Best Tactical Pen: More Than Just Writing

by Travis Pike

March 29, 2024



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, I will be 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, I was instructed that I should have a pen and notepad ready for my second day. They said I should keep it with me all the time and it was easily accessible. 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.

Best Tactical Pens

What’s A Tactical Pen?

A tactical pen is a reliable writing tool made for rough situations. Unlike regular pens, tactical pens can handle tough conditions and are often refillable. They don’t have a standard quality rating, so their quality can vary.

Tactical pens can be used as makeshift weapons because they’re made of strong metal. Some even have extra parts like steel or carbide tips for breaking glass, which makes them more effective for self-defense. However, they’re not meant to replace proper self-defense tools.

Aside from writing and self-defense, tactical pens can also break glass in emergencies. They can even be used as windlasses for tourniquets in medical emergencies because they’re strong and durable. Some tactical pens come with extra features like lights or compasses to suit different needs.

How I Chose the Best Tactical Pen

As a former marine with over two decades in the tactical world, I’ve seen my fair share of tactical pens and even had the chance to review some for different companies. But this time, I set out on a mission to find the best tactical pens. I was looking for ones that performed well, considering factors like pen length, material, and ink refill.

Before compiling the tactical pen list for this review, I rounded up the tactical pens that served me well, along with suggestions from my shooter buddies who happen to be pros in the field. After all, a collective perspective always helps.

When I tested these pens, I didn’t limit myself to the office or home. I took them outdoors to see how they held up against the elements. Even though I ranked the tactical pens from numbers 1-7, I made sure the selection caters to different preferences and needs. In addition to the list, I’ve also included a buyer’s guide so you know what to look for when buying a tactical pen.

Finding the right tactical pen is a personal journey. What works for me might not work for you. So, my advice? Read the review, give different models a try, and find the one that feels like a perfect fit for you.

Best Tactical Pens

Click the headings to jump to the review section for each tactical pen 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 everyday carry (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. You 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 an 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 Gerber impromptu tactical pen. 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 Defense Pen is the brainchild of Army veteran and martial artist James Williams. With a military background, Williams understands the value of a reliable pen, and it’s clear where his inspiration comes from.

With this tactical pen, you 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 glass breaker tip. 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

Activating the Ink of Tactical Pen

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

Best Tactical Pen Buyer’s Guide

Before you buy a tactical pen, it’s important to know what makes each one different and find the one that’s right for you. Finding the right tactical pen for you means that you have to consider its durability, material, writing performance, grip design and more. Follow this buyer’s guide to make an informed decision and find the perfect tactical pen for your needs.

Factors To Consider When Buying a Tactical Pen

These are some of the factors you should look at when figuring out what you need from a tactical pen.

Durability and Material: When you’re on the hunt for a tactical pen, think tough, need something that can handle whatever comes its way. Look for pens made from materials like aircraft-grade aluminum, stainless steel, or titanium. These materials ensure your pen stays solid, even under pressure or in harsh conditions.

Writing Performance: A good tactical pen should write as well as it fights. Make sure it can take standard ink refills like Rite in the Rain or Fisher Space Pen cartridges. These cartridges write smoothly and reliably, even on difficult surfaces, so you’re always ready to jot down important notes.

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. 

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. 

Deployment Mechanism: Quick and easy access is important when it comes to a tactical pen. Whether it’s a cap, click top, twist cap, or bolt action, pick a mechanism that suits your needs and ensures your pen is always ready when you need it. Fast deployment means you can react swiftly in any scenario.

Size and Weight: Keep your pen compact and lightweight for everyday carry, but make sure it still feels solid in your hand. Finding the right balance ensures you’re prepared for anything without being weighed down.

Legal Considerations: Before buying a tactical pen, know the rules. While it’s primarily a writing tool, certain designs or features might be restricted in some areas. Stay informed to avoid any legal issues.

Budget: Tactical pens come in a range of prices, so consider your budget. Decide which features are most important to you and invest accordingly. Remember, a quality pen is an investment in your preparedness and peace of mind.

Additional Features: Don’t settle for just a pen. Look for ones with extra features like built-in glass breakers, self-defense tools, or integrated flashlights and compasses. These added functionalities can be invaluable in emergencies.

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? 

Best Tactical Pen – FAQs

Can tactical pens be used as a self defense tool?

Tactical pens make half-decent impact weapons, but it’s unlikely you’ll ever use a pen as a self-defense weapon. Substitutes for proper self-defense tools are pepper spray or personal firearms.

Can I take tactical pens on flights?

Generally, you can bring tactical pens without sharp blades or prohibited features in your carry-on luggage on flights. However, verify it with the airlines and transportation security authorities for specific guidelines and restrictions.

Are tactical pens refillable?

Yes, many tactical pens are refillable with standard ink cartridges such as Rite in the Rain or Fisher Space Pen refills. This feature ensures that your pen remains functional even after prolonged use.

How durable are tactical pens?

Tactical pens are durable and built to last. Made from strong materials like aircraft-grade aluminum, stainless steel, or titanium, they’re ready to handle whatever comes their way without breaking.


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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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