What Is a Tactical Pen? How Do You Use One?

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Today, let’s talk about tactical pens.

Though the terminology may make them sound like gimmicks, tactical pens are serious tools used by professionals in multiple disciplines.

If you don’t know what I mean by “tactical pen,” then don’t worry. You’ll learn that I mean when I call a pen “tactical.”

If you’re curious how a pen can be used tactically then go ahead and read a little further.

These pens can be good self-defense weapons, but that’s not the only way to use one. Nor will it be your primary use!

And for those of you who know enough about tactical pens to want one, you can check out the product recommendations below (click to jump).

And if you’re hungry for more options then check out our articles about the Best Tactical Pens for Self Defense and EDC and the Best Pens for Everyday Carry!

What Is a Tactical Pen?

A tactical pen is an upgraded version of your typical office pen.

It’ll be usable in more situations than most pens. This increased versatility is why such pens have the “tactical” label.

Tactical pens are commonly used by police officers.

Construction officers, wilderness workers, and frequent travelers also often benefit from the pen’s durability and versatility.

As would anybody who wants a good pen that has the potential to save your life.

What Is a Tactical Pen Used For?

A tactical pen is primarily used for…


All other uses are secondary.

However, if a secondary use case shows up, you’ll be glad to have bought a tactical pen.

What are these secondary use cases?

The first one most people are aware of is the use of a tactical pen as a stealth self-defense weapon.

Kubatons are pen-shaped pieces of metal that increase your strike force. A tactical pen is basically a kubaton that can also write.

Tactical pens can also be used as a vehicle escape tool by integrating a glass breaking tip.

Another use is for positively identifying an attacker, because some tactical pens integrate a DNA catcher.

A few, such as the Strikepen, count as a complete EDC kit because they store tools such as a flashlight and multitool!

How to use tactical pen self defense survival Schrade SCPEN4BK

How Does a Tactical Pen Work?

A tactical pen is just like a normal pen in that it has ink and a body.

The major difference is in the body.

That’s because most tactical pens are made from steel or aluminum, such as Schrade’s survival pen.

Not only that, but they are also much thicker than they need to be. This adds weight, which adds force when swung as a weapon.

Similar to tactical flashlights!

Tactical pens also often have hardened tips that resist deforming and focus all your force into a small area, increasing your strike’s effectiveness.

A side effect of this is that tactical pens are almost indestructible. Construction workers may find this useful.

Other features of tactical pens often (but not always) include features such as DNA catchers and ink that can write upside down or on wet documents.

This means that, even if you never intend to use the tactical pen in self defense, a good tactical pen will serve you well in less civilized situations.

How to Use a Tactical Pen for Self Defense

The first step to using a tactical pen to defend yourself is to:

Get training.

No self-defense method is effective unless you have practiced how to perform it while stressed.

This includes everything from firearms to running away. Tactical pens are no different.

Using a Pen Against an Assailant

That said, tactical pens are used very similarly to kubatons.

Carrying metal in your fist increases the mass behind your punches, increasing their momentum, giving your fists a bit more oomph.

Your punching force is Mass times Velocity. This is why boxers are not allowed to add weights to their gloves[1]!

But, that’s not the only, or even the best, way to use a tactical pen for self defense.

Tactical pens come to a point, which concentrates the force of your blow into a small area. This means that can cause more damage than you’d expect.

Aim for an attacker’s weak points, such as their neck, armpit, or groin, and jab that location with the tip of your pen.

Prioritize speed and accuracy over force and don’t wind up for the strike, which would give away your intention to your attacker.

The intention is more to cause pain than permanent damage. This will give you more time to get away or, if you cannot escape, prepare a more effective weapon.

A slashing motion can also be effective. Aim for exposed skin, especially fleshy bits.

Many tactical pens have a DNA collector, which is a fancy term for a non-smooth surface that can gather a bit of your attacker’s flesh for later identification.

Don’t forget the utility of a tactical pen as a distraction!

