In the past decade, the sport of axe throwing has gone from lumberjack pastime to national phenomenon. There’s a World Axe Throwing League (WATL) and a National Axe Throwing Federation (NATF). Dozens of axe-centric bars and venues with such names as “Urban Axes,” “Bad Axe,” “Mother Huckers,” and “Huck Yeah!” have popped up in dozens of major cities.
It’s easy to understand the appeal of axe or hatchet throwing. It has the same competitive thrill as cornhole but with more of an edge (har-har) Players hurl sharp weapons (tomahawks, hatchets) at a 36-inch wide target and receive points based on where their throws sink into the target. It’s exciting. It’s challenging but not too challenging. It’s a throwback to a wilder time. And it’s pretty damn easy to set up in your own backyard.
Now, today’s axe throwing establishments are far removed from the rustic, frontiersman past. They have beer on tap, music in the air, and caged-in ranges in which players can toss axes solo or with friends.
“It’s a ton of fun and so much better than darts,” says Darren Sonnier the owner of Kick Axe Throwing in Brooklyn and Washington D.C. “You get this awesome feeling when the axe sinks into the wood. It’s super satisfying. And anyone can do it — young, old, men, women, it does not matter.”
So, how do you set up an axe throwing area in your backyard? We spoke to a number of professional axe throwing experts as well as venue owners about how to set up an area for you and friends to engage in some hatchet, axe, and tomahawk throwing action. Here’s everything you need to throw axes it in your backyard as well as picks for the best throwing axes, throwing tomahawks, and throwing hatchets.
How to Set Up Your Own Axe-Throwing Area
As you’re dealing with axes or hatchets flying through the air — weapons that can cause a fair amount of damage, or even death — proper precautions are necessary. The first thing to do is find a spot that is clear of obstacles around your intended target area. It can be in your backyard or even a garage if you have very high ceilings (minimum 12 feet tall).
Once you have identified where you will be tossing, most experts recommend building a backstop with sidewalls six feet apart to contain the axe after it’s thrown. Then you want to measure 12 feet from the target and make a three-foot deep throwing box on the ground. That’s where people will stand when they throw (any closer could be dangerous.) According to Sonnier, most guys do well from 12 feet and women tend to fling from 14 or 15 feet.
How to Make an Axe-Throwing Target
First thing’s first: You want a flat target. “Don’t throw at a tree trunk. You will kill the tree, and the chances of the axe ricocheting off in a dangerous direction are high,” says Sonnier “Take the time to create a flat target to toss at. It will be much better and more fun.”
You can build one from plywood or any other soft wood. It’s better, however, to buy a large circular tree stump from a lumber or saw mill that you hang flat. It should be at least 24-inches in diameter. This will last longer and is easier for the axe to stick into. Install a 4 x 6 backstop on which to mount targets. Build from 2 x 10’s with a header and footer on top of five boards mounted vertically together — it should look like a dartboard backstop.
On the targeting area, paint a basic bull’s-eye target of five rings, with two small circles (the kill shots) located at 10 and two (like a clock) in the outer circle.
With this setup, you can follow the WATL basic scoring rubric when tossing. Scoring is six points for bull’s-eye, four points for second ring, three points for third ring, two points for fourth ring, one point for fifth ring, and 10 points for kill shot. Ten throws per match, highest aggregate score wins. A tie goes to sudden death with higher throw winning.
Most experts recommend coming in to an establishment to learn the basics before heading into the backyard to throw. “Come to axe throwing area the first time, we can teach you so you are able to excel and be safe,” says Sonnier ”You can learn the basic and advanced throwing techniques from a professional to enhance your skills.”
What’s Types of Axes Are Best for Axe Throwing?
Once you’ve built a backyard arena for safe throwing, now you need the most important thing: an axe.
“The best part of axe throwing is you really don’t need to spend much money on an axe,” says Melanie St Amour of Bad Axe Throwing. which has a variety of locations in Canada as well as Chicago, Atlanta, Denver, Indianapolis, Oklahoma, San Francisco, and Washington DC. “Just about any camp hatchet will do, but you can get something a bit more interesting too.”
According to St Amour, when starting out it’s easier to go with a heavier axe between three to five pounds, as they stick in the wood easier and are more forgiving. Once you improve your technique and are looking for more precision, then you can go for a lighter axe (1.5 to 1.75 pounds).
One thing to note: Wooden handles might look good but they also break, especially when used by beginners. Steel one-piece axes with a 14-16 inch handle are a good choice.
Keeping this in mind, here are the best throwing axes, throwing hatchets, and throwing tomahawks to buy.
The Best Throwing Axe and Throwing Tomahawk for Beginners
This is a forged steel head one-piece axe with a great grip that is bonded on. It has a 4-inch blade, is 16 inches long, and will hold a sharpened edge for a long time. With a weight of three pounds, it’s a perfect beginner axe.
These throwing tomahawks, at just under nine ounces, are lightweight and perfect for beginners. They have a 1.75 inch full-tang blade, so they’ll last for years. Plus, they have removable paracord handles for your preferred grip, so you can adjust as needed.
The Best Throwing Axes and Throwing Hatchets For Intermediate Axe Throwers
This traditional axe looks great and has a 13.5-inch wooden handle, classically designed head, and a leather sheath. According to St. Amour, these are seen as the highest quality of production axes. At 1.3 pounds, they’re best suited for intermediate-to-advanced throwers.
You can use this as a throwing hatchet, but it's equally suitable for camping and backpacking because it's small, powerful, and can chop anything. The handle, wrapped in paracord, gives you a solid grip. It weighs only nine ounces, so you'd better have your aim on point.
When you're ready for some serious throwing, get this axe; its handle is attached to the axe head directly, without using a screw, so it won't break off. Bonus: You can throw this as hard as you want, and the blade won't break off or chip. It weighs 1.6 pounds and has a gorgeous 3.75
The Best Throwing Axes and Throwing Hatchets For Experts
A bit more wicked looking, this throwing axe from Estwing has a double bit head that allows you to swap side between throws. It’s made of solid steel and has a rubber grip to ensure a smooth toss. At 17-inches the handle is a bit longer than the rest. It’s also a bit heavier at 2.55 pounds, which makes it best suited for expert throwers.
This axe has a head weight of 4.5 pounds, is 35 inches long and has a total weight of 6.5 pounds. It provides insane striking power, provided you know how to control it.
On the much more affordable side you have this CRKT axe, that's totally balanced and highly utilitarian. Because the blade is curved and really cuts into wood, this is another axe that's best for experienced throwers. It weighs just slightly over one pound.
A Few More Throwing Axes For Axe-Throwers of All-Levels
With a handle length of 28 inches, and its curved shaft and clear-lacquered ironwork, this axe is a thing of beauty. This throwing axe is a meant for bringing down or cutting up small to medium sized trees and weighs just over two pounds.
Another Swedish axe, this one has a heap of history behind it: Hultafors has been making axes since 1697. This one weighs 1.4 pounds and works for any thrower. It’s hand forged, has a clear tempered zone that ads to the strength of the blade, and a beautiful 15-inch hickory shaft.
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