Whether you are building a camping kit, bushcraft kit, or bug out bag, a hatchet is a tool that should not go overlooked in your preparations. Hatchets have been used for thousands of years for a variety of daily and survival activities, and have earned a reputation as reliable, effective tools.
Today’s hatchets retain this heritage while evolving to meet the multifaceted needs of modern-day survivalists and wilderness enthusiasts alike. In fact, few tools offer the number of practical, tactical, and survival uses that a hatchet does.
Given the abundance of models on the market and the varied purposes they serve, choosing a hatchet to include in your kit may take some time and warrants careful consideration. In general, however, the best tactical hatchet has a wide-ranging utility that can be used in multiple tasks over an extended period of time without damaging the tool.
While selecting one may be a difficult task, these reviews reveal 7 hatchets that would make an excellent tactical addition to your kit.
What Is A Tactical Hatchet?
Contrary to popular belief, tactical hatchets aren’t just used in video games like Call of Duty and Skyrim. In fact, hatchets have been used throughout the ages as man developed his skills and became more self-sufficient. The archaeological record shows that early peoples who used hatchets were able to build bigger, stronger, more complex shelters than those who didn’t have access to this tool.
Thus, experienced outdoorsmen and survivalists know that leaving home without a tactical hatchet puts you at a disadvantage in the wilderness. Compared with a knife, a hatchet is a more efficient tool in a variety of outdoor scenarios.
From chopping wood to building an emergency shelter to processing game quickly, a tactical hatchet allows you to accomplish tasks that you may not be able to do with a knife or machete alone, while also increasing your self-sufficiency in the outdoors.
A tactical hatchet, then, is a specific type of hatchet in a wide variety of similar tools. While there are job-specific hatchets for tasks like throwing or chopping, tactical hatchets serve multipurpose functions that encompass these specific jobs and more. If you are looking for a tactical hatchet, you are looking for a versatile, durable tool that performs a wide range of functions quickly and efficiently.
What Can A Tactical Hatchet Do?
A tactical hatchet performs a wide variety of functions and jobs. Some of the more popular uses of a tactical hatchet include
- Hunting/processing, and
Perhaps the most basic use of the tactical hatchet is as a chopping tool. You don’t need to venture far into the wilderness to be able to use your hatchet for this job: tactical hatchets make chopping firewood for your fireplace or stove a breeze in your own backyard.
In tactical or survival scenarios, though, the right hatchet makes quick work of fallen wood or wood that’s still standing, with its ability to cut through hefty vegetation, including tree trunks.
The prying ability of a tactical hatchet can assist you in opening any numbers of objects. From cans to sewer grates, your hatchet can pry open objects that are stuck or sealed, particularly when they’re essential to your survival. In search and rescue situations, too, you can use a tactical hatchet to pry open doors or windows and gain access to a building.
Similarly, a tactical hatchet can be used to breach buildings, vehicles, shelters, and thick vegetation.
While its breaching ability can aid in your own self-defense, a hatchet can also help you save others who might be in danger. A tactical hatchet can break glass to assist with escape from a burning building; it can also be an essential tool in vehicle rescue.
The versatile design of a tactical hatchet makes it an efficient tool for hunting. Few, if any, other tools are as efficient at both hunting and processing game as a tactical hatchet. With a tactical hatchet, there is no need to bring along multiple tools to perform different hunting tasks: you can use the same tool to process game as you did to bring it down.
This is essential in wilderness and survival situations where the amount of time you spend gathering food could mean the difference between life and death.
Finally, a tactical hatchet handles more delicate work in a capable, efficient manner because of its multifaceted design. Skinning game, slicing material, and piercing or puncturing a variety of objects is made easy with a tactical hatchet. A tactical hatchet has extreme utility in difficult or precise tasks that require a delicate hand.
In general, while most tactical hatchets can perform each of these duties to a greater or less extent than others, you should choose a tool that’s designed to meet your specific needs.
The poll, cutting edge, and length of the handle all affect the performance of the hatchet in particular areas and skills, making it essential for you to understand the construction and design of the hatchet you are about to purchase.
How to Choose A Tactical Hatchet
The design of a tactical hatchet impacts the facility with which it can perform chopping, prying, breaching, hunting, piercing, and other tasks.
A hatchet used primarily for chopping and prying tasks, for example, will differ in style and features from a hatchet that’s meant for self-defense or search and rescue. To determine the style that is right for your intended use, you need to assess the hatchet’s
- Cutting edge,
- Poll, and
- Handle length.
The cutting edge of modern hatchets differs greatly from that of traditional hatchets in that it offers the wielder more options and additional edges. Besides the main edge, the blade of a tactical hatchet also comprises a top edge, called the spine, and a bottom, usually angled, edge, called the beard.
While the spine and beard may be sharp or utilitarian in all hatchet models, they provide advantages and alternate options particularly when used for self-defense, chopping, or carving tasks. Anyone who plans to use their hatchet primarily for these tasks may be interested in a hatchet with a sharpened spine and beard.
