As a writer, I have always loved a good pen. As a preparedness and survival writer, I like that there are tactical pens. I was skeptical about what such pens could do when I first learned about them. To me, it seemed like another way to get us to buy anything with the word “tactical” in the label.
I changed my mind.
What sealed it for me was using a tungsten tip to break a window. I used a tip on an emergency device that was shaped about the same as a tactical pen tip.
They work, and I cannot imagine how much it would hurt to have a pen driven into you during a fight. Many major tactical gear and knife makers have a tactical pen or two in their product line.
Many self defense items are considered off limits to kids and teens. A tactical pen is not illegal for kids or teens to carry.
Like any piece of gear, you can pay a little or a lot. The pens in this article range from $15−$150. The difference in cost is due to materials, craftsmanship, and sometimes, just the brand name. You can get a perfectly functional and useful tactical pen for under $50. The more expensive pens are sometimes made in the USA, so if you are trying to avoid foreign-made goods, be prepared to spend more. The plus side is that you will probably get exceptional quality.
If you tend to lose your pen a lot, you may be better off buying several less expensive tactical pens, so it is not too large a loss if one is misplaced or lost entirely.
I do not include specific pricing info in this article because prices can change quickly. Please click on the links in the descriptions for current pricing and availability.
Sometimes Gerber gets mediocre reviews because people do not realize that they make a wide range of gear for all budgets. Of course, the gear on the low end isn’t as good as the mid- to high-priced gear.
The Gerber Impromptu has a cool and rugged look with a good grip, so you can wield it without it slipping in wet or sweaty conditions. The push-button style means there is no cap to worry about, and you can deploy it rapidly. It prominently features the Gerber logo, so if someone gets a close look, it may be apparent that it’s more than a pen.
The Gerber Impromptu has a machined stainless steel barrel and stainless pocket clip, and it uses Rite-In-the-Rain Ink.
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This affordable Smith Wesson tactical pen has modern touches that ensure you will use it daily. For starters, it has a stylus tip for touch screens. The aluminum body is lightweight and strong. In a fight, it can be used as a kubaton. I was happy to read reviews from people who have traveled with this model, and I can tell you that you can get through airport security with it.
This pen is slightly shorter than a standard Bic pen, but the barrel is larger around. You do have to remove the tip to write, but it screws on the back, so you won’t lose it. At the same time, this is a step that you must take to avoid losing that part. I have to say that the barrel thickness is one of the standout features. Some tactical pens are a bit smaller in the barrel, which can make them a little awkward to use for self-defense, especially if you have larger hands.
This handmade Benchmade model is for those who want the cream of the crop of tactical pens. The body is made from aircraft grade aluminum.
I wouldn’t consider this pen unless you are really good at keeping track of your writing instruments. This pen comes with a lifetime guarantee and features a knurled pattern that makes it easy to handle. The Benchmade comes with a Fisher Space Pen ink cartridge that lasts a very long time and performs under tough conditions.
The O-ring pressure cap keeps the ink from drying out when not in use. That way, you don’t have to replace the cartridge as often, even if you don’t use your pen for a while.
The carbide tip is strong and ready for defense. The 1100 has a cap with a clip to secure it in your pocket or bag. The Benchmade logo is featured prominently. This is not a pen that blends in well. It is pretty obvious that it is also a weapon because of the tip. Like all Benchmade products, this pen is made in the USA.
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Titanium is a great metal. It is lightweight, durable, and extremely strong. The NTP20 is one of the first titanium tactical pens I have seen, and the price tag is a lot more reasonable than I expected. At 1.33 ounces, you won’t notice the weight in your pocket or bag. The tapered tip is tungsten steel, suitable for breaking glass or defending yourself in a bad situation. Nitecore says this pen will write in extreme cold or heat, in water, or in a vehicle that is bouncing around a lot. The pocket clip helps secure it in a pocket or pack for quick access.
My Dad had a lot of Camillus knives around when I was growing up, and he seemed to think they were decent quality. He didn’t keep blades he didn’t trust to perform. The Camillus tactical pen will do well for those on a budget who want a tactical pen for everyday carry and defense. This would be a decent choice to throw in a bug out or get home bag.
At 6.25″ overall length, this pen is ¾” longer than some tactical pens, making it suitable for those with big hands or who just want something more substantial for self-defense.
A standout feature of this pen is the flashlight tip. You never know when you’ll need a little extra light. The ballpoint tactical tip can be used in an emergency. To be clear, the cap should be on when used for defense. The ballpoint itself is just for writing. I like how large the aluminum tip is and the spiraled grooves. Additional grooving helps ensure a non-slip grip even under tough conditions.
