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The military tradition of a tomahawk or axe, is quite long. To this day, the military still issues a tomahawk with individual units as a smash and escape tool. SEAL Team 6 famously carried the Winkler tomahawks, and they are often bought as personal items by troops heading downrange. From my own experience, I remember tomahawks and small axes being quite popular with Marines in my unit. Overseas they were used for just about everything. They served as knives, hammers, pry bars, wood splitters, and even breaching tools.
Find a locked box buried with what’s likely weapons inside? Chop the top off. Encounter a padlock? Chop it off. Making fire to cook the chicken you bought from the market? Split the wood and slaughter the chicken with a tomahawk. The long tradition has turned tomahawks and axes into multi-use tools. The 5.11 Operator’s Axe is an excellent example of a multi-use axe or tomahawk. Kyle Lamb of Viking Tactics and former Delta Force operator designed the Operator Axe off of a tool he carried overseas.
5.11 must-have jumped on the opportunity to produce them, and they are currently producing this full-sized model and a slightly more compact option. The 5.11 Operator’s Axe is designed with military and police use in mind but is a convenient tool if you adventure and explore. It’s just as much an outdoor tool as it is an urban tool.
The 5.11 Operator Axe has quite a few tools to it, and I wanted to count those off before we jumped into the review. We get the following:
● Axe Head
● Pry bar
● Metric and Standard Hex Drivers
● Small and large socket drivers
● ¼ inch bit driver
● Built on ruler
● Sheet metal cutter
It’s handy for field conditions and gives one tool that can do quite a bit.
General Dimensions and Blade Details
The head of the 5.11 Operator Axe is split into three different tools. First and foremost, we have the axe blade that features a long beard. The rear side of the device has a rather large hammer head. In the middle and at the top we have a pry bar with a nail puller cut into it. On the opposite side, at the very bottom of the tool, is a sheet metal cutter.
The axe head can cut and smash through wood and thin metal doors, and it can split wood and clear brush when necessary. It’s also a great tool to have when digging and running into roots. The Operator Axe has a very long beard that gives you a good solid hook, as well as a place to choke up with your hand for more delicate cuts. The beard of the axe is excellent if you need to pull something that you don’t want to touch or can’t safely grip. The axe head is also decently sharp, not razor-sharp, but it will cleave on through thin trees without an issue.
The hammer is another smash tool but also drives nails very well. The pry bar at the end of the Operator axe gives you an excellent tool for breaking into doors, windows, and getting in and out of nearly anywhere. The foot-long handle gives you plenty of leverage to pry.
The total length of the Operator Axe is 15 inches, and it weighs 1 pound and 10 ounces. It’s a bit large compared to most tomahawks, but still rather compact for easy carry. The Operator Axe is a real smash and crash tool with its primary tools.
The 5.11 Operator Axe is made from SCM 435 stainless steel. I will admit I know nothing about this steel, and I can’t find much information on it. As a tool made to smash and slice stainless steel makes sense. It’s less brittle, less like to chip, and will retain an edge longer. It’s harder to sharpen, but since only one of the many tools on this axe are bladed, it seems like strength is a more critical requirement. Here is a link to a material sheet on SCM 435.
The hammer head is welded on, but the rest of the axe is made from one piece of solid billet stainless steel. The tool is 7mms thick, which makes it over a quarter-inch thick in Freedom units.
The steel is finished with a subdued black oxide coating to improve the axe’s overall durability and corrosion resistance. Stainless steel is quite rust-resistant as is, but every little bit helps, right?
Handle and Ergonomics
The ergonomics are simple. It’s a straight line of a handle that is ribbed for a better grip. There are no added handles, it’s just steel. The downside is this rectangular shape gets uncomfortable quickly when using the axe head for doing typical axe tasks. Splitting wood and chopping down trees gets uncomfortable fast. It tires and pains the hand. This type of handle could benefit from some panels, or you should invest in half-decent gloves.
Using the hammer to drive nails is comfortable, but using to smash things is like using the axe head. It gets uncomfortable fast. The pry bar works wonderfully and will yank nails out and is thin enough to get into a door jam and rip it open. The sheet metal cutting tool is easy to use and quite comfortable to cut long strips of tin. There are lots of compromises with this design.
The handle of the axe has to be flat to allow you to use the variety of drivers milled into the handle. These drivers are handy and do work, but as you can imagine, they are a little unwieldy on axe. In a pinch, they are convenient, and I doubt most of us carry a socket or hex wrench with us everywhere we’d take an axe. I do wonder if scaled handles to improve comfort would be more valuable than these drivers.
The sheath is very dynamic and made from molded kydex. It covers the axe head, the pry bar, and leaves only a small portion of the hammer exposed. A leather thong goes around the sheath and keeps the axe secure. There is a lot of friction in the design, so it’s not just relying on the leather strap. The sheet metal cutter also has a friction fit sheath that sticks on nicely and doesn’t come off with a good tug.
The main sheath is equipped with MOLLE or belt compatible clips. These can be swapped for left or right-hand use and for mounting at different angles on your gear. It’s incredibly handy. It’s just as easy to carry on a pack as it is on your belt or on your plate carrier.
5.11 Operator Axe Review – Final Thoughts
The 5.11 Operator Axe isn’t for everyone, and to be honest, even as much as I love the outdoors, this axe is more suited for military, police, and fire-rescue personnel. That doesn’t mean I don’t like it. It’s tough, rugged, and packs a lot of tools in a lightweight, 15-inch package. The steel is a little mysterious, but after clashing, smashing, and splitting a variety of materials, it seems to hold up alright. The sheath is very well made, and I’m a big fan of the modularity it offers, as well as the various ways it can be carried.
The main downside is the discomfort in using the main tools for more extended periods of time. The rectangular design gets downright painful after a little bit of work. Admittedly the design is sleek, slim, and lightweight. Plus, the flat design gives you access to more tools. The 5.11 Operator Axe allows you to knock down doors, cut through car doors, split wood, smash windows, as a destructive tool. At the same time, it can be used to drive nails, loosen, or even tighten all sorts of screws. It’s a versatile tool, and it’s reasonably priced. I’m happy to have it just because it’s America and I can.
- COMPACT SIZE - 10 inch length. We have reduced the size and weight without compromising the utility.
- TACTICAL UTILITY - This operator axe comes with benefits featuring a dual Hex Bit (#2 Phillips + Flat Head), Pry bar/nail puller & notches for paracord wrap handle.
- FOR CHOPPING AND POUNDING - The 5.11 compact operator axe features a waffle textured-hammer head, ideal for various survival or utility tasks.
- MOLDED HARD SHEATH INCLUDED - Keep your axe secure and safe with the included mold sheath with retaining strap.
- WHY 5.11 - Apparel that is built for your environment. 5.11 creates products for both professionals and consumers that embody our mission to create purpose-built tactical gear for the most demanding missions. Always Be Ready
Editor: I recommend buying the 5.11 Operator Axe at Amazon. Thank you for reading.