Due to their versatility as low profile self-defense weapons, survival tools, and nearly indestructible writing utensils, tactical pens are popular everyday carry tools used by everyone from military operators to white-collar CEOs.
I actually decided to purchase my first tactical pen after a regular pen exploded in the admin pouch of my flak jacket and damaged a lot of my gear. After searching online for a pen that could take the abuse that military life would surely put on it, I decided to pull the trigger and buy my first tactical pen.
They’re typically made of lightweight military-grade aluminum and have pressurized ink cartridges that make them extremely durable and prevent them from “exploding” or leaking on your clothing or gear.
They came about from several decades of modifications and feature enhancements to a very simple self-defense tool that was invented back in the 1960’s, the Kubotan.
As a self-defense, last-resort survival weapon, the Kubotan was a solid, sharpened stick of hardened metal that could be placed on a keychain so that you were able to have access to a personal protection tool at any time that you had your keys on you, for instance, walking through a dark parking lot at night.
In this review, I’ll cover what features to look for in a tactical pen and what I think are the best tactical pens currently available.
- Here Are the Best Tactical Pens in 2020
- 1. Gerber Impromptu (Most Popular)
- 2. Smith and Wesson MP 2 (Highest Rated)
- 3. Smith and Wesson SWPEN3BK
- 4. The Atomic Bear Tactical Pen (Best Value)
- 5. TF Tactical Pen with Flashlight (Most Features)
- 6. Benchmade 1100 Series
- 7. Schrade SCPENBK
- 8. CRKT Williams Tactical Pen 2
- 9. SKILCRAFT B3 Aviator Multi-function Pen
- 10. SOG Multitool Tactical Pen
- 11. Schrade SCPENG Tactical Pen
- 12. Schrade SCPEN9BK Aluminum Tactical Pen
- 13. CRKT Williams Tactical EDC Survival Pen
What is a Tactical Pen?
A tactical pen is a tool that combines the personal protection and self-defense capabilities of the Kubotan while disguising its true function to make it appear as though you are carrying a harmless pen. Plus, the evolution of the weapon over the past few decades has added other survival-geared features other than the personal protection capabilities. Many tactical pens include a hardened, spiked tip similar to a glass-breaking hammer that allows you to escape situations where you may be trapped in a vehicle and need to break the glass to get out. Tac pens with this feature added may end up saving your life in a situation such as this.
Other features, believe it or not, that come standard on many tactical pens include a mechanism to collect the DNA of a would-be assailant in the event that you need to deploy the pen as a self-defense weapon. Simply make contact with your attacker using this part of the pen and turn it over to your local police for collection of the biologic material that it was able to collect. The implications behind this feature are huge. Chances are, someone who can attack you has more than likely committed other crimes of the same nature. The attacker’s DNA could be sitting in a police database as an unknown offender, which could then be matched to the DNA collected by your tactical pen. Alternatively, the person may be a convicted felon with his/her DNA already matched to an identity in the system, and your collection of fresh DNA could reveal your attacker’s identity and help to build a case against him for the attack against you.
The point here is that these little devices have enormous potential in a constant-changing, fast-paced situation where you must defend yourself from an attack or escape from a death trap.
One of the ideas behind the military martial art discipline known as Krav Maga is that you should be ready for real-world scenarios whereby you could be facing a life-or-death situation where you must use anything at your disposal against your opponent to save your life. The idea behind both the Kubotan and the tactical pen seem to draw from this philosophy by allowing you to have multiple tools at your disposal on your keychain or in your pocket. The development and evolution of the tactical pen remind me quite a bit of the training I received when learning Krav Maga techniques.
The fact of the matter is, and this is another technique similar to Krav Maga; it is very unlikely that you are going to be armed to the teeth with your AR and sidearm ready when and if someone attacks you in a dark parking lot. Finally, Krav Maga teaches its adherents to improvise defense while attacking at your opponent’s most vulnerable points, while the tactical pen allows you to strike at an assailant’s pressure points in a manner that quickly incapacitates them.
