What is a hatchet and what is an axe? Are they different from each other or are they one and the same thing? What are their similarities? How do you pick out the best tactical hatchet? Bottom line is that they are two different tools and although very similar in appearance, they are actually very unique in design and serve different purposes and needs.
Axes and hatchets are basically wood chopping tools and the very concept behind them has been around for centuries. Because they are very similar in appearance, it is very easy to think that they are interchangeable when in fact they are quite different.
Before we go any further into the comparisons and contrasting of these two tools, it is important to first have a general idea what they are. On the surface of it all, one might say there is the regular axe that we all know, there is the tactical axe or hand axe used in camping and tactical missions, and then there is the tactical hatchet.
The regular axe is designed to be wielded with both hands in order to deliver maximum striking force and, as a result, they are more suited to felling trees, splitting firewood and other related tasks. However, they are too big to carry around.
The hand axe is also like the regular axe but a lot smaller and it is designed to be used with just one hand. The hand axe is an intermediate between the regular axe and the hatchet but they are closer to the hatchet in terms of application and design.
A hatchet can be considered as a smaller, one-handed axe. As a result of its smaller size, it requires less space and can be easily carried anywhere during your missions, trips or hikes.
Generally you can use any of these tools interchangeably but their efficiency will vary drastically depending on the job you’re trying to accomplish. So it is important to know their differences, applications and limitations.
Size of shaft
This is the most obvious difference between the axe and the hatchet. The hand axe is about two-thirds the length of the regular axe and the hatchet is even smaller, measuring roughly half the size of the hand axe. These variations in shaft length account for the differences in cutting angles and leverage during chopping.
The head of the hatchet is narrower when compared to an axe, and it also has a smaller body and larger cutting blade. Hatchets also sometimes come equipped with a hammer head for special purposes, whereas there is never such provisions made for axes.
As a result of size, the camping axe head will generally weigh about twice as much as the hatchet head and this variation in head weight accounts for their unique applications. The hatchet is more suited for lightweight chopping and the axe can handle heavier jobs.
The shafts of hatchets are mostly designed to curve forward whereas that of the hand axes are mostly at right angles to the head itself. Also it is common to find metallic shafts in hatchets and almost never on hand axes.
Also by virtue of the size of hatchets, they are more portable when compared to axes. They can also easily be carried in holsters and pockets whereas axes are a bit more bulky and cumbersome. Hatchets also tend to weigh less than axes do though this is not always the case.
Now that you are well versed with the various differences and similarities of the axe and the hatchet, we can proceed to look at the two tools, their uses, how to pick the best ones, and the things to look out for.
For an outdoor enthusiast, having a tactical axe or hatchet is a necessity and there are quite a lot of different kinds out there, so you need to carefully research these things before making an informed decision. The most important thing is that you need an axe that can withstand a lot of abuse.
Why do you need a hatchet or an axe? Considering how bulky a regular axe is, a hatchet is a very suitable, less bulky alternative to help you chop wood. And as we all know chopping wood is essential for building make shift structures, keeping a camp fire going to provide warmth and light.
Hatchets being scaled down versions of axes are more compact and lightweight and they make your life in the outdoors so much easier.
There are some other uses of the hatchet besides chopping wood. It can also be used to split wood, and chop down small branches. Outside of wood applications, you can use your hatchet to cut down and chop up game caught for dinner. It will cut through bones and joints easily and separate limbs from the body. Also, the hammer included on hatchets can be used to secure tent pegs in place, as well as other tasks.
Important Things to Look Out for
You can’t have the ultimate hatchet that has all the advantages and no disadvantages but there are some important things you must look out for that will make for a very good hatchet.
- Price: the pricier ones are more durable and last longer. The cheaper ones will save you money in the short run but they can’t go all the way.
- Rust-proof: go for a stainless steel blade. Many hatchet blades are already thick and rough, so rust is not much of an issue.
- Sheath: the quality of the sheath is important for safety reasons when carrying and keeping the hatchet in storage.
- Handle type: go with a wooden handle, as they absorb more vibrations when chopping. They are also easily replaceable when they come loose, although it might be best to replace the axe completely.
