Jon M. Tomahawk Review: Quick Look at the Cold Steel Trail Hawk

By Jon M.

The Truth About Tomahawks: they’re really, really hard to throw properly. And an insane amount of fun.

I’m not going to lie, I initially thought throwing a tomahawk was the dumbest thing on the planet, but I’m very grateful that good sense took a break and the urge to chuck a hunk of metal at stumps took over. What was initially meant to be a day of practicing drawstroke and reloads with the pistol quickly turned into tomahawk fever and not a shot was fired. A surprisingly fantastic day!


Quick impressions of the Cold Steel Trail Hawk:

-Extremely lightweight and deft, priced nicely for around $30.

-The head is simple, light, very nicely forged and came pleasantly sharp, and the black coating is dang tough. For some reason however, Cold Steel decided that a set screw and threading on the right side of the head was a desirable feature, not realizing that all this would do is gouge the crap out of the haft before eventually stripping the set screw out under the mildest of chopping, much less brutal throwing abuse.

-The provided hickory handle sucks. There’s just no nice way to say it, it sucks bad. There’s just the hint of a taper near where the head is supposed to be, and instead of nicely wedging itself on the handle via centripetal force, it rattled, fit poorly, and never really sat firmly no matter how much we tried to wedge it on there. It can be used, but not with the utmost confidence needed for slinging a piece of sharpened steel around. Definitely the most disappointing point found so far.

Testing of the more practical and exhaustive kind will commence shortly, but I can only hope there’s some way to salvage the handle because the Cold Steel Trail Hawk is pretty cool so far.

And just so everyone knows, after three hours on-and-off of trial and error, tragedy and triumph, we did finally make it stick.

Update 1/14/15: Welcome Instapundit Readers! Thanks Professor for throwing us the brass ring once again. It is always appreciated.

Jon Marshall is our newest contributor and this is the second piece he has done for us. His other is here. We have created for him a byline of his own and he is going to begin to contribute when he has the time.

If you have a knife you would like to review, or something else topical you would like to submit, please drop an email to  We welcome reader content and anything you submit will qualify for our soon to be announced “Reader’s Work Contest”. You could win free knives. Details to follow.

Please “like” us on Facebook or follow us on twitter (@knifetruth) to get our latest reviews as well as pieces on knife politics and culture. Thanks again for checking us out.  -HCA



  1. KAP says:

    I have a trail hawk, took the set screw out, put Epoxy in its place wrapped friction tape, { hockey stick tape} around the top of the head and underneath the head on the stock.( protects stock when using as a hatchet and missing}! glued leather stripping around the handle from butt too the Tape, makes a really fat handle, should have used thinner leather! have yet to ruin the handle, the balance is off so bought a Vietnam Hawk and wrapped its handle in Camouflage cloth Duct tape, bad Idea I threw it at a tree and had a glance off, found it in the Fall! did protect the handle though but had too clean the rust of the head! Got a fast hawk and have yet too try and break it! works as a chopper also for wood & splitting the pelvic bone on large animals! had to built a frog for the Hawks as could not find one in my price range!
    Sure beats a bang stick for fun if you don’t break or lose it while perfecting the throw! I wouldn’t play William Tell with it though!

  2. Sam L. says:

    Haven’t worked at it, but the few times I’ve thrown a hawk I’ve either missed or bounced it off the target.

  3. ChuckN says:

    A properly balanced tomahawk should be fairly easy
    to throw. Try playing around with the weight at either
    end to find something that fits you.
    On another note I found that Cold Steels Norse hawk
    threw a bit better that the trail or rifleman, but that
    may just be me.

  4. Raina Collins says:

    We have a rifleman’s hawk that had the same issue. I judiciously whittled the head and it fits flawlessly. I find the handle a bit long for throwing, but the thing is too heavy anyway. It feels more like a youth axe! I plan on getting the much lighter trail hawk this spring.

  5. Jeff O. says:

    I picked up a couple hawks from James Townsend ( a few years ago. They provide clothing and gear for colonial reenactors, and their traditional tomahawks are inexpensive and solidly made. I haven’t had a bit of trouble with mine, and it’s a constant companion in camp and the woods.

  6. TwilightLane says:

    I’ve had a CS Trail Hawk for a few years. Its fun to tote around in the woods. I heard about them when I stumbled across a thread in a blade forum where people were customizing their trail hawks (and other CS hawks). Google it up and you’ll find it.

    I ordered mine with an extra handle. Glad I did. The one it came with was a terrible fit. The spare fit perfectly with some minor sanding. I tossed the set screw, stripped the black paint off the head, boiled head in vinegar to get a patina and sharpened the hell out it. I stained the handle dark. People now ask me if its an antique. It’s fun.

  7. Trevor says:

    Classic video from when I was a kid. Ed Ames (who played Tonto on the Lone Ranger TV show) shows Johnny Carson how to throw a tomahawk.

    1. weston says:

      Ed Ames did not play Tonto on The Lone Ranger. He played Mingo on Daniel Boone.

      1. jimmy says:

        I think he also sang christmas carols…

        1. Dick says:

          He was part of the singing group The Ames Brothers in the 1950’s-1960’s.

  8. Bigdiogi says:

    Looks and sounds like this is just a poorly balanced ‘hawk. Just like throwing knives, one that is properly balanced is easy to stick, one that is not is dang near impossible.

    Also – distance is critical. You must be throwing from a distance that allows the proper number of rotations. Too near or far and you will under or over rotate. If you are consistently bouncing off, try taking a stride forward or back. For a beginner (me) start from a distance that gives you one full rotation of the ‘hawk.

    In other words – you might consistently stick from 18 feet and never stick from 15 or 20.

    Good luck. Like shooting, it is addictive.

  9. Kyle says:

    Yes throwing a tomahawk is hard. Just ask Ed Ames. (Johnny Carson fans will get this. If you don’t, search YouTube).

  10. Sam L. says:

    I’m about 3 hours late on congratulating you on another Instalanche; but hey. I hust found it.

  11. DoggerelPundit says:

    You can say; “if’n theyda had duct tape north of the Platte in 1830, theyda used it!” You can say it.

    The proper fix for a slipping head is to shape it close, then tap it strongly into place with one or two short strips of tanned deer hide as shims between the head and the handle.

    Once you get good at it, there is the old game of the second thrower splitting the handle of the first.

  12. retiredspook says:

    Tomahawk handles are like arrows, they’re disposable assets. I’ve gone through dozens of handles on three different heads. All the replacements required a little tweaking to make them fit right.

    And if you’re having trouble sticking it, look at how it’s striking. If it’s hitting handle up (edge toward you) move a half-step either forward or back from your throwing position. And don’t flex your wrist when you throw it, that will cause it to over-rotate.

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Jon M. Tomahawk Review: Quick Look at the Cold Steel Trail Hawk

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