Emergency situations can happen at any time – often when you least expect it.

And if the threat is human, having a self-defense tool can give you a window in which to escape.

But a knife is statistically more dangerous for whoever carries it, and not everyone can or wants to pack a firearm.

Thankfully, there are several other options to keep in your purse or pocket, including this handy little device, right here.

In this article, we take a look at how to use a tactical pen – what it is, what it can do, and how it might save your life.

Let’s get started.

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How to Use a Tactical Pen in a Few Words

For anyone in a hurry to learn the uses of a tactical pen, here they are in a brief summary. They function as:

  • An impact weapon for self-defense.
  • A DNA catcher.
  • A glass breaker.
  • A flashlight.
  • A fire starter.
  • A compass.
  • A safety whistle.
  • A screwdriver/bottle opener/wrench.
  • A pen that functions in all conditions.

Depending on the type of pen, it might have all the functions above or just a few of them. Other functions might also be included, such as a laser pointer.

We’ll take a look at the main function – self-defense and preservation – in a moment, but let’s first explore what a tactical pen actually is.

What is a Tactical Pen?

It might sound funny at first. A tactical pen? Aside from writing something, how useful could it possibly be?

The answer is – very useful. So useful, in fact, reputable companies like Smith & Wesson, Gerber, 5.11 Tactical, and Benchmade are getting in on the act and producing their own, top-quality versions.

The rise of the EDC subculture (Everyday Carry) has a lot to answer for, and survival tools like tactical pens have become all-the-rage over the past few years.

tactical pen

A tactical pen is a pen with a lot of other features and functions built-in to what looks like an ordinary, compact writing instrument at first glance.

They’re unassuming, easily hidden, and not as dangerous as guns or knives.

Commonly made from aircraft-grade aluminum, quality tactical pens are super-durable, often with tungsten-carbide tools for superior strength and longevity.

Good tactical pens will have a rugged grip on the shaft, with many featuring specially-designed grooves for your fingers, for improved comfort and control.

And it will have a durable clip, so you can attach it almost anywhere and keep it close to your hand. Like on one of these tactical plate carriers/vests, for example.

Like all tactical gear, clothing, and equipment, it’s basically an improved, better version of other versions!

For more information, check out this article on tactical gear – what it is, where it comes from, and how it can benefit you in your everyday life.

But how does a tactical pen work? Keep reading to find out.

Using a Tactical Pen for Self Defense

A tactical pen is designed to perform like an impact weapon, rather than a puncturing, or slashing one. Think of a kubaton instead of a knife.

Their compact size allows you to easily conceal the tool about your person, and they are frequently much more practical, responsible, and safer than carrying a knife or a firearm.

While some people might prefer one of these tactical folding knives, for example, remember there is a statistically high chance that it will be used on the carrier in a hostile situation.

There are many techniques at your disposal when it comes to using a tactical pen for defense – and they can be surprisingly effective.

Of course, we’re not talking about going toe-to-toe with an attacker armed with a gun or knife – in this case (and in every case, in fact) your best defense is always to run.

military tactical equipment

But sometimes escape isn’t possible, and your last resort is to take a stand. You should therefore familiarize yourself with applicable techniques to change the situation in your favor.

Learn the vulnerable, sensitive target points of the human body, such as the eyes, the nose, the ears, the throat, groin, knees, and toes.

A well-placed pen strike to any of those regions could well disable an attacker. You should also be aware that most attacks nearly always go to the ground, and adjust your strategy accordingly.

Rather than writing pages of text, self-defense is better taught in person, but a visual guide is the next best thing.

Check out the useful video below for professional, step-by-step instructions on how to use a tactical pen to fend off an attacker.

However, if you take self-defense seriously, you might want to take a look at some of the best concealed carry knives that will improve your self-defense without a doubt.

DNA Catcher

Forensic science has come a long way over the past century or so, and if you’ve ever been into TV cop shows or real-crime documentaries, you’ll have an idea what these boffins are capable of.

And while it might be enough to disable your attacker in order to escape, if you’re able to identify who they are, then it’s a bonus for you, the police, and potentially the safety of others within the community.

You can help get these people off the streets.

In the event of an attack, police forensics will extract DNA samples from things like hair, blood, and skin – commonly found on the victim’s hands, or under the fingernails.

But this isn’t always conclusive, or practical.

If you have a tactical pen with a specially-designed DNA catcher, you stand an excellent chance of gathering evidence in order to identify your assailant and help put them behind bars.

This small, but highly effective device is quite ingenious, usually found at one end of the tool, where it’s likely to come into contact with your assailant.

It’s a contoured, cupped or edged receptacle designed to collect and hold some part of the unfortunate soul who has decided to mess with you.

Hand that to the police, and they should be able to do the rest.

Glass Breaker

Danger doesn’t always come in the form of a human, and while a tactical pen can also be useful for fending off an animal attack, they feature another extremely useful survival function.

The glass breaker.

And this simple, powerful tool can help you in several, potentially-dangerous situations.

Accidents happen, and getting trapped in a vehicle is one possible scenario. You’re going to be all out of luck if you only have your hands and fists – particularly if the glass is tempered, as it usually is.

You might need to rescue someone else in a similar situation – perhaps when a vehicle goes into the water.

We hear of dogs and infants dying in hot cars all the time – having a glass-breaker on hand would help get them out.

