When Edward Bulwer-Lytton wrote his now famous adage “the pen is mightier than the sword” for his play “Richelieu” in 1839, he had no idea that his words would literally become part of the American lexicon with the advent of the tactical pen approximately 175 years later.
So what is a tactical pen exactly? Tactical pens are instruments designed for the dual purpose of everyday writing tasks, but also have an alter ego as a last-resort defensive weapon.
They are generally machined from high-quality metal such as anodized aluminum and are combined with pressurized ink cartridges originally designed for the weightlessness of space.
A tactical pen has the potential to become a defensive weapon in several ways. It can be used as an impact weapon, a last resort piercing weapon, or as a sort of Kubotan. A Kubotan is a 5” cylindrical weapon known for being extremely effective in breaking the will of uncooperative subjects through the use of painful locks and pressure point strikes. As a result they became known as “attitude adjustment instruments.” Due to their popularity, tactical pens have been dubbed the Kubotans of the 21st century.
A tactical pen is generally less obvious and more useful than a Kubotan, since in addition to its tactical capabilities, has a more mundane function as well. Smith & Wesson has entered the tactical pen market with its own version, the SWPENBK. As author Scott W. Wagner describes in his article “Tactical Ink Pens: Low-Profile Defensive Tools” at USConcealedCarry.com, the pen can be a formidable weapon:
“If you found yourself the victim of a close range attack—one in which you were in danger of serious physical harm (including sexual assault) — and were justified in using your firearm, but did not have it available, then the Smith & Wesson Tactical pen might be a good potential option for defending your life.” (Read more at USConcealedCarry.com)
The Smith & Wesson SWPENBK tactical pen is 6.1 inches long and weighs a mere 1.6 ounces. It is crafted from T6061 aircraft grade aluminum with a tapered and fluted main shaft that could serve as a makeshift Kubotan when used properly.
The cap end screws on and off or with the M&P model, clicks on and off. The pen itself uses a Schmidt P900M Parker Style Black Ball Point Ink Cartridge, but you may want to consider upgrading to a pressurized “write anywhere” cartridge for about ten bucks. A nice feature is the heavy-duty pocket clip which is securely attached with two bolts.
Smith & Wesson’s SWPENBK is an excellent alternative weapon to carry in areas where guns are banned or defensive devices such as knives or Kubotans are not considered kosher. While the SWPENBK looks like a normal pen, do not attempt to take it through airport security. Many TSA personnel are aware of tactical pens and will confiscate them as weapons.
As with all Smith & Wesson products, the SWPENBK comes with a lifetime warranty for manufacturing defects. It can be found online for about $23.
One of the most significant and effective tools introduced to law enforcement around the turn of the century has been the Taser. The Taser is an electroshock weapon that fires two small dart-like electrodes into the attacker with the intended purpose of disabling him through “neuromuscular incapacitation.”
The original Taser used gunpowder to fire the darts and was declared to be a firearm by the ATF bureau. Current models use compressed nitrogen cartridges to fire electrically charged darts into the attacker from a distance of up to 15 feet.
Despite its success as a firearm alternative, the Taser does have several limitations with one being the steep learning curve, especially if you aren’t in law enforcement where training is ongoing. Author Dan Stahlnecker explains some of the issues with Tasers in his article “Taser Tactics: Four Simple Rules” at USConcealedCarry.com:
“The Taser isn’t an end -all bodyguard. It won’t do all the work for you. You still have a part to play in the action. To this end, I offer you four rules of effective Taser usage.” (Read more at USConcealedCarry.com)
Many people who are newly armed with a Taser suddenly feel a false sense of bravado. They know that they possess the power to incapacitate someone without killing them. Unfortunately, these same people often fail to realize that while their attacker may be down, they definitely aren’t out.
The Taser is a temporary stop-gap that gives you precious time to get away, not time to observe how long it takes the thug to recover and renew the attack. Some late model Tasers are now equipped with up to three charges, but even with the backup bolts, the first rule and main objective should still be to get far away from your attacker as quickly as possible.
If someone threatens you, using a Taser to protect yourself shouldn’t be a defensive move expected by the attacker. It should come as a complete surprise, which gives you a significant tactical advantage in the ensuing melee. Achieving the advantage of surprise also means that it shouldn’t be public knowledge that you carry a Taser.
When you purchase a firearm and obtain a concealed carry permit, it is assumed that you’ll spend time at the range honing your skills, yet new Taser owners often follow a completely different track. They either assume there’s nothing to learn, or worse, they assume operating the Taser will be self-explanatory when needed.
Both of these mindsets will get you into deep trouble and possibly killed. Read the instructions, watch the DVD, and measure out the 15 feet so you have some type of mental baseline. You may want to waste one cartridge by firing a test shot just to see the effect.
