Gerber Impromptu Tactical Pen Review | The Atomic Bear
By: Jean-François Truchon 05/04/2020

You're not sure if the Gerber Impromptu Tactical Pen is worth the price tag? In this article, I will visit the key features of the Gerber Pen to help you decide if it is for you.

At The Atomic Bear, we design, make, and sell tactical pens. We've designed 4 tactical pens and sold over 100,000 of them in just the last three years. And we are geeks when it comes to EDC and tactical gear. We know what we are talking about ;-) So, let's dive right in and find out if the Gerber pen meets your needs.

Well, first off, what is a tactical pen? Well, it's a pen, first and foremost. It can get you out of a jam. Some are good for self-protection, escaping a car, or many more tasks. It does more than writing. Let's jump into our seven criteria analysis to find out if the Impromptu Pen is a match for you.

Quick Links to the 7 Criteria:

  1. 1. Writing Experience
  2. 2. Glass Breaker Function
  3. 3. Writing Mechanism
  4. 4. Everyday Carry (EDC)
  5. 5. Where is The Pen Made
  6. 6. The Grip
  7. 7. The Look

1. Writing Experience

First and foremost, it's a pen and it needs to write well, right? So, let's check out how the Gerber Impromptu tactical pen does. The quality of the mark of a pen comes from the ink cartridges themselves. The Impromptu only takes Fisher Space and Rite in the Rain cartridges. They produce a continuous flow of ink in all positions. This is even underwater. Therefore, these cartridges give a great writing experience. The only downside, however, is the cost of each cartridge. Each costs around $7, which is three to five times more than other great alternatives like the Parker type.

Another aspect of writing is the pen weight balance. Indeed, I like to look at how the weight of the pen and how the weight distributes. This Gerber pen is pretty heavy. So I would prefer more weight close to the writing end. So, in my opinion, the weight balance is a little bit off on the Impromptu.

My last point regarding writing is how the pen fits into your hand. For me, the Gerber Impromptu is slim and it has a great finger feel. The only issue is how small the glass breaker is. You have to turn the pen to make sure that the metal head does not scratch the paper that you're writing on. When I turn the pen, then the clip starts to annoy me a little in the hand. This being said, it's not a big deal to me, so I can live with that.

All-in-all, I don't see the Gerber pen being superior to other way cheaper options. I do prefer more options for refills. Three pens in our current line do accept both Fisher Space and Parker cartridges. It gives more options depending on your budget and writing needs.

2. Glass Breaker Function

The glass breaker function of a tactical pen is paramount. Let's say you or someone else is stuck in a car. God forbid possibly in a car accident. Hopefully not in the water, but this happens...  Or, like Brian, you need to rescue a baby locked in a car. You need a great glass breaker to smash that window ASAP. So, how effective would the Impromptu be in that situation? Gerber's ad shows Tim Kennedy breaking open a pickup back window. It does work.

However, I've got two concerns with this pen's business end. First, you need to hit a little on the side. The metal tip is not centered and is small and short. You need to hit at a specific angle. Second, it is made of stainless steel as opposed to tungsten. So, it may be more difficult for someone not as strong as Tim Kennedy to break a car window.

This also applies to self-defense situations. Indeed, you may not have the time and the fine motricity to orient the pen. As a comparison, we filmed breaking a car back window using our Rebel pen. The business tip is made of tungsten carbide instead of stainless steel. It is also shaped like a small bullet to maximize penetration upon impact. All-in-all, the Gerber is not an outstanding glass breaker or a self-defense tool. It is however better than your usual Pilot or Bic pen.

Using a tactical pen as a self-defense weapon is quite simple. However, as with most self-defense tools, it is worth getting the basics. We offer a free online class that teaches the use of tactical pens for self-defense.

3. The Writing Mechanism

Let's examine how writing works. I believe that this pen has the best clicker on the market. This is at the expense of the self-defense and glass breaker function. The clicker end is fat and it feels tough. Even with gloves, you can deploy the writing end with only one hand without even thinking. Even though some people report the clicker to break, this is the most robust click pen I've ever used.

Lastly, changing the ink refills is a breeze. You just unscrew the little writing bit, and voila! All-in-all, the Gerber Impromptu Tactical Pen is easy to activate and is a great clicker.

4. Everyday Carry

If you're going to use the Impromptu Gerber Pen as your everyday carry pen, I find it's got one major issue. It is way too heavy. It's great if you love the feel of a heavy pen. Note though that you can't carry it in a shirt pocket of any sort.

We compared the weight of this pen to the number of coins it represents. Check out the equivalent amount of change that you are carrying. Other pens are way lighter and just as robust. A pen like the Rebel cuts the weight in half. A lighter pen is not only nicer to carry, but it also leads to more powerful strikes.

tactical pen gerber impromptu tactical pen gerber impromptu versus rebel weight width=

The pocket clip helps you carry the pen. It is great out-of-the-box. I find though that it eases quickly. The retention in the pocket can get looser over time. So, unless you carry it in your pants pocket, the clip is not that useful. In my opinion, it is not the best option as an everyday carry pen. Especially if you plan to carry this pen on you all the time.

5. Where is The Pen Made

The Gerber Impromptu Tactical pen is made in the USA. This is a rare commercial tactical pen still made in the USA. This partly explains its price point. As makers, we are often left with a choice. Do we charge more or do we make our gear abroad? Gerber decided to make it here in the US. Most other brands like Smith & Wesson, for instance, make their pens in China just like us.

gerger impromptu tactical pen made in usa

6. The Grip

Would you want your pen to slip out of your hands when using the glass breaker? First, I like how grippy the paint finish of this pen is. The Cerakote finish is used on rifles or guns as well. It gives a beautiful matte and resistant finish.
On the negative side, I don't like that I cannot use my thumb to stabilize my strike. The clicker is in the way. On all of our tactical pens, you can find a thumb rest. The SWAT model even has a thumb indexing feature. This provides a strong grip to deliver strong strikes in even wet conditions.

I like how slim the pen diameter is compared to other alternatives. I do have small hands though. Hence, there will be guys out there with much bigger hands that might find this pen too slim for a good grip. All-in-all, the grip is good but not stellar compared to other options.

7. The Look

Of course, this is a personal opinion. I love the look of the Gerber Impromptu tactical pen. It is pretty slick. Not too tactical, but just enough. The matte finish is also, in my opinion, very sexy. What do you think?

A common question is: can a tactical pen pass TSA? Technically no not even the Gerber Impromptu Tactical Pen.

On a side note, other pen models offer different additional features. For instance, our Defender has a stylus. Our MTP-6 has a flashlight, a bottle opener and you can add a knife. The Gerber pen is plain and simple. You may want to keep it this way if you are mainly looking for a robust pen.


The Gerber Impromptu Tactical Pen is worth its price, if you love the click pens, you are ready to pay quite a bit extra money for made in the US, you love heavy pens and the primary purchase reason is not for self-defense or breaking in emergencies.

If you want to find out if one of the Atomic Bear pens is a better fit for you,

tactical pen atomic bear find your best match
By Jean-François Truchon 0 comment


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