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From the times of the Vikings, people have been using axes and hatchets as a form of self defense as well as to do battle.
Lets dive right in to the present time – with a list of the top rated/reviewed axes for self defense.
These are in no specific order, and vary in styles and sizes, but are all top axes in their fighting axe catagories:
- CRKT Kangee T-Hawk Tactical Axe
- CRKT Woods Nobo T-Hawk Tomahawk
- Hardcore Hardware Australia GT Tactical Tomahawk
- Browning Shock N’ Awesome
- Gerber Downrange Tomahawk
- Cold Steel Viking Hand Axe
#1 CRKT Kangee T-Hawk Tactical Axe
This axe was designed by Ryan Johnson of RMJ Tactical, makers of very high end tactical axes for over 30 years, whose axes are a favorite of American Special Foces.
Steel: SK5 Carbon Steel
Hardness: 54-55 HRC
Weight: 1Lb 8.4 Oz
Tang/Grips: Full tang with glass reinfornced textured nylon handles.
Blade Length: 2.93″
Blade Thickness: 5.84mm
The Kangee is one of the best tactical axes you can get that won’t break the bank. It will sharpen to a razor edge and hold that edge quite well while still resisting chipping.
It’s light, fast and well balanced. The handle is slightly shaped to increase grip and comfort. It is not stainless steel so it is protected with a powder coat finish.
This axe also comes with a quality kydex sheath. This is a great option for someone who is new to tactical axes but wants to start with something of affordable good quality. As for self defense it can be thrown or used for close quarters combat. It also features a pick on the reverse side adding another function and weapon.
#2 CRKT Woods Nobo T-Hawk Tomahawk
This axe was also designed by Ryan Johnson of RMJ Tactical. This is the Tomahawk version of another tactical axe model made by the company.
The Kangee reviewed above also has a tomahawk version. These are known as the Woods versions by CRKT. I wanted to include a modern tomahawk for comparison to tactical axes. They are similar but separate.
Steel: Hot forged 1055 carbon steel
Hardness: 50-55 HRC
Weight: 1Lb 9.4 Oz
Tang/Grips: Traditional tomahawk hang, no tang, Hickory tomahawk handle.
Blade Length: 3.471″
I can’t deny my own personal love for a forged axe stuck on a hickory stick. As a collector and restorer of vintage axes the combination is like peanut butter and jelly to me. Classic, simple, functional.
There are many modern tomahawks on the market, and many of them are good quality. I chose this one specifically to show that the CRKT tactical axes have tomahawk twins. Tomahawks have been an everlasting design, simple and strong, light and fast.
Almost anyone can make one if they really needed to in a bind. Think A lost Mcgyver episode. As far as tomahawks go, if the steel is good, the hardness is good, and the handle is Hickory or Ash. You are usually looking at a quality tomahawk.
Another thing I will say in regards to axe throwing, a tomahawk will take the hit every time, the worse that can happen is having to put a new stick in it, a tactical axe will eventually begin to fail. screw threads will begin to come loose, handles will break off, the axe may warp. Tomahawks are usually fair priced as well. The one shown can be found here.
#3 Hardcore Hardware Australia GT Tactical Tomahawk
Steel: D2 Tool Steel
Hardness: 50-55 HRC
Weight: 2Lb 8.56 Oz
Tang/Grips: Full tang teflon coating, Simple textured G-10 grips
Blade Length: 3.46″
Blade Thickness: .55″
This thing is a beast, and a favorite of US Armed Forces. A common thing said about this axe, “this thing is built like a tank”. It’s getting close to that three pound limit I told you about earlier.
Expect some muscle soreness until you get used to using it. This is going to be a slower axe and more for defense then offense in regards to it being a weapon.
Will take a razor edge, will hold that edge, and it will take a beating. It’s on the high end of mid range tactical axes, but the price for quality is spot on, you get what you pay for. You could chop wood for a campfire with this no problem, the pick provides other options for fighting or other tasks.
This is a very versatile axe due to it’s design and heavier weight. It also comes with a high quality kydex sheath featuring MOLLEE. It’s gonna be one of the more expensive items on the list – see what the reviews have to say here.
#4 Browning Shock N’ Awesome
Steel: 1055 Carbon Steel
Hardness: 50-55 HRC
Weight: 1Lb 12Oz
Tang/Grips: Full tang teflon coating, textured G-10 grips
Blade Length: 2.62″
This is a really cool axe, it is both a functional tool as well as an effective weapon. One of my favorite things about the grips on this axe is that they are inlayed. This makes the axe more of one solid piece rather than three pieces. A good axe for survival.
Great steel, great design, great weight. Plus dare I say, it looks cool. A quality toll that also looks cool. This is certainly a multi purpose tactical axe. It comes with a molded plastic sheath.
#5 Gerber Downrange Tomahawk
Steel: 420HC Steel with Cerakote.
Hardness: 50-55 HRC
Tang/Grips: Full tang with pry end, Gune Kote, textured G-10 grips
Blade Length: 5″
I’ve always thought this was a great design, actually I think it’s fantastic, but for whatever reason Gerber decided to make it with lower quality steel. It’s not a horribly awful steel but it’s not great. The steel is protected with Cerakote. Comes with a MOLLE compatible sheath, and is used by many of the US armed forces and those working in recue operations.
I love the design of the hammer head on the back, and the handle hole cut out of the head. It’s a very handy design and could be used as a weapon in multiple ways. If only they made it with a higher quality steel.
