butt
MSRP: $144 for the set
Company: Spyderco

Smith’s Consumer Products Inc.: Lawaia Flex Fillet Knife

Smith’s Consumer Products Inc.: Lawaia Flex Fillet Knife

BLADE STEEL: 400 series stainless
BLADE FINISH: Corrosion-resistant coating
HANDLE: Thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) w/non-slip soft grips and hole for a lanyard
SHEATH (not shown): Breathable TPE
KNIFE TO KNOW: Designed for cleaning small-to-medium-size fish like speckled trout or yellowtail snapper
MSRP: $12.99
COMPANY: Smith’s Consumer Products Inc.

GiantMouse: ACE Iona V2

GiantMouse: ACE Iona V2

BLADE STEEL: CPM MagnaCut stainless
HANDLE MATERIAL: Green canvas Micarta®
POCKET CLIP: Wire, reversible
PIVOT: Washer
LOCK: Linerlock
WEIGHT: 3.4 ozs.
MSRP: $195
KNIFE TO KNOW: The knife is named after the Iona Bar, “a beloved establishment” in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York
COMPANY: GiantMouse

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Custom Dagger: Double-Edged Gems That Get To The Point

These classic custom daggers dare the steal the show.

The custom dagger is enjoying a renaissance, in no small part because it is a style that takes so much talent to do properly. Double grinds, fluted handles and a high level of fit and finish are just three of the things a maker likely will have to do well at one time or another in making a dagger. And if he or she nails the dagger build, it’s a crucial step on the way to the next level.

Camille Sennegon: Wenge Wood Handle

Camille Sennegon: Wenge Wood Handle dagger

A masterfully sculpted wenge wood handle and a 9-inch blade of 1095 carbon steel sandwich the stainless steel crossguard of a custom dagger by ABS journeyman smith Camille Sennegon. Overall length: 15 inches. (Jocelyn Frasier image)

James Bishop: Death Watch Dagger

James Bishop: Death Watch Dagger

A dramatically upswept guard and 11.5-inch blade, both of twist damascus, and a handle of “damascus pattern” G-10 carry the load for the Death Watch Dagger by James Bishop of Sausage Man Forge. Grind: Flat double edge. Overall length: 19.2 inches. (Rod Hoare image)

Mike Tyre: Quillon Dagger

Mike Tyre: Quillon Dagger

ABS journeyman smith Mike Tyre’s quillon dagger boasts a 10.5-inch blade of double-flat-ground damascus in O1 and L6 tool steels, and a fluted musk ox handle with 12k-gold wire inlays. The knife features takedown construction and a guard of gun-blued mild steel. Overall length: 15.5 inches. Mike’s price for a similar knife: $4,800. (SharpByCoop image)

Andrea Lisch: Blackwood Handle

Andrea Lisch:  Blackwood Handle

A 7.5-inch blade of 5160 carbon steel, a blackwood handle with stippled stainless steel spacers, and an O1 tool steel guard complete a dagger by Andrea Lisch. It is one of five test knives that earned her the rank of ABS journeyman smith during BLADE Show 2023. (Jocelyn Frasier image)

Roger Green: Will & Finck-Style Push Dagger

Roger Green: Will & Finck-Style Push Dagger

Based on a 19th-century Will & Finck-style push dagger, Roger Green’s repro has a 6.75-inch blade of hollow-ground 440C stainless steel and an ivorite handle. The sheath (not shown) is nickel silver with a Will & Finck 1872 patented belt clasp. Roger’s price for a similar knife and sheath: $3,500. (SharpByCoop image)

John Horrigan: Art Dagger

John Horrigan: Art Dagger

A 10-inch blade in hollow-ground quilt-pattern damascus, a 416 stainless steel handle with petersite inlay, and a guard of hot-blued 1045 carbon steel top off ABS master smith John Horrigan’s art dagger. Overall length: 14.5 inches. John’s price for a similar knife: $10,200. (SharpByCoop image)

Tony Docherty: Skeleton-Style Dagger

Tony Docherty: Skeleton-Style Dagger

Tony Docherty’s skeleton-style custom dagger sports a 9.25-inch damascus blade, a damascus handle and a brass guard and pommel. Blade grind: Double bevel. Overall length: 14.7 inches. (Rod Hoare image)

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New Knives: Must-Have Production And Custom Blades

From kitchen to camp and beyond, these puppies will perform.