By appreciating, understanding, and learning how to use the tactical pen properly as a personal protection device means that you can quickly gain the upper hand and send your would-be attacker crying on his way home while your tac pen holds a piece of his DNA to be turned over to the police for evidence of the attempted strong-armed robbery.
The bottom line here is, so long as you are willing to learn how to properly wield a tactical pen as a self-defense and personal protection weapon, it will do you more good than you can imagine. However, if you just buy it and sit it on the shelf or carry it in your pocket without properly learning how to use the valuable features hidden within, you might as well not even have it.
So, it’s perfectly understandable that, after learning what a tactical pen can do for you, you want to know where to get one. Better yet, you want to know where you can get the best, most rugged, longest-lasting, and most feature-heavy tactical pen that you can get for your money. You don’t want to spend a fortune, and the great thing about owning a tactical pen is that you will not have to. The truth is, there are many tactical pens out there, many of them are so similar that they are almost identical, feature-wise; while others may focus on fewer features with a higher quality of construction.
As we dive into the reviews of some of the hottest tactical pens on the market right now, keep in mind that you must evaluate your reasons for purchasing one. Do you wish to learn how to wield one of these capable weapons for self-defense reasons or do you just want something that can break a window if you ever find yourself locked in a car with no way out?
So, sit back and take a look at these offerings; and if you are so inclined to purchase one, simply click on the link to buy direct from our partners.
Here Are the Best Tactical Pens in 2020
1. Gerber Impromptu (Most Popular)
Price Range: Around $50
My Review: The Impromptu was developed in conjunction with law enforcement professionals to be a solid writing instrument that is rugged and can stand up to just about any abuse that the field can throw its way.
One of my favorite things about this pen is the Rite in the Rain ballpoint cartridge. This pen will write in just about any weather conditions, making it a perfect pen for field use. This thing will write upside down, in the rain, over grease stains, over pictures, etc.
You get the peace of mind in knowing that Gerber only produces extremely high-quality instruments, and the Impromptu comes with Gerber’s limited lifetime warranty.
It is geared to be an instrument that will get you out of trouble if you are trapped inside of a vehicle fast sinking to the bottom of a river, but it is not much of a self-defense weapon. Thus, if you are simply in need of a rugged, reliable pen with a glass-breaker, the Gerber Impromptu may be the tac pen for you.
Bottom line: The Impromptu solid tactical pen for field use. It does have a window breaker, but it is not really designed for self-defense purposes. If you’re looking for a pen for self-defense purposes specifically, there are better options for you on this list.
- Rugged, machined steel body w/ Cerakote
- Stainless steel pocket clip keeps the pen handy for fast access in field conditions.
- Integrated glass-breaker tip features tempered steel to effortlessly break through tough safety glass and is designed to get you out of the most perilous situations.
- Rite in the Rain ink cartridge technology ensures that the pen will write when you need it to in all possible field conditions.
- Reliable push-button mechanism deploys ballpoint pen
- Made in the USA
- Overall Length: 5.59″ (14.19 cm)
- Weight: 2.4 oz (68 g)
2. Smith and Wesson MP 2 (Highest Rated)
Price Range: Around $25
My Review: Designed for military and police, this Smith and Wesson tactical pen includes a best-in-class grip; solid, abuse-taking construction, and smooth writing.
It’s durable, writes well, is comfortable to write with, and is a good impromptu self defense weapon.
However, one thing you will notice immediately about this tactical pen is that it is missing a window-breaking mechanism, which is one of the features that many people look for in a tactical pen.
Overall, the construction is very solid, and both the grip and the pocket clip will stand the test of time. Mechanically, this means that this tactical pen does boast the capability of durability and dependability that most people have come to expect from Smith and Wesson.
It’s not a big deal to me, but some people don’t like the Smith and Wesson logo printed on the pen clip. As the brand is known across all levels of society as a manufacturer of high-quality firearms widely used across the law enforcement community, and the large logo printed down the body of the pen may tip someone off that this is not an ordinary pen. While some may consider this an unintended deterrent, others rather keep the element of surprise. This is something that is up to personal preference, but I did want you to be aware of it.
