The ax is an ancient human tool that we have wielded for a very long time. In Australia, the oldest ax fragment was recently found and dates to about 50,000 ago. There is a reason you feel that strange connection when you wield an ax.
There aren’t many tools that are woven into the human experience the way the ax is. The fact that it has stood the test of time, till 2022, is a testament to its usefulness. Having the right ax for the task is very important and we are going to look at the best survival axes you can get your hands on.
Types of Axes
The wide strong blades on these types of axes are designed to take large bites out of trees and bring them down. The felling ax is designed to bring trees down.
When you head into the woods and you need to process lots of fuel for a fire then you need to carry a forest ax. These axes are shorter than a normal ax and great for carrying in the woods. This compact ax is larger than a hatchet and more effective.
The Hewing ax has a flat ax head and is used for hacking logs into lumber. Yes, people used to do that using an ax. I know it is hard to believe but they did it! This axes flat head helped with that.
This type of ax is designed for gaining access. it features a big strong ax head with a spike on one side for breaking down doors. There are benefits to having this kind of an ax. Gaining access can be very important particularly in urban survival.
These smaller axes with sharp blades are designed for throwing to hit targets. In the past, they would have been designed to throw at people and wound or kill them. Now we just get drunk and throw them at wooden targets.
The chopping ax features a thinner and sharper head for lopping off limbs and pieces of trees or brush. These are great tools for managing the landscape and chopping the limbs off fallen trees before breaking them down.
The biggest mistake most ax owners make is they take any kind of ax and use it like a maul. The maul is basically a sledgehammer with a wedge in it. It is designed for the tough task of splitting large rounds of wood. It’s essential if you are going to bring down large trees and break them down.
Parts of an Axe Head
There are a variety of survival axes for you to choose from. All survival axes have the same parts. These fundamental parts make up a strong ax head.
The Cutting Edge
The easiest part of the ax to identify is the cutting edge. This is, of course, the sharpened edge of the ax that is used for all of your cutting and chopping. On a double-bit ax, you will have two cutting edges.
The secondary bevel is the transitional plane that leads to the cheek of the ax. The secondary bevel is a very important part of the ax as it provides tons of strength in the transition from the thin sharpened edge. Without the secondary bevel your cutting edge break constantly.
Did you know that every ax has a beard? The heel of the blade or the bottom portion of the blade that drops low is the beard. This beard is most evident in something like a Vikings ax. You can see that long exaggerated beard.
The secondary bevel transitions into the cheek of the ax. This inclining transition leads directly into the thickest part of the ax. The cheek makes up the majority of the blade of the ax.
The eye of the ax is the hole that the handle runs through. This part of the ax is even shaped like an eye.
You may have never noticed the lug on an ax before but this is the section of the ax head that drops down, just a bit, over the handle of the ax. You can find the lug if you find the eye and draw a straight line down the thickest part of the ax head towards the handle. The lug adds further stability to the ax as a whole.
The flat portion at the back of the ax is also known as the butt or the poll of. You might use the butt of your ax to hammer in tent stakes when you are setting up camp.
Our Pick for Best Wilderness Survival Axe
The Council Tool #2 Woodcraft Ax
This is a 24-inch woodsman’s ax that is the perfect size for carrying into the woods. It’s the perfect wilderness survival ax. The ax head allows it to perform a number of tasks.
Weighing in at 2.0 pounds it is also a very lightweight ax to carry. It features a tough hickory handle and has been designed with bushcraft and wilderness survival in mind.
The Council Tool #2 Woodcraft Ax also comes with a leather mask that is designed to cover the cutting edge and protect it when you are not using the ax.
Our Pick for Best Urban Survival Axe
Dixon Powahatan 6lb Pickhead Fire Ax
One of the most important concepts of urban survival is access. If you are going to survive in an urban setting then you need to be able to gain access and deny access. When it comes to choosing an urban survival ax you should consider access, too.
The Dixon Powhatan fire ax is designed to break down doors and get into homes where fires are running rampant. In an urban setting, you are not going to be felling trees and creating lumber. You might use your ax to break up crates, doors, and other wooden items to make fuel for a fire in the cold months.
This 36-inch ax on a hickory handle means you will be able to create huge leverage and power in your swing.
