3 Techniques to Throw an Axe Like a Pro

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Written By Michael Culligan

With over 12 years of experience in Oregon's forestry industry, I have established myself as a skilled and knowledgeable lumber professional. As a passionate competitor in local timbersports events, I have consistently ranked among the top lumberjacks in my area. I take great pride in meticulously maintaining an extensive collection of restored vintage axes. I personally test every axe I review by using it to fell and chop up oak firewood on my land.

REVIEWED BY SPencer Durrant
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Follow these simple steps to throw an axe like a pro:

  1. Grip the axe handle firmly.
  2. Stand at the designated distance and face the target.
  3. Align your dominant foot slightly forward and extend your non-throwing arm toward the target.
  4. Raise the axe overhead, keeping it straight.
  5. Swing forward, releasing the axe as your arm fully extends, and follow through to ensure a smooth, accurate throw.

Axe throwing has become quite a popular sport in recent years. If you’ve been wondering how to throw an axe or thinking about competing in axe throwing competitions, then you’ve come to the right place. This guide is all about axe throwing techniques. We’ll also give you some axe throwing tips that can help you get the edge when competing with other throwers or just to impress your friends.

From the basics to advanced axe throwing techniques, this is an in-depth guide to how to throw an axe. Read on to find out more!

How to Throw an Axe

There are three main ways to throw the axe: one-handed overhead, two-handed overhead, and underhand. For beginners, two-handed overhead is the easiest technique to learn and master.

To land a proper hit on your target, make sure you put one of your feet (the same as your dominant hand) back, almost perpendicular to the angle of the other foot), and hold the axe firmly, but do not clench it – your hand should be relaxed and ready to let go at the right moment in the swing.

1. Throwing an Axe Two-Handed

If you’re practicing at home, take some time to find a position that works for you – without even throwing the axe yet. Then, when you feel you’re stable and in a good position, lift your hands and the axe behind your head (if you’re using a two-handed overhead swing). When they’ve gone as far as they will comfortably go, bring it back and release the axe when your hands are roughly at eye level.

Any lower and you’ll throw the axe too low; any higher and your axe will go flying through the air and probably be wide off the mark.

2. Throwing an Axe One-Handed

If you’re using a one-handed overhead throw, the positioning will be slightly different – you’ll bring the axe around the dominant side of your body. It won’t be directly behind your head as with a two-handed throw, but slightly to the right or left, depending on which arm you use.

A one-handed throw takes more strength to execute, but many people find it more natural or comfortable than a two-handed swing. Try them out and figure out which ones are right for you.

3. Throwing an Axe Underhand

The third technique is throwing the axe underhanded. Hold the axe right at the base of the handle and step into the throw to generate more momentum. Make sure the blade of the axe is facing the target when held directly next to your leg. Release the axe with enough speed to complete one rotation before striking the target.

I do find this takes more practice to improve your aim because the release point is so far away from your eyes.

How to throw an axe

Where to Stand While Axe Throwing?

The standard standing position for axe throwing ranges between 12-15 feet from the target. There will be a mark on the ground where you should stand and throw the axe. If you want to practice at home, put the target around 15 feet away and close the distance as necessary.

Chalk Your Hands

Chalking your hands for a smoother release of the axe isn’t necessary, but if you want to get serious about axe throwing, you should train with chalked-up hands. That’s because the chalk makes the release of the handle smoother – it will slide out of your grip with greater ease. The fractions of a second can mean the difference between hitting the bullseye or the axe bouncing off the target.

At competitions you’ll see axe throwing pros using chalk. It’s messy, but there’s a good reason to do it. The proper method of chalking your hands for axe throwing is to apply chalk to your palm right where your fingers start (on the other side of your first knuckles). Then apply chalk to where your thumb starts. This is where you’ll be applying most pressure with your grip on the handle, and these areas will need the effect from the chalk the most.

Axe or Tomahawk: Which is Best?

There’s a friendly rivalry in the axe-throwing community about which is better for throwing – a Western-style axe or a Native American tomahawk. Tomahawks have a round eye shape, unlike regular axes. Tomahawks are thrown from the bottom of the handle for maximum flight distance and force. Traditional tomahawks also have longer handles than regular hatchets. Modern-day tomahawks, such as tactical tomahawks are often made of a single piece of steel, whereas axe handles are usually – but not always – made from wood.

The main difference between tomahawks and axes is that the first was designed as weapons of war and hunting tools which, unlike axes, are not meant for felling trees and processing them. That said, many axe-throwing competitions use Western-style axes, not tomahawks. There are different reasons, but getting comfortable throwing axes is a good idea if you want to compete in official competitions.

Of course, if you know that an axe-throwing event will feature tomahawks or want to throw them for fun alone or with friends, go for it! Nobody’s going to stop you from enjoying axe-throwing with whatever tools you like.

I have written a full guide to throwing axes that you might be interested in. My recommendation for beginners is the SOG throwing tomahawk.

Axe Throwing Competitions: NATF vs WATL

Axe throwing has a lot of popularity. There are even two big leagues that organize and hold axe-throwing competitions. They are the NATF and the WATL.


NATF stands for the National Axe Throwing Federation. They were established in 2016 to create a standardized rule for all axe throwing competitions around the US. It incorporates multiple rules such as the league rules, playoff rules, NATF tournament rules, facility specifications, equipment specifications, and other guidelines.

There’s also a National Axe Throwing Championship held every year where all the best throwers come together to participate in the event and reap the glory for the best, most accurate throws.


WATL stands for World Axe Throwing League. They’re one of the largest axe throwing organizations in the world. They started off their journey to unite axe throwers around the world. They have also created standardized rules to make axe throwing a fair and safe sport. The WATL hosted the first ever axe throwing tournament in the world.

Axe Throwing Safety

Believe it or not, axe throwing is probably one of the safest sports. You’re not throwing a ball toward a person, as in baseball. You’re not leaping, crashing into other players, or falling on the floor, as in basketball. Axe throwers don’t charge into an opposing team like in American football, and no sharp skates or pucks are flying at your face like in hockey.

That said, safety should be the first and foremost concern in axe throwing, because you are throwing a sharp tool with force towards a target. Axe throwing is safe if the proper safety guidelines are followed.

Inspect the axe before starting to ensure that the axe is in a sound condition. The most important thing is to ensure the axehead is firmly attached to the handle. It should not be loose. The handle should not have any cracks or structural damage. The most dangerous part of axe throwing is the swing when the axehead can fly off, or the axe can slip out of the thrower’s hand and injure someone.

Maintain a proper lane system to avoid accidents and, worse, casualties. No throwers should be throwing axes at one target simultaneously, especially if they’re standing close together.

The standard distance that should be maintained from the target is 12 feet. However, the handle’s size and length will also determine how further you need to stand from the target to get a full rotation to hit it. Longer axes need a larger distance, small hatchets, of course – less. But start at the standard – 12 feet.

Wrapping Up

Axes throwing is a fun and exciting game that can be mastered by learning the fundamentals well and practicing, practicing, practicing! Like every other sharp tool, you need to follow some safety measures to keep yourself away from accidents. Keep throwing, and who knows, you could be the next axe throwing champion!