Review: RMJ Tactical Little Bird
RMJ Tactical has been in the tomahawk and knife business for over 27 years. The tools that RMJ releases are well known in special operations circles, law enforcement and fire departments. Besides being popular in those groups, individuals into bushcraft and self reliance have taken interest in their products. RMJ has redefined the tomahawk and built on its multi-functionality. Sure you can use it as a weapon, but its real beauty lies in its capability as an effective breaching tool.
My first experience with an RMJ Tomahawk was when I got to use retired SERE instructor/now bushcraft-survival teacher Terry Barney’s RMJ Shrike. He explained that this hawk was part of his firefighter kit and vehicle go-bag. He went on to tell me how he used it as a breaching tool and even let a few students of his use it to dismantle a car for a survival course (pull everything you need from a car for a survival scenario). As soon as he was done telling the story, I took the tomahawk and began to flay a car door. I was sold; I had never seen a tomahawk or hatchet cut metal with such ease. And after a few whacks, the hawk remained sharp. Sign me up.
That very night I went to my bunk and looked up RMJ. As I was perusing the site like some housewife shopping for yoga pants, I noticed the price tag…oh damn. There’s that saying, “buy once, cry once”, but I just couldn’t justify $500 on a tomahawk. But it was on my list, and I began to follow RMJ through their social media channels and read or watched reviews. Then back in November, RMJ announced they were releasing their Little Bird again in limited quantities. The Little Bird was priced at $249/$300, which was a bit easier to swallow. Knowing the quality of the Shrike, I knew even this “entry level” model could still hold its own.
“We created the Little Bird Project as a way to help get RMJ tomahawks into the hands of people who would really like one but simply can’t afford it. To do this we came up with a design that we could produce at a lower cost yet still be close to as effective for the end user even if it’s not quite on the same level as our other models. Our profit margin is much smaller on the Little Bird, so much so that we have to make it a once a year limited run. We couldn’t keep the lights on if we offered Little Birds all the time.” – Jonathan Carmack, Manager of Manufacturing, RMJ Tactical
Sure, $300 is still a lot for most of us, but I looked at it as an investment, something valuable I’d have for some time. Did I need a tactical tomahawk? No, but after getting one I couldn’t imagine not having it.
The Little Bird is a special project, and based on sight you might not think there’s much difference between it and pricier models. But there are differences:
“The differences in the Little Bird are geared to keeping the production cost down, as opposed to our other products which are solely designed to excel at their intended uses. Examples of differences are the blade geometry on the Little Bird, it is much simpler than our other hawks so that it takes much less time to machine. The beard of the 2015 Little Bird is not sharpened, and the handle scales are pre textured instead of 3D machined, both things contribute to lower production cost. The scabbard of the little bird is simpler and takes less material and finishing time. All of these things add up to equal an RMJ Tactical entry level tomahawk” – Jonathan Carmack, Manager of Manufacturing, RMJ Tactical
Even with the differences I was excited to get it, but my order’s wait time was four weeks. When it finally arrived I was first impressed with the packaging (I’m a designer by trade, shit like that gets me all giddy). Once opening the box, a piece of 8×11 paper had a message written in bold red letters: “You will Bleed”, or some thing to that effect, explaining how sharp the blade is. I have to say I was a bit taken aback by the warning.
After unboxing and pulling the hawk from its kydex scabbard, I realized they weren’t joking. The thing looked vicious. I own a few rib ticklers and custom stabby things, but this was crazy. The Little Bird felt super balanced in the hand and even though it didn’t have the extensive machining work of the others in their line, the piece was still impressive and reeked of quality American-made craftsmanship.
I first took it out on a trip to the mountains with friends. We decided to have some fun with it and set up targets in the woods. Even though a tactical tomahawk has a ton of uses, the first use I thought of was throwing it at dead trees and various other targets. When I first threw it, I noticed how balanced and easy it is to throw. I hit dead center the first time I threw it, and I can’t even remember the last time I had thrown a tomahawk (maybe at some random Ren fair). My friends were also astonished, and joked that I’ve been secretly practicing like some sort of American ninja.
Then it was their turn, and they had similar results. Then we purposely tried throwing it badly, and it would still hit close to the target. If it was under rotated, the heft of the handle would cause serious damage on the target. After the fun and games, I used it to chop wood for a fire. Of course the Little Bird made it easy, and even when the head got stuck in the middle of a cut I would just use another piece of wood for batoning and finish the job. After three days of tomfuckery and mountain camp duties I was truly impressed. I told my friends about Terry Barney’s expensive Shrike cutting through a car door, but I was still impressed with how good the Little Bird performed.
The Little Bird has seen a lot of action in five months, but most of it has been camp duties and throwing. I did use it to chop through metal nails while breaking down a wood pallet, which caused some blade damage, but with a few swipes of a grinding stone the blade is back in action. The cerakote is beginning to show wear but it’s being used and abused so that’s to be expected.
I asked RMJ when the next Little Bird will drop and if it will be similar to mine. Here’s what they had to say:
“Every year the Little Bird will be different. It won’t always even be a tomahawk, next year it could be a fixed blade knife. We like to change it up and have fun with it.”
Follow RMJ Tactical on their social media outlets to learn more about exclusives and future Little Bird drops.
Here are the specs on the 2015 Little Bird
- Steel: 4140
- Overall length: 13.5”
- Head length (forward edge to spike): 7.125”
- Forward edge: 3”
- Weight: 24 oz.
- Handle: pre textured G10 attached with stainless steel tube rivets
- Scabbard: Kydex
- Finish: Cerakote
Mad Duo, Breach-Bang& CLEAR!Comms Plan
Emergency: Activate firefly, deploy green (or brown) star cluster, get your wank sock out of your ruck and stand by ’til we come get you.