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This Nitecore tactical pen is more budget-friendly than the previous ones in this list. The barrel is all aluminum. The “bolt action” in the name comes from the mechanism used to click the tip in and out. It’s like a bolt action rifle; if you push down and lock the tip in place, it stays there until you physically move the bolt back into position. Instead of a clicker at the top, there’s a tungsten glass-breaker tip to use in an emergency or for defense.
Its ink cartridges are fast drying and waterproof. Unlike some pens, the Nitecore is compatible with many different styles of ink cartridges.
I am not familiar with this brand, but I wanted to include this pen because of its versatility and the sheer number of positive reviews it has received. This appears to be a real survival pen!
There is a lot of competition in the tactical pen market, so when a pen is really popular, there is a reason for it.
The MTP-6 has the following features:
To me, this pen is great for people who don’t just want a pen that they could use as a weapon. It has enough features that it is great for a go-bag or get home kit. I don’t like that it uses button cell batteries, but it comes with four sets of batteries, so you won’t run out for quite a while. It would be hard to power something like this with a different battery source without adding a lot of weight and taking up space.
You also get three black ink cartridges, so no worries about running out of ink and having to buy expensive replacement cartridges.
Despite its very reasonable cost, this pen has a lifetime warranty.
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This aluminum screw-off cap tactical pen offers a lot of features. It has a glass-breaker tip, Ferro rod and striker, and a cap that doubles as a whistle. The pen is just under 6″ long and features a grooved barrel for a great grip. It can be refilled, but the description only mentions one type of ink cartridge, so you might want to pick up a few extras if you plan to write with it often.
Olight makes some amazing flashlights for everyday carry and rifle or helmet mounting. So I wasn’t surprised that they make an innovative and high-quality tactical pen at a fair price.
Let’s start with the 120-lumen flashlight feature. You can adjust the light from 5−120 lumens, something I did not expect in a penlight. The light part of the pen is removable to place however you want. Olight says it is great for reading at night. Instead of repeatedly buying batteries, the Open 2 is charged via USB-C. In fact, you can charge the light for just 55 minutes for up to 10 hours of use!
The L bolt action makes it easy to extend the pen tip and lock it in place.
This pen is stainless steel, so it is plenty strong. To use for self-defense, you can use the pen tip either with the writing tip extended or not. I get the feeling that self-defense wasn’t the first design consideration for this pen, but it’s still a good option for the prepared person or someone who spends a lot of time outside.
The light is rated to extend 52 feet on the highest setting, which is not bad for a 120-lumen penlight.
As with any weapon, practice is important. You don’t necessarily have to hit something, but you should practice the motion. How well you can use it as a weapon also depends on strength, dexterity, speed, and the ability to think and act quickly. Many people hesitate before striking a blow, firing a weapon, etc., even if they know their life is on the line.
Remember to go for the most vulnerable body parts that have the most potential to cause sudden pain.
Here are a few videos that show tactical pens in action.
A tactical pen can be a good addition to an everyday carry bag. Tactical pens have a lot of features and can be taken places where other weapons are not allowed, including airplanes and airports. Pens vary widely in cost based on brand name, materials, and features. For most, its best to start with a low- to mid-price pen, especially to stash multiple pens in different bags or vehicles.
Tactical pens can do a lot of damage if wielded properly, but like any weapon, you must develop the skills and strategies to use it effectively as a backup self defense weapon.
Before buying a tactical pen, carefully consider what type of replacement ink cartridges it uses. Some pens can take a variety of cartridges, whereas others require a very specific cartridge. Waterproof ink is worth the investment if you often write outdoors.
Are you going to add a self defense pen to your kit? Is there a pen that didn’t make our list that you think we should know about?
Tactical pens are not considered lethal weapons since they are not likely to cause a fatality. That does not mean they are incapable of causing death if used with enough force, particularly if they are used on vulnerable body parts.
At time of writing, tactical pens are legal in all 50 US states. Tactical pens may be taken from you before boarding an airplane but it is unlikely because they just look like a fancy pen. If you plan on traveling with a tactical pen, it is best to take a pen that looks as much like a normal pen as possible.
More expensive tactical pens are made with higher quality materials and sometimes they are made entirely by hand. Titanium is a lightweight and strong material that increases the cost of a pen considerably. Less expensive tactical pens are machine made and usually made of steel, stainless steel, or aluminum. Cost is always a consideration, especially if you tend to misplace pens.
Samantha is Ready To Go Survival's lead editor, a life-long outdoorswoman with a Bachelors in Environmental Studies. She learned the foundation of preparedness from her father who saw heavy combat in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive. An avid outdoors woman and survivalist, her articles have appeared in various homesteading magazines such as GRIT, Back Home, Backwoods Home, and Countryside.