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A Pen That May Be Mightier Than the Sword?

P1010726 With the Gerber Impromptu Tactical Pen in my hand, I sorely want to put to test the famous phrase ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’. Gerber states that they intended to make a tactical pen that would do duty as both a writing device and a back up weapon; and it looks like they hit the mark. While I wouldn’t want this as a primary weapon, the best weapon to use is the one in your hand, and this pen sure feels like it would work. For a weapon, mass is important for grip and delivery of force.  This flat black beauty has an overall length of about 5 inches closed, and the solid steel construction makes for a hefty 1 ounce in mass. To put this into perspective, a well made plastic disposable pen weighs in at a measly 3/8 of an ounce! Unfortunately, this means that a standard shirt pocket isn’t a good place to carry the Gerber Impromptu Tactical Pen, since the extra weight will drag down the pocket. When I was carrying it around in the office, P1010728I found that my front pants pocket worked the best, and an interior jacket pocket was the best place while in the field.

The machined steel construction is enhanced by a flat black coating, with ample grooves cut into the body. These groves proved a good friction surface to maintain grip, even in poor conditions. A Cerakote™ Stainless steel pocket clip at the base holds the pen snugly, and a hardened steel glass breaker at the tip makes for easyuse. The pocket clip attachment comes set up for right handed use, but can be adjusted for lefties like me.  I did find it interesting that the glass breaker was left bare metal, as opposed to also being blackened, and occasionally I would think that the pen was out and scrape my paper rather then write on it. On the plus side, the glass breaker isn’t as sharp as on some other tactical pens, and I never had an issue with it putting a rip in my pockets.

P1010721Most other tactical pen designs rely on a cap cover for the pen itself. This can become tedious, as in reality you will be using the device as a pen far more than as a weapon, and a removable cap can easily be lost. However, the Gerber Impromptu Tactical Pen has taken this into account and is a push button design, with the mechanism made of the same steel as the pen barrel. The only bit of plastic is the small head on the end of the refill. All of the fittings have gaskets to allow for easy removal and replacement of the ink cartridge.P1010701

I’m the kind of guy who needs to tear apart darn near everything he touches, and this pen was no exception. I was very pleased to see the inner mechanism and appreciated the precision that went into its construction. And like any other precision instrument, care must be taken when you’re working on the device. This isn’t a $1.00 throwaway pen, and should not be treated as such. For example, it is easy to miss-align the mechanism when reassembling the pen after replacing the refill. I found that the best way to put this pen back together was to place the spring on the refill, then put refill into the mechanism and seat the mechanism into the button base fully retracted. This allows you to view the workings, and properly align the base and mechanism. Then slide the barrel assembly over the refill and screw in the base. One thing I did to mine was to place a dab of silicone plumber’s grease in the mechanism grooves to improve the action a bit. However, if you are going to use this in sandy or dusty environments, I would not recommend this as the grease will just collect grit.

P1010709When putting this pen through its paces, I first wanted to evaluate it as a writing device, and how well it would perform in the office as well as in the field.  The application of force and its use as a weapon, I thought, would come later.  As luck would have it, I received it right before leaving for a convention with friends, one of whom I have been doing martial arts with since we were both children.  So of course, the first thing I did after collecting it back from my friends (all of whom loved the design and the heft) was to immediately use it as a yawara or kubotan on each other.  The gripping surface worked very well, and the natural taper of the pen tip lends itself well to pressure point applications. It’s also pretty comical to see your ‘assailant’ marked up with pen when you ‘accidentally’ hit the button (Sorry pal; that should come out in the wash). Seriously, it was an excellent force multiplier, and the mass and construction provided great confidence that I was using a weapon, and not an improvised one that I would expect to break in use.

Eventually, I did take it into the office and out in the field, and it performed well. As stated earlier, its mass is something to consider when you’re walking to a meeting, but it’s nothing that would detract from using it. In the field is where it really comes into its own. The ink cartridge is supplied by “Rite in the Rain”, and it does what is advertised. I used the pen while taking notes for an outdoors project I was working on, and the ink flowed well and never got light or gloppy. Even when covered in grime and sawdust, I was still able to grip easily and keep working.

  My only concern when carrying around the Gerber Impromptu Tactical Pen is what organization will I make uptight. In the world we live in, force multiplier weapons are a grey area, and care must be taken when you have this pen in your pocket. Air travel security and most public government buildings will consider this an offensive weapon, as will some public schools. Personally, I would be pretty upset to have to hand this over to a security guard, so I would caution you to be aware of your itinerary and act according to the local laws. With and MSRP of $62 (you can find it online for around $35), it’s not something you want to casually part with.

In conclusion, I’m very pleased with the Gerber Impromptu Tactical Pen, and chances are, it will be in my pocket. You better bet that I’m far more aware of those guys who tend to walk off with the pen they asked to use – yeah, I’m taking that one back buddy.

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Gerber Cortex Compact

Regardless what kind of pack you are building, be it for camping, urban survival or zombie apocalypse, one of the most critical components will be a light source.  This can be a daunting task, since you want something that will be durable, compact, and meet your specific needs.  Well the folks at Gerber have come on with a little wonder they call the Cortex Compact.


