The 10 Best Tactical Pens

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This wiki has been updated 32 times since it was first published in June of 2015. Self-defense often comes down to one's ability to use his or her environment to a strategic advantage. Having a good tactical pen in your hands automatically gives you the edge in any unexpected encounter. In addition to being a useful protection aid when used as a kubotan, many of the designs below feature a glass breaker to escape a vehicle or building in an emergency situation. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.

1. Gerber Impromptu

2. The Atomic Bear SWAT

3. Willuck DX5

Editor's Notes

April 21, 2021:

We found this list to be in fairly decent shape, with no glaringly inappropriate or inferior selections to speak of, and no major availability issues that needed to be addressed. However, we did notice some user reviews pointing toward small quality concerns with a few items, and found a few new options on the market that we thought might do well on this list. So, we removed the Sminiker Defender, Valtcan Bolt, Schrade SCPENBK and Columbia River Knife & Tool Williams in order to make room for some new picks.

The Jinager Survival Kit, Ispandy Survival Gear and Willuck DX5 immediately stand out on this list because they all come with interesting bonus items and integrated features that are designed to appeal to survivalists, including everything from tactical flashlights to multitool cards. It needs to be said that the quality of these items has yielded mixed reviews, but believing that many people perusing this category are probably hunting for affordable gifts, we judged that their novel value was still worth something, even if their practical value doesn’t quite add up as well. It’s also worth considering that the price these kits are offered at makes it easy to write off any less-than-excellent extras as freebies.

The Splumzer Heavy Duty caught our eye with its easy-to-dissasemble design, which allows the unit to be put back together in a T shape that provides excellent grip. As we mentioned in our description for this item, since this process may take a minute, in a moment when you don’t have second to spare, it might not be all that helpful in spontaneous self-defence situations, but it should definitely help you put your weight behind a glass-breaking strike, if ever you find yourself in such a scenario.

If tactical gear is the name of your game, we’ve got plenty such categories that you might be interested in. Start by checking out our lists of sunglasses, vests, belts and flashlights.

March 23, 2020:

In our mind, tactical pens must meet at least two criteria to really be useful in an emergency. They must be tough enough to withstand a lot of force and offer a secure grip, so they don't slip out of your hand when most needed. After that, we took into account things like effectiveness of the glass breaker, if present; heft; sturdiness of the clip; writing tip deployment mechanism; overall style; how well it glides across paper when writing; and various other features.

If you like to keep your hands busy while on patrol, you may prefer the Gerber Impromptu, with its push-button mechanism, or the Valtcan Bolt, which has a sliding bolt to deploy the writing tip that locks into place. Both of these feature a corrosion-resistant coating of one form or another too, so the chances of them rusting from field conditions are slim. We are the first to admit though, that these are both expensive options. And, while very high-quality, you can find some more affordable options that could work equally as well in defense situations. For example, the Atomic Bear Swat, Smith & Wesson SWPENBK, Schrade SCPENBK, The Atomic Bear Rebel, Pocket Partners PTP, and Columbia River Knife & Tool Williams all have large blunt ends where you can rest your thumb when you need to apply additional force to your strike.

For the guys that would rather carry their defense tools on their belt than in their pocket, we recommend looking at The Atomic Bear Swat, which comes with a holster. That being said, it does have a durable, extended clip, so there is absolutely no reason you couldn't slip it into a pocket, too. The Smith & Wesson SWPEN3G and Sminiker Defender also feature extended clips, which makes them easy to secure in place. While on the subject of clips, we would be remiss if we didn't point out the The Atomic Bear Rebel, Valtcan Bolt, and Sminiker Defender, which all have very pronounced thumb grooves on their clip, providing you with versatile gripping options.

If you really want to be prepared for every situation, consider pairing one the models on this list with a tactical belt.

Special Honors

Hoffman Richter Stinger The Hoffman Richter Stinger looks and feels a bit like a weapon that was made into a pen, rather than the other way around. It is rather heavy, as 3.2 ounces, so attackers will definitely notice it when you jam it into one of their pressure points. And, since it is hand-machined out of a solid block of aluminum, you know it can stand up to serious abuse.

Benchmade 1100-4 Coming from a company well-respected for making quality knives, you can rest assured the Benchmade 1100-4 will stand up to anything you throw at it in an emergency situation. It features an O-ring on the cap that holds it securely in place when jostled about and a rugged stainless steel body with knurling at strategic places to provide a good grip. It is rather expensive, though.

4. Smith & Wesson SWPENBK

5. Splumzer Heavy Duty

6. Ispandy Survival Gear

7. The Atomic Bear Rebel

8. Smith & Wesson SWPEN3G

9. Pocket Partners PTP

10. Jinager Survival Kit

Choosing A Topnotch Tactical Pen

Look for long lasting ink options that mean infrequent cartridge changes and a steady, thick stream of ink.

