Two years ago today, Bryan from ITS Tactical wrote an excellent article on the Parker Jotter, his $10 tactical pen. Read it–he goes in depth on why you don’t need to buy the hype or drop a Benjamin for a quality writing utensil that can also be used as a last-ditch weapon. About two weeks ago, I went on my own quest to find a quality steel pen with attributes similar to the Jotter. I have used Pilot G2s exclusively for almost 7 years, and while I love how they write and their inexpensive refills, the plastic barrel and rubber grip seemed cheap. And since I’ve started wearing suits more than a uniform–I know, sellout–they don’t scream class, either.
You can find the Jotter for about $10 or $11 online, but several sites also charge shipping. I didn’t want a Jotter badly enough to pay up to $5 to have it shipped. So I shopped locally, and the only store I found the Jotter was Office Depot, which had them in stock for $11. Not a bad price, but this is Thrift Store Tactical, remember. I’m a cheap bastard. So I had a Jotter in hand and was still perusing the plethora of pens, when a Zebra F-701 caught my eye. My traffic FTO always used a Zebra F-301 to take notes or write citations, but it’s plasticy-knurled end didn’t catch my eye. But the F-701, in all stainless with a knurled grip, screamed tacticool ruggedness. And it was only $8. (You can get them on Amazon for $5.18, with free shipping on orders over $25.)
That was all my thrifty peepers needed to see. With a stainless steel barrel and the option to refill with inexpensive Zebra F-series refills, the F-701 seemed to be what I was looking for. Once I got it out of its package, I noticed the pen has an excellent feel to it. It has enough weight to feel substantial but not heavy, with the weight centered toward the tip. The pen feels balanced, not top heavy. The knurling on the grip reminds me of mini-Maglite tubes, with enough grip to provide purchase but not pain.
The tip clicks out smoothly and glides over paper while writing. My only complaint is that the .7mm tip seems to write thinner than my .7mm G2’s gel ink. But that’s probably due to the gel ink spreading out more. I’ve gotten used to the thinner line, but I might try a larger-tipped refill when this one finally bites the dust.
Sleek and solid, the F-701 seems at home in the pocket of my dress shirt or uniform shirt, and it’s all-metal barrel would provide an adequate last-ditch weapon if needed. For an $8 tactical pen that will do more pen-ing than tactical-ing, the F-701 gets my vote. I will probably still pick up a Jotter in the future, but this stainless Zebra fills my needs very well.