Prepper Blades: Which is Better the Blade vs. Tomahawk?

ReadyNutrition Guys and Gals, the stores are flooded with the types of knives and axes you can pick up.  So, what to buy, and why?  A simple question, fair enough.  One of the problems that people face is that they like an “all-around” tool with multiple functions, when there are different, specialty tools and weapons for diverse functions. Let’s compare tomahawks and knives, and see where we go to, alright?

Firstly, whether it is a knife or a tomahawk, the first essential is to know your tool and train with it to maximum capacity.  You should follow this principle in all you do with weapons, tools, or gear.

Here’s a rule to follow.  You need to be able to use your tool or weapon: 1. specifically, and then 2. generally

I will explain.  When you have an OSS Fairbairn-Sykes stiletto dagger, this blade is primarily a combat knife.  That is its specific function: to fight with, plain and simple.  In addition to this, you need to know the other capabilities the knife possesses and how to employ them.  An example is a “thrower,” or throwing knife.  The Fairbairn-Sykes can be thrown; however, this takes practice and it is not the knife’s primary function.  Its primary function is close-quarters combat and for stealth (such as sentry takedown, etc.).  I mentioned that you should always buy such tools and weapons in pairs: one to practice with, and the other to have in mint condition for use in the “real” world and when the SHTF.

Same for a tomahawk.  Oh, there are some that are really high-end, such as those made by Hibben, Schrade, Kel-Tec, etc., that can run you into the hundreds of dollars.  This is a combat weapon, and needs to be trained with as such: buy two and use one to train with and the other for when the SHTF.  That is the specific purpose of a tomahawk: not to cut sector stakes or firewood.  The tomahawk is not to be used for pounding in tent poles and then making kindling for your campfire.

And yet it can be used as such, as a general use if called for.  When would that be called for?  When you’re freezing to death and need to build a fire, and that’s all you have to cut dead fallen timber.  The need outweighs the original specialty use.  Tomahawks take a lot of practice to use.  Personally, I prefer throwing knives over tomahawks.  They cannot be used the same to cut wood and kindling or to chop, but as fighting implements, they are (for me) more accurate and reliable.  Also, you can mount one on the end of a staff and turn it into a spear either for defense or hunting (a secondary, general function).

As I mentioned in another article, Hibben makes (in my opinion) the finest throwing knives that money can buy.  Another factor about throwing knives that I like is the fact that they can be mounted on your vest and employed more easily and quickly than the tomahawk can be drawn.  On the other side of the coin, the tomahawk generally provides you with more reach on your opponent if you swing it rather than throwing it.  The decision is one of preference, but the point of effectiveness is the same for each weapon: training.


You need to be as one with your weapon and know it inside and out…all of its capabilities primarily as a weapon and secondly as a tool.  Your life may one day depend on mastery of the weapon.  It may be all you have.  There is no substitute for proper training.  You can have the best equipment in the world but without the ability to employ it?


When the SHTF, you may just have gathered up those supplies for someone who knows how to use them…and will take them away from you.

My preference is to have a tomahawk strapped to the outside of my rucksack…a backup weapon that could be turned into a tool if needed, and my primary is a set (no less than 3) throwing knives…Hibbens being my blades of choice, nd on my person.  Whatever your choice…tomahawk or knife…become and expert with it.  There is no substitute for training to expert standards.  You must set the standard for yourself, and the life you save first may well be your own.  JJ out!

Jeremiah Johnson is the Nom de plume of a retired Green Beret of the United States Army Special Forces (Airborne). Mr. Johnson was a Special Forces Medic, EMT and ACLS-certified, with comprehensive training in wilderness survival, rescue, and patient-extraction. He is a Certified Master Herbalist and a graduate of the Global College of Natural Medicine of Santa Ana, CA. A graduate of the U.S. Army’s survival course of SERE school (Survival Evasion Resistance Escape), Mr. Johnson also successfully completed the Montana Master Food Preserver Course for home-canning, smoking, and dehydrating foods.