Tactical pens come in a range of shapes and sizes, and with myriad features. Some tactical pens are designed primarily as writing implements that can stand up to the challenges of use in rugged environments; this can include everything from use by a biologist doing research in the forest to a soldier jotting down map coordinates in a combat zone. Other tactical pens are essentially compact hand to hand weapons that also happen to be writing implements.

Choosing the right kind of tactical pen means knowing what you prioritize in that little tool that will be tucked into your pocket, your desk drawer, or your glove compartment. If you are choosing a tactical pen primarily to serve as a pen, look for one of the options that is slender and well balanced. There's a reason most basic pens and pencils aren't thick and stubby, and it can be summed up by the term ergonomics.

While many tactical pens might make great blunt force striking tools, they often sacrifice a basic comfortable grip in favor of their offensive properties. For regular writing, you need a pen that is lightweight, easy to grasp with minimal force, and with a grip design that will be comfortable in your fingers. Also of course consider the type of ink cartridge the pen takes. Look for long lasting ink options that mean infrequent cartridge changes and a steady, thick stream of ink.

If you are more interested in the martial properties of a tactical pen, know that you will likely be sacrificing some of the comfortable function you expect out of most pens. But you will gain a striking weapon that is designed to fit into the palm of your hand. Look for a tactical pen with thick grooves and a heavily textured body, as your fast grasp on the pen is all the separates you from being ready to respond to a threat and from being unarmed.

Keeping a tactical pen in your car is a wise way to be prepared for an accident. You will be assured of a way to jot down information after a fender bender, and you will have a way to break out glass windows should doors be left inoperable after a more serious collision. The properly prepared first responder or law enforcement officer should also consider making a good tactical pen the writing implement of choice.

Don't forget that tactical pens also make great gifts, especially for the man for whom shopping is usually a challenge or for the groomsmen in your bridal party. As many tactical pens on the lower side of the price scale are still of fine quality and function, they are a good choice for corporate gifts as well.

The Forerunner To The Tactical Pen

The modern tactical pen owes its development to a defensive implement called the Kubotan. The Kubotan was developed by the martial arts master Takayuki Kubota -- founder of the Gosoku-ryu karate style -- in the late 1960s. Often referred to as Kubotan Keychain -- and indeed often used as a keychain -- the tool is usually less than six inches in length, yet can act as a force multiplier in the hands of a trained user.

But of course the best fight by far is the one that never starts.

A Kubotan can be used as a striking weapon, greatly increasing the amount of damage and pain inflicted by a human hand, or it can be used to add power and leverage to holds and takedowns. The slender Kubotan is particularly effective in immobilizing the wrist of an assailant, thereby rendering the weapon that may be held in the same hand essentially useless.

The same techniques developed by Takayuki Kubota in the latter half of the 20th Century, techniques that were taught to law enforcement and military personnel all over the world, can be used with your tactical pen. After all, these versatile tools comprise nearly the same measurements and shape as the classic Kubotan keychain.

The best way to prepare yourself to use a tactical pen in self defense is to actually enroll in a self defense class and to practice the martial skills you would need to successfully fight off or defeat an attacker. Being mentally and physically prepared thanks to training and then being armed with a tactical pen means a much greater chance of successful resistance to a robbery or assault. But of course the best fight by far is the one that never starts.

Aluminum And Titanium: Two Amazing Materials

Most tactical pens are made primarily from one of two metals: these are aluminum and titanium. These metals are ideal for such tools as they are both lightweight yet very strong. Aluminum, the third most common element in the earth's crust, was long known to mankind, but could not be reliably and cost effectively departed from naturally occurring ore until the late 19th Century.

Aluminum is used in everything from aircraft to automobiles to construction projects to electrical wiring to the bodies of tactical pens.

Through chemical and electrical extraction techniques developed in the 1880s, aluminum became a common commodity prized for its strength-to-weight ratio. Aluminum is used in everything from aircraft to automobiles to construction projects to electrical wiring to the bodies of tactical pens. It is ideally suited to these many uses not only because of its tensile strength, light weight, and resistance to corrosion, but also because it is a low cost material.

Titanium is the ninth most common element in the earth's crust and is much less abundant than other metals. It was not formally identified until the late 18th Century, and was not commonly used for practical purposes until the 20th Century. Titanium boasts almost the same tensile strength as solid steel yet weighs much less than this common metal. The complex refinement process needed to extract usable titanium and its comparative rarity render titanium much more expensive than aluminum. While stronger and more resistant to corrosion than its common "cousin" the cost of titanium can be a prohibitive factor for some consumers.

Will Rhoda
Last updated by Will Rhoda

After deciding that the pen was mightier than the pliers, Canadian electrical contractor William Rhoda abandoned his career and headed back to college, where he majored in marketing and advertising and won a scholarship along the way to earning a diploma in creative communications. His past career landed him a depth of knowledge in tools and hardware, while his current career schooled him in audio, video and camera equipment. During his leisure time, he’s learned lots about outdoor gear, and years of tiresome backyard maintenance have taught him all about pools and hot tubs. His recreational pursuits include rest, relaxation and revolutionary action, and his roommate’s a hairless cat.

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