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Tactical Pen and Airport Security: Is it Legal?

May 13, 2019 5 min read 26 Comments

Tactical Pen and Airport Security: Is it Legal?


What is a Tactical Pen?

If you don’t know yet what is a tactical pen (also called self-defense pen), think of it as a pen that can hit really hard without hurting yourself and without breaking the pen. They are normally made of thick aluminum with a hardened hitting end. Of course, depending on the brand and model, you can find a lot of variations.

Example: SWAT Tactical Pen – By The Atomic Bear

The most effective self-defense pens can break glass and hurt a predator badly. They will have a tungsten carbide tip and a flat end allowing you to hold it in a reverse grip.

tactical pen in airport tsa legal
Holding a self-defense pen in reverse grip for maximum impact.

So basically a tactical pen not only writes well but also is an effective self defence tool to carry with you. You can learn more about tactical pens here.

 Is a Tactical Pen Legal to Carry in the USA?

Although laws can change, it is legal to carry your tactical pen in the streets in most States. However, if your pen has a concealed blade, it may well be illegal in your State. A tactical pen with a clip can attach to your belt, your pant’s pockets or your shirt’s pocket with style. Ideally, you want to make it easy to draw in case of danger. However, there are some institutions that might prevent you from carrying your tactical pen in their building even though it is not illegal per se

Can My Tactical Pen Pass Through TSA Security and Can I Bring My Pen on An Airplane?

tactical pen self defense tsa airport legal 
TSA agents scrutinizing travellers while they go through security at the airport.
This is a tricky question. At the moment, it is mostly the business of the security agent to decide. If your self-defense pen looks just like a normal pen, it is unlikely that it will attract security attention. After all, any pen is a potential weapon. Right? Since a tactical pen is quite a bit more effective that any normal pen, it might get more attention than desired. Here is an advice that worked for many people I know. Keep your pen with other pens in your handbag when you pass security at the airport. The thing is, there is not guarantee that you will go through security unnoticed or without problem. But I have not heard of any real problem. Normally, a zealous TSA agent will simply ask you to leave your pen on that side of the security zone. But among all the self-defense objects to carry on an airplane, a tactical pen is the most likely to be let through.

The TSA Specifically Forbids Tactical Pens

The TSA can confiscate any weapon and since a tactical pen might look like one… You can read stories about all sort of weapons and tactical pens being confiscated here. I am not recommending that you do carry it with you on the plane. If you do, know that there is a chance it will be taken away by security. Airport security can sometimes be really strict. Rightly so!
So to the question: Can I carry my tactical pen on a plane? The answer is no. But you can try and your chances of success are quite high – especially if your pen looks like a normal pen. Never try with a tactical pen with knife. This is a no!  You can read hundreds of stories on the EDC forums.


TSA Guidelines:

TSA Prohibited Items List:

TSA Enforcement Sanction Guidance:

The REBEL Tactical Pen Have Better Chances to Pass than Most Other Tac-Pens

While the TSA will confiscate any object they consider can be dangerous, they still need to find them. So far regular pens are not forbidden. But what a regular pen looks like under the X-Ray of a security machine? This is where we got to design this new version we called the REBEL. It comes from a place where being a rebel to the extra security limitations can actually make anyone of us a hero. You can read Brian’s story for instance.

Under X-Ray, the REBEL tactical pen just looks like a regular high end pen with the writing tip open. However, the writing tip can be exposed by unscrewing the cap. There is no effort to conceal the hard tungstene carbide glass-breaking tip, which could be considered illegal.

Atomic Bear REBEL pen



Can You Carry Your Tactical Pen in Your Check-In Luggage at The Airport?

The answer to this question is yes. You can even carry a knife this way. This might allow you to bring a legal and non-lethal weapon to the country you are visiting. Some countries are making illegal to carry most type of useful knives. It often depends on the specs like the length of the blade or the total length of the knife.

Now a Related Question: Can I carry my pen to school?

A self-defense pen is not a lethal weapon. So, it is a matter of judgment. If you make a big deal out of it, then who would be surprised if your teacher adds your dear utensil to his/her personal collection. However, if you use it as a legitimate pen, who could tell that you could protect yourself with it? Obviously, everybody is responsible for their action and using a weapon, even if non-lethal, must be taken seriously. More officially, the attention is not on tactical pen in school. You can find out more about what authorities think about the subject here. Certain tactical pen do look like less aggressive, like the REBEL from The Atomic Bear, and are more recommended for school or office-type work environment.

Bottom Line

With a tactical pen, your experience will vary with pens and airport security. They are illegal to carry on airplanes and into other secure environments. However, as long as your tactical pen looks like a pen, you might be ok.
The authorities at a security check-point can legally decide to confiscate your non-lethal weapon simply because it is too effective in their eyes. However, if your tactical pen looks like a pen an does not attract attention, it is very likely that you will be able to go ANYWHERE with it. Bear in mind that the unfair advantage of your tactical pen may represent a potential threat in the eyes of the authorities. Wether you want to bring your pen in your carry-on or handbag on an airplane or at the airport or in school, you need to understand the risks of having it taken awaThe Atomic Bear and its SWAT Pen

The SWAT pen is a sturdy yet light and portable tactical pen. It has a tungsten carbide head, known as one of the most resistant metal. This head will break through car glass, windows, etc. The pen writes as well as a Cross or any high end pen because it uses the same refillable ink cartridges. You close the pen function with a cap, leaving the strong head exposed and ready to be used. In this ‘pen closed’ position, it looks like a regular pen left open. Yet, it is a powerful self-defense tool.


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I typically put my atomic bear in my back pack (carry on) with my mechanical pencil, fine tip marker and high lighter. My back pack has slots for 4 writing devices and I just put it in there. I carry the Rebel because it doesn’t look like a tactical pen. I’ve carried it all over the world and it’s an excellent writing intrument to boot. I never carry it in my pocket or put it in the tray when going through security but just leave it with the other writing instruments then put it in my shirt or jacket pocket before I board…just incase I need to jot something down on the flight.

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