Best Tactical Pens: More Than Just Writing

by Travis Pike

May 9, 2023



Tactical this, tactical that, we live in a tactical world these days. Everything is tactical, from our pants to our writing implements. With that in mind, we are looking at tactical pens today. You might grow and think, why the heck do we have tactical pens? To be fair, it’s a worthwhile question, but having a tool to write with is invaluable in the ‘tactical’ world. 

On my first day in the fleet Marine Corps, they instructed me that on my second day, I best have a pen and notepad. I better have it on me and accessible at all times. I had one, and I quickly learned that your normal office pen is about half past useless. Nothing greater than doing buddy rushes and finding an ink stain when your pen explodes. 

This is where tactical pens come into play. They have a different level of durability and are often multipurpose tools. 

What’s A Tactical Pen?

A tactical pen is a tool that differs a good bit from other pens. To be fair, there is no established standard for a tactical pen. Underwriters Laboratories does not have some set standard or listing for tactical pens. This had led to dozens, if not hundreds, of cheap imported pieces of crap that call themselves tactical. 

The good news is you landed here, and we don’t like pieces of crap. With that in mind, a tactical pen should at its core be rugged. It should be capable of writing in austere environments and can use refills. The pen shouldn’t bend, break, or fail in a rugged, possibly nonpermissive environment. 

Relying on your traditional cheap pen in these environments is a recipe for disaster. 

Is it a Weapon?

Anything could be a weapon to be fair, but tactical pens and their all-metal design tend to make them half-decent impact weapons. They are more effective than your typical plastic G2. Designers created certain tactical pens to be better used as weapons than others. Pens that come with some form of steel, carbide, or tungsten glass breaker can break faces and glass. 

You shouldn’t rely on a tactical pen to be your only weapon for self-defense. They are improvised weapons at best. The major benefit of a tactical pen is that it’s not really a weapon and can be carried in areas where a traditional weapon, including something as simple as a knife, would be verboten. Obviously, you need to know your local laws to make sure you aren’t violating them. 

More Than a Pen and Weapon

Sure, these make half-decent impact weapons, but it’s unlikely you’ll ever use a pen as a weapon. These tactical pens are more than just a pen and more than a weapon as well. Most of these tools work as excellent improvised glass breakers. Breaking glass can allow you a safe escape in an emergency, which is a more likely situation than ending a fight with a tactical pen. 

I advocate keeping and training with everyday medical gear, including tourniquets. Tourniquets save lives, and a well-made, TCCC-approved tourniquet is worth carrying. Should you be in a situation where you use your tourniquet or even multiple tourniquets and have a need to improvise tourniquets, then you’ll be happy to have a tactical pen. 

One of the weakest parts of an improvised tourniquet is the windless. The windless tightens the tourniquet and maintains pressure to stop bleeding. The strong and durable nature of a tactical pen makes it well suited to be an improvised tourniquet windless. 

Other tactical pens might include special designs and features. These extra tools range from lights to compasses and can be a consideration when purchasing a tactical pen. It depends on your needs, and luckily there are plenty of options out there. 

Best Tactical Pens

Click the headings to jump to the review section for each red dot or just scroll through the entire article.

The Best Tactical Pens

Surefire Writing Pen
  • Rugged Writing Implement
  • Low Profile Design
  • Smooth Writer
Buy on Amazon
Gerber Impromptu
  • Built In Glass Breaker
  • Lightweight
  • Rugged Design
Buy on Amazon
CRKT Williams Tactical Pen
  • Writes Anywhere
  • Designed for Self-Defense
  • Affordable
Buy on Amazon
Olight Open Pro 2
  • Doubles as a Flashlight
  • Bolt Action Mechanism
  • USB C charging
Buy on Amazon
Rite in the Rain Black Metal Pen
  • Affordable
  • Lightweight
  • Writes Anywhere
Buy on Amazon
Boker Plus Quest Commando Pen
  • Built In Compass
  • Survival Compartment
  • Beefy Design
Check Price
SOG Flint
  • Not a Pen
  • Built Survival Tools
  • Short and Light
Buy on Amazon

Best Tactical Pen Specs

PenLength (in)MaterialInk RefillPrice

Surefire Pen IV

5.8AluminumeasyFLOW 9000$119.00

Gerber Impromptu

5.59Machined SteelRite In The Rain/Fisher Space Pen$91.99

CRKT Williams Tactical Pen

8.25AluminumFisher Space Pen$50.24
Olight Open Pro 25.7AluminumOlight Proprietary$69.95

Rite in the Rain Black Metal Pen

6.75AluminumRite In The Rain$17.75

Boker Plus Quest Commando Pen

6.10AluminumFisher Space Pen$44.96

SOG Flint


Here Are The Best Tactical Pens

Our favorite tactical pens are:

  1. Surefire Pen IV
  2. Gerber Impromptu
  3. CRKT Williams Tactical Pen
  4. Olight Open Pro
  5. Rite in the Rain Black Metal Pen
  6. Boker Plus Quest Commando Pen
  7. SOG Flint

Reviews For The Best Tactical Pens

He are the reviews for our top tactical pens.