Christmas may have passed and all your presents have been unwrapped, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start building out your wish list for the coming year. We’re here to help with a slew of new knives—and non-knives—that are certain to tantalize and tempt. From production options full of pomp and customs cutting one-of-a-kind profiles, there’s something for knife lover.

Greiner Chef’s Knife

Greiner Chef's Knife

Blade length: 10”
Blade material: 80CrV2 carbon steel w/forged finish
Blade grind: Flat
Handle material: Double-stabilized karelian birch
Overall length: 14.5”
Maker’s price for a similar knife: $600
Maker: Erik Greiner, greinerblades.com (SharpByCoop image)

Franklin Bread Knife

Franklin Bread Knife

Blade length: 9.25”
Blade material: 52100 carbon steel
Handle material: Hawaiian koa
Overall length: 14”
Maker’s price for a similar knife: $575
Knife to know: Also comes in a set of three that includes chef’s and paring knives w/a price of $1,750 for the entire set; Thomas Franklin is an ABS apprentice smith
Maker: Thomas Franklin (Jfrasierphotography.com)

Spyderco Petty

Spyderco Petty

Designer: ABS master smith Murray Carter
Blade length: 4.64”
Blade steel: CTS BD1N stainless
Blade grind: Full-flat
Blade @ thickest: .068”
Handle design: Wa style (octagonal)
Handle material: Black polypropylene
Weight: 1.8 ozs.
Overall length: 8.87”
Knife to know: The Petty is part of Spyderco’s Minarai Series; meaning “to look and learn,” minarai is the Japanese way of describing the role of an apprentice
Country of origin: Japan
Company: Spyderco, spyderco.com

Morakniv Rombo

Morakniv Rombo

Model: Camp chef’s knife
Blade length: 3.86”
Blade steel: Swedish stainless
Blade grind: Flat
Blade @ thickest: .09”
Blade finish: Two-tone
Handle material: Wood
Weight: 5.5 ozs.
Overall length: 8”
Country of origin: Sweden
Knife to know: Designed for right-hand use
MSRP: $230 (at press time rate of exchange)
Company: Morakniv, industrialrev.com

Spartan Blades Poros

Spartan Blades Poros

Designer: Curtis Iovito
Knife type: Flipper folder
Blade length: 3.75”
Blade steel: 154CM stainless
Rockwell hardness: 58-60 HRC
Blade grind: Flat
Blade @ thickest: .125”
Blade finish: Black titanium nitride coating
Blade pattern: Drop point
Pivot action: Ikoma Korth Bearing System (IKBS)
Handle material: Carbon fiber/G-10 composite
Lock: Linerlock
Pocket clip: Deep carry
Hardware & liner: Stainless steel w/black electro-deposit powder coating
Weight: 5.3 ozs.
Closed length: 4.25”
Country of origin: USA
MSRP: $190
Company: Spartan Blades, spartanbladesusa.com

Cold Steel The Republic

Cold Steel The Republic

Knife type: Bushcraft fixed blade
Blade length: 5”
Blade steel: CPM S35VN stainless
Rockwell hardness: 58-60 HRC
Blade @ thickest: .1535”
Blade finish: Corrosion resistant/no-glare Ionbond
Blade pattern: Drop point
Handle material: Micarta® w/single integral guard and lanyard hole
Knife to know: Handle is removable for customization based on situation/undertaking; spine gimping for extra control
Weight: 8.4 ozs.
Overall length: 10”
Sheath: Leather pouch
MSRP: $269.99
Country of origin: USA
Company: Cold Steel, coldsteel.com

