Trade Your Knife for a Pen For Self-Defense ASAP? | The Atomic Bear
By: Jeff Truchon 10/12/2023


If forced to fight, which weapon would you pick between a knife and a pen?

I’d pick the pen, if it is one made for fighting.

But this question without a context is a little misleading.

The response hinges on a person's willingness to seriously harm or even kill an assailant.

Many are likely hesitant to use a lethal weapon in self-defense, even if they possess one. Without fully understanding the attacker's intentions, employing lethal force is a significant risk.

Considering the consequences of a knife-based defense and the critical nature of each decision in a self-defense situation, it's understandable why some are cautious.

Regarding where you can carry a weapon, a pen is notably versatile. While a tactical pen has its limitations, most sturdy pens, like the Atomic Bear pens, can be carried nearly everywhere.

Having an accessible weapon on you when bad luck strikes is key. If it is not with you… well you know… you missed the boat…

But can a pen inflict as much damage as a knife, or stop an attacker as effectively? From my experience watching Ultimate Self-Defense Championship Season 2 (USDC2) live (editing in progress when this text was published), I've seen defenders quickly neutralize attackers using an Atomic Bear pen against a knife under realistic attack and pressure. Certain well-executed techniques can be very effective.

In other words, in many pretty tough cases, a pen could suffice.

Another consideration is the level of force legally permissible in a given situation. Using a lethal weapon might win you the fight, but if it results in the death of the attacker, you might face a challenging aftermath. This could include justifying your actions to a jury, an expensive and stressful legal battle.

Attorney specialized in self-defense law, Andrew Branca, in his book "The Law of Self-Defense," states: “... even when you are legally allowed to use, say, a gun, if you can use non-deadly force instead, the outcomes are generally better for everyone - assuming, of course, that using the non-deadly option doesn't increase your risk.” (p. 79)

For instance, a video shows a student (red hoody) defending himself against a gang with a knife, resulting in serious injuries and a fatality. How bad is it for the kid who killed one in this situation? He was attacked. I don't know the rules in North Carolina, but I'd be worried for the defense of this kid.Could this have been solved with a pen? By avoiding? 

Ultimately, it boils down to personal choices and assessing probabilities. According to the Department of Justice, one is five times more likely to encounter a simple assault than one involving a lethal weapon that justifies the use of lethal force. This statistic is totally underestimated, as many assaults go unreported. It may well be 1 in 10 or less.

Relying solely on a deadly weapon like a knife can lead to severe legal consequences in all those higher probability encounters. This is another reason why I like the pen.

Returning to the context mentioned initially, if I were certain that an attacker was ready to take my life and he had the means to do so, I would rather fight with a knife. You still need to train to be effective. However, such certainty is rare in self-defense situations. So much that only preparing for those, is not wise… Who would prepare only for the least likely scenario?

Learning to fight effectively with a pen and carrying a combat-ready pen at all times, means I'm prepared to write and defend myself if needed.

Of course, all the soft skills to prevent a physical altercation are even more important. Situational awareness. De-escalation. Recognizing the true intentions of the aggressor… Do we practice those enough?

To conclude, there's no definitive answer to this dilemma. Everyone makes his/her own call. I just wanted to share how I view this challenging problem and why I believe that a pen might be more useful than a knife most of the time for self-defense.

By Jeff Truchon 1 comment


comments (1)

  • Ed

    Good article. A non-lethal defense weapon (tactical pen, pellet gun, pepper spray, etc) will deter many bad guys without getting you arrested.

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