How to Throw an Axe Like a Pro

If you are interested in learning the ins and outs of axe throwing, you’re not alone. The sport of axe throwing — once something you’d only see in lumberjack competitions — is taking its place beside darts, bowling, and other popular league sports as a beloved American pastime. 

In fact, with axe throwing being featured on ESPN and dedicated axe throwing venues popping up everywhere, it’s hard to ignore the fact that axe throwing has become an international phenomenon. The World Axe Throwing League (WATL) boasts more than 6,000 members from 28 different countries, while the International Axe Throwing Federation (IATF) (formerly the National Axe Throwing Federation) counts 20,000 members from nine countries. 

Whether you are about to try axe throwing for the first time, you’re thinking about joining an axe throwing league, or you’re learning how to throw a hatchet for the first time, it’s important to know the fundamentals of axe throwing. This article covers the basics of axe throwing, how to improve your throw, and where you can learn to throw an axe.

The Basics of Axe Throwing

Simply stated, the sport of axe throwing consists of throwing your axe at a target with as much precision as possible so you rack up points. There are dozens of axe throwing games that feature variations on this basic structure, but all of them boil down to throwing an axe with just the right force and velocity to hit a certain place on a target with precision. 

Like all sports, axe throwing requires the right equipment and safe axe throwing location to practice. You will need an axe, a protected space, and a target.

Choosing an Axe

Just like golfers have a preference for their clubs, axe throwers have a preference of their gear. Axes come in a variety of types and sizes. For example:

  • – Tomahawks are light and can easily bounce off of a target. You want some weight in an axe so it will stick to the target.
  • – Hatchets are ideal for recreational throwing as they are heavy enough to stick in a target but still light enough to handle.
  • – Splitting and double-bit axes are used for splitting firewood. They are heavy and have thicker blades. There are some competitions just for these heavier axes.

Regardless of the type of axe you choose, the sharper the blade the easier it is to stick the axe in the target.

Safety Concerns

Safety is of paramount importance in axe throwing. Before you throw, you need to be absolutely sure that there is nobody standing between you and the target and that the area around you is clear. Remember that the axe is sharp and if you throw it too hard or with too much rotation, it could bounce back and hit you if you’re too close. Don’t go to retrieve your axe after throwing until you are sure has stuck in the board or landed safely on the ground. The safest place to participate in axe throwing is at a professionally supervised and maintained axe throwing venue.

The Right Target

Axe throwers typically use targets that meet either WATL or IAFL standards. 

WATL-compliant targets have a bullseye dead center and then four concentric circles surrounding it. Six points are awarded for sticking your axe in the bullseye. Then, going from the next inner ring to the outermost ring, you are awarded 4, 3, 2, and 1 point or points, respectively. The target also has two blue dots — known as killshots — on the right and left upper quadrants of the target just inside the outermost circle. These killshots are worth 8 points.  

The IAFL standard target has three circles surrounding the bullseye. The bullseye is worth 5 points and then 3 points is awarded if you land your axe in the next ring and 1 point is awarded for the next ring. Two green dots — known as the clutch — are outside the last right on the upper right and left sides of the target. Hitting the clutch is worth 7 points.  Some backyard axe throwing enthusiasts create their own targets, but usually they will approximate one of these popular league targets.

How to Throw an Axe: The Fundamentals

Learning how to throw an axe is not difficult, but it does take practice. Like most worthwhile endeavors, perfecting your own personal style on how to axe throw can be an enjoyable lifelong pursuit. The following offers the fundamentals you will need to start on your own axe throwing journey.

Two-Handed Hatchet Throwing Technique

If you’re a beginner, start with the basic static two-handed throw using a hatchet. Start by taking your dominant hand and pick up the hatchet at the base of the hand. Make sure your grip is loose — don’t hold on too tight — but also firm. Next, place the foot opposite of your dominant hand on the edge of the throwing line, which will be about 12-to-14 feet from the target. 

Now, stretch your axe-holding arm out in front of you, making sure that your fist is pointing in the direction of the spot you are aiming for on the target. If you practice this correctly you will see that the axe is now perpendicular to your forearm and your wrist is locked. Because this is a two-hand throw, you are going to wrap your empty hand around the hand holding the axe. 

Now draw the axe back over your head, taking a breath in while placing your weight on your back foot. Stick out your chest and exhale as you move your body and axe arm toward the target and as you transfer your weight to your front foot and release the axe. 

You may want to practice this move a few times in slow motion before attempting your first throw. Try to get a feel for the weight of the hatchet, as well as create fluidity in your movements.

Making Corrections

Invariably, you will have to make corrections as you learn how to maneuver the axe with enough strength of motion to cause it to stick in the target, but not too much so that it bounces off the target. The following can help correct any problems you’re having with dropped axes.

  • – Over rotating. One of the most common throwing errors that results in a dropped axe is over rotating. To correct this, try gripping the axe handle with your thumb up, moving your grip up an inch or so on the axe, or even moving closer to the target.
  • Under rotating. You might also be under rotating, which requires a different set of corrections. Try moving your grip down an inch or so, bending your elbows when you draw back so the axe goes behind your head, and moving a bit further away from the target.
  • Wrist flicking. Another common axe throwing problem with this basic static throw is wrist flicking. If your throwing motion is over-rotating to the extent that it almost looks like you’re shooting at a basket, you’re probably flicking your wrist. You can try to correct this by keeping your axe perpendicular to your arms, locking your wrists, and following through with your arms before you release the hatchet. You can also try moving your grip lower on the axe handle, keeping your elbows straight, and then leaning forward a bit just before the release.

How to Perfect Your Axe Throwing Technique

Now that you know the basics, these tips can help you as you learn how to throw an axe.

  • – Choose the axe shape that is best for you. Axes come in a variety of shapes and sizes and weights. Some come with thinner handles and flat edges and others have round handles with more flattened edges down the sides. Some are lighter and some are heavier. There is no one-size-fits-all hatchet — experiment with different axes until you find the one that feels right in your hands and sticks when thrown.
  • – Keep a sharp axe. Sharp axes stick better, and everyone seems to have an opinion on how best to keep an axe edge as sharp as possible. Many people thin their axe blades for the ultimate stick and other use sanders, stones, and all sorts of knife sharpeners. Consult with the experts at your axe throwing location for sharpening tips.
  • Throw to the board in front of you. Understanding the board is an important part of learning how to throw hatchets. Different boards present different issues when it comes to avoiding a drop. You’ll want to inspect the target to determine the hardness of the wood, whether there is moisture present, the cut of the wood and the angle of the grain, and how much use the board has already withstood. Depending on the type and condition of the wood, you may need to adjust your rotation or your throw distance.
  • Choose a focal point before each throw. The best axe throwing techniques start with the thrower picking a small point on the target to hone their focus. By keeping your eyes on this point, you increase your chances of an accurate throw follow-through.

Practice Your New Axe Throwing Skills at Axe Master

Now that you have had a chance to learn about proper axe throwing technique, it’s time to put that new knowledge to use. Test your skills with axe throwing in Atlanta and San Antonio hatchet throwing. Our axe throwing experts are on-hand to help you build your skill set and help you perfect your throw. Book a session today!