The Tactical Spy Pen: A Review

They say the pen is mightier than the sword, and especially so when the pen is also, in fact, a very small sword. Which makes it not only mighty but tactical. Apparently.

I get about 2,000 spam emails a week with the word “tactical” in the subject line. I’m not sure why, I don’t recall ever having searched for anything remotely “tactical”. But the spam-verse in its infinite wisdom has apparently decided I’m either a former Navy SEAL, a wannabe survivalist or somehow participate in covert ops on weekends and have some need for “tactical” backpacks, flashlights, knives, watches, drones and headlamps. Well hey, Google, news flash… I wanted to be a spy when I was 10, but since then all my ops have been 100% overt.

But then recently I stumbled on a book called “Spy Secrets That Can Save Your Life” written by an alleged ex-CIA agent named Jason Hanson. Hanson has parlayed his former job in the U.S. intelligence services into a QVC-style enterprise, the centerpiece of which is the above book, but also includes actual live courses, videos, and a self-defense item he swears by in the book called a Tactical Spy Pen. //

My wife had bought the book as a tongue-in-cheek birthday gift for our adult nephew and while it was laying around waiting to be mailed off, I starting reading it. Around halfway through the first chapter the 10-year old boy who was enthralled by 60’s TV spy shows and who used to dress in black turtlenecks and surveil my sisters and her friends with a homemade periscope emerged in full Napoleon Solo mode, and I devoured the rest of the book in one sitting. The 10 year-old swallowed the Tactical-Spy-Pen-for-self-defense sales pitch hook, line and microfilm. The much older graphic designer appreciated the moderate quality (and super intimidating) writing implement and the fact that an office supply could also be a weapon.

Hanson sells his pens for about $35, but like everything, you can get one that’s almost identical for $10 on Amazon. So I ordered 3. In fact, like everything, there are multiple tactical pens on Amazon offered in the same price range that vary only slightly in terms of features. Like smartphones that claim to do 100 different things and also just happen to be communication devices, tactical pens allow you to fight off bad guys, open cans, drive screws and oh yeah…you can write stuff.

They’re all made of “lightweight aluminum” (as opposed to “heavy aluminum”) And they all look like Dr. Who’s sonic screwdriver had sex with a miniature light saber. Ooh…I just got a jolt of nerd-induced dopamine.

As one might expect, the self defense angle is what all the QVC-style marketing plays up, some showing bad supporting images of a grimacing white male in his 30’s, raising the pen in stabbing position (with thumb firmly placed on what would be the “clicky” end of a ballpoint), tungsten-carbide tip glinting in sun, about to shish-kebab some (out of frame) evil doer. My particular pen also features an LED flashlight which has a rapidly blinking mode which I’m assuming can also be used to give any would-be Russian assassin a killer migraine.

Due credit to the pen, however, if you could get close enough to execute an attack, it would leave quite a mark. Just playing around I managed to put a neat little hole in my cargo shorts and (underlying quad muscle) with very little pressure.

One notable and obvious downside of the TSP, is of course that it’s only good in hand-to-hand combat situations, thus all the marketing flies right out the window when confronted, as happens too frequently today, by your average, disaffected white male with an AR-15 nursing a serious abandonment narrative. So there’s that. And being made of “lightweight aluminum” (as opposed to heavy aluminum?) they throw for garbage.

Another design flaw in the particular TSP I bought: the barrel unscrews about halfway up the device to reveal the “pen” part. It also claims, “When carry it in pocket, flip-over the defense tip to be inside the barrel, attaching no tool to the other end of the tip. This to avoid damaging clothing.” *

*= I’m leaving in the poor English not to cast aspersions on the good people at “Ankaka: Original Design Manufacturer”, who not only sell tactical writing implements that maim but “Revolutionary Travel Pillows”, but to…well maybe a bit.

The problem is, when unscrewed and removed from the barrel, the “defense tip” has a little multi-tool thingy on the opposite end, so when you “flip-over” (not sure why they hyphenated that) the defense tip and screw it into the barrel you’re left holding a little, one-inch black, mini-screwdriver/bottle opener/hack saw thingy that while cute and practical, becomes an extraneous piece of hardware you have to account for somewhere in the clothing you’re trying not to damage.

I emailed customer support about this and I got possibly the most unintentionally condescending reply I’ve ever received…

“Hi, dear, you may take the bottle opener out, then flip over the defense tip to be inside the barrel.

pls see the attach file for demo.”

Yep. You can, but then what do I do with the screwdriver, dear?

So maybe the photo on Amazon of the maniacally grimacing guy is really just a frustrated customer trying to figure out what to do with all the spare parts while he’s writing a 2-star review with his new Tactical Spy Pen.

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