These things are just a few things to look out for as there are many more important factors to consider. Some of the best axes and hatchets will be reviewed below and this should help you make a decision.
Top Survival Hatchets
Sog Specialty Knives F01TN-CP Tactical Tomahawk
- Blade length: 2.75 inches
- Overall length: 15.75 inches
- Weight: 24 ounces
- Product dimensions: 18 x 11.5 x 3 inches
- Very versatile for breaching, extraction and excavation.
- Ballistic nylon sheath with snap closure and belt loop attachment
- Non slip grip
- Glass reinforced nylon handle
Description: Sog Specialty Knives F01TN-CP Tactical Tomahawk is very versatile and it has been designed for applications such as breaching, excavation, removing obstacles and various other utility applications. Its 420 stainless steel build with its fine black finish, the axe blade is equipped to deal with corrosion and impact stress and thus gives it so much durability.
This tool has a lot of features blended into it and it is multifaceted as a result. With its blunt edge, it can be used as a hammer, its chiseled edge makes it suitable for extraction. The handle also comes with a non-slip grip that makes it a very excellent fit in your hands.
Cold Steel Rifleman’s Hawk American Hickory Handle
- Blade length: 3.5 inches
- Overall length: 22 inches
- Weight: 2.3 pounds
- Product dimensions: 8 x 4 x 4 inches.
- American hickory handle
- Drop forged 1055 carbon steel
- Lightweight design
Description: Cold Steel Rifleman’s Hawk American Hickory Handle is constructed heavy duty with a drop forged 1055 carbon steel with an added hammer pommel on its head. The handle is made out of tough American hickory wood. Overall this tool is excellent.
Its lightweight, razor sharp head and pommel makes it the ideal companion for your hunting and camping trip. The head of this tomahawk is so tough and versatile it can split wood and hammer nails down easily and quickly. The pommel can also be used to baton wood and dent metal sheets.
American hickory is a very good fit for this tomahawk as it is very shock resistant and it features a sturdy structure that will provide you with an evenly balanced grip.
Fiskars Consumer Prod 78506935 14-Inch Hatchet
- Blade length: N/A
- Overall length: 14 inches
- Weight: 1.4 pounds
- Product dimensions 16.6 x 5.8 x 1.1 inches
- Low friction blade coating that prevents it getting stuck in
- Non-slip grip
- Sheath included to protect blade
- Shock absorbing Dura frame handle
- Excellent balance and power weight ratio
Description: Fiskars Consumer Prod 78506935 14-Inch Hatchetis a lightweight axe at just over a pound with most of its weight concentrated on its head. It is lightweight as a result of the hollow handle design and it comes with a little carry cars. Its blade is razor sharp and it has a little bit of a hammer had.
Because they are small you can also take them and choke up on it by bringing your fingers a little closer to the blade and using the axe as you would a knife. This gives you better control for tasks such as scraping and carving.
The weight distribution and blade geometry is excellent and with its unbreakable design, it maximizes performance. This makes it better at chopping and gives it better blade penetration.
Estwing E45A 26-Inch Camper’s Axe
- Blade length: 4 inches
- Overall length: 26 inches
- Weight: 3.8 pounds
- Product dimensions: 26 x 7 x 1 inches
- Forged steel with patented shock reduction grip
- Heavy duty nylon sheath
Description: Estwing E45A 26-Inch Camper’s Axe is lightweight but tough at the same time. It is ideal for camping, hunting and farm use. With its forged steel head and patented shock reduction grip, it cuts deeper and faster into wood. You won’t have any complaints when you use this axe for felling, trimming trees or splitting and chopping wood.
With its one piece forging, it eliminates loose heads. This is one of the most durable, comfortable and attractive axe you will find in the market.
