Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Estwing 26" Camp Axe vs the Best Made Hudson Bay Axe- which axe chops better?

This past winter, the curiosity bug bit me, and I was interested to see how an Estwing 26" Camp Axe would fare against a traditional wood-handled Best Made Hudson Bay Axe in a chopping contest.

The main reason for my curiosity was that many people on bushcraft forums seemed to disparage Estwings as being inferior choppers. It made me wonder if there was any merit to this argument, so I got a hold of a brand new Estwing Camp Axe, sharpened it, and threw it into my pack along with my Best Made Hudson Bay Axe. I then headed off to a favorite bushcraft spot to see which axe would come out victorious in a chopping contest.


Overall Length- 26"
Cutting Edge 4"
Steel Type- Drop Forged Medium Carbon Steel
Handle Type- Drop forged steel with rubber Shock Reduction Grip®
Weight (without sheath)- 50.3 ounces
Weight (with sheath)- 53.3 ounces
Country of manufacturer- Rockford, Illinois USA

Overall Length- 26"
Head Weight- 2lbs
Steel Type- Drop Forged 5160 Carbon Steel
Handle Type- Grade "A" American Hickory
Weight- (without sheath)- 45.4 ounces
Weight- (with sheath)- 47.2 ounces
Country of manufacturer- Made in Lake Waccamah, NC, USA by the Council Tool Axe Company

The Estwing Camp Axe and Best Made Hudson Bay Axe are both 26" long and feature drop forged Hudson Bay pattern heads, and both are made in the USA. The Best Made head is thicker at the edge than the Estwing. For a full review of the Best Made Hudson Bay Axe, click here.

Profile comparison of the two axes (Estwing on the left)

So which axe came out the winner after 30 chops into a dead Ponderosa Pine log? ---surprisingly, the Estwing Camp Axe didThe thinner blade on the Estwing cut deeper and took out larger chips than than the thicker-edged Best Made.

(Click to enlarge)

Though the Estwing outchopped the Best Made, it was hampered by an uneven handle profile where the different segments of the handle connect. This made it uncomfortable to slide my hand down the handle to guide the axe when swinging it. The thin blade also tended to stick in the wood more than the Best Made, and the thin metal on the handle near the head is not nearly as comfortable or controlled as a wooden handle when choking up for finer work.

On the plus side, the Estwing is built to be nearly indestructable. The steel was easy to sharpen and took a razor sharp edge. The quality of the steel was also better than expected. It held its edge well and there were no issues with rolling or chipping. Throw in the fact that it can outchop the well regarded Best Made Hudson Bay Axe, and I think it's fair to say that it will serve most campers well despite its limitations for use in bushcrafting.

About the author
Jason Schwartz is the founder and senior editor of Rocky Mountain Bushcraft. He is a former Red Cross certified Wilderness & Remote First Aid Instructor, and has taught bushcraft and wilderness survival techniques to the Boy Scouts of America, interned with the US Forest Service, and studied wilderness survival, forestry and wildland firefighting at Colorado Mountain College in Leadville, Colorado. Jason has also written for magazines such as The New Pioneer and Backpacker, including writing the "Tinder Finder" portion of Backpacker's "Complete Guide to Fire," which won a 2015 National Magazine Award (NMA). Email him at rockymountainbushcraft @ hotmail.com (without spaces)

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