Axes are indispensable survival tools. They can make it easier to construct shelter, hunt, process firewood, and above all defend oneself.

But if you are looking for tomahawks or hatchets, chances are that you have come across dozens of suggestions out there. Some of them oddly shaped and others obviously too poorly built to get anything done.

When looking for the best survival axes, it’s always important to insist on two things – durability and versatility. Going by that criteria, here’s a detailed review of some of our top picks.

Top Tactical & Multi-Tool Axes in 2020

Product Name

Price

Rating


Iunio

$$

Gransfors Brusks

$$

Estwing

$

SOG Tactical Hatchet

$$

Council Tool

$$

Hults Bruk

$$

CRKT

$$

Off Grid Tools

$$$

1844 Helko Werk

$$

Schrade

$$

1. Iunio

Not only is this one of the most affordable tomahawks available out there but it's also quite well-made. It has a well-made steel head that is capable of handling most basic tasks such as splitting tiny logs, breaking windows, or even supporting wilderness navigation.


Besides that, this tool boasts tubular engineering which makes the entire axe quite easy to assemble and dissemble. This unique design can also come in handy when you’re short of space. Basically, the axe can be re-adjusted to different sizes, guaranteeing you of compactness.


On top of all that, this cool kid from iunio comes with a variety of handy survival tools. We’re talking about a compass, fish scaler tool, safety hammer, whistle, bottle opener, and flint.


That said, we honestly think that some of these extras are not really necessary in this day and age. For instance, you can always survive without a bottle opener. And aren’t compasses freely available on Smartphones already?

Pros

  • Compact design
  • Ideal for most basic tasks
  • Provides extra tools
  • High-carbon steel ax

Cons

  • Unnecessary clutter in the name of extra tools

2. Gransfors Brusks

If you're looking for a badass ax, one that's capable of handling some hard-core survival tasks, this axe from Gransfors Bruks might be worth trying. Gransfors Bruks, Inc. is the name given to a Swedish manufacturer who has been producing axes since 1902.


So, you can bet that this axe is one that’s built to stand the test of time.


However, as this is a premium brand name, you can expect to pay a premium price for the product as well. Indeed, this axe costs almost 10 times the price of the iunio axe currently ranking number one on our list. Can you imagine that? 


The reason we’d still consider getting this tool, it’s price notwithstanding, is that it is quite well-made. It can handle some demanding tasks such as splitting average-sized logs.


At 2lbs, this forest axe is neither too heavy nor too light. However, if you’re looking to reduce the weight of your survival gear, you can always find a lighter axe out there.

Pros

  • Quite hardy
  • Well-made handle
  • Premium, reliable brand
  • Comes with leather sheath

Cons

  • Doesn’t come cheap

3. Estwing

Most axes are great until the head comes loose after several rounds of use. If that’s something that has bothered you in the past, the Estwing axe might be the reprieve you need.


The product is entirely made in USA and forged from high-grade steel. Thanks to its unique design, you won’t need to worry about the head coming loose.


Also, it has a gentle, shock-absorbent handle, that comes in handy when you're planning to work for long hours and would like to avoid hand fatigue.


In fact, the only reason why this failed to make it to the very top of our list is that the seller seems to be having issues with shipping. Quite a few people have complained of either receiving defective axes or differently colored ones.

Pros

  • Great build quality
  • Made in America
  • Shock-absorbent handle
  • 2 finishes to choose from

Cons

  • Shipping issues reported

4. SOG Tactical Hatchet

One thing that stands out about this axe is the fact that it's a multipurpose one. It has a traditional axe edge as well as a spike for piercing. Some people may prefer to use the spike-edge for digging shallow holes or breaking rocks also.


However, this tomahawk is really light-weight and should never be abused. It weighs a paltry 24 ounces; that’s an advantage for anyone planning to travel light. This can be a huge downside, though, when you need to take on tough tasks.

