Tactical Writing: The Best Bolt Action Pens for EDC in 2024

Avatar photo Avatar photo

As the saying goes: “The pen is mightier than the sword.” And although that doesn’t apply literally, most pens people carry are still cheap, plastic, and disposable implements that just won’t cut it for a modern carry.

In this guide, we take stock of the bold bolt-action EDC pens from our favorite manufacturers. They’re made of hardier, EDC-worthy materials like titanium and solid brass for durability, while their bolt-action mechanism allows durability, ease of use, and fun fidget functionality. Their fit and finish rival some of the best pocket knives and flashlights; some are even made by the companies that make the rest of our gear.

Don’t let your pen be the weakest link in your everyday carry—carry mighty with our picks below.


Our Top Picks for Bolt Action Pens

The Best Overall Bolt Action Pen: Tactile Turn [Buy] / [Full Review]

The Most Premium Bolt Action Pen: The Ridge 24 Karat Gold [Buy]

The Best Bolt Action Pen on a Budget: Flytanium Mini [Buy]

The Most Compact Bolt Action Pen: MecArmy TPX8 Mini [Buy]

The Toughest Bolt Action Pen: Nitecore NTP31 Tactical [Buy]


Tactile Turn
The Ridge 24 Karat Gold
Flytanium Mini
MecArmy TPX8 Mini
Nitecore NTP31 Tactical





$$
$$
$
$
$
Length: Multiple
Length5.30″
Length: 3.25″
Length: 3.07″
Length5.20″
Materials: Multiple
Materials24 karat gold
Materials: Titanium
MaterialsMultiple
Materials: Aluminium
Key Features: Seasonal releases
Key Features: CNC-lathed knurling
Key Features: Super lightweight
Key Features: Titanium D-ring
Key Features: Stainless steel clip
Buy Now
Buy Now
Buy Now
Buy Now

Tactile

The Best Overall Bolt Action Pen: Tactile Turn

Purchase
Key Features
3 sizes
4 materials
Seasonal releases
Specifications
Length
Multiple
Refill
Multiple
Materials
Multiple
EDC Rating


Just released
Price
$$
Our top pick for the best overall Bolt Action Pen for EDC and most people comes from Tactile Turn. While they didn’t invent the bolt action mechanism itself, they’ve set the bar in my opinion for quality, machined pens in the EDC scene. As soon as I unboxed this pen it was easy to see its impeccable fit and finish. In the hand, you can feel the precision of craftsmanship here: there’s no hint of rattle, everything has tight tolerances, and the finish is precise with no rough edges.
The level of detail is particularly evident in the ribbing on the body: uniform and tactile (hence the name), but not sharp or jagged. Even the channel and the bolt stud itself are chamfered and well-finished, with a nice radial brushed effect.
While Tactile Turn offers this pen in multiple lengths and materials, I opted for the classic full-length size in titanium. It lends to a nice heft and balance while writing, but stays lightweight enough for everyday carry in my pocket or bag. Proportionally, it’s just right in terms of thickness: the barrel diameter feels neither chunky like a marker, nor too skinny for me to grip. Something about the way the tip section curves, culminating in a gentle conical taper, makes the pen ergonomically comfortable.
However, because it’s entirely machined, the grip section can feel a bit rigid due to the absence of any soft material, which might pose an issue for prolonged writing. On the bright side, the heft of titanium helps balance the pen without fatigue and adds a bit more force, just by the pen’s weight, aiding the writing process.
These pens are popular because they seem to excel in all aspects, from design to fit and finish to functionality to performance. As for the bolt mechanism, it has a satisfyingly fidgety click action, although it’s not the smoothest and feels a tiny bit gritty on activation. Yet, compared to other lower price point pens that can feel rattly, this one feels solid.
The

The Most Premium Bolt Action Pen: The Ridge 24 Karat Gold

Purchase
Key Features
Manganese spring steel clip
CNC-lathed knurling
Compact size
Specifications
Length
5.30″
Refill
SCHMIDT easy FLOW 9000
Materials
24 karat gold
EDC Rating