In addition, the length of the main cutting edge of the hatchet head affects the facility with which the tool performs certain types of tasks. A long cutting edge, for example, is ideal for cutting and chopping wood or breaking down barriers; a narrow cutting edge, on the other hand, excels at piercing heavy materials, making it perfect for search and rescue, self-defense, and extraction tasks.
One thing to keep in mind is that the longer the edge, the heavier the hatchet head. While this added weight lends force and power to your swings, it also causes fatigue more quickly, making it important to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of the edge length carefully before making a decision.
The poll, also called the butt, is the back side of the hatchet. Traditionally rounded or flat, some tactical hatchets have a spiked poll that can be used for piercing and self-defense. Again, the type of poll you choose depends on the primary tasks you want the hatchet to perform or the tactical problems you want it to solve.
A flat or rounded poll excels at hammering, pounding, and breaching tasks, while a spiked poll is effective for prying, piercing, and self-defense.
The length of the hatchet handle also impacts not just the applications of the tool, but also the ease of use and fatigue you’ll experience in using it.
Longer handles provide greater leverage than shorter ones; hatchets with long handles are ideal for prying open objects and for adding force behind chopping or swinging motions, but they are also heavier and more cumbersome to carry than short-handled hatchets.
Shorter handles are lighter, more compact, and easier to fit into a rucksack or kit than long-handled hatchets, making them effective in close quarters use, yet they lack the leverage and swinging power of a long-handled model. Some of the more common uses of each type of handle include:
- Chopping wood
- Cutting down trees
- Prying open doors
- Breaching buildings and vehicles, particularly in forced entry for search and rescue
- Piercing heavy materials
- Processing large game
- Precision cutting, chopping or carving
- Evacuating buildings and vehicles
- Processing small game
Top 7 Tactical Hatchets
The following 7 hatchets have been reviewed for their versatility, durability, and facility of use in a number of wilderness and survival tasks. Consider one of these tactical hatchets as you’re searching for the perfect tool to add to your kit.
Cold Steel Trench Hawk Axe
Weight: 1.5 lb.
Dimensions: 19 x 8 x 2 in.
Features: Drop forged carbon steel blade, shock-resistant polypropylene handle, spiked poll
Best use: Chopping, breaching, prying, piercing, self-defense
Description: The Cold Steel Trench Hawk tactical hatchet is ideal for breaking out of enclosed spaces—or, when escape just is not an option, defending yourself in close quarters.
The hatchet’s razor sharp cutting edge and wedge-shaped spike poll mean the Trench Hawk can cut through tough vegetation or chop wood just as easily as it can pierce or pry open a variety of objects.
Its mid-length handle also makes this the perfect hatchet for throwing and long distance self-defense. Plus, the drop forged carbon steel blade ensures the Trench Hawk can take a beating, withstanding the stress of repeat use and impact.
With its Secure-Ex sheath to provide protection to the wielder, the Trench Hawk is an excellent multipurpose hatchet to add to any wilderness, tactical, or survival kit.
Related: Smith’s Axe and Machete Sharpener
TEKTON 14-Inch Fiberglass Camp Axe
Weight: 2.1 lbs.
Dimensions: 14 x 1.2 x 5.5 in.
Features: Heat-treated steelhead, 50% fiberglass handle core, rubber non-slip handle, compact
Best use: Chopping, clearing camp, camping
Description: The lightweight, compact Tekton Fiberglass Camp hatchet is the ideal hatchet for your backcountry or camping kit. Its weatherproof fiberglass-core handle won’t crack or shrink like traditional wooden handles, meaning this hatchet can travel anywhere your wilderness adventures take you.
It’s strong enough to cut down small trees and branches, chop kindling and wood, and pitch tents, yet light enough to attach to your kit without adding extra weight for long treks into the backcountry.
Given the lightweight and compact nature of this hatchet, it is best suited for light- to medium-weight chopping activities and general camp-related tasks.
Related: Hults Bruk Jonaker Hatchet
Estwing E44A 16-Inch Camper’s Axe
Weight: 2.9 lbs.
Dimensions: 26 x 1.4 x 7 in.
Features: Steel blade, 4” cutting edge, sheath, shock reduction grip
Best use: Chopping, cutting, building camp
Description: The 16-inch Estwing Camper’s Axe features a shock reduction grip and 4-inch all steel blade that makes camp chores a breeze. The handle size makes this the perfect hatchet for felling trees, chopping limbs, cutting kindling, and driving tent stakes to set up camp.
It is compact enough to carry with you on longer hikes, yet strong and durable enough for everyday use; in fact, this hatchet is the perfect choice for those who need to keep a wood-burning stove crackling at home.
The smaller dimensions of this hatchet make it suitable for general camp chores and light- to medium-weight chopping activities; heavier chopping tasks may require a heavier hatchet.
Gerber Gator Combo Axe II
Weight: 2.7 lbs.