Pros

  • Versatile tool
  • Light in weight
  • Easy to pack up
  • Great finishing

Cons

  • Not as sturdy as it seems

5. Council Tool

Sometimes, all you need is a humble axe with a hickory handle that goes for well below 100 bucks. Indeed, the Boy’s Axe from Council Tool stands out with its simplicity and practicality.


Its head is made from hand-ground carbon steel. In other words, it’s as tough as a real axe should be.


However, it’s also quite basic. It doesn’t offer much to a survivor. That is, it doesn’t offer the extra features and versatility one may need when living in extra-ordinary times (other than the axe head).

Pros

  • Great steel head
  • Handy, curved handle
  • Attention to detail
  • Reputable brand

Cons

  • Not versatile
  • Designed lacks compactness

6. Hults Bruk

Hults Bruk is yet another Swedish axe maker featuring highly on our list. Indeed, the manufacturer has been around since 1697. Yup, you read that right.


First things first, this is a light-weight tool. It weighs 2.2 pounds (1.5 pounds for the head and 0.7 pounds for the hickory handle).


Its head is entirely made up of high-grade steel which is hand forged and designed for optimal density.


You might want to go for this is all you’re looking for is a small axe that can split most medium-sized logs. It definitely won’t survive for long if used on extremely huge logs.

Pros

  • Durable head
  • Great hickory handle
  • Comes with a leather sheath
  • Good balance

Cons

  • Pricey
  • The handle could have been grippier

7. CRKT

We look at the CRKT axe as probably the best hawk for survival tool available out there currently. It boasts a 1055 carbon steel hot forged head. As you know, this is one of the most resilient materials used to make axes.


Moving on swiftly, the hawk comes fully fitted with a Tennessee hickory handle. The handle is quite well-made and good looking. However, it does not typically last long when used for punishing tasks.


Fortunately, it's super easy to separate the head from the handle. And that means you can conveniently use a branch to replace the handle if you're in the wilderness and things go down south.

Pros

  • Generally good workmanship
  • Durable head
  • Cuts huge bites
  • Covered with lifetime warranty (limited)

Cons

  • The handle isn’t long-lasting
  • Sheath comes at extra cost

8. Off Grid Tools

As a survivor, you’ll need more than just an axe to survive through tough times. Unfortunately, that means having to carry all manner of things in your backpack – something which can leave you fatigued endangering your very survival.


The Off Grid Tools axe is not an ordinary axe. In fact, it is designed to serve at least 31 different tasks. To mention a few – this tool can come in handy as a nail claw, hammer head, and even pry bar.


Also, you can conveniently use it as a seat-belt cutter. Plus, it also comes with a fully replaceable saw blade which can come in handy in woodwork and metalwork.


However, it would seem that this is a “Jack of all trades” and master of none. It’s not as tough as a real axe and most of its extra features are barely useful in typical survival situations.

Pros

  • Interesting concept
  • Versatile tool
  • Light in weight (1.8 pounds only)
  • Reasonably priced

Cons

  • Made in China
  • Dulls pretty fast

9. 1844 Helko Werk

German has always won the manufacturing war – probably due to their strong history of apprenticeship. From that same great country comes the 1844 Helko Werk Bushcraft Axe.


Its head is made from C50 high carbon steel. One thing we really like about it is that it is drop forged. The beauty about drop forging is that it results in the production of authentic and extra-hardened steel.


Besides that, this ax's handle enjoys a fine finish of linseed oil. This gives it a great look and a comfortable finish.


Plus, the company behind it goes a step further and provides you with a full-grain leather sheath at no extra cost. That comes in handy when it comes to maintaining the head for the long-haul.

Pros

  • High-quality wood
  • Great dimensions
  • Well-made head
  • Significantly large cutting edge

Cons

  • Its edge isn’t quite as sharp
  • Head often comes loose

10. Schrade

Are you a fan of multi-purpose tools? If the idea of owning an axe cum saw sounds good to you, this 18-incher from Schrade might be worthy of your attention.


