Review: Browning Model 231 Camp Axe
Russ Chastain 10.11.17
In the wake of Hurricane Irma, I had some trees come down. When I recently went to work removing a cherry laurel tree stump, I grabbed a couple hatchets and a small Browning camp axe. Both hatchets did more bouncing than chopping on the rubbery roots, but the light axe performed well. I reviewed it a while back on a now-defunct website, and decided that AO’s readers should know about this handy little chopper.
I’ve had this Browning Model 231 camp axe for about 5 years, and I’ll say right now that I’m not a daily user of any axe, but when I’ve needed a light chopper, this one has served me well. Although the handle is longer than that of a hatchet, the head itself is not much (if any) lighter — and using it one-handed is a breeze. This is NOT a full-size axe, and it should be a no-brainer that it shouldn’t be asked to do a full-size job.
When I was just a young ‘un, Dad had a small wood-handled camp axe, which he dearly loved for small chopping chores. The first time I saw this axe, I thought of Dad’s old axe and knew I needed to get my hands on one of these to try it out.
Once it arrived (“made in Taiwan” and clamshell packaging, bummer), I noticed the cutting edge was decidedly not sharp, especially towards the heel (lower end). I used it to clear some brush to erect a ladder stand, and it did okay but not great. In chopping tree limbs it was usable, but when I tried it out on a wild hog I found it to be much too dull for dressing or butchering game.
After spending some time with a file to give it a nice sharp edge, I used it to remove the shoulder from a whitetail carcass I was quartering. The broad curved blade works well for such tasks, and although the long handle can be awkward for quartering smaller big game like whitetails, I think it could really be handy for shucking out big animals like caribou, elk, and moose.
After I sharpened it, it cuts quite well. In fact, when I went to get it from my workshop to write this review, I stopped on the way back to get rid of some small roots in the trail. This slim chopper cut them easily, and the long handle allows a lot more leverage than a hatchet handle would.
- One-piece hot-forged, hollow ground, high carbon 1055 tool steel tomahawk-style head
- Length: 24″ per manufacturer (mine is a touch shorter)
- Head Length: 6.75″ (edge to poll)
- Cutting Blade Length: 4.25″
- Weight: 2.3 pounds (37 ounces) (measured without sheath)
- Handle is injection-molded polypropylene and fiberglass
- Says an “integrated tang extends from axe head down into the handle for increased strength and rigidity”
- Includes nylon sheath with embroidered buckhead logo (only covers the cutting edge)
- Currently priced at $44.99 with free shipping at Amazon
- Designed by Russ Kommer
- The cutting edge is fairly long, and the hook at the heel (bottom) is nice for hooking onto a log to move it around.
- Once I sharpened it, it holds an edge well.
- I like the light weight and the size is right.
- The handle seems tough and has a light texture that provides grip without being real rough (that said, my handle looks different than new models of this axe).
- Easy to use and control, no matter where I grab the handle.
- The sheath protects the cutting edge from damage, and protects you from the cutting edge.
- Arrived dull, so I had to sharpen it.
- Sheath only covers cutting edge (doesn’t provide for carry of any kind).
- The rounded poll makes a poor hammer.
- The handle is flexible (this hasn’t caused me any trouble, but the handle seems to have changed since mine was made).
When I first reviewed this axe, it hadn’t been around for long. Four years later, a full one-third of Amazon reviewers give this axe only one star, and several have experienced severe bending and/or breakage of the handle. This is a serious issue which prevents me from really endorsing this axe — along with the fact that the weirdly-rounded poll isn’t worth a damn for driving tent stakes or tree-felling wedges, and that mine arrived so dull I had to sharpen it myself.
For carrying, you will need to figure it out for yourself because Browning hasn’t done anything for you there. The “sheath” merely covers the cutting edge without providing a way to attach it to belt or pack.
That said, I do like mine and I’m happy to have it. After reading others’ complaints of handle flexing and breaking, I did try the flex on mine and it does bend more than I expected, but nothing like what the nay-sayers have seen, and the flex that I have doesn’t bother me. So for my part, this axe does a pretty good job and its light weight makes it easy to tote, but there are probably tougher ones out there.
A review sample was provided by the manufacturer. (This doesn’t affect my review, which contains my honest opinion of the product.)