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HomeGearSurvival5 of The Best Tactical Pens

5 of The Best Tactical Pens

The pen may indeed be mightier than the sword, but wouldn’t you feel mightier if you had both?

PenPriceOur Rating
Gerber Impromptu Tactical PenAmazonA
Schrade SCPENBK 5.7in Aluminum Refillable Tactical PenAmazonA
Smith & Wesson 6.1in AmazonB
Benchmade - Tactical PenAmazonB
2cl direct Tactical penAmazonA

Tactical pens have one objective: to turn something useful but, let’s be honest, extremely boring, an ink pen, into a hardened survival weapon that could save your life. Most of us carry pens around with us – and why not? they fit into your pocket – but only lunatics wander around carrying swords.

As pleased as you were when the police arrived to “have words” with that guy lurching along the sidewalk carrying a katana, you may reflect that, for all his lunacy, “katana guy” had a point. The world can be a dangerous place. The news is only too happy to assure us of that each night.  

Terror attacks and crime are bad enough, but those of us who hike into the wilderness face other dangers. Wild animals are unpredictable, with bears a particularly scary prospect, while help, in the event of an attack, is farther afield.

Does this mean you’ll want to bring knuckledusters and/or automatic weapons on a daytrip to the Rockies? Hardly.

However, if the worst comes to the worst (and the worst only has to happen once) possessing a defensive tool that can be easily carried, quickly accessed and used to deter an attacker could mean the difference between life and death.

For many, a tactical pen will be that weapon. Plus you can use it to do crosswords! This article will look at the features that make up a solid self defense or combat pen.

Features to Look Out for in Tactical Pens

The Basics

Before we get too involved in the fine detail of what constitutes a high-quality tactical pen it may be worth clarifying exactly what makes a pen “tactical.” After all, those of you who survived high school will be only too aware that any pen – indeed, any item of stationery – can be weaponised. Ah, those days of flying erasers, rulers rapping knuckles and bic biros fired from catapults improvised from stray elastic bands. They bring a tear to the eye – just like when the erasers hit!

While a standard pen could undoubtedly be thrown or thrust at an assailant in an emergency you probably wouldn’t want to stake your life on such a flimsy device. Biros are made of brittle plastic that would shatter at the slightest impact, while heavier, more expensive pens tend to have a smooth finish that would cause the pen to slide through your grasp in combat.

The two key characteristics that define tactical pens are, therefore, solid construction (typically from a high-grade metal) and a grooved texture that allows the pen to be gripped and held. If your pen isn’t tough and grippy, it isn’t a tactical pen, just a pen!

And Why Would I Want One of These Again?

There are three main reasons you may wish to carry a tactical pen:

1) Always Be Prepared

A self-defence situation could arise in any place at any time. Even if you possess a more conventional defensive weapon – say a knife – would you carry it on you all the time? Think of those strange looks when someone spots it on you. Even worse, think of what will happen if one of those looks comes from a security guard or law official – you’ll be parted from your trusty (and expensive) defensive weapon forever!

Tactical pens fit the self-defence bill as they can be carried comfortably, unobtrusively and should pass most security checks (although not all, as this TSA blog confirms).

2) Non-Lethal Force

Tactical pens are classed as a “non-lethal” weapon – handy for those who could live their life without knowing what it’s like to end another’s. Carrying a knife is a dangerous business – everyone’s heard that famous stat about carrying a knife raising your chances of being stabbed – but carrying a tactical pen is unlikely to have the same effect.

A tactical pen isn’t a weapon you’d wave at someone to intimidate or aggravate them, but should be able to inflict enough pain to drive away an attacker, if used correctly.     

3)  Lightweight Trekking

The current trend towards lightweight trekking is all about using multi-purpose tools. Why carry a pen and a self-defense weapon when you can combine the two into one and save weight?

So you’ve decided a tactical pen is worth the investment. What features should you look for?

Machined Metal Construction

Self defense pens are made from high-grade machined metals such as aluminium and titanium or sturdy, reinforced plastic. These materials supply the strength required for a defensive weapon in concert with a lightness that allows the pens to be carried.  

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the most effective tactical pens are those made from high-grade metals. Many tactical pens boast of using “aircraft” grade metal. If something is light enough to fly and strong enough to hold together an ungainly hull full of overweight passengers blasting through the jet stream, the chances are it’ll be good enough for your tactical pen!