Bottom Line: The Smith and Wesson tactical pen is a capable self-defense tactical pen that can come in very useful when deploying in high-impact law enforcement settings. It’s one of the highest rated tactical pens out there, but if you do buy this pen be aware that it does not have a glass breaker. So long as you use it for what it is meant for, it can be a very useful tool.
- Rugged frame and body constructed of aircraft aluminum mean that this pen will outlast most others.
- Self-defense tip means that you can fight off would-be attackers.
- Comfortable grip is ergonomically designed and is incredibly durable, even after standing up to quite a bit of field abuse.
3. Smith and Wesson SWPEN3BK
Price Range: Around $25
My Review: This is another great pen by Smith and Wesson. It actually has some features that many of their tactical pens do not.
Not only did they decide to include the carbide glass-breaking tip, but they added a stylus to truly add functionality to the design by allowing it to be used with touchscreen technology as well as a top-of-the-line writing instrument.
Designed to be a nonlethal weapon-of-last-resort as well as a survival tool, it is constructed from high-grade aircraft aluminum.
It is constructed to last a lifetime and accepts Schmidt P900M Parker-style refills.
Bottom Line: Give this Smith and Wesson tactical pen a try if you are looking for a last-line weapon that can also break glass without much effort at all. Unique to this model is its stylus tip, which gives it added functionality over tactical pens that use ink only. Smith and Wesson did a great job with this tac pen than with previous offerings while keeping it on the low-end of moderate pricing levels.
- Carbide tip will make short work of a piece of glass standing between you and your survival.
- Will write in just about any field condition imaginable.
- Stylus tip can be replaced with many different types and brands of stylus refills so you can find the one that best suits your needs.
- Sturdy, rugged construction will last you a lifetime.
- Has an intimidating look, yet feels comfortable and solid in your hand, whether writing or training for defensive use.
4. The Atomic Bear Tactical Pen (Best Value)
Price Range: Around $15
My Review: The Atomic Bear tactical pen is a field-tested, true tactical pen with military-grade aircraft aluminum construction and some amazing features for being under 20 dollars.
One of its key features is its interchangeability, as it accepts many different types of ink refills, including Parker, Fisher, Rite in the Rain, and Atomic Bear cartridges.
Bottom Line: The Atomic Bear is one of the best values in tactical pens on the market today. It costs less than $15.00 and is feature-packed and time-tested. You will not be sorry going with the Atomic Bear.
- Sturdy aircraft aluminum construction means that it can stand up to extreme field conditions, survive drops, and stand up to all sorts of abuse.
- Includes access to the Atomic Bear tactical pen training courses so that you can learn how to properly hold, strike, and otherwise use your new self-defense weapon.
- Accepts numerous styles and brands of ink refills for versatility.
- Functional grip means you will be able to keep control and possession of the pen when using it to defend yourself.
5. TF Tactical Pen with Flashlight (Most Features)
Price Range: Around $27
My Review: I know this pen isn’t for everyone, but it is a well-constructed tool packed with features and manufactured by a veteran-owned company, what more could you ask for?
It has an LED flashlight, carbide glass breaker, self-defense tip, LED flashlight, bottle opener, and a rugged, write-anywhere ink cartridge.
It seems to be a monster of a tactical pen has way more features than almost any other pen out there.
Bottom Line: It’s manufactured by a veteran-owned company right here in the United States, meaning that you can support a cause that means a great deal to me personally by buying this pen.
I would like to see more reviews from people that I really put this thing to the test with some heavy duty field use. A lot of people buy this pen as a gift, and obviously it looks awesome and has some great features, but many of the reviews are by people who haven’t actually used it.
Plus, with a price tag of around $25, it’s definitely worth picking up and seeing how you like it.
- 4-in-1 tactical pen
- Self-defense tip: Fend off a would-be attacker and send them running away crying.
- Carbide glass breaker: Escape from precarious situations by breaking out safety-glass windows with ease.
- Bottle opener for when you need to sit down after work with a relaxing beverage, opening it with the same pen you used all day in the field.
- Tactical LED flashlight allows superior lighting from the tip of a pen.
- Crafted from high-quality aircraft aluminum to last a lifetime.
