Today I’m taking a look at the Gerber Impromptu Tactical Pen. It’s a little bit different than the model we looked at from Zero Tolerance. We’ll certainly take a closer look at those differences, but for now the functions are pretty much the same. It’s still a defensive tool and emergency egress tool that should look pretty attractive to law enforcement and first responders.
Starting with the basic building materials, you’ll notice that the Gerber Impromptu Tactical Pen is made from machined steel rather than aluminum or titanium like we saw with Zero Tolerance. It’s also a clickable pen rather than one where you have to remove the cap to expose the writing end.
The physical design and black color deliver a look to the Impromptu that means business. The aggressive texturing and weight of the pen give an impression that this was something issued by a law enforcement or military agency rather than purchased by a civilian.
The steel clip shows the first trade-off. By slipping onto the shaft, it can easily be unscrewed and bent back if you catch it on something. At the same time, other models screw more solidly into the shaft from the side to make a more stout connection. Full disclosure – I’ve bent both types. Frequently.
The Business of Writing
Like my other tactical pens, this comes with a Rite-in-the-Rain cartridge so I’m able to write in a variety of weather conditions including those that aren’t very nice. Personally, I also keep it waterproof notebook in my backpack so if I need to write or leave a note somewhere, it can happen regardless of the rain or snow.
Clickable or Removable Cap?
I’m a big fan of the clickable design of this pen. It means I can pull it out of my pants pocket or sleeve pocket on my jacket and get writing with one hand. It’s the clickable design that also changes the game in a couple of ways compared to the other tactical pens in my arsenal.
With the pen cap style, one end of the pen features your glass breaker and the other is your pen writing tip. On the Gerber Impromptu Tactical Pen, the glass breaker is permanently exposed just above the writing tip. There’s a positive and a negative to this design and in my opinion, it’s a trade-off worth making in most cases.
So here’s what you need to consider. Having an exposed glass breaker at the writing tip means you never have to guess whether or not you are ready to defend yourself. With the pen cap style, you’ve often covered your defensive tool while you’re writing. The Gerber Impromptu was designed in partnership with law enforcement and we see it here – even if you’re on scene taking notes (both hands occupied), you still have a defensive tool in your hand giving you the ability to react very quickly.
The only real downside to this design is when it comes to travel. Because the glass breaker is slightly offset from the writing tip, it’s a little more obvious that this isn’t a typical pen. I have traveled almost everywhere, including overseas, with my Zero Tolerance tactical pen and have only had one airport agent in Germany look twice at it. However, he immediately sent it through once he saw it was a pen. With travel restrictions getting tighter, it is conceivable that a TSA agent might consider this pen a weapon and not allow it on the flight.
The way I deal with this is to hide the pen in plain sight. Since I’m technically a journalist by trade, I always have a computer, notebooks, and pens with me. Rather than carrying just a tactical pen, I carry several so that it looks like just a nice metal pen in a group of other writing instruments that I carry.
The Pen is Mightier than the Sword
As far as function goes, the Gerber Impromptu is pretty tough to beat. Like I said before, the clickable design is definitely to my preference. The machined steel gives the pen a nice weight to it so that it feels rigid and solid but without being too heavy. The Rite-in-the-Rain cartridge is at the business end for writing and it is a very smooth experience.
If you hold the pen in a way where the glass breaker tip is directly below your cartridge tip, it can get in the way. Simply turning the pen 90 degrees will move it and you’ll be good to go. If you’re used to a cushion grip, this design may take some getting used to since your fingers are wrapping around steel. It’s great for note taking, but I’d stop short of trying to write a novel with it.
I should address what seems to be a common complaint with the clicker failing on this model. I’ve been using the Impromtu for several months now and haven’t had any major issues. Occassionally, the cartridge tip will get stuck out, but one more click returns it. So far, I haven’t been able to recreate the complaint.
The Bottom Line
The Gerber Impromptu Tactical Pen has the look, feel, and function of a defensive tool and quality writing instrument wrapped into one design. The downside of potentially getting an extra look from a TSA agent when flying is easily overcome by the positive writing qualities and immediate defensive characteristics of this pen. It’s also a Made in the USA product covered by a lifetime warranty.
So while those of you that are a little antsy when it comes to airport security may want to opt for a different model for flying, the Gerber Impromptu Tactical Pen is a very easy recommendation for me to make for everyone from law enforcement and first responders to everyday users.
Gerber Impromptu Tactical Pen Specifications
- Model: Gerber 31-001880
- Country of Origin: USA
- Style: Clickable
- Cartridge: Rite-in-the-Rain
- Material: Steel
- Length: 5.59 inches
- Weight: 2.4 ounces
- Warranty: Lifetime
- MSRP: $72