Throwing the pen in your attacker’s face can be effective at giving you a brief moment for either fleeing or drawing a pistol.

Using a Pen to Break a Passenger Window

A tactical pen is more than just a self-defense tool.

The most well-known alternative use for a tactical pen is as a glass breaker, especially if the pen is designed for use as such.

The hardened point of some tactical pens is great for breaking the safety glass windows in most automobiles.

Grab the pen with a firm grip, look away from the window, and strike!

Aim for a lower corner of the window, which is where the glass is weakest.

Supposedly, some passenger car windows have a weak point behind the decal, but I have not found confirmation whether or not this is true.

Also, check your car’s windows before you get into trouble!

More and more vehicles have laminated instead of tempered glass, which a tactical pen will likely not break[2].

The decal should inform you what type of glass you’re dealing with. Not all the windows may be the same so check them all.

Don’t forget to try to roll down the window before you attempt to break it with a tactical pen!

Recommended tactical pens for self defense breaking car windows Smith Wesson SWPENMP2BK

Product Recommendations

The following are but a few of the best tactical pens on the market today.

Smith & Wesson Tactical Pen SWPENMP2BK

If you’re going to use a tactical pen as a weapon then I’d recommend the SWPENMP2BK by Smith & Wesson.

This pen is on the longer side and is weighty without being unwieldy, making it perfect for self defense.

It’s also not too expensive so you won’t be out too much if it’s taken as evidence!

The biggest problem with this pen is the S&W logo that makes it more obvious to certain people such as TSA agents, that this tool is more than a mere pen.

Click here to buy now!

Uzi Tacpen

No, the Uzi Tacpen is not an Uzi sub-machine gun in the shape of a pen.

It is, however, one of the most common tactical pens used by police officers.

My favorite is the Uzi Tacpen 4, which has a carbide glass breaker and a handcuff key as part of the pen clip.

Other Tacpens by Uzi have different features at slightly different price points, so there’s likely a Tacpen for you!

Check out my two favorites: The Tacpen 3 and Tacpen 4!

Gerber Impromptu

The Gerber Impromptu is a heck of a tough pen with a tempered steel glass breaker and Cerakote coating.

If you want a tactical pen that will survive tough abuse then you want the Gerber Impromptu.

However, it is heavy even for a tactical pen, so you will only want to use it for short writing sessions.

It’s a good choice for a police officer or mountain climber taking notes, but not good for somebody writing the next great American novel!

Be prepared with the Gerber Impromptu!

The Strike Pen

You may not be sold on the idea of a tactical pen and that’s okay. They are more expensive than normal pens, after all.

Except for the Strike Pen.

The cheapest way to try out a tactical pen is to get in on a limited-time promotion:

Pay for shipping and get the Strike Pen for free!

Even better: It’s a complete EDC kit! The tungsten glass breaker is also a fire striker, and the pen holds a knife or multitool along with an LED flashlight!

The Strike Pen may not be as tough as the other choices but it is still an inexpensive way to get your first tactical pen.

Click here to learn more!


Are Tactical Pens Legal?

Tactical pens are writing-instruments first and self-defense weapons second and have a legal status similar to using a Maglite flashlight.

In most locales, a tactical pen will be legal unless you’re using it for offensive purposes[3].

Check with your local laws though, because a hefty metal stick like a tactical pen may run afoul of certain laws.

Can You Take Tactical Pens on a Plane?

A tactical pen, despite being a “stealth” self-defense weapon, qualifies as a weapon in the eyes of the TSA. If you are caught carrying a tactical pen onto a plane then it may be confiscated.

However, normal pens are okay in both checked and carry-on luggage.

A tactical pen that doesn’t look like a tactical pen may be allowed in your carry-on luggage like any other pen. But you will run the risk of confiscation by TSA agents if they think it looks suspicious.


  1. http://boxingscience.co.uk/science-behind-punch/
  2. https://newsroom.aaa.com/2019/07/vehicle-escape-tools-testing/
  3. https://police.community/topic/6669-tactical-pens-illegal-to-carry/

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