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Classic Tomahawk, Modern Chops: TOPS Hammer Hawk Review

Decked out in Cerakote and Micarta, the TOPS Hammer Hawk has new-school tech infused in an old-school chopping tool.

The TOPS Hammer Hawk is pure money; (photo/Nick LeFort)
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On my old man’s side, I come from a long line of trappers and hunters who made a living in the Hudson Valley, and up and down the Connecticut River. Explaining my affinity for the outdoors — well, it’s all right there: Passed down through the generations.

Part of all of that is my passion for a good-edged tool. There’s nothing like a good axe or hatchet to get that spirit all flared up inside of me. I could sit around the fire and admire the intricacies of either.

In the time I’ve been writing for GearJunkie, I’ve had the great honor of writing about multiple axes and hatchets. In fact, my first-ever article was about the Hults Bruk 325-Year Anniversary Axe. I followed that up with an introspective look at the relevance of hatchets. Then, with a few more reviews under my belt, I tuned up our Best Camping Hatchets guide.

All the while, I’ve been yearning to get my hands on the TOPS Hammer Hawk. Handmade in Idaho, it’s one of a handful of bucket list tools that I needed to use and abuse. The Hammer Hawk is a 2.25-pound beast hewn from a single piece of ⅜”-thick 1075 carbon steel. And, with both traditional and modern aspects, it’s an all-around solution for hunting, camping, and outdoor living. It’s also really fun to stare at when you’re not sending it through wood to stoke your fire.

In short: Made from 1075 carbon steel that has been Cerakote ceramic-coated, the TOPS Hammer Hawk is poised to stand the test of time and shrug off corrosion. Couple that with a modern grippy-when-wet Micarta handle, multiple grip positions, and an oversized blade, and you’ve got a tool that is destined to be the one cutting and chopping implement you rely on at camp, and for years to come.

To compare the swing on the Hammer Hawk to the rest of the hatchet universe, check out GearJunkie’s Best Camping Hatchets guide.

TOPS Hammer Hawk


  • Weight 2 lbs., 3 oz.
  • Overall length 14.5"
  • Head length 4.5"
  • Steel type ⅜” 1075 carbon steel with tungsten Cerakote finish
  • Handle material Canvas Micarta


  • Single piece construction
  • Massive 4.5” blade
  • Advanced ergonomics
  • Well balanced


  • The hammer could be thicker
  • All of the knives I own are too big for the slot in the belt frog

TOPS Hammer Hawk: Review


(Photo/Nick LeFort)

The Hammer Hawk is made from tungsten Cerakoted 1075 carbon steel and machined down for ergonomics, functionality, and aesthetics. The butt comes hardened and shaped to be a functional hammer. Reliefs in the cheeks of the head keep weight down, maintain tool balance, and harken back to a time when tomahawks were everyday carry tools.

1075 carbon steel is commonly lauded for being easy to work with. Uncoated, it’s susceptible to corrosion, but the Cerakoting here eliminates that. It’s also easy to sharpen and repair if damaged. However, due to its composition, 1075 has incredible toughness which makes it a great choice for striking and chopping.

The handle on the Hammer Hawk curves like a modern climbing axe and you can grip it in different positions, making it perfect for whatever task is at hand. Its exaggerated end knob ensures that your hand won’t fall off the handle, and there’s a lanyard hole in case you want to install some cordage.

(Photo/Nick LeFort)

Rounding out the features of the Hammer Hawk are its green canvas Micarta handle scales. They’re long enough for two hands to hold the handle side by side. They also offer incredible grip in both wet and dry conditions.

The Hammer Hawk comes with a full-grain leather blade cover and belt frog. The combination of these pieces allows you to safely transport the axe on your belt and allows for easy retrieval. By design, the belt frog keeps the Hammer Hawk from swinging around while practicing parkour in the woods, and a small pocket allows you to carry a small skeletonized knife like the TOPS Backup knife.

