The fun, exciting, potentially deadly world of Tactical Pens

[Editor's note: Pesco posted about these weaponized writing implements here last year; today, enjoy a hands-on from guestblogger Sean Bonner. —XJ]

What the crap is a tactical pen? A pen that kicks ass, basically. And I don't just mean it's "a kick-ass pen," I mean: this pen could literally kick your ass. To death, maybe. But it's also a pen, so it's civilized. No definitive answer on how mighty a tactical pen is in comparison to a sword, but the tactical pen is definitely mightier than the regular pen.

After first hearing about these on Every Day Carry, I decided I needed to see one in person. So I picked one up. Then another. Then did some comparing and contrasting, all scientifical-like. I can now share my results with you. Here's a few that happen to be in front of me as I write this post.


From L to R: Smith & Wesson Tactical Pen, Emergency Survival Covert Spy Ventilator Pen (carbon fiber), County Comm Embassy Elite Pen (stainless), Pilot Easy Touch (fine point), Sharpie (standard).

The first one I picked up was the Smith & Wesson Tactical Pen. I figured they make guns and bullets and stuff so they probably could make a pretty bad-ass tactical pen, right?

This pen is made from aircraft aluminum so it's pretty solid, but light weight. Since this pen costs a whopping $23 on Amazon I really wanted to do my research before buying it, and that research told me that the cartridge that goes in it kind of sucks so and people "in the know" generally advise buying a Fisher Space Pen Refill to go in it instead. This writes better and also lets you write easily in zero gravity or underwater, should that need arise. That also brought the price up to almost $30.

Right away I will tell you that the best thing about this pen, and the thing that made tactical pens suddenly make perfect sense to me is the pocket clip. I carry a pen everywhere and damn if I'm not always snapping off pocket clips and then losing the pen. These things have solid metal clips that are literally bolted on to the pen, making them really solid and reliable. But this pen is really thick, wider than a Sharpie which makes it feel a little weird to hold in your hand while writing. The really bad thing, and I'll be honest here, is that this pen is covered with Smith & Wesson branding and logos. Annoying. People are always like "Nice pen! Who makes it... hey waitaseccond, don't those guys make guns?"


Next up is the Emergency Survival Covert Spy Ventilator Pen. This is easily the shittiest pen in the bunch simply because it's not a pen at all, despite the deceptive name. That said, it's definitely the most aggressive given that It's really just a Bic pen sized hypodermic needle made out of carbon fiber that "presumably" should you stab someone with it, would allow for easy blood flow. Not that I'm advising such a thing of course. But yeah. This was recommended to me on Amazon when I bought the first one.

I played with a few others before I got to what is by far my favorite and the one I haven't put down since getting it, the Embassy Elite Pen by County Comm. If you aren't familiar with County Comm you should be. They mostly sell overruns of government contracts and this pen is exactly that. Machined out of solid stainless steel and shipped with a Fisher Space Pen cartridge, this thing is solid and heavy and feels really amazing as a pen, which is important for obvious reasons. It also has a screw on cap and rubber O ring to keep it sealed tight. I love this pen. Everyone I show this to loves it. It's not cheap coming it at close to $50, but assuming I don't lose, it may last a lifetime. If you are really fancy and want bragging rights, they offer a titanium version as well. I am not that fancy.

It's worth noting that with all of these items so far, the manufacturers are at the very least hinting to their value as striking and/or stabbing implements. The idea being: you can carry a pen some places where you can't carry a more obvious weapon, and these allow you to defend yourself in such situations, should the need arise. But really, the suggestion that you need a "tactical" pen for that is just stupid marketing. Tacticool would be more accurate.


Behold the Pilot Easy Touch Retractable. This pen is not a tactical pen at all, but it writes nicely and has a squishy grip to make it comfortable in your hand while writing. It's got a crappy plastic pocket clip that easy snaps off and may cause you to lose it, but with a price point hovering around a buck, that's no big deal at all. And in a pinch you could poke someones eye out just as quickly and easily as one of the above pens that cost 50x as much. Also, no cap to lose. The one in the photo has some chocolate cake smeared on the side of it. That's an aftermarket customization.

Finally we have ye old trusty Sharpie. I have a suspicion this is patient zero for tactical pens. The body is much more solid than the Pilot, the clip doesn't snap off as easily, the ink is permanent and getting hit with one would hurt like crap. I bet some dudes were sitting around a table one day talking about how cool the Sharpie is and one of them suggested making a sharpie out of metal and the tactical pen revolution was started. I can't prove that of course, but that is my theory. I've had a Sharpie in my pocket or bag every day since high school and they've never let me down.

