Tomahawk vs Hatchet – What Is The Difference?

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Many people tend to get confused about the differences between a hatchet and a tomahawk. In some ways, it makes sense to be slightly confused by them. However, there are some big differences to keep in mind too. The question is which one is better for you?

To understand this, you should likely consider your specific needs. For example, a hatchet, or hand axe, is essentially just a smaller axe. it doesn’t have a long handle like an axe but serves some of the same purposes. Axes, hatchets, and tomahawks are all similar in some ways, yet a tomahawk is a completely different instrument that can be effective as a tool, weapon for self-defense, and survival instrument.

Axes and hatchets are great to take on a camping trip or even to have around your home. They’re perfect for cutting down small trees, cutting up firewood, or breakthrough numerous other things. They are extremely useful.

However, to properly understand each one, we should dive into some world history a bit.

The Hatchet


Hatchets of today have drastically altered over the years, but for the most part they have some similarities to their original form. The originals were quite literally just cut down versions of the normal axes already in use.

They were first used by the original Germanic Tribe. This is the same group of people that fought against the likes of Rome and Julius Caesar. Eventually, these Germanic tribes began to spread out across Europe with the most notable version of them being the infamous Vikings.

The term originates from Middle English and French. The Old French word it comes from is “hachete.” Meanwhile, in Middle English, a hatchet was what one called a battle axe.

The Vikings, as well as other warriors, used hatchets often as one strike weapons, often using them as their version of throwing axes. In war, they came in very handy on the water and especially the battlefield.

Hatchets, like many axes, tend to be top-heavy as their blade is quite large. This can allow for more force to be generated with every swing. For some hatchets, the blade is the exact size as a regular axe. For other hatchets, the blade is actually a bit larger than on an axe head.

Truly, it just depends on the hatchet. Either way, it’s clear that there is a big use for them in terms of power distribution per swing. This is likely why they are so effective cutting wood and why they were popular to throw at fully armored men in war.

Due to their numerous uses in war and for simple use around the home, hatchets grew over the last few thousand years. Now, pretty much everyone has one lying around their home all over the world. That is a pretty big impact in our book.

The Tomahawk


Technically, many believe the original tomahawk came from cavemen who made versions of clubs into weapons. They used rocks wrapped up in sticks to use when needed. However, there were some rocks that could be shaped better and could come off as useful weapons with two sides.

Yet these remain mostly clubs whereas the tomahawk did not come into play until Native Americans began to make them. They used stones as well as a wooden handle to form the original version of the tomahawk.

It is uncertain how long they were in use but we know of their use as early as the 17th Century when the Powhattan people were spotted using them by the original American settlers from Europe.

European settlers were immediately impressed by their compelling tools that took clear imagination and time to make. However, when they came over with steel blades the Native Americans began to realize this could be used to make better weapons, especially the tomahawk.

The original Native American tomahawk began to change. Stone was replaced with steel and the newer and lighter version of the tomahawk was born. Natives used them in battle, hunting, and as tools. They were so well-liked that Europeans would sometimes buy them from the natives or do trades with them to get one.

We’ve seen them used in war as recently as the Vietnam War by special services. On top of this, they are used by several SWAT teams for their impressive tactical abilities. However, outside of tribes around the world, tomahawks are generally not in use for daily activity.

Tomahawks vs Hatchets

Generally speaking, both the tomahawk and hatchet are great and could be useful for a lot of the same things. However, depending on what you’re doing it is clear that one might be far better than the other.

For example, if you’re going to go camping or merely need a sharp object to chop up firewood….you’re better off getting a hatchet. It’s essentially a one-handed axe with a short handle so you can use it for felling trees and splitting logs when a splitting maul or axe is not available.

A tomahawk is much better for when you’re going to be on the move. Perhaps you’re wanting to take a survival tool or weapon with you beyond just a pocket knife. If you plan to go hiking, rock climbing, backpacking, etc. then it’s clear you want to pack light.

Tomahawks are built to be lightweight and perfect for all the above.

They are perfect for survival situations, with some literally being called survival tomahawks. As mentioned above, they are also used in several tactical teams including many American SWAT teams. In fact, they are still used by some special service tactical military types today.

Besides a gun, tomahawks are also the perfect protection blade to have around your home too. They can be useful on both sides and operate as a fast-paced weapon for combat.


When it comes to tomahawks vs hatchets, there is no doubt that both are great. However, the needs one might have will determine which is best. We suggest you get both so you’ll be able to decide whenever you like or you just won’t have to do so.

It’ll be up to you to decide which is the better tool in the end. One thing to note is that the expense of a good tomahawk or hatchet won’t break the bank, so you could get a terrific version of both at your local outdoor store.

However, they are also online often for far less than you might see at those stores. So we’d suggest checking out some of those places.

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