A tomahawk, similar to a hatchet, is a light ax originally used by Native Americans for hunting, cutting and as a weapon. This multi-purpose tool has been around for centuries and just like the materials it’s made of, its uses have evolved over time.
While it is still used for hunting and cutting among other things, it’s now used for recreational purposes as well. So whether you’re a prepper, a hunter, or just someone with an interest in axes, consider this guide on how to throw a tomahawk your new favorite resource.
Who Can Throw A Tomahawk and How Do They Prepare?
Tomahawk throwing is something anyone can learn how to do. Other than keeping safety first and having proper form, there are no extreme special requirements. An additional bonus – once you’ve mastered throwing a tomahawk, you can apply those basics to throwing similar axes, such as a hatchet.
Now, something to keep in mind before you begin tomahawk throwing practice is choosing the right one for yourself. There are many different types out there with different handle lengths, weights and other details. Handles typically range from 14 inches to 20 inches and weight is usually in the half-pound to three-pound range.
For beginners, it’s best to start with a light weight tomahawk. As you gain more experience, you can opt to use a heavier one if you prefer. Also remember to choose one with your reach and height in mind. This will help you have better stance and balance as you begin throwing.
Another factor to consider when choosing the right tomahawk is the handle length. The length needs to fit your reach because the length can affect your throw.
Places to Practice and What to Use as A Target
Your backyard is a great place to start. If you don’t have a yard, try a clearing out in the woods somewhere or in another open space, away from people. When throwing tomahawks, or any ax for that matter, you want to make sure you are a safe distance away from other people so no injuries occur.
For target practice, try using tree rounds or thick pieces of wood stacked high enough for you and secured so they don’t fall.
Using older wood might be best, because you want it to be soft enough for the tomahawk to cut into and stick. Usually a dead tree stump or tree round, 4 to 6 inches in diameter and mounted on a stand of some sort will work just fine.
Proper Throwing Stance and Grip
When it comes to stance, ignore what you’ve seen in movies or read in fictional books. This is important. You should be standing upright, with your feet side by side. Tomahawk throwing stance is similar to the stance you’d use when throwing a ball. Next, you want to grip the handle of the tomahawk like you would grip a hammer.
Make sure your thumb is placed on the side of the handle and the rest of your fingers are wrapped around the handle. The placement of your thumb probably sounds trivial, but it’s actually very important because it affects the spin of the ‘hawk when you throw it. Something as simple as placing your thumb on the back of the handle instead of the side can make for a bad throw.
As a beginner keep in mind, your first concern should be the speed of your throw and how powerful it is. So when you extend your arms toward your target, they need to be raised straight. Try not to bend your shoulders. Also, try not to focus too much on whether or not you hit your target starting out. It’s ok to miss because your primary concerns are speed and power. Accuracy will come later, the more you practice.
This Is How You Do it
You’ve found the perfect location, chosen the right ‘hawk, the right target, and your stance and grip are on point. Naturally, the next step is throwing.
Follow these steps to make your first throw:
- Standing directly in front of your target, take about 5-8 paces backwards from it. Make a line in the dirt as you go. This is your throwing line. The ‘hawk should make a revolution along that line when thrown, until it reaches your target.
- Make sure you position yourself properly and the blade is facing your target. Your feet should be positioned like a pitcher’s. So your foot opposite of your throwing arm should be forward.
- Make sure you’re holding the ‘hawk handle at the base. Don’t grip the middle or towards the top of the handle. This is important for release.
- As you get ready to throw, raise the ‘hawk straight back (the blade should be pointing down, towards the ground) and throw it straight forward, in the direction of your target. Make sure you don’t raise it too quickly though, so that you don’t lose control of it. Losing control will make you release it too quickly.
- Like throwing anything else, be sure to follow-through with your arm. Make sure your wrist remains locked as well.
Practice Makes Perfect and Additional Tips
As previously mentioned, it’s totally fine to miss a few times. The more times you try, the better you’ll get. However, each time you attempt a throw make a mental note of what you’re doing wrong or what you think might be wrong.
If the tomahawk isn’t going far enough, you might be gripping the handle incorrectly, which would affect both the speed and power of your throws. If your throws are going the distance but not sticking in the wood, you might need to try using a different, softer target or readjust your stance to get more force behind your throws.
Another way to improve your throwing skills is to have a more experienced thrower observe you as you practice a few times. They’ll be able to tell you what you need to do to improve, without you even having to think about it.
If your throws are off-track, one of the more obvious reasons could be because your aim is off. As you’re preparing to throw, you want to make sure the blade of the ‘hawk is perfectly perpendicular to your target-stop. Even if the blade is slightly off, it will result in an inaccurate throw.