Gerber Gator Combo Axe II
- Blade length: 2.7 inches
- Overall length: 15.6 inches
- Weight: 2.7 pounds
- Product dimensions: 18.5 x 7.2 x 1.9 inches
- Saw length: 10.24 inches
- Saw blade length: 6.10 inches
- Glass filled nylon handle
- Gator grip handle
- Longer handle for extra striking power
- Forged steel head for edge retention
- Saw as extra tool with magnetic hold
Description: Gerber Gator Combo Axe II is a longer handle version of the popular short handled gator. You get extra striking force with this longer handle and it makes for an excellent addition to your camping gear.
With the gator texturing for better grip, there’s a lot of shock absorption going on to ensure that you don’t feel the impact of striking as much as you would.
The handle is glass nylon filled which is very rugged and lightweight at the same time. One amazing feature of this axe is the extra saw which you can fit in its handle and held firmly in place by an internal magnet. This makes this axe multifunctional and this is where it gets its name from, a combo of an axe and a saw.
Cold Steel Trench Hawk Axe
- Blade length: 3.5 inches
- Overall length: 19 inches
- Weight: 1.5 pounds
- Product dimensions: 19 x 8 x 2 inches
- Polypropylene handle
- Drop forged 1055 carbon steel
- Handle highly resistant to shock and impact
- Patented secure ex sheath design
- Cutting edge and wedge shaped spike
Description: Tactical black styled tomahawk with synthetic handles. Cold Steel Trench Hawk Axe is perfect for use in confined spaces like trenches, bunkers, and alleys. Drop forged from 5150 carbon steel with differential hardening, the head of the axe can withstand a huge amount of stress.
The handle is also designed to absorb a lot of shock and will still stand strong even in the hardest of abuse that would easily damage even a tough hickory handle. It also comes in a secure ex-sheath that is neatly designed to cover your blade securely.
TEKTON 3284 20-Ounce 14-Inch Fiberglass Camp Axe
- Blade length: N/A
- Overall length: 14 inches
- Weight: 2.1 pounds
- Product dimensions: 14.00 x 5.50 x 1.25 Inches
- Fully polished finish
- Forged and heat treated steel head
- Rugged poly jacket to protect handle
- Soft non slip rubber grip
- Multipurpose head
Description: TEKTON 3284 20-Ounce 14-Inch Fiberglass Camp Axe is another excellent companion for your camping, hiking and outdoor adventures. It has a compact design, lightweight handle made out of a super durable, weather proof fiberglass. Its non-slip rubber grip ergonomically designed to fit perfectly in your hands will prevent strain and injury during use.
Axes and hatchets offer you more options in any outdoor scenario when compared to knives. With axes and hatchets, you can easily split and chop wood and tree branches more quickly, speeding up your camp and outdoor activities. Having the right tool with you is essential and can make a huge difference so it is important to pack prepared.
One very important aspect of hatchets and axes is safety. To protect yourself and others around you against any harm you need to follow all the safety guidelines. Some important ones will be mentioned below;
- Make sure your blade is very sharp. This is very important when cutting or chopping wood. A dull blade will only lead to strains and injuries as you will be expending way more energy than you should to get the job done.
- Whenever you are chopping wood, never hold it in your hands. Place the wood on a surface and chop.
- Whenever you are no longer using your hatchet, carefully place it in its sheath and keep it out of sight and reach of children. Don’t just slam the blade into a tree or a block of wood as this presents a tripping hazard.
- Make sure your immediate vicinity is clear when you are chopping wood. You don’t want to be surrounded by people when chopping and they should all keep a considerable distance away from you in every direction.
- Always have a first aid kit ready to go for emergencies. If you abide by these safety precautions, you are good to go and well equipped for the best experience.
Whatever your choice of outdoor adventure, be it regular camping, backpacking or hiking, you absolutely need a very good hatchet as part of your survival gear. Outside of the regular outdoor activities, this tool can also be carried along for hunting trips and tactical military missions.
This tool has been very reliable to its users time and time again and it has evolved over the years in terms of design and durability to meet today’s specific needs.
There are various kinds of hatchets, axes and tomahawks available today and it can be very difficult to make a choice. It is very helpful to have a narrowed down list of the best quality ones such as the ones in this article. Whichever one is your favorite and whichever suits you the most, you are surely going to get the best out of it and we hope that we have made it a little easier for you to decide.