While a trusty knife may be a staple in the kit of anyone who goes into harm’s way, those who are in the business of thinning the ranks of the enemy have long carried another ancient tool at their side, the tomahawk. So when the well-known knife company Benchmade released their 172 Killian Forged Tomahawk Axe into an already well saturated market, it needed to be more than a pretty shelf-piece with a well-known name to separate itself from the herd.
Although it has many well-crafted features, there are a couple of things that it is NOT. It is not a hatchet, so it is not going to split wood or drive tent stakes with ease. It is not a battle-axe, so it will not cleave limbs or slice meat. Then what is it? Well, it’s a balanced measure of both.
Forged from 4140 steel, the Benchmade 172 Killian Forged Tomahawk Axe has a spike at one end and a dull edged “blade” at the other. At the base of the handle is a pry-claw. This ‘hawk comes out of the package as a balance between a highly functional tool that doubles as a highly effective weapon. Both of these applications were put to the test using the ‘hawk to cleave an assortment of bones from a deer (a femur, a shoulder-blade, and a skull), as well as chopping branches off of a tree of approximately the same size one would use for building a shelter or making a spear.
As you can see in the pictures it accomplished both of these tasks quite well. The femur was shattered in a single swing, where the skull and shoulder-blade were pierced cleanly, with at least 1.5 inches of penetration. The branches only took a few minutes of chopping to fall, and while the ends may not have been the smoothest cuts, they would function in an emergency scenario. It also drives stakes and acts as an acceptable hammer if you turn in onto the side of the blade, similar to the way you would use the claw at the base. Don’t expect your hawk to look quite as beat-down as this bad-boy, since this one has been painted and beaten, used and abused, and painted again with hundreds of miles on it. That in itself is a testament to the longevity of the ‘hawk. But they come out of the box all black and with that “new-mall-ninja” smell.
The most noticeable shortcoming is Benchmade’s choice of sheath. The original design is a dismal, flimsy kydex-nylon hybrid that neither holds the ‘hawk securely nor attaches to a ruck/vest securely. Everything just kind of flops around, so it was quickly discarded. While the lack of a well-designed sheath is problematic, there are a variety of aftermarket companies that can make you up a nice kydex clamshell or leather drop in. The G10 scales offer excellent traction both wet and dry, but have a tendency to eat up bare hands, so a set of gloves are almost a must to use the hawk all day.
At an MSRP of $385, the Benchmade 172 Killian Forged Tomahawk Axe is one of the more expensive “field use” tomahawks on the market. However, it’s worth every penny in performance and durability versus some of the $50-$70 gun store specials. Overall, I think it is an excellent option for someone looking for something to use and abuse, rather than store on the shelf and look pretty.