Dimensions: 18.5 x 7.2 x 1.9 in.
Features: Forged steel blade, fiberglass core nylon handle, saw insert, Gator Grip handle, ballistic nylon sheath
Best use: Chopping, sawing, clearing brush, hunting
Description: The Gerber Gator Combo Axe II is two tools in one: on the outside, it is a compact hatchet designed to perform a number of wilderness tasks while withstanding adverse weather and conditions, while on the inside, it is a coarse blade handsaw capable of sawing through brush and branches.
A long handle means added striking power for chopping tasks; a fiberglass core and Gator Grip cover ensure a comfortable, non-slip grip in even the wettest, muddiest conditions. This is the ideal hatchet for clearing camp, chopping wood, sawing limbs, and clearing lanes for hunting and shooting.
Related: Gerber Bear Grylls Survival Hatchet
Fiskars Consumer Prod 14-Inch Hatchet
Weight: 1.4 lb.
Dimensions: 16.6 x 5.8 x 1.1 in.
Features: Forged carbon steel blade, PermaHead insert-molded blade, non-slip grip handle, sheath, lifetime warranty
Best use: Light- to medium-weight chopping, camp chores, survival
Description: So many of this hatchet’s features make the Fiskars 14-inch hatchet the go-to choice for those looking for a tool that can clear camp as easily as it can serve as a survival or self-defense weapon.
Perhaps the most exciting feature of this hatchet is its PermaHead insert-molded forged carbon steel head, which does not loosen with use and is designed to prevent breakage that can occur with overstrikes.
The perfect weight distribution means this hatchet cuts three times deeper than typical tactical hatchets: with more penetration on each swing, this hatchet chops more wood in less time. Plus, this hatchet excels at splitting logs and kindling thanks to its inseparable wedge-shaped head. It comes with a shock-absorbing non-slip rubberized DuraFrame handle that minimizes discomfort while maximizing control.
Cold Steel Rifleman’s Hawk American Hickory Handle
Weight: 2.3 lbs.
Dimensions: 8 x 4 x 4 in.
Features: Drop forged carbon steel blade, American hickory handle
Best use: Heavy chopping tasks, hammering, survival
Description: The Cold Steel Rifleman’s Hawk hatchet is designed to withstand repeat use under harsh conditions. The drop forging process ensures that its carbon steel blade has the strength and durability to last through the toughest abuse.
Its differentially heat-treated head gives the blade a razor sharp edge that is perfect for chopping through logs and limbs, while the rounded poll acts as a hammer to drive in stakes or breach an entry. The American hickory handle is designed to last, resisting cracking or breaking even under repeat use.
Related: Cold Steel Rifleman’s Cordura Sheath
Walther Battle Axe
Weight: 2.6 lbs.
Dimensions: 16.25 x 4.25 in.
Features: Black coated stainless steel blade, spiked poll, built-in glass breaker, composite handle
Best use: Chopping, breaching, piercing, search and rescue, self-defense
Description: This hatchet harkens back to a time when small axes and hatchets were regularly used in hand to hand combat and close quarters defense. True to its name, the Walther Battle Axe takes its inspiration from the medieval battlefield to bring a compact yet effective battle weapon to life in modern times.
The durable, black coated stainless steel blade features a spiked poll for piercing and precision penetration, while the composite handle includes a built-in glass breaker that can be used for a number of breaching, self-defense, and search and rescue tasks.
Finally, the handle boasts a checker-cut grip that maintains comfort over long periods of use while offering dexterity for maximum control. Given its unique design and wide range of multipurpose uses, the Walther Battle Axe makes the perfect hatchet for medieval weaponry enthusiasts, survivalists, and outdoorsmen alike.
The following chart provides a quick comparison of the primary use and price rating of the tactical hatchets discussed above.
|Hatchet||Primary Use||Price Rating|
|Cold Steel Trench Hawk Axe||Multipurpose, survival||$$|
|TEKTON 3284 20-Ounce 14-Inch Fiberglass Camp Axe||Camping, chopping||$|
|Estwing E44A 16-Inch Camper’s Axe-All Steel with Shock Reduction Grip||Camping, chopping||$$|
|Gerber Gator Combo Axe II||Camping, chopping, sawing, hunting||$$|
|Fiskars Consumer Prod 78506935 14-Inch Hatchet||Camping, chopping, survival||$$|
|Cold Steel Rifleman’s Hawk American Hickory Handle||Chopping, hammering, survival||$|
|Walther Battle Axe||Multipurpose, self-defense||$$|
Many factors influence the tactical hatchet you choose, but the most important of these factors is your own needs and intended uses. Only you know how you will use the hatchet on a daily basis. Is it going to be used in household applications, chopping wood for the stove, cutting down stray tree limbs, or clearing overgrown garden areas?
Or is it going to form part of a survival or camping kit, where the multipurpose utility of the tool is essential? Whatever your needs, the suggested hatchets above highlight some of the most popular options that bring you solid construction and multipurpose function at a reasonable cost.