WE Knife Zonda

WE Knife Zonda

Pattern: Flipper folder
Blade length: 4.04”
Blade steel: CPM 20CV stainless
Blade finish: Stonewashed
Blade @ thickest: .13”
Handle material: Black titanium w/flamed titanium inlay
Pocket clip: Right-hand, blade-tip-up carry
Lock: Framelock
Closed length: 4.85”
Country of origin: China
MSRP: $480
Company: WE Knife, weknife.com

Halfbreed Blades MILF-03PS


Blade length: 3.54”
Blade steel: CPM S30V stainless
Rockwell hardness: 59-60 HRC
Blade grind: Hollow
Blade @ thickest: .19”
Blade finish: PVD coat
Blade pattern: Tanto
Handle material: G-10
Washers: Phosphor bronze
Weight: 7.34 ozs.
Closed length: 5.51”
Handle @ thickest: .59”
Country of origin: Australian and Taiwanese make
MSRP: $280
Company: Halfbreed Blades, halfbreedblades.com.au

Schubert Knives Large Damascus Slicer

Schubert Knives Large Damascus Slicer

Blade length: 19.3”
Blade material: 90-layer raindrop-pattern damascus of 1084 carbon and 15N20 nickel-alloy steels
Blade grind: Flat
Blade @ widest: 1.77”
Bolster/guard material: Copper and buffalo horn w/soldered joint
Handle material: Stabilized blackheart sassafras
Handle pins: Turned whale tooth and bamboo
Overall length: 26.4”
Scabbard (not shown): Glass lacquered wood inlaid w/black heart sassafras, buffalo horn, copper and whale tooth
Maker: Bruce Schubert (Rod Hoare image)

Mark Josef Knives Sujihiki

Mark Josef Knives Sujihiki

Pattern: Slicer
Blade length: 11.8”
Blade material: San-mai construction of 410 stainless steel, nickel and 52100 carbon steel forged by Brook Turner
Rockwell hardness: 62 HRC
Blade grind: Flat/convex
Blade thickness @ ricasso: .118”
Blade @ widest: 1.496”
Handle material: Coolabah burl
Bolster/guard: African blackwood
Overall length: 18.5”
Maker: Marc Stewart, Mark Josef Knives, marcjosefknives.com.au (Rod Hoare image)

TOPS Knives El Pionero

TOPS Knives El Pionero

Designer: Ed Calderon
Blade length: 3.38”
Blade material: 1095 carbon steel
Blade @ thickest: .09”
Blade finish: Tumble
Handle material: Tan canvas Micarta® w/finger divot that aids in blade orientation, etc.
Weight: 2.9 ozs.
Overall length: 7.63”
Sheath: Black Kydex
Weight w/sheath: 4.1 ozs.
Knife to know: The El Pionero is a “paring knife-esque design”; Ed Calderon (edsmanifesto.com) worked as a counter-narcotics officer in Mexico and more recently as a trainer and “guru in the tactical space”
Country of origin: USA
MSRP: $220
Company: TOPS Knives, topsknives.com

Dr. Jim Lucie: A Bladesmith’s Life & Legacy

Dr. Jim Lucie: A Bladesmith’s Life & Legacy

What it’s about: ABS journeyman smith Dr. Jim Lucie had a unique background: he served as the personal physician for, and learned about knifemaking from, the man recognized as the grandfather of custom knives—BLADE Magazine Cutlery Hall-Of-Fame® member William Scagel. The author, Stephanie Lucie, is Lucie’s youngest of four daughters. She paints a picture of her father like no other, from childhood to adulthood, his bladesmithing mentors and friends, the many stories written about him and much more.
Format: 9.25 x 12.5-inch hardback, limited to 1,500 copies in the first edition, over 300 color photos, including more than 200 knives Lucie made, and over 100 pictures of his life and accomplishments.
MSRP: $120
Contact: jimluciebook.com

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Best Tomahawks: Our Top Hawks For Backwoods To Battlefields (2024)

The tomahawk has been used for centuries as a hand weapon in battle and a tool for everything from chopping wood to processing animals. In modern times, it has evolved into an all-around survival tool used by military and civilians alike.

