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What makes a "tactical" tomahawk?

A tactical tomahawk is:

  • Tough and durable in harsh environments
  • Easy to use and carry
  • Able to perform as a tool and weapon to assist in the many tasks that soldiers and officers encounter

A well-designed tactical tomahawk can be used for:

  • Chopping (including through doors and locks)
  • Cutting
  • Digging
  • Climbing
  • A come-along
  • "Rake and break"
  • Breaking through brick and cinder block walls
  • Punching and cutting through sheet metal
  • Punching through body armor, easily reaching target areas of the body

For a detailed discussion of our design philosophy, please see the "What do you mean when you say 'tactical'?" question in this section.


Why a bottom-eject scabbard?

At first, the scabbards were top load and gravity was key to keeping the tomahawks in the scabbard. Then, tomahawks began to be carried by folks who were jumping out of stuff from high altitudes, and we began working on designs that would provide a secure hold. About that time, we had a request for a shorter tomahawk that could be a concealed carry under a suit jacket, and Ryan initially developed the bottom-eject scabbard for that purpose. The scabbard was designed to have a "pinch" at the bottom to secure the hawk and with a good tug, the hawk would release. As more people used the bottom-eject scabbard, it became apparent that this scabbard worked well for just about everything. There is a knack to a quick release from the scabbard: give the hawk a slight rotation as you pull down. Pull down so the forward blade rotates out first. It may take a little practice, but once you get the hang of it, the release is a smooth as butter.


How do I secure the scabbard?

The scabbard is designed to be ambidextrous and is set up for multiple carry options by using the web slots. The scabbard can be set up for belt loop, shoulder strap, weapon sling or rigged directly to MOLLE gear, giving you unlimited configurations for securing your hawk to webbing, back packs belts, and slings.


How do I clean and care for my Scabbard?

If it gets really dirty, just wash it with soap and water; there is almost no cleaner that will really hurt it. It's probably best to remove the straps and wash them separately. Let the scabbard air dry and you're back in business. There is no normal maintenance involved except to ensure that the straps are in good condition. You can lightly lubricate the inside of the scabbard every now and then just to make it easier to get in and out.


Are the top or bottom of the spike sharpened?

The edges of the spike are not sharp. The spike geometry is ground in this manner to provide maximum penetration while maintaining rigidity and strength. While you can certainly hook with the spike there isn't enough width there to make an edge that would actually cut anything and still maintain its original purpose: to punch through Kevlar. Also, not having an edge there provides non-lethal hooking for control of an opponent in close quarter combat situations.

The spike as a hole puncher and a hook. There are plenty of cutting edges available mere inches away on the other side.


What is the difference between the Shrike and the Eagle Talon/Kestrel?

Although the silhouettes of these tomahawks are virtually the same, there are some significant differences between the hawks. The Eagle Talon and the Kestrel are laser cut from sheet steel and then the bevels are milled to shape. In comparison, the hammer-forging process on the Shrike does about 90% of the shaping for us and allows us to put a slight indention in the head of the Shrike. This forms a "rail" along the head that reduces drag when the tomahawk is going in and out of material. The material rides along this "rail," reducing surface area and therefore reducing drag. Typically, the Eagle Talon and Kestrel's forward edges are about 1/4-inch longer than that of the Shrike, but due to the nature of the process there are some variations. Also, the spike on the Shrike is a little taller and thinner than the spike on the Eagle Talon and Kestrel — more of a tanto blade shape. This was done to improve penetration capability and strength on the Shrike. We have kept the original spike geometry on the Talon and Kestrel.

The handles are different as well. The Talons and Kestrel handles are formed when the tomahawks are laser cut. We apply G-10 textured scales or slabs to the steel handle. In comparison, the Shrike has a tang that is an I-beam cross section. We weld a piece of 4130 steel tube on the end of the tang, then the handle material is over-molded onto the steel. This construction forms a 3-inch hollow in the end of the Shrike's handle, where we place a 3-inch sharpening stone under the "skull crusher" end cap.


Why do you differentially heat treat your tomahawks?

The Rc 55 striking surfaces allow you to cut through hard materials such as concrete and steel without wearing out or chipping the edges. The Rc 30 handle and center of the head allow for higher shock absorption as well as more toughness in the stress bearing areas of the tomahawk.

What is "through flame hardening"?

Unlike some forms of heat treating, which only harden the surface of the metal, through flame hardening hardens the metal all the way through, from one side to the other. This causes the metal to truly be harder, not simply have a hard outer shell. If you were to slice the spike in half on one of our tomahawks and test the Rc of the center, it would be Rc 55, just like the surface.

Many manufacturers use a higher Rc. Why are your tomahawks not harder?

From our observations and rigorous testing, we have determined that Rc 55 is the optimal striking surface hardness for breaching applications, such as cutting through concrete and steel. When you begin approaching Rc 60 the metal becomes not only harder but more brittle as well. This creates a higher risk of failure, such as chipping of the blade, under heavy use and even a chance for the blade to shatter if an very hard surface is struck with enough force.

What about a pry bar on the end?

The spikes on our Shrike, S13, Eagle Talon and Kestrels perform prying tasks excellently. One of the most difficult parts of prying is getting purchase in the material or between materials. The force generated by the tomahawk overcomes that problem. Think of the spike as the hooked end of a crow bar that lets you really "bite" into the material.

What do you mean when you say "tactical"?

Several years ago, when I was making a special order knife for a SWAT team member, my good friend and resident critic John Hutcheson came by the shop and looked the knife over. "The tip is too narrow and thin," he said. "It will break if the person using the knife tries to pry something open." I told John that this knife was not meant to be used as a pry-bar, just for cutting.

John then said something that both defined the word "tactical" for me and, most importantly, changed my design paradigm forever: "The situations this person finds himself in should determine what this knife is used for. If he needs to cut something, it cuts. If he has to pry a door open, it's a pry-bar. These are high-energy situations where every second counts. You can't carry everything you would like to carry; the knife will have to be able to complete a multitude of tasks."

In a perfect world a soldier or law enforcement officer would have ready access to all of the tools and weapons he ever needed, but that just isn't possible. That is why the tools they carry should meet the following criteria:

  • Tough and durable in harsh environments
  • Easy to use and carry
  • Able to perform as a tool and weapon to assist in the many tasks that soldiers and officers encounter

It takes more than an aggressive look or a gray and black finish to make a tomahawk a tactical tomahawk. Remember, tomahawks were "tactical" for hundreds of years in their original forms. That is, they met the needs of the soldiers and frontiersman as both a tool and weapon in the battlefield conditions they encountered.

In our view, a contemporaru tactical tomahawk should be able to withstand all modern battlefield conditions — areas ranging from the Salt Lake City, Utah, Olympics, to the Jungles of South America, to the rugged mountains in Afghanistan. (RMJ Tactical tomahawks have been carried in all three).

A tactical tomahawk should be easy to use and carry. A well-designed tomahawk feels like a natural extension of the arm. The use of it should be intuitive. It is interesting to note that people throughout history have been naturally inclined to "hack" with a bladed object. (For more on the subject, see David Grossman's On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society.)

As for the tomahawk scabbard, it should securely hold the tomahawk in place while making it easy to draw the tomahawk out. Also, the modern scabbard should have multiple carrying options.

Finally, the modern tactical tomahawk should be able to perform as an efficient tool and weapon for the many tasks soldiers and officers encounter.

We are proud to make tomahawks that meet these requirements. It is not by chance; it comes from many hundreds of hours of design time, customer input, customer requests, and testing, testing, testing.

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