Soaring Hawks!

American Tomahawk: USA Made And Flying High

Left: Model One OD Green Right:Model One Basic Black

While the general populace associates tomahawks with the American Indians and the frontier wars that have been depicted in Western movies for decades, few are aware these handheld implements were also used by American troops during the Vietnam War. Furthermore, tomahawks also found their way to the Middle East during more recent conflicts in that region of the world.

In 1966 World War II Marine Corps veteran Peter Lagana redesigned the tomahawk into a more modern, up-to-date weapon/tool and began producing them for our warriors in Vietnam. Lagana’s re-imagined tomahawks are being faithfully reproduced today at the American Tomahawk company in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Ryan Johnson — a noted tactical designer, outdoorsman and founder of RMJ USA — picked up where Lagana left off by designing and producing modern, state-of-the-art tomahawks in 2001 for use by our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. He’s the de facto expert of the storied genre today. In 2019, Johnson resurrected the American Tomahawk Company and started production of Lagana’s original masterpiece. “Our company is located in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and our tomahawks are Tennessee made!” Ryan states emphatically. “We take great pride in crafting tomahawks in a state with such a rich history of what we call Tomahawk Diplomacy.”

We asked Johnson to give us his insights into why tomahawks are effective both in the wilderness and on the battlefield. “Tomahawks have always been tactical tools, always been survival tools, always been utility tools.” Ryan explains, “Tomahawks were popular on the frontier for just that reason. With a tomahawk you can break down an animal, build shelter, and defend yourself. Because tomahawks have a small footprint and are lightweight, they make the perfect multi-purpose tool for someone short on space.”

Model One Basic Black

Model One Hickory Handle

Resurrecting The Dream

r version of the famous Lagana Tomahawk,” Ryan informs. While not readily visible to the naked eye, Johnson and crew did make improvements to the original Lagana hawk to take advantage of modern technology, methods and materials. “The Model One is drop forged 1060 Carbon Steel,” Ryan notes. “The handle is offered in both Hickory and a super tough injection molded Nylon. The nylon handle locks in place with the machined eye of the hawk head for a bulletproof fit that won’t come off without a hydraulic press. The Kydex scabbard features ambidextrous carry and is MOLLE/PALS compatible. We also offer D-rings for sling carry. The blade geometry is CNC machined for a perfect angle every time.” The Model One can be had in a wide variety of colorations. The basic Model One in Hickory wood or injection molded nylon will run you $189 plus $65 for a Black Kydex sheath with locking strap. Injection molded handles come in three colors — Basic Black, OD Green and Coyote Brown with tomahawk heads powder coated to match. Hickory handles can also be coated with matching heads should you choose to forego the standard wood finish. A Black Kydex sheath with low or high ride MOC straps is also available.

Once the Model One had been firmly embedded in the American Tomahawk Company line Johnson and his team began work on an updated version of the original hawk. “Model Two has been designed and tested,” notes Johnson. “We are in the process of forging these and feel the broad edge and hammer poll design will appeal to a broader audience.” Indeed, as this is being written I have been told the Model Two is currently undergoing final testing on hunts in Alaska and should be on the market by the time this article is published.

But the fun doesn’t end there. “We also make a modern-day version of the famous trench maces of WWI fame as well as a faithful copy of the WWII-Vietnam-era MP Baton,” Ryan lends. Dubbed the Trench, this is a full-tilt, space-age mace on steroids that would come in handy should anarchists come to call.

Who buys tomahawks? We posed the question to Johnson. “Our customer is typically the guy who is putting together a Go Bag and realizes he needs a reliable tomahawk for breaching and heavy cutting. Our tomahawks are perfect for Go Bags, Active Shooter bags, and truck use as it’s a tool that can get you on target or out of harm’s way by cutting doors, breaking locks and chain, and general light breaching.”

The Trench

In Good Hands

The American Tomahawk Company is part of a network of individual companies Ryan has interconnected under the RMJ USA umbrella, all located at the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. RMJ Tactical was the forerunner, focusing on Johnson’s tactical and wilderness tomahawks initially and expanding into fixed-blade combat, everyday carry, and field knives.

Chattanooga Leatherworks focuses on leather sheaths and accessories. Savage Gentlemen is an offshoot with focus on a wide range of accessories including leather wallets, razors, apparel and drinkware. Readyman places emphasis on survival/EDC tools, first aid and a wide range of camping gear. Other divisions include RATS Medical specializing in tourniquets and Cameron Advanced Mobility featuring training in a wide range of environments worldwide.

As you can see, American Tomahawk Company is surrounded by a diverse group of companies that can support to customers’ any desire — from serious hard-use knives, axes and tools to an eye-tempting range of accessories. We asked Ryan about future plans for American Tomahawk Company. “We plan to draw on two sources for inspiration for new models — U.S. military history and the history of the frontier. These sources give us plenty to work with. Expect several tomahawks, batons and possibly a companion knife in the future.”

To see a video of an American Tomahawk Company hawk in action, check out a video on of our own Editor Tom McHale giving one a whirl.

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