Not only is it well built but it’s also a huge space saver. And remember, in a typical survival situation, these two tools can come in handy.


You need the axe for making firewood and poles for building your cabin. The saw comes in handy in woodwork.


This tool’s handle is made from glass-filled polymer and its head from titanium-enhanced steel head. Yet despite all those extras, it weighs in at a paltry 2.2 pounds.

Pros

  • Locking mechanism for the saw
  • Tough-built stainless-steel head
  • Non-slip head-handle design
  • Reasonably priced

Cons

  • Not as sturdy as more expensive solo axes
  • Finicky saw blade

How to Choose a Good Tomahawk on a Budget

In order to get the best bang for your bucks, the following are the key pointers to pay attention to. Hopefully, these will help you avail good bang for your bucks.

1. Handle Material

If you’re looking for something that’s light in weight and easy to replace, you might want to go for a wooden one. However, wood as a material is susceptible to breaking after years of use.

Synthetic materials such as fiberglass are equally good. However, once broken they can be really difficult to replace.

Metallic handles are quite durable and good looking; however, they can transmit electric shock. Another common downside is that, unlike wooden ones, they are quite heavy.

2. Compactness

Space use is always an issue every survivalist should have in mind. A compact axe is always a safe bet just in case.

Compactness begins with having a nice, short handle. Something falling in the range of 18 to 24 inches is considered average-sized. Anything longer than that might be too bulky.

3. Head-Shape is Important

Generally, it’s a good idea to settle for relatively flat edge shapes. Such shapes tend to put more surface in contact with the surface.

The main benefit of having extra surface area on the edge is that it makes it easier to chop huge chunks.

However, there is a downside to flat edges and that is they easily get stuck when used on totally flat surfaces.

So, if you plan to be breaking doors and walls e.g. if you’re a fireman, avoid anything with curved edges.

4. Ergonomics

The quality of workmanship in terms of weight distribution is a huge factor one should pay attention to. Ideally, the head should be the heaviest part of the axe.

An extra-ordinarily light axe head can make it punchy. So, when making a choice, go for one with good weight distribution. If the head weighs 1.5 pounds, the handles should weigh about 0.75 pounds – ratio 1:2 is always a safe bet. 

5. Sharpness

Some manufacturers ship their axes dull. Smart ones, though, know the importance of the axe coming ready-to-use.

So, if you’re looking for a ready-to-use tool, go for one that comes pre-sharpened. That said, you can always sharpen your hatchets with ease if you have a sharpener already.

Another point worth noting is that high-carbon steel tends to provide the best survival axes and even knives. The material retains sharpness quite long and is also quite tough.

Frequently Asked Questions on Tactical Axes

You probably have a bunch of questions you’d like answered. Here’s our response to some of the most commonly asked ones.

How should I store my axes?

Answer: Axes should be kept at room temperature and on dry surfaces. When transporting them, it’s recommended to store them is a well-made box away from any harm. That said, axes can always survive a great deal of abuse (though that would shorten their lifespan).

Axe vs hatchet: What are the differences?

Answer: Hatchets are axes. The only difference between them and normal axes is that they are mainly designed for one-hand use. You may use hatchets for splitting small branches or firewood blocks. However, you’d need a proper axe to chop large trees.

Can I open-carry an axe?

Answer: The laws on handling axes and other sharp objects may vary from state to state. In California, it is perfectly fine to carry an axe. Philadelphia (PA), on the other hand, has some very strict knife laws as is Illinois, parts of Massachusetts, and Ohio. Consult your current state laws before open-carrying your survival axe.

Final Thoughts

Having reviewed these 10 popular survival axes, we are of the opinion that the Iunio Survival Multi-Tool offers good value for money for budget shoppers. However, if one wishes to splurge on an axe, the Gransfors Brusks would definitely be a good choice.

There you have it, our complete list of some of the most sought-after tactical axe brands. Getting a good one for yourself could open a whole new chapter in your forays. So, choose right.