The name Gerber is known first and foremost as a premier knife manufacture, but in recent years, Gerber has branched out into other tool products to encompass tools for outdoors, hunting, survival, industrial, tactical, and military use. The Cortex Compact flashlight can be found under their tactical line, but it can be used for just about all of the other applications with ease.  What impressed me the most with this little light was the innovative design which allows you to switch between both CR123 Lithium and common AA batteries with no significant reconfiguration needed.  As with most of the Gerber lights, the Cortex Compact features an aluminum and gasket construction. The outside has a flat black hard anodized finish over the deep knurling, providing a firm gripping surface in most conditions.  The cut outs in the face of the light provide a tactical striking surface against soft targets, and also allows the user to note if the light is turned on when place face down on a flat surface.  The real ‘wow’ factor of the light is the power source flexibility.


The best performance from the Cortex Compact comes from the best power source. With the CR123 installed, the Cortex Compact will allow for 1 ½ hours of run time at 125 lumens, or 9 hours of run time in the 25 lumens low setting mode.  A third strobe mode is also available by prompt-clicking the rear mounted soft switch a third time, and is designed to temporarily blind an assailant’s night vision.  In this configuration, the overall length of the Cortex Compact is 3 ½ inches, and fits comfortably in a pocket.  But the CR123 isn’t a widely popular power source unless you’re already rolling in the tactical crowd or are a flashlight junky.  Unless you are going to a decent sporting goods store, you will be paying a premium at the big chain stores as they are typically marketed as a camera battery at around $5.00 a pop!  Well the folks at Gerber understand this situation, and made an ingenious design feature on the Cortex Compact.  By twisting the barrel housing, the length of the light can be extended to a full 4 inches, accommodating the far more common AA battery.  As expected, what you gain in convenience and battery cost savings, you lose in performance.  With a AA equipped as the power source, the Cortex Compact will allow for 1 1/4 hours of run time at 60 lumens, and 6 hours of run time in the 12 lumens low setting mode.  The strobe effect is still available, but its performance will also be compromised and is not recommended.  Using the light with both sources, I found either to be adequate for normal use.


In the AA configuration, a 4 inch long light was a good size for around the garage use and withstood grease and oil pretty well.  The gasket design allowed me to feel comfortable pulling this out on a rain and sleet filled night when my car was acting up, and not worry about water getting into the battery chamber.  In CR123 configuration, the length was puny, and I barely noticed it in my pocket, along with my concealed carry weapon.  While the diameter might allow this to be mounted on a weapons light mount, I personally would carry it off hand to take advantage of the strobe effect.  Again, I would not feel comfortable using the strobe with the AA unless I had no other choice, as the 60 lumens would not be as effective disrupting night vision and the more intense 125 lumens from the CR123. The Cortex Compact nicely straddles the gap between tactical and practical, and in my opinion would nicely fill the spot in about any setting.  Gerber lists the MSRP at $82 but some quick online shopping should be able to yield one for just a bit over $50. Now if I only had a few zombies to test it on…


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Gerber Steady Multitool Review

Looking for a sweet multitool for your lightweight daypack or your daily use without the weight, with an additionally added tripod? Well then look no further. Gerber has the Steady. It weighs in at 5.8oz. Holy snap that’s light. I have to say when I first opened up the blister pack I was disappointed to see a plastic body Gerber tool? As you read the review you will understand that that is a great design.


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Gerber/ Bear Grylls Survival Series Fire Starter Review

When I first opened the package to inspect the Survival Series Fire Starter I was struck by its odd design. Sure the package indicates that it is a fire starter but it didn’t look like any fire starter I have used nor does it look like the ones included in Bear Grylls survival kits that I reviewed last month. The gray plastic tube with orange survival markings and a lanyard with a whistle seem like an unlikely package for a fire starter. However, as I quickly found out during testing the design makes sense and is extremely functional. IMG_1793a


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Gerber Reveal Folding Loppers Review

Reveal1aAlthough not typically associated with outdoors gear, a good pair of loppers can really come in handy from time to time for the Woods Monkey.  They’ll help clear a campsite, cut shooting lanes, open a spot to fish by a lake, and get offending underbrush out of the way.  Though a drawback of most loppers is the size, Gerber Blades has produced an ingenious solution.  Gerber’s Reveal is a compact and efficient lopper designed for the outdoors crowd.


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Gerber Shot Maker Pruner Review

GG1altaHave you ever watched someone do something foolish?  The first thing they do is to look around to see if anyone saw them in their moment of embarrassment.  All of us have done it at one time or another.  If you happen to be a deer hunter these moments seem to come a little more frequently when compared to “normal people.”  If you don’t believe it, just ask a hunter to recount a normal hunting season.  You will hear stories of hours of sitting perfectly still in the woods seeing nothing.  Then, at his first movement he learns that the deer was right behind him the entire time.  All the hunter sees is the white of the tail as the deer runs off.  Yes, the next movement is when the hunter looks around to see if anyone noticed his mistake.  Hunters have a hundred excuses for not bringing home the game.  I should know, I’ve used them all!  My favorite is telling how that tree branch jumped right out in front of my bullet as I fired.  I have used it a few times and will swear that I come across more suicidal trees than anyone could imagine.

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