To get your aim right, try loosening your grip a bit to let the ‘hawk fall a little. Make sure you don’t let it go completely. When you loosen and let it fall, gravity will do its part in naturally straightening it out since it’s a top heavy object.
Another thing you can try is practicing your swings before releasing. This will help you determine if you have the right motion behind your throws. Let your arm fall to your side naturally. The blade should not be aimed toward your leg (obviously) or completely aimed out away from you.
It should be parallel to your leg. If it’s not, just loosen your grip a little and rotate the handle a bit. This will ensure it’s positioned properly. Once you have that set, you can begin practicing your swings.
Also remember, throwing a tomahawk accurately is not in your wrist. It’s in your arm. Using your wrist to get a good throw will only put stress on it which may lead to an injury. It’ll also make for a bad throw. The power, speed and accuracy primarily depend on the swing of your arm, distance away from your target-stop and proper positioning of the tomahawk in your hand.
On to Bigger and Better Things
Once you’re comfortable with your throwing skill level, you might become interested in ways you can meet others with a ‘hawk throwing interest. It’s only natural to want to be around others with a shared interest.
This is also a great way to help you continue improving. You’ll be able to share tips, advice and learn more about different types of tomahawks. Or maybe you’re interested in competitions and contests.
Whatever the case may be, there are places you can go aside from your backyard or out in the woods to practice and test your abilities against others. Similar to gun ranges and archery ranges, there are tomahawk and axe throwing ranges. And similar to shooting competitions, there are throwing competitions.
Tomahawk Throwing Ranges
They do exist and they are a lot more common than you may have thought. Some are exclusively for axe throwing and others are all around target practice ranges. Additionally, some offer classes. So if you still are not quite sure you’ve got the hang of it, you would be able to receive expert guidance.
A lot of the general target ranges train all participants in tomahawk and axe throwing, regardless of skill level. Once you are comfortable and throwing correctly, they will even guide you in having a competition. So not only do you get to improve your ability, you actually get to put your new skill to the test as well.
While tomahawk throwing isn’t much of an organized sport, there are some national throwing competitions. If competing on a large scale isn’t your thing, you can always get a group of friends or family together and have your own friendly competition in a safe, open area. Or at a range.
As for the national competitions, International Knife Throwers Hall of Fame hosts several events. They actually have a world championship each year dedicated to tomahawk throwing. So if you feel like you’re practiced enough and ready to display your skills on a larger level, this is worth looking into.
Match Your ‘Hawk with Your Skill
Before you venture out into competitions and other events to further test your ability, make sure you have the correct tomahawk to match your improving skill level. As stated before, there are several types out there.
Even though your throwing abilities may have improved, the basics of choosing the correct one remain the same – keep your height and reach in mind. There are two types of tomahawks – tactical and throwing.
The tactical tomahawk is made for specific reasons, with a specific end. This version is primarily for recreational use, as well as military. It’s used as a multipurpose tool for things such as mountain scaling, chopping wood to build tents and other common outdoor uses.
Then there’s the throwing tomahawk. This is the one you would use for competitions and throwing practice. They are specifically made and optimized for throwing, instead of other uses like camping. So for the purpose of learning how to throw or competing, you would want to select a throwing tomahawk of course.
As you become more advanced with throwing, here’s a few things you might start to pay more attention to when selecting the right ‘hawk:
- Blade Head Shape. There are three main types of heads. There’s single, double, and single or double with a spike/flat back. There’s actually a few more types out there. But those are really the main ones. The ideal type for throwing is the double-headed type because having two heads increases your chance of making contact with your target-stop.
- Length of the Handle. This is something you should already be paying attention to anyway. Remember, height and reach. So just to add to those basics – a longer handle makes for better leverage for common uses like chopping wood and can provide more swinging force. But shorter handles are ideal for throwing because they provide better precision, which leads to more accurate throwing. Shorter handles also allow you to throw at longer distances.
- Weight of the ‘Hawk. This is obvious but I’ll say it anyway – lighter weights are better for speed. Since you’re practicing throwing, that means a light weight ‘hawk will be better for you than a heavier one. Heavier ones fall more under the tactical ‘hawk category.
Are You Ready Yet?
Now you know where to practice, how to swing, what to do to improve, how to choose the right tomahawk and what you’ll be able to do with your new skill. All that’s left is for you to put these words into action. You’re on your way to becoming an expert in throwing tomahawks and other precision weapons too.
See our must-read piece on how to choose the best tactical tomahawk to learn more.