By Lindsey J. Bertomen
I tested the CRKT Tao Pen, a design by Award-winning knife designer Allen Elishewitz. The Tao Pen usually raises an eyebrow or two when I use it: It is larger and heavier than most tactical pens on the market.
Tactical pens are designed for hard use in harsh environments and as a last ditch tool when the user does not have access to more effective ones. In my own case, I would have to exhaust many layers of EDC before I went to a pen. However, if there ever was a defensive writing instrument, the Tao Pen is on the top of the food chain.
The Tao Pen is made of hard-anodized 6061 aluminum. It has milled flutes and grooves, resembling a yawara stick, even with the cap removed. The milled surfaces are aggressive enough to ensure a cylindrical and lateral prehensile grip. This means that a determined user is unlikely to have this pen wrenched from the hand, in its non-writing features are employed.
Allen Elishewitz drew on his extensive martial arts experience to make a hard use pen look innocuous and handle field conditions that would cause lesser designs to fail.
The Tao Pen uses the Fisher® Space Pen ball point cartridge, a pressurized design developed for NASA. This is the a tungsten carbide ball point and thixotropic ink which will write in freezing cold, boiling heat, underwater and at any angle—even upside down.
Just about every pen I own uses Fisher® Space Pen cartridges. The ink is permanent, it glides on paper, including waterproof paper, and the nitrogen filled reservoir allows the pen to write at any angle. The added bonus is the structural rigidity of the product. I know, because I ran the Tao Pen through sheetrock, pen point first, several times before even beginning this review.
While the likelihood of being attacked by a few sheets of sheetrock is as unlikely as being accosted by dangerous paper targets, the Tao Pen can is sturdy enough to drive through a car window or pry a stuck extraction if nothing else is in arms reach.
I never lend my tactical pen if someone asks if they can borrow one. However, using the Tao Pen usually solicits, “Is that a pen?” comments. Carrying this pen may receive the same type of question when users put it into a plastic bin for x-rays. In this case, the recommended answer is “Yes” with a smile.
The Tao Pen is thick in the hand when one uses it for its intended purpose. It has milled steps for the writing grip, which several users pointed out as a little too aggressive to their liking. For me, it felt fine in my hand and I found that I could operate it with patrol (or even Nomex) gloves, a feature few products can challenge.
The cap is secured with a fine thread, taking a full 8 turns to remove and another 8 to attach it to the non-writing end. Despite dragging it around for training field notes, I have yet to have the cap come off-or even loosen-unless I wanted it off.
The cap is a little weighty when writing, moving the balance closer to the middle of the pen. I found I liked to write with it with the cap off. The design of the Tao Pen allows for this, as the cap top and the non-writing end have aggressive features. The pen cap has an impact crown, resembling a medieval castle turret, which aid in the effectiveness of a yawara thrust. The non-writing end has a reinforced blunt tip with similar defensive attributes.
The Tao Pen could never be described as an elegant writing instrument, even though one can write comfortably with it. It is a tool designed for hard use in harsh environments that can be employed for a secondary purpose while still appearing innocuous. Compared to most similar products, it is heavier, stronger and solicits a higher confidence level.
The Tao Pen is something that can be carried almost anywhere. Users can practice with it, and then take notes with it later. It is a cheap piece of insurance for users in target rich or harsh environments.
About the author
Lindsey Bertomen is a retired police officer and retired military small arms trainer. He teaches criminal justice at Hartnell College in Salinas, California. He has a BS in Criminal Justice and an MS in Online Teaching and Learning. Lindsey has taught shooting techniques for over a decade. His articles on firearms tactics have appeared in print for over a decade. Lindsey enjoys competing in shooting sports, running, and cycling events.