Tomahawks are light, multipurpose axes traditionally used by the indigenous people of North America. Their design and ease of use make them ideal for various applications. In this article, we’ll explore the diverse uses of a tomahawk and why they’re still so popular.

What are some practical uses for a tomahawk?

A tomahawk is a versatile tool for chopping, splitting, and most other axe-related jobs. Its lightweight design makes for a portable device, invaluable for hunting, camping, and other outdoor pursuits. Light, well-balanced tomahawks are ideal for throwing.   

1. Camping

Tomahawks will take care of most campsite chores like chopping wood, clearing brush, and prepping food. Some designs have a hammer opposite the blade, useful for hammering in tent stakes. The models with a spike can dig holes, which is especially helpful if the ground is frozen.

2. Hunting

In challenging terrain, hunters can use a ‘hawk to slash their way through. The cutting power of a tomahawk helps with skinning and chopping up game that’s hard to carry. A cutting blade also offers some peace of mind in the wilderness as a quick-access weapon.

3. Ice fishing

Tomahawks are invaluable for chopping through ice. Fishermen can create ice holes and break through heavy ice or slush that forms over ice holes. For ice fishing, tomahawks with a spike will make life much easier.  

4. Emergency shelters

Knowing how to build an emergency shelter is a skill that every outdoor enthusiast should learn. A ‘hawk will make quick work of building a temporary reprieve from the elements. You can see the tool in use in the movie “The Revenant“.    

5. Military applications

Tomahawks were once used as an effective weapon, but they have alternative uses in today’s military. Some potential applications include clearing road obstacles and digging trenches. Tomahawks can also breach doors and windows when explosives take too long to set up.  

Tomahawk head isolated on white background
Closeup of a tomahawk head.

6. Throwing

Tomahawks are hugely popular for axe-throwing competitions or recreational throwing. They’re light and optimized for accurate throwing.

7. Yardwork

A tomahawk can take care of most backyard jobs suited to an axe or hatchet. Use this device for pruning branches, felling small saplings, hacking out roots, and clearing brush. While tomahawks can split small logs, a heavier splitting axe or maul is best for tougher splitting tasks.

8. Fire starting

A fire may save your life in the outdoors, providing warmth and protection from wild animals. Well-sharpened tomahawks can chop branches and kindling for a fire and shave tinder from wood if there’s nothing else on offer. 

9. Breaching

First responders like firefighters and police often use a Pulaski axe, but sometimes a tomahawk will also work well. It can be used by emergency personnel to breach windows and doors during extraction operations.

10. Bushcraft

A light, well-sharpened tomahawk is a handy tool for bushcraft activities. Artistic types can carve wood into rustic bowls and spoons. Survivalists and anyone wanting to test their outdoor skills can fashion sticks into spears or tent stakes.

11. Self-defense

While the modern tomahawk isn’t explicitly designed as an attack weapon, it will provide some protection when your life is threatened. It is great for close-quarters combat and could save a life in the wilderness.

A screenshot from the movie 'The Patriot' showing Mel Gibson holding a hatchet as a weapon
Mel Gibson using a tomahawk in the movie ‘The Patriot’.

12. Decoration

Tomahawks make unique and exciting pieces for home wall features. They’re an eye-catching alternative to wall art. Financially savvy investors can invest in sought-after models for their collections.

13. Multipurpose tasks

Modern survival tomahawks may have additional helpful features. Some examples include bottle openers, pry bars, nail pullers, and tent stake removers.

Recommended reading: What is the difference between a tomahawk and a hatchet?

Watch the video

Check out this video on the types of tomahawks and their uses.

Commonly asked questions

What are the limitations of a tomahawk?

While a tomahawk has many applications, it isn’t ideal for challenging splitting work. Its head has flat, tapered cheeks that tend to get stuck in wood like any chopping axe. Tomahawks don’t have a lot of power relative to a felling axe, so they’re not made for felling big trees.

What were tomahawks historically used for?

Native Americans traditionally made tomahawks with stone heads attached to wooden handles. They were typically used for bushcraft, hunting, and as a weapon. Read more about the history of tomahawks here.

What is the sharp point of a tomahawk used for?

The sharp point on a tomahawk’s head has many uses including breaking, digging holes, climbing steep hills, breaking animal bones, and finishing off wounded fish and game. It can also be driven deep into a stump, allowing a stable platform for sharpening the blade with two hands.

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