CRKT Woods Chogan, by Pat Cascio

There are a lot of tools that are very suitable for survival purposes, as well as for just plain fun, and self-defense. In the past, I’ve mentioned that, in a hand-to-hand combat situation, as much as I love a good fighting knife – I designed several myself – I would prefer a well-made and well-balanced tomahawk (“t-hawk”) of some type. First of all, you will have a much longer reach, to get at your attacker, than you would with a knife. Secondly, there is a lot more “umph” behind a tomahawk that is swung at an attacker, And, of course, when it comes to survival or camping, it’s just really hard to be a well-made tomahawk for all kinds of camp chores.

I actually passed on the CRKT Chogan T-Hawk, several times, for testing for an article – don’t know why, but I did. I usually have more than enough knives and similar products to test and write about, but for some reason, the Chogan T-Hawk, just didn’t rattle my cage for some reason. Well, the nice folks at CRKT sent me a big box of their products to test and write about, and the Chogan was one of the products.

Admittedly, the Chogan still didn’t catch my eye, until I actually took it out of the box, and started giving it a good once over – and then a second, and a third. I had to assemble it – assembly is simple, just put the axe head on the hard hickory handle, and follow the instructions included in the box, and use a pounding motion to get the head attached to the shaft. Easy to do – just pound the top of the wooden handle on a hard surface, like a concrete sidewalk, and the head will work its way down to the top of the shaft and it will secure itself in a few minutes. I had concerns about this method of attaching the head of the axe to the handle…more on this later.

Now, if you’ve ever been out camping or doing some survival training, and I certainly hope all of our readers fall into this category, then you know there are some tools that are more useful than others. I know setting up a tent, requires that you pound the tent stakes into the ground. More often than not, you will hit something hard or just packed dirt, and it makes getting those tent stakes far enough down in the ground so they’ll hold a tent under windy conditions. Also, another thing we usually run into, is some wood for a campfire – and you will never seem to find enough kindling or other wood to get a campfire going and keep it going throughout the night.

Yeah, I know there are a lot of great big, “camp” and “survival” fixed blades knives on the market, that can get the above jobs done. However, in my humble opinion, none of them work nearly as well as a good hatchet, tomahawk or axe can do the jobs.

Let’s take a close look at the Chogan black t-hawk, that I tested. It was designed by custom knifemaker Ryan Johnson of RMJ Tactical in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The folks at CRKT said that it was a “memorable day” when Johnson introduced them to his Chogan – his original model at their headquarters. They have released this updated and exclusive edition that has a maganese phosphate coating on the head, for corrosion resistance. They call this one the Black Woods Chogan. Mine has a super tough firewood-burned handle, made out of hickory, that has a very attractive look to it. Now, if you note in the pics with this article, you will see that, the end of the axe head is a bit different than what you might see on other similar products. The one end, is sharpened to almost a razor shaving sharpness, and it also has a curved portion of this end, that is further sharpened. On the opposite end, is a hammerhead – that is more useful than one might think.

The blade end of the axe is 3.50-inches in length – and once again, sharp – very sharp. The axe head is made out of 1055 carbon steel – this holds an edge a very long time, and it is easy to resharpen. I once had an editor tell me that no knife steel is “easy” to resharpen – he was wrong, and probably still is. The axe head is coated in Manganese phosphate, and this helps protect it against rust and the elements. Now, of course, where the sharpened end is bare, it will rust, but a little oil on it, after use, will prevent any rust from forming – same as any knife blade – and many people believe that a stainless steel blade won’t rust – they will! They will just rust and stain “less” as the name implies.

The Chogan weighs in at a fraction under 2-pounds, and it really balances well, for a small two-hand axe. And, make no mistake, this is an axe – just not a full-length or full-sized one. The axe head is made in Taiwan — our ally Free China, not mainland China. I like that the hickory wood handle actually comes from Tennessee – very nice touch. And, as mentioned, it is fire burned, and then has a coating of lacquer on it – to help protect the wood from the elements as well. This particular model comes with a leather sheath – however, you can order one without the sheath – and I believe you should get one with the nice brown leather sheath – makes carrying the Chogan on your belt, on your pack or inside of a pack a lot easier and safer. I should also mention that several makers in the U.S. produce molded Kydex sheaths to fit the Chogan. The sharpened end of the axe, has a protective rubber shield on it – and I strongly suggest you keep that little piece of rubber on it, until you are ready to use it – as I said a few times now, this blade is very sharp.

I put the Chogan through a series of tests on my small homestead. Needless to say, slicing through thick, and I mean thick blackberry vines is always tough, but the Chogan had no problems. And, I actually used it to chop through the base of some thick blackberry vines, and digging them out of the ground. We always have plenty of down trees on our land, and using some of them as a test medium was a lot of fun – and work. I could easily chop through some of these trees, as well as tree branches, and it made quick work of these test mediums. Did I happen to mention, how sharp the Chogan is – it is! I also used the sharpened end of the axe in the kitchen, to cut through some meat and veggies – not a perfect tool for this, to be sure, but it sure made quick work of this chore. Of course, this axe wasn’t designed for work in the kitchen, but if it will work in the kitchen, it will work at a campfire, too.

Splitting wood – not a problem with this unique axe – even some big rounds of wood, that were already cut to length for use in my oldest daughter’s wood stove, next door to us, in our guest cottage, was easy to split and more often than not, a single chopping motion would split this wood. I also used the Chogan to slice the bark on some tree branches – and it made quick work of that, too.

I don’t believe is testing products to destruction, because any product can be destroyed, so as a rule, I don’t abuse any tools I’m testing. However, the Chogan, just cried out to me, to do some “throwing” with it, at some long-dead trees on my digs. Admittedly, I’m certainly no expert when it comes to throwing knives or axes, but I thought I’d give it a try. Needless to say, the Chogan missed sticking in the trees, more often than it actually stuck. When it did stick, sharp end – it stuck hard – very hard. The axe head never worked itself loose from the handle – that’s a good thing – I had some concerns about that. The axe never hit the trees handle first, and that’s good – but it hit the trees with the hammerhead more often than it did with the sharpened end. Not a bad thing, if you were using this as a last-ditch self-defense weapon – I wouldn’t want to be hit with the sharpened end, nor the hammerhead end!

I like this Chogan a lot, and my oldest daughter, requested that I get her one – she has no idea what she’ll use it for, but wanted one, just the same – wish granted! This sample is going into my e-box in the enclosed bed of my pick-up truck and if the time comes, I ever have to bug out, or head home on foot, this wicked tool will be in my bag or on my hip. There’s just a lot of uses for this type of tool, and make no mistake, it is a tool, first, and a last-ditch weapon to save your bacon, as another use.

The Woods Chogan T-Hawk is a best-seller at CRKT, and would make an excellent birthday present for yourself or someone who is into camping or survival. Full-retail is $69.99 and as always, shop the ‘net for discounted prices — probably around $50. I found one dealer with a price just under  $47. I think you’ll be happy that you got one.