The parallels between the use of the tomahawk in the 18th century and that of the modern battlefield are numerous and worth consideration. It turns out the reasons behind the tomahawk’s popularity in the woods of Colonial America are often the same reasons they are popular with U.S. troops and backwoodsmen today.

Tomahawk History

The word tomahawk is a variation of the Algonquian word tomahac (also spelled in English multiple ways), which means “to strike.” It was a term that was used originally for any striking weapon, from wooden clubs to axes made of stone.

In 1608, Capt. John Smith of Jamestown, Virginiawas the first person to record the word in English, mentioning it was used to describe the hatchets carried by his men. Axes and clubs were symbols of power and status for native cultures going back centuries.

This, combined with the numerous advantages held by the metal tomahawk over its stone predecessors, made the European-fashioned metal tomahawks popular trade items with the local tribes. As trade increased, new forms evolved to meet the demands of the market, and tomahawks with pipes, spikes and hammers were traded by the thousands.

Carl Russell, author of Firearms, Traps & Tools of the Mountain Men, speculates that, as the classic trade ‘hawk’ became the norm with Native tribes, newer, less pragmatic forms evolved to fill the warrior status niche.

Tomahawk Uses

Dragon Tomahawk
The Dragon Tomahawk is 20.5 inches overall, with a 4-inch cutting surface of damascus and a curly maple handle. The head is wrought iron and 1018 mild steel forged into a “W’s” pattern, and the blade steel is 1080, 15N20 and 201 series nickel forged together to create Bill’s Dragon’s Breath pattern. (SharpByCoop image)

The tomahawk is a true multi-purpose tool. With it one can dress game, chop wood, and clear brush. Choking up on the handle, the user can use it much like a knife. The length of the handle gives the blade tremendous velocity and force as well, making it a formidable weapon. These attributes were not lost on the Western frontiersmen who often adopted the tools and lifestyles of the Native tribes.

This adoption became even more apparent as the frontiersmen went to war. They employed the same guerrilla warfare tactics used by the Native tribes, and they carried the tomahawks so prized by them. One equipment list for volunteers into the American militias mentions “a sword or tomahawk” as a required item right along with a rifle, powder, and lead.

Tomahawk In The 21st Century

This rich history would be enough to secure the tomahawk’s place among the iconic tools and weapons of American history, but the story does not stop there. 

Peter LaGana, founder of the American Tomahawk Company, was famous for his tomahawk made popular during the Vietnam War. Also privately purchased by soldiers, it proved a valuable tool and weapon in the jungles of Southeast Asia.

The true rebirth of the tomahawk, however, would be brought about by the Global War on Terrorism after the attacks on 9/11. Some members of the Special Operations community began carrying tomahawks as part of Col. John Mulholland’s Joint Special Operations Task Force, also known as Task Force Dagger, when only 300 Americans were in Afghanistan on the hunt for Osama Bin Laden.

The number of soldiers carrying tomahawks increased throughout the next decade of war, but why? The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were asymmetric wars that had more in common with the guerrilla fighting of frontier America. The tomahawk once again served as a valuable tool and weapon in this environment.

Our 12 Best Tomahawks For 2023

The modern tomahawk comes in all shapes and sizes with all sorts of uses and included features. These are a dozen across a variety of price points that show what the modern hawk is designed to do and how companies are getting creative with them.

Browning Shock’ N Awe

Browning Shock n Awe
The Browning Shock ‘N Awe is a compact tomahawk that packs a big punch. Despite its small size, it still has the heft to be a very effective chopper.

The Shock ‘N Awe is 10.5 inches overall. The head is 2.75 inches and offers a curved penetration spike for light breaching. The head, spike, and handle are forged from one piece of 1055 high carbon steel and covered in a black epoxy coating for corrosion resistance and  low glare.

The handle is in a traditional Japanese style with a hand-wrapped overlapping cord. It looks great and it seems a perfect match for this size of hawk. The 3D nature of the wrap segments creates alternating ridges that help provide an ultra-secure grip in all conditions. The exposed pommel terminates in a skull-crusher shape.

