Tactical Hawks Do Assorted Jobs That Can Require A Tad More Abuse Than Usual
Written by Daniel Jackson
There are many things to pry and cut that destroy the edge of a blade during the course of a soldier’s or police officer’s duties. In fact, there are some jobs in the military and law- enforcement realms that are unfit for knives of any kind. Enter the tomahawk, the knife’s brawny partner in such settings.
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.
“I wanted something that could breach aluminum doors, that could breach a window,” he observed. “I wanted to make a tool like this that was not too big because [soldiers and officers] already have close to 100 pounds of gear.” In other words, if the hawk is cumbersome, “then you’re not going to carry it. Period,” he stressed.
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 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 .3-inch- thick D2 tool steel, a material that can be heat treated to a high Rockwell hardness yet still has “wear resistance and pry ability,” according to Spyderco.
Conversely, the challenge for Ryan Johnson in designing the Jenny Wren for CRKT was to make a pint-sized version of a tomahawk:
“We had a request to make a tomahawk that could be used as a close-quarters weapon that could be hidden away in a three-ring binder and carried inside a college-type backpack,” he recounted.
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.
“My 10-year-old daughter carries one when we hike,” he said. “It’s light enough and small enough for her daypack but does the job of cutting a walking stick to size and harvesting plant specimens to study.”
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.”
LIGHT ’n QUICK
When Jared Wihongi designed Browning’s Wihongi Signature Series Tomahawk, he was in the midst of teaching U.S. Army Special Forces a combative course using hawks and the techniques of a Filipino martial art.
“Although this tomahawk is designed as a multi-purpose tool, many of the features lend themselves to more of a fighting-style tomahawk,” Browning product manager Craig Wilson said. “It’s kept light and maneuverable without taking too much weight away from the head itself.”
The tomahawk-like patiti was a weapon of choice for some Maori warriors in New Zealand shortly after they first began arming themselves with metal tools long ago. The design on the hawk’s head hearkens back to that culture, Wilson said.
“You can make out what symbolizes a bird’s head and beak, with the hole being placed where the eye would be,” he explained. “From Maori mythology this symbolizes Manaia, a spiritual and physical guardian that had the head of a bird and the body of a man.”
The hawk features a paracord-wrapped polymer/composite handle, and where the head meets the handle is reinforced for sturdiness.
“The most common remark people give when handling our tomahawk is the amazing weight and balance,” Wilson said. “It’s light and agile, without giving up durability and strength.”
It all comes down to personal requirements and preferences.
“Look for a tomahawk that will fulfill the primary purposes you perceive needing it for,” Wilson advised. “Take into consideration the weight and balance that matches your size and strength, since one size does not fit all.”
UP CLOSE & PERSONAL
Daniel Winkler has a storied history of making knives for special operations forces. That history goes back to the Gulf War when a Navy SEAL approached him with the idea of designing a hatchet that could bite through combat and breaching tasks.
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, for a law enforcement group “within a U.S. three- letter agency.”
The design hit the market about five years ago. 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. Donovan is considered one of the forefathers of the nation’s special operations forces (page 16).
The group wanted an axe that could handle both combat and light breaching. The result was an axe for “Military and LE Operators who may get up close and personal,” Winkler remarked.
“Design flow and balance are important,” he noted. “By doing a full tapered tang and skeletonization we put the weight balance in the head to aid in chopping.” While there’s a range of handle options, from Micarta® to rubber, he said the most popular is wood.
“Consider your primary use and select the design based on that,” Winkler said. “Combat, breaching, survival and woodcraft are things to consider. The Wild Bill is well suited to all.”
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