KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- There is a tool that is made in Tennessee that is literally saving lives every day in places across the globe.
You might not know to think of it as such, but the modern day tomahawk is considered a multi-purpose tool that can be used for virtually any job one may need. And some of the most sought after tomahawks are made by a company called RMJ Tactical in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
RMJ Tactical takes credit for making the first modern day, all steel tomahawk. It was requested by an Air Force Special Operations member to create something that was capable of penetrating a Kevlar helmet. The man who designed that first, all steel tomahawk, Ryan Johnson, is a blacksmith and historian who knew he needed to redesign the tomahawk so soldiers would be able to rely on them without fail.
That was in 2001, and since then, RMJ Tactical has been perfecting its steel.
"We live and breathe tomahawks. We use them, we work very closely with the professionals who use them," said RMJ Tactical's Vice President and COO, Richard Carmack.
That first tomahawk was designed after the one used by Mel Gibson's character in the movie The Patriot. Gibson's character is seen defeating several of his enemies in hand to hand combat using his tomahawk, but Carmack said the tomahawk is much more than a weapon. In fact, he said its primary function isn't weaponry at all.
"A spike will break a lock, break a chain, it will open doors, it's what gets you through concrete," he said.
RMJ Tactical's popularity quickly caught on among through the ranks of our nation's soldiers, and is as important a tool to be used in warfare as a soldier's gun.
And they've got the stories to prove it. Carmack explained how the tomahawk is being used by Navy SEALS, and helped a group of soldiers escape almost certain death. He said a man called the company one day, saying his son's life was saved because of the tomahawk he was carrying.
"He said my son and his team had been pinned down by heavy enemy fire for three days in a concrete building. He used your tomahawk to chop a hole in the concrete wall, and he and his team escaped safely. He's not going back (to war) without one of your tomahawks. That whole episode changed the way we thought about what we do, from we make a really neat tool, to an avocation," Carmack said.
RMJ Tactical's tomahawks are admittedly expensive, but Carmack said that's the price of quality craftsmanship that is guaranteed to never fail. Each tomahawk is carved from solid steel, it's heat treated so the handles have a spring-like response from a strike so as to not snap off, and the blades and spikes are sharpened in a way to never break. Ever.
"It just ensures that we're getting the quality that we want, and we want to make the absolute best tomahawks out there. We feel that we have the best designs, we want to make the best tool itself," Carmack explained.
Carmack said that although they are supplying some of our nation's most elite soldiers with tomahawks, their main users are the outdoor enthusiast and collectors. He said first responders like firefighters are also using them because the tomahawk is a useful tool to extract people from a car after a wreck. He said their tomahawks have been put to the test by paramedics cutting a hole in a car in less than 30 seconds to save a life, to soldiers dismantling a helicopter in a matter of minutes to fight an enemy.
Carmack said that's why RMJ Tactical does what it does and puts in the time and effort to make each tomahawk the best it can be.
"We don't work for the weekend. Every day is important because we know that a tool we ship out that day... We have no idea the impact it's going to make in somebody's life," he said.