The CRKT Tactical Pen by James Williams is both my first tactical pen and the first tactical pen I’ve reviewed. I am a huge stationery fiend, with a particular love for Extra Fine Japanese nibs, so I used to shy away from what I perceived as writing instrument gimmicks, but since their popularity has yet to wane, I decided to grab the bull by its horns and see what this tactical pen fad was all about.
I’ll note that I chose to start with the CRKT James Williams Tactical Pen primarily because of how it actually looks like a pen. I feel a lot of tactical pens are lacking in this department. What’s the point of carrying an “undercover self-defense tool” when the tool looks like a weapon. Kinda misses the point if you ask me.
CRKT’s James Williams Tactical Pen is surprisingly docile out of the box. I expected it to be a little more tactile – more like a glorified spike that could be used to scribble out a note – but in the flesh its lines are very clean with a general stretched out hourglass shape.
Yes, it’s obviously still quite aggressive for a pen, but as far as tactical pens go, this is one of least outwardly threatening ones – which I’m quite pleased about.
The James Williams Pen is also quite nice to write with according to Elise (whose scribbles with it are pictured below). She stated she could easily have written class notes using it, and would’ve felt quite comfortable taking it to school with her as her only pen if she were still at uni. I’ve got to defer to her judgement here, as I’m pretty damn picky when it comes to writing utensils myself. While Elise favours more common pens like the Papermate Flexgrip Ultra Ball Point Pens, which she uses almost exclusively, I actually do the bulk of my writing with fountain pens these days.
Below you can see the CKRT James Williams Tactical Pen sitting next to my Pilot Vanishing Point Fountain Pen. Even though the James Williams Pen is a solid 6 inches long, it still looks very much like a writing utensil, both in terms of styling and size.
Pilot Vanishing Point Retractable Fountain Pen – Amazon
The fit and finish of the turned aluminium body is pretty much flawless. I really love how smooth the body feels in the hand with its matte anodizing. The James Williams Pen is definitely a touch heavy at 34 grams (1.2 ounces), but I can still see myself using it, not just for its tactical applications, but to actually write with as well.
The design practically screams for you to use it in an ice pick grip. The pocket clip is perfectly curved for your pointer finger to rest comfortably. I don’t have much experience with tactical pens, but I can definitely see the appeal from a force multiplier perspective. Wouldn’t want to be up against this thing.
One of the key advantages of having a tactical pen over having a different pain compliance device is that, at its heart, a tactical pen is still a pen, and thus can still be seen as being carried as such. Yes, I can grip the body of the pen, which in turn gives me what is essentially a two inch aluminium spike, but unless you actually end up using it defensively, it’s easy to argue you’re only carrying it to write with to anyone who may inquire. If someone asks why it looks so tactical, you’d be able to argue that it’s more of an aesthetic thing, and that you like the way this pen looks.
Plausible deniability of the tool’s tactical applications is an important consideration, especially in this politically correct world within which we live, where we are supposed to trust the powers that be with everything: including our day-to-day safety.
Personally, I carry a tactical flashlight as my go-to self-defense tool, but after EDC-ing the CRKT James Williams Pen for about a week, I definitely appreciate its advantages from the concealment angle. It’s practically hiding in plain sight.
After this testing period, I’ll be handing the pen off to Elise to carry in her purse or pocket with her. She’s expressed some serious interest in it, especially happy that it blends in quite well, looks pretty nice, and writes to her liking. It does give me peace of mind knowing she’ll be carrying it around with her – not that it realistically matters much considering I’m nearly always with her.
In terms of in-pocket carry, I initially suspected the “spike” would be uncomfortable, as it looks like it would dig into my flesh whilst in pocket. In practice, however, I never noticed any discomfort. The clip of the James Williams Pen hugs my pocket reliably, and outwardly the clip is definitely very subtle, which I do appreciate.
I will note that the pocket clip can easily be removed should you want the pen without the clip.
Now, I don’t actually get harassed on a regular basis, so I of course don’t actually have any real world experience using this pen for self-defense. However, I did hammer strike some wood to test whether or not using the pen for it’s tactical applications would be comfortable. Gotta say – it’s pretty damn scary what this thing can do.
I felt no vibrations or uncomfortable feedback, and if I didn’t know any better, I would have to say I was stabbing with a rather thin handled dagger. It’s very natural to use, and, as stated before, I certainly wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of its bite.
Compared to the ESEE Izula, the James Williams Pen is surprisingly compact. I really did expect a tactical pen to dwarf all my other everyday carry items in an almost comical fashion, but not so. CRKT struck the right balance between flexibility and size. Not sure if I could handle anything larger, personally, let alone justify it to anyone else, though I’m not sure I’d want to anyway, as I do strongly feel that larger tactical “alternative/discreet” weapons do sort of work against themselves. If it’s big, you’re probably going to get a few questions and raised eyebrows – not many will buy you’re just carrying it for it’s writing applications. Regular pens aren’t enormous, and in my opinion, neither should your tactical pen be, since it’s trying to blend in.
