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Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Hand Ax as a Survival Tool

The Hand Ax as a Survival Tool

I got an e-mail from a cousin of mine asking me what sort of knife I thought would be best for a survivalist to have. She said she had done some research and discovered that there were almost as many opinions about knives as there were guns. That should not have been a surprise.

I e-mailed her part of a letter I had written to a friend about the types of knives I carry for different occasions. I forgot to add something I wanted to tell her and realized it might make a good post, so with TOR permission, here it is.

Besides having a good knife that you feel will do the chores you want done with it, you need a good hand ax. Years ago I read a survival ditty in one of the major outdoor magazines about a guy’s choice for survival being only an ax. He felt you could do everything with an ax that you could do with a knife and more. He felt you could use it to skin a rabbit or deer, build a shelter, cut firewood, and defend yourself from a wild animal.

I thought on that for a long time and started using my hand ax for more and more chores that I might have used a knife for. I found that indeed an ax did a lot of stuff well. Oh, you can’t cut a nice fuzzy stick or make the trigger for a figure four trap well with only an ax, but all in all they are well worth having. Remember, most of my survival/camping/woodsman ship has been done in Michigan. I didn’t miss an ax while on any of my Death Valley treks.

A machete is also considered a good instrument to have with you in the wilds and I think that the southern swamp areas they would prove more useful than an ax. Like all things survival you have to look at your situation and go with what works for you.

At one time I carried what is best described as a half sized double bit axe. In time I stopped using it and went back to the hand ax. The double bit would do a lot when it came to wood gathering, shelter building and heavy chores, but was ungainly to use for smaller task. When space and weight became a bigger factor in what went into the woods with me, the larger axe stayed behind.

A hand ax hanging on your BOB is well worth the weight. It doesn’t have to be a heavy battle axe type either. If you ever find one of those small hand axes that Marble’s used to make they are near perfect for a bug out bag.

I want to add one thing too, when I talk about a hand ax I am talking about the older ones, not the new models. The older axes have smaller heads, stay sharper, and have a different feel to them. I have bought three or four older ones at flea markets and they have all been less than $10, about the cost of a newer model. I also have not tried any of the modern camping axes like the new model from Gerber. They may be fine, I just do not know. The ax I carry now I found stuck in a stump in the woods while I was out treasure hunting one day. I used it ever since and still have it with the BOB.

Oh, and before you write and ask, the knife I settled on to carry almost all the time now is the Air Force survival/pilot’s knife. I use it to gut deer, clean fish, camp work, and about everything else. I know not everyone likes then, but for me for now, it works fine. For detail work I have my EDC pocket knife, and I am never without that unless on a plane or in the courthouse.



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