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Axe Throwing 101: A Complete Guide to Rules, Technique and Games

Axe throwing has quickly spread across North America and other parts of the world as one of the favorite new bar games and sports among the younger demographic.

With hundreds of venues all over the globe dedicated specifically to axe throwing, it is poised to continue growing and be a popular game for many years to come.

Keep reading to learn exactly what axe throwing is, some of the basic rules, how to hold and throw an axe, tips, tricks and some of the more popular games for axe throwing.

What Is Axe Throwing?

What Is Axe Throwing

Similar to darts, axe throwing is a sport in which the competitor throws an axe at a target, attempting to hit as close as possible to a bullseye. The governing body for the sport of axe throwing is the World Axe Throwing League (WATL).

Let’s take a look at their scoring system:

At any WATL sanctioned location your target will have four rings and a bullseye in the center. Each ring is worth progressively more points up to six at the bullseye.

The two small dots on the outer ring have a high risk and reward trade-off and are known as the killshot.

You can only attempt a killshot during certain times in the game and they are worth eight points.

A standard game consists of ten throws followed by tiebreakers. Players compete 1-on-1 and the victor is the one with the highest number of points after the ten throws.

The maximum score in each game is 64 (8×6)+(2×8), and the previously mentioned killshot is available for scoring on the fifth and tenth throws of the match (typically players will swap targets after five throws to ensure an even playing experience).

Players can compete in leagues and even in a World Championship if they are good enough! Sounds fun, right?

Before we can get you throwing, we first need to go over the proper way of holding and throwing an axe. We’ll then go over a few more fun games you can play at an axe throwing venue.

How To Throw An Axe

A couple of safety measures before we start!

  1. Ensure the area around you and the target is clear of people before attempting to throw the axe. That means, you shouldn’t throw an axe while some is by the target or walking towards it. The key is: “throw together, retrieve together.”
  2. Sharpening your axe will help it stick to the target much easier. This results in less potential danger to those around you, however, after you sharpen your axe, do not touch the blade directly with your fingers to avoid stitches – the sharper and thinner the profile of the axe, the easier it’ll stick.

When holding the axe make sure you have a firm grip similar to a baseball bat and keep the head as straight and perpendicular to the target as possible.

If you rotate the head of the axe it will cause it to fly sideways and also make it less likely to stick to the target.

There are two major ways of throwing an axe:

1. One-handed over the shoulder

2. Two-handed over the head

Two-handed over the head

Both styles are equally popular and easy to do.

Depending on the wood being used in the target, if it is not soft enough, you may require more power.

If you find that throwing one-handed is causing your axes to drop on the floor consistently, try switching to the two-hand method to generate more power.

For the two-handed method you are gripping with both hands, bringing the axe straight back over your head as if throwing a soccer ball, pulling the axe forward and releasing when your hands line up with where you are attempting to throw.

For the one-handed throw we will start by allowing the axe to swing down beside our leg and using that swinging momentum to bring it up again past the ear of our throwing hand.

The next step is to follow straight through at the target and releasing again when your arm is parallel to the ground.

For a better visual representation of what is happening during each of these throws, Bad Axe Throwing has a wonderful page explaining in depth how to throw an axe.

Tip: For both methods, when releasing the axe you do not want to incorporate any wrist motion or attempt to guide the throw with your fingers. Simply release your grip and let the axe’s momentum carry it forward.

The World Axe Throwing League has also created a video that teaches you how to Throw Like a Pro.

Axe Throwing Games

Here are a couple more games you can play for some variation on standard gameplay.

Around The World

Around the World is designed to test a players skills aiming at the entire target not just the bullseye.

The goal is to hit each point region in succession starting from the left side of the board and working your way across. 1,2,3,4,B,4,3,2,1,(Killshot).

You can not progress to the next portion of the target until you hit your current one, no skipping ahead and coming back!

It is also played head to head and you are attempting to complete the full array of throws before your opponent.

Around the World can also be played in a tournament format where any other standard game could be played, the player to beat is now the one with the fewest throws instead of the highest points.

Tip: Line up your throwing arm (one-handed) or the middle of your body (two-handed) with the section of the target you are throwing for, do not attempt to throw to your right or left as this will give you greater inconsistency.

Two Player Teams: Duals

Duals requires a team of two and is played against another team of two players.

Duals follows the standard game format with two exceptions. Teammates are throwing at the same target and both players on the same team must have released their axes before the first one released touches the target. This is often most effectively achieved with a countdown before throwing.

The total possible points for duals is 128 per game now as point scoring remains the same but is doubled because of the number of players.

Tip: Because the bullseye is so small it is often smart for one player to throw in an attempt to get a bullseye and the other to attempt to score in the ring just outside for four points. This will prevent axes from smashing into each other and falling out resulting in zero points.


Cornhole is a game very popular in the American midwest, often seen at backyard barbeques and parks on the weekend. If you are not familiar with the game of cornhole you can read a full guide here.

For the best results match up teams that have similar skill levels to prevent VERY quick games.

Axe throwing has its own variation of cornhole. Players are split into teams of two and scoring is typically done to 21. Your team must score exactly that number of points to win.

If your team is at 19 points and get 4 points for a total of 23, that doesn’t count and your score is reset to 19.

There is an advantage to throwing second, instead of first, because having the last throw will allow you the chance to get an exact number of points typically needed to close the game. The team that scored most recently always throws first.

All points are scored with Cornhole scoring or canceling out points.

For example: Team A lands a combined 8, Team B lands a combined 5. The points cancel each other out, so Team A scores 3, and Team B scores 0.

Calling Targets Variation: 

Allow players the opportunity to call their targets before they throw, if they choose. On a successful called hit, they receive double the points. If they miss their called target, they get zero! Watch it here

Humans vs Zombies:

Humans vs Zombies is an axe throwing game that involves scoring using a difference in points between throws.

The Zombies are constantly chasing the humans to try and take away their points and the Humans are trying to outrun the Zombies. It is a race to +15 or -15 points depending on which team you belong to.

Because Zombies throw second each round and have a slight advantage, flip a coin to determine who is on which team. After you’ve selected your sides you can start throwing and score with the difference in points.

If the Humans land a 4 and the Zombies land a 6 the total score sits at -2. The first team to reach their goal is victorious!

If you’ve never been axe throwing now you have no excuse, you should now be a pro!

Take down your opponents in pursuit of 64 points, beat your family in a race around the world or team up with other players to take down even more opponents.

 Ask to try out some of these games next time you go axe throwing with your friends or in your backyard if you’ve made your own targets.


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