Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Gear Review: The Timahawk and Tactical Timahawk

Few things turn on a survivalist like a new piece of kit that has tremendous potential. And two of them just landed in my bug out loadout. Cutting to the chase, they are Timahawks.

Timahawk you ask? Yes Tim-a-Hawk. The designer Tim Ralston got to choose the name so it only makes sense. Had I created the tool, it would be the Docahawk. You've got admit that Timahawk sounds better.

The Modern Middle Age
Although the Timahawk is a modern take on a multipurpose survival tool, it traces its roots to medieval times when survival really did depend on skill and edged weapons. Ripping a page from the battle axe manual, the Timahawk put a contemporary twist on a bearded battleaxe.

Like a hornet, the bright orange color is a warning that messing with this axe will cause injury or death in every state including California. But seriously, there is so much more to this tool than it’s overt muscle. The Timahawk is an everyday survival tool that moonlights as a weapon.

As a war axe, the Timahawk contains the necessary features to fight old-school as well as provide a platform for necessary day-to-day survival tasks. I have to admit that I was skeptical about yet another heavyweight survival implement, but this turned out to be different. In the past, combination tools from the Leatherman forward have given those with a survival bend more of an advantage then the sum of their parts, but as the tools got larger, the differences got smaller. Axes, hammers, pry bars, and breeching tools were somewhat the same so a combination of those similar metal ends was useful but not exciting. Enter the Timahawk.

By combining a powerful curved battle axe with a bearded edge, with a heavy steel handle with a welded adz, the Timahawk quickly rose to the top of my heap of multipurpose heavy tools. Philosophically speaking, the Timahawk can replace many of the big tools freeing you up to carry more smaller, more precise tools. This is an important consideration since with a Timahawk and a neck knife, you could rule the world...or at least your little bug out slice of it.

Blunt Force Precision
I won’t sugarcoat this and say the Timahawk is a precision device for fire starting and minor defense. No, the Timahawk is a brute force weapon that has plenty of gross motor skill options for breaching, pounding, chopping, stabbing, and digging. In a nutshell, the Timahawk is the big stuff that you can carry while running.

As a battle axe, the beard or extended lower blade aspect, forms a hook that in ancient times was used to yank away the shields of foes during hand-to-hand combat. By latching onto the unfortunate foe’s defensive tools, the bearded axe would pull down and expose the fleshier parts of the adversary. As a deadly side note, the beard also made a wonderful horizontal impalement tool complete with a knife edge.

There are two versions of the Timahawk, a 27” 4lb version that steps on the toes of axes, and a  15.5” “Tactical” version that weighs three pounds. The heads on both versions are exactly the same but the handles and grip ends are different. Part 1 of this review will focus on the Tactical Timahawk, or the shorter version.

At three pounds, the Tactical Timahawk weighs about 1.2 pounds more than the industry standard hatchet, namely the leather-handled Estwing Sportsman’s Hatchet. That’s about one-and-a-half times as much meaning the Tactical Timahawk is a formidable tool that is only two inches longer than the Estwing.

The Tactical Timahawk and it’s big brother the Timahawk proper are both made of pre-hardened 4130 steel. Compared to many of the knives I review, 4130 is an uneventful metal in the 41xx family of steels. It is a workhorse steel that wears the moniker “aircraft steel” when used for such things. It is a strong dependable alloy with great properties for big jobs including crankshafts and roll cages, two things that when when I think about it might make a heck of a survival tool somehow. Maybe Tim has some ideas? Anything for preppers with the name “Crank Cage” has potential in my book. For reference, a similar steel known as 4150 (with just a little more carbon) is one of the few steels cleared for duty by the US Military in M16 and M4 carbine barrels.

It Adz Up
The Tactical Timahawk has a six inch curved cutting blade that chops, slices, and dices like any good battleaxe. A two-inch adz blade runs perpendicular to the grip and primary blade. An adz is a carving tool that dates back to the stone age. It also happens to be a formidable digging and breaching tool, but I doubt there was much to breach 8700 years ago, let alone structures to breach into.