Not to mention with the red ax head and the pick this can also be a weapon of intimidation should some bad people try and take something from you or break into your home in an urban collapse.
Our Pick for Homesteading Axe
Truper 30520 Multi-Purpose Axe
Let’s be clear, if you are living on a true homestead where you are taking full advantage of the land around you then you need to have a variety of axes. However, if we had to choose one ax to get you started on your homestead it would be the Truper.
The blade of this ax is made from heat-treated steel. The head is set on a hardwood hickory handle. The Truper is a nice long tool at 35 inches long.. The only task I would not recommend is splitting large rounds of wood. You should invest in a maul or wood splitter for that.
The Truper is the ax that I use on my own urban homestead on a regular basis. It is my experience that this is a durable and effective tool.
Best Survival Axe for Preppers Overall
Best Made American Felling Ax
This is a powerful American-made ax that is reliable and if taken care of could last you a lifetime. The 4lb felling head is made up of 5160 American alloy steel. The handle is 35 inches long and crafted from fine-grain Appalachian hickory.
No matter what the survival task is this ax can answer the call. for the most part, a prepper will be using this ax to split wood for heat, fire, and cooking. This is a good ax for limbing trees, too.
This ax is an investment and depending on your location this ax might have variable utility in your preps. However, it is an unbelievable tool of the highest quality. If you find yourself prepping in an urban setting without many trees you can use it to break up waste wood, gain access, or even as a highly valuable barter item.
Safely Using Your Axe
The ax is designed to cut. It is used to cut through dense wood so it will make easy work of your soft fleshy body. If you are wielding a survival axe then you need to understand the kind of damage that a tool like this can do.
- The first step to safely using your ax is to grab the right ax for the job.
- Next, you are going to clear the area around where you will be using your ax.
- Wear gloves and steel toe boots.
- Use 2 hands on your ax when you are swinging it. This is a 2 handed tool.
- Taking a safe stance is another important aspect of using the ax safely. If you miss your target the ax should not be aimed at your leg or foot. Use a wide stance.
- Also, be prepared with a trauma kit in case you are injured severely in an accident.
Maintaining and Storing your Axes
Whether you invest in a $50 ax or a $300 ax you want to take care of that investment. Survival axes are pretty simple to take care of because you are dealing with a piece of wood driven into a piece of metal. So, at its most basic ax maintenance is about treating the wood and preserving the metal.
If you have a sheath for your ax then you will want to treat that leather, too.
Caring for the Handle
I keep linseed oil on hand to care for the handles of my axes. Warm wood takes oil best so you need the ax handle to warm up before you wipe it down with oil. When the handles are oiled up you can let them sit in the sun or in a warm place so that the oil gets time to penetrate.
Your ax handle has two areas that require lots of attention. The first is the portion of the handle that goes through the ax head. The wood near the eye is cut across the grain and exposes the grain to degradation.
The wide part of the handle, or the knob, is another area that requires extra attention.
Using some paper towel or work rag you can soak it with some linseed oil and wrap it in those two areas.
Caring for the Ax Head
Over time your ax head will start to get rust on it. It’s just the nature of metal. Using a simple kitchen scrubber and a little vinegar. Dip the scrubber into the vinegar and vigorously scour the ax head until you remove all of the signs of rust.
Once the rust is gone you can rub the ax head down with gun oil. The gun oil should be left on the ax head and not completely wiped off.
Caring for the Leather Sheath
You may or may not have a leather sheath. Caring for leather is something most people do not concern themselves with these days. To keep it simple I am going to tell you to buy a product called Leather Better.
When you bring out the ax for maintenance wipe your sheath down with some Leather Better.
This type of maintenance should be conducted every 6 months, at least. If you use the ax a lot then you should do it more often.
A Uniquely Human Experience
The best survival axe should meet your requirements for survival. What are you trying to achieve with your ax? A person who uses their survival axe exclusively on outdoor trips and adventures is going to require a much different ax than a homesteader on 40 acres who has to manage a stand of pines and oaks.
Each one of the axes we featured in this article is sitting at the top of the heap. We decided to break them down for specific use to help you make a decision easier.
There is a certain romance that overcomes you when you grip an ax and use it to split wood. It is a uniquely human experience and one that transplants us to a long-forgotten time. In this hyper convenient and hyper-technological age, it is so important that we make those connections.