Zebra F-701 Pen Review

Zebra F-701Since moving to a plainclothes job, I started to re-examine my daily load out.  Seems it no longer qualifies as such.  The utility of a duty belt and cargo pockets has given way to the functionally spartan nature of dress shirts and slacks.  In both Patrol and CID, a writing instrument is required.  I decided I needed something less than a full blown “tactical pen,” but more than a plastic clicky pen.  Thus, I bought a Zebra F-701.

An Internet darling, the Zebra F-701 is a stainless steel barreled retractable ballpoint pen with a 0.7mm fine writing tip.  The pen’s overall length is 5 3/8″ and its weight is 1.1 ounce.  It features a steel pocket clip and a nice texture on the lower portion of the barrel for a non-slip grip when writing.


Zebra’s F-701 looks like it belongs on some 1960-era rocket scientist’s drafting table.  The retro appearance comes from the straight brushed-finish barrel and textured knurling.  The mirrored clicker, tip, and clip provide a third surface treatment.  F-701’s expensive guise does not belie its reasonable price, which hovers between five and eight dollars, depending on the vendor.

Important to my current “uniform,” the F-701’s clip is smoothly engineered so as to not cut into the top of a pocket.  Some less well made pens have clips which are folded metal that have sharp inner edges that can shred fabric.  As you can imagine, I do not like exceeding my yearly clothing allowance.

As I said, this pen is the stuff of Internet fandom, however, despite the F-701’s solid look, it is not a replacement for a Kubotan.  The barrel is made of two roughly 1/16th inch walled steel tubes press fit together at the seam where the knurling meets the brushed finish.  Because of this, the F-701 cannot be used to apply lateral pressure for joint locks.  That said, I was still interested in its strength for jabbing.

In my secret testing laboratory (garage), I stacked 10 layers of cardboard, wrapping them in two layers of brown packing tape.  I backed this with plywood.  Overall, I thought it made for a decent analog to soft tissue and bone.  Donning a leather glove, eye protection, a ballistic helmet, full body armor, and a cup, I stabbed the Zebra F-701 into the test medium.  Okay, I only wore the glove.

After half a dozen full power hammer grip strikes, I found that the pen easily penetrated eight layers of cardboard.  The F-701 suffered no damage.  It clicked and retracted normally and wrote as it did before the workout.  Its barrel did not loosen.  Last ditch defense?  Yes it can.

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In researching the pen, I found out that there are many forums devoted to writing instruments.  Who knew?  Posts and videos are available to show one how to modify the F-701 to hold a Fisher Space Pen refill or to replace the clicker with the all-metal clicker from a Zebra F-402 pen.  Neither is necessary, in my opinion.

I saw the Zebra F-701 for sale on amazon.com today for $5.18.  That is a great price for a pretty cool pen.  I’ll just keep handing out Bics with the statement forms…


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2 Responses to Zebra F-701 Pen Review

  1. Jim Hampton says:

    Had the same idea some years back with this particular model pen. Was able to pick several up at Wal-Mart, but they don’t seem to stock them anymore. As the author stated, they’re available on Amazon as well as ebay.
    Have not done any tactical testing, per se, but am satisfied they’d perform much better than a Bic under such circumstances.
    FYI, The Fisher Space Pen refill will fit into the F-701 if you take a pic and remove the small plastic insert out of the tip of the F-701.
    As for the tactical pens, if you had to use one as a “civilian” the DA might say, “You intentionally armed yourself with a deadly weapon.” Besides that, tactical pens have “hurt” on both ends, which limits the grip you can use on them.

    • Randall says:

      I agree with you on the “tactical pen,” Jim. The ones with a crenellated end cannot be used as a thumb brace in an ice pick grip. And the ones that are pointy look like weapons. I hate screw caps. Useless for duty. If I carry a pen for writing, it is nice if it doubles as a discreet self defense item.


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