The American Tomahawk Company presents, the Vietnam Tactical or V-TAC for short. Oh, it's been out for quite a while now, but I'm still excited about this particular edged tool.
Peter LaGana has now passed on but his Tomahawk design lives on along with his "No Nonsense" approach to using it. Mr. LaGana was a very interesting person. My friends all know that I think a fast road to Self-defense is to look back at World War Two Hand-to-Hand Combat methods and to study them, practice them and embrace them as an expedient and effective method of dealing with violent people even today. I mention this because what Mr. LaGana advocated was something he referred to as, "Killing Jiu-jitsu." It is impossible to separate the Vietnam Tomahawk from Peter LaGana, The Man, and it is impossible to fully understand the design unless you understand where he was coming from - in my opinion only.
Sure, it's just a Tomahawk, a hatchet. But Mr. LaGana put a lot of thought into making the best Tomahawk that he could. It was the culmination of what he believed to be true about Close Combat methods. What he knew of World War Two Hand-to-Hand Combat methods along with various Tomahawk designs he poured into this design of his.
While the methods he espouses may seem "crude" or "Neanderthal" or even "barbaric," I would remind the reader that there are quite a few men who earned The Congressional Medal of Honor wielding weapons like entrenching tools and bayonets. If you could have actually seen them in action using these weapons, you would probably not be very impressed with the movements and methods. Think "Saving Private Ryan" and "Band of Brothers" instead of a Jackie Chan flick
There is a bit more "Martial Science" in this Tomahawk than many would believe.
Just a little bit smaller: The Dimensions
This Tomahawk, when compared with the Original LaGanahawk, is slightly downsized to meet size and weight requirements the Department of Defense had. You can't have everything but maybe in downsizing it, they did a good thing because it's just going to be faster to handle and if there is a loss in chopping and hacking "power," you would probably need a computer to measure it, it would be so minimal.
"America's Nuclear Tomahawk"
If I could point to one person and say, "That's the guy that really opened up edged weapons as viable defensive tools to the public," that man would be Greg Walker.
Mr. Walker certainly has his detractors and I don't agree with everything he says either, but I guess the world would be a very boring place if we all agreed with each other on everything. But we should thank him for what he accomplished and for bringing this incredibly obscure and effective tool and weapon into the light of day, years ago, in Fighting Knives Magazine. Both magazines, Fighting Knives and Full Contact, gave so many people a platform to really show what they could do; not just Knifemakers but people like Kelly Worden and Jim Keating. And it was that platform that the Vietnam Tomahawk was finally showcased on.
The Elusive Patent
In Greg Walker's old two-part article in Fighting Knives Magazine, he said that the LaGana Tomahawk had not one but two U.S. Patents. I have not been able to find them and have searched quite a bit on the Government Website.
I feel confident to say that if one or two patents do exist, they are in the name of an Attorney or someone else and the descriptions of the attributes or features that were the heart of the patent remain a mystery. I have searched every possible keyword you can imagine to find them. I don't think they exist. Was there a Patent Pending on it? I don't know. It may have been something so simple as a Patent applied for and it was pending and then dropped or whatever. But there is no Patent that I can find at this time and I do search for them for some of these articles, as you can tell. I think they add a nice touch to an article and I'm sorry I have not been able to find one for the LaGanahawk.
"The Most Lethal Aspect: The Leading Edge"
If you gathered people around and asked them, "What do you think the most effective part of this Tomahawk is?" What do you think their answer would be? I think most would say, "The edge, don't be stupid!" Others might point to the Pick, the Spike on the backside of the 'Hawk.
Specifically, it would be the top one-third of the edge. This is what Mr. LaGana considered the most effective portion of the Tomahawk for combat purposes.
A close examination of the top of that edge will show that it protrudes a very small amount and this almost acts like a small hook bladed knife. Mr. LaGana designed this because he advocated horizontal slashing with the edge of the Tomahawk as a method to enter into closer range and then finishing the enemy off with other movements.
I was informed by someone in the know to make a Victory symbol with my index and middle fingers. Looking at the primary, the front edge of the 'Hawk, with those two fingers act like they were scissors and place them, carefully, on the edge with the bottom of the primary edge where it meets the secondary edge at the base of your two fingers. You follow me so far?
Keep your fingers straight and then look at the primary edge of the 'Hawk how it gracefully and subtly projects outward the smallest amount. This is the leading edge.
This little drawing is a gross exaggeration of what I am talking about.
