[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.