Gripability may or may not be an actual word (spellcheck says it is; dictionaries beg to differ) but it is a prerequisite to a successful tactical pen. If your defensive pen is every bit as likely to slip from your hand in a heated moment as the Parker pen you use to write Christmas cards, it won’t be able to fulfill its protective function.

Tactical pens come in numerous shapes and sizes but most use a textured surface or a specially designed grip to ensure that you can keep hold of the pen in a crisis.

Not Too Heavy On the “Weapon” Look

Some tactical pens look more “tactical” than others. Pens that are built up and armoured to such an extent that they resemble batons are likely to be treated like a baton and confiscated during a search. Since your dual function tactical pen won’t be so functional if it’s confiscated by law enforcement you might want to consider selecting a tactical pen that actually looks like a pen. That way, you’re more likely to keep hold of it.

It Writes!

The kind of individual who views an array of tactical pens and selects the biggest, baddest-looking one of the lot is the kind of individual who is likely to get home, pick up the pen and discover that they struggle to even write their signature with it. Even James Bond, who always tends to be supplied with special pens by Q, spends more time writing with pens than using them as improvised grenades or in hand-to-hand combat.

Bear in mind when selecting your tactical pen that if it doesn’t write smoothly and clearly then you’re missing out on the greater part of the pen’s functionality

Clipability and Other Additional Features

Most regular pens come with clips that allow you to attach them to your belt or waistline. It could be argued that this feature is even more important in tactical pens for ease of access in an emergency.

If you really want to stitch up an attacker a pen that comes with a DNA extractor (a scoop at the end of the pen that will gather the cells of someone struck with the pen) could prove to be a handy bonus feature. Pass your pen to the police and they may be able to identify your attacker through DNA!

Last but certainly not least, from a camper’s point of view, some tactical pens also possess built in magnesium firestarters or flashlights – another potential lifesaver if you’re struggling to get a fire going in the cold or stumbling around in the dark.

How to Use Them

Tactical pens, like any weapon, will only be truly effective in the hands of someone who knows how to use them. Fortunately, the internet is awash with self-defence tutorials! Videos like this YouTube offering can teach you how to combine the use of tactical pens with blocking manoeuvres and pressure point strikes. Ouch!

Gerber Impromptu Tactical Pen

Made from machined steel and coated with a cerakote finish to improve grip, the Gerber Impromptu Tactical Pen ticks the boxes for toughness, lightness and gripability straight away. The pen was designed with input from law enforcement officials on the basis that “the most important tool you can carry is the item that happens to be in your hand.”

The likelihood of actually having the Gerber in your hand is improved by the fact that it has a push-button mechanism, eliminating the need to mess about with lids before writing, and the fact that it comes with a Rite in the Rain ink cartridge to ensure that the pen will still function in wet conditions.


  • The tip is specifically designed to be a “glass breaker” – a potential lifesaver if you’re caught in a fire and need to sound the alarm or force your way out
  • Customer reviews suggest that the pen does indeed write efficiently in both wet and dry conditions
  • Users suggest that this pen can be carried without arousing suspicion due to its inconspicuous design


  • Mid-to-high price point
  • Customer reviews suggest that the push mechanism can be a little stiff

Check the price at Amazon

Schrade SCPENBK 5.7in

Schrade SCPENBK 5.7inThis Schrade tactical pen comes with a significantly lower price point than the Gerber option but is still made with a high grade metal – CNC Machined 6061 T6 Aluminum, to be precise. The pen comes with a pocket clip for convenient carrying, but those with a propensity to lose small items may be wary of the screw-off cap to which the clip is attached; when you’re writing with this pen, losing the cap is a real risk.

The pen can be refilled with Parker Style Black Ball Point Cartridges, allowing for extended use, and features a tapered tip that could deliver a penetrating blow to an assailant.