Do I agree with that assessment, that the leading edge is the most lethal aspect? No, not really. I also don't discount the vast amount of knowledge that LaGana had about Tomahawks, either.
Slashing or Chopping: Which?
I think you can do both. It is entirely situational.
Some situations will call for slashing as Mr. LaGana advised and other situations would call for hacking and chopping with the edge and spike.
No one is going to argue about using a hatchet, they are effective choppers - they are simply devastating. But entering with slashing, using the leading edge of the V-TAC is something to think about. This is not a knife, it has some weight behind it and that weight can make it power through things a normal knife might not get through on a slash. Now think about that small, leading edge I don't necessarily agree that it is the most lethal aspect but it can get you to the most lethal aspects of the weapon in a real hurry.
So, the idea behind it becomes this: you can enter with horizontal slashing, something anyone can learn in a very short period of time, and then finish with whatever else is required. The hacks and chops are much more dedicated, committed movements than the slash.
"Break the Snake"
James Keating is correct; happiness is a sharp Tomahawk.
There are certain "sayings" that become the thing of Legend. They become unquestionable because they become the Standard Bearer for a goal, a concept, and a mindset an idea.
So, in Filipino Martial Arts (FMAs) "circles," the mantra has been, "Defang the snake," i.e., you remove the fangs from the most venomous snake and the snake is harmless.
You know what? That is simply brilliant. It really is. It's very visual and it's a really great goal, it also shows the humanity of some people, their desire to bring "knifefighting" into some sort of civilized arena where it might possibly, one day, become "respected" or "legitimized."
The idea being, if a man comes at you with a knife or some other deadly weapon or instrument - screwdriver, broken bottle, whatever, you could "defang" them, meaning, you eliminate their "fangs." You remove the ability of them to hold the "fang" which is the weapon.
No matter how good an idea is, the idea can become unrealistic if you don't take the environment into consideration. The Philippine Islands are a tropical environment. So, what is really effective there might not be so effective in another environment where people wear more clothes, or heavier clothes - like winter clothing, padded jackets and coats, multiple layers of clothing. All of which inhibit (to some degree) the lightning-fast slashing movements that we all admire from some of the most popular Filipino Martial Arts. (This is why thrusting with a small knife is generally preferred. Not just my opinion, but the opinion of many others who know a lot more than I do.)
So, the Art can become sub-optimal if you don't take this reality into consideration. This is not merely my opinion, go make a "training dummy" and put real clothes on it (not dry-rotted garbage you were going to discard anyway, that's cheating ) and slash at it. Slashing, cutting and hacking into the target are all distinctly different methods of using the knife, just as thrusting is. People that discount this are either not paying attention or they are not test cutting on realistic targets.
But this is not an article about knives and the combative applications of knives. It is about a special Tomahawk. Tomahawks and Hatchets make "Defanging the Snake" a moot point really. What we are talking about is "Breaking the Snake." You hit the snake in the back of the head or right behind the head, it can't bite you either.
How do you kill a rattlesnake with a long stick? Hit it behind the head and cripple it, "Break the Snake."
That incoming bayonet? Parry and hit the arm after interception, Break the Snake. Follow-up as necessary. The first movement might Break the Snake if the edge of the Tomahawk is what intercepts...
The Bean Counters and Pundits all thought technology was going to carry the day again. The Bean Counters and Pundits all said that Soldiers and Marines really don't need primitive weapons like knives because "war has changed." We have remote control aircraft with cameras in the sky and Hellfire missiles on them that can strike the enemy with surgical precision.
War does change. However, some aspects of war never change and the Man on the ground is always going to need hand-to-hand combat training and they are always going to need to know the most lethal information you can give them on the use of knives, hatchets, entrenching tools everything.
There has not been a fourth-month period pass by in this War in Iraq where there has not been a report on some heavy and bloody hand-to-hand struggle with the enemy. That's just my opinion from hearing news reports since this war began. House-to-House and Hand-to-Hand.
The Tool of Survival
So, could the Tomahawk "replace" the knife as a survival implement? Well, yeah, if the Tomahawk is the only thing you had in your possession to "survive" with! There were some pictures of Hunting Guides in Alaska cleaning big game with ATC Tomahawks online some time ago but I cannot find them now. Seeing really is believing and I have no doubt that those guys love their Tomahawks and have truly embraced them as survival tools. Nothing wrong with that!
