Unless you’re part of a handcrafting or historical weapons community, you may think of tomahawks as a thing of the past, passed on only in movies or books. But the tomahawk tradition is actually alive and well — and there’s probably a lot you don’t know about it.
What Is a Tomahawk?
A tomahawk, also known as a hawk, is a small axe that originated in North America. Its head consists of a chopping surface on one side and a sharp spike on the other. Originally used as all-purpose tools, weapons and ceremonial items by the Algonquin and Iroquois, they were soon adopted by English colonists for general house and outdoor work. The term “tomahawk” entered the English language in the 1600s and is adapted from a Powhatan — Virginian Algonquian — term. American soldiers in the Revolutionary War even carried combat tomahawks.
Metal tomahawk heads, which later became popular, were based on the Royal Navy boarding axe. The British used them as trading items with the Native Americans. Before trade was established, hawk heads were made with stone or deer antler.
How Are Tomahawks Made?
Throughout the 18th and 19th, centuries, thousands of tomahawks were made. These were all handcrafted, no two alike. Now, major weapons manufacturers like Smith and Wesson make tomahawks, though artisans who do all their work by hand still exist. Modern tomahawks are often made with drop-forged, differentially heated steel alloys. This method makes both the chopping blade and the spike harder than the center section that joins them and attaches to the handle, allowing for greater shock absorption.
How Are Tomahawks Used Today?
There are several styles of hawk made today, including fighting tomahawks, tactical tomahawks and camping/utility tomahawks. Even in recent years, military units in Afghanistan and Iraq have carried combat tomahawks, though they are used more commonly for other purposes such as breaching doors, opening crates and even chopping through cement bricks.
Tomahawks are also ideal for sport purposes, and modern tomahawks are used primarily in throwing competitions. There are hundreds of events throughout the United States each year that include hawk throwing, and the International Knife Throwers Hall of Fame Association sets an international standard for measuring the accuracy of hawk throwing.
If you’re wondering where to buy tomahawks, make sure you check out tomahawk reviews online first and look for hand-made products if possible. Are you more interested in a combat tomahawk, a throwing hawk or just a small axe for outdoor activities? Share in the comments.
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