Were tactical tomahawks ever issued to the military as a weapon?

I just received my copy of the Nov. issue of Knives Illustrated which will be on the newstands the first of October. Check it out.


My article is "Tomahawks as Tactical Weapons".  I explored the Vietnam Tomahawk issue with a former LRRP Ranger who was there from 1968 to 1969.  I would like some feedback from this group about the subject of are tomahawks

For instance, I have a Navy Seal friend of 18 years service as a Seal and retired from the Navy with over 20 years service.  He told me he never seen or heard of any Navy Seal carrying a tomahawk in those 18 years.  This was what the LRRP Ranger of Vietnam era told me as well.  Yes I believe tomahawks were carried in Vietnam and could have been carried in every conflict we were involved in.  However, they were never standard issue and when issued were used as a tool and not a weapon.  So buy the magazine, read my article and give me some input.

If you were ever in any military special operations unit who was issued a tomahawk, please let me know by way of this form.

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Comment by Terry Waldele on January 7, 2012 at 22:55


Thanks so much for the information you provided me.  Apparently, the knife salesman I spoke to steered me wrong.  Oh well, I guess a SOG Flash would be useful, serrated or not.  You and others have commented on various knife forums how unconscionable it is that our troops have to buy their own combat knives and bayonets, unless people like you find ways to provide them with those vitally necessary tools and weapons.  Like other folks, it really gauls me to know how much our government spends on providing troops, ordnance and supplies to our "allies," but won't provide needed basic equipment to our own warriors.

Thanks again.


Comment by Clint Thompson on January 7, 2012 at 15:27


The Geneva Convention would cover serrated bladed bayonet and not combat knives.  A combat knife would fall in the tool and not weapon category.  So a serrated combat knife would be ok.  I saw many serrated combat knives in Iraq which the owners purchased themselves.  They sold them in the military PX.  The reason bayonets are not commonly used in the US military is they are not issued to all troops.  The only troops in Kosovo and in Iraq I saw with a bayonet....I gave it to them.

The military does not issue combat knives either.  If you wanted a combat knife you had to buy it yourself.  The M-4 bayonet generally weights about the same as a good sturdy combat knife.  If you run out and buy a good bayonet it will cost you $100 +.  I don't know of any soldier who wants to pay for their own bayonet....but I bet there is some out there.  Many of the troops have to buy their own extra M9 mags, mag holders and holsters.

Our government has a ways to go to properly equip our troops with the smaller things like pistol mags, knives and the like.


Comment by Terry Waldele on January 7, 2012 at 2:52


I just read some of your comments on this thread and was particular interested in your comments about the use of bayonets by our troops.  If I understand you correctly, bayonets are not commonly used by our troops.  I surmise this is true because bayonets not as versatile as combat knives are probably heavier than most combat knives, although I could be wrong on this.  I have a question about knives that are carried by our troops, that maybe you know the answer to.  When my nephew's son joined the Marines, I gave him a SOG Flash with a plain, unserrated blade.  I had thought about giving him the Flash with a serrated blade, but the knife salesman told me the Geneva Convention prohibits serrated blades on knives carried in battle.  Can you tell me if he gave me good advice or not?  Thanks in advance for any information you can provide me.


Comment by Jan Carter on September 18, 2011 at 13:56
WOW...Great information gentlemen. A lot of research and very interesting information
Comment by Clint Thompson on September 14, 2011 at 23:30


Thanks for the effort.  As it states the VTAC is "Class 9 rescue kit”.  Now if the Stryker units commandeer the Hawks from the kits and convert them for CQC then good for them.  I would love to get a first hand account of one of our hero's dispatching a dirt-bag with one of these VTAC.  I have several people who were in the Rangers or SF or Seals contacting their buds in arms looking for someone who has carried a Hawk, full-time, whether issued or personally bought.  So far in the last ten months no results.  However, I am not giving up.  the National Stock Number is just a way the Government catalogs the items they accept from vendors.  Many edged weapons/tools are listed.  When they are listed there is a guideline which sets out the intended use of the product.  If a Colonel of one Ranger Unit want Hawks all around for his troops then he or she can just order them.  If they did or will in the future the VTAC would be a good choice.  MSRP is $129.95 each.  My guess the Government would get them for about $70 each.  A Colonel can command up to 1,500 troops so at $70 each the price tag would be $105,000.  I would love to see this happen for just one Ranger unit but my guess it will never happen.  Thanks again Rick.