My experience with an adz, or adze as Tim likes to spell it (both are correct), comes from mountaineering and ice climbing. Today the adz is a working tool for digging and carving when things are calm. For those with forestry bends, an overgrown adz is found on the famous Pulaski Tool named after the great Edward Crockett "Ed" Pulaski who is a US Forest Service Ranger credited with saving all but five of his 45-man team during the Great Idaho Fire of 1910. Taking no crap, Pulaski held his men face down in a mine tunnel at gunpoint until the fire passed. Five souls and two horses were lost, but it was a major credit to Polaski to restrain panic while applying his knowledge and science of forest fires. The “Pulaski Tunnel” still exists and is listed on the Registry of HIstoric Places for those who would like to vacation into my neck of the woods but over in Idaho just a few clicks west of my bug out usual stomping ground. And as far as Pulaski tools go, yes I have one as does anyone else around here who dabbles with living off the land.

The far end of the Tactical Timahawk contains a pointed butt with a sharpness angle of 70 degrees. The unhoned 5/16” thick steel is a blunt instrument at best. But blunt is exactly the personality you want when you need to call to action the base of the Tactical Timahawk. And given the grip and handle of the Tactical Timahawk for just such a butt-end announcement, there is little to argue about when push comes to breach.

Barehanded the 5/16” steel fights both directions so wearing a glove is a good idea. However, if you are in a life or death situation, a comfortable grip is for sissies. The same holds true for the punching grip of the bearded main Timahawk blade.

Bug Out Loadout
The neverending quest for the perfect bug out loadout just got easier. The Tactical Timahawk, at only three-and-a-half inches more than a foot makes for a serious contender for title of best bug out battle axe.

One of Tim Ralston’s missions in life is to combine multiple tools in one. The Tactical Timahawk is brought to you by the creator of the Croval (crowbar and shovel), a Knaxe (knife + axe), the X-Caliber (multi-caliber gun), and many others from firearms to aggressive tools to watches. So the Tactical Timahawk was a natural progression, and tip of the survival iceberg, so to speak. Or perhaps the tip of the survival spear.

Real World
Using trees as aggressors, the Tactical Timahawk put a serious dent into any and all foes that got too close to me. It removed limbs, gouged holes, and punched debilitating slices into any bark that invaded my space.

The battleaxe is an evolved tool that provides both offensive and defensive aggression. When on the attack, the Tactical Timahawk force multiplies though mass, sharpness, and blade size. Rolston even sells the Tactical Timahawk as something you can throw. As one who has spent much time throwing conventional metal tomahawks, I’m not sure I could find the balance of the Tactical Timahawk without practice so if you intend on using Tactical Timahawk as a projectile, practice first since the disproportionately shaped head will throw off (pun intended) your usual rotation, and the adz is not much of a sticker. But at three times the blade size than a regular “hawk” you will have more rotation angle to consider a successful hit.

The adz is a two-inch horizontal blade that runs perpendicular to the main blade. Adzes are great at carving, precision chopping, and digging. In winter, the adz on an ice axe is used to chop steps, carve ice ledges, and flatten the tent space. Opposite the adz on an ice axe is a pick used to support weight or arrest a fall. But it should be obvious that the pick has little use during a bug out except for those who also pack zombie fantasies in their BOB.

As a digging tool the Tactical Timahawk lacks the volume to make a major dent in soil anytime soon, but if that soil is filled with rocks and debris, the Tactical Timahawk’s adz garners the same advantage the made the Pulaski tool rock the fire lines.

The scales (handle covers) on the Tactical Timahawk are recycled plastic. They are too smooth for my taste but that is easily remedied with a little rough sandpaper. I also added a paracord lanyard through the thankfully included quarter-inch hole in the base.

Something included on the larger Timahawk but not on this one is blade cover. When the  Tactical Timahawk is waiting for use, like an angry rattlesnake or a bored kitten, it’s six-inch blade sits ready to attack anything that comes close to it. So a leather or Kydex sheath would be a welcome feature. And a place to start designing would be to pay attention to Pulanski covers which have endured years of trial and abuse. My Pulaski has a simple vertical/horizontal strap that covers the blades with mundane effectiveness.

The Tactical Timahawk’s beard has functions beyond those of the fighting kind. The balance point on the Tactical Timahawk’s handle is at the lowest point of the beard. This means the Tactical Timahawk will hang just fine on its beard hook. Whether on branch or rope, the Tactical Timahawk will grab on to anything that fits in the one-and-a-quarter inch channel between handle and blade with little chance of falling off.

The Tactical Timahawk aggressively attacks the single handtool space in the bug out bag. Classic hatchets like the Estwing and my favorite, the Gransfors Bruks, provide an effective bushcraft-level tool, but fall short when addressing the downside of mankind. For those darker events, tools such as the Tactical Timahawk are the best option. Maybe the only option.