ESEE Izula Fixed Blade Survival Neck Knife – Amazon
My favourite aspect of the James Williams Pen is definitely its symmetrical design. Uncapped, you have a very sterile, minimal spike, very reminiscent of the Cold Steel Throwing Spike.
It looks damn good. I always appreciate symmetry, even if it may not be born out of a practical purpose.
The pen lid is disappointing in terms of feel. It sits firmly on the pen, and I have no doubt that it functions perfectly, however, it doesn’t offer a nice, reassuring click when you close the pen. Much like a nice titanium framelock, I have become used to getting audible feedback to something opening or closing, and the squishy click that the CRKT Tactical Pen by James Williams offers is a bit anemic for my taste.
Obviously, this is purely personal preference and has nothing to do with function. Nor would it make or break this pen for me. Just thought I’d mention – if you’re hoping for a click, you’ll not get it here.
I know I keep saying it, but the CRKT Tactical Pen is actually a damn pretty cylinder to be sure. If I judged tools on aesthetics alone this would easily rank 10/10. Not going to lie, I’m a sucker for James Williams designs. He has an unusually keen understanding of what makes for a clean, visceral style/aesthetic, and as a result, I’m in love with pretty much everything he comes up with at first sight.
I own the folding Hissatsu, and I also recently acquired the CRKT Hisshou as well. I’m really hoping to expand my collection to encompass nearly everything James Williams has worked on, as I find his designs have a signature look that is quite unique and completely in line with my own personal taste. Didn’t expect any less from the James Williams Tactical Pen, and didn’t get any less. This thing is top of the line when it comes to tactical pen aesthetics.
I wasn’t quite sure what other tests one should do to try out a tactical pen, so I scored some wood and stabbed with it a couple of times, but besides that… it’s a lathed aluminium spike. It just works.
The writing end of things is performed using a Fischer “space pen” insert, meaning the pen is very easy to refill once you’ve used up all the ink. I am not a fan of rollerball type writing instruments based purely on feel. As I’ve mentioned, I am a fountain pen guy so it doesn’t do the trick for me (that being said, I don’t think any tactical pen ever could!).
The CRKT James Williams Pen, because of the insert, lays down a medium-thick, oily line that is quite literally “everything proof.” The Fisher inserts can write at any angle, meaning they can even actually be used in zero gravity up in space (hence the “space pen” moniker). It just plain works, and if you don’t like it for some reason or another, I am sure there are other kinds of refills that will quite easily slot in to replace this standard.
At the end of the day, let’s be real and acknowledge that one doesn’t buy this pen for its writing abilities (except for maybe Elise – but she’s crazy about those ballpoints), and frankly there is nothing wrong with that.
Being 100% honest, I chose this pen as my first tactical pen purely based on looks. I read no reviews prior to making my purchase, as I wanted purely a minimal, tough pen that could offer force multiplier capabilities in a discreet package. The rest didn’t matter to me.
It’s a beautiful tool (yes, I’ve said it before!), and doesn’t feature any gaudy spikes, bezels, or obnoxious “SUPER DEATH NINJA PEN” branding, which really helps it to blend in with other regular pens in my opinion. I feel the CRKT James Williams Tactical Pen has accomplished utilitarian minimalism in spades, so unless someone can explain the advantage its more aggressive sibling, the CRKT Tao pen has besides additional brutish tactical aesthetics, then I don’t think I will ever get more tactical than this.
My two cents.
The argument proposed against carrying tactical pens is the notion that any pen can be tactical. And while, yes, this statement is technically true, I do believe there is added value in (and thereby additional benefit to carrying) pens designed with tactical application in mind.
Both in terms of toughness and potential damage these pens can cause, tactical pens over regular pens really are a nice additional slice of peace of mind. Sure, you could use your trusty note taker – a Papermate Flexgrip Ultra Ball Point Pen for instance – as a force multiplier, but can you really say you wouldn’t have better results using something like the CRKT James Williams Tactical Pen? Doubt it.
At the end of the day, the CRKT TPENWK James Williams Pen is a comfortable 6 inch aluminium spike that looks damn good, writes pretty well for everyday use, and in a pinch could be used to turn a violent confrontation in your favor. All this whilst remaining incognito on your person when it isn’t being utilized for its tactical applications. Think of it as an inexpensive insurance policy that can be carried with you wherever you go, and should you need it, be used as a viable writing instrument as well.
On a day to day basis, I’ll personally stick to my flashlight (for tactical applications) and fountain pen combo, but for Elise, this pen is perfect.