What are the Best Tactical Pens for 2019 (and Why have one?)
You’re about to find out. Here are some of the very best from less than $5 to over $100. From simple pens to glass breakers to penlights.
The world is full of options, but it’s nice to learn a little before you take the plunge.
First of all, why do you need a tactical pen?
If you search the Internet, you get some pretty shallow answers to this question.
Answers like the “cool” factor, and the convenience of having a pen all the time. Really?
Why not a really cool non-tactical pen that you can just carry around all the time then?
Look, the purpose of a tactical pen is to help in self-defense situations where other defensive weapons are not allowed or available. The cool factor and availability are ancillary.
Additionally, it’s kind of a pain to carry something every day unless it otherwise conveniently works.
Think about it.
If you were a first responder and wanted to carry a tactical pen, that would be fine.
You probably already carry and certainly need access to a pen. Also, if you had a bag or purse, that would also work.
If, however, you dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, it becomes a little more difficult. (One pen discussed later on could still be used…).
Bottom line, tactical pens are somewhat last lines of defense as opposed to fighting with your fists.
Now, this is really important. If you were in a situation where you had to strike an attacker, and you didn’t have access to another weapon, what do you use?
Don’t say your fists.
The use of a tactical pen is not about boxing, it’s more about martial arts.
There’s a reason boxers wear gloves.
Okay, want to know what it feels like? Stand in front of a wall and strike it with your fist – hard. Go ahead we’ll wait… Not fun right?
If you did have convenient access to a tactical pen, and you were involved in a situation where you had to strike an attacker, using a tactical pen would not only save your hands but would be eminently more effective than trying to hit with your fists.
You should know that tactical pens are held with the dominant hand in what is known as the “ice pick” grip with the thump capping the pen. This is similar to the tactical light grip used in weapon light techniques (which you can read about here).
Here are some examples so you can place where to use a tactical pen:
- You’re a first responder or in the military and you carry a tactical pen vs. a regular pen as a last line of defense.
- You’re a soccer mom who needs to walk to your car in a dark parking lot, from your purse you carry a tactical flashlight in your weak hand and a tactical pen in your strong hand – just in case.
- You’re a traveling salesperson where weapons are simply not allowed and carry a tactical light and pen in your briefcase – again, just in case.
- You’re on vacation, again where no weapons are allowed but you carry a tactical light and pen in your backpack for protection.
I wanted to address the “why”. Without a valid purpose, it really becomes rather silly to just buy for the cool factor.
Can you bring a tactical pen on an airplane?
TSA has a website which addresses what can and can’t be carried either carry on or checked in bags.
For example, if you search flashlights, both are acceptable, but with a carry on bag, the light is limited to 7 inches.
Although the TSA site states pens are allowable both carry on and checked, you need to be very careful with a tactical pen.
Not only could the pen be confiscated but if it is considered a weapon, you may be subjected to arrest.
Contemplate this, no matter what your opinion of TSA may be, one thing is for sure, they’ve presumably seen everything you probably have little chance of getting a serious tactical pen past them.
Note, however, some tactical pens are much more discrete than others.
A word to the wise should be sufficient.
A brief note on characteristics
Functionally, tactical pens are either clickers, caps or twists. Caps are easier to loose, twists are more inconvenient, and clickers are probably the easiest to use. Beyond that, it’s really a matter of convenience. The rest of the main characteristics include size: length and weight, and construction materials. All of this finally relate to tactical pens that are discrete or robust. You need do decide what’s best for you.
Tactical pens stats table
Here’s a table of pens that you can sort by price and characteristic to help in your selection. Reviews of specific pens are available below.
So, let’s review some of the best Tactical Pens
Probably the most discrete and certainly the least expensive (at around $5) “tactical pen” is the Zebra F-150. It is truly the tactical pen that doesn’t know it’s a tactical pen and can be purchased at almost any office supply store.
What makes it tactical is that it’s constructed of aluminum, with a pointed tip and is textured in the front to enhance a solid grip. Was it designed to be a tactical pen? I doubt it, but many tactical gear nuts and preppers etc., have claimed it as the best discrete (cheap) tactical pen.
You probably could even get past TSA with this pen. If they confiscated it, you’re out $5 and they would have a hard time claiming it was a weapon when it’s so commonplace and available.
$5, however, may buy discrete, but it doesn’t buy robust. The F-150 is not the most solid aluminum constructed pen, but, for $5 what would you expect?
All in all, not a bad discrete buy.
The Wuben Penlight
The Wuben Penlight is really the swiss army knife of tactical pens. It has virtually everything:
- A dual CREE LED light screwable removable tip – with 130 lumens and 3 lumens, accessible by twisting the tail of the pen to low and twisting further to high.
- The light uses a 10180 miniature rechargeable lithium battery, while the pen has a micro USB port and included cable to allow recharging – approximately 1 hour.
- The body of the pen has a writing pen side with a Germany Schneider refill on one side and a tapered tungsten steel tip on the other side. Note: since the light tip only covers one side, the opposite side is always exposed.
- The pen even states an IPX8 waterproof rating – immersion for 30 minutes at a depth of 2 meters.
- Constructed with aerospace aluminum, this tactical pen is available in black and gold and has an Amazon price point at about $30.
The Wuben is really beautifully constructed and very solid without being too heavy. Although 130 lumens is not extremely powerful, it is certainly good enough as a backup light. On a scale of 1-10, 10 being overtly a tactical look and 1 being the Zebra f-701, I would probably rate this a 7.
It’s certainly a tactical pen worth considering.
The SureFire Writing Pen
SureFire has a reputation for only producing quality products, to the point of overbuilt and the Surefire Writing Pen is no different.