So there you have it. Choose wisely, should you decide your life is incomplete—and insufficiently protected—without a tactical pen.


  1. Actually, the first tactical pen I can remember was actually a Sharpie, but made with fiberglass, and with a screw on cap. They called it the Sharkie.

  2. I own 2 County Comm Embassy pens (1 of the elites pictured and a red-ano aluminum version). I LOVE these pens.

    You have to know what writing with the Fisher pen fills are like (I’ve been using them in my Retro 51 pens forever) and if you can deal with them, the pens are solid, feel good in the hand and are quite substantial pens (especially in the case of the stainless).

    The aluminum version feels like any high-quality pen you might find in terms of weight, the balance is good though slightly heavy on the rear end. I keep this one at work as it’s not finished quite to the same standard as the stainless pen and I expect the anodizing to wear off rather quickly (it’s pretty thin).

    The stainless version is a beast. The balance is similar to the alu version, but the material is just so much heavier. If you’re not used to writing with a fine instrument, this pen will definitely be too much for you to write with on a regular basis or for any period of time. But the finish on this pen is also just exquisite; I keep this one at home so it stays nice.

    I highly recommend these pens as writing instruments, and the stainless version as a collectors piece. They’re also offering a short run of Ti and Copper pens right now that I wish I could justify buying…

  3. But do you also carry a metallic silver Sharpie, in case you need to scribble down some vital information on a beer bottle?

    1. Silver sharpies are my most-used Sharpie! Combined with Jim O’Connell’s gaffer’s tape suggestion (I wrap it around spent batteries, or pieces of cut plastic straw, as well as around light stands, but around a silver sharpie is a good idea), you have the ultimate labeling solution. Silver sharpie on black gaffer’s tape not only looks cool, but is very readable and will stick firmly to most anything (unlike the classic masking tape with black sharpie solution).

      My best example is the back of my macbook pro, where I slapped a piece of 2″ black gaffer’s tape over the Apple logo and drew my signature penguin on it with silver sharpie, which goes quite well with the aluminum case.

  4. Sharpies rule. I feel naked without one. the Fine Point that dangles from my ID badge lanyard gets used 10+ times/day. For writing. But it’s nice to know if I have to fight my way out of a meeting the Sharpie is there for me.

  5. I hadn’t realized the cop/soldier-wannabe market was large enough to support this kind of thing, but now I know, I’m going to be bringing some products to market. For a start, there’s my Tactical Stapler, in milled aircraft aluminum, with rapid reload functionality and an extended magazine. If that doesn’t get you going, there’s also the Tactical Hole Punch (mild steel frame and tension springs, with Kevlar grips for more reliable control), which can make precision holes in up to 1/8″ of solid paper.

    Our tactical ring binders are covered with hard-wearing ballistic nylon (colors available: black, battleship gray and olive drab) and feature steel-reinforced edges for close combat advantage. The deluxe model also includes a pocket that accepts ceramic plates for personal protection. (In independent tests conducted by a former Navy SEAL master armorer, a fully-configured tactical ring binder stopped 9mm rounds fired from a distance of 40 feet).

    “Tactical Office Supplies – because when business is war, your workplace is the battlefield. Don’t get caught unprepared.”

    1. “Tactical Office Supplies – because when business is war, your workplace is the battlefield. Don’t get caught unprepared.”

      Having just spent a while browsing through all that stuff, I returned to this page, read your comment, and feel suitably brought back to earth.

      With thanks … and LOL :)

    2. You know, I’d totally buy that binder, depending on the price point. It might actually last longer than the single semester that all my other ones do.

    3. I was going to suggest a tactical decleater to accompany your tactical stapler — and then realized all decleaters likely qualify as weapons.

      And Anon @ #47, I have absolutely no idea what your link has to do with this post….

  6. I was expecting a lot more carnage from a Tactical Pen Review.

    I don’t know if I am more disappointed or relieved.

  7. Just wondering if you tried a Fisher space pen. Some of them are thinner, but they’re usually made solid and could definately get the job done. They make a bunch that are made from bullets.

  8. WTF … You would need some serious training to use a tactical pen in a fight. If you have that kind of training and skills, poking someone with a finger sized stick is way down the list of action plans.

