The Mountain Man Toy Shop's tomahawk has been, quite literally, around the world.
This “dangerous toy for big boys” has spliced its way to the center of targets in the farthest south and farthest north deepwater ports in the world, located in Antarctica and Greenland, respectively. It has been passed between cigar-smoking Marines in a 70-foot tanker’s engine room anchored of the coast of Crete and handed around to curious locals on the Azores Islands in the North Atlantic. Hunter Smith, a merchant marine based in landlocked Jackson Hole, Wyoming when he’s not aboard a ship, decided that the throwing tomahawk was a perfect recreational outlet for months at sea.
Hunter Smith travels the world with his 'hawk.
“Once I flew to Greece and got on my ship, I built a couple of targets and taught some guys on the ship how to throw. Pretty soon there were six or so of us throwing every Sunday night,” Smith explains. He usually just threw them with his engine room crew, but he also brought them on land occasionally and gave demos to locals, tourists, and whoever showed interest– which turned out to be a lot of people. Tomahawks have been around for a long time– they were originally used by Native Americans as weapons of war– but they have experienced a recent uptick in popularity. Think high stake bar darts: the throwing tomahawk is a delightfully old school form of entertainment and oddly satisfying way to blow off steam.
No cows were harmed... actually, they don't seem too concerned.
Throwing-specific tomahawks and hatchets are popping up all over, as are targets in urban bars from Denver to Chicago. The Mountain Man Toy Shop's model, which is the brother company of New West Knifeworks (favored by Hunter Smith and his crew of Marines) is forged from high carbon 1095 tool steel, which is both durable and retains a sharp edge. New West Knifeworks also makes a throwing tomahawk with American S7 tool steel, the same high performance steel used for the drill tips of jack hammers, which is even more durable.
NewWest tomahawks in the forge... sexy.
Hatchet or tomahawk throwing is an activity that can be enjoyed year round in the back yard or in the woods. Smith explains that to properly throw a tomahawk, you have to commit. “It’s physics. You have to put force in it to get the tomahawk to stick. Most people we tried to teach were too afraid to hurt or break something, so they didn’t throw it hard enough.”
The handles and blades of these tomahawks actually separate, which has several advantages: if you make a bad throw and hit with the handle, it can pop free of the hawk head rather than breaking to pieces from the impact. If the handle does break, it is easy to slip the head off and slide it right on another handle. Sharpening is also easier without the handle in the way.
“Resident jedi of the tomahawk” and New West’s factory floor manager Brian Hady is infamous for his tomahawk throwing and juggling skills. Hady runs tomahawk throwing events where he teaches newcomers how to throw, so he has seen it all.
“Throwing a tomahawk, when you’re starting out, is mostly about being the correct distance from the target,” Hady explains. He breaks down how to throw a ‘hawk for us in a few simple steps:
Anyone can throw a tomahawk, and with these basic skills you can learn to throw anything from an ax, tomahawk, or even a hatchet.Before you start throwing your hatchet or tomahawk, you will need a good target. The best targets are cut rounds from a fallen tree stacked like a pyramid or a tripod holding up the tree rounds. The bigger the target, the easier it will be to learn how to throw a hawk. The wood must be soft so that the blade of the ax or tomahawk can penetrate easily and “stick” into the logs, so older wood is sometimes better. If possible, use a softer wood such as Cottonwood, Pine, Spruce, or Poplar.
Also, safety first, guys. You know you shouldn’t run with scissors, so apply that groundbreaking common sense to tomahawks, too. They are sharp, so be constantly aware of your surroundings, be prepared for the tomahawk to bounce back a bit, and make sure there is no one next to or behind the target when you throw.
Grips & Stance When Throwing
Stance should be upright and level and feet comfortable side by side. Stand like you're about to throw a ball. Some people feel comfortable having one foot forward and resting on the extended foot rather than the one behind. Grip the tomahawk like you would a hammer and like you were as if shaking hands with the handle. Arm should be raised straight forward, extended towards the target, blade pointing down, then hinge at the elbow so the blade is just about next to your ear. Tomahawk should be held perfectly straight so it won't twist or wobble when throwing. Don't be afraid to use a bit of power and speed; you can adjust for accuracy by practicing more.
1) Measure about 15 ft from target
Steps to 'Hawk Throwing
From the target, measure about 15 ft or about 5 paces and make a line in the dirt. From this distance the tomahawk, hatchet, or ax will be doing one revolution till it reaches the target. The distance is determined by how long the handle is, and your natural throwing motion. Everyone’s perfect distance is a bit different. Based on where the tomahawk lands after you throw it, you may have to adjust your distance from the target.
2) Make sure the tomahawk blade is pointing toward your target
This is a little more obvious but you never know.
3) Pitcher's position
Position your feet similar to a baseball pitcher's stance with the foot opposite your throwing arm forward.
4) Hold handle at base of tomahawk
Hold the handle near or at the base with the tomahawk blade at the top.
5) Straight back & straight forward
Bring the tomahawk straight back and throw straight forward aiming for your target. Throw using your elbow as the pivot point and don’t use too much wrist. A natural release will allow the tomahawk to rotate in a consistent manner.
6) Follow through
Follow through with your arm while still keeping your wrist locked.
Now that you know the basics, get out there and practice. Hady holds the current New West Knifeworks record for most rotations, meaning he has thrown it from 60 feet back, gotten the tomahawk to rotate four times and still hit the target.
How does one achieve this level of ‘hawk badassery, you ask? Step one: buy a tomahawk. Step two: get throwing, and stay sharp out there.