6. Benchmade 1100 Series
Price Range: Around $140
My Review: If you know anything about Benchmade, you already know they make some of the highest quality knives out there. You also know they come with a hefty price tag, and that’s also the case with this tactical pen.
The Benchmade 1100 Series tactical pens are a unique line of premium tactical pens that come with lifetime warranties. All have carbide tips for glass breaking and are designed to perform under just about any field conditions.
The interesting feature is that with the 1100 series, you get to choose the metal that best suits your needs, from high-grade aircraft aluminum to Damascus steel (called Damasteel) to Titanium.
The titanium model is the best one for overall durability and strength, obviously derived from the natural hardness of titanium.
The 1100 Series tac pen will not let you down in a fight, will not leave you stuck inside a sealed-in vehicle, and will write in just about any condition imaginable. However, the price tag of this pen is something you need to carefully evaluate before purchasing, as it can run upwards of $200.00 depending on the material you choose.
The only reason this pen doesn’t have higher ratings is that the cap has a little bit of play. It’s not a huge deal but when you’re dropping this kind of money on a pen you expect a very high attention to detail.
Bottom line: If you are looking for a premium tactical pen and price is not an issue for you, give the Benchmade 1100-Series some consideration. While the price tag is incredibly high for a pen, the lifetime warranty and the exception construction means that you will not be let down when you need it the most.
- The 1100-Series is a premium offering with the following features
- Choose between steel, aluminum, and titanium depending on your needs.
- Pressurized chamber for writing in any position and condition.
- Carbide tip for breaking glass.
- Functions as a powerful self-defense tool.
7. Schrade SCPENBK
Price Range: Around $25
My Review: This offering from Schrade is very similar in design and features to the Smith and Wesson model above. Similarly crafted from aircraft aluminum, the Schrade SCPENBK tactical pen features a screw-off cap, refillable ink cartridges, and a self-defense tip – all at a much lower price.
Also similar to the Smith and Wesson model, it is conspicuously missing a glass breaker tip, so it is also geared more towards self-defense situations and rugged performance in bad field conditions.
It differs from the Smith and Wesson in that it looks more like a standard pen than the Smith and Wesson model, and the Schrade logo is less known than Smith and Wesson is as a manufacturer of weapons, so you get to keep the element of surprise.
- Rugged body construction made from high-impact aircraft aluminum means that it will survive even the worst field conditions.
- Refillable with Schmidt P900 refill cartridges, which are widely available.
- Self-defense tip for fighting off assailants.
- Low price point gives you the features of other models at a better price.
8. CRKT Williams Tactical Pen 2
Price Range: Around $40
My Review: This offering from CRKT is designed to pack a powerful punch from its carefully crafted self-defense tip.
It is a powerful personal protection weapon that is designed to function as in stealth, looking more and more like a regular pen that any of our previously reviewed models.
The advertising tagline for this model is “Looks Can Be Deceiving,” which demonstrates its intended purpose.
When deployed in a self-defense scenario, your attacker will think nothing of it until you strike him with its powerful self-defense tip, giving you the element of surprise that can be one of the most important factors in determining the outcome of hand-to-hand combat. Designed by Army officer and martial arts instructor James Williams, who is a competent fighter with just about any weapon put in front of him, this CRKT pen is great to have when you need it the most – when your life may depend on it!
Bottom Line: While it does not include a glass breaker, the CRKT Williams tac pen does exactly what it is meant to do, and that is to be a stealthy, durable, and functional self-defense weapon as well as a rugged, field-tested writing instrument. If you are looking into a tac pen that is meant to function as a self-defense weapon over anything else, the Williams may just be for you.
- Constructed of high-quality, machined aircraft aluminum for lightweight functionality without sacrificing quality.
- Designed to appear harmless while packing a powerful punch.
- Accepts the Fisher Space Pen ink cartridges – one of the best all-around, high-performance, write-anywhere premium ink cartridges.
9. SKILCRAFT B3 Aviator Multi-function Pen
Price Range: Around $20
My Review: The Skilcraft B3 Aviator is another option that differs greatly from other tactical pens on the market.
