BLADE Magazine

Spike Tomahawk Reviews: RMJ Tactical, Cold Steel, SOG, Browning

Hot spike tomahawks, from right: Browning Shock ‘N Awe, Cold Steel War Hawk, RMJ Tactical Knight Hawk and SOG Survival Hawk.

Spike tomahawks are fascinating tools. You can cut, chop, pry, hammer and penetrate with them. They can be handy as camping implements or in tactical applications.

In the tactical realm, tomahawks can be used in numerous rescue applications or as a backup weapon if needed. Be they folding or fixed, knives are limited when it comes to such heavy uses as chopping and hacking. The longer handle of a hawk offers more leverage and power in a chopping stroke.

One of the latest designs from RMJ Tactical is this issue’s cover piece, the Knight Hawk. ABS master smith Jason Knight and RMJ Tactical co-designed it to handle a variety of jobs, not just chopping. Fourteen-and-a-half inches overall, it weighs 1 pound, 7 ounces and feels very agile in hand. The cutting edge is 2.875 inches, and the head and handle are durable 52100 carbon steel. Blade thickness: .275 inch. The handle is 3D-machined black G-10 riveted/permanently attached to the tang—no screws to worry about loosening over time.

The author stated that the RMJ Tactical Knight Hawk is really cool-looking, practically bulletproof, devastatingly effective and a pleasure to use. For more, see page 7.

There is a slight downward turn to the cutting edge, which is in contrast to most hawks where the edge is parallel to the handle. The downward turn accentuates cutting power, presenting itself at an angle to whatever is being chopped. 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 out chop 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. In fact, I found it the most effective of the group. 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 spike cuts as well as pierces—in fact, it cuts as it penetrates, and can open a hole in plywood easily by pushing and pulling on the handle after each strike. From there, take the downward-curved head to really open it up with hammer-like blows.

The Knight Hawk looks cool and performs as well. It’s practically bulletproof, devastatingly effective and a pleasure to use. It comes in a choice of three Cerakote® color options: Savage Steel (as on the test sample), OD Green and Desert Tan. MSRP: $500. Country of origin: USA. 

EASY to USE

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 spike of the Cold Steel War Hawk has a tanto-like bevel, which further increases penetration power. With just a few strong blows, it was able to fully penetrate thick plywood.

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. To unsheathe the War Hawk, hold the handle with one hand, and with the other pinch and pull up on the sheath’s beard end. After it clears, pull the spike out of its end and there you have it. Reverse the procedure to re-sheath. 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.

The War Hawk didn’t perform as well as the other review models due, in my opinion, to the polypropylene handle. I could feel the handle resonate a bit with each blow, which often results in an insufficient transfer of power—that is, some of the power is lost in the vibration.

According to the author, Cold Steel’s War Hawk is a good chopper, though you will feel the handle vibrate a bit as you use it. “This is a byproduct of using polypropylene as a handle material,” he opined. Due to the handle length, the War Hawk has reach and great leverage.

With the tanto-tip-beveled spike, the War Hawk had great penetration through plywood. I like how easy it is to use—swing to penetrate, then move the handle back and forth to help open the hole. A few times the handle flexed when I tried to push and pull, a negative in my book. In order for it to be an effective chopping/breaching tool, there must be zero flex in the handle. I think 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. MSRP: $71.99. Country of origin: Taiwan.

COMPACT with ATTITUDE

The smallest of the Browning Black Label Tactical Blades line as well as of the review group for this article, 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 spike of the Browning Shock ‘N Awe is very effective at delivering concentrated blows that can penetrate plywood and other soft materials easily. Its tapered shape contributes strength.

The handle is in a traditional Japanese style with a hand-wrapped overlapping cord. Not only does it look very cool, it is also highly functional and 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. If your hands are wet, some handle materials become a bit slick—not so much with this Japanese cord wrap. The exposed pommel terminates in a skull-crusher shape.

The Shock ’N Awe carries in a molded polymer sheath with MOLLE-compatible attachment provisions. The sheath encases the entire head and spike, which  pivot 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 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 Browning tool is a compact hawk big on attitude whose size is one of its major advantages. It 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. De-limbing and other tasks that require swift motion are where the smaller size is an advantage. 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. MSRP: $88. Country of origin: Taiwan. 

GOOD ’n PACKABLE

The overall profile of the SOG Survival Hawk resembles the hawk created by Peter LaGana used extensively during the Vietnam War.  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.

The spike of the SOG Survival Hawk works well and achieved good penetration into plywood, though the author stated it would probably penetrate better without the integral nail puller.

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. The size makes it easy to carry but it lacks the weight to use for inertia.

After the author tuned up the edge of the SOG Survival Hawk, it performed 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.

I was disappointed with the edge quality out of the box—it was too blunt to be effective. After a few minutes work, I was able to thin it down a bit and create a nice 20-degree convex edge. Then, the tomahawk became effective. 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.

I found the paracord handle to be “just acceptable.” I would prefer the paracord to be wrapped a bit tighter, as I detected some loosening of it from normal use. Also, the handle is a tad skinny for my tastes. However, it keeps weight and bulk to a minimum for extended belt carry.

 

Speaking of which, 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. The notch in the center serves as a nail puller, though it’s a feature I would eliminate. In fact, 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.

Overall, it is a really good, pack-able tomahawk whose size and weight won’t bog you down like other larger and heavier hawks do. MSRP: $64.95. Country of origin: China. 

 

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