Comment by Clint Thompson on September 14, 2011 at 11:16


I never heard Napoleon had said this but rings true to me.  Yea I had all my soldier buddies stand and get their picture with the knife I passed on to them from the donator. Standing for a picture holding the Hawk and carrying it up and down the mountains with the 60+ pounds of required gear is two different things.  Don was right in saying the Hawk is just too much weight.  The military body armor is thick and heavy.  Add the 8+ thirty round magazines, pistol and extra magazines, M-4, med kit, backpack etc. and you are huffing and puffing up and down the trail.  From my personal experience, the Hawk just does not carry well with all this gear. (SOG Hawk tested in Iraq by SF buddies)  Your pistol is carried slung low because of the ballistic vest stick out and would conflict anything carried at the belt level.  Add in getting in and out of the military vehicles like the Humvee, the damn thing will beat and poke you to drive you crazy....or in my case crazier.  The SF guys used the SOG Hawk in camp and carried in their rucksack.  The Hawk was not their normal gear but they carried these to help SOG and I to evaluate their Hawk.  The SOG Tactical Hawk of today is what came out of these evaluations.  SOG was very interested and acted quickly to our suggestions.  SOG has some real good people working for them.

As for where the Hawk started in North America could be debated.  But the everyday Hawk carried by the Native Americans which were traded to them in the 1600's by the French and then the British is the Great Grandpappy of our tactical tomahawks of today.  The naval boarding axes were just that...and ax.  The French were trading cheap little axes to keep the cost of business down. Nothing changes over the centuries.  The Native Americans took this cheap little ax, customized it to their use and voila (French roughly "there you are") the tomahawk. The name given to the little ax by the main users was "tomahawk" which was a derivation of the Algonquian words "tamahak" or "tamahakan".  I can't speak Algonquian but my bet is the loose translation into modern urban English would be "cool war club".  Algonquian was spoken by many different tribes like the Mohegan , Pequot, Narragansett and Wampanoag.

In Memoriam
Comment by Robert Burris on September 14, 2011 at 10:36
I checked with some of my buddies, that served in Vietnam, and none of them had any and none every saw any hawks. They used machettes, that some would modify in a mechanic shop. I had one friend that was a chopper mechanic and he said he shorten a few for some soldiers in the shop. Its funny, I was curious myself.
Comment by Clint Thompson on September 14, 2011 at 9:34

Rick your the Man!  Thanks for the research and articles.  However, interesting and romantic as they are I still have not found a single soldier, retired or otherwise, who carried a tomahawk to be used other than a tool.  I have not even found a single soldier who carried one or had one available for use as a tool.  I know their out there but I have not found one....yet.  If any soldier in world would be wild enough to carry a tomahawk to be used as a weapon....it would be an American. 

Now by saying American I include Canadians as well as we are all North Americans.  I worked with them in Kosovo (Kosova) and they are every bit as good as we are and just as gung-ho.

Now Don brings up an interesting point about the Geneva Convention.  However, a standard combat knife falls outside of the Geneva Convention as do bayonet (from French baïonnette) if designed within the limits.  A side point since I brought the French into this.  Historically the French have been given the credit of introducing the steel tomahawk into North America as a trading product.  The crafty North American residences converted it to the tool/weapon it is today.  These residence I speak of were masterful in the use of the Hawk as a weapon.

Since I talked about a bayonet I can say while in Iraq I never saw an example the two years I was there except the one sent to me by a manufacture.  The retail price on this bayonet was around $110.00.  Way outside of the price range of the average GI.  I evaluated this bayonet and then gave it to a deserving young soldier who was planning on making a career of the Army.  It came to mind of the Billions of dollars we spend on our Military, the best in the World, and we can't provide a $50 K-BAR for use in combat?

While up in Northern Iraq....doing what I do......I fell in with a small unit of SF and a small unit of regular soldiers.  For two Christmas seasons I asked for donations from red blooded American knife companies to be given out to the troops as presents.  Many, not all, sent sizable amounts of items of the cutting nature to be given out.  I average about 145 knives each Christmas.  I applaud these companies such as K-BAR, SOG, Benchmade, Pro-Tech, Spyderco, Kershaw, Gerber, CRKT and what use to be Lone Wolf now a part of Benchmade, good people all.  That is why I mainly write about these brands as they showed me who are the Patriots and who are not.

Comment by Jan Carter on September 13, 2011 at 20:04


I have no knowledge of this but in reading this information I find it interesting that we would send troops into a war zone and give them even a simple knife.  Just seems a little short sighted to me 

Comment by Clint Thompson on September 13, 2011 at 16:48

Thanks Rick.  The two years I was in Kosovo as a UN Police Officer I worked with many Rangers.  None of these Rangers ever had a Hawk.  I have a personal friend who was a Ranger and he says he never had a Hawk issued.  I was in Iraq for over two years and worked with Rangers who were without Hawks or even a combat knife.  If they wanted a knife or Hawk they had to purchase the tools themselves. 


Now if you knew a supply Sgt. and he was not too restricted...you could wrangle up a Benchmade Stryker auto.  In fact I found one of the Benchmade Stryker's in the black market in As Sulaymaniyah.  The blade tip had been broken off.  I bought it and sent same to Benchmade who repaired it for me.

Being a curious type and writing articles from these countries, I would ask the SF guys, Delta and Rangers if they were issued a combat knife.  They all said no....they buy them themselves.  I never thought to ask if they were issued a Hawk.  Thanks for the info Rick.

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