Some Thoughts on LaGana/Prisco Design Advances on VTAC

Brian Jones

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Jan 17, 1999
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I’ve been examining the new ATC VTAC and all its parts as a CQB weapon, and how the shape of the head and the new nylon handle make for a weapon that excels as a CQB tool in modern-day warfare, in both civilian and military/law enforcement applications. Equally, these design features also are what make it such an exceptional entry and extraction tool. The dual-use capability of the VTAC makes it well-suited for both arenas. The factors of penetration and withdrawal/retention of the tool in both applications are almost identical. This won’t go into techniques so much, except as to illustrate how the design facilitates things. The focus here is mainly on tool/weapon retention, and speed of that retention. This is a somewhat disorganized laundry-list of some initial things that have come to mind, and is by no means complete.

The entire design of the head not only facilitates excellent penetration in all ways, but just as importantly – excellent withdrawal as well. This is especially critical in today’s world of webbing, body armor, thick layers of jackets and clothing worn on the street, etc. It’s also critical when using as an extraction/breaching tool – to be able to withdraw the tomahawk from car and truck bodies as easily as you penetrate them. Obviously, Mr. LaGana spent a lot of time thinking in terms of weapons/tool retention in a dynamic modern combat environment when designing this hawk. There are no protrusions on either the main blade or the spike side to “catch” on things as you withdraw the weapon. The multiple edges also help you “cut back out” with the hawk. Older style hawks often have that hooked beard which is fearsome and works well if you are going up against a naked enemy, and the spike is “diamond shaped” with rearward extending protrusions. But a tomahawk with the downward hooked beard and “diamond” spike in modern warfare can cause extraction problems, and in a critical emergency, whether CQB or extraction/entry, this can cause a fatal delay, because something shaped like a hook does what?

It stays hooked like a barb in whatever you are penetrating. Not good in a combat environment, when you need to stay moving to stay alive.

This is a factor in combat knives and other tools that is so often overlooked. A similar problem exists on many knives “manufactured for military” use. Many “combat knives” -- ones that may have to double as a fighting knife -- have a large finger choil cut out of the blade right by the handle. This is a nice feature for whittling, but if you are doing any cutting of harder, denser materials that require you to really “saw” or “stab” furiously, the finger choil often gets caught inside when the blade slips all the way in, and makes extraction difficult. It acts like a barb or hook, just when you DON’T want it to do so. In heavy utility applications, it can just screw up your cut and ruin your work. Combined with the stress and adrenaline dump that happens in combat, and you could find yourself desperately stuck, hyper-focusing on trying to maniacally yank your knife out of whatever it is you put it into (and therefore making yourself a stationary target for multiple bad guys who may have a bead on you). This applies to an enemy’s body and/or LBE/armor and webbing as much as vehicular or other extraction. The finger cut-out choil, even in a street fight, can hook on a rib or other organs. If you are trying to get out of a burning vehicle that has been hit by an IED or you are otherwise trapped, having the ability to penetrate and withdraw without getting the blade of the knife or the head of the hawk stuck can be the difference between survival and death.

The LaGana head design solves this issue nicely in both fighting and E/E applications. The beard of the VTAC curves gently right to the corner of the edge, so that it cannot “hook” onto something when being pulled out. The bottom edge of the VTAC, being sharpened, allows one to cut back out simply by pulling on the hawk, whether into bones or in extraction. Also, if you are cutting through the skin of a vehicle to get out, you can enter at the top of the vehicle, and, using this bottom sharpened edge, pull straight down to split a hole right down the line, and then take the hawk right out. The power you can use to do this is far greater than what you’d get with a knife, simply because the ergonomics of a pull on the VTAC handle (combined with holding the top of the head and pulling from there) are far superior, as opposed to holding a knife horizontally and trying to push/pull your way down while keeping it in place. So, the lack of a downward hook on the beard combined with the multiple edges makes withdrawal and retention easier. Think about what this same technique would do to a human body, too.

The same applies to the spike. It goes in, but nothing is protruding to keep you from pulling it out. Again, the multiple edges aid in this greatly.

Another consideration in retention/withdrawal is that the shaft of the hawk is flush with the top of the head. Again – nothing protruding to hang it up in whatever you have penetrated.

The main blade on the VTAC, being straight rather than arced, helps one maintain control when chopping into hard objects like locks etc., that don’t have a nice flat surface. An arced main blade is great for penetration in wood and other “softer” surfaces, but in urban environments, you are just as likely to have to chop at things that weren’t really meant to be chopped, and the arc can really cause awkward (hawkward?) rebounds. This flat main blade design helps reduce this problem greatly.

The multiple auxiliary edges obviously have many applications in combat, whether stabbing, chopping, cutting, or even pikal/filleting techniques.

The overall shape, balance, and feel allow many trapping techniques, etc. to be used that have been well covered by many others.

Andy’s new nylon handle, as Andy demonstrated by driving a truck over it while it leaned against a block (where it returned to true – no breakage), absorbs shock far better than wood. This is wonderful ergonomically, as you don’t get fatigued as easily when chopping with it. It is also wonderful when choking up on the hawk, and using the handle tonfa/baton style to block strikes, whether with stick, knife, sword, or rifle. It tends to absorb the impact better than wood, with far less fear of breakage. It also stays attached to the head. I was able to hang the hawk over a chain link fence, and quickly pull myself up (full body weight on the handle) and over the fence coming from a run. This is a nice escape and evasion feature in a pinch!

Anyway, more later. Just some initial musings. This to me is by far the best overall design for modern CQB, rescue, extraction/entry, and fighting techniques I've seen yet in any hawk.

Awesome, Andy!

Best,

Brian.
 
Joined
May 16, 2004
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despite all the great things you've mentioned about the vtac i still eagerly await the ngr :p

great review once again brian
 
Joined
Jun 17, 2004
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Wow. after reading this, I am really looking forward to my VTAC. Only problem , brigade Q has it on backorder 14 days. Well, I guess I can wait.... :grumpy:
 
Joined
Nov 2, 1999
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Both Brigade and 1SKS are waiting on shipments from us.

They should both be well stocked next week.
 
Joined
Jun 17, 2004
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Yippee! That means I will have my VTAC in time to breach my christmas presents! :)
 
Joined
Jun 17, 2004
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My Wife reminded me that I need to take down the wall in our garage. I'm thinking the VTAC will be perfect for this. It is made of wood, sheetrock, and plastic.
honestly, I cannot wait. This will be fun.
 
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