Surefire Pen IV Review

Surefire Pen IV

  • Length (in) 5.8
  • Material Aluminum
  • Ink Refill EasyFLOW 9000

Surefire? The light company? Yep, Surefire, the light company, produces a pen now. Well, several pens, to be fair. The Surefire Pen IV is their top-tier option for hard-use users. Surefire’s reputation for high-quality lights has been translated over to their pens as well. They’ve long been the best in their field, and extension into other fields seems promising. 

Here is your 9000 joke….

These EDC tools are not advertising themselves as an impact weapon or kubaton. It’s designed to be a rugged and extremely durable pen that can write anywhere at any time. The Surefire Pen IV packs a replaceable cartridge, specifically the Schmidt easyFLOW 9000. I’d like to insert an over 9000 joke here…… 

These ink sticks provide a very smooth writing experience, and the refills are affordable and easy to track down. Your writing will be smooth, crisp, and downright enjoyable. You won’t be scribbling hard to get the thing to work. This ink doesn’t smear and doesn’t blotch. It dries as it writes. 

The Surefire Pen IV’s body is made from aerospace aluminum and coated with an anodized finish that’s up to MIL-SPEC. Stainless steel also makes an appearance. The pocket clip is stainless steel and is tungsten DLC coated. We also get a stainless nose cone and retractor button. The shape of the body is all about ergonomics and embraces an interesting cut that allows for a comfortable grip, even when held with gloves on. 

The downside is that this is one expensive pen. Although, to pen nerds, it’s probably in the budget price point. For you and me, an MSRP of 150 dollars might be a bit much. That’s what you get from American ingenuity, quality, and design. 

Surefire Pen IV Pros and Cons

  • Tough as Nails Design
  • Smooth, Smear Free Writing
  • Made in the USA
  • Expensive

Gerber Impromptu Review

Gerber Impromptu

  • Length (in) 5.59
  • Material Machined Steel
  • Ink Refill Rite In The Rain/Fisher Space Pen

Gerber, a company known for both baby food and fighting knives, brings us the Impromptu. The Impromptu is a dedicated tactical pen aimed at the military, first responder, and police markets. The Gerber Impromptu pairs a pen with a glass/face breaker and a strong metal body, and a dependable writing cartridge for your longest days. 

As a pen, the Impromptu uses the Rite in the Rain or Fisher Space Pen cartridge. The good news is these cartridges provide smooth and even ink distribution and writing capability. They glide on paper, and they don’t smear or blotch. The bad news is that these refills are kind of expensive. A single refill costs anywhere from seven to ten bucks. 

The clicker is huge, durable, very tactile, and audible. You won’t miss it even with heavy winter gloves or freezing-cold hands. It’s a nice touch. When you get to the front, you have a stainless-steel glass/face breaker. It’s okay, tungsten is better, but stainless will work and will certainly break glass and faces when needed. 

If you must strike something with the Impromptu, then you would be stoked to know that it’s nice and grippy. It’s heavily textured along the entire body of the pen. Even in austere conditions, it’s going to stay in your hand and be very unlikely to slip. What you might not like is that this puppy is a heavy beast. 

It’s also a little pricey at around 90 dollars. However, it is part of Gerber’s made-in-America series. If you want to buy and support America, the Impromptu gives you that satisfaction. 

Gerber Impromptu Pros and Cons

  • Built In Glass Breaker
  • Good Grip
  • Expensive

CRKT Williams Tactical Pen Review

CRKT Williams Tactical Pen

  • Length (in) 8.25
  • Material Aluminum
  • Ink Refill Fisher Space Pen

The CRKT Williams Tactical Pen has a sleek, almost arrow-like shape to it. It doesn’t look militaristic but modern, and it’s almost a fashion accessory. The CRKT Williams Tactical Pen is designed by Army veteran and martial artist James Williams. A good pen goes a long way in the military, so it’s easy to see where his inspiration came from. 

We don’t get an extra glass breaker here, but a fairly solid and well-reinforced point that allows you to strike hard without worrying about thin aluminum crumbling. Speaking of, it’s made from 6061 aluminum. The tapered body does create a unique look but also tapes the body for striking. Grab it like an icebreaker, and you’ll feel the difference. 