And like your firearm, if you don’t have it when you need it, it’s worthless. Obviously, some areas are more crime-ridden than others, but criminals are smart enough to figure out that so-called “safe havens” are often easy soft targets. In neighborhoods more prone to crime, keep the Taser in hand. For other settings, keep it easily accessible. Remember, the ultimate goal is to get back to Rule 1.
If you aren’t comfortable carrying a firearm or prefer to exhaust other options first, a Taser could be a solid option for you. For those who carry daily, it makes a potent backup. If you’re serious about packing a Taser, prices range from about $400 for the compact Taser Pulse to $1,400 for the double-barrel X2-Defender.
Any law enforcement officer worth their salt knows better than to go on patrol carrying nothing more than a single pistol, although it may sometimes appear that way to the casual observer. However, cops know that keeping back-up weapons concealed gives them the element of surprise during any confrontation.
While modern day devices such as tasers and pepper spray can be very effective in subduing an attacker, there are still a lot of police officers who cut their teeth on old-school persuasion techniques through the use of batons, nightsticks, blackjacks, and a handy little weapon called the “sap.”
The Sap was developed as a less lethal version of the popular blackjack. It’s a small club that was essentially a lead weight wrapped in leather and attached to a shaft with a spring coil. The Sap on the other hand, has a flat profile compared to the tube-shaped blackjack and spreads the force of impact over a broader area, thereby lessening the lethal potential — especially with blows to the head.
As effective as it was, the Sap slowly disappeared from law enforcement’s approved list. Author Scott W. Wagner explains why this happened in his article “Old School Intermediate Force — Nevada Gunleather Zap” at USConcealedCarry.com:
“It’s simple: even with the flat surface of the Sap, a strike to the head could be lethal. Fine, but a shot to the head with a three-cell aluminum flashlight or a baton can do the same. Apparently, that scared many police administrations of the 1980’s.” (Read more at USConcealedCarry.com)
But in today’s society, where concealed carry is commonplace and “stand your ground” is a legal defense in many states, the Sap has seen a resurgence in popularity. Nevada Gunleather has taken advantage of market conditions and introduced its version of the Sap to the 21st century, calling it the “Zap.”
The Zap is crafted with stitched leather that covers a lead core in the rounded end and steel spring handle. A leather wrist strap is attached that adds additional torque when used correctly.
The Zap and the Sap operate in a nearly identical fashion. When the wrist is snapped, the backward action stores the energy in the spring, which is then released onto the subject when struck with the Zap. Simple, yet extremely effective.
Nevada Gunleather’s Zap is an ideal secondary defense weapon. It isn’t dependent on the elements like a taser or pepper spray, requires no maintenance like a knife, and it never needs to be reloaded. The Zap is also easily carried in a pocket, purse, or vehicle. Nevada Gunleather even offers a holster for the truncheon. It is available in either Russet Brown or Black and retails at $39.95
The vast majority of concealed carry permit holders do not carry firearms with the hope of one day becoming entangled in a situation where they are forced to use their weapon. They carry weapons to protect themselves and their families, hoping never to use them. As such, many in the concealed carry community arm themselves with alternative or backup weapons that do not employ deadly force.
These weapons are designed as a stop-gap that allow you to draw or retrieve your firearm or withdraw to safety.
Some of these “Plan B” devices include pepper spray, batons, stun guns, and of course, the knife.
The knife is often referred to as a weapon choice of last resort.
Using a knife involves close hand-to-hand combat and in many cases, requires the user to open the blade with one hand while fending off the attacker with the other.
Enter the KaBar TDI Knife, originally designed as a last ditch weapon to be worn by law enforcement personnel behind their duty belt.
The TDI is a small knife with a 2.5 inch blade in a general arcing design. In his article “KaBar TDI Knife” at USConcealedCarry.com, author Duane A. Daiker describes how the KaBar TDI design features give the defender an edge in face-to-face encounters:
“The TDI knife is designed to be carried on your belt, on the weak side, for quick access with your weak hand. Nothing beats a fixed blade knife for quick, no-fumble access. The TDI is a small fixed blade with a very ergonomic handle that makes it perfect for instinctive defensive maneuvers like thrusting and slashing to defend against a close-in attack.” (Read more at USConcealedCarry.com)
Another design feature that helps keep the TDI securely in your grasp is a hook-like groove that runs under the handle where it joins the blade. This follows the curved shape of the knife and not only provides a stronger grip but makes it much more difficult for an attacker to pry open your hand and take the knife.
The overall specs on the KaBar TDI add up to an impressive little knife. Its total length is only 5.5 inches and weighs less than three ounces. The handle is textured Zytel, while the blade is composed of tough AUS 8A stainless steel. The TDI comes in various colors and is also available with a serrated edge. The TDI price range is approximately $30-$40.
The sheath that comes with the knife was designed to be carried on a law enforcement duty belt and may not be suitable for concealed carry. Other more versatile and aesthetically pleasing sheaths are available online. One source is On/Scene Tactical at www.onscenetactical.com.