The image above is probably a 1st generation Surefire (I’ve had it for years) and they are now into generation IV.
These pens are made of rugged aerospace-aluminum with a Mil-Spec hard-anodized finish. The Schmidt easyFLOW 9000 ink cartridge is standard in these pens and the entire pen (less ink cartridge) is assembled in the U.S.A.
The pen on my tactical look scale is probably around a 3. This is a click pen vs. a removable cap (to which some complain about losing), is a hair less than 6 inches, available in black and gold, and is priced at $99 on Amazon. Certainly the most expensive of the bunch.
Is it worth it? It’s well built, reasonably discrete, functional and a click vs cap pen – definitely a work of art. I find it a little hard to get a solid grip to write with this, so test it out and return it if not happy. Outside of that, only you can decide.
Smith & Wesson Tactical Screw Cap Pen
The Smith & Wesson may lose points on discreteness simply because of the name but is otherwise a well balanced and constructed tactical pen.
This 6.1-inch pen is a bit heavier than other tactical modes but still feels good. The cap pops on and off very solidly to reveal a ballpoint pen on one side and a pointed self-defensive end on the other side. The pen uses the commonly available Schmidt P900M Parker style ballpoint cartridges and is reasonably priced at Amazon around $23. As typical, the pen is constructed with aircraft aluminum which the manufacturer specifies as T6061.
A similar pen, with a screwable cap, is also available for a few bucks more.
To me, this pen feels good in the hand and easy to write with. It is certainly reasonably priced and I would have to state it’s discrete grade at around a 6 – but that’s just subjective. All in all, a great pen.
Schrade Aluminum Tactical Pen
Another 5.7-inch tactical pen is available from Schrade and also features a screwable cap which allows for the defensive end to be exposed. When using the pen as a writing instrument, the cap slips (vs. screws) onto the sharpened end. When this occurs, there is no secure pop like the Smith & Wesson and I would suspect many would simply lay the cap aside. Doing so, however, would increase the chance of losing the cap.
The pen uses the Schmidt p900 refills and has a nice weight and balance. It also has a nice price point at around $23.
The Schmidt definitely has a tactical look and I would suspect that assigning a 7 would not be unreasonable.
There is a lot to like about this pen but you should be aware of the cap issue discussed above before you proceed.
The Gerber Impromptu Tactical Pen
The Gerber Impromptu is definitely one of the most tactical looking pens in the bunch and for good reasons, it was blatantly designed as a tactical pen – to which I would have to give a discrete level of probably a 9-10.
The Impromptu comes in at about 5.7-inches (also) but is constructed of steel and stainless steel vs aluminum. It has a hidden, but always available, glass-breaker tip, which as they describe “is designed to get you out of trouble”. It is totally functional and uses Rite in the Rain cartridges which are claimed to work in all conditions.
This pen is a beast and is the heaviest of the bunch. It’s also a clickable pen so cap issues are non-existent. The spring controlling the click feels like it came off a Glock striker spring.
It’s a bit more expensive than the average of the group, coming in at around $62 but you get the feeling you could pierce concrete blocks with this tactical pen.
For a solid “I want the biggest baddest tactical pen available” you can’t go wrong with the Gerber Impromptu – just don’t try flying with one.
The Boker Plus Micarta Tactical Pen
The Boker Plus Micarta tactical pen is probably the most unusual of the bunch and comes in at around 4 1/4 inches and only 1 oz. It is beautifully designed with an unusual clicker, almost like a rifle bolt and uses the Fisher Space Pen cartridge #PR4.
The pen comes with a lifetime warranty and is constructed with Micarta – yes, the same material used on many knife handles. It’s lightweight and easy to grip. The tip is titanium coated aluminum and the pen is priced at around $37. It also is actually an easy pen with which to write.
So where does this fit in?
I would say that it probably has a 2 on the discrete index, or very very discrete. It also is easily concealable and easy to carry, for example in a jean key pocket. Although it won’t pierce concrete like the Gerber Impromptu, there is enough protruding with an ice pick grip that this would be extremely effective in a self-defense situation.
Bottom line, if you’re going to carry on a plane or if someone wants a discrete and easily available tactical pen, the Boker is a serious contender. It’s also a lifetime keeper and even a work of art.
The Atomic Bear is probably one of the best packaged and priced pens on the market. Coming in at only $13, the Atomic Bear comes with a nylon holster and belt loop, an extra ballpoint cartridge, and a lifetime warranty.
Although not as heavy as the Gerber Impromptu, the Atomic Bear is over 6 1/2 inches long and comes with a removable cap which snaps on to each end. One side has a ballpoint pen and the other side features a 3 mm diameter extra-hard tungsten carbide head.
The pen accepts Atomic Bear, Parker, Fisher Space and Rite in the Rain ink refills. Although I would rate this as a 9, similar to the Impromptu, at this level, discreteness is not the issue.
Atomic even offer a video training class on the use of tactical pens available here. Note, this may be a bit advanced but it is still instructive and will help you understand the use of tactical defense gear.
Although there are a number of tactical pens available to you, the above 8 are really the best you can buy. Additionally, I’ve included enough of a selection to meet almost any conceivable need.
So it depends on what you want. If discreteness is critical, look at the Zebra or the Boker. Also, if jean pocket type everyday carry is important, the Boker may be the answer. If made in the U.S.A., click top and cost is no objective, consider the Surefire. Want it all including a light, look at the Wuben. Want the biggest and baddest, consider the Gerber Impromptu and the Atomic Bear. Want a cap type pen with dual sides, consider the Smith & Wesson and the Schrade.
All in all, know your options and consider your needs. All these have reasonable price points, are fully functional as writing instruments and may offer some viable protection when another defensive tool is simply not available.
Always be prepared, be well.