  • Low-to-mid price point
  • Smooth, aesthetically-appealing design makes this one of the less aggressive looking tactical pens out there
  • Replaceable ink cartridge


  • Screw off top creates a separate component that could be lost. User reviews also suggest that this part can be unreliable – detaching itself in pockets but stiff when users go to remove it
  • Though the pen is durable it lacks the functionality to write in wet conditions

Check the price at Amazon

Smith & Wesson 6.1in

Smith & Wesson SWPENMPBK 6.1inSmith and Wesson should know a thing or two about defensive implements – they are one of the leading firearms manufacturers in the US. Do they know anything about making pens though? This offering is made from T6061 Aircraft Aluminum and ticks at least one box in terms of pen functionality: it can be refilled with Schmidt P900M Parker Style Black Ball Point Cartridges.

The pen has a low-to-mid price point that will appeal to those seeking value but may have an unconventional drawback: the sheer iconicism of Smith and Wesson could cost you during security checks. Does a pen that looks sturdy suddenly become something more when officials check out the branding on the pen’s clip and see that it is a Smith and Wesson product?


  • Another sleek and pleasing design with an attractive price point


  • Iconic Smith and Wesson branding could be a mixed blessing
  • Customers repeatedly pick fault with one component of the pen: the plastic on the inside of the cap that wears away against metal and eventually leads to a cap that detaches with little to no pressure applied

Check the price at Amazon

Benchmade Tactical Pen

Benchmade - Aluminum PenThe Benchmade Tactical Pen is by far the most expensive entry on this list and blurs the lines between luxury and tactical pens. Available in a comprehensive array of colours including blue, gold and pink, the pens are made from a variety of strengthened metals including anodized aluminum, titanium and stainless steel.

The metal of each pen is determined by the colour – e.g. blue pens are made from titanium – providing a natural look that is undoubtedly pleasing on the eye. There is also a grooved “knurling” pattern on the pen that allows for a solid grip – whether writing or defending – and a “lifetime guarantee” of sturdiness offered by the manufacturer, who will fix or replace any damaged pens.


  • Aesthetically pleasing and available in a range of colours
  • Knurling pattern allows for a firm grip
  • Carbide tip should be ideal for shattering glass or delivering a telling blow to attackers


  • High price point will be beyond the reach of many

Check the price at Amazon

2cl direct Tactical Pen

2cl direct Tactical PenIf you’re looking for a multi-functional tactical pen this offering from 2cl direct may catch your eye. As well as supplying the conventional writing function of a pen – and the less conventional solidity required for self defense (courtesy of “ultra strong anti-rust” aircraft aluminum) – the 2cl direct Tactical Pen also comes with a built-in Nichia Tactical LED Flashlight, a Hex Wrench, Scraper, Bottle Opener and Screwdriver.

Lightweight campers love nothing more than replacing a number of items with one object. A pen (required for any first aid kit as well as general use) that also functions as a back up light, a bottle opener and a scraper/wrench/screwdriver tool to help fix anything that breaks on the trail will surely appeal. Plus if a bear attacks you it’ll have to answer to a tungsten carbide tip capable of shattering glass!


  • Low price point
  • A multi-functional tool with several useful practical applications for life on the trail
  • Consistently positive user reviews suggest that the pen carries off its array of features without detracting from the core writing and defensive properties of the pen


  • Detachable lid could be lost

Check the price at Amazon


And the winner is…the 2cl direct Tactical Pen!

The low price point of the pen and its high level of functionality – writing, lighting, fighting, bottle-opening, scraping, screwdriving, wrenching – are, in some ways, an unlikely combination. How can the cheapest pen on the list also possess the most features?

The usual answer to this would be that the item skimps on quality. However, reviews of the 2cl direct Tactical Pen were as strong or stronger than those of the other pens on the list. The 2cl direct pen appears to have delivered additional features without compromising the key properties of a tactical pen: writing functionality and a sturdy, high grade metal structure that allows the pen to be used in combat, if required.

On this basis – additional functionality without a loss in quality, delivered at a low price point – the 2cl direct Tactical Pen is the clear winner of the five pens on the list. Aesthetes may prefer the expensive Benchmade Tactical Pen, available in a range of colours and metals, while the Gerber Impromptu Tactical Pen has plenty going for it and doesn’t cost the earth, but campers, in particular, are likely to be drawn to the 2cl direct pen.

Out on the trail life is unpredictable. You could be attacked, find yourself lost in the dark or need to be able to fix a key piece of equipment. You may simply feel the need to write poetry. Or open a bottle of beer.

The fact that something as small and portable as a pen could fulfill all these functions makes the 2cl direct Tactical Pen the, well, tactical choice.

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