The resurgence of the “tactical tomahawk” has been another one of those issues that generate argument. Opinions vary from hard-core ‘Hawk lovers who dream about going all Benjamin Martin on someone (as in from ‘The Patriot’) to the naysayers who declaim them as mall ninja tacticool silliness (grunts: declaim). For us, it’s a lot like arguing about fake boobs – if you don’t like them, don’t motorboat ’em, squeeze ’em or spend your hard-earned single dollar bills on them.
Anyway, who doesn’t want to go Benjamin Martin on some asshole?
This is a review of the Gerber Downrange Tomahawk by The Inestimable (grunts: inestimable) Stickman. Stick is a seasoned shooter with a great background (and he’s an inveterate smart ass; grunts: inveterate). We really like what he does and are glad to call him a friend. Since he was able to give his DR ‘Hawk far more of a beating than we’ve been able to so far, we’re going to relay his impressions here (plus he’s a way better photographer than we are). These images and the commentary come from his official Facebook fanpage.
Stickman’s evaluation begins:
With the help of my nephew, the Gerber Gear Downrange Hawk has started its eval cycle. We have taken a lot of suggestions, and are always open to more. This shows him breaking apart oak pallets. Does it work? Yes, as anyone knows who has used a crowbar or ripped things apart, the key is getting a good hold, and leverage. He used a rock to beat the end into position and get it between the pieces of wood, then jumped on the end if he couldn’t get it apart with using his hands.
After ripping an oak pallet apart, the next step was cutting and splitting it up. Again, all done by my nephew. Like my father used to say, why would an adult do something when there are young adults/ children around that could be doing it. My nephew has used a hatchet before, as well as a kukri to clear and chop.
With a little instruction, he had the pallet apart, then was having fun taking the pallet down to size for a small fire.
Continuing with the Gerber Gear challenge and our Gerber Downrange (DR) Hawk, we found nails in the oak pallets. I know that isn’t shocking, but one of the common things to cut through when dealing with wood is nails. A total of 15 nails met the Gerber DR Hawk, and I didn’t find any chips or flaws in the blade. I think part of the reason for this is that he was hitting the nails while they were on wood, which means they weren’t always chopped all the way through. To change it up a bit, I had one of the nails put on a rock, and then he made the hit. Yes, the nail certainly was cut easier, but a good hit from the lad made a nice mark on the rock as well. This picture shows the size of the nails as well as some marks on the Hawk head.
Here is a close up of the blade up to this point. So far, our testing had involved hitting a bunch of nails, concrete a few times, and a couple accidental whacks into a rock. So far, not bad at all.
After slaying 8 concrete blocks, and thumping on a number of rocks just to see how many he could crack, the Gerber Gear Downrange Hawk testing continued with my nephew really getting into the idea of breaking, cutting, or smashing lots of things. You can see from this picture that his hits with the hammer side weren’t always the most direct, but the handles and steel look fine.
Now that I think about it, I need to remind him what part of the tool should be taking the impact, but overall he is doing great, and so is the Hawk.
One of the requests for the Gerber Gear Downrange Hawk eval was whether or not you could use it with a firestarter. I liked this question for a couple reasons. This probably isn’t the Hawk you want to take as your primary camping axe, but if this is what you had it would still work. Let us not pretend it wouldn’t take a lot longer, but you would still be functional. With any survival engagement, fire becomes a legit concern to boil water, warm up, and cook food. With that in mind, fire starting became an interesting side note to the rest of the testing.
My nephew happens to be a huge Bear Grylls fan, so he naturally had his Gerber fire starting equipment with him.
Here is the Gerber Gear Downrange Hawk getting tested with a fire starter (Bear Grylls). A couple warm up strikes, and showers of sparks like this were pretty routine. I would say that it is still a bit easier using a knife or dedicated piece, but not by much. I had my nephew try it standing, sitting and kneeling, and he had no trouble at all.
The next step was using it to start a fire without using the magnesium. I wanted to see if he could concentrate the sparks, as well as make it a little harder for him.
One of the suggestions for the Gerber Gear Down Range Hawk was to stoke a fire. Since the nephew was already building a fire, this one seemed like a no brainer. Both sides of the Hawk were used, and just as you would expect, there weren’t any issues. Would I want to leave a G10 handle in the fire for very long? No, I would like to think none of us are that stupid, nor would I leave a hardened piece of steel like a blade in a fire to ruin the temper just to see if I could get it to glow. Stoking the fire? It passes, no problem, and no concerns.
After rooting the Gerber Gear DR Hawk in the fire, it was too hot to touch except for the G10 grips. I’ve got no idea what that actually comes out to as a temperature, but we took it and put it directly into the freezer. One of the requests we had was to see how it would hold up to temperature extremes, to see if the handles would warp or stay aligned. In this case, it stayed in the freezer for 16 hours. When it came out, there were a few ice cubes stuck to it, but aside from that, it looked the same as it did when it when in. No warping or bowing to the handles.
After the freezer, the Gerber Gear DR Hawk came out with some ice cubes stuck to it, and mighty cold, but the handles were straight and nothing had cracked. It was immediately taken outside, where it was again used to smash concrete blocks, hit large stones, and then repeatedly struck into trees and twisted back and forth. The G10 handles never popped, cracked, or warped. The blade really didn’t seem to care either, though by this point it had dulled a bit, which seemed fair based off the wood, concrete, and rocks it had impacted.
Next up with the Gerber Gear DR Hawk challenge was taking down some small trees. Nothing huge, but my nephew thought this was great, at least until he started. While this isn’t built to be a wood chopping lumber jacks axe, it is built to be an all around survival/ LE/ MIL implement from my point of view. In my experiences both in MIL & LE, there are plenty of times you might need to take down a tree limb, or clear saplings. With that in mind, I felt this was a pretty legit test.
As you would expect, a dedicated axe or larger hatchet would have worked better. However, a few 2″ and 3″ saplings later, and the nephew was talking about making a hammock like he had seen a survival show on youtube do.
Did it pass this test, yes, without any problems. It is still worth pointing out that a hatchet/ axe or decent saw would have done it quicker. Pick your specific tools for your specific jobs, and they will always go easier, but that doesn’t mean this jack of all trades won’t still get it done.
Asked if the weight of this ‘Hawk would be worth the benefit for backpacking, Stick’ replied, “It would depend on the backpacking that you were doing. I know that if I were hiking on a regular trail, probably not. If I were going into old mine shafts that were closed up like I used to, this would certainly come along. After all, this is a Hawk, not a hatchet. The differences are small, but absolute. This is certainly going to rip things apart better than a hatchet will.’
Anyway, this tomahawk is probably a better investment of your money than the local rally point for single dancing moms – though in the spirit of the holidays, we’d encourage you to spend your singles there. Single dancing moms need to buy Christmas presents too.
This largely reflects the way we feel about it when it comes to carrying it in the field. Do you want to add one of these to an assault pack on a hump that takes several days, especially when you’re doing a lot of climbing? Our answer would be no, in most cases. It would certainly be worth keeping in a vehicle for mounted operations, or for a specific hit. Setting aside the maxim that says A plan is just a list of things that aren’t going to happen, we figger this might be a tool worth carrying on a patrol or a hit with a specific duration or regionalized target (especially if you’re going in mounted or in a bird).