With the cap off either side, you have a dual-edged tool that allows you to strike in multiple directions. It’s not quite a glass breaker, but it can cause some discomfort when driven with some serious force and a little anger. 

As a pen, it writes nicely, with a smooth gliding action. The pen uses a Fisher Space Pen cartridge, so it’s fairly pricey to refill the ink. Although as a tactical pen, it’s priced surprisingly well. At less than 60 dollars, the CRKT Williams Tactical Pen offers a good pen and a decent impact weapon. 

It’s a purpose-built Tactical Pen that doesn’t offer a ton of versatility, but it’s durable, it writes, and it uses high-quality ink inserts. All for less than 100 bucks. 

CRKT Williams Tactical Pen Pros and Cons

  • Affordable
  • Ergonomics
  • Writes Well
  • Not A Dedicated Smash Tool

Olight Open Pro 2 Review

Olight Open Pro 2

  • Length (in) 5.7
  • Material Aluminum
  • Ink Refill Olight Proprietary

I’ll be honest. I’m not a fan of Olight. I think most of their products are rather low-tier and designed to capture you by promising some crazy number of lumens without telling you that those lumens fade quickly and the lights aren’t made to last. There are two Olight products that I like, and the Open 2 is one of them. 

Olight combines a light with a pen to provide a multi-use tool. The pen portion uses an addictively tactile bolt action design that makes me understand fidget spinners a bit more now, at the cost of my colleague’s sanity. I am not a pen nerd, but it seems like Olight is the only one who makes refills for their pen, and that’s a big downside to me. I like common options. 

The pen is made from aluminum and nicely textured. The texture provides a good degree of style mixed with a functional design. It feels nice and looks nice with its swirling downward design. The Open 2 does write nicely and smoothly, although it took a minute to start writing. Once it started, it didn’t stop. 

The light portion is at the top and is a clever design. The beam shines out like the old moonbeams of yesteryear. Meaning when it’s clipped to your shirt or pocket, it shines forward and is quite handy. Olight designed the light to be detachable from the pen portion and still be useable. Kind of handy if you need to take notes in the dark. The light has multiple modes and ranges from 5 to 120 lumens. A simple USB-C keeps it charged. Oh, and it still weighs 1.34 ounces. 

Olight Open Pro 2 Pros and Cons

  • Good Light Design
  • Writes Smoothly
  • Fairly Light
  • Proprietary Ink Refills

Rite in the Rain Black Metal Pen Review

Rite in the Rain Black Metal Pen

  • Length (in) 6.75
  • Material Aluminum
  • Ink Refill Rite In The Rain

If you want something simple and something cheap, but it still meets the tough nature of a tactical pen, then look no further than the Rite in the Rain Black Metal Pen. There are several examples of Rite in the Rain pens, and many are polymer, so stick to the metal one to get the best example of a budget tactical pen. 

I got one of these during my first week in the Fleet Marine Corps, and it followed me my entire Marine Corps career and well after. It’s a tough pen, one that seemingly has infinite clicks in its life, and a strong metal design. Even after traveling multiple continents and to over a dozen countries, it worked up until the day I gave it to someone who needed it more than I did. 

The pen comes slim and sleek, and very light. The Rite in the Rain pen writes really well, and the Rite in the Rain cartridges are super common and easy to find, albeit a little pricey. As the name implies, the thing writes in the rain, or in the wet world, or outer space, in case you’re Elon Musk and reading this. 

While it’s not designed necessarily to be driven into someone’s face, it would work better in the role than any Bic. If strength and durability are required, and you don’t want to break the bank, then the Rite in the Rain pen works extremely well. It was the best 20 bucks I ever spent as a PFC. 

Rite in the Rain Black Metal Pen Pros and Cons

  • Super Affordable
  • Tough as Nails
  • Writes Great
  • Not the Most Tactical of Pens

Boker Plus Quest Commando Pen Review

Boker Plus Quest Commando Pen

  • Length (in) 6.10
  • Material Aluminum
  • Ink Refill Fisher Space Pen

Commando Pen ought to jive well with this list, right? Boker makes a wide variety of knives, and the Boker Plus Quest Commando Pen certainly jives with this list. First, like many of these pens, it’s made from all metal and is plenty tough. If needed, it can serve in numerous roles that any normal pen would cry mercy in. Be it as a fighting tool, a windless, or anything else where a hard metal rod is needed. 

The Commando does have more of a focus on outdoor activities and adventures, incurring the wrath of the great outdoors. The Commando is a bit of a survival tool on top of being a pen. As a pen, it writes pretty well. I’ve handled smoother options, but it uses a Lamy M-22 cartridge. This means cheap refills and waterproof ink. 

