Sergeant Major Kyle Lamb is the man. He served in Special Operation, primarily Delta Force, for 15 years of his 21-year career. After leaving the military, he formed Viking Tactics or VTAC. VTAC is a training company that designs and even produces numerous pieces of gear. In the design realm, they team up with more prominent and established manufacturers to create the equipment they design. Once such team-up was between VTAC and 5.11 Tactical to produce the Operator Axe.
The Operator Axe is based on a tool that Kyle carried on deployment. The instrument was an axe, a hammer, and a pry bar all in one. He took this tool and teamed up with 5.11 Tactical to produce a modern and heavier-duty design. This became the Operator Axe. The Operator Axe has 24 functions, and at its heart, it’s still the tool Kyle Lamb used during his deployments.
The Operator Axe
On the one end of the axe are the three basic tools that started it all. We have the axe head, the hammer, and the pry bar. The 21mm hammerhead is welded on the handle, but other than that, the Operator tool is made from a solid piece of billet stainless steel. It’s 7mms (over a quarter-inch) thick. The Operator Axe as a tool is designed to smash and crash through whatever is in your way.
The other tools include metric and standard hex drivers, small and large socket drivers, and a ¼ inch bit driver. The handle is marked for measurements. At the very bottom of the tool is a sheet metal cutter that will slice through car doors, hoods, and trunks. The Operator Axe shoves as much versatility as it can into a 1 pound 10 ounce, 15 inches long tool.
This tool is designed to get you in and out of bad situations. It’s made from stainless steel, which is more robust and better suited for implements like this. Stainless steel is less brittle and can take more abuse than carbon steel. It can be used to break down doors, smash and crash windows, and to cut through metal. Carbon steel can be sharper, but stainless is almost always tougher.
The Axe on Deployment
The Operator Axe uses a heavily bearded axe head that turns a simple cutting and splitting tool into a versatile one. The hook the beard creates can help you climb; it can lift and pull things you may not want to touch; it can also be used to clear the glass out of a broken window for a dynamic entry.
The axe head is robust and quite long for such a small tool. It can take out medium-sized trees, break through thin wooden doors, and start the cuts needed to get the sheet metal cutter started. Axes like this are great tools for quickly breaching through the thin doors prevalent in the middle east. They are much smaller than hooligan tools, sledgehammers, and dedicated shotguns. They are also safer and less complicated than explosives.
In my experience, when the enemy buries arms or ammo in locked wooden boxes, it’s easier to cut the locking point off and to just cut through the crummy locks. Or just spin the Operator Axe around and apply some concussive force with the hammerhead. Or shove that pry bar in when the bastards get clever and nail it shut.
The additional tools packed onto the Operator Axe allows you to be a bit more gentle. You can remove socket, hex screws, and just about anything else when care is needed more than brute force. However, when brute force is on the menu, the Operator Axe is perfectly capable of serving it up.
The downside is that the rectangular handle is all angles. This causes some discomfort when you are employing the Operator Axe for heavy-duty use. The angles dig into the hand and are generally uncomfortable. That being said, a pair of gloves works quite nicely in keeping this pain away. Also, when it comes to breaching, you won’t notice the discomfort when your adrenaline is surging.
The long beard on the axe blade allows you to choke upwards and get your hand behind the blade. This allows for slower, more refined cuts. It can slice with nearly the precision of a knife when held this way.
The long 15-inch Operator Axe also gives you plenty of leverage as a pry bar, and plenty of power can be generated through the hammer and axe ends. The sheet metal cutter does require you to start a hole through the metal to get things started. After that, you drive the metal cutter in and rock it back and forth while applying force. This allows the sheet metal cutter to do its job and do it cleanly. It takes less energy and vigor than just destroying the metal, which is not always easy to do safely in a rescue situation.
Using the drivers is somewhat difficult and even impossible in tight corners because of the length of the tool. However, for most applications requiring drivers, it is handy because you are unlikely to be carrying drivers around with you every day, and, on top of that, these drivers allow for more subtle entry or takedown of tasks.
The Operator Axe sheath is a genius piece of gear. First and foremost, it can be attached to MOLLE/PALS platforms as well as a belt. The clip that does so can be moved from side to side making it ambidextrous.
The sheath uses a friction fit to cover the axe blade, hammer, and pry bar. On top of the friction fit, we have a leather thong that goes around and behind the blade to secure it in place. The steel cutter also has a friction fit sheath that stays in place without issues.
The 5.11 Tactical Operator Axe is an excellent and versatile tool. It’s perfect for rescues, breaches, and just as a general tool for driving nails, splitting wood, and getting work done. It’s not just a dedicated tool, but like a knife, it can be used for many things: From breaking doors down to putting up barriers, to clearing brush, and helping dig fighting holes, the Operator Axe is up for the task.