In fact, it is not a tactical pen at all, but it does feature extremely solid construction and has some very unique features.
Instead of being a pen made to defend yourself or escape from a bad situation, it is a multifunction pen that features both red and black ink as well as a pencil.
Bottom line: Again, while this is not a tactical pen from the viewpoint that it has zero self-defense, emergency, or personal protection functions, its sturdy construction and multiple functions make it a great choice for long-term fieldwork, especially when you are in a situation where accessing multiple colors of ink is required.
This would make a great pen for a professor, teacher, or instructor that relies on both heavy black-ink writing as well as constant use of red ink for corrections and feedback while grading student assignments.
Plus, it’s made by handicapped people right here in the United States, and purchases help keep these individuals working, productive, and independent. It’s not very expensive, so if you happen to be looking for a pen with multiple ink colors, why not give it a try?
- Constructed by blind people in the United States, meaning that purchasing this pen helps to allow handicapped individuals to achieve a higher level of independence.
- Superior construction means that it will stand up to most field conditions.
- Multiple pen colors, a pencil function, and a highlighter option make this pen a replacement for 4 instruments in a single package.
10. SOG Multitool Tactical Pen
Price Range: Around $30
My Review: This SOG tactical pen is unique among the market of tactical pens, as it focuses mainly on being a utilitarian multitool instead of a self-defense, personal protection, or emergency escape tool.
However, reviews on this pen show that there is much to be desired. Many people have commented on the construction of the pen, claiming that it is not up to the task of cutting through something as simple as duct tape.
It appears that this tac pen may be more focused on proving the concept of this type of design instead of truly committing to the construction, durability, and utility of daily in-the-field use.
It does not include a carbide tip, so you will not be able to break glass with it, which is very curious, given that it packs four tools into the small footprint.
The best part of this tactical pen appears to be the ink itself, as it takes a common “U-type” space ink cartridge, meaning that you can refill it super-cheap without using a proprietary cartridge.
Bottom Line: In all honesty, if you are looking for a multi-tool, get a multi-tool from a trusted brand. While this package is a great concept, it fails to perform as it is intended. Different from most tactical pens, its focus on being a utilitarian instrument means that you will not be able to rely on this in a fight or to break glass windows to escape with your life. While it is pretty cool from a concept standpoint, many kinks need to be worked out before this offering from SOG can stand up to the demanding requirements of most tactical pens.
- Packs 4 tools into a lightweight, low-profile package.
- Write-anywhere pressurized space ink refills mean that you will be able to rely on it to write in the worst field conditions.
- Screwdriver tip increases usefulness and decreases the need to carry extra tools.
11. Schrade SCPENG Tactical Pen
Price Range: Around $25
My Review: The Schrade SCPENG is a low-profile, self-defense and survival-capable tactical pen that prides itself on being underestimated by those who wish to do you harm.
It is lightweight, looks completely non-threatening, and is almost always mistaken for a regular pen, even by TSA agents responsible for airline safety. However, underneath the regular-looking facade lies a powerful nonlethal weapon that is sleek, stylish, durable, and easily deployed in time of need.
Bottom Line: The Schrade SCPENG is an affordably priced self-defense tactical pen that will not let you down if the time comes that you have to use it to protect your life.
- Sleek, low-profile, and lightweight yet durable aircraft aluminum body.
- Can be used flawlessly to fend off an attacker.
- Designed with blending in as a core function so an attacker will underestimate you until it is too late.
- Perfect for use as an everyday writing instrument as well as a self-defense and survival tool that is designed to perform when needed.
12. Schrade SCPEN9BK Aluminum Tactical Pen
Price Range: Around $26
My Review: The Schrade SCPEN9BK is a 5-inch push-button style tactical pen designed for maximum stealth while maintaining a high level of defensive capabilities.
With this pen, an attacker would never guess that it can be deployed as a self-defense weapon, and will be super surprised when you turn the tables on a would-be assault or strong-arm robbery attempt.
It uses Schmidt Easyflow P900M refills, just like many other pens on our list, so you can rest assured that you will always be able to find a refill relatively easy. Designed with maximum tactical functionality in mind, you will be able to have this weapon available and ready to defend your life at a moment’s notice.