Price
$$
We picked the Ridge Bolt Action Pen in 24K Gold as our most premium pick on the material alone – it’s finished with a PVD plating of actual 24 karat gold, giving it an accessibly luxurious feel without sacrificing actual durability or performance.
The gold used here doesn’t make the pen heavy or fragile like solid gold in the traditional sense thanks to the clever PVD (physical vapor deposition) application. Basically, the exterior surface of the aluminum base pen has had gold particles vaporized into ions, then applied in a vacuum to adhere to the outer surface for a strong, durable bond and unique golden sheen. So at a psychological level, I just find it cool to think my pen is blinged out in a nerdy overengineered way.
In terms of usage, the bolt action is in a normal J-shape, meaning you have to push it down first and then push it up. Disengaging is just like flicking it away from you, which might be a bit more friendly to left-handers.
The proportions of the Ridge 24 Karat Gold Pen are in between a full-size pen and a pocket pen. It feels a bit long for a pocket pen and the grip section, which doesn’t taper gradually into the cone tip section, feels a bit chunky. However, it’s balanced and comfortable to write with.
It comes with a SCHMIDT easy FLOW refill, so I found writing with it smooth and satisfying. It’s a much better writing experience than older versions of the pen that used pressurized ink cartridges, but the tradeoff is you lose that write-anywhere, all-conditions performance.
The pocket clip isn’t the most robust looking or feeling, but it gets the job done. The button on the bolt action protrudes a little but isn’t uncomfortable to use. One last downside is a bit of rattle when the bolt is not engaged, which isn’t ideal, but in normal use it doesn’t bother me.
Overall, the Ridge Bolt Action pen is a great option for those looking for a less tactical and more stylish bolt action pen, especially if you’re already bought into the Ridge ecosystem of EDC gear in cool colorways.
Flytanium

The Best Bolt Action Pen on a Budget: Flytanium Mini

Purchase
Key Features
Super lightweight
Includes a key ring
Two extra ink refills included
Specifications
Length
3.25″
Refill
Mini D-1
Materials
Titanium
EDC Rating


Just released
Price
$
Bolt action pens, in general, can be pretty pricey. So our pick for a budget bolt action pen not only lets you experience how a bolt action mechanism works for cheap, but it also happens to be an extremely portable pen option. The Flytanium Mini is a fascinatingly compact bolt-action pen that feels like holding a bare ink refill encased in a titanium shell. Because of its incredibly lightweight and portable design, it’s perfect for those who rarely use a pen but need a convenient option for brief note-taking or quick signatures. The pen comes with a keychain attachment, complementing its best use as a readily accessible writing tool.
There are some clear tradeoffs when opting for a small, budget bolt action pen evident on the Flytanium Mini. Despite it using a bolt action mechanism, deploying the pen tends to feel slightly scratchy due to the miniaturization of its components. The bolt stud has a bit of play to it, which doesn’t inspire the most confidence if you’re rough on your gear. Moreover, its finish, while decent, isn’t anything to write home about (no pun intended). With no real grip section and a thin, short build, it doesn’t feel as comfortable or as easy to use as other pens I tried. I’m not sure which exact refill the pen uses, but it doesn’t last very long because of its size, and its performance is just your average ballpoint affair.
The Flytanium Mini offers an ultra-portable writing solution for individuals comfortable with the trade-offs associated with this level of affordability. It’s a budget-friendly way to get a feel for a bolt-action pen, particularly well-suited to those seeking a compact one. While its efficiency as a compact pen could be debatable, it effectively fulfills its intended purpose.
MecArmy

The Most Compact Bolt Action Pen: MecArmy TPX8 Mini

Purchase
Key Features
Deliberate L-type bolt action
3 materials
Titanium D-ring
Specifications
Length
3.07″
Refill
LAMY M22
Materials
Multiple
EDC Rating