First Impressions

(Photo/Nick LeFort)

Invented by the Algonquin tribe, tomahawks were a lightweight alternative to the hatchet, and sport a smaller head than most hatchets as well. Tomahawks aren’t precision tools at heart, but they can be used for some detailed tasks like skinning an animal and processing meat, as well as shaping wood.

While I wouldn’t call the Hammer Hawk a traditional tomahawk, the 4.5” blade is too big to be a hatchet. And while the 14.5″ length is perfect as a hatchet, TOPS calls it an axe in its copy. So, let’s just stick to it being a tomahawk, designed to be a powerful camp and survival tool.

Focus on that word — “powerful” — while we go through this review, too. Because if there’s any one key thing that the Hammer Hawk is, it’s powerful. Yes, it can be used for precision tasks, but this tool can also be used to chop, hammer, and smash.

(Photo/Nick LeFort)

It’s also a real stunner if you’ve got it hanging on your cabin wall. As a huge fan of Micarta, I love the fact that TOPS added in two massive, hand-shaped scales for increased grip. You want as much control over this tool as possible. I also love the attention to detail with the addition of the arrows carved into the cheeks of the blade.

As stated earlier, the whole thing flows and swings like a modern ice axe. I have no doubt that’s intentional and will play a role in how well the Hammer Hawk performs.

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In the Field

(Photo/Nick LeFort)

I was so stoked when the Hammer Hawk arrived I took off running into the woods like one of Peter Pan’s Lost Boys, swinging at sticks and debris. My daughter later told me she had never seen me move so fast. She was lucky I kept my shirt on and I didn’t have enough time to paint my face.

It’s stick season here in New England, and there’s a lot of deadfall blocking the trail. I had no issue using the Hammer Hawk to power my way through downed branches up to 4 inches thick. Additionally, the beavers did a heck of a job around here last fall, but left some of their work unfinished. Using the Hammer Hawk, I was able to break through what they left behind.

I tried to mix up my carry methods, so sometimes I would carry the Hammer Hawk on my pack and sometimes I’d carry it on my belt. In both cases, I had zero issues transporting the tool, but found that for ease of access carrying it on my belt was the way to go. I preinstalled the leather belt frog before heading out, and slipped the Hawk into it when I got where I was going.

The Hammer Hawk is impervious to corrosion, due to the Cerakote finish. This allows it to be a great ice-breaking tool. There’s nothing like ice-cold water from a pond or lake — and there’s no stopping this tomahawk from getting at it.

If there were one thing I would change about the Hammer Hawk it is the thickness of the hammer. I realize that would require the removal of a lot of bar stock of 1075 and is far from economical, but if it were even ¼-inch wider, it could have more striking power. That said, I was able to use it to hammer tent stakes into the frozen ground without issue.

(Photo/Nick LeFort)

TOPS Hammer Hawk: In Conclusion

At $530, there aren’t a lot of people who are going to run right out and buy a Hammer Hawk. I have seen it online for around $300, which might be more appealing to more folks.

However, I will say that if you’re someone who spends a lot of time outdoors, lives off-grid, or loves a well-crafted cutting and chopping tool, the Hammer Hawk is well worth its full retail price.

By default, people automatically relegate axes, hatchets, and tomahawks to chopping wood. But with multiple hand positions, advanced ergonomics, and a 4.5-inch blade, a tool like the Hammer Hawk can be used to do anything you can think up.

Are you a hunter? Well here’s the tool that’s going to help your process big game. Builder? The Hammer Hawk can help with cutting, slicing, scoring, and shaping. Feel like making a dugout canoe from a downed pine? Cool. Here’s the Hammer Hawk.

Overall, the Hammer Hawk impressed me with what it can do. The materials TOPS chose and the attention to detail baked into it make the Hammer Hawk the viable tool that it is. Appreciation is one part of the sickness that draws me to the knives, tools, and gear that I test. I appreciate the effort that was put into this damn dandy of a tool.

I look forward to many more adventures with the Hammer Hawk. It’s the kind of tool that ties me back to my roots. But also has an incredible impact during those times when I step off the trail and make my way to my next favorite remote camping spot.

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