Flashback to 1966, and President Johnson declares that the United States will remain in South Vietnam until the Communist aggression is gone. Recognizing a need, World War II Marine Corps veteran Peter Lagana begins production on the VTAC (Vietnam Tactical Tomahawk). Laguna starting by manufacturing 4,000 tomahawks for soldiers going into harm’s way. So begins the American Tomahawk Company, with the Model 1.
The American Tomahawk Company Model 1 Returns
After folding in the 1970s, American Tomahawk Company lay dormant for many years, until it experienced a resurgence in 2001. It was then that two professional tomahawk throwers received the approval to license the design and restart the firm. Although the VTAC has seen some minor design and material changes, as well as a couple collaborations. The classic design has remained true to form and popularity among military and civilians alike.
Fast forward to 2019 and RMJ Tactical, partnering with READYMAN and John Hickman, purchases the then inactive American Tomahawk Company. The addition of the RMJ Tactical name and combat tool expertise adds to its impressive lineage and history. Needless to say, the newly revived American Tomahawk Company does not disappoint.
There have been few changes to the VTAC since its original reboot in 2001. Most noteworthy are the addition of a synthetic handle and minor process and design changes by RMJ Tactical. Even with slight changes the iconic design is true to its name, the Model 1—a nod to the original.
The new Model 1 features a choice of either the original hickory handle or the new Dupont Supertough Nylon 66 (STN 66) anti-vibration handle with textured grip. Both handles are equal in length, at 13.13 inches from heel to head (with a full length of 14.13 inches), while each offers a different experience. The Nylon handle is extremely durable and perfect for hardcore tactical use and throwing, while the Hickory makes for a great camp mate. But both are perfectly capable of filling either role.
Both handles are 1.25 inches wide, making them very comfortable in the hand during hard use. The STN 66 handle maintains a straight profile from neck to heel but is textured for a solid grip. While the Hickory handle swells slightly at the middle and has a moderate flare at the heel for retention. Both handles feature a lanyard hole at the heel to allow for a retention lanyard, if so desired.
The Drop Forged 1060 high carbon steel head of the Model 1 measures 8 inches from the edge to the tip of the spike poll and features a tough, black powdercoat finish. The spike poll is approximately 2.5 inches long, with the final 0.75 inches drawn to a point and beveled for maximum penetration. The bit is roughly 2.75 inches long from the swell at the eye to the edge with a cutting edge of 2.38 inches.
The very light 20-ounce Model 1 is carried in a heavy-duty, bottom-eject, Kydex sheath that is molded perfectly to the hawk, which snaps tightly into place. To aid in retention there is a single strap that runs under the poll and snaps on the obverse side.
The top of the sheath is lined with a series of eyelets for different mounting options, such as the included Low-Ride MOC (Multiple Option Carry) straps for belt carry or any of the other MOC mounting solutions, available on their website.
Using the American Tomahawk Company Model 1 was like using a piece of history. Fortunately, I was sent one of each, so I was able to test each in its native environment.
First up was the STN 66 so I opted for some tests that would be considered hard use. I felt this would test its durability in hard situations. The spike poll seemed like the likely place to start. So, I began by breaking up a cinder block into much smaller pieces by delivering heavy blows in rapid succession. The only damage shown was to the coating.
I figured that since I already had the cinder block there, I might as well see how well the edge would hold up to it. Because, why not? So, I busted a remaining piece in half using the bit. When there were no signs of damage, I began hacking at a corner of the block. It was at this point that there were finally some signs of slight deformation to the edge. But I really had to try.
A Testament in Performance
Next, I pulled out some very old, seasoned barn wood I still had laying around from an old barn we had on the property and started chopping. It took little time to cleanly chop a channel into one of the sides, with no ill effect to the edge.
I finished with the STN 66 by chopping the bit into the side of an old ammo can. With each blow I was able to sink the entire bit all the way to the swell at the eye. I could have opened this can in a hurry if I needed to.
Moving on to the hickory handle, I went into the woods for a little play time. Finding an old, downed tree, I began limbing it. I removed some 2- to 3-inch rounds with just a few strikes each. The forward weight of the Model 1, combined with the edge geometry, makes it a great chopping tool for camp.
Once I had removed a few rounds, I shortened them to firewood length and then split some for kindling. The swell at the eye acted as a wedge and helped to split the wood, without having to use much force.
Finally, I finished by making a quick stake/spear point on the end of one of the smaller rounds. Again, the forward weight and edge geometry made this very easy. I had great control of each cut, and all were very clean.
A piece of American history, the American Tomahawk Company holds a place in the hearts of tomahawk lovers and military personnel alike. Although it has seen a resurgence once before, I believe that in the capable hands of the folks over at RMJ Tactical, combined with the tool’s incredible performance, the American Tomahawk Company and the Model 1 is here to stay.
Much like many classic designs, the Model 1 is a simple, no-frills hawk that focuses on function and durability. With the addition of current materials and processes, the Model 1 has stepped into the modern era, with RMJ Tactical, READYMAN and John Hickman helping take this once-great design to the next level.
The lightweight design of the Model 1 makes it perfect for regular carry without weighing you down, while the head design, forward weight and edge geometry make it perfect for whatever life throws your way—from combat to camp. For more information, visit AmericanTomahawk.com.
American Tomahawk Company Model 1 Specs
Blade Steel: Drop Forged 1060
Blade Length: 2.375 inches
Overall Length: 14.125 inches
Blade Thickness: 0.317 inch
Blade Finish: Black Powdercoat
Handle Material: STN 66 Supertough Nylon, Hickory
Weight: 20 ounces
You’ve got to admire American Tomahawk’s online style when it comes to dealing with the Nancys of the world. If you visit the “We’re So Sorry” page on their website, here is what you will see.
This article was originally published in the Tactical Life April/May 2021 issue. Subscription is available in print and digital editions at OutdoorGroupStore.com. Or call 1-800-284-5668, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.