Gerber Downrange Tomahawk Review

Gerber Downrange Tomahawk Review

One of the most versatile and functional tools on the market is now ready to be delivered to your doorstep. Gerber’s new hand-axe is both a beauty and a beast! And I plan on getting one soon, so I did tons of in-depth research. In my Gerber Downrange tomahawk review, I will be sharing my findings, likes, and dislikes.

Are you curious about the product? Check this link for the latest reviews, price, and info on Amazon. Still undecided? Then let’s move on!

Is this the right tool for you? What can you do with it? Can you practice throwing? Does it have the right balance and geometry to throw it effectively and mark the target? Is it strong enough to take down a tree? How efficient of a chopper is it? These are questions that I will be answering in my Gerber Downrange tomahawk review.

A tomahawk is first and foremost a tactical weapon used by guerilla fighters. Many models have been created and used by civilizations and cultures across the globe. It a versatile bladed survival tool that should have a place in your path-finding, camping gear.

This hawk is effective at tasks such as breaching, survival, rescue and close-quarter combat. Tomahawks have gained popularity in recent years: in sports, competitions, survival camps, and even in the military. Check out the latest price on Amazon for the Gerber Downrange. Otherwise, here is my short summary of the product.

Gerber Downrange Summary

Quality. Budget, stainless 420HC steel with average toughness, edge-retention, and corrosion resistance. Easy to sharpen. Exceptional handle and sheath.

Durability. Not the best steel, but a decent choice for a tomahawk. No reports of chipping or breaking. Just don’t over-sharpen it and you’ll be fine!

Sharpness​. Tomahawk has a modest edge, quite dull. This was on purpose since this is a breaching hatchet, but you can resharpen it for effective chopping and survival activities.

Ergonomics. Good balance for easy control, lightweight, portable, and awesome to work with.

Applicability. Amazing multi-tool. Originally designed as a breaching axe equipped with hammer and pry bar. You can sharpen it to increase its range of applications.

Price. Quite pricy despite its good quality and wide range of use. For this price, I would have loved better-rated steel.

Pros

  • Highly effective multi-tool.
  • Amazing ergonomics and portability.
  • Lightweight, easy to carry. 
  • Good corrosion resistance.
  • Awesome design and style.
  • Quality sheath and handle.

Cons

  • Fairly dull, poor cutter.
  • Low-end steel.
  • Expensive.

Overall rating :  4.3 / 5

Great multi-tool that can save you a lot of space (and even more trouble). The visual appeal of this 3-in-1 tactical survival axe is matched by its steep price. With a little sharpening, you can turn this into a decent chopper and cutter.

Gerber Downrange Tomahawk Review

The Downrange tomahawk was on my top list for a while, and it is differentiated by the fact that it is a multi-tool of premium performance, effective in a wide variety of tasks. It is an axe, a hammer, and a crowbar. It can chop, cut, bash, and pry open!

It’s quite pricey compared to your average axe, but this is a military-grade tool with an awesome design, quality materials, and of high performance.

I do have some concerns about it: sharpness, balance, weight, and distribution of mass, shock absorption properties of the handle. We will go through each of these in detail.

The tomahawk is coated with a black Cerakote finish, so it doesn’t rust when exposed to humidity.

What can you do with this tomahawk? The Downrange is an infiltration and breaching tool – it can break through locks, doorknobs, hinges and anything else that may slow you down. Even if you’re not a fireman, it’s good to know you have the right tool by your side. This tomahawk is a modern tactical instrument, specifically designed to accomplish breaching tasks and rescue operations.

The head is designed to chop down mostly anything, while the hammer-head has a perfect size to smash obstacles and even build stuff. The handle features a hefty pry at the end, which you can leverage by gripping the cutaway axe-head. Here is a demo video:

This tool is versatile, and its applications are wide-ranging. I still haven’t made up my mind whether it is hatchet or a tomahawk (that’s what it is advertised as). I guess time will tell! With that in mind let’s unravel our Gerber Downrange tomahawk review and shift our focus towards the most important part of the tool: Let’s see the steel, the edge, and materials.

Materials Used In the Gerber Downrange

The axe-head and the handle spine consist of 420HC steel (AISI standard), one of the most popular materials used in a wide variety of knives, razors, and cutlery.

It is a budget steel (cheap), used with great success in many tools and applications. If this was a machete, I would have been worried because it would have been too thin and prone to damage. But for a heavy, bulky, wide-cheek axe-head, it is the perfect option in term of cost and performance: Cheap enough to lower the price, but decent for whatever job a hatchet needs to do.

The 420HC is mid-range (5/10) in terms of toughness, edge-retention, ease of sharpening, and corrosion resistance. For an axe-head, that is good enough! A Cerakote coating protects the steel, improving its chemical resistance. This thin ceramic film is really effective.

