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Tomahawk Throwing (FS120011)

(Published January 2019 replacing version March 2016)


The following provides information you need to know to run an effective tomahawk throwing session for members of the Scouts.  It is a requirement of Policy, Organisation and Rules (POR) rule 9.38 that the following guidance is followed.

What is tomahawk throwing?

For the purposes of this guidance, tomahawk throwing is referring to the use of tomahawks, small hawks (such as throwing angels/fleurs) and other throwing axes which are designed specifically for throwing.

This explicitly excludes conventional axes and felling axes as well as knives, including designated throwing knives and other sharp items which must not be thrown under any circumstance.  

Throwing equipment, targets and throwing areas

Appropriate targets are made of soft woods (e.g. Poplar, Pine, Wellingtonia or Willow) and could be of a fixed variety or portable depending on the circumstances surrounding the activity. Targets are typically log slices, a minimum of 100mm thick and at least 600mm in diameter; a preferred diameter is 750mm – 1000mm as the larger the target the more successful the throwers are likely to be.

For most disciplines targets have circular aiming marks or concentric scoring rings but other geometric designs may be encountered and are acceptable. A target must not resemble any human or animal form as this is not permitted within Scouting. 

Each target must be fixed, even if temporarily, to a wooden frame or tripod. If a tripod is used the target must lean back sufficiently so as not to be easily pulled over when removing an embedded axe. The target bulls-eye should be around the chest height of the person throwing (for example between 1.3m and 1.6m above the ground for an adult). Appropriately anchored scaffold boarding or clamped wooden blocks, of similar thickness to that outlined above could be considered but it is important to ensure that these are capable of holding an embedded axe without falling over.

It is acceptable to organise indoor sessions but consideration must be given to protecting floors and walls with boards, carpet, netting, etc. when deciding this. The range distances depicted in the suggested 'Tomahawk Throwing Range Layout' apply for both indoor and outdoor ranges.

Tomahawk throwing areas, as with those for archery and shooting, need proper consideration to ensure both the safety of those taking part in; and observing the activity. Within the suggested tomahawk throwing range layout the distances must be considered as minimum. The distance between the throwing line and the target must not be less than 3m due to the risk of rebound. The throwing range should be clearly marked avoiding areas with overhanging obstructions e.g. branches, cables and pipework. 6ft fencing around the edge of the range is recommended for outdoor ranges.

Important Safety Measures to follow for tomahawk throwing sessions

-         Activity leaders must ensure that each person taking part has the strength and are able to do so safely according to their own training.  The age, maturity and ability of each participant should be considered.

-         Only tomahawks, small hawks and other specifically designed throwing axes can be used (as outlined above).

-         Throwing a hand axe, felling axe, pocket knife, penknife, sheath knife or another tool that is not purpose-built for throwing is considered very dangerous and doing so is not at all advised. The throwing of knives is specifically banned.

-         Tomahawk throwing must only take place under the supervision of an appropriately knowledgeable activity leader, as outlined in the appropriate activity leader section below.

-         All people throwing must wear suitable footwear and clothing to minimise the risk of any injury resulting from accidentally dropping the equipment or a rebound from the target. The wearing of appropriate clothing and footwear (such as wearing trousers or walking boots) should be part of the risk assessment.

-         When transporting a tomahawk, the participant should walk and hold the tomahawk to the side of their body with sharp edges downwards and away from the body and other people.

-         Only one thrower at a time is to aim at each target.

-         Only one tomahawk should be thrown at a target at a time before being collected; or if using metal small hawks, a maximum of four small hawks should be thrown (at four/five 100mm spots on the target) at time before being collected.

-         Participants should wait until instructed by the activity leader before retrieving the tomahawk(s).

-         The activity leader is the only person who can instruct a thrower to remove a tomahawk from a target unless they have explicitly delegated or shared this responsibility.

-         Any observers should be instructed to stand in a safe location by the activity leader as per the tomahawk throwing range layout

-         Participants deemed to be deliberately throwing too aggressively should be managed appropriately by the activity leader to ensure their own and others safety. 

-         To avoid accidental head or upper body injury when retrieving tomahawks; it is important to remove tomahawks that are embedded into a target before picking up those lying on the floor.

-         If any equipment is damaged it must not be used - either repair or replace the damaged item in accordance with the manufacturer of the device.

-         A tomahawk should always be offered handle first to another person.

-         The transport of equipment to and from a throwing area should be managed by the activity leader. Tomahawks must be stored in a locked toolbox or similar secure place when not in use and when in transit between throwing sessions.

Appropriate activity leaders of tomahawk throwing sessions

An appropriate activity leader is a competent individual who regularly takes part in the activity. It is recommended that a tomahawk throwing activity leader should have a minimum of one day’s (7 hours) practical experience before being deemed competent to lead a session. Undertaking training to fully understand how to operate this activity safely is strongly encouraged. There are courses available in the UK for those wishing to gain a greater understanding of this activity. A young person can be an activity leader as long as they have the necessary skills. 

Each tomahawk throwing activity leader can supervise a maximum of three targets. The group size for any one target should be no larger than five, i.e. one person throwing and four waiting to throw. If the activity includes more than two targets then a Range Master must be appointed who would have overall control of the range whilst the activity leaders are delivering the activity to those throwing. The Range Master would be responsible for controlling movements on the range and ensuring that those not throwing are not causing a distraction to those throwing. A Range Master can supervise a range with a maximum of six targets and two activity leaders.

Activity Leaders and Range Masters should ensure that the throwing axe activity is safely managed at all times and that the appropriate risk assessment is in place.

Tomahawk Throwing Technique

The activity leader should check that the thrower is physically able to throw the equipment being used.  If in doubt use a ‘try axe’ (a 16” length of broom handle).

The thrower should:

-         Stand on the throwing line and adopt their most comfortable throwing stance.  Usually a right handed throw would mean positioning the left foot forward of the right and vice versa to ensure stability when throwing.

-         Hold the tomahawk in the preferred throwing hand by the base of the handle.

-         Place the thumb of the throwing hand to the side of the handle, not on the top.

-         Face the target keeping your eye on the bulls-eye.

-         Keep their wrist stiff, raise the throwing arm until the tomahawk is just over the shoulder.  They should not take their eye off the target.

-       Throw the tomahawk overarm keeping the wrist straight.  Do not flick the wrist.

-       Release the tomahawk as their arm comes forward in a similar position to throwing a ball overarm.

-         Do not throw too hard.

-        Depending on the resulting throw and angle of embedding the activity leader may decide on adjustment for successive throws.


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