The Shock ’N Awe comes with a molded polymer sheath with MOLLE-compatible attachment provisions. The sheath encases the entire head and spike which  pivots into and out of the sheath. A locking tab that pivots down over the spike end of the sheath prevents the sheath halves from separating, effectively locking the hawk into the sheath.

The hawk gets into tight places easier and is more maneuverable than larger models. It’s easier to carry as well. It easily takes down small saplings and de-limbs them as well. The Shock ’N Awe would be great for splitting kindling, including via a baton.

The spike is pointy but not so much that it can break off. It penetrates wood and other materials effectively, and can be used for digging as well. It opened up a good-sized hole in plywood when used in a rocking motion after penetration. 

Shock’ N Awe Specs
Blade Material:
1055 Tool Steel
Overall Length: 10.5 inches
Edge Length: 2.75 inches
Weight: 23.6 ounces
Handle Material: Hand-Wrapped Nylon Paracord
MSRP: $127.49

RMJ Tactical Knight Hawk

RMJ Tactical Knight Hawk
The RMJ Tactical Knight Hawk is an excellent chopper.

ABS master smith Jason Knight and RMJ Tactical co-designed the Tactical Knight Hawk to handle a variety of jobs, not just chopping. It’s 14.5 inches long and feels agile in the hand with a weight of 23 ounces. The cutting edge is 2.875 inches, and the blade is made from 80CRV2. Blade thickness: .275 inch. The handle is 3D-machined black G-10 riveted/permanently attached to the tang.

There is a slight downward turn to the cutting edge that accentuates power, which is in contrast to most hawks where the edge is parallel to the handle. As a result, the cutting edge engages and shears more effectively after impact. This is one reason why the Knight Hawk isn’t head heavy like many hawks, yet can outchop many of them. 

This translates to extended use without wearing you out. By the same token, being agile in hand suits it for tasks few hawks are adept at, such as whittling and making fuzz sticks.

The spike is the shortest one of all the hawks tested, though that does not mean it is the least effective. Resembling a fat knife blade rather than a true spike, it sports a semi-sharpened edge at the bottom. The spine tapers down slightly but leaves more than enough material for tip strength and to withstand heavy penetration strikes. 

The Knight Hawk is practically bulletproof, devastatingly effective, and a pleasure to use. It comes in a choice of three Cerakote® color options: Savage Steel , OD Green, and Desert Tan. 

Tactical Knight Hawk Specs
Blade Material
: 80CRV2
Overall Length: 14.5 inches
Edge Length: 2.875 inches
Weight: 23 ounces
Handle Material: G-10
MSRP: $525

Cold Steel War Hawk

Measuring 19 inches overall, the Cold Steel War Hawk features a head of drop-forged 1055 carbon steel for toughness and a textured polypropylene handle. The partial tang is inset into the handle and secured by two large bolts, and you can replace it easily should it break. 

The wide, bearded axe head excels at chopping and cutting. The tang area just behind the head has a few finger grooves for choking up for whittling or more precise cuts. The double-ground spike has a distinctive tanto-ish shape for maximum penetration and power. The spike is ground on top and bottom to remove material for enhanced penetration.

The handle is comfortable, and the texturing promotes good grip traction in various conditions. The sheath is a clever double-articulated design that encases most of the head. The sheath has two pivots—one at the spike end, the other at the beard end. The sheath is secure and doesn’t fall off. The only negative is there is no belt-attachment provision. Consequently, the War Hawk is ideal for storing in your truck for camping expeditions.

With the tanto-tip-beveled spike, the War Hawk had great penetration through plywood. In order for it to be an effective chopping/breaching tool, there must be zero flex in the handle. If Cold Steel went to a hickory wood handle it would improve the War Hawk’s performance. As is, it might make a great throwing tomahawk. 

War Hawk Specs
Blade Material: 1055 Carbon Steel
Overall Length: 19 inches
Edge Length: 3 inches
Weight: 29.5 ounces
Handle Material: Polypropylene
MSRP: $71.99

SOG Survival Hawk

SOG Survival Hawk
The spike of the SOG Survival Hawk works well and achieved good penetration into plywood.