Price
$
While you can technically use the aforementioned Flytanium Mini as the most compact bolt action pen in terms of sheer dimensions, it doesn’t give the full bolt action pen experience like the MecArmy TPX8 Mini does. It’s the shortest pen on this list yet it still has the proportions of a regular, full-sized pen. Unlike the Flytanium Mini which feels like a pen refill wrapped in a titanium casing, the MecArmy pen gives the impression of holding an actual pen, albeit a significantly shortened one.
This pen has a robust feel in hand with minimal rattle, except for a free rotating element at the end that may cause a slight noise. The bolt mechanism itself is quite solid and features a squared reverse J shape. The pen’s titanium finish is pretty decent for its size and price, with features such as slots for tritium inserts and a unique futuristic design.
Interestingly, the barrel of the MecArmy pen has some ribbed texture, but it’s not where one would typically hold the pen while writing. Instead, you’d likely hold it closer to the grip section which lacks texture. Considering its compact size, it would be beneficial to have this grip texture closer to the writing tip for more control.
The included refill is a Lamy M22 which, while not the smoothest flowing ink, doesn’t require much effort to start writing.
Despite these issues, the MecArmy pen, given its fuller proportions and barrel thickness, is still compact and robust enough for keychain carry, making it arguably a better buy than the Flytanium Mini. However, the Flytanium Mini is a more budget-friendly option, priced at a third of the MecArmy pen. For those seeking a high-quality bolt action experience in the most compact package, the MecArmy TPX8 Mini is worth a look.
Nitecore

The Toughest Bolt Action Pen: Nitecore NTP31 Tactical

Purchase
Key Features
Minimal but tactical
Tungsten glass breaker
Stainless steel clip
Specifications
Length
5.20″
Refill
Schneider gel ink
Materials
Aluminium
EDC Rating


Price
$
Our pick for the toughest pen has more of a tactical design to better stand up to extreme, mission-critical situations. The Nitecore NTP31 Tactical bolt action pen features a hard-anodized, 6061 aluminum alloy construction that you’d find on their tactical flashlights designed with military and tactical use in mind. In terms of materials featured in this pen, I’m confident in its durability. The aluminum build also makes it lightweight yet sturdy, but it doesn’t provide the best grip during writing compared to others on this list.
One of the highlights of the Nitecore pen is its ink refill, which offers a bold, inky, and smooth experience that I thoroughly enjoy. This Schneider gel ink refill surprised me with how smooth it was – almost like a fountain pen, if you can believe it.
Despite its impressive writing performance, I would say the standout feature of this pen for this purpose is actually the emergency glass breaker tip made of tungsten. Like the ink refill, it also deploys via the bolt action mechanism. The unique S-shaped bolt action mechanism lets you deploy either the pen or the tungsten tip, but not both simultaneously. It makes both the pen and the glass breaker extremely strong under high pressure.
My one complaint about this pen in testing is that its pocket clip looks and feels somewhat flimsy, and not as robust as the rest of the pen would let on.
Nitecore is renowned for its flashlight designs, and this pen embodies a similar design language in terms of body design, materials, and finish.
BigIDesign

BigIDesign Mini Bolt Action Pen

Purchase
Key Features
Super compact
Free additional titanium Damascus bolt
Deep carry pocket clip
Specifications
Length
3.50″
Refill
D1
Materials
Multiple
EDC Rating


Price
$
Another crowd favorite brand you should consider is BigIDesign. Their Mini Bolt Action Pen rivals the fit and finish of our top pick, while offering a compact footprint that’s easy to carry and a pleasure to hold. This well-machined pen features a bolt action channel in a shortened, reverse J-shape. It’s just long enough to balance well in my hand when holding the grip section correctly, but I have relatively small hands. If you’ve got some monster paws on you, this Mini pen might be difficult to use.
My favorite thing about this pen is the bolt action’s… well, action. It has this ever so slight resistance when engaging the bolt, with absolutely no play whatsoever. It makes the pen feel super robust and more massive than it actually is, like a real heavy duty piece of machinery. I think it elevates the experience of using the pen. That is, until you actually write with it.
The ink refill isn’t the smoothest out there, but it gets the job done without any scratching to initiate. The pocket clip is attractively designed and sits pretty deep in your pocket, which I like. The bolt’s finishing is commendable, and overall, it’s a good buy for about half the price of our top pick.
Olight

Olight Open Mini Bolt Action Pen

Purchase
Key Features
Machined hollow rifling grooves
Copper tail cap
Stainless steel-tipped refill
Specifications
Length
3.66″
Refill
Olight RF-OL182X BK
Materials
Aluminum
EDC Rating


Price
$
The Olight Open Mini is tiny at just 3.66” in length. But don’t let its small size make you think it’s not worth EDCing. It features a durable aluminum alloy body that’s tough and wear-resistant, and it has a smooth customized refill with a stainless steel tip that makes writing a joy. While its small size limits how long you want to use this pen, it also ensures you’ll always have it on hand because it’s manageable for your pocket EDC. It’s also an excellent option to keep on hand as a backup if you prefer a standard-sized pen most of the time. You can even attach it to your keychain along with your other gadgets.
Chaves

