“The pen is mightier than the sword” takes on a whole new meaning when the pen is made by a well respected and tactics driven manufacturer with a history of making life-altering weapons.
An overview of some of the best models available is as follows:
Approximate cost: $15-30
It’s cheap and usable, but just like its namesake sub-machine gun, it’s rough around the edges and just doesn’t function as flawlessly as it could. It has a DNA catcher on the “blunt” end that makes it uncomfortable to use as a thruster, and yet, seems out of place in a pen anyway. It’s a bit aggressive to pass as a normal pen and the only saving grace is that it doesn’t plaster its name all over the place, which would of course end up poorly if you forgot it in your briefcase while traveling via air travel. As an added bonus, however, it can use either a Parker or Fisher Space Pen refill.
Smith and Wesson
Approximate cost: $15-30
Aside from having the S&W name everywhere (a dead ringer for the average flashlight cop in charge of international departure bag scanning for TSA), it’s actually a decent reflection of what the “duty pen” was originally created to do: write well and be solidly built, while having some tactical advantage if nothing else existed (think Kubotan more than shiv). The flat top makes it almost usable as a thrusting device and Parker refills, including gel ink refills, make it a decent writer. The screw top cap makes this a good value for a good pen, especially relative to the other pens on the list.
Approximate cost: $65-150
It uses Schmidt ink, is costly, and is made by a well known “tactical” company which seem to be its weakest attributes, because just about everything else makes it the Mercedes Benz of tactical pens. There are rumors that it takes multiple refill manufacturers, so that could be a plus. (I can’t verify this as this pen is out of my realistic tactical pen budget for now.) It looks great, has a click interface, and has incredible reviews everywhere you look. If you are serious about this item (the tactical pen), this one seems to be legit. It has a window breaker on the tip and has adjustability for writing style and ink sizes.
Approximate cost: $100-200
Easily the most usable pen after the Surefire, but not quite as understated as it hoped to be. Benchmade makes knives, but anyone who doesn’t know this will still take your pen anyway because it looks aggressive and cool. It’s entirely possible you will have your pen “borrowed” for extended periods of time and regret the purchase, but it certainly looks the part and has the pedigree. Too pricey to make sense for most people, but it is worth a look if you know how to keep track of a pen and know how to use one tactically.
Approximate cost: $25-35
Several designs make this a pen that women may be interested in as well, with good color options and normal looking exterior lines. They are solidly built and don’t go over the top. One version is even pink with pink hearts on it. It has a Parker refill and is sized nicely with a screw on/off top.
Approximate cost: $25-45
One of the (if not, THE) most aggressive pens on the planet, and yet, still looks a bit comical in a Harry Potter or Willow magic wand kind of way. It looks like a twisted piece of metal with a sharp point on the end that writes. This thing is almost too much in a genre that probably overdoes the mall-ninja concept a bit already.
Approximate cost: $5-15
Like an overweight Sharpie®, the Pocket Shark by Cold Steel is a cool design, has the lowest price point, and is the easiest to pass through security at the airport, but don’t kid yourself, get caught with this on a plane or in the scan area, and you probably will get tackled, cuffed, and interrogated. It’s not metallic, but it can cause death if used properly. One would guess the team of TSA officials will know exactly what this is, and won’t think you are funny for trying to circumvent the rules. It is certainly useful to have in drawers around the house though, or in the car, bag, pants pocket, etc.
Approximate cost: $50-75
It’s mildly aggressive, but looks clean enough despite all the fluting and ribbing. This can be used as an every day executive-type pen. It’s got good lines and a proprietary refill, which makes one simultaneously covet it and hate it. It does look better than most of the others though, and seems much more comfortable to use with all the clean edges as a last ditch item.
Approximate cost: $70
It’s clean and good-looking, but not quite as aggressive as one might think with a brand named Mil-Tac. It comes in several anodized colors like orange and OD green/grey and red, etc. It’s possible you could get this one through airport security, but it’s no guarantee. It has a Schmidt refill, which means it’s considered quality somewhere, but the refills are not as widespread in availability as the Parker and Fisher refills. It’s a bit pricey, but the understated looks make it a bit more justifiable a purchase.
Approximate cost: $30-50
It’s the caveman club of the group, and actually resembles a large heavy center punch for metal working. It’s doubtful that an agent with the TSA would allow such a device (especially when they could just inherit it for themselves) on a plane. It’s perhaps a bit unwieldy, especially if you rock the pen-in-pocket look, as this thing is “girthy.” The pen ink cartridge supposedly writes well, but it’s got a widespread reputation for lasting about 1 page’s worth of handwriting (though I cannot personally verify this, as I do not own this pen). Additionally, the cap has a tendency to stay loose even though it is threaded. It’s perhaps the best candidate for beating someone over the head with in this genre.
The important thing here is that no one gets any illusions that these pens are more than what they are: aggressive pens. As much as watching a Jason Bourne film makes us all want to find some European guy to fight CQB with (that sentence sounds worse on paper than it does in the head) and use a pen as a last ditch effort before we walk away the victor, it’s a lot more difficult in practice. Last ditch they are—weapons, not so much. Another important point: these pens are likely to get you a full body cavity search in your local airport, so be smart about traveling with them. Is the risk really that great? Be careful what ideas you get into your head, and never underestimate the TSA’s level of ridiculousness.
These are made for sturdy writing, not for stealthily killing an intruder. Remember that when you buy, and remember that a tool without training or understanding may not be a very good tool for you. Tactical pens serve a purpose, and if your needs align themselves with these purposes, the above crop is about the best you can find in the mass market.