Quite a unique handle as well, compared to other hatchets. The axe-head and the handlebar are one big, seamless piece of steel. It is a full-tang! Of course, the handle is covered with G-10 scales. For those who never heard of this material, G-10 is a high-pressure fiberglass laminate – strong, low moisture absorption, non-reactive chemically, and high electrical insulation.

The sheath is designed with ergonomics in minds, from Kydex thermoplastic material. Manufacturers use it for holsters and even aircraft bulkheads. It is a good choice because it’s waterproof, scratch-resistant, and it doesn’t deform.

Blade

The Downrange tomahawk is designed with a multi-purpose axe-head which provides many useful functions that may come in handy.

It has a beveled edge which can chop logs and timber, and even breach through doors, drywall, and hinges. The head has a cutaway hole, with an ergonomic shape for introducing your palm and gripping the head – this allows you to use the hatchet just like a crowbar, to pry stuff open. The hole has a shape that allows you to clench your fist around the head because it nicely follows your finger pattern.

The hawk is made from a solid piece of 420HC steel, finished with a black coating. A sweeping beard gives the tomahawk an excellent capability to hook onto logs, stumps, and rocks when mountaineering a difficult terrain.

However, some customers have complained that the edge is not sharp. Gerber said it themselves that they dulled the blade on purpose “for safety reasons”. Plus, the product’s initial purpose was to serve as a breaking and breaching tool, not as a chopper. The good thing is that 420HC is very easy to sharpen, so you can transform this tomahawk into the kind of tool that you need.

A sharpened bevel is suitable used for chopping wood and cutting stuff, but not for breaking things and smashing walls and cement. An overly sharp axe-head may dent its edge if you use it in these kinds of super heavy-duty tasks, where the steel must endure strenuous physical stress.  

Gerber purposefully designed the Downrange with a less aggressive edge, capable of absorbing more damage, for the kinds of tasks I was talking about. You can easily sharpen the edge to give it the cutting power you need for survival and bushcraft purposes.

Can the Blade Chop And Cut?

When in a situation where time is limited, you must do your best with the tools at your disposal. Even though you need to sharpen the edge to increase its performance, it does a decent job at most outdoor activities:

The Downrange tomahawk is the right tool, no matter what’s on the other side of the barrier. But when it comes to chopping, it performs averagely because of its dull edge, as we already pointed out. It can chop, but I have seen better choppers.

If you want to transform this hatchet into an efficient chopper, then sharpening it would be a good start!

Cutting ability – same story! Upon delivery, the Downrange is dull, so it won’t give you much satisfaction as a survival hatchet if you need to split wood to make kindling for the fire. Even so, you can still cleave off dry branches, and break them to the right size to start a fire… Survival is about improvisation.

When I get mine, I am definitely going to sharpen it. I like the Downrange design too much to turn away from it just because of the sharpness aspect. I plan on making it as functional as I can, and then I will complete this Gerber Downrange tomahawk review with more up-to-date information.

Can You Throw the Gerber Tomahawk At a Target?

Total length measures 19.27 inches (49 cm), quite long for a tomahawk. Throwing axes must measure somewhere between 13 and 17 inches. Ours is longer, so it won’t make it in a competition! But you can still practice your throws. The sheer size makes it cumbersome to pack but adds leverage when used as a pry bar. That’s why Gerber increased the handle length for their Downrange.

I do like the weight. Keep in mind that standard throwing tomahawks should have axe-heads weighing between 1.25 – 1.75 pounds (560 – 800 grams). The Downrange leans towards the lower limit, because of the hollowed space for gripping the pry bar.

While I can’t say this for sure, I bet the mass is distributed equally, with the center of gravity right in the middle. I believe this tomahawk won’t make it difficult for me to practice my throws.

How Are Balance And Handling For the Downrange?

Gerber is unstoppable when it comes to innovation and design. Their military tomahawk is designed in a unique way to cater to the needs of customers:

It can be easily handled regardless of conditions. The axe-head is partly hollow, so there won’t be much weight to pack a heavy chop. But it has the thick, bulky hammer-head to fix the problem.

I expect the Downrange to have its weight equally distributed, with its center of gravity in the mid-section.

This is actually a light-weight hatchet, weighing no more than 1.9 lbs (870 grams). It is a very light tool, despite its length. The G-10 scales offer good shock absorption, and they don’t add extra mass since the material is light. Quite an effective and practical tool!

Handle

The axe-head and handle-spine are made from one solid piece of steel. Full-tang tomahawk! When bashing and chopping, it won’t break because there’s no insertion point!

Metallic handles are poor at absorbing shock, which can be bad for your wrists. But the integrated G-10 scales partly solve that problem. They are firmly attached to the steel, covering the handle to protect your wrists against strain.