I will venture to say, if well taken care of and not abused this will be a good long lasting tool that you will get your money out of. It would be perfect to keep in a vehicle for emergencies.
#6 Cold Steel Viking Hand Axe
Steel: 1055 Carbon Steel
Hardness: 50-55 HRC
Weight: 1Lb 1.6Oz
Tang/Grips: No tang, tradition hang, 30″ hickory handle.
Blade Length: 6.25″
If you want to go traditional viking style, Cold Steel has your back. This axe is great, small, light, fast viking replica fighting axe, attached to a slightly extended hickory handle.
The long handle gives more speed and power, while also giving you more room for defense. If you are looking for great value and good quality, this is it. Great simple, strong tool well worth the money.
From Battle Axe to Tactical Axe
A brief history of axes in battle and a guide to their modern day counterparts.
Axes have a vast history when it comes to combat and self defense, which can be said for pretty much any culture. There was one culture that is famous for it though, of course these people were our now beloved Vikings (793 -1066 AD) .
Many people simply assume Vikings just chose and liked using axes in battle, and so they had axes. However Viking axes were just another tool they had on hand, which just so happened to make a very handy weapon. Light, sleek, and deadly.
The English medieval age (500 -1500 AD) also had their own ideas about combat axes. Viking Battle Axes were specialized versions of utility axes. Many were for use in one hand, and some were more of what we imagine today upon hearing “battle axe”.
One cannot talk about fighting axes without mention of Native Americans (17,000 BC – Present). Who gave us the famed Tomahawk. The first of course being made of stone, and later metals. The time periods are debatable due to nobody really knowing, European explorers didn’t arrive in America until 1520 AD. Before then, all we have to go on is archaeological finds.
Another little tidbit of historical information, the oldest axes found so far date back 45,000 to 49,000 years ago, a good 30-40 thousand years before anywhere else. These items were found in Australia and are said to coincide with the time period in which humans first arrived on the continent.
Before that there is evidence of hand axes which were rock easily held in the hand with a sharpened edge, or a shard of shaped flint similar minerals. The skill of making blades, arrow heads and hand axes from flint and similar minerals is called flint knapping, and goes back 1.5 to 2 million years ago.
Although throughout history axes have been used in battle, it’s safe to say it’s original intention was not to inflict harm to anything other than trees and wild game. Somewhere along the line people realized it also made an effective weapon against other humans, as humans tend to do.
No doubt the axe can be a very lethal tool, but one cannot deny that without the invention of the axe, man might not have made it as far as we have.
Just think about the numbers, axes have been in use by various cultures in various forms since as far back as 2 million years ago! Thats one handy tool. Not to mention they are still in use today in many forms, and appeal to many people. Thankfully we don’t hear about them being used in “battle” to often anymore.
Moving on, we’ve talked about the old, now lets talk about the new.
Although axes are not heavily used in combat these days, combat axes do exist, and we refer to them as “Tactical Axes“. These axes take a lot from the pages of their ancestors, but they are created with modern materials increasing the performance and reliability of these weapons even more. Smaller axes have their own uses, find out more about them in this article” What is a hatchet used for?.
There are several factors to consider when seeking a well made tactical axe.
One mistake many people make when buying almost any tool is worrying about how cool it looks. Tools are all about function. If you see an axe that seems extra flashy, then that is likely all it has going for it.
The following are the things you need to look for when purchasing a tactical axe, or any type of axe for that matter. The key is to best match the characteristics of the axe, to the tasks it will be used for most.
Weight – This one can be tricky, an axe is meant to have the force of the swing along with a little weight behind it. Since you are not concerned with chopping wood with a tactical axe, they tend to be on the lighter side, typically less than three pounds.
Hardness – That’s right, not all steel is created equal. Steelsis rated on a scale called the Rockwell Scale. The level of hardness of a steel tool is expressed with HRC, for example 60 HRC. Some are harder than others.
A harder steel will generally hold an edge better than a softer steel, but it’s also more likely to crack or fail. If it’s really hard, it can shatter just like glass. Knives generally use a higher HRC than axes.
Axes need to be a tad softer in order to absorb the force of the blows without chipping, cracking or shattering. A good example of these types of axes are Lumberjack Axes used in competitions.
There are a couple more characteristics that are more unique to tactical axes specifically.
Tang & Grips – You won’t often hear tang and axe in the same sentence. However many forms of tactical axe do in fact have a tang. Tang is essentially how far the steel of the tool fits into the tools handle or grips. Tang is most often referred to when talking about knives.
In general the more of the tool that is inside the handle, the stronger the tool. A full tang prevents a pivot point in the forces being used, a pivot point which could easily become a failure point.
When not using a full tang, it becomes the job of the handle itself to manage the majority of the forces being put on the tool instead of the steel. Most modern tactical axes are cut from a sheet of steel, rather than being cast or smithed such as with a traditional handmade axe.
It’s because of this most tactical axes have grips that are attached to either side via screws. Full tang tactical axes often have two grips attached to either side of the steel. A smaller tang is often slid into the the top of a fiberglass or plastic handle and held in with a few screws.
Next I will review some of today’s most popular quality tactical axes.
Keep in mind all that has been discussed so far while reviewing. I’ve chosen five of the top rated tactical axes based on internet reviews and personal experience.
These are not high end or low end but fall somewhere in the middle. Also these choices have been made with a self defense purpose in mind, which excludes tactical axes designed for breaching or debris removal.