Mr. Johnson dries and tinctures a wide variety of medicinal herbs taken by wild crafting and cultivation, in addition to preserving and canning his own food. An expert in land navigation, survival, mountaineering, and parachuting as trained by the United States Army, Mr. Johnson is an ardent advocate for preparedness, self-sufficiency, and long-term disaster sustainability for families. He and his wife survived Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. Cross-trained as a Special Forces Engineer, he is an expert in supply, logistics, transport, and long-term storage of perishable materials, having incorporated many of these techniques plus some unique innovations in his own homestead.

Mr. Johnson brings practical, tested experience firmly rooted in formal education to his writings and to our team. He and his wife live in a cabin in the mountains of Western Montana with their three cats.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Originally published August 4th, 2017
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  • David Maneely

    As a bushcrafter, I think this is a moot question and therefore a moot article. Either your quite ignorant, or just enjoy hearing yourself talk. Anyone who’s spent a good deal of time in the wilderness knows there is no ” one tool option”, but that different tools work best for different tasks. Also, equating combat weapons with general or work tools is like apples and oranges. Being a combat veteran, the idea of carrying throwing knives in a combat situation is pure silliness! They can be deadly by a highly skilled thrower, no doubt, but after reading your articles regarding combat, its obvious you are an armchair commando! During combat, several physiological things occur to your body. Adrenaline kicks in, blood recedes from your extremities towards your core to protect you i n a fight or flight response. Because of this response, many of the martial arts and combat skills practiced in a non combat situation do not work as well or at all! So considering all the fine motor skills involved in throwing knives, they are just a ninja pipedream. Throwing at a target is quite different than attempting to kill a moving target at a distance that is charging you at a high rate of speed with intent to end your life! Your articles have some good info, but stick to what you know, and combat isn’t it!

    • Will Danner

      “Being a combat veteran, the idea of carrying throwing knives in a combat situation is pure silliness!”

      Yeah, maybe when you’re not doing LIC’s or in a large unit governed by the “British Regimental System” of thought…endless orders and chains-of-command. I was in ‘Nam for four tours, and they do work. So do throwing axes.

      I personally think you’re an idiot, and the only thing you ever killed while in (if you were in) was time. Poc Mahon, Maneely, and go back to your little games in the woods of bushcraft and reading about field medicine. You’re a REMF.

      CSM (Ret) Will Danner,
      1st SFG (Abn) 1971-1986

      • David Maneely

        Respect for your service. I was just an infantry grunt, who experienced enough for long enough that if I’d had a chance to be a REMF, you can bet I would’ve been, my body would probably thank me now. I don’t do stolen valor. The valor belongs to my friends that died.
        Cpl. David Maneely
        1st Mar Div 1/7, 2/7
        1990-1998

  • richardstevenhack

    The big problem with tomahawks, particularly those with a spike on the side opposite the blade, is that they are almost as dangerous to the user as they are to an enemy.

    First, using a tomahawk as a wood-cutting tool is dangerous because the blade is relatively small in length and thus can cause missing the target with possible injury to the legs. Chopping your femoral artery in the wilderness is a relatively fast way to die.

    Using a machete or a kukri with a larger blade length makes it harder to miss your target. If you’re not chopping large trees or large logs for making a permanent shelter or large amounts of firewood, an axe simply isn’t necessary. A good machete or large chopping knife will function just as well for lesser tasks.

    Second, people just training with these spiked tomahawks have injured themselves. Who ever thought pounding with a device which has a spike pointed at the face while doing so was a good idea should be shot. Tomahawks with a hammer on the other end are a bit safer.

    Third, tomahawks are mostly for people with “Roger’s Rangers” fixations. While they are useful in close quarter combat where their reach is longer than a fighting knife, for anyone not in the military they are mostly useless. You can’t easily carry them in the real world for self-defense and they’re too dangerous to use in a survival setting as indicated above.

    There are those who recommend an ax or hatchet for use in the North where there are more hardwood trees and a machete in the South for softwood trees. But again, unless you’re making a permanent shelter or need to process large amounts of firewood quickly, a machete or kukri will cut most trees of usable size as well as an axe and be much easier to carry and much safer. If you need an axe for a permanent camp, cache one there.

    For survivalists, a folding knife, a hunting knife, and a large chopper blade are optimum.

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