Chaves Ultramar Bolt Action Solid Pen

Purchase
Key Features
Stonewashed titanium body
Minimal machined knurling
Chaves Skull pocket clip
Specifications
Length
4.82″
Refill
SCHMIDT easy FLOW 9000
Materials
Titanium
EDC Rating


Just released
Price
$$
If you like a pen with a bit more heft, check out the Chaves Ultramar Bolt Action pen. Made entirely of titanium, this pen has clever design elements that make it hard to pass on, like the minimal knurling on the bottom, making it easier to hold while writing. However, the coolest design element is the tip-down pocket clip, which closely resembles a skull you might not even notice at first glance. That’s just sick. The pen is roughly 4.8” long and weighs almost 2 ounces, so you won’t have to worry about accidentally sitting on it and getting ink all over your pants. It accepts SCHMIDT easy FLOW 9000M ink cartridges, which are easy to find.
CIVIVI

CIVIVI C-Quill Bolt-Action Defense Pen

Purchase
Key Features
Glass breaker tip
Spring steel pocket clip
Lightweight
Specifications
Length
5.00″
Refill
SCHMIDT P900
Materials
Aluminum
EDC Rating


Price
$
The CIVIVI C-Quill Bolt Action Defense Pen immediately stands out due to its unique design identity. It has an aggressively tapering barrel section in the grip that leads to a cone-shaped writing tip, extending from a rectangular rear section on the pen. The result is this really cool looking, aggressively angular geometric design.
The bolt mechanism is large and in a reverse J form, featuring an almost knurled thumb stud type of bolt button. While there is slight play in it, the button doesn’t rattle and is smooth to engage. However, deploying the bolt doesn’t feel as clicky or fidgety, but it’s silky smooth. Personally, I prefer a bit more resistance in the bolt action mechanism, as the action on the CIVIVI here can feel slippery at times.
One more feature to mention is the glass breaker tip at the back, which is smooth and surrounded by more knurling. This adds to the visual and tactile interest of the pen. It’s safe to keep in your pocket as it’s not pointy, so you don’t have to worry about accidentally hurting your hand or damaging anything in your bag.
The included ink refill works fine – it doesnt’ feel scratchy or need scribbling to get the ink flowing, but it isn’t particularly smooth or deeply inky in any way.
CIVIVI throws their hat in the ring here relying on their unique, visually interesting yet utilitarian design language that I enjoy in their other products, like my Elementum knife. If you’re a fan of CIVIVI’s other EDC gear, the C-Quill is an easy recommendation to round out your carry.
Ti2

Ti2 Design BoltLiner Bolt Action Pen

Purchase
Key Features
Drafting style tip
3 sizes
Multiple colors
Specifications
Length
Multiple
Refill
Multiple
Materials
Titanium
EDC Rating


Just released
Price
$$
The Ti2 Design BoltLiner pen is one of the more unique options on this list. It’s made entirely of titanium, comes in three sizes (regular, short, or super short), and has unique non-slip knurling that helps set it apart. Besides the knurling pattern, it’s also perfect for technical drawings rather than its drafting style tip, allowing you to press the tip against tools like rules and stencils. Depending on your chosen size, it will accept Pilot G2, Unibene 0.7mm, or Pilot G2 Mini refills. The pen weighs only 0.7 ounces, making it one of the lightest pens on this list. The cherry on top is that it comes in a few different color options, including seawater, aqua regia, and chlorine. The bolt action is unique and does not take the L-shape of so many others. Instead, the company took inspiration from Hawaiin fishhooks, adding a natural curve to the otherwise rigid pen.
REFYNE

REFYNE EP1 Bolt Action Pen

Purchase
Key Features
6 materials
Customizable for refills
Lifetime warranty
Specifications
Length
4.53″
Refill
SCHMIDT easy FLOW 9000
Materials
Titanium
EDC Rating


