Zebra F-701: The $5 Tactical Pen

At lunch recently, my friend and fellow blogger Mike Mollenhour showed me a Zebra F-701 pen he purchased at Wal-Mart for $5. He was impressed at the build quality of this cheap pen. The cheap pen had fairly thick stainless steel barrel with a knurled grip, much like the expensive “tactical” pens that cost a lot more.

I purchased one off ebay (they are sold everywhere from Amazon to Walmart). It writes nicely and I love the feel of the knurled steel grip. This pen could definitely be used as a “tactical” Kubotan style martial arts weapon in a tight spot.

If you search Google, you will find plenty of mods to make this pen even more “tactical” by replacing the plastic components with metal parts from another cheap pen and installing a Fisher pressurize ink cartridge.

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • 404papa

    You can do this mod http://bit.ly/ojvZpM and make it a tactical space pen!

  • 543

    Thanks Steve for bringing this to light. I’m going to pick up at-least one tomorrow at my local Wall Mart Supercenter to tinker with. If anyone has useful mods for this pen by all means post them!

  • Woodroez

    (Might want to correct the model name for the pen, it’s the F-701)

    What a coincidence; I had started looking for a good, practical pen to have at my side at all times earlier this week. I like the look of all steel or metal, preferring ballpoints and click-action for a pen to have with me and use any time of day.

    I hunted around for a good little while and was all set to get a couple of $18 dollar Lamy Logos…then I went to Wal-Mart and saw the Zebra.

    It really seems perfect. The pen seems robust, but still not overbuilt. The weight and balance is just right. The knurling is really functional, and the clip has the spring to be manipulated easily.

    Aside from getting Fisher cartridges to work, the F-701 needs no modifications. I definitely understand the appeal of wanting to make it all steel aesthetically, but it just won’t improve anything on a practical level.

    • micah

      I have to disagree about the stainless body not improving anything practically. I have carried the Zebra F301 pens for years and have broken several of them where the plastic grip mates with the stainless barrel of the pen. The solid metal tube will be a great improvement. I will definitely be looking for some of these!

      I have never felt the need to use a pen as a weapon (I have plenty of other things with me that would work much much better) but having a sturdy pen sometimes comes in handy.

      • Woodroez

        I think you misunderstand. I’m saying that replacing the plastic plunger assembly that’s in the F-701 with a steel one is probably not much of an improvement. The F-701 has, as Zebra’s marketing puts it, “steel from tip to clip”. The only visible plastic on that pen is the base of the plunger assembly around the button.

        Most of the assembly is encased in the barrel already; the only weak point is the button of the mechanism. It is plastic sheathed in metal, so I would guess lateral pressure could possibly break it. I suppose a fully steel plunger would have the support to prevent that altogether. If you use this pen to defend yourself, though, you probably aren’t going to use the clicky end.

        If I, in my high school days, had guessed that at some point I would be giving this much thought to the defensive application of ballpoints, I probably would have tried to send my life in a direction that didn’t involve this much spare time.

    • Steve (The Firearm Blog)

      Opps, thanks for the typo correction.

  • Lance

    Nice looking too much for a ball point pen though.

  • Dan

    The Zebra 701s and 402s are the best pens to carry around. They look (and write) better than any bic or whatever, though I’m still not sure what ballpoint pens have to do with firearms.

  • Foetus

    Sounds like you can sell anything to a gun owner just by attaching “tactical” to its name 😀

  • Mark

    This pen was recently reviewed at the Pen Addict blog and I commented that with it’s mostly metal contstruction, it would make a great and inexpensive tactical pen. I also commented that I don’t like (any) Zebra ball point refills – they right a little too fine and light for my tastes, so I was happy to see that Fisher Spacepen refills will work.

    As far as replacing the remaining plastic bits with metal bits from other other pens, that seems like an expensive extra step. If you HAVE to use a pen for defense in a tactical situation, things have gone pretty wrong and breaking a $6 pen by using it as a stabbing weapon or break glass is the least of your worries.

    • Dave

      It’s not the replacement cost that’s making people want a pen that doesn’t break easily. It’s that it would be nice to be able to thump someone with it more than once if you need to.

  • MarkM

    Old news on the geek forums, I built a all metal one last year. I may start taking it to work and use it, people comment about the cheap TUL’s looking “nice,” but they hated using the Zebra. It’s not likely to be taken.