I'm not going to give up knives as edged tools for survival, but if I had this Tomahawk and that's all I had, and the only thing between me and a skinned squirrel is this Tomahawk, the squirrel is getting skinned and I'm going to roast it.
This Tomahawk is now a piece of my gear. I've used Estwing hatchets and shingler's hatchets for years now, for camping and for throwers. I've always found a good hatchet to be an invaluable thing for camping and I've always loved this particular design of Tomahawk. I'd rather split kindling with a hatchet than use a camp knife. I can dig with this Tomahawk if I have to. It's a very versatile tool indeed. If I need to hack down and collect multiple saplings for a lean-to shelter, I can do it quickly with a hatchet. Quicker with a hatchet, I should say. When you start talking about building a really sturdy lean-to shelter with a fire reflector and doing it well, that can be a lot of work with even a big knife. You can certainly do it; I have done it many times. But I have used a hatchet as well and it tends to do the job much easier in my experience.
The Head is secured to the shaft and I don't think I can break it unless I purposely set out to do so. That's a good thing. Anything can be broken, you give me enough time and some other tools and I can break just about anything. But I don't think I am going to be able to separate this 'Hawk Head from the shaft while performing tasks with the 'Hawk that you might be called upon to do in a survival situation.
The handle of the V-TAC is oval in cross section. The lower end of the shaft has four finger indentations that are very subtle. They let you know, without looking, which way the primary edge on the 'Hawk is oriented.
They would also come in very handy when it comes to throwing the 'Hawk as you could have the same area gripped with every throw and anyone that knows about throwing edged weapons knows that consistency is everything. Just like the anchor point when shooting a bow.
The rest of the Grip running up the shaft resembles Diamond-plate steel that you see on some aftermarket truck and SUV accessories. It is a sturdy grip without being overbearing and I found it very secure and quite comfortable.
This is a very simple and sturdy way to carry the Tomahawk, especially attached to a pack, etc. The flap is secured by two Fastex buckles and the attachment points on the back of the sheath allow the sheath to be attached to various military packs as well as packs like those made from Maxpedition.
The sheath can be attached to a belt, a pack or using the sling points, a simple sling or a more elaborate one. I used an old Medic's Bag sling on mine as of late.
I have been informed that this Tomahawk is considered Breaching Gear in the military. What that means is, when something needs hacked up, chopped or broken like doors and windows, etc., this is a prime piece of available gear for select troops. Through "creative requisitioning," it might be possible for various folks to obtain one if they are in a combat zone. For others, it would be a piece of cake to requisition one. I know the modern Infantry is bogged down with all sorts of equipment but I cannot help but think, but believe, that they would be better served in Hand-to-Hand Combat by this weapon rather than a bayonet or something passing for a "combat knife" nowadays. It's not that the knife is not deadly, it most certainly is. But I think a Tomahawk has the capability to inflict much more damage even faster than the knife.
The stories of Soldiers and Marines breaking knives while making them perform tasks they were never designed to perform are legendary. With this Tomahawk, you really can punch a hole through a 55-gallon steel drum with the spike, open or destroy just about anything that needs to be opened or destroyed without failure. At Roadblocks/Checkpoints, if you need to pop a tire and don't want to discharge a weapon, you could do it with ease.
Attacking doorknobs on doors or the bolt area of a deadbolt lock where it enters the doorframe to gain entry into structures along with attacking padlocks or the hasps the padlocks are locked onto to gain entry - all become viable with this tool.
The Specifications - From American Tomahawk Co.
(The Following text, in red, and information is directly from American Tomahawk's Website.)
Steel: Drop-Forged 1060,
Handle: ST super-tough modified nylon
Ergonomics: Oval design indexing finger grooves
Overall Weight: 1 lb./453.59 grams practical*
Overall Length: 14/355.6mm practical*
Sheath: Jumpable nylon LBE/LBV, MOLLE, Sling, Belt
SKU: "VTAC" - LaGana Vietnam Tactical Tomahawk
Notes: "Practical" weight and length allow for small variations in material and manufacturing tolerances. Sheath is not included to overall weight and length.
The edge bevel is ground to resist deformation under extreme use. It will retain its edge, even after insane levels of abuse. It is extremely sharp for its included angle. However, it will not shave hair from your arm.
Click on the logo to go directly to American Tomahawk Dot Com!
What I wish to do in the future is get a camera out in the woods and actually show you just how effective this tool is. I was unable to obtain pictures in the past of this, new battery for camera - new doors open! If you need to build a shelter in a hurry, this is definitely the tool for your kit.
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