We’ve often seen the word “tactical” used as a marketing buzzword. You’ll see the term applied to everything from belt buckles to hammocks — through the magic of the Internet, you can even order a tactical assault rock. But the word does have a proper definition beyond its overuse. A tactical item is one that’s specifically designed for combat tactics.

Tactical pens are writing instruments that are purpose-built to double as what some self-defense instructors would call force multipliers.

tactical-pens

These implements are usually machined from a solid billet of impact-resistant metal, with textured elements to improve grip for repeated hammer-fist strikes. Some also include sharpened tips to amplify the damage dealt, or glass-breakers to aid in escape or rescue scenarios. Tactical pens are especially useful in nonpermissive environments — they can provide a last-ditch defensive tool in places where more conventional weapons like firearms or knives aren’t allowed.

Above all else, a tactical pen must reliably write. For survivalists, a writing instrument can be an invaluable tool for certain tasks, from marking where you foraged for food and mapping a path to your bug-out cabin to leaving a note behind at basecamp or writing instructions for your survival group. And, of course, it’s just handy to be able to jot down a grocery list or the number of that hot mountain climber you just asked out.

Whether you’re looking for a durable pen to add to your everyday-carry (EDC) gear, a powerful defensive weapon that won’t draw the wrong kind of attention, or both, read through our reviews of these eight tactical pens. They may not be literally mightier than a sword, but they’re certainly mightier than an empty fist.

Tactical Pens

  • Benchmade 1101-1

    Make & Model - Benchmade 1101-1
    Materials - 6061-T6 aluminum, carbide tip
    Length - 5.3 inches capped or posted (i.e. cap reversed)
    Weight - 1.3 ounces
    Ink Cartridge - Fisher Space Pen (black or blue, as shown)
    MSRP - $140
    URL - http://www.benchmade.com

    The 1100 Series comes in a various configurations: aluminum, stainless steel, titanium, or even pricy marbled Damasteel, as well as with standard blunt tip or sharp carbide glassbreaker.

  • Columbia River Knife & Tool Ruger Bolt-Action

    Make & Model - Columbia River Knife & Tool Ruger Bolt-Action
    Materials - 6061-T6 aluminum
    Length - 5.5 inches
    Weight - 1 ounce
    Ink Cartridge - Fisher Space Pen (black)
    MSRP - $50
    URL - http://www.crkt.com

    Brian Fellhoelter shook up the EDC gear world with his unique bolt-action mechanism for lights and pens.

  • Matthew Martin Custom 500TiCf

    Make & Model - Matthew Martin Custom 500TiCf
    Materials - Grade 23 ELI 6AL-4V titanium, carbon fiber
    Length - 5.1 inches capped, 5.8 inches posted
    Weight - 1.3 ounces
    Ink Cartridge - Fisher Space Pen (black)
    MSRP - $195
    URL - http://www.mcmpens.com

    The pen includes a sharp striking tip and comes with optional rubber O-rings, which fit into grooves on the body for added grip.

  • Microtech Siphon II

    Make & Model - Microtech Siphon II
    Materials - Stainless steel
    Length - 3.9 inches closed, 5.9 inches open
    Weight - 2.6 ounces
    Ink Cartridge - Fisher Space Pen (black)
    MSRP - $155
    URL - http://www.microtechknives.com

    At first glance, you might not realize the Siphon II is a writing instrument, but flipping up the large lever reveals a fluted tip and ball point.

  • Rick Hinderer Knives Extreme Duty Modular

    Make & Model - Rick Hinderer Knives Extreme Duty Modular
    Materials - Copper, titanium clip
    Length - 5.5 inches capped, 6.6 inches posted
    Weight - 3.8 ounces
    Ink Cartridge - Fisher Space Pen (black bold)
    MSRP - $100
    URL - http://www.rickhindererknives.com

    With its Battlefield Pickup finish and copper construction, this special-edition pen has a steampunk vibe.

  • Schrade SCPEN9BK Tactical Push-Button

    Make & Model - Schrade SCPEN9BK Tactical Push-Button
    Materials - 6061-T6 aluminum
    Length - 5 inches
    Weight - 1.6 ounces
    Ink Cartridge - Schmidt (black)
    MSRP - $40
    URL - http://www.schrade.com

    Despite being the least expensive pen in this guide, this Schrade feels sturdy and comfortable.

  • Tuff Writer & Mini-Click Gen 2

    Make & Model - Tuff Writer Mini-Click Gen 2
    Materials - Grade 5 6AL-4V titanium
    Length - 5.1 inches
    Weight - 1.4 ounces
    Ink Cartridge - Fisher Space Pen (black)
    MSRP - $155
    URL - http://www.tuffwriter.com

    Tuff Writer founder Jack Roman designs and produces all his pens in a small shop in Arizona, and his passion for precision machining is evident in his work.

  • Zero Tolerance 0010EB

    Make & Model - Zero Tolerance 0010EB
    Materials - 6061-T6 aluminum, carbide tip
    Length - 5.3 inches capped, 6.3 inches posted
    Weight - 1.3 ounces
    Ink Cartridge - Rite in the Rain (black)
    MSRP - $125
    URL - http://www.zerotoleranceknives.com

    The ZT aluminum pen is available in either earth brown or black anodized finish.


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