 A little over a foot long, the Survival Hawk is compact enough to tote around while camping. The head is cast from 2Cr carbon steel with a cutting edge of 3 inches and a distinctive spike on the opposite end. The spike is not only designed for penetration, but the slot can be used to pull nails or bend wire. When held in the icepick grip with the head pointed toward the ground, the Survival Hawk can be employed as a hammer.

For added versatility, a fire-starting ferrocerium rod screws into the handle butt. The glass-reinforced-nylon-handle material is lightweight while the full-tang design promotes strength and superb balance. The gripping area of the handle is wrapped with paracord for comfort. The exposed portion of the tang in between the paracord handle and the head has a series of traction notches.  Grip the area tightly up against the head to carve or whittle with extra control.

The head is all black but the grind bevels are satin finished, creating a striking visual contrast. At 19.5 ounces the Survival Hawk has the weight it needs to deal effective chopping blows. Given its light weight and compact length, don’t expect it to tackle heavy/extended chopping tasks, as you’ll end up having to use more arm power. It actually works pretty well and bit hard into saplings. If you need a hawk for chopping on an as-needed basis, then this is an ideal one to consider. 

The Survival Hawk comes with a sturdy ballistic nylon sheath with a stiff inner liner and sports sewn and riveted construction. A button-snap flap closure secures the sheath around the head. A large nylon webbing loop provides easy belt attachment.

The spike works well, and the notch in the center serves as a nail puller. However, the spike might penetrate better without it. Nonetheless, it achieved decent penetration into plywood. However, just like with the head, the spike would also be more effective if the handle were longer for extra leverage for a more powerful swing. Conversely, the Survival Hawk is still loaded with useful features.

Survival Hawk Specs
Blade Material: 2Cr
Overall Length: 12.1 inches
Edge Length: 3 inches
Weight: 19.5 ounces
Handle Material: Glass-Reinforced Nylon
MSRP: $69.95

Spyderco Warrior Hawk

Spyderco Warrior Hawk
The holes are not just for aesthetics on the Spyderco Warrior Hawk. Designer Laci Szabo indicated the top hole can be used to create a leash similar to that used on ice axes, and a chain can be attached to the hole at the end of the handle so the hawk can double as a hook.

Laci Szabo, United States Marine Corps veteran and New Mexico police officer who served as a breacher on SWAT teams, designed an urban multi-tool to fill the bill. The result is the Spyderco Warrior Hawk, a striking modern design with an angular blade and Spyderco’s signature cutout holes.

The Warrior Hawk is designed to punch out tires, break vehicle windows, cut cables, and handle prying tasks. The apex of the angle ground into the cutting edge of the head concentrates the power of the swing while preventing the material from binding up on the edge.

The holes are not just for aesthetics. Szabo indicated that the top hole can be used to create a leash similar to that used on ice axes, and a chain can be attached to the bottom hole so the hawk can double as a hook.

Szabo wanted a handle different from existing tomahawk designs, so he configured the G-10 handle to resemble that of a conventional hammer. He said the overbuilt design consists of D2 tool steel that’s .3 inches thick, a material that can be heat treated to a high Rockwell hardness yet still has “wear resistance and pry ability,” according to Spyderco.

Warrior Hawk Specs
Blade Material
: D2
Overall Length: 13.68 inches
Edge Length: 2.17 inches/.79 inches for top edge
Weight: 28.5 ounces
Handle Material: G-10
: $550

CRKT Jenny Wren Compact

The challenge for Ryan Johnson in designing the Jenny Wren for CRKT was to make a pint-sized version of a tomahawk. The original version made by Johnson’s RMJ Tactical saw use by special operations forces starting in 2010. Meanwhile, the design also makes for a great outdoor tool.

When CRKT began offering its version of the Jenny Wren, the idea was to fill a need for people heading outdoors that were looking for durable and innovative axe designs.

One of the most notable features is the sharpened edge running across the top of the head. While it was originally designed to maximize slicing cuts, the edge also reduces drag. “It’s the material that is not in the way that makes a difference with this design,” Johnson said.