The shaft doesn’t have an oval trans-section, unfortunately. So, it might not offer the most comfortable grip when you clench your fist around it. It’s a rectangular trans-section and I am looking forward to squeezing and chocking it to find out how it feels.

Every handle will cause calluses after prolonged use, especially if you have soft palms. Make sure you wear gloves when working outside, in camping activities or backyards chores.

The G-10 scale features two rows of jimping (contact notches), located on the lower and upper sides. These notches make the handle more adherent and easier to grip. Depending on the gloves you wear, a smooth surface may become slippery. These little “holes” make it uneven and bumpy, for a better grip.

I also like the cavity in axe-head, which serves as a comfortable secondary handle when using the tomahawk as a crowbar. It has a nice shape, very well suited for clenching your fist around it because of the four groves for the fingers to grip onto.

Sheath

The Downrange tomahawk has an attachable, MOLLE-compatible sheath. The system is quite complex, with three separate elements: the sheath and two protective covers (one for the axe-head, another one for the pry-bar tip).

When you strap the tomahawk in the MOLLE-sheath, you insert the pry-bar tip into a protective sleeve. So, this element is attached to the sheath, as opposed to the axe-head cover.

You can secure these black plastic covers to the tomahawk with nylon straps. These protective caps are great because they shield the exposed steel parts against oxidation.

The edge, the axe-head, and the prying tip can have their protective Cerakote layer scratched off – so these covers do offer extra resistance. Remember that 420HC steel is moderately corrosion-resistant, so it needs the coating and the plastic covers.

The sheath and protective elements are easy to use, and they feature a slim, black design. Even when you secure the tomahawk in the sheath, the hammer-head is exposed because it has no covering.

Pros and Cons

My Gerber Downrange tomahawk review would not be complete without the pros and cons section. This part is very important to give a verdict on whether this product is worth it!

Pros

  • Great and sturdy multi-tool, effective at many types of jobs and tasks. It combines the chopping power of an axe, the force of a hammer and the leverage of a pry-bar.
  • Good ergonomics, some of the best by far. Shows promise for throwing and target practice.
  • Lightweight and easy to carry. MOLLE compatible.
  • Decent corrosion resistance.
  • Amazing design, awesome aesthetics.
  • Quality materials for the sheath and the handle.

Cons

  • Fairly dull compared to similar products.
  • Modest steel quality.
  • Expensive.

User Reviews of the Downrange Tomahawk

Users separated themselves into two camps: the fans and the haters. Despite how much I like this tool, I can at least sympathize with those who dislike it.

Check out this Amazon link to see what excited / turned off some of the users. I can’t say I was surprised, but I am dead set on this tomahawk!

What Are the Negative Points?

People tend to consider many factors when choosing the best tomahawk. I know for a fact that most buyers are eager to find a super-sharp cutter, but keep in mind, this is a tool for breaching and rescue operations. Many buyers seemed to forget that! So, I heard many complaints about how dull the edge is, but people didn’t read the specs. This is not a chopping axe, even though you can certainly give it the sharpness you want.

A much more credible criticism is the balance off-set. The hollowed axe-head and the thick prying-head (at the end) have shifted the center of mass towards the middle of the handle. This means less chopping power. I am sure that’s correct!

Many customers feel that the price is a bit high for what this axe has to offer. This is another important point that comes up. I do agree that it’s expensive but it is very useful and I am still determined to buy it!

Positive Feedback and Reviews

The multi-tool aspect attracted much more positive attention. People feel empowered when they are prepared and ready to go, and nothing offers that strong feeling better than a powerful, versatile tool, that can easily handle any emergency.

Having so much functionality and portability packed into one lightweight hatchet made most people look pass whatever negative qualities they might have found, like sharpness for example. This amazing tool has overwhelmingly positive reviews on most sites. People are willing to overlook a steep price when they are offered a useful product.

Most people have sharpened the edge, or they took it to a professional knife-smith to have it done. Afterward, they liked the tomahawk even more, since it performed better as a tactical, survival hatchet, capable of splitting and chopping wood. Hikers and campers, take note!

For a revealing list of the most savory experiences with the tomahawk, check this Amazon product review page.

Bottom Line

The Gerber Downrange tomahawk is a good tactical tool which offers functionality, quality, and performance but for a hefty price. It is an awesome tool, and the nice thing is that you can make it even better with minimal investment – just re-sharpen it!

If you want this versatile and portable hatchet, be ready to make a decent investment. But if you have doubts about it, check out our other articles, where we selected the most durable and practical tomahawks of similar top-quality.


Related Posts:

Top-Rated Tomahawks Reviewed

What I Loved About the M48 Tactical

Building Plans For an Axe-Throwing Target

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. I was back and forth between the Gerber downrange and the CRKT, but you helped me make up my mind… Gerber it is! Thank you

    1. Glad to help, brother! Gerber does have good tools. Have fun with it.

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