Story and Photos by Waysun Johnny Tsai and TOPS Knives
Over the past 20 years, the good folks at TOPS Knives have developed a reputation of combining robust designs, time tested materials and a perfect heat treat – adding up to their near impossible to break fixed blade knives and edged tools.
From time to time TOPS has been known to sprinkle in the occasion folder, but overall, it’s their fixed blades that have earned them a reputation that hardcore users would trust their lives with.
Outside of their fixed blades, TOPS has also offered close to a dozen tomahawk and axe designs. Tomahawks like the IDT Crash Axe could easily tear open a stranded vehicle, while their Grandpa’s Axe could be thrown in a backpack for a nice weekend long camping trip. And, in 2017, TOPS debuted their new Hammer Hawk with its companion Backup knife.
When I first spotted the Hammer Hawk at Blade show, I notice the arrow tooled into the cheek on both side of the blade. I thought that was a cool detail – different for TOPS – and it really caught my eye, forcing me to gravitate towards it on the table. Once picking up the Hawk, I knew that it was something that I need to spend a little time with.
The first thing that impressed me about the Hammer Hawk, is that is an actual tool. I don’t just mean a camp tool either, I mean an all-around tool that you could keep in a toolbox.
With an overall length of 14.5 inches I found it to be a good size to keep in my pack. The 4.5-inch blade length is an ample amount of edge to handle any cutting or chopping workload. Made of 1075 high carbon steel, and at just over two pounds (36.3 ounces), the Hammer Hawk is also heavy enough to handle actual hammering of whatever you may feel needs hammering.
The TOPS Acid Rain finish on the Hammer Hawk works nicely with the rounded green canvas micarta handle scales. I also like that TOPS Knives’ President, Leo Espinoza, decided to put his version of a hammer head on this hawk instead of a battle spike – It really does add to the overall value and usefulness of this tool.
One thing that stood out was the high-quality brown leather sheath. In my opinion, it is possibly the nicest leather sheath that TOPS Knives has made to date. Made from thick brown boot leather, the sheath is in two parts; the belt frog and the edge cover.
There is also a built in Kydex sheath for the Backup knife, which locks the knife in with solid retention. The Hammer Hawk itself is built to last for generations and I don’t see any reason it’s sheath would ever have to be replaced.
I could be wrong, but I think the Backup blade was released prior to the Hammer Hawk as a standalone neck knife and is still available on its own.
The 1095 blade is 5-inches tip to tip, with an edge that comes in at 2.38-inches. The blade is light, at just 1.6 ounces, so as a backup blade it really is a good size and weight. TOPS’ choice to use their signature 1095 steel on this knife is a good move, you can literally field sharpen it on the back of a ceramic coffee mug in a pinch.
I have short fingers and a wide palm and found both the forward grip and reverse ice pick grip to be comfortable – even with the Backup blade’s smaller size.
I feel the Backup blade is a perfect pairing for the Hammer Hawk – being the right size and edge geometry to handle the finer work that the tomahawk can’t.
For giggles, I decided to slice up an old leather belt with the Backup. The short 2.38-inch blade made quick work of the belt and impressively held its edge.
With the heft that this tomahawk has, I knew it would split wood with ease.
I decided to head over to a local construction site and test the Hammer Hawk in a couple of different ways I thought fitting for the tool. I grabbed a couple of 2-inch boards and, just as expected, the Hammer hawk bit impressively deep with every swing.
I then decided to double stack the split 2-inch boards and hammer some 4- and 6-inch nails through them. I have to say, even though the hammer head is small – In comparison to a standard hammer – It did the job. The weight and grip of the Hammer Hawk allowed me to sink each nail with good aim and balance.
One disclosure that I felt the need to mention is, if you do decide to use it as a hammer, pay attention to the edge as you swing it up towards your shoulder on the backswing. I can see carelessness turning into a very bad scenario fast.
Finally, I decided to have some fun and use the hammer head to smash an ammo can – I have to say there is something satisfying about smashing stuff. While steel ammo cans are made to last and withstand some harsh environments, this old can was no match for the Hammer Hawk.
I really like the Hammer Hawk. The length and weight felt perfect in my hand – even though some may feel that it is a bit on the heavy side. However, I have found that the extra heft makes it an extra destructive tool. The overall design is nothing to miss either and the arrow detail on the cheek – on each side – makes it a head turner.
The leather sheath, in my opinion, is perfect. I am not sure TOPS could have made a better sheath and kept this kit affordable – I really like the built in Kydex for the Backup blade. Speaking of the Backup blade, it is an optional add on, at a discount from its regular price. I don’t think you can go wrong adding it to your cart.
Overall, I highly recommend the TOPS Knives Hammer Hawk, it is a hardcore tool that is a welcome addition to any pack or vehicle.
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HAMMER HAWKBlade Material: 1075 RC 56-58Blade Length: 4.5 inchesOverall Length: 14.50 inchesBlade Thickness: .380 inchBlade Finish: Acid RainHandle Material: Green Canvas MicartaWeight: 36.3 ouncesWeight with Sheath: 42.3 ouncesSheath Material: Brown Leather MSRP: $350.00
BACK-UP KNIFEBlade Material: 1095 RC 56-58 Blade Length: 2.38 inchesOverall Length: 5.00 inchesBlade Finish: Acid RainHandle Material: SkeletonWeight: 1.6 ouncesSheath Material: KydexMSRP: $75.00
TOPS Knives(208) 542-0113TOPSKnives.com
TOPS KnivesBlade HQKnife Center
SIJO Waysun Johnny Tsai is a Chicago native and the founder of C.U.M.A. Combatives and the C.U.M.A. Survival School. A Master level Instructor, Sijo has over 33 years of combined experience in teaching practical street defense in the civilian, military and law enforcement sectors and is considered one of the World's foremost experts in practical street defense and Combatives. He is a published book, magazine and DVD author, as well as a highly established impact and edged weapons designer. Sijo has knife designs on the market and available through TOPS Knives, Slysteel Knives, Day One Gear, Combat Ready Knives and Grunt Style.
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