    1. A sufficiently robust pen could probably be used as a substitute for the kind of miniature batons (which really are pen-sized) that some cops use. Rather than stabbing or thumping people, these batons are used to apply pressure to specific pressure points as part of a hold.

      A court-officer friend said that the mini-baton was actually his favorite of the various batons he was allowed to carry. He demonstrated one ‘come-along’ hold that used the baton to apply pressure to the forearm close to the wrist. While I’m not sure that it would have been enough to “gain my compliance” (to use his term) if I’d been a large angry offender, the feeling certainly wasn’t pleasant.

      1. It’s called a kubotan and they’re incredibly effective if you know how to use them:

        I’ve felt since day one that the County Comm pens are perfect replacements for a kubotan, the size is just right and they’re nearly as robust by design.

        If all else fails, the stainless version will hurt like all get out if you use it as a striking weapon, it’s that heavy.

  9. Not being much of a mall ninja, I can’t comment on the “tactical” pens, but I’ll give you a tip for the Sharpie, since I know you’re a photographer as well, Sean:
    Get some good gaffer’s tape like PermaCel and wrap the body of the Sharpie with it. The idea is to have easy access to the tape, not to improve the grip of the pen or anything. You’ll be surprised how often it will come in handy.

    As for going all stabby on someone, if the need arose, I’d probably just uncap my silver Parker 75 fountain pen and use that to do a nice Joe Pesci impersonation. Sure, it would probably ruin the pen, but how often do you wind up needing to do that in life?

  10. Someone now needs to create a Tactical Pocket Protector to hold these pens, which is positioned over your heart and is constructed from triple-weave Kevlar. You could put a signal mirror on the underside of the flap!

    I hereby declare this idea Creative Commons, but it would be common courtesy to send me a copy of the prototype.

    1. Triple weave kevlar, ues. Hopefully you’d also add a Faraday weave and the back should be stainless steel polished for emergency mirror use, and with a serrated edge for post-tactical-pen-use amputations.

      I agree, common courtesy ro provide me a prototype.

    2. Thus giving birth to the “survival pocket protector” market.

      Stitch the kevlar together with some fishing line, which you can pull out and attach to the included fishing hook. Also included is a tiny magnetized rod which is engineered to float in water, so it can be used as a compass.

      Last but not least is a small chunk of magnesium with an iron striker.

      1. The fishing line should be strong enough to choke someone with. Throwing cards need to be attached to the back in case of a need for long range use

  11. I read Xeni’s tweet as “Tactical pets.”

    I came here expecting to see poisonous jumping frogs or something…

  12. I reached for the Tactical Post-It Notes(tm) I have on my desk, but I couldn’t find them. Then I remembered I got the camouflaged ones. They’re just that good.

  13. We had trouble one morning with management of the building we were going to do work in. They kicked us out and kept our tools. One of the guys I worked with commented to our ex Navy SEAL boss, something about wishing he had a weapon. Our boss held up a pencil and said,”all I need is this”.

  14. I recently got into the whole pen and paper thing and thus was given a reason to contemplate the world of tactical pens. Mock all you want, but ninjas are fucking everywhere! Shit gets tactical. Even in the mall.
    Ultimately, I found the oldschool fountain pen too alluring and bought a very sexy Lamy. Chicks dig a man with a fountain pen.

  15. The only thing I don’t like about my County Comm pen is that the cap does not fit on the back of the pen when you’re writing with it. However, I am reading up on how to cut threads on my lathe and hope to remedy that problem soonish.

    1. They note that was done on purpose, to make sure you get your pen back if you lend it to someone (you keep the cap in your hand). Also, the cap is sharp, so it’s got other purposes..

    2. I was going to write a comment about the WWII-era lathe my high school had – with a plate on the side containing a table of depths and feed rates for various thread sizes – and how much I wish I still had access to it so I could thread various miscellany around my apartment.

      Then I realized I could buy a chinese tap-and-die set for under $10 on ebay.

  16. I remember the book Shibumi by Trevanian, where the hero, Nicholai Hel, ends the life of his Go teacher with a pencil to the temple.

  17. Sean, you left out the awesome Benchmade 1100. They have a ton of versions of it, but I’m preferential to the one with the carbide tip for breaking windows for $130. They also have one made out of “Damasteel” for $250. They too use the Fisher Space Pen refills.