Bottom Line: The Schrade SCPEN9BK is the best choice on our list when it comes to tactical self-defense devices that utilize stealth to blend in as standard writing instruments so that they can be readily deployed at a moment’s notice. If I were looking for a tac pen that could easily be carried onto a plane or in other high-security places where self-defense options are limited, this is the pen I would choose to carry.
- Body is made from machined aircraft aluminum for maximum durability.
- Designed with tactical defense in mind, it will blend in perfectly as a non-threatening writing instrument at all times.
- Push-button writing mechanism adds to its stealth.
- Accepts the widely distributed Schmidt P900M Easyflow refills.
13. CRKT Williams Tactical EDC Survival Pen
Price Range: Around $36
My Review: This CRKT Williams Tactical Pen is another version of the other CRKT Williams pen reviewed earlier on this page.
It was designed by self-defense expert James Williams to be a low-profile self-defense and survival tool.
Crafted from 6061 anodized aircraft aluminum, it will take just about any abuse in the field that you can throw at it and still perform its tasks flawlessly, making it a true tactical offering.
It looks great and feels amazing in your hand and is designed to write in many different positions and operating environments.
Bottom Line: As a tactical design, I tend to prefer the low-profile design of tactical pens like the CRKT Williams over more aggressive designs, as they tend to perform their intended purpose over others. By allowing an attacker to believe you are unarmed, you are underestimated and keep the element of surprise, something that can be the difference between life and death. Both CRKT Williams models perform in this capacity surprisingly well.
- Designed by Army veteran and self-defense expert James Williams.
- Sleek, low-profile design will not alert others that you are carrying a weapon.
- Durable and built to last a lifetime.
- Moderately priced so it will not kill your budget.
- It can be used for self-defense when needed, but also performs great as a writing instrument.
The Bottom Line on Tactical Pens
When it comes to tactical pens, you must evaluate your reason for wanting one. If you simply need something that will break glass in an emergency, you can always buy a carbide emergency hammer that will do the job and can stay in your glove box so it is always on hand. If this is the main reason you want a tactical pen, I have to suggest that you go with the hammer.
However, if you want a utilitarian and practical instrument that doubles as a reliable writing instrument as well as a capable weapon in a time of need, considering a tactical pen may be right up your alley.
It is important to evaluate your preferences when it comes to the aggressiveness of the tac pen before you buy one. For instance, I prefer a low-profile, stealthy model, mainly because it is possible to carry it just about anywhere without being questioned as to its capabilities. However, your preferences may vary, and you may prefer a more aggressive, feature-packed model.
My final word of advice on tactical pens is that is it super important that you learn some basic self-defense moves and tactics if you are planning to rely on your new tactical pen in a self-defensive emergency. Having a tool without knowing how to use it completely depletes the value of the tool, and this is especially true if you are going to be relying on the tool to save your life. You may want to watch some videos that demonstrate the best ways to deploy your tactical pen, or if you want to get really advanced, you could consider studying a real-world martial art such as Krav Maga. The fact of the matter is that you will probably only get the chance to land one or two major blows with your tac pen before your assailant either runs away or overpowers you, so you need to make sure that you make those one or two blows count. Without understanding the pressure points on the human body, it is unlikely that you will be able to do this, so familiarizing yourself with a set of self-defense tactics that focus on striking pressure points may do you a world of good.
Tactical pens are generally last-line-of-defense tools, but they have the advantage of generally being overlooked by your assailant, which is where their true tactical advantage lies. In the right hands, a self-defense pen can become a powerful weapon of survival, but as I mentioned earlier, without proper training, a pen is just a pen.
Corporal Wabo is a former Infantry Squad Leader with 3rd Bn 4th Marines that specialized in Mortars. In his free time, he enjoys hunting, hiking, running, shooting guns, and reviewing gear. He started this website while transitioning out of the Marines, and since has recruited several other Marines to help him work on the Marine Approved website. We are currently looking for former Marines to join the team who are interested in writing about tactical gear, survival gear, hiking supplies, etc. For more information about us or joining the team, check out the “About Us” tab.