In the event of a fire, the only exit option might be through a window, and this pen tip could be a life-saver for you and many other people trapped inside.

tactical backpack with folding knife and other everyday carry items

This list is not exhaustive, there might be several other scenarios in which you need to break glass in an emergency, so you see it’s a very useful tool to have close to hand.

Watch the video below for some great examples of how a tactical pen can be used to break glass, with some tips on how to do it effectively and safely.

Learn where to place the strike, and that poor window will shatter into a million pieces.

Other Uses

Aside from offering peace of mind as a self-preservation tool, tactical pens usually have numerous other practical features and uses.


Your pen might take a small battery inside and have a flashlight at the tip, which is so useful in any number of situations.

Finding something in your car in the dark trips to the bathroom at night while tent camping, keeping on hand for power outages, use while hunting, fishing, or hiking in low light, searching for secret files in a hotel…

Of course, you could always take a look at this article on the best self-defense flashlights if you’re looking for something a bit more heavy-duty, but a tactical pen with a built-in touch is a nice backup.

Fire Starter

Some tactical pens come with a useful fire-starting flint located somewhere on the device – which can be the perfect survival tool if you’re caught in the backwoods without a lighter or matches.


Likewise, having a small, but functioning tiny compass about your person could well save your life if you’re ever lost in the wilderness. Some tactical pens carry this useful direction-finding feature.

Safety Whistle

To further aid your chances of survival, some tactical pens come with a safety whistle built-in – which is ideal for attracting attention in an emergency situation.

And this doesn’t have to be in the wild, it can be just as useful in the urban jungle, too. Scaring away an assailant, alerting authorities to a fire, calling for medical assistance…the list goes on.

Screwdriver/Bottle Opener/Wrench

Tactical pens are regarded as multitools, and they might well have several instruments built-in, including screwdrivers, bottle or can openers, and wrenches.

While they won’t be able to replace a dedicated multitool, such as a Swiss Army knife or Leatherman, they’re still a good backup in a jam.

And I, for one, am always losing my beer opener.

military equipment with a rifle and tactical helmet

The Tactical Pen, Pen

Finally, a word should be said on the actual pen part of a tactical pen. Nine times out of ten, this isn’t going to be your average writing instrument.

As with most products that can claim to be “tactical,” it’s going to be an improved version of the normal or regular item.

A tactical pen should be able to write in all conditions, outdoors and indoors, come rain or shine. Heck, it should be able to work in space. Either that or you just use a pencil.

They should also have a smooth operating system, unlike some infuriating ballpoint pens that seem to break and get stuck after one use.

And they should be comfortable to hold in the hand, a nice weight without feeling overly heavy, and something that isn’t going to give you hand cramps if using it for a long period of time, making it also perfect as one of your range bag essentials if necessary.

Finally, tactical pens should be simple to reuse and take readily available cartridges or refills you can find at any local stationery store.

A Word on Quality

As EDC becomes more popular, and people are taking extra precautions to protect themselves in public, the demand for tactical, military and law-enforcement-grade goods has gone through the roof.

Unfortunately, that means the quality of mass-produced items to keep up with demand has taken a significant nosedive.

If you’re in the market for a tactical pen – don’t settle for a cheap model. It might look like the real deal, but it could well let you down in an emergency situation.

Choose something made by the companies mentioned at the beginning of this article, or take a look at what’s on offer from the best tactical brands on the market, today.


Do I need a tactical pen?

This article wasn’t designed to put fear into you, and most people don’t need to own a tactical pen.

But they make a great gift!

However, they are extremely useful devices, with many practical applications. Not least – writing thank you cards, handwritten letters, and grocery lists.

Not everyone is out to get you – don’t believe the fearmongering you see in the media.

But it comes down to the old adage – “I’d rather have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.”

Slip one into the pocket of one of these awesome tactical jackets, and you’ll be ready for anything.

Are tactical pens legal?

Yes, they are. A person has a right to defend themselves, and the beauty of a tool like a tactical pen is that they’re not confined by the laws on firearms and knives.

Pepper spray is also a legal self-defense tool, but it certainly doesn’t have as many uses as a tactical pen.

Are tactical pens allowed on planes?

No. If you have to travel with your tactical pen, put it in your check-in luggage. You’re not allowed to carry the tool into the cabin.

Take a look at this web page from the TSA for more information. Simple, and to the point.

But if you do want to carry something tactical onto the plane, you should check out this review of the best tactical messenger bags – perfect for a weekend away, and much more acceptable by security.

Are tactical pens lethal?

Good question. While it’s certainly possible to cause a lot of damage with a well-placed tactical pen blow (particularly to the throat and eyes), they are considered a non-lethal instrument.

And while you might permanently injure someone, they are certainly “less lethal” when compared to knives and firearms.

To be honest, nobody in their right minds should be out to kill anyone, anyway – even when attacked or provoked. This is a last resort, when all other options have been exhausted.

Again, the best self-defense is to run and escape. That, and not to go looking for trouble in the first place.


If you’re going to own one, you need to learn how to use a tactical pen, and the guide above should have armed you with some basic knowledge – at the very least.

But hopefully, the only thing you ever need a tactical pen for is to write with it.

Let me know if we’ve missed anything out, or if you have any top-tips for tactical pen use you’d like to share with the community.

Stay safe out there, and stay tactical!