At the rear end of the pen sits a handy mini compass. The pen is long and a bit thick, but that conceals a smart compartment where you can stash matches, tinder, and other little goodies. Goodies are oriented perfectly for survival scenarios and similar bad days. Although the compartment doesn’t seem waterproof, so keep that in mind. It’s a clever little design that’s handy for outdoor fun, and outdoor not so much fun. The Boker Commando stands out in a field of EDC pens by orienting itself to the rural environment and not the urban commando. 

Boker Plus Quest Commando Pen Pros and Cons

  • Handy For Outdoor Use
  • Multifunction
  • Affordable
  • Not the Best Writer

SOG Flint Review

SOG Flint

  • Length (in) 4.3
  • Material Various
  • Ink Refill None

I have a little internal tradition where I tend to choose a wild card. Since SOG discontinued the Baton series, the Q1 can’t make the list, which might be the handiest pen ever. With the Q1 gone, the Flint is a worthwhile wildcard. It’s a wildcard because the Flint looks like a pen but doesn’t have a spot of ink to it. You’ll get no writing done with the Flint. 

Although you might not miss the writing when it comes to all the other functions the Flint throws at you. It’s pen-shaped, and at the tip doesn’t sit something to write with, but a carbide tip glass breaker. It will let you escape from a bad situation, whether you must break through glass or through an attacker. It’s a last-ditch weapon that will hopefully keep you out of a ditch. 

The SOG Flint also packs a few more tools for your rural survival needs. This includes a ferrous rod and a means to strike to start a fire. It takes some serious practice to get good with a ferrous rod, so practice a bit before you jump into the fire and depend on a tool like this. The good news is at the top, a safety whistle sits. You don’t need practice to sound off and raise the alarm. 

You also have a small compartment designed to keep some steel wool tinder. This way, you can get ablaze going a little bit faster. All of this is in a 4.7-inch long design that weighs less than an ounce in total. Not too bad for a tactical pen. 

SOG Flint Pros and Cons

  • Three Different Tools
  • Versatile Design
  • Small and Light
  • Doesn’t Actually Write

The World Of Writing And Stabbing Tools

Who doesn’t like a good tactical pen? They are super handy and very practical for daily carry. The above options are our favorites, but they are far from the only option on the market. If you depart from our list, there are a few different things you should know before shopping for a tactical pen. 

Grip Design 

The grip should be comfortable and easy to write with, but it should also offer a superior grip. This often means texturing that allows for a no-slip grip. This can be checkering or scallops, and it keeps the pen locked into your hand. This is especially important if you want to use the pen to break glass or to use it as a weapon. 

Activating the Ink 

Pens have a multitude of designs when it comes to getting the tip ready to write. Let’s go over a few of the more common methods and their pros and cons. 

The Cap – A removable cap is super simple and easy. Removable the ca and bam, you can write. 

  • Simplifies the Pen’s Mechanics
  • Provides a More Durable Design
  • A lost cap is all too easy to accomplish

Click Top – These pens position a button at the top that allows you to deploy the pen tip with the click of a cap. 

  • Easy to Deploy One Handed
  • Nothing to Lose
  • Loud
  • More Likely to Break

Twist Cap – This method uses a twist of the tip to deploy the pen tip for easy writing. 

  • Simple
  • Durable
  • Requires Two Hands

Bolt Action – A Lever set in the middle of the pen that allows to deploy and retract the pen tip. 

  • Easy to use One Handed
  • Durable
  • Adds Bulk To The Pen

External Design

How the design appears on the outside can matter. Some pens embrace the tactical appearance and are less than inconspicuous. Other pens take a more subtle approach. Depending on your task, you may favor one design over the other. Consider your environment and social expectations when choosing a tactical pen. 

Weapon Or Not

It’s tough to define what exactly a weapon is legally, especially when you factor in various state and local laws. If your pen is more weapon than a pen, it might be tough to explain at TSA or anywhere a metal detector is present. The general rule of thumb is that if it’s intended to be used as a weapon, it is a weapon. However, don’t take this as legal advice. 

Take this as a word of caution more than anything else. Be wise in your pen’s look and shape, and features if you plan to travel with it or have to enter environments nonpermissive to weapons. 

Tactical Handwriting

A pen, much like a watch, seems like an outdated item to keep in your EDC. There is usually a pen wherever you need one. However, it’s always nice to have your own. As someone who takes notes for everything, I always have a pen. If I’m already carrying a pen, why not make it one worth carrying? 

That’s why tactical pens have become a subject I’m so attached to. I need the pen, and all the other uses are happy secondary. What do you think about tactical pens? 


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About Travis Pike

Travis is a former United States Marine Corps Infantryman and currently a firearms writer, instructor, and works in Emergency Management.

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