Price
$
The Refyne EP1 is another option for anyone that appreciates more of a minimalist, modern aesthetic when it comes to writing utensils. It’s 4.5” long and accepts most Parker-style G2 refills, though it comes with a black SCHMIDT easy FLOW 9000M ink cartridge right out of the box. The option highlighted here is the titanium model, the lightest offering machined out of a single block. If polished or stonewashed titanium isn’t your thing, you can also get it in copper, solid brass, and black stainless steel PVD.
RovyVon

RovyVon Commander C10 Bolt Tactical Pen

Purchase
Key Features
Deep machined grooves for excellent grip
Ceramic ball glass breaker
Titanium pocket clip
Specifications
Length
4.90″
Refill
SCHMIDT P900
Materials
Titanium
EDC Rating


Price
$$
RovyVon is a brand known for its innovative and high-quality flashlights, so we expect the same when they turn their attention to other EDC gear. The Commander C10 Titanium Bolt Tactical Pen features a titanium body and clip for durability and lightness. Machined grooves in the grip section and body of the pen provide a secure and ergonomic grip, while an integrated ceramic ball glass breaker on one end lets you pocket carry an option for emergencies. The RovyVon Commander C10 uses SCHMIDT P900 ballpoint refills and comes with the RX10 waterproof EDC organizer box.

How to Choose a Great Bolt Action Pen

Weight

When you’re looking for a bolt action pen, weight is one of the most important factors you should pay attention to. Most (if not all) bolt action pens are made of metal, which, while durable, also means that your pen can be heavy. If you’re going to be writing a lot and not just signing the occasional check at your favorite restaurant, going with a lightweight pen will be easier on your hand.

Use-case

The obvious use case for a pen is writing. Whether that means taking notes, signing checks, or drawing, a good pen can make every occasion more enjoyable. Besides writing, some of the pens on this list also have extremely hard tips, which allow them to double as emergency glass breakers. Hopefully a use-case you’ll never have to use, but still good to have just in case.

Writing ability

A pen’s writing ability often boils down to its refill and how it’s utilized in the pen itself, like the drafting style of our Ti2 Design pick above. Be sure to find one that best suits your handedness and preference for an ideal and comfortable writing experience.

Style

On top of all these things, you might also want to consider the style of the pen. Does the pen match nicely with the rest of the gear in your EDC, or would you prefer it to stand out? Do you prefer titanium or copper? Are you okay with a tactical aesthetic, or prefer minimal designs? These are all things to keep in mind when looking for a pen.


Best Bolt Action Pen FAQs

What pens do Navy SEALs use?

Due to the demanding nature of the job, many Navy SEALs are likely to opt for tactical all-metal pens. Besides useful features like emergency glass breakers, rugged metal pens can handle more intense situations without breaking.

Are bolt action pens better?

Bolt action pens can be better in certain situations, depending on what you’re after. For example, they are easier to deploy with one hand and have better build quality than your average pens that come ten to a pack.

What is the point of a bolt action pen?

Due to the quality construction, a good bolt action pen can last a lifetime with the right pen refills. Many of these companies also stand behind their products and offer lifetime warranties should anything go wrong. They’re durable and consistent; some can even be useful in emergencies. But the truth is much simpler: they make fantastic fidget toys.

Are tactical pens good for self-defense?

While none of the items on this list are specifically made to be used as weapons, a solid metal pen can be useful for self-defense in an emergency.


How We Picked

Decades of experience and deep connections in the everyday carry industry give us a unique viewpoint on the market to inform our product recommendations. We have the depth of information for thousands of products that have come before and an extensive eye on the market to see what’s new and trending for each piece of gear. The result is a buying guide that we feel is informative and useful for EDCers of every trade, industry, and budget.

What is Everyday Carry?

Everyday Carry is both the concept of what people carry in their pockets and the process of picking out gear that thoughtfully considers what one wants or needs in their daily life. It encompasses everything from style to preparedness to utility, meaning an entire industry full of valuable tools and essentials to choose from.

Why You Should Trust Us

Our team has decades of combined experience in all aspects of everyday men’s essentials, from wallets to pens to bags and everything in between, and we know where to find great gear ideas that you may not come across at your local stores or when shopping online. Our expertise in the industry and familiarity with design, materials, and usability help you make more informed choices when it comes to picking up your next piece of gear.

Previous Post

The Drop: Q Timex Three Time Zone Chronograph

Next Post

Eiger Tools Card Calipers Hobbyist’s Tool

Related Posts