The ambidextrous sheath allows multiple modes of carry, including a belt, sling or attachment to a MOLLE system. “Everyone tends to forget the importance of the scabbard,” Johnson observed. “If you can’t carry it, you can’t use it. In the case of a tomahawk it’s important to have a safe way to carry it multiple ways.”

Jenny Wren Compact Specs
Blade Material
: SK-5; D2
Overall Length: 10.06 inches; 13.68 inches
Edge Length: 2.5 inches; 2.17 inches
Weight: 17.92 ounces; 28.5 ounces
Handle Material: Glass-Reinforced Nylon; G-10
: $119; $550

Browning Wihongi Signature Series Tomahawk

Designed by Jared Wihongi, this hawk features a Maori-inspired tribal motif on the head. The tomahawk-like patiti was a weapon of choice for Maori warriors in New Zealand shortly after they first began arming themselves with metal tools long ago, and the head design harkens back to that time.

The satin-finished 420 stainless head showcases the design well. At .25 inches thick, and coming it at 26.4 ounces, the hawk has the heft and size to make quick work chopping through most material. A semi-sharpened edge on the spike end allows for a moderately precise puncturing tool as well.

At 13 inches in length, it’s long enough to get a good whack without exerting your arm too much. The hawk features a paracord-wrapped polymer/composite handle, and where the head meets the handle is reinforced for sturdiness.

Wihongi Signature Series Specs
Blade Material
: 420 Stainless Steel
Overall Length: 13 inches
Edge Length: 2.875 inches
Weight: 26.4 ounces
Handle Material: Cord-wrapped composite
: $69.99

Winkler Wild Bill Axe

Winkler Wild Bill Axe

Daniel Winkler is tight-lipped when it comes to the teams and units he works with. His Winkler Knives Wild Bill tomahawk was designed with the help of Kevin Holland, Navy SEAL and U.S. Army Special Operations veteran

The axe was named after William “Wild Bill” Donovan, who was head of the precursor to the CIA, the Office of Strategic Services, during World War II. 

The hawk is both a tool and art considering the craftsmanship that went into it. It starts with the flat-ground 80CrV2 blade with a black Caswell finish for improved corrosion resistance. The tapered-tang design ends at the integral spike at the butt of the axe, which works well to crush and pry. It’s not the best puncturing tool as it is unsharpened.

The 13.25-inch maple wood handle is wrapped in black cord for most of the top half of the handle for better grip, especially when choking up on the axe for precise slicing. The 22.2 ounces are distributed well, making for a great swing every time.

Wild Bill Axe Specs
Blade Material
: 80CrV2 with black Caswell finish
Overall Length: 13.25 inches
Edge Length: 2.25 inches
Weight: 22.2 ounces
Handle Material: Maple Wood with Black Cord
: $600

Estwing Black Eagle Tomahawk

Estwing Black Eagle Tomahawk

The Estwing Black Eagle Tomahawk feels much more like a tool than a hawk. The rubberized grip absorbs shock and is very comfortable. You can’t choke up on the head like you can some other hawks, though you could add some paracord for the purpose. 

The Black Eagle is the epitome of durability. It’s not flashy and has the company’s logo deeply embossed on the tang. The balance is incorrect for throwing but that’s not really the Black Eagle’s role. It is a demolition tool, plain and simple. The head is dimensioned correctly for the same feel as swinging a hammer. 

It has a raised equator from its high points, can be used to punch into various materials, and is very easy to withdraw. It can go through just about anything despite the fact it is not sharp on the corners and the tip is more or less rounded off.

In wet, grimy conditions it performed extremely well and goes through wood easily, both in destroying wood structures and splitting firewood. The hawk punches through sheet metal with ease. If you’re looking for a hawk that is less showpiece and more hard-working tool, this is your best bet. 

