Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Gear Review: Estwing Survival Tomahawk and Double Bit Axe

The company Estwing makes some of the most ubiquitous and diversified hammers, camp axes and hatchets ever to roll around the bed of a pickup. Ernest Estwing’s steel tools are the industry standard from framing hammers to camp axes, and the ones we grew up with and loved for their simplicity and durability since 1923. But tomahawks? Well, let’s take a closer look.

The Estwing brand is an American made all-steel uber-strong set of striking tools from pry bars to drilling hammers, to camp hatchets, to full-sized axes. And two diversions from the traditional line of swinging tools includes some even more traditional tomahawk-like tools in the form of a single bladed with pick-iron version of the once-stone version of a tomahawk that has cracked skulls and carved up meat ever since the Algonquian Indians invented the thing in the first place long before the Europeans landed on North American shores.

Jumping into the 21st century, the tomahawk, and even “tactical tomahawk,” have entered the mainstream bug out vernacular with a vengeance. To the point that any major knife or axe maker worth his or her survival salt makes a tomahawk or tomahawk-ish hand tool. I included the “ish” because one of the earth’s premier axe maker failed to market a “tomahawk” but does have a excessively expensive “Outdoor Axe” that easily mimics a tomahawk for most practical purposes. But enough of the Sweed.

In Estwing’s lineup of tools that fall under the axe/hatchet variety are a series of tomahawks that two head designs and a series of colors and handle options.  Actually, Estwing only lists one head as a tomahawk but I am lumping their double-bit axe into the tomahawk category due to it’s size. I consider double-bit axes as those twice-as-big lumber tools that Paul Bunyan would have slung over his shoulder, not a two-pound 17-inch double-headed hatchet. So I’ll take the liberty and consider them together and both in the tomahawk family.

Two Bits
The double bit axe has two of the same edges. Often double bits are ground at different angles for two distinct chopping experiences. But this is more of a case of redundancy than duality. For throwing, camp chores, and general small-scale slicing, a double-edged axe like this works great. Very great, in fact. This is certainly not a felling axe, but it would easily be a go-to camp axe, or bug out tool. Like all Estwing tools I’ve had the privilege to use, the double bit axe preforms like a champ. Maybe not the world champion, but certainly a national champion.

The thin-thickness of the Estwing double bit places this tool outside the common axe/hatchet/wood splitting duties where lateral forces are as important as downward chopping forces. So more angled chopping is needed if using the Estwing double-edged axe for traditional firewood preparation. Throwing, on the other hand is truly a forte compared to those wood chopping tools with little personality.

The Estwing Tomahawk is a precision chopper. The balance is wonderful, and the grip to blade ratio leans heavily toward small work. Small accurate work to be more specific. The proportions of this tomahawk’s design supports a fine woodworking talent that make the  Estwing Tomahawk a great piece of camp gear for minor woodworking, kindling chores, and even some kitchen duties.

Unlike the Double Bit axe, the Estwing Tomahawk has a vastly different back end. Protruding opposite the Estwing Tomahawk’s main feature is a powerful spike that is as deadly as is it is functional. When you need a hole in something fast, the Estwing Tomahawk will deliver with the speed and force of a quality geology hammer. The pick is not sharp like a blade, but more of a blunt sharp, to coin an oxymoron. But anything organic that gets in its way is history.

Between the two, I really like the precision chopping of the Estwing Tomahawk over the double bit axe. But if I was to carry one in my truck for camping duties, it would be a toss up with a leaning towards the double bit. Luckily I don’t have to choose. And given the relatively low street prices, you might not need to either. But no matter which Estwing you carry, you will be able to push it to your limit before reaching it’s limit.

Overall, both tools are in the thinish metal Estwing tradition with excellent rubberized shock-absorbing grips. They lean more towards value than brute strength or selective steel. But for 95% of users, those potential limitations are not limitations. So when it comes to outfitting your bug out bag or bug out vehicle, I can whole-heartily suggest either of these Estwing tools. And even another one. But that is for later review. Stay tuned.

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