We may often find ourselves in controlled, non-permissive environments (NPE) where a purpose designed weapon is prohibited. A popular option for these situations is a so-called “tactical pen.”

The Gerber Impromptu™ Tactical Pen has become one of the more popular tactical pens on the market today. Gerber sent an Impromptu with the Tactical Grey finish (Item: # 31-003227t) to me for evaluation.

So what defines a tactical pen? At its basics, a tactical pen is a heavy-duty pen that provides all of the capabilities of a fist load weapon. And as with any weapon or tool, you need to have the skills to wield it effectively. It may be employed as a fist load, impact weapon, pressure-point pain-compliance tool and for joint manipulation. And, of course, it may be used as a writing instrument.

Developed for first responders, the Impromptu Tactical Pen  features push-button click operation for one-handed deployment.

Many tactical pens on the market are obviously designed primarily as weapons loosely “disguised” as pens. And they’ll be regarded as weapons in some venues, which sort of defeats the purpose of a tactical pen in the first place. Gerber took a different approach with its Impromptu.

Tactical pens are expressly prohibited by the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in carry-on, as they’re considered weapons. The final discretion as to what’s allowed (or not) rests with the individual TSA officer.

When flying or operating in a NPE where tactical pens may be frowned upon I would go with a rugged standard everyday pen, such as a stainless steel Parker Jotter or a stainless steel Zebra F701. They’re inexpensive, can stand up to impact, and guaranteed to fly under the radar/

Gerber Impromptu Tactical Pen

Designed as a duty pen, the Impromptu doesn’t scream weapon. Yes, it can be used as an effective defensive tool, but that’s not its primary purpose. I’m not saying it will pass muster with TSA (I wouldn’t try it), but it’s a distinctively stylish pen that won’t look out of place in polite company. 

I only wish Gerber had branded the Impromptu as a “Rescue Pen” or “Duty Pen” and not a “Tactical Pen.” Words do matter.

One of the key features of the Impromptu is its glass beaker. A lot of tactical pens are now equipped with a glass-breaker, but the Impromptu was one of the first. Also, it’s the only push-button pen with a glass breaker that I’m aware of.  

The push-button pen deployment is an important feature in many applications, as a pen is first and foremost a writing instrument. It allows for easy one-handed deployment.

Developed for first responders, the Impromptu is a heavy-duty multi-use pen. It has an ultra-strong machined stainless steel body with a tough Cerakote® ceramic coating, integrated tempered-steel glass-breaker, and black-oxide finished stainless steel pocket clip.

The non-reflective matte Cerakote coating on the Impromptu is tough and durable. It will show wear with time, as will any coating.

The Impromptu Tactical Pen features an integral glass-breaker tip that will shatter tempered automobile windows in an emergency, as well as enhance effectiveness as defensive tool.

The Impromptu uses pressurized Rite in the Rain® and Fisher Space Pen® PR ball-point pen cartridges that write in all weather conditions and at any angle. It performs performs in temperatures from -30°F to 250°F (-34°C to 121°C) to and underwater to depths of 35 feet (11 m).

The Impromptu comes with a black ink cartridge. Other colors are available wherever pen refills are sold. The only downside is the cost of each cartridge. Rite in the Rain® and Fisher Space Pen® PR cartridges run around $7.00, considerably more than standard pen refills. To change ink cartridges you simply unscrew the body tip.

The Impromptu has one of the best “clicker” mechanisms of any pen on the market. It’s robust and operates smoothly. There were reports of some issues with the clicker when the Impromptu first came out, but these have been addressed by Gerber. Current production Impromptu pens feature a redesigned, beefier mechanism. Accidental deployment in the pocket isn’t an issue, as you have to depress the push-button all the way down before it clicks.

The integrated glass-breaker tip is designed to shatter tempered car windows in an emergency. It also enhances the defensive capabilities of the pen. It doesn’t interfere with writing when the pen is held normally. The glass breaker is short and off-centered, requiring that you hit a bit on the side of the pen tip when breaking glass. Although it’s not carbide, the tempered-steel glass breaker does the job.

Although I haven’t tested the glass breaker, Gerber has a video of Tim Kennedy, a Ranger-qualified US Army Special Forces NCO and professional mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter, breaking a car window using it.

The Impromptu has an overall length of 5.59 inches (14.2 cm) and weighs 2.4 ounces (68.04 g) with ball-point pen cartridge. It’s 0.5-inch (1.27 cm) in diameter. It can easily fit in a pocket like a standard pen.

It’s a hefty pen, but well balanced and comfortable when writing. he machined grooves on the body not only look stylish but also ensure a positive grip. The workmanship is first rate.

Special Forces operator and Army Ranger Tim Kennedy using Impromptu Tactical Pen to shatter tempered glass automobile window. Photo courtesy Gerber.

Some may find it to be a bit on the heavy side for front shirt pocket carry. Also, the integrated glass breaker has a fairly acute point that could poke and potentially damage clothes. That being said, I haven’t had any issues.

The Impromptu is available in your choice of black, grey or flat dark earth (FDE) Cerakote finish. It’s made in the USA and comes with Gerber’s Limited Lifetime Warranty. MSRP is $73.00.

Gerber Impromptu Tactical Pen

Manufacturer: Gerber
Model: Impromptu Tactical Pen
Designer: Gerber
Mechanism: Push-button ball-point pen
Overall Length: 5.59 in. (14,2.cm)
Diameter: 0.5 in. (1.27 cm)
Weight: 2.4 oz. (68.04 g) w/ pen cartridge
Body: Machined stainless steel with Cerakote finish
Pocket Clip: Stainless steel, black oxide finish
Special Features: Integrated tempered steel glass-breaker tip
Refill: All-weather Rite-in-the-Rain or Fisher Space Pen PR ball-point pen cartridge
Type/Use: Tactical / EDC
Country of Origin: USA
Warranty: Limited Lifetime
MSRP: $73.00

Material Disclosure

I received this product as a courtesy from the manufacturer so I could test it and give my honest feedback. I am not bound by any written, verbal or implied contract to give this product a good review. All opinions are my own and are based off my personal experience with the product.

*The views and opinions expressed on this website are solely those of the original authors and contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of Spotter Up Magazine, the administrative staff, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

By Eugene Nielsen

Eugene Nielsen provides intelligence and security consulting services. He has a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of California. His byline has appeared in numerous national and international journals and magazines.

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