Black Eagle
Blade Material
: Drop-Forged Tool Steel
Overall Length: 16 inches
Edge Length: 2.5 inches
Weight: 24 ounces
Handle Material: Rubber
: $49.99

Winkler Combat Axe

Winkler Combat Axe

At $600 the Winkler Combat Axe is not just a big chunk of change, it’s also an incredibly strong, rugged chunk of 80CrV2 carbon steel. Not only is it functional, it’s also forged at the company started by the individual largely responsible for the popularity of the modern tomahawk, Daniel Winkler.

The Combat Axe is easy to draw from the belt. The sheath is extremely functional and allows you to remove the Combat Axe one-handed with little effort. The handle runs all the way up to the head and provides an excellent grip at any point along its length.

Of note is the shape of the spike. It is reminiscent of a flat-end bayonet point commonly seen on Russian rifles like the SKS and Mosin-Nagant. Its shape allows it to be used as both a prybar and lever, and it can be swung into material with great force and then used to pull it apart. 

The Combat Axe’s edge profile did just fine splitting light amounts of firewood. It also removes branches quite easily in one swing. Because the handle extends right up to the head, there is a risk of damage should you try to split large pieces of wood. The sheath is a major selling point. 

The Combat Axe is definitely worth the price, though for the same amount you can buy numerous other hawks multiple times over. 

Combat Axe Specs
Blade Material
: 80CrV2
Overall Length: 13.75 inches
Edge Length: 2.5 inches
Weight: 24 ounces
Handle Material: Black Canvas Laminate
: $600

Cold Steel Trench Hawk

Cold Steel Trench Hawk

When it comes to durability, the Cold Steel Trench Hawk is quite similar to many of the company’s edged tools. While none of Cold Steel’s functional cutters would win a beauty contest, they certainly have it where it counts when being used. The blade arrived razor sharp, almost too sharp for its own good. Likewise, the spike is substantially longer and much sharper than those of the other test models.

The Trench Hawk is a favorite for throwing.. The company sells replacement handles for around $7 should you break one. It severs branches with extreme ease, though such a task is more of a problem than you might think. The polypropylene handle doesn’t just go up to the head, it terminates right in the middle of it. If you strike too hard, it inevitably will drive the blade in up to the handle, which can cause damage. 

The longest of the test hawks, it gains excellent velocity when swung. The handle shape, while correct for a tomahawk, is a bit too smooth and slippery when wet. Another issue is the spike’s length and profile. It’s simply so large that it borders on being unusable for standard chores. It punches through just about anything, from metal to wood, but tends to get stuck easily. Getting it dislodged can be somewhat dangerous

Trench Hawk
Blade Material
: 1055 Carbon Steel
Overall Length: 19 inches
Edge Length: 3.75 inches
Weight: 29 ounces
Handle Material: Polypropylene
: $67.99

SOG Pro Tactical Tomahawk

SOG Pro Tactical Tomahawk

The SOG Pro Tactical Tomahawk is about as barebones as you can get while still being functional. Upon arrival it had a very sharp edge with a blunted, angular spike. The edge was covered in a transparent coating that flaked off during use. The balance of the hawk is excellent and, like the Estwing, has a modern, swept head with an upturned edge. It cuts deep, easily chops firewood, and is excellent for taking down branches. The overall shape and profile are quite minimal, a big plus across the board.

A major downside is the handle. While very strong, it’s rounded and the textured finger grooves don’t provide much extra grip. Because conditions were wet during most of the testing, it was difficult holding onto the handle if the swing wasn’t spot perfect. It wants to rotate in the hand and, while wearing a glove does fix some of that, it’s not an all-around solution. 

The spike was functional but had a similar issue to the Cold Steel Trench Hawk in that once it punched through a material, it was hard to remove. For the price, it is an excellent working hawk. It could stand some improvement but should hold up quite well.

Pro Tactical Tomahawk Specs
Blade Material
: 420 HC Stainless
Overall Length: 15.75 inches
Edge Length: 2.75 inches
Weight: 24 ounces
Handle Material: Black Glass-Reinforced Nylon
: $47.99

Editor’s Note: Dexter Ewing, Daniel Jackson, Josh Wayner, and Ryan M. Johnson contributed to this piece.

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