How do you pick the length of your throwing axe? A lot of throwers randomly pick a length and get used to it and never switch without understanding that the length of a handle fundamentally changes the motion and rotation of their throw. If done right, you can actually improve your throwing by picking a handle and understanding how to take advantage of the choice you have made.
But before we get into too much detail about pros and cons, let’s really quickly talk about regulations for axe handle sizes so you don’t end up with an axe you can’t throw competitively.
IATF Axe Throwing Handle Regulations
- Minimum Length = 13 inches
- Maximum Length = 16 inches
- This is measured from the top of the axe head
WATL Axe Throwing Handle Regulations
WATL only has a minimum handle length and no maximum length
- Minimum Length = 12 inches
I consider short axe throwing handles to be anything between 12 and 14 inches. There isn’t an exact or official number that makes a handle “short,” but I think this is a pretty close estimation of what most axe throwers consider to be short.
Short handles have a few pros for axe throwing.
- Faster rotation. The shorter the handle is, the faster the axe rotates, meaning you can complete a full rotation closer to the target than with a longer handle. There are other factors that affect this, like your flick and the speed you throw but generally handle length is a significant factor for rotation speed. I’ve found personally that faster rotation has helped me land the axe at that ideal 45-degree angle.
- Allows you to stand closer to the target. Since rotation speeds are faster, it means you can stand and release your axe closer to the target. This can help increase your accuracy since your release point is closer to the bullseye or clutch.
- Easier to transport. Smaller length means the overall length of the axe is smaller, making it more convenient to transport it can easily fit into a backpack or travel bag. If you are traveling for an axe throwing tournament having a ton of long axes can be a huge headache.
- Faster rotation is easier to overrotate. Since the axe does rotate faster when the handle is shorter, it means that there is a risk of your throw spinning too much and not sticking onto the board. If this is happening for you, then a longer handle could be a better option.
- You need to have a really good form to make a short handle work. This is probably the most important con for choosing a shorter handle. If you don’t have your form down or are still working on getting a consistent rotation, you have a smaller window to hit that ideal part of the edge.
- Once you cut a handle down, there is no going back. Let’s say you change your form, and you want a slightly longer throwing axe handle. Well, your only option is to buy a new axe or rehandle your axe. Which isn’t too hard but can be easily avoided.
I consider anything over 15 inches to be a long handle. Again, there is no official number that designates a handle as “long,” but I think this is a pretty solid estimation of what most people would consider to be long. Anything between 14 and 15 I would consider to be a medium or middle ground, neither short nor long.
- Easier to control rotation. When you have a longer handle, it gives you more leverage to slow down the rotation if you are throwing with too much spin. This can help new axe throwers or those still working on their form to not overspin their throws and increase their accuracy.
- You can always choke up, but you can regrow your handle. If you want to make a small tweak to your form, having a longer handle gives you much more flexibility to freely change your form, like where you place your hand. With a small handle, that isn’t an option.
- Need to throw the axe harder. With more axe to get moving from a longer handle, it can be heavier and take more effort to throw. I would say it is only a small difference since normally the wooden handle is relatively light, but in a target sport, everything makes a difference.
- Longer axes are harder to transport. If you are traveling to different venues or tournaments, having a long axe can be tricky since they might not fit in a standard-sized car or they might stick out of your bag, making it difficult to carry around.
Medium / Middle / Inbetween Handle Length
Like I said earlier, I consider this in-between handle length to be anything between 14 and 15 inches. This is a happy medium between the shorter and longer handles.
You have the best of both worlds. With a medium-length handle, you get increased accuracy from a shorter handle while still having the ability to control your rotation like you would with a longer handle.
No real cons. This axe length walks the line between long and short and gives the thrower the maximum amount of flexibility. I can’t think of any significant advantages or disadvantages for this handle length.
So what length handle should you choose for axe throwing?
In my opinion, the ideal axe throwing handle length is between 14 and 15 inches since it provides the most flexibility with the least amount of drawbacks. This length of the handle allows you to get close to the target easily without having to throw with too much effort to push the axe head through the motion. If you aren’t sure which length you want, I would also suggest keeping it 1 inch longer you can always cut it down further.
How to find your ideal handle length for axe throwing
There is a nice trick that I’ve found when throwing axes that have helped me find the ideal length for a new axe. Whenever I buy a new axe, I go and take an hour to throw and spend about 10-15 mins throwing at 1-inch different distances, slowly choking up further and further. By the end of the hour, I’ve found the exact length that feels most comfortable. I mark it with a pen line and then cut it down to that length so I get a perfect custom fit for every axe.
At the end of the day, this is my opinion. There are so many different factors that affect a throw it really depends on your style of axe throwing. I think personally you should experiment using the method I detailed above to find the axe throwing handle length that works for you.