  18. Ed Parker, the founder of American Kenpo, is said to have stated that an ordinary ball-point pen, such as a Bic, was a perfectly serviceable weapon, if properly handled. Tactical pens mostly seem to fill a need for weeaboos to feel all special and tough: they’re covertly armed and dangerous, so look out mall ninjas!
    I get catalogs with pages of ooh-spooky-black-ops-wannabe crap like this, for no really plausable reason. I especially love the oogy-scary-looking special fighting knives that have so many sticky-out bits, I bet that anyone who tries to pull one in a hurry ends up giving himself a wedgie.

  19. I think the Pilot easy touch retractable is the kind that tends to eventually crack in half near the back end of the rubbery grip, because the hard plastic seems thinner or weaker there. Not like I wear deathly tight pants, but the break invariably happened in my pocket when I would sit down or move around.

  20. By the way, if you’re not going through a very careful inspection or customs or whatever, you can easily stick a plastic pen cap on the end of a precision razor knife (Xacto for example), and people who see it casually tend to overlook the steel shaft of the thing and guess that the pen cap means it’s a pen.

    1. If you use slightly modified scalpel blades instead of xacto refills, and you always turn the blade upside down when you aren’t using it (so that the cutty bit is inside the barrel) it will look just like a regular metal-bodied pen when it goes through the Xray machine with your keys and stuff.

      I mean, that’s what I’ve heard. You know.

  21. I carry one of the S&W models and I really love it. The County Comm all copper model is beautiful but I can’t justify buying it. Must save money for tabletop role-playing game books. :)

  22. The most expensive one is around $50 bucks? And he think that is expensive? You can’t touch a Monte Blanc for that price.

    I like that S&W for the same reason I like my CRKT knife – it has a clip. I lost 4 pocket knives in a year, and I finally decided to invest in something more substantial and got something with a clip. I have yet to lose it.

    Now – can we get a review on attache case sized sniper rifles for hostile business take overs?

  23. for me it is a bic disposable mechanical pencil.

    you can use the graphite as a lubricant on squeaky hinges.

    you can use the non conductive tip to open the safety on a irish/british socket to connect an american plug.

    i prefer to take notes in pencil as i find my hand writing is better for some reason.

    though i do carry a sharpie in my phone holster for writing on dead hardware.

  24. I think you’re right that the vast majority of people who buy one of these pens lack the skill to actually use it effectively as a weapon. That being said, if you want to spend $30 on a nice pen, more power to you.

    I think you’re wrong, however, that an everyday pen would substitute just as well for one of these in martial application. As a previous commenter pointed out, these pens are designed to act as kubotan, which is a handheld device used mostly in pain-compliance. You can apply a lot more pressure to a joint or pressure point with a kubotan than you can with your hand. Having had one used on me (consensually, as a demonstration) by an instructor in a martial arts school, I can attest to their terrifying effectiveness. I have no doubt that instructor could have used an ordinary pen to similar effectiveness, but given the amount of pressure that could be applied, I could also see it just breaking the tip of the pen off, potentially injuring your own hand, and rendering the pen ineffective as a weapon.

  25. I’ve seen the Sharkie in Cold Steel’s catalogue, but it would be fairly easy to mod a dead Sharpie. All you need is a piece of plastic rod the same diameter as the felt tip, in black or red or whatever, pull the old felt tip out and shove the piece of rod as far into the pen body as it’ll go, then file or turn a point on the end. Stronger than a Bic or Biro when held in your fist and used for striking with.

  26. I remember using my BIC pen as a weapon in Middle School. Doing so made me appear just insane enough to deter a certain low level of bully. Using a pencil got me in trouble though because the teachers worried about lead poisoning. (They didn’t know the truth about pencil leads back then.)

  27. Out of five tactical pens, one isn’t a pen, and two more aren’t tactical.

    40% isn’t good enough for this mall ninja.

  28. Recalling the Reuters hostile environment training program a few years ago where ex-commandoes showed journalists going to war zones how, among other things, to work their way safely out of a minefield using only their pencil. Though it falls into the defensive not offensive category of any decent war corro’s Writing Instrument Armory.

  29. The Zebra 701 is much cheaper, and a great pen as a benefit. Really though, the tactical pen thing is sad. 100 bucks (or more) for a pen with $10 guts. And people wonder why the debt crisis is so bad.

  30. Er, still trying to figure out how these pens are “tactical.” Is it purely stabbing? You might as well market tactical keys. (That’s regular keys with a $30 price tag.)

    Just can’t figure it out.

  31. One thing no one has commented on (I think) that many of them share: the Fisher Space Pen replacement ink.

    This pen is the bomb. For SHAME the people who want cut the space budget, robbing us of technological wonders such as this.

