There has been a lot of discussion recently about every day carry (EDC) tools which can serve multiple purposes. I’m a big fan, but I think there is a limit. I want to spend a few minutes talking about one of these tools which has gotten absolutely ridiculous. I’m talking about the tactical pens.
The behemoth in the image above is one offering from Gerber. This, unfortunately, is more of the normal style rather than an exception. Some of these pens are reaching proportions to be used more as clubs than writing instruments.
I understand the appeal. I want something that I can pass off as a simple pen, but that I can also use to pry open car doors, stab through skulls, and use to pinch hit at the local softball game. I have to make a proposition though…please don’t. These pens aren’t fooling anyone. They are gigantic, have obvious knurling for grip, have more convolutions than most sex toys, and have a tiny junk writing ball and ink reservoir. Allow me to make suggest a better option.
I give you the Zebra F701 (non tactical) ink pens. These are an excellent writing tool to have with you every day which can be pushed into defensive service if needed. I first heard about using the Zebra F701 from George Matheis when I took a class from him. The idea stuck and I’ve had one with me for the last three years.
All defensive talk aside, there are many good reasons for having an ink pen handy at all times. I’ve found my ink pen to be similar to my flashlight. You never realize how often you need it until you start carrying it every day. I let people borrow my pen probably 4 times per day on average. I pull it out and use it for signing credit card receipts, jotting notes on my hand, at work for normal things, and doodling when I’m bored out of my mind at an appointment I can’t get out of.
From a design standpoint, the pen is essentially perfect. The weight is negligible because it’s a normal ink pen. The entire pen is made from stainless steel so sweat will not tarnish or rust it. The stock writing cartridge is more than serviceable and it comes in various weights and colors. More intriguing is the ability for the pen to take a Fisher space refill with almost no modification. If you are interested, here is a neat article on how to make the switch. Likely the most important consideration, however, is the pen does not look “tactical.”
I have carried this pen for three years through approximately 15 flights all over the country and two international trips (Mexico & Singapore.) Not a single time at any airport have I been asked about my pen. In fact, I’ve never unclipped it from my shirt to put it in the TSA bins. It hasn’t set off any detectors and no one has asked me anything about it. I can’t even claim that about my flashlight. I think the “normal guy” look of the pen is a big selling point.
I wear the pen in one of two ways depending on which shirt I wore that day. Shirts with a normal collar such as t-shirts, sweatshirts, and undershirts get the pen clipped right to the front of the collar in the center. Polo shirts, button up dress shirts, and golf shirts get the pen clipped sideways laying on top of the first open button. The schematic below shows what it would look like on the two types of shirts.
These pens are available at any Staples store, online from thousands of retailers, or just about anywhere else that has a large writing section. They are slightly more expensive than normal pens at around $7 for a 2 pack. Considering I’ve never lost either one in three years, the daily cost is extremely low. If I borrow it out and don’t get it back I’m only out a few bucks. If TSA decided to give me static I’d throw it in the trash and buy another set at my destination. TSA has been getting better at noticing and block the new crop of gigantic tactical pens and you’ll lose it or have to mail it to yourself at actual cost. I think the marginal benefits of the baton pens aren’t worth the extra cost, weight, or attention. If you drill your access the pen comes out quickly and can be pushed into a defensive role very readily.
If you’ve made the switch make sure to leave a note in the comments and let us know how it is working out.