The Full-sized Timahawk

A handful of edge is a beautiful thing. The convergence of steel is one of the most useful things in a survivalist's kit. It is the tool that builds all other tools. It is the tool that makes shelter, prepares food, and provides defense. So it’s no surprise that a variety of steel edges are in the bug out loadout. But within that variety are found the problems of weight, of cost, of space, and of necessary performance. With smaller tools the problems are minor, but with bigger heavier tools, carrying more than one is usually out of the question.

Ralston’s Masterpiece
Enter the Timahawk. By combining several tools into one heavily evolved design, Tim Ralston has made a bit of survival history with his pair of self-named Timahawks. The shorter version called the Tactical Timahawk has made an appearance here, but the longer handled full-size Timahawk still needs an introduction.

At 64 ounces, the Timahawk is a formidable piece of hardware on its own. Four pounds of striking steel with every end a business end makes for a highly adaptable tool. But let’s take a closer look at the edges of the Timahawk. The most obvious feature is the broadhead axe face with full beard. A bearded axe was a popular design back in the medieval era when an axe was the Colt Peacemaker of the time.

Having a beard on an axe pushes the tool more more towards being a weapon. The beard provided a protected handgrip as well as a hook that was used to strip away a foe’s shield or weapon. I find the beard works as advertised as well as making for a strong hook for various camp duties like holding up a lantern and remaining accessible but out of reach of the little ones. The beard also generates a much larger cutting surface without the extra weight of a fully cheeked axe head.

Face Plant
The overall cutting surface of the axe is about six inches in a straight line. Three and a half of those inches are the beard leaving plenty of strength onboard for serious chopping. Bending or breaking quarter-inch thick 4130 steel not only exceeds normal use of the Timahawk, but also exceeds normal human strength.

Opposite the sharp crescent and beard is an adz which is nothing more than a stone-age carving tool that is simply a short blade turned sideways. It works great for digging, scraping, and a lever for breaching. The two-inch wide adz is not much of a weapon compared an axe proper, but it will certainly do damage. The adz can also be somewhat sacrificial surface when you need to strike steel-dulling materials like rocks, brick and metal.

Two well-defined hand placement points with finger grooves are forged into the design. A vertical grip is found behind the axe-face beard, and another similar handhold is on the top of the axe head halfway between the bit and the adz. Basically the two grips are 90 degrees rotated from each other, while the traditional main handle grip of the Timahawk is just downstream from the beard grip.

The main gripping surface on the Timahawk is actually two scales of 18-inch long recycled hard black plastic held in place by four evenly spaced stainless steel screws. The scales ovalize the flat metal backbone of the Timahawk making the handle about 1.25 inches wide, by about one inch thick.

Pry Baby
Rounding out the southern end of the Timahawk is a two-and-a-quarter inch wide combination prybar face/nail puller. The tailend of the Timahawk flairs out an additional half-inch on each side looking similar to a chisel or moulding pry bar. As a weapon, this far end has some advantages over the adz even though they are of similar size. Remember those gripping handles? Well with one fist wrapped around the top handle and the other on the plastic scales, you can operate the sharpened nail puller with precision and the full force of your body. Like a pry bar from hell.

I actually have a prybar I carry on some wheeled adventures. It is a 24 inch Snap On pry bar. It works for for opening and moving stuck or heavy things, and some rough engine mechanicing. Having a serious pry bar along for ride is always a good thing, but a single dedicated pry bar is a another heavy piece of gear. So combining tools, while a violation of “two is one and one is none,” you can also look at it as “one is two and two is good.”

Here To Help
Luckily the bright orange powder coat gives the impression that the Timahawk is here to do good. No skulls, or barbed wire, or lightening bolts. Just good old American made EMS camouflage. Nothing to see here so move along.

With three sharp ends, the Timahawk ships in a completely encasing padded nylon case. A full-length zipper opens and closes the works, while three different sized pockets cover one entire face of the case. The opposite side contains an 11-inch MOLLE ladder  with four included snap attachment strips of webbing. Two carry-strap attachment D-loops are sewn in at the top and bottom of the case separated by about 22 inches. Of course a 1.5 inch shoulder strap is included.

Dropping a hundred and eighty-five bucks for the Timahawk might temper your excitement, but consider that if you do need a Timahawk, money is of lesser or little consequence at that time. But I admit that the Timahawk is not for everyone. Like an AR-15, the Timahawk is a seriously survival instrument for the more experienced hand.

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