    Uniform shirts with pen slots force the use of a traditional slim pen, these work, the refills are cheap, great ink that will not smear on plastic, and they are likely to stick with it, like the 501’s that have been out for a decade. Sure beats the pen of the month from Papermate or the off brand imports.

    Have you all seen the Executive Stainless Sharpy with refill?

  • Mr. Fahrenheit

    Damn you and your enabling blog, Steve. At least this time it was only a $6 pen from WalMart.

  • Gir

    i already feel nerdy compared to my friends…i fear modding a pen into a tactical space pen would most likely push me over the edge

  • mike

    I have this exact pen, for this exact purpose. It is a very sturdy pen, except for the plastic insert. I’m glad I came across this post so I can modify a few more to be all metal and maybe upgrade to a space pen refill. Great post! Thanks.

  • gerdal

    How many MIM parts does it have and where can I find forged replacement parts?

  • boxermachine

    I carry one of these- ebay item 280749125800
    nice weight, stainless braided and this guy sells for $5 shipped ! I had a friend jewel the name off but the plating was thin so be careful as it’s a copper color underneath the brushed nickel finish.

  • Josh

    I carry one of these exact pens while on duty. I love mine. Just as good as some of the much more expensive “tactical” pens out there.

  • justdavid

    I got a couple of these $12 Fishers at the local REI and love ’em to death:

    But I am going to have to give one of these Zebras a try.


  • Seamus

    I was not aware of the extensive pen subculture. I can respect having a good pen but adding the word tactical makes me think the person who posted this is also a fan of cargo pants and probably never really cared about getting girls.

  • Mc

    I put one of theses together recently too, using the F-402 clicker. The “click” of the F-402 is MUCH nicer, which should be the driving force for modifying as opposed to the comments on making the F-701 “all” metal. Throw in a space pen cartridge, get some copper tubing to sleeve in between the cartridge and the pen tube, and for <$20 total you have a hefty, comfortable, good-looking nondescript pen for everyday use!

  • alannon

    Like MC, I’ve modded mine with parts from an F-402. I swapped the clicker and tip, however, because I like the 402 tip better than the 701.

    Great pens, though. 🙂

  • neutron

    I am going to grit blast and duracote the one I buy tomorrow!


  • Adam

    The barrel of the pen is actually very thin metal if you look inside carefully the barrel is mostly plastic and the metal is just the covering giving the false illusion that the barrel is all stainless. Whoever made this blog is blind, using this pen as a self defense tool is basically just like using any other pens including bic 20c ones. Why limit yourself to zebra if you are just gonna cheap out?

  • Geelo

    The Zebra F-701 is a great pen. And can be used as a cheap tactical pen. I’ve looked inside of mine, and I do not see any plastic, it all solid metal inside and out side of the barrel. I also have tested the durability of mine, by hitting a piece of scrap wood at least 50 times. Still writes well, and would do well in regards to a self defense tool. Another Zebra pen that I own are the original F-301’s. This pen is cheaper in price, I got mine for $2 a piece. I have also tested these as well, and even though they are less heavy in regards to weight, than the F-701, these F-301’s would make a nice quick self defense tool.

  • derpy

    I probably abuse my pens more than anyone here (do you pick up red hot pieces of metal with your pen?)… Mine has also had an encounter with 200+ volts. I replaced the tip, but kept the knurled grip with its melted spots. I’ve had this pen for years, and I’m still using it.
    Anyways, the only steel parts of the pen is the barrel sleeve, clicker cap, pen clip, and 2 springs. The knurled part and screw-on tip are actually brass. Even if I didn’t fry and melt my pen, I would’ve still found out those parts were brass as the nickel(?) coating has worn off in places. The knurled grip is connected to the steel barrel sleeve by friction fit and the tip screws into plastic threads. The plastic barrel of mine has cracked in a few places where the tip screws in.
    Despite it not being all stainless steel, it is still an awesome pen. I have replaced many parts of this pen as they wore out or broke–the only original parts are the clip, plastic+steel barrel, and knurled grip. When the inner plastic barrel finally shatters, I’ll be buying another 🙂
    Also… the pen may look tough, but I do believe it’s possible to snap the pen in half (between barrel & grip) with bare hands, perhaps a thumb and 1 or 2 fingers from each hand.

  • John Michael Delos Reyes

    I have a lot of Zebra F-402 . Can I use It as tactical Pen. I need your suggestion Sir.