    NASA needed a pen that would write in Zero G – which a regular pen will not do. Two main differences is what separates it from other mortal pens:

    1) The ink is in a pressurized container, thus Zero G is noooo problem.

    2) The ink is special. The reason liquid ink doesn’t come squirting out under pressure is because it is a gel. Only when the ball rolls it out does it convert to a liquid briefly so that you can write.

    Of course, I have long admired the Soviet space program. They had the same problem with pens writing in Zero G. Like many of their solutions, their ‘space pen’ was much cheaper and used much simpler technology. They used pencils.

      1. What myth did I repeat? I guess I lacked a few additional details – but I don’t think anything I said was incorrect. I guess I did make it sound like a NASA ordered it, vs Fisher taking the initiative.

        If it was an allusion that NASA paid to develop it, I knew they did not. Many things we use that came from the space race weren’t made expressly FOR NASA, but were created/discovered while working on projects for the space race, like WD-40.

        PS I am aware Tang wasn’t made for NASA either.

  32. I obviously have a much broader definition of the word “tactical” than these pen manufacturers do. “Tactical” <> “for killing”.

    Also, why are they all ball points? Outdated, crappy technology. I can’t write worth a damn with a ball point. Now, a “tactical” gel pen — that would be useful…

  33. Far, far better than the Space pen by Fisher is the Uni-Ball PowerTank. It’s made in brittle plastic and it’s ugly as sin, but its cartridge is the best in the world, with a far better flow than Kanye West’s, an incredible writing comfort and the ability to write in any human circumstance.

    And by the way,

  34. I own a Sharkie and I carry it everywhere. I have (almost) no idea how to use it as a weapon, but it’s a blunt-ended cylinder of nigh-unbreakable ceramic — that thing is all kinds of useful.

  35. when my dad was a kid in world war 2 Czechoslovakia, as kids they were told not to pick up any strange objects – as one of the items dropped by the allies were little pens that exploded in your hand.

  36. I’m really looking forward to the new Call of Duty: Black Ops “special weapon” the balistic tactical pen in the upcomming downloadable content. Now you can poke the eye out of that dude with the M60 as he’s commin round the corner. No more need to the lunge with your balistic knife, now you’ve got something shorter, and duller! Nice round hole, better to bleed out your enemy. Watch out for that “Second Chance Pro” perk, as it seems to take much longer for them to bleed out.

  37. Having just watched Rocknrolla the other night, and fondly recalling Gross Pointe Blank, I wonder at what makes these pens better as a weapon than the writing implements used to for bodily harm in those films.

  38. One word: Kubotan. Google it. Then relax and enjoy your next TSA-approved flight knowing how easy it is to use one of these or most nay other good solid pocket pen in nasty painful ways.

  39. Just buy a metal bodied fountain or ball point pen. They are stylish, functional (as pens), strong, and won’t arouse anyone’s notice. The only “downside” would be that you’d miss out on the “tacticool” aspect.

  40. Ok, ha ha, rednecks are funny, but you’re so smart.

    You know who needs a pen like the two aluminum ones? Women. Most states now outlaw the kuboton, an aluminum key fob. This is a way to get around that law. It’s used to mash the hand of an assualter who’s grabbed you, a hard object on the back of the hand is painful, and it can be enough to either get away, or make the assailant thing about other prey. (Even a great white will release if poked in the eye.) Trachea, back of hand, backside of the jaw, the eye, the temple, ribs, there are many strike spots that can give a woman a chance to get away.

    I have female friends who’ve been assaulted, I have a daughter. Some places you can’t take a small container of pepper spray, but you can take a pen. (I also know two people who’ve been attacked by sharks, living in California’s northern capital of great whites, where the Klamath salmon meet surfing. A bomp on the nose doesn’t do it, but in the eye does.) There are people who are bent. There are people who are good. I’m rooting for the good ones, but many times the good people don’t comprehend the reality of the actions of bent minds until after being assualted.

    I posit that it’s better to explain using a pen to fend off an attacker, than to be raped.

    Thank you.

  41. The “NASA developed the Fisher Space Pen” meme refuses to die. It’s been repeated so often that it might as well be true, but it isn’t. It was privately developed.

  42. I found a pen that is labelled ‘Cross Ireland’ and which is apparently made of ‘german silver’. You could possibly harm a rabbit with it. However, I have no idea if this counts as ‘tactical’.

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