first published on January 7, 2020 by Josh
Tomahawks have been around in some form or another for a very long time. Ever since that first Cro-Magnon dude hiked up his loin cloth and tied a rock to a stick, tomahawks have been man’s constant companion. Quite literally, sharpened rocks tied to sticks were our first tool invention, and their development has led us to construct shelters, fashion hunting tools, build fires, and thrive in the great outdoors. Here we have the modern version, the American Tomahawk Company’s Model 1. Let’s dissect what this tool is, what it can do for you, and why you should really consider it for your kit.
In an effort to keep things tidy, I’ll refer you over to their web site if you’d like history on the Model 1. Suffice to say, I’m told the guys in the shop are gun toting, freedom loving Americans who enjoy a good whiskey and loosing money one dollar at a time…. But that’s for another day. For now, let’s stick to beating the ‘hawks on things that need it and seeing how they shake out.
The Model 1’s head comes available with two handle options. More on that later, but important to note is that no matter which handle you choose, the head is the same. Should you decide to test the temperature of lava with the handle (voiding the warranty, per the included card) it’s nice to know that replacements are available, and either will suit your fancy just fine. The business end is constructed of 1060 steel and powder coated black for protection. 1060 consists of 0.60% carbon, and why that matters is actually quite important. Carbon content and proper heat treating are the building blocks of hard use blades.
ATC takes the 1060 to a Rockwell hardness of 56, and what that mumbo jumbo means is that you get a tool that tough without being brittle. For something you’re likely going to smash things with, brittle is bad because brittle things break on impact. ATC has, pun intended, hit the sweet spot with the Model 1. It will hold and edge for a long time. But if you get rambunctious and let your 5 year old break apart the driveway with it, it will stay in one piece and be relatively easy to resharpen. Durability rules the day with a tool like this, and maintenance is a breeze. If you use things like I do, it’s nice to know that it’ll be easy to get back into shape after the fun and frolic has concluded.
The forward cutting edge is 2 ½” in length, and the grind is shallow enough that the Model 1 bites deep. Both of mine came shaving sharp and easily popped hair off my arm. I started by testing mine on some Lodgepole Pine that had been cut last summer, and I was getting through 6”-8” logs in 10 minutes or so. Now, keep in mind, a tomahawk is not the right tool if you need to build a log cabin. That’s the job of large felling axes and internal combustion engines. But building a shelter in an aspen grove was a 15 minute project that got me out of the weather while on the back section of a large ranch. The steel and the edge geometry really combine to make an effective tool for that ‘right when you need it’ moment. Any sharpening necessary was accomplished with a fine hone, and I never needed anything more aggressive than that.
The spike on the back of this tomahawk is an interesting element of the Model 1. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what I’d use the spike for when I first picked up the Model 1. A little research turned up articles referencing soldiers using the spike to vent fuel cans in the jungle. While I don’t have that particular need, I very much approached this with a ‘what can I break with this?’ attitude. After a month of use, I’ve used it for everything. Busting open pine logs to harvest fatwood was no problem at all. Breaking ice off a target stand at the range was easy. I even brought the Model 1 along with me to a sniper instructor school where it punched and cut keyholes in sheetrock with ease. The spike has been a digging tool, in use during fire pit construction, and even pulled pots off the fire by the bail. While the spike started off as a curiosity for me, it’s really grown on me in its utility.
If there’s one thing that irks me more than anything else, it’s a nice piece of kit wrapped in a garbage carrying case. I treat cheap holsters and junk knife sheaths the same way I treat crappy boots; they go straight in the garbage. So when I say the following, it’s not without a healthy dose of cynicism; The sheath (I guess technically a ‘cover’) for the Model 1 is probably the best kydex sheath I have ever handled. Seriously, I’ve spent good money on the materials to make my own kydex because of some of the junk I’ve gotten with knives over the years. I can’t possibly improve on this ‘hawk cover. The guys from ATC have absolutely hit it out of the park with this one.
The sheath comes with many mounting gromets, and mine came with the deep ride belt loops as well. The belt loops are awesome, but I found myself really enjoying the versatility of the sheath with a few feet of 550 cord. I can mount it to anything. It’s currently laced to the MOLLE webbing on my go bag, but in less than a minute I can have it strapped to my hunting pack or the roll bar of my 4×4 for quick and easy access. It’s like good whiskey… if you don’t like it send it to me and I’ll take it off your hands.
The handles are either an American hickory, or Nylon material. The wood handle is so stinking comfortable I have really grown to enjoy it. John from ATC has recently let me know they’ve even improved it with a new locking wedge, and I can’t get my hands on one fast enough. If you’re the sort that works a lot around salt water, things like fuel drums or oil, or just need more texture to the handle, then the Nylon handle model is for you. I haven’t taken it apart to see how that one is attached, but after bashing a metric boat load of pallets apart for a fire, the nylon handle hasn’t moved yet. Either way you go, you’ll be happy with your choice. I’ve been known to void a few warranties is my day, and while throwing isn’t specifically noted on the warranty card, I’ve done that a lot as well. Find one you like and get to breaking stuff.
Long story short, every guy I’ve handed the Model 1 to has been impressed. SWAT breachers, hunters, and 4×4 guys all love it. The Model 1 would be a great addition to any bug out bag, tactical gear load-out, or camping kit. This is heirloom quality gear that you’ll be proud to own.
This tomahawk review was submitted to Full30 by guest writer Luke Causey.