by Brandon Butler, Director/Chief Instructor, Tactical Rescue Services
Many new tools seem to reach the “tactical” and “rescue” market each year. Some turn out to be tools that are a re-boot of tried and true items we have used for many years. Axes, Halligan bars, pike poles, rams, sledge hammers, just to name a few, are tools both rescue and tactical operators have used for years. Each in its own right has carved out a history and reputation of being the right tool for each job. In today’s world multi-use tools seem to be a great way to carry less but do more. At times these tools, as a concept, are great ideas, but not so practical. Take for instance a particular tool that combined, an axe, short pike pole, sledge hammer and pry bar. This tool was a great concept, but became so heavy and cumbersome, not to mention hard to use, that carrying multiple tools would have been easier. This brings me to a reboot of a tool that takes its history back centuries.
The Tomahawk was first introduced to the rest of the world through the North American Indians as a tool for hunting, defense and war fighting. This was one of the first multiple application tools ever created. It was used for hunting, skinning, chopping, defense, and a various other uses. For many warriors this tool was part of the culture and status of the day.
For a time the tomahawk faded as a practical tool to became more of a ceremonial item, some even combined with a pipe (Peace Pipe) as a totally unique tool for working and smoking.
The tomahawk went underground for a time, used mostly by woodsman and survivalists until it eventually resurfaced in Vietnam as a practical fighting tool with special and forward units. Again in the early 21st century the military found a use of this versatile tool in the deserts of Afghanistan and Iraq, thus spawning a multitude of designs and reboots of this classic tool.
Recently TRS got a hold of one of these designs to test and use. We chose a less expensive model, reasoning that the average person would not own a higher end tomahawk of $200 to $500 dollars. We wanted to test one the average person could own and practically use.
The United Cutlery M48 Tactical Tomahawk, M48 Rescue Hawk, and M48 Apocalypse Tactical Tomahawk are all of the same design with simply different colors separating the names of the items. Since the materials and designs are the same testing one of these, would be the same as testing each model. So here we go…
Model: M48 Ranger Hawk Axe (green)
Manufacturer: United Cutlery
Price: $45 to $65 (before shipping)
The Tomahawk came packaged in a decent cardboard box with padding. In the box was the Tomahawk, a sheath and a compass (a bonus with the ranger hawk). I had to say that once I saw the cheezy plastic compass and the low quality sheath I was a bit skeptical of the actual product. During the inital inspection of the blade the edges were sharp and the spike had a pinpoint tip. The handle is made of a plastic composite and had paracord wrapping the handle.
As with any bladed tool when bought new, checking the factory edge is important. I found the blade construction, edge and attachment to handle was well designed and sufficient to work well right out of the box. Of course me being me, some further sharpening was needed. I fine tuned the factory edge and surrounding edges. This made the tool much more efficient in cutting and use. I also re-wrapped the handle with my own paracord to make a tighter, better gripping surface.
The tool was initially tested by being kept in the back of my Jeep and it was used to clear a few tree branches while off roading and splitting some firewood around the house and campsite. The first use of the tomahawk as a rescue or tactical tool was during a training fire at an abandoned house.
The tool was excellent for breaching windows, pulling trim, chopping out wall board, and various other duties (see image). I was a little worried when we used the tool to pry open internal house doors, but the tool performed great. Proper use and application of force on the tool is needed to ensure failures do not happen, as is the case with any tool.
During an extrication class, we used the tool to disable tires, break windows, pop locks and breach the hood. Metal breaching is tough on the bladed edge of the tool, but the spike
performed quite well at cutting through the thinner metal. This tool could easily be used to cut or tear off metal siding off of a building.
Post use of the tool only required cleaning, basic filing, and sharpening were required to get the blade back into shape. Even a miss at a piece of firewood and impact with concrete took a small nick out of the blade that was easily filed down and re-sharpened to a good edge.
Visually it is an intimidating, yet very cool, tool to have. Most of the firefighters and law enforcement personnel I have shown, or used this tool around, have liked it and inquired about getting one for their own use. I have had it on scenes as a firefighter, and although none have ever gotten out of hand, it could easily be used to defend myself or my crew in a bad situation.
Overall the tool is great at everything I have put it through and in my opinion it could be used as a tactical, rescue, survival and/or zombie defense tool many times over. We will continue to test this tool and have further updates on it. As for now I will continue to use and abuse this handy tool that has survived centuries of changes and still comes out an ageless, useful tool that anyone would do well to have in their tool bag.
After review, we are now looking to stock this item in our online store and eventual storefront. Check back for more info on where you can get this item.
*Update. You can now purchase the United Cutlery Tomahawks in this article through our online store.