I recently found myself on an impromptu trip to Cleveland to visit my mother. She is recovering from pneumonia and I had a window of a couple of days where I could quickly fly up from Knoxville and see her. I would be gate-checking my bag, so I needed to leave the EDC blades at home. I feel naked without a knife, and I wanted to bring something along that would be at least nominally useful in an emergency situation.
Kim Breed is a retired special forces Master Sgt. He is a knifemaker and field editor for Blade Magazine. I will take his opinion as a primary source. We were chatting at the Blade Show and he commented on the “tacti-cool” trend. I didn’t write down a direct quote, but an honest paraphrase would be “if it were you and me, and all I had is a stick, it would be a “tactical-stick”.
I need to put in the following legal disclaimer. In transporting the pen on a flight, I made every effort to comply with the law as I understand it. The pen is 6 11/16″ long. According to the TSA.gov website:
If that final “Even if an item is generally permitted” clause were brought in to play, I was prepared to surrender the the pen, no questions asked and with no resistance. But I honestly believe as a layman not a lawyer, that I was in compliance with TSA regulation. If you chose to make the same decision, you do so at your own risk. I have been critical of the TSA and their ban on knives on airplanes, but I am not looking to make a stand for the 2nd amendment while traveling over a $16 pen.
(God I hate that I have to grovel like that)
Now that that is out of the way, on to my evaluation of the tool.
The pocket clip is a problem for me. It rides a bit high and will scratch a car door if you are careless. The biggest issue I have is that the clip is non-removable. In an emergency situation (like your plane going down) it would be nice to unscrew and reverse the clip so that it points away from the pen. It could then be sharpened with a rock into a rudimentary blade as you evaluate your survival supplies. I would probably bend or break the clip off and sharpen it. But having the ability to have the clip firmly hafted to the pen would have been a nice touch.
The back cap also screws off to reveal an AR sight adjustment tool – which happens to not fit my York flip-up sights (too big). Sort of a bummer as this was one feature that attracted me in the first place.
The screwdriver is useful, and can be used for light prying as well. In a pinch it could probably be sharpened into a rudimentary chisel-tip. It can push the connection pins between an AR upper and lower. It is pointy enough to rip tape if you are breaking down boxes. But its primary purpose is as the “tactical” point for the tool.
I guess the best way to evaluate the tool is in its 3 applications: as a writing implement, as a screwdriver point, and as a thrusting weapon of last resort.
As a pen, the Range Master is rather clunky. It does write well, including upside down.
As a screwdriver, the textured body provided substantial grip and the grip was of sufficient diameter to provide a fair amount of torque.
As a thrusting weapon, the texture provides a solid grip even when wet. My hand would dislodge when tested in plywood though.
Since the primary action the pen will be used for in a tactical situation is stabbing or thrusting. I decided to test against the following 3 substrates: A cardboard block, a small paint can lid, and a sheet of 1/4″ luan plywood.
The cardboard block piercing test is being added to the TTAK Knife Testing Protocol. I stacked squares of cardboard and bound them together with duct tape. Setting the block on the bench, I attempt to drive the tool as deeply into the block as I can.
The empty paint can lid was pierced to a similar depth. The pen hangs up on the step to the greater diameter of the pen housing.
I had no problem penetrating 1/4″ luan, but the 3/8″ ply stopped the pen cold. Then again, it stopped my Mora Bushcraft too.
One scenario I did not test is whether the tip would work as a glass-breaker. I have broken many windows in my firefighter days, and I believe it would be able to focus enough force in a small enough area to blow up tempered glass. I would like to test it before trusting it with my life.
I keep thinking of the saying, “Dance with the girl you brung”. If circumstances make the carry of a knife verboten, you might have to make do with what you have at hand. When viewed through that lens a tactical pen serves a role. I would have felt more naked without feeling something clipped to my pocket. The Combat Ready Range Master Tactical pen can be useful in many applications – especially if it your only option.
It works fairly well as a pen too.