The best tactical pens for EDC and self-defense

On my journey to find a new legal self-defense tool, I put some thought into tactical pens. They seem suitable for many jobs, and there is an array of choices. It seems tactical pens are the new tacti-cool bling and every knife maker has its own take. I guess that makes sense, as they arose through the knife side of personal self-defense tools and that side of the survival communities. They are a blend of a tactical knife and an EDC pen.

gerber impromptu

Gerber Impromptu

This one was recommended as it was developed with the aid of law enforcement to be an all-around utilitarian tool, in addition to being able to jot down notes in the rain. It is a nice heft all machined steel. I was impressed with a window shattering design that is tempered to include car windshields.

This pen fits in the hand nicely and can be used as an EDC as the pen cartridges change out easily and it’s not too bulky or obvious as a self-defense tool. It has pressurized ink, which I didn’t really know how that made a difference at first. Well, it gives it a nice flow and glide, even upside down. If you ever have had to take notes while moving in a car, such as an EMT first responder worker, or on the go in all weather conditions, you would really like this aspect.

Any drawbacks? Yes, it is quite expensive averaging in about $40. It’s a tad heavy and if it came out in titanium, I really think that would put it over the top for a personal defense weapon that can be used every day as a normal pen. My husband has big man hands and loved the weight. The clip is heavy duty, so it may pull some shirt pockets, so I had it in my jeans.

gerber impromptu tip

Gerber Impromptu glass breaking tip and pen function (above), and the reloadable cartridge (below)

gerber refill

Surefire EWP-01

This pen is airplane aluminum and is adjustable to take different sizes of pen cartridges, which many were not. It also came in black or green. It is barrel shaped and resembles a normal pen more than the built “Swiss army” look of many of the pens. It has a twisting mechanism for the writing tip, and a pretty stainless finish. I really like how sleek it is and the fact it comes to a tri-point to write, so the pen as a writing tool is great.

Any drawbacks? If you drop it, like I did, the clicker can break and it sticks to get it open to write. So I sent it back, as I need a defensive tool that works as a normal writing tool too. Plus, it didn’t give me confidence if I can break it by dropping it. What happens if I am in an emergency and it is used harshly? Surefire did offer to replace it, so they work with you, but it made me leery for its intended functions.


The earlier 2 versions of this pen, the Tac-Pen2 and Tac-Pen3 are among Amazon’s best sellers in Personal Protective Equipment so I thought I’d take a look at the latest and newest version. This is a space age, cool looking pen. It is only 6 inches long, so very cute. It looks like a drawing tablet tool or some type of specialized key from the Matrix. Also made from aircraft grade aluminum with ultra-durable carbide glass breaker tips, they come in gunmetal or black finishes. I thought it was cool as it had a space for a handcuff key under the glass breaker. One plus is that it’s pretty well priced under $20 and it has no separate parts. The crown also is razor sharp for “DNA catching” to cause extreme pain and collect identifying info.

The Uzi in action breaking thick glass (an old windshield):

uzi pen glass

The Uzi’s tip after breaking thick glass, a little dust but not much damage to it:

uzi tip

The Uzi’s DNA catcher:

uzi dna catcher

Any drawbacks? As TSA has been confiscating tactical pens from carryon luggage and passengers, it may not be the best choice as it is flashy and catches your attention. It does seem like a streamlined piece of nice equipment though. You also do not have support from the manufacturer if you buy it on Amazon. Also, it takes 4- 5 turns to unscrew the barrel…that can be an eternity in an emergency. You need to be careful not to collect your own DNA.

Uzi tac pens demo video:

Mil-Tac TDP-1

These are sleek black anodized aluminum with steel accents. It is very sleek but has nonslip fluting and ring textures machined into the surface of the barrel. It’s not the largest pen at 5 ¼ inches, but it’s a chunky monkey. Some people think the rubber makes it look cheap, or too much like a toy, or too obvious to be hidden. It can be used as a stylus for tablets or phones, and was designed by a top knife maker with a specialty in martial arts and its tools.

Any drawbacks? Some people think the rubber makes it look cheap, or too much like a toy, or too obvious to be hidden. It can only be bought on the manufacturer’s website and is about $80. My tablet’s style is $150, so if you look at it in that light it may be worth it. I can draw and be prepared.

Hoffman Richter Stinger

This was in the top 2 best sellers on Amazon for this category as its under $20 and has a lifetime guarantee with a claim “that it can stand up to anything.” It is hand-milled and machines from a single block of aircraft grade aluminum with a tough titanium coating that makes it impact resistant for its lifetime. It can write upside down and underwater and has the pressurized refills for writing at any angle, which I loved.

The glass breaker was beveled which helped to break glass with one punch, instead of a flat surface that slid until you had a chip or crack going. It has a snap on cap, no screwing on and off to be able to use the features. It is discreet with no gun company logo or name emblazoned on it. It is not easily recognizable as a tactical pen, so it may get through any TSA stops or inspections.

stinger tac pens

Above photo: his and her stingers

Any drawbacks? In feedback, there have been reports that if the little parts such as the clip or cap come off, they are not under warranty as losing them is not counted as “defective parts” and there is no way to buy the pieces. The price has been cut in half the past year, so it’s cheap enough but I didn’t like if parts fell off you can’t replace them. Plus if parts are falling off with using it as a pen, what happens when you use the tactical pen as its intended? Not breaking doesn’t mean they won’t come off, so that’s worrisome.

under control tac pen

Under Control Tactical Pen with Flashlight

I wanted to try this one, as it was the number one seller of tactical pens with a flashlight included. This little guy had all the extras and add-ons to make it the “tank” of tactical pens. It has the LED flashlight, the glass breaker, the DNA defender collector, and is compatible with many pen refills. It has a lifetime “no questions asked” warranty against breaking and is the longest I tried at 6.5 inches. A video training course is offered with the pen and a how-to in self-defense training manual, which I liked. I do like supporting small family run businesses too, so that was a plus for me. The price wasn’t bad at about $25, especially with the warranty and extras. Many people liked the length and stated you could move the pen in a back and forth motion, and use either of the ends in self-defense.

Any drawbacks? The light is a basic keychain light with low lumens. I guess I had expected a high lumens tactical bright light, since it is a part of its appeal. It takes two CR 3V batteries, so the flashlight is dependent on them and their shelf life to work. I wish it had a solar recharger for the light part. There is no adjustment to the light, just a simple on and off twisting motion. I do not like that the glass breaker is very easy to screw off, and its placement is weird. If you jab with the one end to get DNA, you have to use the opposite end where the glass breaker is located, and it’s right in your hand. If you use any force and slip, your palm will come down on the sharp point of the glass breaker, or vice versa. You can cut yourself when breaking glass, and if slammed hard enough when breaking glass, you may have a serious wound or even impale your hand. Many reports of the black finish flaking off were online, and only after a few weeks of use or trouble loading the ink cartridges.

The weak run of the mill keychain flashlight on the Under Control Tactical Pen

Is a tactical pen worth carrying EDC video?

Signing off

My thoughts behind getting a tactical pen was its ability to blend in to everyday items and be overlooked, its construction, and its ability to defend and fend off attackers when properly used.

The most important tool is many times the one in your hand, so in places where discreetness is needed, tactical pens can be an advantage.

A video on the good, the bad, and the ugly of tactical pens:

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